At this time last year, the Oakland Raiders had high hopes that Dan Pastorini would lead them to the Super Bowl. Now, they have decided to go without the flamboyant quarterback this season.
The Raiders released Pastorini yesterday, leaving second-year pro Marc Wilson as Jim Plunkett's only backup.
"It's taking a bit of a gamble," Coach Tom Flores said. "We talked to some teams, but they weren't willing to pay the price we thought Dan was worth and we had to move him."
Pastorini, 32, was traded to Oakland for Ken Stabler last summer, but wound up on the sidelines after breaking his leg in the fifth game. Plunkett stepped in and led the Raiders to a 13-2 record, including a Super Bowl victory over Philadelphia.
In other NFL developments, the Dallas Cowboys, after trading veteran cornerback Aaron Mitchell to Tampa Bay, are expected to start rookie Mike Downs from Rice in the secondary against the Redskins Sunday at RFK Stadium.
Mitchell, a three-year veteran from Nevada-Las Vegas, was sent to Tampa Bay for an undisclosed draft choice as the Cowboys trimmed their roster to the required 45 players.
Downs, 6 foot 3 and 195 pounds, isn't the only rookie in Coach Tom Landry's plans. The Cowboys placed veteran center John Fitzgerald and second-year defensive back Dextor Clinkscale on the injured reserve list and released defensive lineman Bruce Thornton, leaving eight rookies on the roster.
There were two major trades: San Francisco sent quarterback Steve DeBerg to Denver and New Orleans traded running back Tony Galbreath to Minnesota, both for undisclosed draft choices.
Denver, which waived Matt Robinson last week, now has three quarterbacks. Craig Morton, 38, is still the starter, with rookie Mark Herrmann and DeBerg in reserve.
"DeBerg could be a starter, possibly challenging Morton later in the season," Coach Dan Reeves said. "In order to bring Mark along slowly, I felt we needed a guy with experience ready to step in in case something happens to Craig."
DeBerg was the 49ers' starting quarterback in 1979 and set National Football League records by throwing 578 passes and completing 347. With his departure, Joe Montana, a three-year veteran from Notre Dame, will start. Guy Benjamin will back him up.
Galbreath's departure from New Orleans was foreseen when the Saints drafted Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, who has played well during the exhibition season.
Galbreath was second on the Saints in receptions last season with 57 for 407 yards, but he asked to be moved from fullback to halfback, not a good move once Rogers arrived.
The Saints made another deal, acquiring veteran linebacker Rob Nairne from Denver, for an undisclosed draft choice, to replace the injured Reggie Mathis. Nairne started all 16 games for the Broncos last season and was credited with 150 tackles, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Two outstanding kickers were among the many veterans who lost their jobs on the final day of roster cutdowns.. Don Cockroft, a hero of many last-minute victories during his 13-year career with Cleveland, and Tim Mazzetti, who scored 103 points for Atlanta last season, were released.
Coach Sam Rutigliano obviously had lost faith in Cockroft, who had appeared in 188 consecutive games. In Cleveland's last game, an AFC playoff game with Oakland, the Browns drove to the Raiders' 13-yard line in the final minutes. Rather than try a field goal, which, if succesful, would have given the Browns a 15-14 lead, Rutigliano called for a pass, which was intercepted.
Dave Jacobs, a free agent who spend one season with the New York Jets, replaces Cockroft, who missed two extra points and a field goal in Saturday's 35-18 loss to Green Bay.
Mazzetti, Atlanta's regular kicker for the past three years, was beaten out by rookie Mick Luckhurst.