Originally created 01/25/00

Vermeil not thinking about retirement



ATLANTA -- At an age when most football coaches are enjoying retirement, Dick Vermeil has no thoughts of stepping down -- even if his St. Louis Rams win Sunday's Super Bowl against the Tennessee Titans.

The issue of retirement came up Monday shortly after the Rams arrived in Atlanta.

"I have not thought about it or discussed it," the 63-year-old Vermeil said when asked if this could be his last game.

Even his wife, Carol, asked Vermeil what else he would have to prove if the Rams win the Super Bowl.

"I'm a football coach," Vermeil said. "I couldn't be a doctor or a lawyer. I couldn't get into those schools."

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IT'S THE DUDS: Want to make the Super Bowl? Forget draft picks, trades or free-agent signings -- just change the uniforms.

The Tennessee Titans, having made the first significant alteration to their uniform in 24 years to coincide with a nickname change, promptly made the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

That's not all. The four previous teams that broke out new attire also made the playoffs, including the 1997 Denver Broncos, who finally won the Super Bowl after losing four times in the championship game.

The 1998 New York Jets won the AFC East, while the 1997 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 1996 Philadelphia Eagles reached the postseason.

Among the other teams that made successful uniform switches: 1981 Cincinnati Bengals (Super Bowl), 1974 Buffalo Bills (playoffs) and 1972 Washington Redskins (Super Bowl).

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NOT THE RAMS: After graduating from Division III John Carroll University, London Fletcher wasn't about to turn down a tryout offer from the NFL.

But he admittedly had some reservations when the St. Louis Rams called two years ago.

"The Rams? They never win any games," he said, remembering his initial reaction. "But that's where I ended up."

Fletcher went to St. Francis (Pa.) on a basketball scholarship, but had to return to his hometown of Cleveland after just 1´ years because of family issues. He enrolled at tiny John Carroll, the same school that produced Don Shula, the NFL's winningest coach.

After college, Fletcher went to work as a personnel executive, hoping to get drafted. He wasn't, but the Rams offered a tryout.

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NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED: With one Super Bowl appearance

between them, St. Louis and Tennessee represent the most inexperienced pair of teams in the big game since 1991.

In that game, the New York Giants, playing in their second Super Bowl, defeated first-time participant Buffalo 20-19 in a memorable game. The Bills had a chance to win with four seconds remaining, but Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal sailed wide right.

The last team to win in its first Super Bowl appearance? The Giants, who defeated Denver 39-20 in 1987.

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McNAIR VS. ELWAY: The St. Louis Rams might want to watch some film on five-time Super Bowl quarterback John Elway before Sunday's game against Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans.

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who teamed with Elway to take the Broncos to three Super Bowls, notices some similar traits in McNair.

"You've got to keep him in the pocket," Reeves said. "He's a little bit like John Elway was. John used to make a play and you'd say, `No, no, no.' Then, he'd make it and you'd say `Yes, yes, yes."'

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RETURN TO ATLANTA: Atlanta, which played host to its first Super Bowl in 1994, becomes the seventh city to hold a second championship game.

Miami and New Orleans have been the site of the most Super Bowls, each getting the game eight times. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., has gotten five titles games, while Tampa, Atlanta, San Diego and Los Angeles are tied at two apiece.

One-time sites are Houston; Minneapolis; Pontiac, Mich.; Tempe, Ariz.; and Stanford, Calif.