Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the best thing I read all weekend about the Super Bowl in New York was a history lesson of Vince Lombardi’s New York roots, by Tom Rock of Newsday. Three tidbits: 1. Lombardi’s high school, St. Francis Prep of Brooklyn, is the only one in America to have a Super Bowl-winning coach and World Series-winning manager (Joe Torre) as alums. 2. Lombardi’s last game before he took the Packers’ head-coaching job in 1959 was as a Giants’ offensive assistant in the famous Baltimore win over the Giants in the ’58 overtime championship game. 3. This from Rock: “Lombardi accepted a head coaching job with the Packers, but with the understanding that if Giants coach Jim Lee Howell were to leave, he would be able to return. When Howell left after the 1960 season, Lombardi was prepared to take over the Giants. Wellington Mara called the Packers to set it up. But the Packers reneged on the deal. During the 1961 season, the Giants visited Green Bay and Lombardi ran into Frank Gifford and other Giants players in town the night before the game. ‘He started crying,’ said Ernie Palladino, author of the book Lombardi and Landry. ‘Dammit,’ Lombardi said through his tears, ‘I should be the one coaching you guys.’ ” Great stuff from Rock, and from Palladino. Great idea for a story in this week, when the trophy bearing his name will be on display in his hometown.
2. I think the oddest thing I’ve sensed about this Super Bowl from the public and some in the media is that Russell Wilson, in the eyes of many, is overrated. I think that’s absurd, and not just because he’s got a 3-1 postseason record and will be playing in the Super Bowl in his second season. It’s because of his presence, his ability to make those around him better, his drive to be great. Because his weapons compared to many contending teams (including the one he’ll play Sunday) are not nearly as good. For all those who say he’s just along for the ride, consider these two stat lines from his first two NFL seasons:
2012: 64.1% accuracy, 26 TDs, 10 interceptions, 100.0 rating, 12-6 record.
2013: 63.1% accuracy, 26 TDs, 9 interceptions, 101.2 rating, 15-3 record.
And, he’s totaled 1,028 yards rushing, and five rushing touchdowns, in two years. If that’s overrated, give me 52 other overrated guys on my roster. Every day.
3. I think new Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht (pronounced “Light”) had an interesting take the other day when asked who would have the final say on the draft—him or coach Lovie Smith. (It’s widely thought around the league that the buck will stop with Smith on all football decisions.) Said Licht: “There will be no arguments on draft day. Going in to the draft—arguments are healthy. I’ve had arguments with every coach that I’ve worked for, and every GM. Some of them would be happy to tell you about them, I’m sure. We’ll have arguments on players. I’m going to plead my case. I told Lovie, during the interview process, that if he doesn’t like a player, I’m going to be in his office 20 times trying to prove why my player, that I like, is the guy that we need, and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing. If we don’t come to an agreement, the answer is easy, it lies in itself—we won’t take that player.” I’ll be interested to follow that down the line.
4. I think, even though we at The MMQB contributed to, as the New York Daily News blared across its back page Tuesday, “SHERMANIA,” neither Richard Sherman nor anyone should be surprised at the outcry over his post-game explosion last week. It’s America. It’s the sports media. It’s 56 million people watching something they’ve never seen before (at least in my memory): a star athlete raging at the camera in response to a couple of simple questions, with sportsmanship and race and the two-week Super Bowl media explosion involved. A recipe for a media firestorm, as we’ve seen.
5. I think if the Senior Bowl unearthed one gem this week, it’s Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who prompted comparisons to Geno Atkins. In 2013, he had 11 sacks and 28 tackles for loss in Pitt’s first ACC season, and he was the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year.
6. I think I loved this story from Len Pasquarelli of National Football Post on the rise of the tall cornerback. You see the trend in Seattle: Richard Sherman (6-3) and Byron Maxwell (6-1) make plays with their reach as much as with their legs.
7. I think San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, unfortunately, may turn out to be the offensive version of Mike Zimmer, who had to wait far too long for his chance to be a head coach. Cleveland not interviewing Roman … absolutely amazing.
8. I think I am shocked to say this, and I only saw the fourth quarter … but from the time I turned on the Pro Bowl till the end of the game, I saw players trying. Novel concept. The defensive lines were possessed, at least for the last quarter.
9. I think I will make this promise to you, as Super Bowl Week dawns: I promise I will not hit you over the head with weather reporting/complaining. It’ll get a mention now and again, but not a daily pounding.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Spend some more, Yankees. Pay Stephen Drew $14 million a year. Come to think of it, pay J.D. Drew $17 million.
b. Just adds to the fun. And all of America saying, “This is why we love football. Football’s fair.”
c. I don’t blame the Yankees one bit, by the way. All they’re doing is playing by the rules.
d. Bieber. Lohan. How do you tell them apart?
e. Great job by the NHL on the Stadium Series. The L.A. game Saturday night had some great pageantry (Vin Scully, the USC band, beach volleyball)
f. All who attended Kings-Ducks: You lucky dogs.
g. Same to you at Yankee Stadium. What a visual on TV.
h. If there’s ever a category for best old player in sports history, 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr—who had one of the prettiest assists you’ll ever seen Sunday against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium—will be in the finals. He leads an NHL playoff contender in scoring more than halfway through the season. A treat to watch.
i. How do the Asbury Jukes wear all Rangers stuff?
j. Coffeenerdness: Super Bowl Week Visitors Coffee Guide Dept.: I have found the most consistent drink-making Starbucks in Manhattan, and believe me, I have tried all 9,000 of them. It’s the one on East 51st, between Park and Madison. Bunch of kids in there. They care.
k. Beernerdness: Had the good fortune to meet Jim Koch, the Sam Adams brewer, on the SI Now show the other day in New York. We talked craft beer, and he handed me one of his new ones. “Cold Snap.” A wheat beer, he said, with spices like coriander and orange peel. And I’m thinking, “Hmmm. Allagash White.” So I popped it open Friday night. A tad darker than Allagash, but the same nose and similar taste. Loved it. Coriander rocks, and I don’t even know what it is.
l. Matt Garza to the Brew Crew. I like it. Good signing. If healthy, he should win 15.
m. Good luck to Dan Marino and Brian Hyland, former partners at HBO’s Inside the NFL, as they team up with moviemakers to produce a motion picture about the life and times of Marine war hero and Purple Heart recipient Brian Stokes. After serving overseas, Stokes returned to play the game he loved—college football—at Division I-AA national champion Appalachian State. I’ve met Stokes, and I know Marino and Hyland, and I think this can be a heck of a movie. Really looking forward to it.
The Adieu Haiku
Sad thing re Pro Bowl:
End of Tony Gonzalez.
At least in football.