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SUPER BOWL XXIX DAILY REPORT : Shanahan Says Raiders Have Talent, but They Are Putting It to Waste

Mike Shanahan, the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator, suggested Wednesday that the Raiders’ personnel should have produced a better record under owner Al Davis and Coach Art Shell.

“The Raiders have the best personnel in the AFC,” Shanahan said, reflecting one common NFL view.

He and the others who share that opinion hold that Raider leadership evaluates talent effectively but doesn’t make the most of it.

The way Shanahan sees it, the San Diego Chargers, who moved from the top of Davis’ division to Miami for Super Bowl XXIX, are less gifted than the Raiders.

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Davis declined comment, but one of his employees questioned whether Shanahan is the least biased of the available critics of the Raiders, who fired him in 1989 after 20 games as their coach.

Another Raider employee said: “Mike never was a good judge of talent.”

He has, however, been a successful offensive coach in Denver and San Francisco, and he is this year’s latest hot commodity on the coaching market.

NFL people, assuming that Shanahan has his choice of any one of several vacancies, expect him to pick the Denver Broncos next week.

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A league rule bars him from commenting on that until after Sunday’s game.

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The Raiders, three times Super Bowl champions under Davis, were the last AFC team to win the event--11 years ago. And they’re the only AFC team to win it in the last 15 Super Bowls.

But after their big 1984 show in Super Bowl XXVIII, where they routed the Washington Redskins, 38-9, the Raiders fell off the pace in the late 1980s, and in 1988 Davis replaced Tom Flores by going outside the organization for a coach for the first time, bringing in Shanahan from Denver, where he was John Elway’s coordinator.

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Asked why Davis did that, Shanahan said: “Denver had beaten the Raiders in six of the last eight, and (Davis) told me that he felt his talent level was greater than ours.”

Together in Los Angeles, however, they never hit it off.

“There is no similarity whatever between (Davis’) offense and mine,” Shanahan said. “Philosophically, the Raiders like to take what they want. We like to take what (the defense) gives us.

“I had no chance to run my offense or defense in Los Angeles or to have much input on personnel.”

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Hired at age 35 by Davis, he said he hadn’t fully expressed his views to the club owner before joining the Raiders.

“Next time I’ll be more expressive,” he promised.

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San Francisco punter Klaus Wilmsmeyer says he is often asked to speak at grade schools, where he passes on this sage advice to aspiring football players:

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When it comes to blocking or tackling, just say no. . . . and work on that hang time.

“Why rattle your brain and take a chance of getting injured?” says Wilmsmeyer, advocating the life of a punter. “I see our guys out there every day banging heads, getting sore.”

Of course, Wilmsmeyer would say that. With the 49ers, he is well compensated ($162,000 per season) and seldom deployed. Seven times in their last eight games, the 49ers scored 20 or more points in the first half, delaying Wilmsmeyer’s debut until the second half. Against the Chargers in December, for instance, Wilmsmeyer punted once the entire game.

If the job has been any drawbacks, Wilmsmeyer claims, it’s getting rusty between punts.

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“You’re in a situation where you don’t have to do much all game,” he says, “and then all of a sudden in the fourth quarter, you’re a little stiff after being on the sideline for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.”

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San Francisco’s Jerry Rice was asked if he could name one catch of his 820 that ranked as his personal favorite.

“I think it was the one against the Raiders for (career touchdown) 127 (breaking the NFL record last September),” he said. “Just the way it went down. I think everybody in the stands knew we would throw the ball to me and I think the Raiders knew and they still couldn’t stop me.”

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Rice caught that one and six others for a total of 169 yards in a 44-14 rout of the Raiders on Sept. 5.

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Commenting on the 49ers’ offense, Charger defensive end Leslie O’Neal said Tuesday: “They only run about six or seven plays in the whole game. But they put them in so many different formations that you never know what’s coming.”

That is by design, Shanahan said, adding: “You can get every play pretty well rehearsed when you don’t have many of them. And you can cover them up pretty well when you can run them in 160 formations, which we might do Sunday.”

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The 49ers, who began scripting their opening plays under Coach Bill Walsh, have already decided on the first 15 plays they’ll use against the Chargers.

Said Shanahan: “Scripting helps your players focus during the week on just what they’ll be doing in the (nervousness) of the game when it’s just getting started.”

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The man in charge of the football field at Joe Robbie Stadium--Jim Steeg, NFL special events director--says it’s in good shape.

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Reports that the halftime entertainers mutilated it at a rehearsal Sunday “are incorrect,” Steeg said. “They did not tear up the field.”

After the Blockbuster Bowl on Jan. 2, it was resodded Jan. 5.

There will be another halftime rehearsal today.

“We run the stage out onto the field on a $14,000 plywood runway,” Steeg said. “And we set it on a plastic mat that spreads the weight evenly. George Toma (NFL field expert) measures the indentation after they roll the stage off the field--and if there’s a quarter-inch indent, he’s all upset. But there usually isn’t.”

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Super Bowl week means different things to different players.

At Tuesday’s media day, Charger running back Ronnie Harmon seated himself near the exit to the playing field at Joe Robbie Stadium, hoping nobody would see him.

No such luck.

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Reporters found Harmon, and he tried to answer their questions, but it was obviously agonizing for him.

Asked if he’d prefer to face a wall of tacklers rather than an army of media members, Harmon said, “Yes, but I have no choice.”

Asked if he would have skipped media day if given the chance, Harmon nodded, adding, “I’m trying to find a way out of here right now.”

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Quotation corner:

Natrone Means, San Diego running back, on the ballcarrying style he developed in junior high school: “I used to get unnecessary roughness penalties called on me when I was just running the ball.”

Courtney Hall, San Diego center, on the Charger offense: “We have to run. If you take the running game away from us, you kind of take away the heart of our offense.”

Stanley Richard, San Diego free safety, on how to stop the 49ers: “The quick passing game is 25% of their game plan, so you concentrate on eliminating the quick pass. Next, you concentrate on shutting down the run. That’s about 30-40% of their offense. You have two things to concentrate on that are more than half their offense. Then you have the deep pass, which is about 10-15% of their offense. If you shut down one thing they do well, take that out of the offense, and concentrate on something else, you have a good chance to win the football game.”

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Times staff writers Bob Oates and Mike Penner contributed to this story.


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