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PRO FOOTBALL / BILL PLASCHKE : At Least Jaguars’ Coughlin Made the Effort

Such a wonderful time of year this is, rich in the traditions of home, hearth and cheap columns making pitiful plays on the word thanks.

Give us a break. It’s not as if we’re trying to sell this thing in June.

THANKS . . . to Tom Coughlin, the much-maligned Jacksonville Jaguar boss who became the first coach in NFL history Sunday to try to win a game in the final seconds with a two-point conversion.

The Jaguars failed when Steve Beuerlein’s pass was about six inches too high, giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 17-16 victory.

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But cheers for Coughlin, who showed the sort of nerve that will one day make him great. Even Beuerlein, an early critic of Coughlin’s silly rules, is now squarely in his corner.

“As a player, you like to be aggressive,” Beuerlein said. “And you like it in a coach.”

NO THANKS . . . to Dan Reeves, whose ugly departure from Denver may look like a farewell tour compared to his current mess in New York.

Despite his apologies Monday, Reeves’ statement after Sunday’s eighth loss in 11 games by his Giants cannot be diluted.

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Reeves blamed some of his problems on bad players who were acquired by General Manager George Young. Reeves said he does not want to continue coaching unless he can have more input on personnel decisions.

Which not only makes him a crybaby, but a lame duck.

Which makes us agree with one of the New York tabloid headlines: “DAN SHAME.”

THANKS . . . to Jeff George, the brilliant and weird Atlanta Falcon quarterback who has decided not to re-sign during the season. Which means this spring he will become perhaps the hottest free agent ever.

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Even if he did once compare himself to Jesus.

Agent Leigh Steinberg, who does not dispute George’s eccentricities, says, “He is the best pure passer I represent. Better than Steve Young. Better than Troy Aikman. Better than Warren Moon.”

You can bet the Raiders, who will probably lose Jeff Hostetler if they do not make it to the Super Bowl, will be interested.

NO THANKS . . . to Jerry Jones, the Cowboy owner who has promised only to renegotiate Emmitt Smith’s contract when he should give the running back a new one. Now.

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As Deion Sanders becomes a bigger star with every half-step, Smith will grow more jealous. And only two things can stop this team--injuries and jealousy.

THANKS . . . to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who recently scheduled quarterback Kordell Stewart to attend an off-season quarterback school with offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt.

So they are going to break with football tradition and give the black kid a chance to be the team leader.

Is it any wonder that Stewart has recently excelled at a variety of other jobs while still serving as the fourth-string quarterback? He has accepted them because he knows they will not last forever.

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Besides, he says it’s fun to already have caught the ball as a running back and carried the ball as a quarterback.

NO THANKS . . . to the Houston Oilers, who have made it clear that Steve McNair, the third overall pick last season, will not play quarterback even on a 4-7 team with no hope for the playoffs.

If the Oiler brain trust didn’t believe McNair could make the adjustment from a smaller college that happened to be all-black, they should not have drafted him. The loser is not the team, but the kid.

THANKS . . . to Raider fans. There. We said it. A skating rink has opened in hell. But it’s true.

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Folks who have sat in the stands at the Oakland Coliseum confirm that the crowd is loud and rowdy, but safe. Families of the Dallas Cowboys were pleasantly surprised Sunday. Even children were unharmed. And apparently no crowd in the league sticks with its team longer.

OK, we’ll forgive that “KILL TROY” sign spotted there on Sunday.

NO THANKS . . . to Atlanta Falcon fans. The beautiful Georgia Dome was only 65% full Sunday during the Falcons’ first-place showdown with the St. Louis Rams.

The fans have no idea of this team’s talents because all of its five home victories have been blacked out. The reason the players hold family reunions on the field after games is that there is nobody around to bother them.

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“You bet . . . we’re paying for the sins of the past teams here,” said Chris Doleman, defensive end. “That’s OK, we’re not the ones missing out.”

THANKS . . . to Merton Hanks, San Francisco 49er defensive back, for inventing an original celebration dance, even if it does look like an out-of-body experience.

NO THANKS . . . to Emmitt Smith, for taking off his helmet after scoring in the opening minutes of the Cowboys’ opening game this season. Besides the 49ers, are there any scoring players who keep their helmets on anymore?

We defer to our esteemed colleague at the Orange County Register, Mark Whicker, who once suggested that players who remove their helmets should be forced to play the rest of the game without one.

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THANKS . . . to the University of Georgia for firing Ray Goff, thus creating a vacancy for Charger Coach Bobby Ross.

NO THANKS . . . to the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff for losing in the NAIA semifinals, thus forcing Barry Switzer to spend Saturdays with the Cowboys instead of with his son, Doug. Oh, the horror.

THANKS . . . to the fan who phoned, wondering about the answer to our trivia question of two weeks ago--how many 1,000-yard rushers have run behind Jackie Slater during his 20-year career?

Seven. Lawrence McCutcheon, Wendell Tyler, Eric Dickerson, Charles White, Greg Bell, Cleveland Gary and Jerome Bettis.

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NO THANKS . . . to the St. Louis Rams, who don’t have a lineman now who is better than Slater. And he’s what, 50?


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