‘Coaching Confidential’ reveals some long-held secrets
San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Shanahan, left, and quarterback Steve Young stand on the sidelines in San Francisco on Jan. 15, 1995 prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) is tackled by Denver Broncos strong safety Mike Adams, right, and defensive back Tony Carter (32) during the first half of an NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
In his new book, Coaching Confidential, New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers takes a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL’s coaching fraternity, as well as at a variety of owners and players.
Among the fascinating items is Steve Young admitting he intentionally fired the ball at Raiders owner Al Davis during warm-ups before a Raiders-49ers game in 1994.
Myers writes that Davis had a routine of walking to the other team’s side of the 50-yard line before a game to watch the opponent get ready. The 49ers players were not happy and complained to offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, who once was the head coach of the Raiders and was fired after 20 games by Davis.
On the last play of warm-ups, Shanahan ordered one of his quarterbacks to throw the ball at Davis.
Shanahan first said it was Steve Bono who threw the ball, but when reminded that Bono was playing in Kansas City by then, he said it was Elvis Grbac. Shanahan was just trying to protect Young, a good friend.
“Ten years after this happened, I was walking out of a stadium on a Monday night, and Al came up to me,” Hall of Fame quarterback Young said. “He told me that he knew it was me.”
Shanahan also was involved in some intrigue before he took the Broncos’ coaching position in 1995.
He was offered the chance to return to Denver in 1993 as head coach, but turned it down to stay as 49ers offensive coordinator, annoyed at how he was portrayed as a backstabber by Dan Reeves when Shanahan was fired as Broncos offensive coordinator after the 1991 season.
John Elway, a close friend of Shanahan’s, was upset that Shanahan turned down the job and even offered to pay the $300,000 in salary difference between the team and Shanahan during their negotiations. Shanahan declined and Elway didn’t talk to him for a year.
But after Wade Phillips was fired two years later, Shanahan took the job – and won two Super Bowls with Elway at quarterback.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is accustomed to stopping to sign autographs, but it’s usually not Kansas City star running back Jamaal Charles doing the asking.
Charles caught up with Manning by the family waiting area outside Arrowhead Stadium after the Broncos-Chiefs game last week and asked for Manning’s autograph. The four-time MVP happily obliged.
This sort of exchange happens all the time, but a Kansas City TV camera crew was in the area for some reason Sunday and captured the moment. So both Charles and Manning were asked about the autograph this week.
Charles said he got the autograph for his mother: “She was shy. So I told my mom, ‘Give me the paper. I’ll go do it for you.’ ” He added that players sign for each other as a matter of routine, suggesting, “We’re like brothers, a fraternity in the game.”
Manning was perturbed by the media’s intrusion into a private moment between players.
“I don’t know why the cameraman was in that zone. Kind of annoying,” Manning said. “But yeah, for families, you sign for someone’s brother or mother or fan. That’s what you do. Players are constantly trading, signing for teammates. Everyone’s got a high school auction or something. That’s part of the deal.”
Manning grew up with a famous father and learned from a young age to accommodate autograph seekers.
“After wins or losses, he always took time to sign,” Manning said. “It makes an impression on young kids.”
But Manning defends athletes who get a bum rap for not signing everything all the time.
“Sometimes I hear, ‘so and so’s a jerk.’ Why’s he a jerk? ‘Well, he was sprinting to catch his flight. I asked for an autograph and he wouldn’t sign.’ But maybe he had to catch the flight,” Manning said.
Titus Young has little to say about his brief exile from the Detroit Lions.
The second-year receiver spoke with reporters Friday for the first time since returning to practice. He was deactivated for Detroit’s loss to Houston on Thanksgiving. Young rejoined the team for practice Wednesday.
Sitting in front of his locker wearing a pair of sunglasses, Young spoke for less than two minutes before the session was cut short by media relations personnel.
“What happens in house, stays in house,” Young said – and that was about as thorough a response as he gave to any of the questions.
Detroit hosts Indianapolis today, and it’s not clear yet if Young will be active.
“When we get to Sunday, we’ll make a decision on who the best 46 are to give us a chance,” Coach Jim Schwartz said. “We’re taking it day by day.”
Young was banished for what Schwartz called “unacceptable” behavior during a loss to Green Bay two weekends ago. The second-round draft pick from Boise State has 33 catches for 383 yards and four touchdowns this season. He had 48 receptions for 607 yards and six TDs as a rookie.
Young’s latest setback was part of a disturbing trend. He was involved in an altercation with teammate Louis Delmas last offseason. When he was in college, he missed most of the 2008 season for disciplinary reasons.
When asked if he’s becoming more accountable and more mature now that he’s back with the team, Young said: “Well, you’ll have to talk to coach about that.”
Asked if he was disappointed in himself, he said: “I’m not here to comment about the past.”
Teammate Dominic Raiola’s patience is wearing thin.
“I don’t know what to say. He has a chance to be a part of a great group on offense. ... You’re either on the ship or you’re off the ship,” Raiola said. “We’re not here to baby-sit, we’re here to try and get wins. ... You feel bad, because you want a guy like that, with so much talent, to last, and that’s not how you last in this league.
“Just put your head down, go to work, do the right thing, and let your talent rule. If you could just make that point to some of these guys — you just can’t make it sometimes, and I think that’s where Jim stepped in and took over.”
When Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick showed up in the locker room on his birthday, he found a present on the top shelf of his locker: a framed photo of Coach Marvin Lewis smiling down at him.
He doesn’t know who put it there. He’s afraid to ask. He’s not about to take it down, though he’s hoping to add to it.
“I’ve got to get some family portraits up there,” he said.
Kirkpatrick is finally starting to settle in – not only in the locker room, but on the defense as well.
The 17th overall pick in the draft missed all of preseason and the first half of the season because of a knee injury suffered during summer workouts. His role has changed a bit from game to game. He got in for 10 plays against Denver on special teams, using his speed to cover punts.
Kirkpatrick got in 15 plays on defense in a lopsided win over the Giants, and 26 plays in a rout of Kansas City. He was restricted to one play on defense and 17 on special teams during a 34-10 win over Oakland last Sunday. The coaches are easing him in, depending upon the game situation.
“I feel like I’m still going through preseason,” Kirkpatrick said. “Every week I’ve got to get better. I’m coming along, though. I feel confident and pretty happy with what they’re doing right now.”
Lewis likes what the rookie has done with his limited chances.
“He’s getting a lot of good practice snaps,” Lewis said. “You can’t ask for better mentors than he’s got, because the guys that are playing in front of him are rooting for him. They spent more time asking me when Dre is going to play. I said, ‘Well, as soon as you’re ready to sit down.’ ”