With Watters gone, 49ers run on empty

ON THE NFL

October 22, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The San Francisco 49ers may be becoming victims of their own success.

The 49ers are so used to winning that they like to do it only with the types of players that they believe fit the 49ers' image.

They traded moody defensive lineman Charles Haley to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 because they got tired of putting up with him.

Haley promptly helped the Cowboys win two straight Super Bowls.

It could be argued that it shouldn't be necessary to coddle players. But it's difficult to find players who can rush the passer the way Haley can.

After all, after Haley's departure it took the 49ers two years to vTC rebuild the defense and get back on top of the league last year.

San Francisco appears to have made the same mistake again. This off-season, the club decided not to match the offer that the Philadelphia Eagles made to moody running back Ricky Watters, the third-leading rusher in the league this season with 622 yards. The 49ers' leading rusher, Derek Loville, has 274 yards.

The lack of a running game is the main reason that the 49ers have two losses and that quarterback Steve Young has an injured shoulder and is out for a month.

It didn't help that Doug Brien missed critical field-goal tries in the losses to the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts. But the games wouldn't have been that close if the 49ers had been able to run.

Without a running game, the 49ers allow their foes to play pass defense and blitz Young, who has taken a terrible beating.

"I think it makes a big difference," Lions coach Wayne Fontes said of Watters' absence. "We concentrated in that game just playing pass defense. . . . Without Ricky Watters in there, we played them differently."

Despite all the excitement about Deion Sanders signing with the Cowboys, the real difference is that they have Emmitt Smith and the 49ers don't have Watters and weren't able to replace him.

The Cowboys are now big favorites to win the Super Bowl for the third time in the past four years.

It might have been different if the 49ers had kept Watters.

Stadium games

The end of the Cleveland Indians' 41-year World Series drought and their success at Jacobs Field is a warm, fuzzy tale that has captivated baseball fans around the country. In the NFL boardrooms, though, it's a nightmare because the NFL hates the idea of cities building baseball-only parks that leave their teams in old stadiums.

It has happened in Cleveland and Denver and is being planned in Arizona. They also are talking about it in Seattle and Pittsburgh.

That's why Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said last week that he'll need $75 million in renovations at Three Rivers Stadium if his team stays there and the Pirates get a baseball stadium.

Meanwhile, Seattle owner Ken Behring and his son David, the team president, went to New York last week to meet with commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The speculation is that they're talking about moving to Los Angeles if the Mariners get a new stadium and the Seahawks get left at the Kingdome.

"If you strictly build a baseball stadium and do nothing to help us, we're going to be in the third position," said David Behring, fearing they'll also be behind the NBA SuperSonics, who have an arena plan.

"We saw what happened in Cleveland. Nothing was done to that stadium [for the Browns] and they have to compete against Jacobs Field. They are getting killed by Jacobs Field. Denver is being heavily impacted by Coors Field with the state-of-the-art suites, club lounges and all the elevators and escalators."

In Cleveland, owner Art Modell has said he won't discuss the stadium during the season.

But he has made a few recent visits to Los Angeles, and they caused a stir. The Browns quickly pointed out that he goes there to visit his son and grandson.

Modell also denies that he's annoyed at the attention the Indians are getting.

"The Indians deserve the spotlight. I don't feel slighted by the position of Browns stories [in newspapers] and coverage of the Browns," he said. "We haven't done anything yet to deserve the recognition."

In Arizona, owner Bill Bidwill has called a meeting of civic leaders Nov. 2 to plead his case for a new stadium.

Then there's Tampa Bay, which started a seat deposit campaign to help pay for a new football stadium.

Coach Sam Wyche said: "If we don't get a new stadium, we're out of here. No ifs, ands or buts."

The Johnson derby

With the season nearing the halfway point, former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson, who likes warm weather, has done nothing to stop the speculation that he would be interested in the nation's No. 1 media market -- and the New York Jets' coaching job.

"Just being the No. 1 media outlet. Just the thrill of walking down the street in a city so large. It's got something unique about it," he said.

But the word in the Jets' organization is that owner Leon Hess still likes Rich Kotite despite the team's 1-6 mark. He's even thinking of giving Kotite the additional role of general manager.

Calling it quits?

The speculation is continuing that Bill Parcells, coach of the 1-5 New England Patriots, may pack it in at the end of the season. He skipped his post-game news conference last Sunday with what was described as dehydration.

Later in the week, he said: "I apologize for not being able to make it. I felt very poorly at the end of the game and for a couple of hours."

When he was asked about a cause, he said: "I'd rather not get into it other than to say that I'm doing OK now. I'm not trying to shield anything and I'm not trying to downplay it. I just wasn't feeling well, something that's probably happened to a lot of you."

Since he has had a history of heart problems and is under tremendous stress because of the team's problems, Parcells could decide it's not worth it.

In what might be described as unfortunate timing, Parcells has a motivational book coming out entitled, "Finding a Way to Win."

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