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THE NFL / T.J SIMERS

Reeves Finds Himself in a Giant Mess

October 19, 1996|T.J SIMERS

"I think there was a good chance of Shanahan being hired then," Reeves said. "I had a problem with Mike when he worked for me, and I made the move to let him go because it came out in the paper that I had a problem with John. If you're coaching the position, why don't you tell me about it? I was blindsided. I never, not once, criticized John in public; anything said was said in our meetings.

"John was the best quarterback I have ever been around. No way would we ever have been to three Super Bowls without John Elway. To this day I don't know what problem we had."

The problem was really Elway's. Elway, whose Achilles' heel in his early years was thinking everyone was out to get him--including the city of Denver--always believed he could have had the statistics of a Dan Marino had Reeves only let him play without so many restrictions. He blamed his disappointments on Reeves, who was demanding and uncompromising.

Marino joined a Super Bowl team, Elway came to a team in transition. When Wade Phillips replaced Reeves as coach and let Elway fire at will, his statistics were Marino-like, but the Broncos were 16-16.

Was Reeves too confined to a boring offensive system? Was he unable to communicate with one of the game's great athletes? Was he just too much of an intense load to deal with day in and day out? All of the above, and so Elway reportedly went to Bowlen: Reeves or Elway, make your choice.

"I was sitting in Pat Bowlen's office and he was saying he felt it would be unfair to ask me to change and he wanted to be more involved," Reeves said. "I was given no other reasons, so if that's the truth, fine, but all I know is two years later he turns around and gives Shanahan the same thing I had."

After leaving Denver, Reeves went after the Giants' job, surprising many NFL people who never thought he could co-exist with Young. And they were right.

"I wish I had more control over what I do," said Reeves, who does not shy away from the direct question. "There's that perception that I have to control everything, and yeah, I think there is a better chance to compete that way. When it comes down to it, the guy who has to stand up and be counted is the coach.

"Look at this situation with the Giants and the four coaches that have been through here before me. If not successful, those are the guys who go, and George [Young] is still sitting there. And he's got more control over this than those four coaches."

Reeves is just about finished in New York. He has had Elway-like difficulties with quarterback Dave Brown, although Brown is nowhere near as talented. The Giants had a chance to win or tie 10 games in the final two minutes last season and lost nine. That is a quarterback's time to shine, but Reeves now has the nothing-special record of 27-27 in New York with a nothing-special quarterback.

"I know what people say about me and quarterbacks," Reeves said. "But Dave and I play golf together, not a lot. He's in his mid-20s and I'm 52, and I don't think Dave Brown wants to go out with me. I have respect for the job he does. If I had daughter his age he'd be the kind of guy I'd like my daughter to go out with. He's a good person, but I can't all of a sudden say he's a great quarterback and he's executing well, because I haven't seen it yet."

Vintage Reeves. Honest until the door hits him in the rear end.

After last season he told the team's ownership that it could no longer do business as it did years ago in winning two Super Bowls because of the changes in free agency and the salary cap. The Giants' management told Reeves it would continue to do business as it had always done.

"I've never seen anything in life change by saying we're going to continue doing things the same way," Reeves said.

"It's frustrating. Before I came here, the biggest frustration was being known as the guy who couldn't win a Super Bowl. Now we go 5-11 and [2-4] and the perception overall is he can't coach. That's frustrating. Big time."

The record, overall, reflects that Reeves, the control freak and the guy who can't get along with quarterbacks, can coach--can deliver a winner. But after this season, will he ever get a chance to do so again in the NFL?

IN QUOTATIONS

--Former Bear Dan Hampton on the Packers: "I'm not impressed by Green Bay. I'd much rather play Green Bay tomorrow than Dallas because I think Dallas can hurt you more than Green Bay."

--Dallas offensive lineman Nate Newton, on the fans' warm welcome for Michael Irvin: "Say what you want about Dallas. The Cowboys believe in forgiveness. Loyalty. Outside of murder, you can't do too much wrong on our team."

DOWN AND OUT

--San Francisco wide receiver J.J. Stokes has had nine passes thrown his way in the last two games, and although six have touched his hands, he has caught none.

"Definitely, I should have had those balls," Stokes said. "It seemed like the harder I tried, the worse off I was. I just need to relax, stay relaxed, and take it from there."

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