NFC teams have brass, know-how to avoid league's parity trap


MIAMI -- Based on uniform results from the last 11 Super Bowls, the AFC has assumed a distinct identity. It's the professional version of teams the Southwest Conference keeps sending to the Cotton Bowl.

The AFC has won all but 13 of the last 14 Super Bowls and not lost any of them to the NFC by more than 45 points. Imminent minds have gathered to study the phenomenon in which AFC teams are unable to beat anything in Super Bowls except hasty retreat.

Most recent reversal on Sunday: San Francisco 49, San Diego 26.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue insists an 11-game winning streak by the NFC is an ordinary cycle. What goes around will come around the other way. He also describes The Hundred Years' War as a trend.

Truth be told, NFC dominance in Super Bowls likely is an irritant to Tagliabue. It slanders the NFL philosophy of Parity Uber Alles. Tagliabue can't say the AFC teams look like melonheads because the NFC has smarter operators. Even if it's true, which it is.

NFC teams have been clever enough to beat a system designed to penalize success and reward failure. How else to explain tilted Super Bowls results? Success always begins at the top of a franchise, then seeps through each descending level of the organization.

This is known as the trickle-down theory. Herein lies the source of NFC superiority in general and a 49-26 romp by San Francisco over San Diego in particular.

Given a mandate by owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., 49ers president Carmen Policy used creative math to sign elite free agents. He out-slicked the salary cap, yet another device designed to promote balance.

But the NFC asserted itself over the AFC long before Policy's brilliant maneuvers. Genesis of the monopoly reeks with irony. It began during the early '80s with coaching and management talent hired from the AFC. The effect upon the AFC is to have been hijacked with weapons lifted from its back pocket.

Bill Walsh (Cincinnati) wound up coaching the 49ers. Washington general manager Bobby Beathard (Miami) hired Joe Gibbs (San Diego) at Washington. George Young (Miami), general manager of the New York Giants, promoted assistant Bill Parcells (New England) to be head man.

So the streak got under way. Walsh and Gibbs each won three Super Bowls. Parcells chimed in with a pair. Then came Jimmy Johnson's back-to-back feat for Jerry Jones, an owner smart enough to hire him but illogically moved to run him off.

NFC coaching has been better. These coaches proved it via ability to judge talent. Each built a world champion from a roster of thin soup and stale bread.

At least at first, all knew the comfort of stable, supportive ownership. As it was in the beginning for the original Cowboys. Former president Tex Schramm remembered: "You would never have heard of me, and I'd never been inducted to any hall of fame, if I hadn't had Clint Murchison as an owner."

The AFC shows signs of wising up. Parcells is in charge at New England and fashioned a playoff team in his second year. Cleveland got to the second post-season round under former Giants aide Bill Belichick. San Diego made a surprise advance to its first Super Bowl via events that lack coincidence.

Beathard is the general manager, and long recognized as a wise one. Owner Alex Spanos, a volatile sort, vowed to butt out of his business. He did.

One other theory floats that I'm less inclined to endorse. It holds that when AFC teams drafted six quarterbacks on the first round in '83, a pass-happy mind-set took over. This translated into building lighter, smaller defenses to stop the pass -- defenses vulnerable to physical mismatch against thunder-thigh NFC lineups that emphasize the run.

Maybe there's something there. Someone figured quarterbacks from the '83 class -- Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, John Elway and Tony Eason -- are 0-9 in Super Bowls.

Consistent winners are no accident. They are the product of organizations rarely if ever better than the quality of ownership. The same can be said to explain why AFC teams keep losing Super Bowls.

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