Montana on Candlestick: 'Issues with field, but we had home-field advantage'
Steve Young's memorable run at Candlestick has nothing on Greg Roman's halftime Candlestick routine. (USATSI)
Programming note: After tonight’s Falcons-49ers game, turn the channel to 49ers Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO -- There was Steve Young’s remarkable, stumbling touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings in 1988.
And Garrison Hearst had one of the great plays in NFL history with a 96-yard touchdown – the longest run in 49ers history – for an overtime win in the 1998 season-opener against the New York Jets.
Sure, those Candlestick Park scampers were memorable.
But what individuals who coached at Candlestick will remember most are the mad dashes that occurred with a lot greater frequency – at halftime of every game.
During the 12-minute halftime intermission, assistant coaches over 43 seasons at Candlestick Park have engaged in a stressful trek to get to the locker room in time for a little face time with the players and coaches who remain on the sideline.
Greg Roman (shown below), the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, explains the challenges:
“You have to get on the elevator, take it down to the main concourse, fight your way through the people getting beer and pretzels and hot dogs, go down the stairs of the first level, get on the field, sprint to the dugout, sprint to the locker room. You’ve got about five minutes there, and then it’s a full sprint back.”
Candlestick Park, which opened in 1960, was built for baseball. It certainly was not constructed with football coaches in mind. On Monday night, the 49ers have their final regular-season game, against the Atlanta Falcons, in their home since the 1971 season. (There's still an outside chance the 49ers could play at Candlestick in the playoffs.)
Whereas every other new stadium has multiple elevators that shuttle coaches directly to the lower-level corridor where the locker rooms are situated. The logistics are much more complex at The ‘Stick.
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“You know you’re going to get up and out, up and down at a normal stadium,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Here, you always got to fight through the crowd, which can be a little bit chaotic at times.
“It’s just nobody’s fault. There are just a lot of people going up and down those steps. And then you’ve always got the elevator there. You might have to wait for it. There’s only one, where these new stadiums usually have a bank of three or four there. But, luckily, in the last three years, we’ve been fairly successful at home and the fans have been cordial going up and down.”
While Roman is in transit to the locker room, offensive line coach Mike Solari and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst have already started handling specific halftime duties. Then, Roman arrives to be seen and heard -- albeit briefly.
There are not a lot of strategic changes that can be made during those five minutes or so, but Roman said adjustments should already be taking place between the 49ers’ offensive possessions in the first two quarters and as the second half progresses.
“I think a lot of what’s communicated during the first half is done so over the headsets, and then we just try to crystalize specific things,” Roman said. “You’re making adjustments throughout the entire game, not just at halftime. But there definitely are some things that you can look into a guy’s eyes and get communicated quickly before the long journey back begins.”
Roman said he has never missed the start of the second half, but he acknowledges he’s had some close calls. He could have more time in the locker room at halftime if he remained on the sideline, but he said the advantage of being in the booth, where he can see all 22 players, is too valuable to consider avoiding the halftime cardio test.
Of course, after the coaches spend their brief time in the locker room, they must retrace their sprint from the locker room, through the tunnel, across the playing field, up the steps through the stands, across the concourse, to the elevator, to the booth.
“I’m breathing really hard by the time I hit that elevator,” Roman said. “We all are. We just look at each other when we hit the elevator and go, ‘Man, we’ve got to get more exercise.’ But, yeah, it’s interesting. It’s definitely part of the lore of Candlestick Park.”
In line image of Grag Roman provided by USA Today Sports Images