The Kansas City 49ers—make that the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS—have hung up a mirror, and when they look at it they want to see San Francisco staring back. Along with Joe Montana came the 49er offensive scheme and Paul Hackett, the guy who coached it during three of the Montana years. Everything's in place, right? Not quite.
Over the past four years the Chiefs have brought in massive, heavy-legged people to provide the drive power for coach Marty Schottenheimer's smash-mouth offense. Now they're being told, "Look, you're butterflies. You'll be pulling and trapping and doing all sorts of 49er-style things." But there's a darker side to all this. One of the keys to the 49ers' effectiveness has been their much feared and hated practice of going for the defenders' legs, particularly the knees, chopping from the blind side, rolling up, keeping the defense jittery. Can Schottenheimer, an old linebacker, coach that kind of football? Let's face it, it's part of the San Francisco package.
I thought Montana would have a hard time imagining the Chief receivers as Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones, but after watching him in the preseason I've scratched that. His timing is still so impeccable that he'll make effective receivers out of all of them.
I think the most effective use the Chiefs could make of ex-Raider Marcus Allen would be in the Tom Rathman role, occasionally running and blocking, but, most important, catching passes underneath the zone. But if the Chiefs see Allen as a backup to Harvey Williams, who caught five passes last year, so be it.
People say, " Montana's 37, and what happens if he gets hurt?" Well, there is Dave Krieg and a very good defense, which brought K.C. a 10-6 record and a playoff spot last year. The Chiefs are not exactly starting from poverty.
The DENVER BRONCOS say they're relieved that Dan Reeves's tight control has given way to Wade Phillips's more relaxed style. Meanwhile in New York the Giants are saying thank heavens Reeves is here to exert some control—which means that the Giants must have been uncontrollable under Ray Handley, whose arrival was welcomed by some players as a relief from Bill Parcells's tight control. The psychological ebb and flow never ends. Just win, baby.
I think the real reason why Phillips replaced Reeves in Denver was that Bronco owner Pat Bowlen wanted more say in the football side of things, and he and Reeves just got tired of each other. Aside from the Phillips-Reeves switch, Jim Fassel, John Elway's position coach at Stanford, was hired to coordinate an offense that will follow the 49er scheme—this year's Blue Plate Special around the league—with a quick drop, faster reads and short patterns, all of which should take pressure off a line that gave up 52 sacks last year.
Most significant, the Broncos hired Bob Ferguson away from the Bills and made him their chief deal maker. He brought in free agents Don Maggs and Brian Habib for the offensive line, and Rod Bernstine for the backfield, and when Maggs went down with a back injury, Fergie acquired the Vikings' fine left tackle, Gary Zimmerman.
Denver has nice offense now. Elway has three possession receivers to go to—Bernstine, holdover Shannon Sharpe and nifty little Glyn Milburn, the No. 2 draft pick. The top pick, Dan Williams, was immediately plugged in as the starting right defensive end, and he looks very solid. So do the Broncos.
The SAN DIEGO CHARGERS' train ing camp was an injury shambles last year. Then the team lost its first four games, and new coach Bobby Ross publicly apologized to the fans and his own bosses. Then—wham!—the Chargers became the league's hottest team from October through December, winning 11 of 12 games. Quarterback Stan Humphries had the year of his life, Ross did a magnificent job, the Bill Arnspargercoached Junior Seau- Leslie O'Neal defense turned up the burners, and San Diego was in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.