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Flores May Return to Sidelines for Seattle : Pro football: With Chuck Knox nearing the end of his contract, persistent rumors place the former Raider coach as the heir apparent.

MC CLATCHY NEWS SERVICE

The rumors didn’t follow Tom Flores to the Seattle Seahawks, he followed the rumors.

Before he was hired two years ago by owner Ken Behring to run the organization, word was out that the job would go to either Flores or sports agent and realtor Mike Blatt.

With Blatt, Behring would have a shark of a negotiator, a major money man. A guy long on making money fast and short on drawing up game plans.

Flores offered a distinct alternative with a resume thick in football knowledge and thin on the business end of the game. You could make a case for either one to a new owner of a pro sports team, but Flores had at least two qualities that Blatt couldn’t match.

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One, you can’t find people willing to say something critical in public about Tom Flores.

Two, if the owner eventually got tired of Chuck Knox, the coach who came with the team, Flores gave him a ready replacement.

The rumors were, if Behring took the Flores option, it would only be a matter of time before the former quarterback would be on the sidelines for the Seahawks.

The rumors preceded the decision in Flores’ favor. Good call in hindsight, considering that Blatt is still in jail on a murder rap, avoiding a recent conviction when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. A retrial is probable.

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Meanwhile with Flores, the rumors are back.

“Yeah, I’ve been hearing them,” Flores said in his office that overlooks the Seahawks’ practice field, “they’re all over the East Coast.”

And the West Coast.

The rumors say he wants to coach again. People have said close friends of Flores’ are claiming he wants to coach again.

Flores has one of the best jobs in pro football. He runs a franchise, calls the shots, molds the future. Next year’s draft choices are potter’s putty in his hands. As the owner’s guy, Flores has only a sliver of the pressure felt by the coach.

Logic, though, has nothing to do with it. If he decides to coach the Seahawks, it will be for the same reason people climb mountains.

It’s there.

Discussing this with Flores is a little like New York Gov. Mario Cuomo talking about his disinclination to run for president. Cuomo will say almost all the right things about his political future, short of a flat-out declaration that he will not run under any circumstances.

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“I am not actively looking for a coaching job,” Flores said, “and I did not come here to move Chuck out or to replace him when his contract’s up.

“I didn’t etch it in stone, either, that I would never come back to coach at some time.”

The rumors have intensified recently because Knox is closing in on the last year of his five-year contract. After five more games--barring the unlikely possibility Seattle reaches the playoffs--Knox will be looking at his last tour of duty as Seahawk coach unless he should be offered an extension.

In another month, he could be making draft plans and other personnel decisions in the role of a lame-duck coach.

Flores and Knox have not yet discussed the coach’s future.

“It would be foolish to say I haven’t thought about, I have given it some thought,” Flores said, “but this isn’t the time to go over that stuff. We’ll sit down at the end of the season and discuss the whole thing.”

Flores will suggest there are worse things that can happen to a team than to have its coach in the last year of contract. In 1980 with the Raiders, he won a Super Bowl in the last year of his contract. He won another in 1983 when he didn’t sign his new contract until the week the season opened.

That was different. The Raiders don’t observe organizational rules and ethics common to others in or out of sports. Flores’ experiences while in the employ of Al Davis have no bearing on Chuck Knox as an employee of Ken Behring.

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It’s debatable whether Knox would even want to coach after next season, but there’s little doubt he’ll be back. The last year of his escalating contract will pay him more than a million dollars guaranteed. If Flores wants to coach again, and if Behring wants him to, their mutual desires aren’t likely strong enough to persuade Behring to pay Knox a cool million not to coach next year.

After that, anything might happen.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” Knox said of a possible contract extension. “Maybe after we get through this season, but I haven’t had a lot of spare time to contemplate the future, if you follow me.”

Knox is obsessed with his job and the game. Same is true with Flores.

“You love the business,” he said, “it gets in your blood and you become addicted to it. You are addicted to the highs on Sunday, like that game in San Diego the other day, and you suffer through the lows like the Minnesota game and the Denver game, two we could have won but didn’t.

“There’s no logic to why you should feel so strongly about it,” he said, “and there’s no reason, after the way you feel when you lose one of those in overtime, why you should ever want to keep doing it.”


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