49ers' Seifert must cope with win-or-else rumors


January 15, 1995|By VITO STELLINO

For George Seifert, the NFC championship game is almost a part of his schedule.

He's in his sixth season as coach of the San Francisco 49ers and is coaching in it for the fifth time.

A record like that would be considered glittering in any other city in the league.

In San Francisco, it's nothing special because he's 1-3 in those NFC title games, including two home losses (in 1990-91 to the New York Giants and 1992-93 to the Dallas Cowboys), and has won "only" one Super Bowl.

That's why there's not much to celebrate for Seifert as he prepares for today's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Believe it or not, he had to answer questions last week about the possibility he'll be fired if he loses this one.

Owner Eddie DeBartolo has never suggested Seifert's job is in jeopardy if he doesn't win this game, but he sets such high standards that it's the subject of speculation in the Bay Area.

"I have no idea where all this stuff started," Seifert said, "and I think it's unfortunate it's allowed to exist. But it's there. And all I can really do is what I'm doing."

Seifert doesn't seem bothered by all the pressure to win.

"There's undue pressure coaching this team, but honestly I wouldn't rather be anyplace else," he said. "I think I've handled the pressure well, but there's pressure on my family."

The one rumor he did shoot down is that he might step aside and let assistant coach Mike Shanahan take over if the 49ers win the Super Bowl. Shanahan is a hot candidate to get a head coaching job.

Seifert made it clear he has no plans of stepping down if it's his call. He hired Shanahan to replace Mike Holmgren in 1992 and he'll hire another offensive coordinator if Shanahan leaves.

"Very definitely I plan on coaching this team next year," Seifert said. "My most recent conversations with [team president] Carmen Policy, all we talked about was how excited we are about this game. And that's the part I'm focusing on."

Seifert said it's easier to focus if he wins.

"It's kind of like if you win the game, the fishing's good, the living's easy, the wind's at your back and angels follow you wherever you tread," he said.

0$ "And if you lose . . . . death."

Candid camera

Don't expect to see DeBartolo on TV today unless the 49ers win and are presented the NFC championship trophy. The 49ers have tinted the windows of their owners box so the TV cameras can't see them.

"The players are the show," Policy said.

The cameras will have no trouble finding Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He's likely to be on the sidelines at some point. He even went on the field to protest when the officials blew a call in the first half last week on a catch by Michael Irvin.

It's probably the first time an owner has been on the field jawing with officials since George Halas retired as a coach.

Even Dallas coach Barry Switzer, who rarely disagrees with Jones, thought that was a bit much.

"I'm sure that won't happen again, because I know Jerry doesn't want it to happen again," Switzer said.

Not so fast, Barry.

"It's unlikely I'll do it again," Jones said. "But I wouldn't say I'm not going to do it again -- as long as I'm not violating league rules."

When all this was relayed to former coach Jimmy Johnson, he said, "Jerry is the owner and he pretty well can do as he pleases."

Johnson, of course, will be gloating if the Cowboys lose today. He won't mind it if fans think Dallas would have won with him.

Jones isn't going to buy that idea. He struck the first blow by saying last week the Cowboys wouldn't have made the NFC title game if Johnson had stayed.

"This Jimmy-Jerry thing was not going to die. No way the sports world would let it die," Jones said. "Plus, I didn't see what I needed to see in Jimmy that would allow him to let it die."

He said Johnson was "undermining" the organization and "making it awkward for other people in the organization to all function together as a team."

Of course, it's hard to see how it's going to die if Jones keeps bringing it up all the time.

The zebras

The officiating fiasco in San Diego last Sunday means that instant replay will be back on the table for discussion at the league meetings in Phoenix in March.

But don't count on it coming back -- even in a modified plan like the one the U.S. Football League used when a coach had a certain number of appeals -- because it needs 23 of 30 votes to pass.

Meanwhile, even instant replay won't solve the real problem. The league first has to address the fact that the officiating wasn't very good this season, even though commissioner Paul Tagliabue kept insisting it was as good as ever.

Some league executives think the morale of the officials is down because the current director of officials, Jerry Seeman, isn't seen as much of a leader and isn't popular with the rank and file.

Seeman is seen as a company man who follows the wishes of the league power brokers. He sided with Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula last weekend in San Diego in a major dispute.

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