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The new york jets' colossal upset of the Baltimore Colts in January 1969 was the Namath Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers' last-minute win over the Cincinnati Bengals in '89, with Joe Cool driving the Niners 92 yards, was the Montana Super Bowl. Two years ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rout of the Oakland Raiders, with countless TV shots of the Bucs' fiery coach, was the Gruden's Revenge Super Bowl. � Look for this Sunday's NFL championship game in Jacksonville, between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, to be the Coaches' Super Bowl. � What makes the title game intriguing is that it matches coaching staffs--headed by Bill Belichick in New England and Andy Reid in Philadelphia--that are equally self-assured and creative. As Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said last week, the Patriots and Eagles are capable "of morphing 180 degrees from game to game, from half to half, into something completely different. That's the sign of a great coaching staff: having the trust and confidence in your coaches and your players to take on new tasks each week and perform at a very high level."
For Reid and his alter ego, offensive coordinator Brad Childress, mutual trust grew out of the time they spent crammed in a Volkswagen in 1986, two assistants talking strategy on their daily drive to the football office at Northern Arizona. For Belichick and his defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, their strong ties date to 1981, when they were on the staff of New York Giants coach Ray Perkins. In fact, the chemistry top to bottom on the staffs of both Super Bowl teams must be pretty good. Over the last three years, the staffs have had a total of only four significant departures, and each of those men moved on to accept a coordinator's position with another NFL team. (After Sunday's game, however, New England loses offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who takes over as coach at Notre Dame, and probably Crennel, who is expected to be named coach of the Cleveland Browns.)
"This is our 23rd, 24th week together, working every day," Childress said last Friday. "If you don't get along with the people you work with, working the hours we do, it'll eat a hole in your stomach and you'll never be as productive as you have to be to win in this league."
It gets to the point at which the coaches and their assistants are of the same mind. Leading the Atlanta Falcons 20--10 in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles had third-and-four at the Atlanta 14 with 5:34 left. As he looked at his laminated play sheet, Reid heard Childress's voice in his headset. "Andy," Childress said from the coaches' box upstairs, "I'm thinking the quarterback draw might...."
"I just had my finger on that," Reid interrupted. "Let's do it."
Reid relayed the play to quarterback Donovan McNabb, who set up in the shotgun and ran for six yards. The clinching touchdown came three plays later.
Terrell Owens, Philadelphia's big-play wideout, was the only offensive player on either Super Bowl squad to be named to the AP's All-Pro team, yet the Patriots scored the fourth-most points in the league during the regular season and the Eagles ranked eighth. Owens missed the last four games with an ankle injury, while New England's two best defensive players, cornerback Ty Law and lineman Richard Seymour, have been sidelined since Oct. 31 and Dec. 26, respectively. Nevertheless, excluding meaningless Eagles defeats in their last two regular-season games, when they flooded the lineup with reserves, the two teams are a combined 31--3.
"The best teams are usually an extension of the coaches," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said last week. "I really see that in these two teams." How will they game-plan and adapt as the action unfolds? That's the Super Bowl within the Super Bowl.
new england's versatility on both sides of the ball makes it a unique team. Until late in their reign, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s methodically mashed defenses with their running game. The 49ers under Bill Walsh always ran the ball well, but they moved the chains with the pass. And the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s delivered a steady dose of Emmitt Smith, with Troy Aikman passing just enough to keep the defense honest.