Giants, 49ers must ignore buildup before showdown


November 04, 1990|By Vito Stellino

Bill Parcells and George Seifert have one problem in common these days.

The coaches of the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers have to try to keep their players from looking ahead.

Their unbeaten teams will be going for a milestone today. If they both win, the National Football League will have two 8-0 teams for the first time since 1934.

But nobody seems to want to talk about today's games. The drums are already beating for the Dec. 3 Monday night meeting between the 49ers and the Giants.

The back page of the New York Post featured a headline las week that read: "Nothing Finer Than Niners: Madden rates San Francisco No. 1, Giants No. 2."

The breathless news was that of John Madden of CBS rates th 49ers over the Giants. A scoop direct from the Maddencruiser.

As a former coach, Madden knows it drives coaches batty to have a game a month away already being hyped.

Madden said: "They keep saying they're not thinking about the 49ers, but they are. Everyone reminds them of it."

Including Madden.

The problem is that in the National Football Conference, the 49ers have a four-game lead and the Giants and the Chicago Bears are three games up in their divisions.

Until the playoffs, the 49ers-Giants game may be the only highlight of the second half of the season, which sort of starts today. Since it's a 17-week season this year, there's not really a halfway mark.

The 49ers play the last team to beat them, the Green Bay Packers, today, then meet the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants have the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow night followed by the Detroit Lions, Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.

If both win their next four, it will be the first match between 11-0 teams in NFL history.

In 1934, the Bears and Lions started out 10-0. In the 11th game, the Lions lost to Green Bay, 3-0, then were swept by Chicago, 19-16 and 10-7.

The Bears won their division with a 13-0 mark and lost the title game to the 8-5 Giants, 30-13, in the famous sneaker game when the Giants switched to sneakers at halftime to contend with icy conditions at the Polo Grounds.

The Lions, despite the 10-0 start, finished 10-3 and didn't even make the playoffs.

When the 49ers play the Giants, all that really will be at stake will be the home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The strange thing is that neither the Giants nor the 49ers have been awesome lately. The Giants barely escaped with a victory over the Phoenix Cardinals two weeks ago and needed a couple of freak fourth-quarter plays to beat the Redskins the second time this season. Joe Montana, meanwhile, has been intercepted twice in three straight games for the first time in his career.

But what counts is they're both unbeaten. ABC-TV executives are keeping their fingers crossed that they stay that way until Dec. 3. The odds, though, are against them -- especially since they could get caught looking ahead.

Paul Tagliabue is no longer a rookie commissioner. It was a year ago this weekend that he took over for Pete Rozelle.

Tagliabue wasted no time showing he's in charge. In his first year, he fined owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. of the 49ers $500,000, Sam Wyche, the Cincinnati Bengals coach, almost $30,000 and safety Andre Waters of the Philadelphia Eagles $10,000.

But Tagliabue's actions last week raised the old question of whether his lack of a football background handicaps him. He sent a memo to teams warning them they'll be subject to fines of they criticize the officials publicly.

The memo included this sentence, "In midseason, there is no justification for public criticism of officiating, particularly when it is so often little more than an effort to find a scapegoat for defeat."

That irritated club officials because they felt Tagliabue was brushing off justified criticism of the officials as crying by losing teams.

Some club officials feel there are legitimate concerns about the quality of the officiating that Tagliabue should address. They wonder whether the former league lawyer understands the game from a club's point of view. Rozelle had been a public relations man and a general manager before he became commissioner.

None of the club officials, though, was willing to go on record and risk one of Tagliabue's fines. He's proved he's good at that.

Tagliabue also seems to be good at consolidating power. At a Nov. 14 owners' meeting in Dallas, he has a league reorganization on the agenda in which his office will take charge of such areas as the NFL Management Council and NFL Films.

Tagliabue and Jack Donlan, the head of the Management Council, have declined to comment, and it's uncertain whether Donlan's post is destined to be downgraded or simply eliminated.


The World League of American Football is alive and well despite the departure of Tex Schramm.

The league hopes to announce some of its owners before the Nov. 14 owners' meeting.

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