Olivadotti rejects genius tag after brilliant game

January 11, 1993|By Greg Cote | Greg Cote,Knight-Ridder News Service

MIAMI -- Tom Olivadotti seldom appears to be a man with much capacity for self-satisfaction. This was true again yesterday. The Dolphins' defense, his defense, had just played splendidly, pitched a shutout, and here came Olivadotti off the field: trudging, staring straight ahead, stony faced.

Men have walked to a gallows with more bounce in their step.

Congratulate Olivadotti at your own risk. A 31-0 rout of San Diego -- with his guys' four interceptions the clear catalyst -- hardly was enough to light his face in a smile.

"I feel good," Olivadotti said with a theatrical glance at his wristwatch, "because I have until 8 in the morning. . . 'til we get into the nightmare guys."

Those would be the Buffalo Bills, archrivals, the nemesis, the opponent in the coming AFC championship game. Olivadotti has learned by now that his defense, or at least the perception of it, is only as good as the next game, not the last one. Same with the esteem attached to the group's defensive coordinator, Mr. Olivadotti.

"Genius one week, bum the next" is Olivadotti's favorite way of capsulizing his lot in life, and the credo is ever so fitting today.

Call him the Genius, if only for a while, if only because he just beat the man who wore the same tag.

When you were talking about defense in the days leading up to yesterday's playoff game, you were talking not about Olivadotti and Miami but about San Diego under the wise wing of Bill Arnsparger, the defensive chief who masterminded Dolphins Super Bowl teams all those years ago.

Not that Olivadotti ever bought into any of that.

"I don't feel in competition with Bill; he's a great guy and a great coach," Olivadotti said. "I did not hear one player or one coach mention that stuff. That's great for the papers, that's all."

A San Diego writer, unaware that Olivadotti resists most every invitation to be glib or pithy, asked the coach in the post-game locker room about nicknames. While in Miami, after all, Arnsparger had both the "No-Name Defense" and then the "Killer B's." So what will this group's nickname be?

"I don't go with nicknames," Olivadotti said. "When you win the Super Bowl, you get a nickname. Until you do, you're just another defense."

To Olivadotti, any reveling in current success is seen as simply setting himself up for the media to knock him down. This is too bad, because this is a defense -- and a job by Olivadotti and his staff -- worth celebrating. The O-Man's D has carried this team to the AFC title game, make no mistake. All season, and yesterday, too. San Diego threw 45 passes and had 132 little yards to show. The Chargers managed 10 first downs.

These are dominating numbers. These were spirited Dolphins, flying every which way through the rain.

Rookie Troy Vincent, with two key interceptions. Marco Coleman, yet another big-time rookie. Bryan Cox, of the marvelous mayhem. Louis Oliver. So many big hitters, and all so young. They have hardly missed injured Pro Bowl linebacker John Offerdahl. How amazing is that? This defense may still lack the one big sacker, the Reggie White type, but you factor in youthfulness and you might not trade this Dolphins unit for any other defense in the NFL. And how amazing is that?

Enjoy it a little bit, Tom Olivadotti. You deserve to.

No matter next week's result against the Bills, yours is a defense that has carried this team further than most anyone expected. . . and yours is a defense still ascending.

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