Originally created 01/19/99

NFL changes plans after Falcons win



SUWANEE, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons took a 15-2 record into the NFC Championship Game, and still they didn't get any respect.

Coach Dan Reeves was reminded of that Monday when he received a Super Bowl memo from the NFL office addressed to "Atlanta Falcons, head coach Dennis Green."

Apparently, NFL officials expected the Minnesota Vikings, not the Falcons, to be in the Super Bowl. They changed the team name on the memo, but overlooked the coach's name.

And that wasn't the league's only goof-up. Some of the league's brass apparently were so convinced Green's Vikings would coast to the NFC championship that they literally had the Vikings' agenda planned.

Reeves had to laugh to himself as he looked at a written schedule following Atlanta's 30-27 upset.

"When I got through with the game ... two league (executives) were there, and they had an itinerary of the things that were going to be important," Reeves said. "And I happened to look down ... and it said, `The Minnesota Vikings will arrive (for the Super Bowl) at such and such a time on Sunday ... the Minnesota Vikings will do this..."

Of the many subplots surrounding the next two weeks, perhaps the most intriguing is the matchup of Reeves, who turns 55 today, facing a Denver organization he coached for 12 years. Monday, the first questions regarding a soured relationship with Broncos quarterback John Elway and coach Mike Shanahan were lobbed Reeves' way.

Reeves was fired after the 1992 season, at which point Elway publicly alleged his former coach had been too rigid in regard to his offensive schemes.

"With John, I thought we had a great relationship," Reeves said. "I don't know what happened. I was surprised by that. Whatever I did, it was blindness on my part because I didn't know it was there."

Shanahan, who spent nearly seven years as an offensive assistant under Reeves, is also said to have a strained relationship with the Falcons' coach.

"Mike Shanahan doesn't have to apologize to anybody about anything because he's proven he can win a world championship," Reeves said. "He's a great football coach."

Reeves said he refuses to dwell on the past. In fact, he was pleased to report that a surprise meeting with Elway and Shanahan at Augusta National Golf Club went very well last May.

"When I got there, the pro told me a group from Denver was there," Reeves said. "I knew who they all were because they were all members of a club I (belonged to) when I was in Denver.

"Then, when we finished on the 18th hole, they were getting ready to tee off on One and play their second round. And I walked over and talked to 'em. I said congratulations to 'em, that they were world champions."

All in all, Reeves described himself as one who doesn't hold a grudge.

"I can look myself straight in the mirror and say I did what was best for my football team at the time," Reeves said. "You have to make some tough decisions. I can't change 'em. They're there."

Monday was an exhausting day for Reeves. After team buses arrived to approximately 4,000 cheering fans early Monday morning, Reeves slept only 4 1/2 hours before leaving his Buckhead home for a 7 a.m. appearance on Good Morning America.

NOTES:

Reeves, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery Dec. 14, had a checkup Monday morning at Piedmont Hospital and said his doctors pronounced him fit.

After undergoing blood tests, X-rays and an echo-cardiagram, Reeves said "everything's still fine. It came out beautifully."

Sunday's dramatic overtime victory was just another test that the Falcons have made Reeves endure. The week before, Atlanta didn't finish off the San Francisco 49ers until the game's final play.

"Dr. (Charles) Brown was going to do a stress test this morning," Reeves said. "But he didn't need to."