But now Williams was not only on his way, he was gone, and in the car heading for the television show, McKay said the Bucs' play in Green Bay was "the worst I have ever seen, college, pro or high school. We keep playing that way and we will go 0 and 16, no trouble at all."
He said Williams' leaving had "put us out of sync. In the pros, you can't just recruit a guy to step in. Denver tried to do that with John Elway, and he couldn't throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. Jack Thompson [whom the Bucs acquired from Cincinnati in a June trade] could be the answer for us, but it could take a while, too. Maybe it'll take three or four years. But if we have to, we'll start over. I'm not going to quit."
He blew smoke.
What worries him now, he said, is that the Bucs themselves seem to believe Williams is right, that they can't win without him. "If you start thinking you can't make a putt," he says, "you won't make the putt. If they feel they can't play without Doug Williams, then a lot of these guys are stealing money."
More smoke, and a long pause.
"But what really hurts is I pick up the paper in Milwaukee, and Williams is saying he wants us to lose. He's saying he's not mad at the team or the coach, but he wants the Bucs to lose. Hell, we are the Bucs. I'm on this team, too. Hurt? You're damn right it hurts. He had a friend."
How could it happen? How could this most fortunate of unions—the ultimate passing machine and the coach that Bear Bryant once said "understands the passing game better than anybody"—go so radically wrong so quickly?
Some of his friends say Doug Williams "changed" after the tragic death of his wife. Doug says as much: "I learned you can't replace the things you hold most dear." Others say the long contract dispute hurt his pride, that he believed from the start he should have gotten bonuses for his play "with no strings attached." His first contract, five years escalating from $50,000 to $120,000, had been embarrassingly low for a starter. Still others say he found the "black quarterback" burden intolerable. They point out that in 1982 his ratings had dropped.
It is more likely that Williams had come to a point in life where he no longer knew who to believe. It's the cold, gray dilemma of the pro athlete in the age of the Stupendous Contract and bewildering, often bitter negotiations. Who do you believe? The agent who says you're worth the moon, or the people who pay you to keep your feet on the ground? And the questions beg for answers.
1) Was Williams getting shortchanged by the Bucs? Culverhouse's final offer was $400,000 for three years, then a raise to $500,000, then $600,000. If you compare that to the millions John Elway is getting from Denver, or to Dan Fouts's $750,000 per in San Diego, the answer is yes. The other side of the coin is this: Joe Theismann, the Super Bowl champion quarterback, is making $262,500, plus $52,500 in deferred money. Bradshaw, who has four Super Bowl rings, is making $300,000.