So, let's look at the Super Bowl from the Redskin angle.The single lesson our heroes should learn is this: Dare to try it. In eight of the last nine Supers, the bolder AFC teams have beaten the NFC plodders. The average score has been 25-14. Something is going on here, and it is as obvious as John Matuszak's empty bed.
Wednesday, the Raider defensive end blitzed himself all night on Bourbon Street. Just out of curiosity, somebody did a bed check the next night. Sure enough, Tooz' bed was there, unsullied by his body. A Raider official helped Big Bad John find the sheets before dawn cracked down. The average score was Matuszak 2, dawn 0.
Such behavior is a source of mild amusement in Oakland. Tooz was fined $1,000 the first night, but the coach Tom Flores, practically laughed out loud when someone wondered if Matuszak's nocturnal wanderings would cost him his starting job in the Super Bowl.
Dick Vermeil, on the other hand, is a hanging judge. The Philadelphia coach is a total-control guy out of the NFC mold. Someone asked Vermeil what he would do if Wilbert Montgomery, say, was poured out of a paddy wagon into bed at 4 a.m.
"He'd be back in Philadelphia by now," Vermeil said.
Okay, bed checks have nothing to do with touchdowns. The mind set that tolerates a Pro Bowler's eccentricities has everything to do with the Oakland Raiders' sustained success and, by extension, the success of the AFC.
Al Davis dares to try. He dares to hire a John Matuszak, dismissed curtly by Paul Wiggins and George Allen. He dares to trade a Hall of Fame quarterback (Ken Stabler) and pick up a brokenhearted quarterback (Jim Plunkett).
Mostly, Davis dares to win. On the owner's order, the Raiders go for the big play offensively.
"If you're afraid to lose," Davis says, "You'll never win big. You must play to win, not to avoid losing. That's why it is not important that Jim Plunkett has a relatively low completion percentage. We want the ball thrown deep, and he does it."
Flores, the coach: "We want our offense to dictate to the defense. If the defense dictates to you, you're in trouble. For every playoff game, our offensive attitude has been the same: Be aggressive. The only thing I told Jim at the quarterback meeting before the Super Bowl was, 'Don't be conservative. Let's do the same thing we did at San Diego. Go after them.' Against playoff-caliber teams, you can't afford to sit on any lead."
For Redskin zealots, these words should warm the heart.
Joe Gibbs says the same thing. Attack. Make the defense adjust. Run on passing downs, pass on running downs. Throw it deep. As offensive coordinator for the AFC's San Diego Charges, the new Redskin coach built a reputation for moving the ball by air mail.
Okay, I hear you. You're saying this offensive tomfoolery is nice to look at, but can it win? And you're saying John Matuszak's behavior is destructive of team discipline.
Going deep won't win by itself. The Redskins must have a running back such as John Riggins. Until "Air Coryell" picked up freight train Chuck Muncie, the Chargers were less than a championship offensive team. Without Kenny King and Mark van Eeghen running, Plunkett could throw his arm into obsolescence and never win a playoff game, let alone an unprecedented four straight road games in this Super Bowl tournament.
Going deep helps a whole bunch, though. As demonstrated convincingly in the last 10 years, AFC teams built on daring, balanced, well executed offense and solid defense are superior to NFC teams that have it all except the daring to be great. (To be a real AFC nut about this, I could say the Dallas Cowboys are, by their style, more an Afc team than NFC; in which case, the AFC types have won every Super Bowl after Sb II.)
Now, about discipline. We need a definition. Discipline is doing your best at what you do best and doing it all the time. Discipline is not sending your best player home because he was out late four nights before a big game.
"Unless a player proves to us he can't get along, we'll try with him," said Davis, whose Raiders have been the last stop for dozens of mavericks, rebels and castoffs. "I think you have to be intelligent and be prepared to deal with human beings. We don't take them in to be gratuitous. We take great football players. And we may have more disciline than you realize."
Discipline? Big Bad John on Bourbon Street with the Super Bowl coming up?
"When players come into this organization, they are in awe of nobody and they can beat anybody," Davis said, working up his own definition of discipline, I demand it, I expect it, I want it. But I also realize they are human beings.
So he strokes the Tooz. He coddles the junked Plunkett. He trades away an all-pro tight end, Dave Casper, as proof he believes in the second guy at that spot, Raymond Chester. He goes to bat for Cliff Branch, the wide receiver, when critics knock the little guy.
"I'm proud of the guys who made strong comebacks," Davis said. "I'm happy for Cliff Branch. A couple of local people in the media wrote him off. He took it, never said a word."
And the written-off receiver caught two touchdown passes from the junked quarterback in a Super Bowl victory.
By daring, Oakland wins. By discipline, it wins. Of course, it helps to have good players. So it is instructive for Redskin zealots to know how Super Bowl teams are built.
Of Philadelphia's 45 players Sunday, 21 came through the draft.
Of Oakland's 45, 25 were drafted.
Of the Redskins' 45, five were drafted.
Philadelphia made trades for eight players and signed 16 free agents.
Oakland traded for 10 and signed 10 free agents.
The Redskins traded for 17 and signed 23 free agents.
Philadelphia drafted 13 of its 22 starters, Oakland drafted 12 -- and the Redskins drafted two.
Somewhere somebody has been doing something wrong.
It wasn't Al Davis.