To Win Super Bowl, Put Family, Friends First
Special To The Times
Looking for the key to victory in next Sunday's Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos?
Find out who has everything set for Mom and Dad.
See which players arranged rooms and tickets for friends.
This has nothing to do with good guys finishing first. It's a matter of practicality.
"All the non-football stuff has to be taken care of before the players go to San Diego," said John Madden, Fox football analyst and former Oakland Raider coach. "You have to take care of Mom and Dad's rooms, the game tickets for all those friends and family, the plane rides . . . all that stuff. You can't have friends and family bugging you about any of that on game week."
Many players have learned the hard way.
"When I went to Super Bowl XV in New Orleans we concentrated on football, football, football so much that I didn't have time to take care of my friends and family and I was really overwhelmed the last days before the game," recalled Ron Jaworski, former Philadelphia Eagle quarterback.
And the Eagles were overwhelmed 27-10 by the Oakland Raiders.
"Looking back, we went into that game already burned out," Jaworski said.
Jaworski and the 1980 Eagles were also hurt by the Vermeil syndrome.
"In retrospect I was guilty of pushing the players too hard, both mentally and physically, during the week just before the Super Bowl," said Dick Vermeil, then coach of the Eagles and now coach of the St. Louis Rams.
Vermeil's Super Bowl week included one day with two workouts and another with three. The Eagles also had intensive team meetings mornings and evenings through Friday.
"Between the demands from friends and family, the workouts and the meetings, we were candidates for a rest home, not a Super Bowl game," Jaworski said.
Teams learned from the Philadelphia experience. It has become common practice for Super Bowl teams to make sure their players take care of family and friends two weeks before the game. And coaches try to take the gradual approach while building up to the Super Bowl. Not too much too early. Not too much too late.
"You can't get ready for the game too early or you will be stale by the kickoff," Madden said. "If the players learn the whole game plan during that first week, then during that second week they might get bored or they might forget some things because it isn't fresh."
Packer Coach Mike Holmgren said he would install several plays, including some especially designed for the Broncos, after the team arrived in San Diego.
"That's good; that will help keep their attention," Madden said.
And is that why the Packers should win?
"Nope," Madden responded. "Hey, the Packers are the better team. That's why they will win. If all things were equal, then the team that knew how to prepare best for a Super Bowl would have the advantage. But all things are not equal. The Packers are just better, period."
Is there any reason the Broncos should win?
"Barring a bunch of turnovers, nope," Madden said.
One might think the NFL's new $17.6 billion television deal would solve many league problems.
The have-nots, such as Cincinnati and Philadelphia, would have enough money to become active participants in the free-agent market.
Teams which already reached deep into their deep pockets, such as San Francisco and Dallas, would be able to cope with salary-cap problems caused by oversized free-agent signing bonuses.
The overall quality of play would improve because all teams would be able to compete at a higher level for the best players.
Although the new TV deal could push salary caps from 1997's $41.45 million to about $50 million next year and possibly as high as $80 million, it won't change the ability of teams to do what is most important - identify talent.
"The judgment factor is a very important one," Pittsburgh Steeler owner Dan Rooney said. "I don't think it will change. I think you must have good people in your organization . . . good coaches, good front-office people, scouts, personnel people. That will still mark the difference between success and lack of success in the NFL."
The new TV deal helped inflate the average value of an NFL franchise from $200 million up to as much as $400 million, according to early estimates.
That's because teams will earn an average of $73.3 million per year over the next five seasons, doubling what they earned in the old deal. The annual breakdown of how the salary cap is affected will be determined after Thursday, when team owners meet in San Diego to ratify the deal.
In recent years, the combination of free agency and the salary cap has left a wide split between rich players and other players. Ideally, this influx of money could bridge that gap.
Don't count on it. The minimum salary will increase from $275,000 to $400,000 by edict of the collective bargaining agreement. But the gap will remain as wealthy players continue to reach for the stratosphere.
Agent Leigh Steinberg will certainly do his best to make that so. Steinberg rarely represents players not selected in the first few minutes of the draft. Guess who his prize recruit is this year?
"I was telling Ryan Leaf, he may have missed the '60s and some exciting things in America but he was certainly born at the right time because salaries are going to explode," Steinberg said.
"If Steve Young is the highest-paid quarterback at $7.5 million a year, certainly you'll see a $10 million quarterback in a couple of years, then a $12 million quarterback."
Minnesota Viking Coach Dennis Green was upset team president Roger Headrick did not give the Oakland Raiders permission to talk to him about their head coaching job.
Headrick insists the Raiders never asked for permission, saying they "just called and asked about his contract status."
