No ifs, ands or buts: Warner, Rams will be superior team

January 30, 2000|By KEN ROSENTHAL

ATLANTA -- If Tennessee wins, the Music City Miracle will be debated forever -- that is, unless tonight's Super Bowl is decided by a game-winning kick return with three illegal laterals, two disputed fumbles and one foot out of bounds, all of which will be deemed inconclusive.

If St. Louis wins, Tampa Bay receiver Bert Emanuel's no-catch in the NFC championship game will be debated forever -- that is, unless the winning touchdown pass tonight is a 99-yard Hail Mary from Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce that hits the ground, but is upheld on instant replay.

If Tennessee wins, NFL owners coming off 8-8 seasons will seek to imitate owner Bud Adams' winning style by threatening the jobs of their coaches -- that is, the few remaining 8-8 coaches who haven't been fired.

If St. Louis wins, NFL owners will follow the Dick Vermeil plan and hire two defensive coordinators and two offensive coordinators. Dallas owner Jerry Jones will go one better, hiring three of each, including himself in both jobs.

If Tennessee wins, Ravens coach Brian Billick will suffer a nervous breakdown over the defeat of a high-powered passing attack by a running quarterback. Teams will scour the nation for the next "Ground" McNair. Ron Dayne will be drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Browns -- as a quarterback.

If St. Louis wins, the NFL scouting combine will be canceled so teams can better concentrate their scouting efforts on the Arena Football League and supermarket checkouts. The San Diego Chargers will identify a 19-year-old teen-ager stuffing grocery bags in Ames, Iowa, as "the next Kurt Warner."

If Tennessee wins -- say, with Warner throwing three interceptions -- Trent Green could be the Rams' starting quarterback by Week 6 of next season.

If St. Louis wins -- say, with Warner throwing three touchdowns passes -- Green could be traded (Hint, hint: The last team that acquired Green to replace Tony Banks made the Super Bowl.)

If Tennessee wins, vagabond teams will become all the rage in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings will announce their move to an undetermined Southeastern destination by the year 2006 -- with stops in Little Rock, Ark., Lexington, Ky., Wheeling, W.Va., and Wilmington, N.C.

"This will toughen us up for the 2006 Super Bowl," owner Red McCombs will say.

If St. Louis wins, the Vikings, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars will compete to become the next team in Los Angeles --just so they can experience the thrill of victory after they leave.

"The only thing better than moving to L.A. is getting out of L.A.," Raiders owner Al Davis will say.

If Tennessee wins, Adams will celebrate by getting his first haircut.

If St. Louis wins, owner Georgia Frontiere will celebrate by marrying her eighth husband.

If Tennessee wins, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will claim another triumph for the Southeast, his favorite part of the country outside Washington, D.C.

If St. Louis wins, "The Sun King" will temporarily abandon plans to put two expansion teams in Mississippi, and grant the Titans extra draft picks.

If Tennessee wins, the Atlanta landscape will change forever thanks to Vermeil crying a river. Locals will nickname the new downtown stream in honor of Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse, calling it "Freak Creek."

If St. Louis wins, the Atlanta landscape will change forever thanks to Vermeil crying a river. Locals will nickname the new downtown stream in honor of Rams middle linebacker London Fletcher, calling it "The River Thames."

If Tennessee wins, Vermeil will retire after next season, then return to lead the Rio de Janeiro Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2020. "I've learned from my past mistakes," the 83-year-old Vermeil will say. "This time, I'm not even going to coach."

If St. Louis wins, the hopes of a Matthews earning a Super Bowl ring will fall to Bruce's four sons -- Steven, 14; Kevin, 12; Jacob, 7; and Michael, 6. Bruce, his brother, Clay, and his father, Clay Sr., will have combined for 40 NFL seasons, with no championships.

If Tennessee wins, the Ravens can boast that they beat the Super Bowl champions, 41-14.

If St. Louis wins, the Ravens can boast that they gave the NFL its feel-good story of the season by boosting Warner's confidence in the opening game.

If Tennessee wins nah, Tennessee isn't going to win.

The loss of injured safety Marcus Robertson will hurt the Titans, and Warner will find it easier to work against Tennessee's man-to-man coverage than Tampa Bay's two-deep zones.

Bruce won't be held to three catches, the way he was in the NFC championship game, and running back Marshall Faulk won't be held to 49 total yards.

The Rams had their scare last week, and should regain their equilibrium. The Titans are coming off three straight emotionally charged playoff victories, and could be exhausted.

It's Warner's moment, Vermeil's moment and Frontiere's moment, too.

Who needs another engagement ring when you're about to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy?

Tonight, Georgia rules Georgia.

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