Redskins Bogged Down

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Washington slipped here.

The middle of Candlestick Park was an absolute pigpen. A leather football was turned into a greased pigskin. And the Washington Redskins, a team that once proudly called its fat, filthy linemen “the Hogs,” were eliminated from the Super Bowl playoffs Saturday by the San Francisco 49ers, 20-13, on football footing that the winning coach, George Seifert, described as “as bad as I’ve ever seen.”

Groundskeepers were so busy stomping divots back into the ground, an entire 100-yard pasture appeared to have been under siege from an army of crazed gophers. I haven’t seen this many holes in an infield since my last Dodger game.

“Once or twice, it felt like stepping down a two-foot hole,” said tight end Brent Jones, retracing his footsteps from a 16-yard pass that gave San Francisco its final touchdown. “It looked like mortar shells had exploded.”


His coach, Seifert, compared the conditions to “playing in a bog.”

The 49er offensive coordinator, former Raider coach Mike Shanahan, spent much of the afternoon asking his quarterback, Steve Young, whether there was any need to alter their strategy for the game. The more Shanahan observed Young from the press box, footballs squirting from his fingertips, the more concerned he got.

“I’m lucky,” Shanahan said later. “I’m the only guy on this football team who got out of this game with clean shoes.”

I suppose this is what happens when indoor football goes out the window. No domed-home NFL team survived the cut to the final eight teams in the playoffs, leaving grizzled old gridders like the 49ers and Redskins sitting on the dock of the bay, watching their footing give way.

The weather was so lousy here Saturday, so gloomy and drizzly, that 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo must have given at least passing thought to moving the franchise to St. Petersburg, Fla.

His players, meanwhile, were thinking of something else. They were thinking about another kind of spill.

An Oiler spill.

One by one on the sidelines, after the flip from Young to Jones put San Francisco comfortably on top, 17-3, players took turns reminding one another what had happened to the Houston Oilers a week earlier after they had considered themselves to be “comfortably” ahead of the Buffalo Bills, 35-3. “ ‘Remember Houston!’ ” 49er tight end Jamie Williams instructed. “That’s everybody’s new battle cry, instead of ‘Remember the Alamo.’ ”


This was sound advice, particularly considering the various ways that Young kept giving the football back to the Redskins, who scrapped their way back to within four points by the opening minute of the final quarter. Young threw one long, poorly aimed ball that was intercepted. He tried to throw another ball that slipped from his grip and was judged a fumble. Another time, he fell face-first into the mud, got up, got side-swiped by a teammate and coughed up the ball again.

“You know what I could have used out there?” Young asked.


“Krazy Glue,” he said.

Assuring Shanahan that everything was under control, Young also did a number of positive things. He ran hog wild, personally rushing for as much net yardage as the entire Washington team. Furthermore, Young threw two touchdown passes, although even he must admit, after watching the replays, that the one to John Taylor that went right through cornerback AJ Johnson’s gloves was nothing if not lucky.

“Coaching is still a constant learning experience,” Shanahan said. “I couldn’t know unless Steve told me if the condition of the field was affecting his play. I kept asking him over and over if he wanted me to alter our game plan.”

Said Young: “I was glad he kept asking. But I just kept telling him: ‘Nah, it’s no big deal. So it’s a little muddy out there.’ ”

No big deal? Four turnovers is a very big deal, to any coach. And both Seifert and Shanahan had an anxious moment when Young accidentally whacked his throwing hand on somebody’s helmet near the end of the game. Without a moment’s hesitation, Joe Montana, the greatest Bay Area relief pitcher this side of Dennis Eckersley, was ordered to warm up.

“Oh, he was only warming up because my hand was hurt,” Young said, a little testily.

Montana wasn’t needed. Which was OK with the Redskins, who were having enough trouble with Young and the mud. One of the Washington defensive backs, Brad Edwards, said: “Things are tough enough when Steve Young’s out there scrambling on you and you can hardly take a step without slipping. But Joe Montana? Joe Montana is your worst nightmare.”


Young, nonetheless, pitched a complete game and got the victory. There was no save.

Tired from all the on-field muss and off-field fuss, Young was understandably sensitive to being asked once again if this game was another important hurdle for him as a starting quarterback. “Hurdle,” Young said, repeating the word with disdain. “Everybody’s always got all these hurdles for me that I’ve got to jump over. I’d be hopping around on one foot by now if I thought about all the hurdles I’ve already gone through.”

Including this one.


NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia won’t be charming the third time around. C3