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January 14, 2006
The Coaching Stars Align
In a playoff rarity, Super Bowl winners will prowl every sideline Saturday
By ALLEN BARRA
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
This Saturday, for the first time in National Football League playoff history, four Super Bowl-winning coaches will be competing on the same day. Washington's Joe Gibbs, Seattle's Mike Holmgren, New England's Bill Belichick and Denver's Mike Shanahan have a combined 52 years of head-coaching experience and nine Super Bowl titles -- nearly one-fourth of all Super Bowl wins.
It's an astounding assembly of coaching talent, one not likely to recur anytime soon, if ever, ….
In the American Football Conference clash, Mr. Shanahan's relentless, multipronged Broncos attack lines up against the confounding Patriots defense with which Mr. Belichick has broken so many playoff hearts. …
Amazingly, all four coaching aces believe they still have something to prove. Mr. Shanahan has never won a Super Bowl without legendary quarterback John Elway in the huddle. …
It seems almost impossible that the only coach ever to win three titles in four years, as Mr. Belichick has done, could still have something to prove. But he hasn't yet won anything without his celebrated offensive and defensive coordinators, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, who both left for other jobs before this season. …
What can we expect to see in these matchups? ….
The AFC divisional game between the defending-champion New England Patriots and host Denver Broncos is the weekend's marquee matchup, a duel between the game's most respected defensive and offensive gurus. Coaches Belichick and Shanahan are a sterling 18-5 in postseason play and 5-0 in Super Bowls. Mr. Belichick collected two Super Bowl rings as Bill Parcells's defensive coordinator with the New York Giants before moving to New England and setting a new standard in defensive ingenuity, while Mr. Shanahan is an expert initiate of the pre-eminent offensive strategist of the past 25 years, Bill Walsh. Mr. Shanahan was offensive coordinator for Mr. Walsh's 1995 champion San Francisco 49ers, who led the league in scoring with 505 points.
This year, Mr. Shanahan not only has better offensive weapons but probably better defensive ones, too. The Broncos have a terrific passing game behind rejuvenated QB Jake Plummer, and their running game is the envy of the league. Injuries, age and free agency have made the vaunted New England defense look vulnerable at times: When the teams played in Denver on Oct. 16, the Broncos outrushed the Patriots by a whopping 178 yards to 89. And New England gave up 338 points this season, 80 more than Denver.
It would seem the only way that Mr. Belichick can counter Denver's offensive strength is with a variety of blitzes. But Mr. Shanahan's offensive line is the league's most quietly effective and his teams excel at stopping blitzers in their tracks and burning opposing defenses downfield, which has been the Patriots' big weakness all season (Hear that DBs? it's on your shoulders...). And New England must travel to Denver's Invesco Field, where the Broncos, who work out all the time in the high altitude, have the biggest home-field advantage of any team in the NFL (8-0 at home this year).
This is poop
Nobody except ALLEN BARRA says or believes this. In fact, ALLEN BARRA probably does not believe it.
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