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Peter King
September 06, 1993
As the NFL enters the '93 season, the questions it faces go far beyond what happens on the field
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September 06, 1993

How Long Will Dallas Reign?

As the NFL enters the '93 season, the questions it faces go far beyond what happens on the field

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Teague, a free safety and cornerback, doesn't even have a starting job yet. Says the rookie from Alabama, who was overshadowed by several All-Americas on last season's Tide defense, "I've always been kind of a sleeper." Teague should be the bookend corner to Terrell Buckley by early in the season, and the Packers feel confident that he would be superb at safety, as well. Coach Mike Holmgren thinks Teague will become a Pro Bowl regular, whatever the position.

9. Will the Bears become monsters again?

Not this year. They're too far down. But they've got the right new organizational architect in coach Dave Wannstedt, who will figure out how to win. Part of knowing how to win is cutting your losses quickly, and Wannstedt quickly shed two recent Bear draft embarrassments, linebacker John Roper and tackle Stan Thomas, in one August day. Roper was dealt to Dallas in a five-player trade, and Thomas was sent packing to Atlanta for a conditional draft pick from the Falcons. Wannstedt was so down on Thomas that he would have thrown him into the deal with Dallas, gratis, if the Falcons hadn't called.

The Bears became a disaster toward the end of Mike Ditka's reign. Ditka was distracted by his off-the-field pursuits, and he berated players ceaselessly and needlessly. He and two assistants, offensive coordinator Greg Landry and tight end coach Steve Razor, took turns running the Chicago offense. There was such chaos that in the Bears' playoff loss to Dallas in January 1992, on a crucial fourth-down call in Dallas territory, the play sent in to quarterback Jim Harbaugh from the sideline wasn't in that week's game plan. In fact, it hadn't been called in more than a year. "The best thing about the new staff," Harbaugh says, "is that the plays we're putting in through training camp are the same plays we'll run in December. There won't be brand-new plays on Thursdays to run on Sunday."

Club president Mike McCaskey has given Wannstedt everything he has wanted so far, including ridding the organization of longtime personnel man Bill Tobin. Wannstedt and Tobin would not have gotten along, because Wannstedt believes that coaches should scout as well as coach—as they do in Dallas, where he was the defensive coordinator for four years—and Tobin believes that coaches should simply coach.

As large a figure as Ditka was in Chicago, Wannstedt can become a beloved big-shoulders guy too. He found that out driving to a Bull game in February when, stopped in the middle of a traffic jam outside Chicago Stadium, he rolled down his window to ask a policeman where he could park. "Leave it right there, Coach," said the cop, who opened the door, then parked the car for him. When Wannstedt got to the gate, he realized he'd left his tickets in the car. "Don't worry, Coach," the security guard at the gate said. "Follow me." He took Wannstedt to courtside. The new coach should be able to keep it all in perspective, because while he has Jimmy Johnson's eye for talent, he has Chuck Noll's penchant for anonymity. He'll get it done. But it may take awhile.

10. Off the field, what kind of year will it he?

Busy. Charlotte and St. Louis will get the two expansion teams, and Baltimore will be unfairly spurned. The World League will be revived with a six-team, all-Europe league. The NFL will consider playing regular-season games in Europe and Japan, a precursor to 21st-century overseas expansion. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, battling with the major networks over a new TV contract, will prepare owners to settle for an average of $34 million a year, down from the $39 million they're getting in '93. Now for the big one: Al Davis won't threaten to move.

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