Davis' shots at Shanahan fuel Raiders-Broncos rivalry

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The rivalry between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders, which goes back to the early days of the AFL, became even hotter last week.

Raiders owner Al Davis stoked the fire by taking a few shots at Mike Shanahan, the new Denver coach, after Davis had fired Art Shell and hired Mike White as the Raiders' head coach.

Shanahan was Davis' coach for 20 games in 1988-89. He was fired with an 8-12 mark and replaced by Shell.

Shanahan not only lost, but he irritated Davis by trying to do some things his way. With the Raiders, there's only one way -- Davis' way.

After Davis fired him, Shanahan went back to Denver as an assistant coach and then moved on to San Francisco, where he called plays for the Super Bowl champions.

That made him this year's hot assistant -- except in Davis' eyes.

"He's six years older now," Davis said. "When he was here, he was just overwhelmed. Everything was explained to him, what ** he had to do. Maybe he just didn't hear me. Then in Denver, they fired him for sneaking around and doing things underhanded against the coach [an apparent reference to rumors that Shanahan sided with John Elway instead of former coach Dan Reeves].

"He was just so insecure. He used to talk to the players at this lectern and he would put a box behind it so he would seem taller. One day, the players were going to juke the box so he would go down. I had to get rid of him."

Davis also denied reports that he dictated what Shanahan should do.

"Anyone who knows me knows that 50 percent of our offense [under Shanahan] was the shotgun offense. And if anyone dislikes the shotgun, it's Al Davis," Davis said. "But they ran it 50 percent of the time. He said he wasn't able to run his own plays."

Davis also denied he's the real Raiders coach.

"I'm not on the sidelines during games," he said. "During a game, I might make one or two suggestions through a courier, a conduit. Or ask a question or two about an injury or define something. But when you analyze that a team has 70 plays . . . . I am not the coach here."

Whether he is or isn't, White understands who's the boss.

"He might even give me a pretty good tongue-lashing if he thinks something needs to be changed," White said. "You sure as heck want an owner who's knowledgeable [rather] than just a fanatic."

The problem is that Shell did things the way Davis wanted them done. He even sided with Davis when Davis put Marcus Allen in the doghouse. In the process, Shell lost the respect of the players, who took Allen's side.

Davis said he hired White to win the Super Bowl. At the very least, White had better beat Shanahan's Broncos.

Time for seeding?

The Super Bowl blowout revived the debate about whether the NFL should seed the teams in the playoffs. That would have led to a 49ers-Cowboys Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, most of this talk was in the media. Neither the AFC owners nor the Fox Network, which is paying a premium for the NFC, is going to go for the deal.

But give the New York Times credit for taking an interesting tact: flattering commissioner Paul Tagliabue in an attempt to prod him into going for seeding.

A Times columnist wrote last week, "It starts with Tagliabue. . . . He has vision. He is a thinker. . . . Does he sit and let this Super Bowl thing play itself out and hope it eventually evens out? No. He acts. He stimulates the change."

It's a stretch to say Tagliabue has vision. Except during expansion, the owners don't pay much attention to him. He needed Judge David Doty's help to get them agree to the deal with the players, and they threw out instant replay even though Tagliabue supported it. They're also not expected to go for his new replay idea of a sideline video monitor.

Anyway, Tagliabue quickly nixed the thought that he's a visionary who'd go for seeding.

"The first thing is that we don't want to overreact," Tagliabue said last week from Hawaii, site of today's Pro Bowl. "The current overall playoff system works well. We, of course, will look at just about any idea, but it's premature to say that there's any postseason plan under consideration."

It's really the fans' fault. They watch the Super Bowl regardless of the matchup. Even though this year's ranked only 22nd among 29 Super Bowls, it attracted a viewing audience of 121 million fans. Only 60 shows in TV history have gotten a bigger audience. As long as the game draws that way, the NFL won't seed the teams.

The Walsh factor

Bill Walsh has been gone from the 49ers for six years, but he still has a lot of clout. He may have more than Miami head coach bTC Don Shula, who's still coaching.

When Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie selected his fifth choice -- Ray Rhodes of the 49ers -- over Gary Stevens, a Miami assistant under Shula, Walsh's recommendation may have been the deciding factor.

"I'm sure he was a factor," Stevens said. "Bill has his pipeline, and Ray is one of his guys. Bill Walsh is a very big name, and when he talks some owners listen."

Rhodes becomes the third African-American head coach in modern NFL history, although Shell's firing leaves the NFL with only two.

In the past, minority coaches didn't have friends in the right places, but that's starting to change. Former Walsh assistants Rhodes and Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings now have head coaching jobs. Four other Walsh assistants are head coaches.

Beating the spread

Don't tell all the gamblers that the Super Bowl wasn't exciting.

For them, it came down to the last play, with Stan Humphries throwing into the end zone against the San Francisco defense that had pretty much lost interest in the proceedings.

If he had completed one of those passes, the Chargers would have covered the 18- or 19-point spread.

If you didn't give the points, though, the 49ers were virtually money in the bank. If you wanted to bet simply that the 49ers would win, you had to bet $8 to make $1.

Most gamblers don't consider that much of a bet. But one Las Vegas gambler put down $2.4 million on the 49ers and won $300,000.

For a one-day investment, that's better than a 10 percent return on your money. You'd have a hard time topping that in the stock market.

The 49ers were 3-5 to win at the start of the playoffs, so you had to bet $5 to make $3. A $10,000 bet would have made a $6,000 profit. For a one-month investment, that's a 60 percent return on your investment without giving any points.

L One of those mutual funds should have invested in the 49ers.

Discounting

The Malcolm Glazer family is doing its best to attract the Tampa Bay fans. They're even offering discounts to fans who buy season tickets before May 15. A $400 season ticket will be sold for $360.

This is an innovative approach for the NFL, which doesn't like to sell tickets for a discount.

But the Glazer family will still want a new stadium as the price of keeping the team in Tampa.

New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft has learned the lesson that you can't make money in an outdated stadium if you pay a huge purchase price.

Kraft said last week he's destined to lose $10 million a year, even if he sells out. He wants Massachusetts to build him a new stadium or improve Foxboro. He also said the state hasn't lived up to promises that were made when he bought the team.

Gov. William Weld replied that Kraft should get help but denied making specific offers.

"It was general. It was, 'Oh, yeah, I'll help you out,' " Weld said. "[Kraft] said, 'I'm stretching to buy this team and I hope that people are going to be supportive after I get in.' I said, 'Oh, absolutely.' "

If Kraft doesn't get that help, he figures to look at offers from Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Starting over

The football season never seems to end. The 1994 season ends tonight with the Pro Bowl and the Washington Redskins start their new season tomorrow when the quarterbacks, including Heath Shuler, start their off-season workouts at Redskin Park.

Coach Norv Turner says that having Shuler, who missed 13 days of training camp in a holdout last year, for the entire off-season is going to make a big difference.

"We're going to be so much better at the quarterback position just because they're starting in March," Turner said.

But, then, they have no place to go but up. The two rookies, Shuler and Gus Frerotte, started 12 games last year and won two.

COACHING CHANGES

NFL teams that have made a coaching change since the beginning of the 1994 season with team, fired coach and his

replacement:

Team .. .. .. Old coach .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. New coach

Raiders .. .. Art Shell .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... Mike White

Broncos .. .. W. Phillips .. .. .. .. .. ... ... M.Shanahan

Oilers .. ... Jack Pardee .. .. .. .. .. ... ... Jeff Fisher

Rams .. .. .. Chuck Knox .. .. .. .. ... ... ... TBA

Jets .. .. .. Pete Carroll .. .. .. .. .. .. ... Rich Kotite

Eagles .. ... Kotite .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... Ray Rhodes

Seahawks ... Tom Flores .. .. .. .. ... ... ... D. Erickson

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