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McMahon Would Approve Trade to Chargers: Agent

Times Staff Writer

The agent for Jim McMahon says the controversial quarterback is unhappy with the way the Bears treated him in 1988 and that the Chargers are one of two teams McMahon would consider playing for if the Bears trade him.

“San Diego would be an interesting place for Jim,” agent Steve Zucker said. “If we had to pick a spot, we’d probably pick San Diego.”

McMahon’s season ended Sunday in Chicago when the Bears lost, 28-3, to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. McMahon, starting for the first time in 10 weeks because of a sprained knee, completed 14 of 29 passes for 121 yards and had 1 pass intercepted. Bear Coach Mike Ditka removed McMahon with 6:53 remaining and replaced him with Mike Tomczak.

Thus ended a frustrating season for the former Brigham Young quarterback who injured his knee in Week 9 and missed 7 games. McMahon said he was ready to return and was miffed when Ditka started Tomczak the last regular season game and the first playoff game.

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“The Bears treated him (McMahon) so bad, you have no idea,” Zucker said. “It’s been a very rough year the way the Bears treated him.”

It was also a year in which the Bears saw enough improvement in Tomczak to consider him a starter. More and more, it begins to look as if McMahon is the quarterback of somebody else’s future.

Zucker said he was unaware of any trade talks under way between the Bears and the Chargers. There were unsubstantiated reports Tuesday in two Chicago newspapers suggesting a deal between the Chargers and the Bears for McMahon was imminent.

But no official for either team has confirmed any such talks. Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers’ director of football operations, and Alex Spanos, the team’s owner, did not return phone calls from The Times Wednesday.

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Earlier in the week, Bear president Michael McCaskey said: “You think that (a trade) is happening. It’s not. You guys (the media) are talking about that and nobody else is. We just haven’t had time to talk about it.”

The Bears traditionally spend the first week after the season evaluating their personnel and trying to decide what direction they want to head during the off-season.

“We have not spent much time thinking about those things (trades) yet,” McCaskey said.

But it’s no secret the Bears have grown increasingly weary of McMahon’s outlandish behavior and continual public potshots at McCaskey, Ditka and others. At one point this season, McMahon said team trainer Fred Caito couldn’t tell “the difference between a blister and a compound fracture.”

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The injury-prone McMahon will turn 30 in August. The most games he has started for the Bears in his 7-year NFL career was 13 in 1983. In 1985, he returned from shoulder, neck, leg and buttocks injuries to lead the Bears to a 46-10 victory over New England in Super Bowl XX.

“Jim’s mobility is still good,” Zucker said. “His knees are fine and he can still move.”

But most regular observers of the Bears this season did not share Zucker’s opinion of McMahon’s skills.

A news columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that the Chargers would have to give up a No. 1 and a No. 3 pick in the 1991 draft for McMahon. However, word around the league is that many teams wouldn’t take McMahon off the Bears’ hands for free: Too little discipline; too many injuries.

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McMahon has 1 more year remaining on a contract that will pay him a base salary of $800,000 in 1989. The other West Coast team he has talked about playing for in the past is the Raiders.

“But the Raiders just spent a lot of money on Jay Schroeder,” Zucker said. “Besides, Jim feels like San Diego (Jack Murphy Stadium) is his lucky stadium. It’s grass and it’s good weather.”

In the 1980 Holiday Bowl, McMahon led BYU to a thrilling 46-45 victory over Southern Methodist when he hit receiver Clay Brown with a 41-yard touchdown pass as time expired. In that game, McMahon completed 32 of 49 passes for 446 yards and 4 touchdowns.

He returned to the Holiday Bowl with the Cougars the following year to complete 27 of 43 passes for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 38-36 victory over Washington State.

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There’s no question the Chargers need a quarterback, a point former Cleveland Coach Marty Schottenheimer reportedly emphasized to them over the weekend in his talks with Ortmayer and Spanos about the team’s vacant head coaching job.

The incumbent Charger starter is Mark Malone, who finished last among AFC quarterbacks in 1988 with a rating of 58.8. Malone played behind an offensive line that improved dramatically during the season, but one that was made up of four free agents and a fourth-round rookie.


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