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Losers Will Be As Big as Winners in This Cowboy-49er Clash : NFC championship: Steve Young and coaches George Seifert and Barry Switzer tackle memories of very successful predecessors.

Associated Press

Steve Young, George Seifert and Barry Switzer will try to exorcise the ghosts of their predecessors today when the San Francisco 49ers meet the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC championship.

“I’m aware of the talk,” Seifert said of suggestions his job might be in jeopardy if he loses--despite a career record of 82-24, a .773 percentage that’s the best of any NFL coach in history. “It’s unfortunate it’s allowed to be a topic, but it is.”

The problem for Seifert is that he followed Bill Walsh, who won three Super Bowls. The same goes for Young, who succeeded Joe Montana as the 49ers quarterback, and Switzer, who became the Cowboys coach this season, replacing Jimmy Johnson.

No matter what the incumbent does, it doesn’t seem to be as good as his successor.

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Seifert, for example, won a Super Bowl in his first season after taking over when Walsh stepped down. Walsh engineered Seifert’s hiring when Eddie DeBartolo, the 49ers owner, wanted to hire Johnson.

But that Super Bowl victory was considered a given, one accomplished with the talent Walsh had assembled.

And while Seifert has gotten to 75 wins faster than any coach in NFL history and never has won fewer than 10 games in a season, he’s lost the NFC title game in three of the past four seasons. That’s an unpardonable sin with a franchise that considers a Super Bowl victory so important.

The same is true in Dallas, where Switzer, who won three national collegiate championships at Oklahoma, must pick up where Johnson left off. That means a Super Bowl victory, which would make the Cowboys the first team to win three straight Super Bowls and five overall.

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“I wouldn’t expect them to want anything less,” Switzer said.

Young might be the one with the most at stake.

He has won three playoff games since taking over from Montana in 1991. That’s as many wins as Montana has Super Bowl MVP trophies.

He’s been the starting quarterback in the last two NFC title game losses to Dallas and his 3-2 playoff record pales in comparison to the 7-0 record of the Cowboys’ Troy Aikman.

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So forget Young’s two regular-season MVP awards.

Forget that he broke Montana’s record for quarterback rating this season with a remarkable 112.8.

Forget that his rating has been over 100 in all four of his seasons as a starter, another record and one better than Montana has ever had.

Just remember that he hasn’t won a Super Bowl.

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“When everyone rates a quarterback, there are all kinds of hoops and hurdles you’re running over,” he said. “But until you win a Super Bowl, you’re not at the top. The Super Bowl is your one and only goal. Whatever else you do, if you don’t do that, it would be a great disappointment.”

Seifert has won a Super Bowl and he still has to get rid of Walsh’s shadow to the point where people are asking the San Francisco brass about “votes of confidence.”

“All I can say is that from a personal standpoint, George Seifert is one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met and he’s totally loyal and dedicated to the 49ers,” team president Carmen Policy said.

Switzer presumably is loyal and dedicated to Jerry Jones, something Johnson wasn’t.

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But Johnson will be working for Fox Television at the game, ready to go on the air if the Cowboys lose and say, “If I’d have been there . . . . “


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