Little hype plus one week may equal interesting game

On The NFL

January 30, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Super Bowl lore is that the games rarely live up to the hype.

The buildup for the Joe Montana-John Elway shootout that became a 55-10 blowout in Super Bowl XXIV is one of many examples.

If that's true, Super Bowl XXXIV today has a chance to be an interesting game.

This is a game -- it's being called (pick your favorite) the Relocation Bowl, the Carpetbagger Bowl or the Extortion Bowl -- with little hype as Super Bowls go.

The St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans are two relocated teams with little tradition in their current cities.

Neither team was on "Monday Night Football" this year, and the Rams didn't even appear on Sunday night.

The cold weather at what was supposed to be a warm-weather site and the snowstorm forecast this weekend have gotten more attention than the game.

From a football standpoint, it's still an intriguing matchup. The Titans aren't likely to use a two-deep zone to take the air out of the Rams' long-ball game the way Tampa Bay did last week.

The Titans play a high-risk, high-reward defense. They'll blitz Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and play man-to-man in the secondary. If they don't get to him, they've vulnerable to big plays.

Not that the game makes much difference. Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday, a time to party.

But the most compelling reason it could be a good game is that it's being played one week after the conference title games. The two-week delay is good for hype but probably bad for the game. It tends to throw players off and give them more time to get uptight.

This is only the fifth time the Super Bowl has been played a week after the championship game. The first one -- Kansas City Chiefs-Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, was a 23-7 blowout. The Chiefs led 16-0 at halftime.

But the other three were good games. The Washington Redskins rallied from a 17-10 halftime deficit to beat the Miami Dolphins, 27-17, in Super Bowl XVII. Super Bowl XXV between the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants was one of the best, with the Giants winning, 20-19, when Buffalo's Scott Norwood missed a field-goal try at the end. Super Bowl XXVIII was closer than the score of Dallas' 30-13 victory over the Bills would indicate. The Bills led 13-6 at halftime before the Cowboys rallied in the second half.

There's no way to prove the one-week factor helps the game. But if today's game is interesting, it'll be a good theory.

Frontiere's past

Georgia Frontiere, the Rams' owner, didn't hold a news conference last week, although she gave an interview to USA Today in which she complained about reports she was involved in the drowning death of her sixth husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, who owned the Colts before he traded them to Robert Irsay for the Rams in 1972.

"It's the height of cruelty," she said of the speculation. "It took me months before I could admit he was dead. I pretended he had gone away."

She divorced her seventh husband, Dominic Frontiere, eight months after he was released from jail for scalping tickets to Super Bowl XIV.

Free-agent derby

Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad was taken off the free-agent market last week when he signed a five-year deal with the Carolina Panthers.

Teams will be scrambling to get free agents signed before the start of free agency on Feb. 11.

On the other hand, Trent Dilfer, the former Tampa Bay quarterback, will be on the market after the Bucs declined to buy back his contract with a $4 million payment. He became expendable now that the Bucs are committed to Shaun King.

One free agent who is trying to avoid getting the franchise tag slapped on him is Arizona's Simeon Rice. The Chicago native wants to return there, and he is trying to alienate the Cardinals by insulting them.

He told a Chicago writer that the Cardinals are "the armpit of the NFL" and said, "I'm a Chicago kid. The bright lights. That's what I want."

Advice from Elway

Elway had some advice last week for Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who is still trying to decide whether to retire.

"It's better than what he thinks," he said of retirement.

Elway also said that his former coach, Mike Shanahan, ruined the team's chances for a threepeat when he benched Bubby Brister for Brian Griese at the start of the season.

"The players knew they weren't going to the Super Bowl, and, without that, they didn't have anything to play for," he said.

Shanahan has said he made a mistake by not doing a better job of explaining it to the players.

Giants' hot seat

Jim Fassel went to the top of the list of coaches who are on the hot seat next year when the Giants gave him only a one-year extension so he wouldn't go into next year as a lame-duck coach.

Fassel wanted a longer extension, but the Giants declined to give it to him. That was a sign that he probably has to win next year to keep his job.

Another coach in a similar situation is Norv Turner of the Redskins, who will play a first-place schedule next year that includes games against St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

Although Turner has two years left on his contract, new owner Daniel Snyder is not likely to be sympathetic if the Redskins fail to get back to the playoffs.

Quotable

"One of my producers said my first words will be, `Cut the cord and get me Brian Billick on the phone.' "

-- ESPN reporter Andrea Kremer, who was due to become the first reporter to give birth to a baby at the Super Bowl last week.

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