Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, the NFL's connoisseur of Super Bowls, likes this one, sight unseen, more than his last one, a 27-17 loss to the Washington Redskins in Pasadena in 1983.
"This certainly is a truer test of the two best teams," he said this morning, soon after stepping into Oakland Coliseum for the first of several media cattle calls.
"That was the strike-shortened season and everything was on us in a hurry," he said, referring to the one week of preparation allowed because of the strike. "We were told to go out to California . . . we had to get our game plan in . . . it was such a pressure, hurry-up situation. The only thing about it was, it was the same for both teams.
"This week, everybody has time to give this game the attention it deserves."
And Shula, as well as San Francisco 49ers Coach Bill Walsh, believes it deserves an awful lot.
Shula was asked if this is the best Super Bowl matchup ever.
"I just can't think of a better one," he said.
Typical pregame hyperbole? Possibly. But Shula has been a head coach in six of these.
Walsh, appearing later in an end zone of Candlestick Park, picked up the theme and ran with it.
"It appears to be a great matchup because both clubs are capable of doing so much," he said. "Going in, you know Miami will be throwing the ball. You'd have to assume, then, we'll be throwing just in hopes of staying with them. So, you'll see a lot of action, I would think."
It's doubtful there will be much action before Sunday. So far, there are no complaints; everybody appears to be amazingly content. (Shula piped up with "I'm just a happy guy," during one breezy moment with reporters.)
Information today escaped from two football fields pockmarked with clusters of reporters around a single player or coach. The burning issue of Super Bowl XIX might well be the number of players selected before quarterbacks Dan Marino and Joe Montana were chosen in their respective drafts. The underrated quarterback song played like a broken record today.
Or, what's more important to the 49ers: offense or defense? (Walsh says defense. "Our defense is the basis of our success," he said. "It is the tenacity, the movement and the talent of the defense that has brought us this far.")
The "genius" issue was a hot potato tossed across the bay.
"He knows he is but he just won't admit it," Walsh said of Shula.
"What makes a guy a genius?" Shula asked. "Because he reads a certain type of books or listens to classical music?"
Or, how about the dreaded/loved home-field advantage, enjoyed for only the second time in Super Bowl history? The Los Angeles Rams lost to Pittsburgh, 31-19, in the Rose Bowl five years ago.
"We have our weather and we're used to it, we know the streets to drive and where to go, and we can function rather normally," Walsh said. "On the other hand, we have our family, friends and the local people hitting us. There is more pressure on us than if we were visiting Detroit (site of the 49ers' 26-21 victory over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI) or some other place."
Already, an excuse for this Sunday, should he lose. "Maybe I'll use that as an explanation," Walsh said.
It was a damp morning of suppressed egos. Marino said it's too soon for him to be compared with the great players of all time.
"There's a lot of people better," he protested.
"Name one," a reporter said.
"I don't know," Marino said.
He also was asked if he is bored with the media.
"I'm just being myself," he said. "I don't think I'm being purposely dull. If you want me to make something up, I will."
Shula was asked, over and over again, to compare his Super Bowl champions of 1973 and 1974 with this team. Walsh was asked about his team of three years ago and now. Someone even asked Shula which of his Super Bowl teams would win if they played each other.
"Oh, I don't know . . . ," Shula started. He never gave an answer.
"By far this is the most exciting team I've been around," he said of the one he brought with him this time. "But the other (the 1973 winner) was so efficient. How do you get better than 17-0?"
Later in the day, both teams practiced for the first time at their Super Bowl sites.
After a two-hour practice at Candlestick, Walsh said he might replace tight end John Frank, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the NFC championship game, on the roster with linebacker Ron Ferrari, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in November.
Frank, a rookie from Ohio State, dressed for practice but just watched on the sideline.
San Francisco defensive end Dwaine Board (shoulder), guard/trick-play blocker Guy McIntyre (nerve problem in a leg), and running back/return man Carl Monroe (muscle soreness) also did not practice. Wide receiver Dwight Clark and fullback Roger Craig also have muscle soreness and worked on a limited basis.
Walsh said Frank is "the only player I honestly think may not be able to play."
Miami defensive back Paul Lankford (twisted right knee), who did not practice with the team Monday in Miami, worked out briefly today at Oakland Coliseum.
Wide receiver Mark Clayton, who injured his shoulder in the AFC championship game, worked out for the second straight day and is expected to play, Shula said.