Issue: "Iraq: The other caucuses," Jan. 31, 2004

The meek shall inherit the NFL

Consider the options now for the NFL's copycat teams. You know the ones. It's the teams who picked up on the run-and-shoot after Warren Moon's success. Or the teams that flip-flopped on the balanced attack of the Dallas Cowboys or the West-Coast offense of the San Francisco 49ers depending on who won the NFC. Or how about the teams that loaded their rosters with defensive talent after Baltimore and Tampa Bay won championships.

Think of the freedom the NFL's lemmings will now enjoy as either former 6th-rounder Tom Brady or undrafted Jake Delhomme will pick up a Super Bowl ring this season. No longer do they need to find the next Troy Aikman or Steve Young. Rather, teams wishing to copy Carolina or New England's success need only equip themselves with a cautious scrap-heaper and implore him not to win the game all by himself, but also not to lose it either.

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With the defeat of teams with marquee quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning, the era of the pedigreed quarterback may be over. But consider its glorious run of seven Super Bowls starting in 1993. Just four premier quarterbacks-Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, and John Elway-could don Super Bowl rings in that stretch. The Colts drafted Peyton Manning out of the paradigm that brilliant quarterbacks guarantee championships. But it was Mr. Brady, a one-time sixth-round scrub turned Super Bowl champion, who bested the Colts and Mr. Manning. And Mr. McNabb had no answer for Kurt Warner's World League backup. This time the NFL copycats can start bargain hunting for their championship-caliber quarterbacks.

Around the horn

McDonald's didn't wait for a verdict or even a trial in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case. Instead, the fast-food chain has severed its ties with the Lakers star after Mr. Bryant's endorsement deal, as well as his lucrative compensation, expired at the end of 2003.

Yinka Dare, a Nigerian basketball player drafted (14th overall) by the New Jersey Nets, died of a heart attack last week at the age of 32. Mr. Dare became an ESPN SportsCenter cult hero when he failed to record a single assist in his first two seasons as a professional, and he became emblematic of the Nets' mid-'90s woes.

Sure, every successful NHL team plays through injuries. But the Philadelphia Flyers sure aren't making things easy for themselves. A Mark Recchi practice slapshot injured teammate Jeremy Roenick's face, while Flyers defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson broke fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's leg. Is that rough enough? Mr. Roenick, after taking a practice puck in the face, accidently broke the arm of teammate Eric Desjardins during an in-game collision. The Flyers' top defenseman will miss at least two months. "What can you do?" coach Ken Hitchcock told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Every team goes through this." Not like this, they don't.


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