On scout's honor, Albert gives Chargers a chance

January 26, 1995|By BILL TANTON

Sitting in his office at Towson State yesterday, wearing blue jeans and a gray sweat shirt with the word "Hopkins" on it -- "I'll wear anything somebody gives me," he said -- he didn't look like an important figure in Sunday's Super Bowl game. But that's what Phil Albert is.

Albert, who was football coach at Towson State for 20 years, scouted the San Francisco 49ers for the San Diego Chargers. In fact, as the Chargers' advance scout, he scouted every upcoming San Diego opponent all year.

Albert was at Candlestick Park two Sundays ago on behalf of the Chargers when the 49ers beat Dallas for the NFC championship.

The game plan that San Diego coach Bobby Ross has drawn up for the Super Bowl is based in part on information provided by Albert.

And, hey, let's face it -- the information Albert has given Ross all year must have been pretty good. It was good enough to help the Chargers get in the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.

"I went away every weekend from Aug. 5 to Jan. 15," Albert said. HTC "I've been to San Francisco four times, Denver four times, Kansas City four times, L.A. twice.

"Every Sunday night, usually on the plane coming back, I compiled a 49-page scouting report. At first it took me five hours. By the end of the season, I could do it in three. Then I faxed some of it to San Diego and FedEx-ed the rest. It's been an interesting challenge."

It has also, at times, been a hassle.

Early one Monday morning last fall, I was in the athletic department at Towson when a weary, disheveled-looking Albert walked in.

"Where've you been?" I asked.

"Denver," he said. "I scouted the Broncos there yesterday. I rode the red-eye all night to get back here."

"What's the big hurry getting back?"

"I have to teach a phys-ed class at 9 o'clock," he said.

When a football coach leaves Maryland or Navy, he goes and coaches somewhere else. At Towson, he teaches gym class.

After two years of teaching, Albert was happy to get back in football last June as a Chargers scout. His connections with that organization were numerous.

The coach, Bobby Ross, coached at Maryland. The general manager, Bobby Beathard, was GM of the Redskins when two of Beathard's sons, Kurt and Jeff, played for Albert at Towson. Kurt now coaches Towson's defensive backs.

Jeff Mann, the football coach at Dulaney High -- who coached at Maryland for nine years under Ross and Joe Krivak -- told Albert the Chargers were looking for a scout and recommended Albert. Phil went to San Diego and was hired.

The man Albert turns over his scouting reports to is neither Ross nor Beathard. It's John Misciagna, the Chargers' quality control coach, who coached at Maryland and Georgia Tech with Ross.

The Chargers didn't need anyone to tell them how good the 49ers are. The mere fact that San Francisco is an 18 1/2 -point favorite shows that there's quite a disparity between the teams.

"That's a lot of points," Albert said, "but you can see why the 49ers are so heavily favored.

"The players throughout the NFL are the best, but the 49ers have the best of the best. They have some great players in every area, offensively and defensively.

"I hear people say they're the best offensive team ever. Their offense is not that flashy. They're just bing-bing-bing and they're in the end zone. Their average scoring drive took two minutes.

"Their quarterback, Steve Young, is a lefty and he's accurate and bright, and he can run, too. Their running backs, Ricky Watters and William Floyd, are tough kids, very physical, with good hands. They both want to block.

"How're you going to put pressure on Jerry Rice when they have John Taylor on the other side and a Pro Bowler, Brent Jones, at tight end? Defensively, they're just as talented."

Albert has been to San Francisco four times and by now he's convinced that team's success is the product of a smart organization.

"I've seen the rapport between the 49ers owners and the coaches and the players," he said. "The best teams have that -- Art Rooney's Steelers in the '70s, Carroll Rosenbloom's Colts before that."

Albert credits Beathard and Ross with the Chargers' climb to the top of the AFC.

"Bobby Beathard can evaluate personnel," Albert says. "It's no accident that he did it successfully in Miami, he did it in Washington and now he's done it in San Diego.

"Bobby Ross is smart and nobody's going to outwork him. He's in charge, there's no doubt about it. He won at Maryland, he won a national championship at Georgia Tech and now's he won in San Diego.

"I think Bobby likes this underdog stuff. His team has been the underdog from day one -- picked last in the AFC West.

"I think we'll be the team that's mentally sharp in this one. Don't get me wrong. The 49ers are hungry, but if I keep telling you how wonderful you are, eventually you're going to believe it. Nobody tells us we're wonderful."

How can the Chargers pull an upset?

"You never know what's going to happen in a football game. If somebody had offered to bet you $10,000 that the 49ers would go ahead of Dallas 21-0 in the first five minutes, you'd have jumped at it -- and you would have lost."

Albert and his wife, Kay, left for Miami today, a well-earned reward for both after a long, tough season.

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