- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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For Minnesota, the logical way to approach the draft would have been to trade upward in an attempt to corral the one stud who could inject some life into the defense. Instead, Minnesota threw the gears into reverse and traded down, giving up its No. 1 draft for a bunch of No. 2s—a runner ( Nebraska's Jarvis Redwine), a wide receiver ( Mississippi State's Mardye McDole) and a linebacker ( Texas' Robin Sendlein). None of these has wowed anyone.
Walter Payton is worth every penny his new CHICAGO Bears' contract calls for, whether it's $600,000 a year or $700,000 or a piece of Lake Michigan shorefront. He has started 79 straight regular-season games; played in all but one game in six years and rushed for at least 1,390 yards a year for the past five seasons. And that was with offenses whose passing often was a joke. Best of all, Walter is only 27 years old. Now the Bears must seriously consider taking some of the load off his back. So far Chicago's attempts to get some sense into its offense haven't been too productive, unless you count the delay-of-game penalty. The Bears perfected that maneuver last year. The coaches would huddle on the sidelines, decide on a play, phone Western Union for a messenger who had a field pass, send him in with instructions for Quarterback Vince Evans, and then watch as the ref walked off five yards for delay.
The cure: Ted Marchibroda, the ex-Baltimore head coach, comes in as the new offensive coordinator, and Dick Stanfel, an interim head coach last year in New Orleans, now handles the offensive line. Evans will call his own plays. There are few quarterbacks as athletically gifted as Evans; certainly no one sets up faster. He has never called his own plays, even in high school, but this might be the right formula for him. The funny thing is that the knock on Marchibroda in his last years with the Colts was that he was too conservative; he didn't let Bert Jones do enough. Stanfel immediately installed No. 1 draft Keith Van Horne of USC at left tackle, and moved Ted Albrecht to guard.
On defense, the Bears are blessed with fine wingmen in Dan Hampton and Mike Hartenstine. Alan Page's lack of bulk at tackle makes a quality middle linebacker essential, and the No. 2 draft, Mike Singletary of Baylor, has shown flashes. The secondary has a terrific strong safety in Gary Fencik, but as a unit it has had shortcomings.
The GREEN BAY Packers were another team whose weekly injury list in 1980 looked like a battlefield report. Twenty-seven Packers were on injured reserve at one time or another. One scout has an interesting theory why this always happens to the Packers; he claims that the physical exams they administer are a bit more lenient than those of other teams, and that the Packers will take players who would flunk elsewhere. It's a gambling game, and so far the wheel has come up double-eagle.
Everybody thinks Bart Starr is on perilous footing, except, that is, for the 45-man board of directors and the seven-man executive committee, which calls the shots. There was a mini-power struggle inside the boardroom after last season, and Starr was stripped of his G.M.'s job. That was just a token gesture; Packer President Dominic Olejniczak won the battle to keep Starr at the helm.
The reason we dwell so long on politics is that it's more fun than talking about the Packers on the field. They were 5-10-1 in 1980 only because they played in the NFC Central. They were the lowest-scoring team in football, and to offset that, they had trouble stopping people. Strengths: James Lofton is an All-Pro wide receiver; if healthy, their linebacking quartet is top-level, particularly George Cumby, who could be a very positive force at an inside line-backing spot now that he's up to 230 pounds. The rest of the Packers' operation will depend on how many people they can keep off injured reserve.