Close the book on whining: 49ers are just too good a team

January 31, 1995|By BILL TANTON

Minutes before the Super Bowl kickoff, San Diego coach Bobby Ross was airing a pet gripe on the national radio network.

What bothered him was that the nation's media -- "particularly the print media" -- had not treated his team with the proper respect all year.

"Frankly," said Ross, who coached the University of Maryland a decade ago, "I rather resent it."

For the next 3 1/2 hours the events on the field at Joe Robbie Stadium proved that the print media had it right and that Ross' resentment was unjustified.

The Chargers looked like a team that was simply happy to get to the Super Bowl for the first time, while the 49ers played like the champions they are.

In fact, the TV commercials were vastly more entertaining than the game. The winner there: a tie between the Coke truck driver and the Pepsi driver and the spot in which three frogs belch "Bud . . . wise . . . er."

Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to the Chargers in the AFC championship game, would have put up a better fight against the 49ers. They could hardly have put up a more feeble one.

I don't want to hear about the Steelers, though. They had their chance. They blew it when they lost to San Diego in the AFC title game.

There have been other routs in Super Bowls, but none that was established so quickly or with such ease.

A mere 1:24 into the game the 49ers' Steve Young hit the incredible Jerry Rice on a 44-yard touchdown pass. It looked like child's play.

Another 3:31 later, Young -- who threw for a Super Bowl-record six touchdowns -- hit running back Ricky Watters for a 51-yard touchdown. Again it looked easy. The Chargers tackled like a high school team with poor fundamentals.

In less than five minutes, the 49ers had barged ahead, 14-0. The blowout was on. The final score of 49-26 makes the game sound closer than it was.

San Diego, picked last in the AFC West in the preseason, sneaked up on a lot of teams and got off to a 6-0 start. From there, with the rest of the league alerted, the Chargers went 5-5.

Bobby Ross is a great football coach, despite his penchant for whining, which he also had at Maryland. His problem in Miami was simply that the other guys had far superior talent. The 49ers have too much talent for anybody.

The NFL has two teams that stand well above the rest in pure talent. The other is Dallas, which lost to the 49ers in what was called "the real Super Bowl" two weeks before SB XXIX.

The 49ers left no doubt as to their superiority Sunday when they became the first NFL team to win five Super Bowls.

This was the 11th consecutive Super Bowl victory for the NFC, a streak that defies explanation. No one has come up with a good one yet.

We know now that the 49ers are the best team in the NFL, and their quarterback, Young, is the best around today.

Young was the MVP in the regular season, and he was the MVP in the Super Bowl. His 112.8 stat rating is the best in NFL history, topping Joe Montana's. No longer does Young have the Montana monkey on his back.

In SB XXIX, Young completed eight of his first nine passes, 16 of his first 19. He wound up 24-for-36 for 325 yards and six TDs. As if that were not enough, he was the game's leading rusher with 49 yards.

Young, therefore, proved himself in the most convincing fashion -- by doing it in The Big One, when the pressure is most intense.

Does this mean Young is a greater quarterback than Montana? No.

His coach, George Seifert, put it correctly when he said: "Montana established the standard. Steve has maintained it."

That's praise enough, especially since a few short years ago people were claiming that Montana was the best in history, a claim that was hard to argue.

At that time, I asked Raymond Berry, then the coach of the Patriots, about Montana vs. Baltimore Colts hero John Unitas.

It was an unfair question, since Berry was Unitas' favorite receiver and, as a coach, he was still competing against Montana.

"Aw, let's face it," Raymond said, "there was only one John Unitas."

On its 75th anniversary the NFL picked an all-time team. The quarterbacks were Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Montana and Unitas. They got the right ones.

No one who lived through the Unitas era in Baltimore will pick anyone over Johnny U. But that's not the answer.

Times change, and different talents prevail in different eras. Baugh, for example, was also a regular defensive back and a top punter for the Redskins while he was the No. 1 passer in the game.

Otto Graham, with the Cleveland Browns, led his team to 10 championship games in 10 years. How do you top that?

If Montana, at his peak, was the best, then it is quite a compliment for his coach to say Young "maintained" Joe's standard.

The 49ers have been the best in the game with both quarterbacks.

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