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Exclusive: A Visit with Seifert

A correspondent visited with Coach Seifert in early 1999 and provided the following special report to this Web site:

Although he's been the head coach of the Carolina Panthers for more than three months, George Seifert has put only one new item on the walls of his office inside Ericsson Stadium.

The room is crowded with expensive lithographs and colorful posters from the previous tenant, but on the wall behind Seifert's desk, housed in a rickety, dime-store frame, is a photocopied quote from Teddy Roosevelt that helps to explain why Seifert, who won two Super Bowls in San Francisco and has the highest winning percentage in NFL history, would come out of retirement to coach the lowly Panthers.

The quotation is from a speech titled "Citizens in a Republic" that Roosevelt gave in 1910 at the Sorbonne in Paris. The passage is commonly referred to as "The Critic," although Seifert says it's mainly about having the courage to put your "butt on the line, instead of standing to the side and watching." (The text is in the column at right.)

Let me say this, if Seifert, who spent 16 seasons in the San Francisco 49ers organization before parting ways with the team in 1996, wanted a chance to risk his derriere, then Carolina was the perfect choice. Seifert need only get this club to .500 to validate his reputation as a miracle worker in the NFL.

To show you the kind of tack Seifert is taking in Carolina, former coach Dom Capers used to drive a hot-rod Dodge Viper, while Seifert has been seen tooling around in a minivan.

Besides references to our 26th president, Seifert also quoted Bernard Shaw -- "the reasonable man works within his environment" -- as a way of explaining his decision to go slow and steady in rebuilding the Panthers.

So far the players are happy with the decision to bring in Seifert, who has mixed in some tough workouts with an approachability and sense of humor. The coach had 'em rolling in the aisles in their first team meeting. "This is a tough, tough business," he said, "but there are opportunities to enjoy it, too." That attitude was missing in the previous regime.

"It's like that scene in 'Jerry McGuire,' " linebacker Michael Barrow said, "where Jerry says, 'You complete me.' Well, George Seifert completes us."

All in all, I was impressed by Seifert, who, by the way, was wearing fly-fishing socks when I met him, a tribute, I guess, to the way he spent his two years away from the game. We spent a good deal of time talking about the fly-fishing streams that are only an hour and a half away from Ericsson Stadium. But Seifert, whose coffee table and desk were laden with play diagrams and practice schedules, didn't think he'd have time to wet a line. After two years of freedom, you could tell, the thought made him sigh a bit.

(On a side note, very few people in this game are grounded and secure enough to not only walk away from the sport, but to actually use that time to travel, relax and spend time with their families. Every coach says he'd do that, but so far only Seifert has actually followed through. That also impressed me. You know, most coaches and players are intense people, but I appreciate the ones who can leave that side of themselves at the stadium. And Seifert seems like that kind of guy.)

Seifert talked a lot about how this is really the first time in his professional life that he wasn't in San Francisco. "The 49ers were like a fairy tale deal for me," he said. "I grew up in San Francisco and then spent almost my entire professional life in the city. I did want to get back into the game, but I wanted to wait until something seemed right to me. And this job seemed right.

"My wife and I are delighted with Charlotte. After spending the last 22 years in one place, we expected this to be much more different than it turned out to be. With the 49ers you always felt like you were very much a part of a family. Here the atmosphere is very much the same. This is a very classy organization and I think the environment is the way it should be for a team that wants to be the best. It's what I'm used to."

After Seifert had agreed to take the job, he flew to Charlotte to meet with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. When they met there was no hello, no handshake, no warm embrace, just the owner with a stern look on his face, asking, "Uh, don't we have something to take care of first?" Seifert, you see, had yet to officially sign his contract. And so the owner and coach immediately repaired to an office to get the paperwork out of the way.

Eventually, I think Panther fans are going to be glad Seifert signed on the dotted line.

 

THE CRITIC

George Seifert has this Theodore Roosevelt quote framed on the wall of his office"

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming.

"[The credit belongs to the man,] who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause...

"Who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."


THE GRAY TWILIGHT

George Seifert referred to part of this Theodore Roosevelt quote upon being hired by the Panthers.

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failures ... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."