SAN DIEGO -- If Green Bay or Denver wants to win next Sunday's Super Bowl, they only have to do one thing. Do what Mike says.
That's the philosophy both Super Bowl teams have taken, and it has paid off.
Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan won Super Bowls as offensive coordinators with the San Francisco 49ers. Both moved on to head coaching jobs, partly by applying the lessons they learned in winning NFL titles.
Holmgren is back for his fourth shot at the championship and, like his team, the Green Bay Packers, he is 3-0 in the Super Bowl. Shanahan is in his fifth Super Bowl, but is only 1-3.
Still, the Denver Broncos have unchallenged faith in Shanahan's coaching skills and his wisdom in this exact situation.
``I've never won a Super Bowl,'' John Elway said Sunday, and the Broncos quarterback didn't need to remind anyone that he is 0-3 in them. ``Mike has won one and he knows how it's done. He was on a team that won it (the 1994 49ers) with a certain system. It's great to have a coach who has won a world championship.''
Shanahan, the man behind the Broncos' revival they went to three Super Bowls in four seasons in the late 1980s, but hadn't been back since wants certain portions of history to play a part in Denver's preparation.
``What I'm trying to do is take the positives from the San Francisco experience and things that weren't so good from the Denver Super Bowls,'' he said. ``There are a lot of little things, and I hope it pays off.''
But he also wants the past left in the past in other instances.
``Whatever's happened in the past isn't relevant to what's happening now,'' Shanahan said. ``You can talk about Jacksonville last year, you can talk about wild-card teams not winning. All that doesn't matter. It's what we do. So don't get caught up in history, because it can change very quickly.''
Ah, but Shanahan's part in the 49ers' romp over San Diego three years ago is not a piece of the past the Broncos want to forget. They want Shanahan to show them the way they couldn't find under Dan Reeves after winning AFC titles in 1986, '87 and '89.
Shanahan was offensive coordinator on those first two teams and the quarterbacks coach on the third super loser; he returned to the Broncos in the middle of the '89 season after being fired as the Raiders' head coach.
In 1992, mainly because of a feud with Reeves, Shanahan left for San Francisco, replacing Holmgren as offensive coordinator. Two years later, the 49ers' attack was unstoppable as they won the championship.
Shanahan replaced Wade Phillips as Broncos coach in 1995. Elway strongly approved the selection.
``Mike's a great young coach who knows how to win,'' Elway said.
``You always have to believe in yourself,'' added Shanahan. ``All of us have gone through some ups and downs. You just got to believe in yourself and keep on fighting. But this is a business; you better believe, and you better produce.''
Holmgren's teams have produced three straight NC Central crowns by doing it his way. That is to say, the way the 49ers did it in their dynastic years with Holmgren's personal touch added, of course.
'' He has a winning formula that works for him and he is not going to give that up. He has his way of doing things and it works,'' safety Eugene Robinson said. ``He says it's not a dictatorship, but coach likes to run things his way.
``And it's not a democracy.''
Holmgren's way has tamed and nurtured Brett Favre, turning him into a three-time MVP and the NFL's most accomplished quarterback. It has encouraged assistants such as coordinators Fritz Shurmur and Sherm Lewis to use their imaginations. It has gotten the prime leaders to step forward on and off the field, all under the auspices of a popular but tough-minded coach.
``It would mean a lot'' to win a second straight Super Bowl, Holmgren said. ``We've worked very hard and I'm proud of how our organization the last six years has been able to improve as a football team.
``I have as much support as any coach in this league. To be able to give back for that support would be really something. It would be nice to establish some new history, too, with this franchise.''