MIAMI -- The San Francisco 49ers might do commissioner Paul Tagliabue a favor today.
That's the last thing Tagliabue needs, because this has been a nightmarish season for the officials, and the problems have continued in the playoffs.
In the San Diego-Miami game, officials took a touchdown catch away from the Chargers.
In the Dallas-San Francisco game, they failed to flag Deion Sanders for pass interference on Michael Irvin in the fourth quarter. Irate Cowboys coach Barry Switzer bumped an official and was fined $5,000.
Switzer's action was inexcusable. Coaches can't lose their poise. But if the officials hadn't blown the call in the first place, there wouldn't have been an incident.
Tagliabue said all season that the officiating was as good as ever.
He finally changed his stance at his annual Super Bowl news conference Friday. He still wouldn't admit there was a problem, but he was suddenly looking at ways to solve the problem that didn't exist.
Tagliabue said the league could "make it better" even "if it ain't broke."
He announced he's conducting a survey of the teams on officials and is willing to look at a new form of instant replay. A mobile monitor would be installed on the field so the referee could view replays and decide whether to overturn a call.
Barring a critical bad call today, it's unlikely Tagliabue can get 23 of 30 votes to save instant replay.
He favored it after the 1991 season, when it was thrown out because the owners got tired of all the delays. He conceded it's a "long shot" to return next season.
But it at least puts a topic for discussion on the table if the officiating doesn't improve in 1995.
It also was an admission that the league can't continue to ignore the officiating problems. If it could find ways to improve the officiating, it wouldn't need instant replay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Sam Wyche complained earlier this season that Jerry Seeman, the director of officiating, filed reports on bad calls in his file cabinet and they never saw the light of day again.
?3 Now the league appears ready to open that file.
Where's the hype?
The week of hype for Super Bowl XXIX was fitting for a game in which the 49ers are 18-point favorites. It was as dull as the game is likely to be.
There were no Joe Namath-type guarantees issued. There were no quarterbacks mooning helicopters the way Jim McMahon once did. There were no claims of quarterbacks failing drug tests.
In fact, the most sensational comment was made by somebody who wasn't even here: former Chargers coach Dan Henning.
Henning, now the Boston College coach, told the Boston Globe that Chargers owner Alex Spanos "is one of the most despicable people I've ever met in my whole life. . . . He's no good, that's what he is."
Since Henning was fired by Spanos three years ago, that comment made the sour grapes file, though Spanos has said he was difficult to work for before he decided to turn the team over to his son, Dean, this season.
For the most part, though, this was not a memorable week. The 49ers did not gloat the way the Pittsburgh Steelers did two weeks ago when they were planning a Super Bowl video before they had gotten around to qualifying for the game.
The 49ers spent the week saying they were shocked to be such prohibitive favorites. They managed to overlook the fact they beat the Chargers by 23 points on Dec. 11.
The Chargers didn't complain about being such large underdogs. After all, they already have lost big to the 49ers on their own home field.
So the week passed without any of the incidents that have become part of Super Bowl lore.
The coin flip
For the Chargers, today's coin flip may be important.
If they win the flip and put together a four- or five-minute drive with Natrone Means chewing up the clock, they might convince themselves they have a chance to stay in the game.
If the 49ers win the coin flip, march down and score a touchdown, they might as well call it off. After all, the 49ers have had 21-0 leads in three of their past five games, including the meeting with the Chargers.
Joe Montana, who annoyed a few of his former teammates last week by saying "I'm an AFC guy now," may be returning
next season for the Kansas City Chiefs.
At least, that's what general manager Carl Peterson thinks is going to happen.
"I think he's coming back," Peterson said.
But Peterson isn't going to push Montana for a decision. "I told him there's no time limit on this thing," Peterson said.
Peterson obviously figures that as Montana recovers from the rigors of the season and starts feeling better, he'll lean toward playing.
The longer he waits to make a decision, the more likely it is he's going to play, so Peterson isn't going to rush him.
The coaching derby
The 49ers could lose both of their coordinators after today's game.
Mike Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, is considered the front-runner for the Denver Broncos job, and Ray Rhodes, the defensive coordinator, is a candidate for the other two open jobs with the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams.
Rhodes is a virtual unknown because he doesn't have a reputation for giving many interviews.
Since a head coach has to deal with the media, Rhodes was on his best behavior at the media sessions as he attempted to polish his image.
"I've been getting a bad rap about my rapport with the media," he said. "I think it's a little unfair."
He said that when Bill Walsh was with the 49ers, the policy was for the head coach, general manager and president to speak for the organization, although the other assistants managed to have higher profiles.
If Rhodes gets a job, he'll become the league's third minority coach -- assuming that Art Shell keeps his job with the Los Angeles Raiders.
Raiders owner Al Davis interviewed Dallas Cowboys assistant Butch Davis, who got the University of Miami job, although it was likely that the Raiders' owner was just trying to pick up some tidbits on the way the Cowboys operate.
Davis also named former Arizona Cardinals coach Joe Bugel as a special assistant who reports to him, not Shell.
All this doesn't bode well for Shell long-term -- Davis works in strange and mysterious ways -- but Shell still might start the season.
Besides Rhodes, the Eagles are interested in Dolphins offensive coordinator Gary Stevens, who is being pushed by Miami coach Don Shula.
When former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson demoted Shula's son, David, after the 1989 season, he wanted to hire Stevens to replace him.
Stevens had agreed to take the job before Shula -- who was furious at the way his son was treated -- persuaded Stevens to change his mind.
He sold Stevens on the idea that he would have a better chance of being a head coach by working for Shula than he would if he joined a 1-15 Cowboys team.
If Stevens had taken the Dallas job, he might be the Redskins' coach today.
A5 Now, he could wind up with another NFC East team.
Although the official count won't begin until this week, St. Louis officials think they're already close to selling 40,000 premium-seat licenses in their new stadium to attract the Rams.
If St. Louis has sold that many, the Rams deal should be finalized.
The owners will study the matter at a special meeting in Dallas on Feb. 16. Tagliabue said he hasn't decided on what recommendation he'll make, but it's unlikely the owners would try to block the Rams from getting that lucrative St. Louis deal.
The owners, though, might wait until the March meeting to give it their official approval.
The Rams, meanwhile, are still considering having training camp in California because they have three exhibition games there.
The Raiders trained in Oakland, Calif., the entire 1982 season and played their games in Los Angeles, although they didn't win a court fight to move until May of that year.
Jerry vs. Jimmy, cont.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continues to squabble with Jimmy Johnson over the issue of whether Jones fired the coach or he quit.
Jones is now saying he fired Johnson when he gave him $2 million to leave. Johnson noted that if he really was fired, Jones would have had to pay him about $5 million -- the worth of the contract.
The fact is, Johnson wanted to leave as much as Jones wanted him out.
0$ But Johnson added, "Let it die."