January 4, 1998 | Reusse, Patrick
The Man with the Plan runs into a logjam.(SPORTS)
The cameras from Home Box Office’s weekly NFL show were allowed into the Vikings’ locker room after Minnesota’s first-round victory against the New York Giants last week. Coach Dennis Green was overjoyed inside that locker room and congratulated his athletes for adhering to “the plan” he had outlined to lead his team to significant postseason success.
The Vikings then went to Phoenix for three days of preparation before facing the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the Super Bowl tournament. The Twin Cities television outlets followed the Vikings to the desert and assured viewers that the strong scent of an upset was emanating from these men in Purple.
Green put on his best look of determination for the mini-cams and suggested those expecting an easy victory for the 14-point-favorite 49ers were in for a surprise. Occasionally, there was mention of “the plan” the Vikings had taken into the playoffs.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Man With the Plan walked into a weight room-turned-interview room in the basement of San Francisco’s old ballpark. His windbreaker was wet from rain that had fallen intermittently during the 49ers’ 38-22 victory. His voice was hoarse, perhaps from hollering at an often-confused officiating crew headed by referee Bob McElwee.
“My hat’s off to the 49ers,” the Man With the Plan said. “They played a solid game. We couldn’t keep up with what they were doing on defense. Injury-wise, we came out of it . . . “
The Man With the Plan took a pause from the usual, non-stop monologue that starts his formal postgame interviews. You could see the coach thinking:
“Injuries? Why am I mentioning how we came out of this game concerning injuries? It doesn’t matter. We got whipped. There’s no game next week.”
So, the Man With the Plan dropped that subject and started taking questions. He had a brief, veiled complaint about a couple of interference calls that moved San Francisco into position for a touchdown that broke a 7-7 tie. He did not suggest the 28-yard interference call against rookie safety Torian Gray was part of a conspiracy among officials, but did say such a call made it even more difficult to stop quarterback Steve Young and the 49ers.
Finally, a reporter asked the question that had caused many of the national-media members covering this game to attend Green’s postgame news conference, rather than that of winning coach Steve Mariucci:
“What’s your future?”
The Man With the Plan stared straight ahead and said: “I haven’t thought about it.”
When will you think about it? “I said I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I think you should respect that.”
Green was asked about speculation that he was going to wind up across the Bay – as the coach of the Oakland Raiders. Green again dismissed the question, saying all his thoughts had been with his team and his hope that the Vikings could go on the road and “pull a big upset.”
That was the man’s plan. It failed miserably. This was a horrendous mismatch. The first downs were 21-4 four minutes into the second half. The 49ers were three-and-out once in their first 10 possessions. The Vikings were three-and-out five times in their first nine.
Those numbers were mentioned to Green. “The late-week interviews from Arizona made you sound optimistic about being able to compete,” a reporter said. “Are you surprised that this was not more of a contest?”
Green stared straight ahead and said: “We thought we would play better.”
The Man With the Plan might have been surprised it was such a beating. His players did not seem to share that attitude. For the most part, they talked matter-of-factly about having been outclassed.
Receiver Cris Carter was giving what has become an annual, post-playoff-loss interview about the need for Vikings management to spend money and upgrade talent.
“We need some cover guys,” he said. “We made a couple of mediocre receivers [J.J. Stokes and Terrell Owens] look like all-stars today. If you can’t cover receivers and Steve Young is the opposing quarterback, you’re going to get picked apart. You’re going to get killed.”
Not far away, another Vikings employee was making the same point. “Look at the defensive line, if you want to know the difference between these two teams,” he said. “The ends [Chris Doleman and Roy Barker] should both be with us, if we had spent the money. They have the two studs [Dana Stubblefield and Bryant Young] on the inside. And then, for good measure, the 49ers bring in a guy like Kevin Greene.
“They bring in a linebacker like Ken Norton, a cornerback like Rod Woodson. If you look at what the 49ers have done with personnel, how can anyone be surprised by this?”
One year ago, the Vikings were beaten bloody in a playoff loss at Dallas, and predictions were made that Green had coached his last game. Green stayed and finally won a playoff game. Now, the season again has ended with his team getting killed.
“Every year, we keep coming back, and then we’re standing here, saying we need to improve,” said Roger Headrick, the Vikings’ CEO. “We thought we had improved this season. We had Ed McDaniel back. We had a young secondary that was back intact. It’s amazing – we went all season and things never changed defensively. We never adjusted . . . never got better.”
So is this it for Green, the Man With the Plan for postseason failure? “He’s a darn good coach,” Headrick said. “There are some things you would like to see Denny do better, but he’s a darn good coach.”
(taken from: https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62572182.html)