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Pro Football / Bob Oates : Bears, Dolphins May Have the Best Chance to Play in Super Bowl

December 18, 1985|BOB OATES

Who's going to Super Bowl XX?

That isn't clear yet, but the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins may have the best shots.

During the playoff games in January, the young Chicago players will be performing in their own ice box.

Although they aren't as dominant as they were before Miami upset them, the Bears remain the best balanced team in the league.

The AFC's top entries are all flawed in one way or another. The Raiders, for example, have trouble getting 19 points on the scoreboard, in a full game, sometimes in two games.

The Dolphins aren't awesome either, and their defense lacks the toughness of the Raiders, but if they played today they'd beat the Raiders about 21-10.

This would be a good year for either to make the championship round. The team with the most big-game experience usually wins the Super Bowl, and both have had a lot more of that than the Bears.

The role Nat Moore plays for the Dolphins is something like that of a pinch-hitter in baseball.

At critical moments, Moore replaces players who for one reason or another don't get the job done.

A difference between the two sports is that pinch-hitters can return to the football field over and over, as Moore did Monday night when he picked up four first downs on five catches, three on third-down plays.

At 34, Moore is a classy professional who, as Miami's third wide receiver, neatly complements the two sprinters, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton.

"Nat is amazing," Miami Coach Don Shula said after the Dolphins' 30-27 victory over the New England Patriots. "He's just so competitive. I think Dan Marino and Nat Moore are probably the two most competitive guys on the team."

Before the game, what does a football coach do on the sideline besides stand around and look important?

At the Orange Bowl Monday night, Shula was studying Joe Carter, his second-year running back who has played very little since early in the season, when he was injured.

"I watched him in the pregame warmups and just got a feeling about him," Shula said at his postgame press conference. "He looked good, and I remembered how he had helped us last year. We needed somebody to take some of the heat off Tony (Nathan) and I figured he might be just the one to do it."

When New England keyed on Marino, Carter averaged more than six yards on half a dozen carries in the first half as the Dolphins opened a 17-7 lead.

This has been another big coaching season for Shula, although he still can't get the hang of the draft. His No. 1 choice, running back Lorenzo Hampton, hasn't done much and may not be around next year.

Philadelphia sports fans are asking only one question about Miami assistant coach David Shula, Don's 26-year-old son, who may be heading for the Philadelphia Eagles:

Is he too young to be a head coach in the NFL?

The right answer, in the view of some, is certainly not.

The mystique or whatever it takes to be a successful football coach has little or nothing to do with age.

In a league with 28 teams, there are at most 10 or 12 fully qualified coaches today. They are so hard to find that it is plain folly to rule a candidate out because of age, whether he's David Shula in his 20s or George Allen in his 60s.

The truth is that young men with something on the ball have always succeeded in executive positions. William Pitt ruled Britain at 24. Lord Nelson was a naval captain at 21. Lou Boudreau managed a pennant winner at 24.

Any NFL team that hired Al Davis when he was 26 would have had an instant winner.

Four years as a Dartmouth football player and four with his dad's team are enough to qualify David Shula, assuming he has been paying attention. If he doesn't make it as a successful NFL coach, it won't be because he's too young. It will be because practically no one does--fewer than a dozen in a country of more than 200 million.

Of the big defensive plays that were decisive in all three of the major weekend games, the most dramatic yielded a 65-yard touchdown return to Dallas Sunday.

Rushing the passer, Too Tall Jones slapped the ball to the Cowboys' other defensive end, Jim Jeffcoat, who ran it in.

"I think I have good hands," Jeffcoat told Dallas writers later. "I haven't dropped a pass yet."

Jones said he spent the noon hour watching Phil Simms, New York Giant quarterback, warm up.

"I noticed a lot of his passes were low," Jones said. "I told our linemen, 'Hey, if you don't get in there, get your hands up.' "

Following his own advice, Too Tall peered around the blocker who had him blocked out and swiped at the ball, belting it directly to Jeffcoat.

Jones stands 6-9 and has the wingspread of a Piper Cub. He deflects so many balls that the Cowboys keep track of each. Since 1980 he has batted away 58 passes, seven this year.

The Cowboys probably wouldn't have won without this one. They aren't an impressive team this year and won't last long in the playoffs. What they got Sunday was a break. After Jeffcoat's big run, the Giants quit.

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