“Mr. Davis is as fiery and feisty as ever,” said Oakland coach Art Shell of the team’s 77-year-old owner. “He watches more film than any coaching staff in the league.”
Maybe he is watching re-runs. This is Shell’s second stint as coach. As a hiring priority, Shell carries the same whiff of desperation as Chris Palmer did with the Browns in 1999.
It’s easy to knock Davis now, when he is feuding with players like Jerry Porter and, before him, Marcus Allen, meddling endlessly, and discarding or trading coaches like Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, both of whom beat what he has.
But the NFL as we know it came about because of him. After the cut-throat Davis became AFL Commissioner in 1966, everyone knew he was willing to burn down the salary structure of both leagues in a player bidding war. Hence, peace most of the time in pro football.
Now his team is stuck in the time-warp inside his head. Asked the biggest difference now from his 1989-94 turn as Raiders coach, Shell said: “There are more zone blitzes. They try to get to you before you have time to throw it.” But Davis is still wondering why someone named Andrew Walter, his quarterback du jour, can’t throw the long one to Randy Moss.
With a long winter before he can effectively pillory Ozzie G. or the Cubs, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti doesn’t buy the Bears’ hype, and opines that tonight’s Chicago/Seattle clash on NBC “will cause a surge of premature Super Bowl ejaculation when the NFL season is just beginning.”
Before we chisel a Hall of Fame bust for Rex Grossman, can we see if he stays healthy for a full season? Before we lobby for lowballed Lovie Smith to win a contract extension, can we see if he wins a playoff game after flopping in his first postseason foray? Before we paint a perfect team picture, can we at least acknowledge Ricky Manning Jr. might show up late at night at an area Denny’s and that Cedric Benson always looms as a potential killjoy? And before anybody recklessly books a recording studio for a ”Super Bowl Shuffle” remake, can we remember all the heartbreaking January losses during the last 20 years and take on an attitude of — if even possible — savvy, sophisticated skepticism?
I issue this warning because the Bears are going to beat the Seahawks and instantly become the NFL’s biggest story beyond New Orleans. Given the swarms of Bears fans everywhere, a victory will trigger a romantic reaction sure to include throwback Superfan skits and the sight of mature, intelligent people blurting out, anywhere and any time, the most beautiful word in the Chicago sports lexicon: ”Bearssssssssss.” Things are going so well right now, in a blissful 3-0 state, that Muhsin Muhammad was nominated for a local Emmy for his work on a late-night TV show seen only by friends, family members and scattered others up that late.
Mr. Brenda Warner (above, right) has lost his job to younger QB’s Marc Bulger and Eli Manning, and now there’s Matt Leinart waiting in the wings, reminds The Master Of The Obvious, aka Newsday’s Bob Glauber. It’s all part of G-d’s greater plan, Bob, no point in questioning things.