49ers' win over Houston again shows their tenacity

On the NFL

November 03, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

It was an emotional scene in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room two weeks when owner Eddie DeBartolo presented coach George Seifert with a game ball honoring his 100th win.

As Seifert took the ball, he said, "Hey, there's nothing aside from my family in life that's more important than the 49ers. That's just the way I am. It's great for the coach to get 100 wins, right, but the thing you all want is a championship. Everything we've come together for is to win a championship."

In San Francisco, they don't talk about the first step. They don't talk about winning the division or making the playoffs.

They just talk about winning the championship. From the first day of training camp, that's the only goal.

It has been that way since Bill Walsh coached the team to its first Super Bowl in 1981.

One of these years, the law of averages is likely to catch up with the 49ers and they may actually have to do some rebuilding, but they keep putting that day off. They showed again last Sunday why they have managed to win so much.

With their first two quarterbacks, Steve Young and Elvis Grbac, ailing, they had to go with third-string quarterback Jeff Brohm on the road against a tough Houston team.

Still, they found a way to win, 10-9, in a performance that even impressed the Oilers.

"San Francisco doesn't rebuild, they reload," linebacker Micheal Barrow said. "It's not just a third-string quarterback. No matter who they put in there, they rally around that person. They always play as a team. They epitomize the team concept."

Seifert didn't like the suggestion the 49ers had stolen the game. "Did we steal this game? Hell, no," Seifert said. "I feel like we played our rear ends off in a battle to win the game. The team just kept sticking together through everything. I was proud of what we did today."

The 49ers have tended to be obscured this year by the Green Bay Packers' rise and all the Jerry Jones-Jimmy Johnson hype.

But the 49ers can't be ignored. Assuming they beat the New Orleans Saints today, they'll take a 7-2 record into next Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The committee system

When commissioner Paul Tagliabue wants to get the owners to go along with one of his schemes, he likes to hide behind a committee. He has one of his committees approve it and then hopes the owners will rubber-stamp it.

That's how he managed to keep expansion teams out of Baltimore and St. Louis.

But the strategy didn't work last week in New Orleans. Even though the finance committee voted 6-1 to change cross ownership rules to allow owners to own teams in other sports, Tagliabue ran into so much opposition on the floor that he tabled the issue until the spring meeting in March.

The change was designed for Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, who agreed when he entered the league in 1994 that if the rule wasn't changed by 1996, he would either sell the Dolphins or his other two teams, the Marlins and Panthers. Now Huizenga is threatening to sue the owners if they don't change the rule.

That's usually enough to get the owners to cave in, but this time several owners figured it's time for the NFL finally to take a stand.

Tom Benson, the New Orleans Saints' owner who was the one "no" vote on the finance committee, objected strongly. So did Ralph Wilson, the owner of the Buffalo Bills.

"Everything's gone out the window," Wilson said. "It's virtually the last rule we have and we should defend it. If the rules are good enough for 75 years or whatever, why do we have to change? It's a good rule. Every time we change for expediency's sake, it causes us more trouble down the line."

Mike Brown, owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, said, "The rule makes these teams special to the people who own them. I would hate to see us lose that."

Bob Harlan, president of the community-owned Green Bay Packers, said, "I'm concerned about what it might lead to."

Ravens owner Art Modell, who said he doesn't have a strong feeling one way or the other, said there wasn't a vote because it was obvious Tagliabue didn't have 23 votes to pass it.

It remains to be seen whether enough owners will change their minds to pass it or the league will have a confrontation with Huizenga.

Modell said the only way it will pass if it only allows an owner to own more than one team in the same city.

Even if the change doesn't pass, NFL owners are already allowed to own soccer teams and Modell said he's doing research on whether it will be feasible to bring a soccer team into the new football stadium at Camden Yards.

He said it would give the new stadium more dates, but he doesn't want to do it unless the indications are it will get strong support.

The Manning Derby

The winless Atlanta Falcons are the leader at the halfway point in the Peyton Manning derby, but it won't be a surprise if the Falcons don't finish with the worst record. With two games against both St. Louis and New Orleans and one each with Cincinnati and Jacksonville left on their schedule, the Falcons figure to win at least a couple of games.

Trick or treat

Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell defused the controversy over coach Wayne Fontes' decision to bench him in the middle of a series last week by showing up at a Halloween party Monday night dressed as Wayne Fontes.

Mitchell said he was planning to do it even before the benching.

"It actually made it better because of what happened. I just think you can't take yourself too seriously," he said.

His only concern was that fans watching the clip on TV might have thought he was drinking. He's a Mormon and doesn't drink.

"I've never tasted alcohol in my life," he said.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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