PRO FOOTBALL / BOB OATES : Longevity of His Career Shula's Greatest Work

Toiling under the pressure of his own particular job, no coach or manager in big league sports was ever surprised to learn that George Halas and Connie Mack ranked No. 1 in total games won in pro football and baseball.

For, unlike most of their peers, neither Halas nor Mack could be fired.

They owned as well as directed their teams. The Chicago Bears won 324 times under Halas, and the old Philadelphia A's won 3,776 games under Mack.

In baseball, Mack still is the leader.

In football, the surprise is that Miami Dolphin Coach Don Shula has moved into first place as an employee of the old Baltimore Colts and the Dolphins.

Shula's greatest achievement isn't his record five Super Bowl appearances. It isn't winning 326 games. It is lasting long enough to win 326.

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Honors month: The candidates for player of the year in the NFL so far are Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys. The winner: Smith. The Cowboys, who could win without Aikman, haven't been able to win without Smith.

On the other side of the ball, candidates are defensive backs Rod Woodson of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ronnie Lott of the New York Jets. The clear winner: Woodson.

For coach of the half year, the candidates are Jimmy Johnson of the Cowboys and Dan Reeves of the New York Giants. The best coach in football, college or pro, is Johnson.

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Namath warning: The NFL is about to kill off all of its quarterbacks, Hall of Famer Joe Namath warns, because their coaches aren't giving them enough time to change the plays with audible calls before their teams are flagged for delay of game.

"At the scrimmage line, it's easy to see when a blitz is coming," Namath said. "But if the (40-second) clock is winding down, you don't have time to change the play--and the coaches don't like to waste timeouts.

"The quarterback has to stand there and take it. So all these injuries aren't surprising."

If the coaches are going to send in the plays, the least they can do, in Namath's view, is make their calls fast enough to leave time for audible changes.

"I hate to see quarterbacks take a clobbering when they know it's coming and could be avoided with better (coaching)," he said.

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Fouts wrong: Another Hall of Fame quarterback, Dan Fouts, a CBS analyst, has been lobbying for the return of the 45-second clock. He agrees with Namath that quarterbacks are endangered under the 40-second rule--but he blames the off-season rule change itself.

Fouts, however, hasn't thought it through. He should be blaming the coaches.

The rule was changed to shorten the dead time during games--the time when there's nothing for spectators and TV fans to do but watch the players stand around while the coaches are determining the play they want next.

There are only about 12 minutes of action in a 60-minute game as it is. The NFL's influence should be on the side of more action--and that has recently been the case.

No evidence supports the idea that coaches' calls make football more interesting. They do tend to make coaches' jobs safer. But the games are almost always livelier when the quarterbacks call the plays, as Namath and Fouts proved in their playing years.

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Too many: The deserving candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in each year of the present era have far outstripped the hall's capacity to absorb them.

Six can be accepted annually under hall rules. And two or three times that many are standing in line now--two prominent former Rams among them, guard Tom Mack and defensive end Jack Youngblood.

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