ESPN analysis: Super Bowl breakdown

Murphy: Super letdown

Reams of Reeves questions

Falcons embrace underdog role

Broncos favored over Birds? You bet

Miami ready to party

Dirty Birds flying south to Miami after stunning Vikes

Mile High exit? Elway leads Denver back to Super Bowl

  Wednesday, Jan. 20 9:48pm ET
Reeves, Shanahan cross paths again, this time in Miami
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dan Reeves hired Mike Shanahan. Dan Reeves fired Mike Shanahan (or at least they came to a parting of the ways).

And many people think Reeves was fired by Denver after the 1992 season because of a rift with John Elway.

  Dan Reeves will appear in his ninth Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

In two weeks, Reeves takes his upstart Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl to meet up with Shanahan, Elway and the defending champion Broncos, who beat the New York Jets 23-10 Sunday.

Like the Minnesota Vikings, whom the Falcons upset 30-27 in overtime Sunday, Denver is heavy favorite -- the line opened at 8½ points.

But forget for a minute who might win.

The real drama here is Reeves, who underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery just a month ago.

"If I can stand today, my heart's got to be in great shape," Reeves said after the upset of the Vikings.

"It's incredible when you think about it," added Reeves, who took over a team that was 3-13 in 1996 and began 1-7 last season. "Coming from 1-7 halfway through your first year, to be in the Super Bowl your (second) year."

It's not unprecedented. Joe Gibbs began 0-5 in 1981, his first year in Washington, and a year later, he won the Super Bowl.

But that's pretty heady company -- Gibbs won three titles, and he is in the Hall of Fame.

Reeves is no stranger to Super Bowls -- this will be his ninth appearance in the 33 games. He made it as a player with the Cowboys and an assistant coach with Dallas before losing three times as head coach of the Broncos.

Now, he faces Shanahan, fired by Reeves as offensive coordinator after the 1991 season because Reeves thought Shanahan had taken some power and was too influential with Elway.

"I'll be honest," Shanahan said after he coached the Broncos to their second straight Super Bowl. "We were best friends."

Elway later said playing for Reeves was "hell" when the coach was fired after the '92 season.

As for other matchups Jan. 31 in Miami:

  • Elway will certainly attract almost all of the attention in the matchup of quarterbacks. He's expected to retire after the Super Bowl, ending a Hall of Fame career.

    Atlanta's Chris Chandler, meanwhile, is with his sixth team in 11 NFL seasons and had never been in a playoff game until a week ago.

    But Chandler was downright Elway-esque on Sunday, directing an eight-play, 71-yard drive to tie the Vikings with 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter and directing another of 70 yards that set up Morten Andersen's winning field goal.

  • The Broncos bring NFL MVP Terrell Davis, only the fourth 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history and MVP of last year's Super Bowl. But Atlanta's Jamal Anderson's 1,846 yards were only 152 less than Davis.

  • Atlanta's scrappy defense stopped a Vikings team that set an NFL record with 556 points during the regular season, and did it at the Metrodome. If the Falcons can repeat that performance on a neutral field, they will have a chance against Denver.

    But the matchup everyone will be talking about in the two-week buildup will be Reeves vs. Shanahan and Elway.

    Reeves will have a lot of motivation against a team that fired him after he led them to three Super Bowls.

    He'll say all the right things about Elway and Shanahan.

    And Elway and Shanahan will say all the right things about Reeves.

    But deep down?

    We all know, don't we?

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