Coach's Corner

Clinging to an idyllic spot in southwestern North America, sitting astride the last few yards of the American continent, lays the fine city of San Diego, California, site of Super Bowl XXXII. San Diego, just north of Tijuana on the Baja coast, is the California generations of Americans flocked west for. Built around picture card perfect San Diego Bay, it features a sunny, dry, warm climate; never too hot, never too cold. It has miles of clean beaches. It has no smog. It has one of the world's finest zoos. It's a fine place to raise a family, or to spend your dotage playing golf and shuffleboard. Its sports teams have never amounted to much, but this is paradise, who cares? Yes, this is a fine place, but Jesus walked on water many miles to the east. No miracles have occurred here and, on Jan. 24, that's exactly what it will take for the Denver Broncos to beat the Green Bay Packers. A miracle might look like this:

* Brett Favre must have a terrible game. A few years ago, wildly inconsistent days, games with three, four, or even five INTs weren't uncommon. It's happened before. It can happen again. I wouldn't count on it though.

* Green Bay running back Dorsey Levens needs to break a leg or something... very early in the game. Levens' unexpectedly fine play -- he wasn't even the number one back until a pre-season injury to Edgar Bennett -- makes Favre's nasty play-action fakes all the more inviting to linebackers and safeties peeking into the backfield.

* While Favre's throwing INTs, John Elway, a guy so classy even I'd like to see him win a Super Bowl, must be near perfect, where he completes, I dunno, say 70% of his passes. Elway's thrown 19 INTs in four Super Bowl losses. He needs to keep it at that.

* Even more important than Elway's passing, which, if they have to rely on they're dead, is Terrell Davis being able to run the ball. If he can't run for 100+ yards, Denver loses.

* A corollary is this: The best defense is the one watching from the sidelines. Denver has to keep the Packers' defense on the field and Brett Favre sipping Gatorade, over by the cool spray fans. The Packers did struggle defensively for much of the season, though they look great right now. Reggie White no longer requires a double-team on every passing play. Teams have run effectively against the Packers. A recurrence of Gilbert Brown's ankle injury would help. Teams have thrown against them, though they haven't allowed a passing TD in the last 30 quarters.

* Denver needs to get the lead early. It's not good enough to feel good, like most AFC teams seem to in the Super Bowl, by keeping the game close. That's Marty Schottenheimer football, i.e. play not to lose. If Denver falls behind and Elway has to pass... well, forget miracles. And the Broncos need to score touchdowns. Field goals aren't going to get it.

* Speaking of special teams, the Bronco special teams must play mistake-free while creating, at least, two big plays; a disastrous fumble, a big runback, something.

After an overwhelming 34-0 victory in the NFL '69 championship game against the Browns, no team ever looked more indestructible than the 13-1 Baltimore Colts. A miracle followed shortly. The Packers aren't the irrepressible NFC powerhouse of yore: They did lose to Indianapolis 41-38. If all the above comes to pass, Denver might become the first AFC team to win a Super Bowl since '84.

Parting Shots: In the dense, impenetrable, thick place between the ears of the Cowboy fan, the world is now -- finally -- right. The evil, stupid Okie, Barry Switzer, is headed back to Oklahoma to watch Green Acres and feed pigs. Benedict Arnold may have been the last American as thoroughly scapegoated as Switzer. Randy Galloway, of the Dallas Morning News, has for years been the lynch leader of the hang-Barry-high faction. His alarming personal venom for Switzer is so great, Galloway won't dignify Switzer by calling him by name. He refers to him as ISP (Insignificant Sideline Personnel). To me, Galloway, a columnist working for the state's biggest daily, writing in the state's biggest metro area, about the state's biggest team, typifies and propagates the thinking of the semi-ignorant, pigheaded, tunnel-visioned Cowboy fan. His way-over-the-top personal attacks on Switzer give Dallas fans a much-needed scapegoat. Their last good whipping boy -- in a campaign probably spurred on by Galloway too -- Danny White, has faded into memory. Now Cowboy fans cannot only blame Switzer, as they did White, for the past and the present, but also for the future, when Cowboy fans will whine about how Switzer ruined the franchise. I did say dense and impenetrable? Barry Switzer, ripped by Galloway before he crossed the state line, was in a lose-lose situation from the day he arrived in Dallas. Switzer may not be Alonzo Stagg, but he's a lot better than, say, Rich Kotite. A great college coach, Switzer was also a far better pro coach than Lou Holtz.

Yes, it was time for Barry to go. But he deserved a dignified exit out the front door, not the bum's rush into a filth-strewn alley.

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