Headrick's account of his conversation with Raider administrator Bruce Allen:"It was a very strange inquiry. All Allen wanted to know was if (Green) was under contract for 1998. I said, `Yes, he is.' In effect, they were asking me if I was going to fire him. Allen said Al Davis asked him to find out the status of Denny Green. I told him he's under contract. He said, `Thank you very much' and hung up.
"It was a 20-second conversation. I think it was purely exploratory. . . . What do you say to a guy who says, `Al wanted me to call to find out Denny's situation.' The thing is, they knew the answer to the question they asked. Everyone has heard all the rumors regarding Denny and the Raiders for months."
Headrick related the conversation to Green's agent, Ray Anderson, who now considers the Raiders a "dormant issue" and believes his client's future rests upon the resolution of the team's ownership situation. Despite that, Green said he would have liked the opportunity to speak with the Raiders this weekend.
"With my situation here and the club for sale, I'd be interested in talking to most any club that has any interest in me," said Green, under contract for one more season with the Vikings (for $900,000). "There isn't any guarantee here at all. My wife and I love it here, and we would love to stay here. I love the players, too. But I don't have any guarantee here. I don't know what is going to happen.
"The Raiders have been floundering, and it might be a tough situation. But I have a reputation of being able to put out fires, and I believe I could do a good job there."
Sizing up Seifert
San Francisco President Carmen Policy said he does not expect former coach George Seifert, who is under contract with the 49ers for the next four seasons as a consultant ($200,000 per season), to take the Oakland or Dallas coaching jobs, as some have suggested.
"I think George is itching to get back, but only in the right situation," Policy said.
Policy is among many NFL executives who believe that Seifert and Seattle would be a good combination, if and when there is an opening, of course.
"The new ownership in Seattle has the potential to build a tremendous organization, much like the one George has worked for if I do say so myself," Policy said.
Gordon set to sound off
Denver cornerback Darrien Gordon plans to speak up during Tuesday's media day in San Diego. He plans to vent his frustrations over former teammates who were cast off by the San Diego Chargers after they lost Super Bowl XXIX.
Gordon began sounding off about his former team last week and intends to pump up the volume after the team arrives in San Diego, where he played four seasons before the Chargers elected not to re-sign him last year.
"On media day I'm going to let it all hang out then, OK?" Gordon said. "I'm going to get it all off my chest. I mean, that's what we've got media for. I'm not going to be pointing fingers now. But I mean, who calls the shots there?
"I don't have any grudges, but somebody's got to be answering to how they got rid of (defensive end) Leslie O'Neal and (defensive end) Chris Mims and (running back) Natrone Means and (wide receiver) Yancey Thigpen and (wide receiver) Anthony Miller and (safety) Stanley Richard and myself. I mean, how do these type of guys go through your program and just leave? Who answers to that? Not me, not me. I'm in the Bowl, baby."
Only 14 players - including linebacker Junior Seau and wide receiver Tony Martin - remain from that Charger team.
Notes, quotes and anecdotes
-- San Francisco's Policy, a salary-cap expert, dismisses accusations that he cheats to stay under the cap as jealousy. "It's like the kid in class who doesn't study very hard and doesn't pay attention very much in class and is always getting C's on his report card," Policy said. "Then, his mom and dad always refer to Tony next door, who gets A's, and the kid says that Tony cheats. It's a convenient excuse for those in middle management who have the responsibility of producing when they're not able to produce. We don't cheat."
-- The NFL recently made an interesting change in its calendar for 1998. The league's annual meetings no longer are scheduled for St. Louis. The venue has been switched to Miami, May 18-21. Surely this has nothing to do with St. Louis' antitrust suit against the NFL. The case was thrown out of court because of lack of evidence, but is currently under appeal by St. Louis.
-- The Rams' Vermeil thinks coaching and quarterbacking is the reason the NFC has won 13 consecutive Super Bowls. "No. 1, they've had the coaches. No. 2, they've had the quarterbacks. And they've had the programs. You know, Bill Walsh built a program. Mike Holmgren is building a program. Bill Parcells built a program. Once they get it going, it's hard to catch up." Lest we forget, the last two AFC Super Bowl victories were by coach Tom Flores and quarterback Jim Plunkett (Super Bowls XV and XVIII).
By the numbers
"We achieved a lot of things," 49er Coach Steve Mariucci said. "I wrote down 10 goals before the season started that I felt we needed or wanted to accomplish. No. 10 was the Super Bowl. No. 9 was beating the Packers. So we accomplished the first eight. We feel there was unfinished business. Part of you feels you did the best you could and they flat-out got you. They're good and they got us. When I was there (in Green Bay), we would always study the 49ers because the 49ers were the team to beat."
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