Preseason's In Eye Of Beholder

three quarters. How did your team do against the other team's starters? If you lose in the fourth quarter with players who won't be around, then maybe that team that lost is not your team. But what is your team was winning. Then you're just trying to figure out who's going to be the fifth defensive back or the eighth offensive lineman."

In fact, coaches may view one preseason game's results as different from another. Phillips has already revealed that he views the preseason games in a somewhat traditional manner: The starters play about a quarter in the first game and a half in the second. Then they play into the third quarter in the third game, and in the fourth, as Madden says, "You're just trying to get through it."

Madden does recall his days coaching the Oakland Raiders when he had a good veteran team. "One year," he reminisced, "we won our first preseason game. We won it real big. It was one of those dish ran away with the spoon kind of things, like 50-6. The first practice day after that I had them running at the end of practice, and one of our old veteran guards went running by me and I heard him say, 'Well, I guess that proves we don't really need preseason.' I thought, if these guys think it's gonna be easy now, I'm gonna have a tough time. I never wanted to win the preseason opener after that."

There is another thing on which Phillips and Madden agree, and that's the number of preseason games that should be played. Asked in San Antonio how many he thought was the right number, Phillips quickly quipped, "Four", his way of saying, "We're playing four, so that may as well be the number we need." But he has since expressed the idea that the current number seems to be about right.

Madden, as you would hope, takes it a step further. "I think anyone who says we don't need four preseason games hasn't put a lot of thought into it," he says. "Some people say we need two. Well, would you play them like the first two or the last two? You'd have to play the first one like you play the first two and the second one like you play three and four. How many you need depends on who you're talking about. Running backs might not need four. Offensive linemen need four. Rookies need six."

Besides, Madden wants to know "if you don't need four, why was Denver at Valley Ranch last week practicing against Dallas? You need the work. You know where that all started? That started with Tom Landry and me. When they cut us back from six preseason games to four, Tom and I talked and decided we'd practice the Raiders and the Cowboys against each other because we were so close together in training camp and we needed the work. We were the first teams to do that."

The Cowboys are not the first team to look good in their first preseason outings. If they slip on a banana peel the next two weeks, the wolves will be back howling. It's a pretty safe bet, though, that if the Texans really want the Governor's Cup back, Dallas will trade it for hoisting Vince's trophy in Arizona in February.

We would ALL know the meaning of that.

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