KANSAS CITY: Think of a more dramatic and crazy game day in your years watching the NFL. I can not, and I've covered the league since 1984. Two championship games were decided by sudden death, after only five games of conference titles had gone to overtime since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. It's the first time In those 48 years that The two seeds lost in the championship on Sunday A great officiating error, admitted by the league, that possibly prevented the Saints from making the Super Bowl. And the Patriots, so admired, so vilified, so incredibly good for so long, are making their ninth Super Bowl in 18 years … and surviving this phenomenon Patrick Mahomes and his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
A heartbreak made of zebra for the saints. A break made by Brady for the Chiefs.
I sat with Tom Brady in his locker for seven minutes after the Patriots won the 37-31 AFC Championship Game, and I can tell you I was stunned. Slightly stunned Three really crazy things happened in this game that he was trying to process, even so, about 50 minutes after his ninth victory championship game.
"We'll remember this forever," said Brady, equally incredulous and grateful as he sat on a wooden stool stamped with the bosses' logo. "It's one of the great victories in franchise history."
• Brady converted three third and ten pbades into the only overtime unit: Julian Edelman, Edelman again and Rob Gronkowski.
• The pbad move to Gronkowski, which gave the Patriots a first attempt in the 15 of the Chiefs, was not in the game plan. New England had already run Gronk's tilt before, but he had not planned on doing it here, and the only play they called that was not planned was possibly the biggest play of his day. As the 40-second game clock ran out, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called the play they had not practiced during the week because the coaches saw a deficiency in the coverage of Kansas City's savior, Eric Berry, at Gronkowski.
• "We just put eight new games in the game plan this morning," Brady told me. At the team's hotel, the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, offensive players were greeted at the 11 a.m. meeting. with the news that eight new plays were being installed for the game. That happens, but not every week, and not the value of eight plays. They walked through the works in a hotel ballroom, then four or five of them ran during the game, all for positive yardage.
"Are not you a little surprised?" I asked. "All this: convert three thirds and 10 in overtime, making another Super Bowl in a league that pushes everyone in half, Mahomes survivors …"
"Yes," he said. "I have a hard time imagining it, nine super bowls, I know, it's ridiculous."
Mahomes survivors. In October, the Mahomes lost Brady by 15 at halftime and tied the game at 40 before losing on the final play of the game. On Sunday, Mahomes followed Brady by 14 in the second quarter before losing on the final play of the game. Brady told the team officials after the game: "I want to see Patrick." Brady was taken through the bowels of Arrowhead Stadium and through the back door of the Chiefs' locker room, where he became a boy's chief comforter. years younger than him … a child that Brady does not know well but knows he would like very much.
Consider the greatness of Mahomes, which has caused Brady and Belichick to sweat profusely twice in four months (well, maybe he does not sweat on this 5-degree wind night, but at least he's very nervous): he led units of 75, 23 , 68 and 48 yards (in 28 seconds) that culminated with 24 points in the fourth quarter. Then he saw that Patriots captain Matthew Slater called "Bosses! We want the ball!" The ref. Clete Blakeman turned around, and Brady led New England on an unlikely 75-yard drive, and Mahomes , in the heated bench with a thermal layer, he never saw the field again.
With my apologies to Teri Hatcher in the famous episode of "Seinfeld", Mahomes is real, and it's spectacular. He lost this game, and lost his share of shots in a 16 of 31 performance, but he won a city. After 19 starts for the Chiefs in the last 13 months, Mahomes can not do anything wrong in Kansas City. This fandom knows that it has its franchise player for the next decade and a half, even if the Chiefs Kingdom went to bed crying on Sunday night.
"I just went and saw it," said Brady. "I mean, it feels like you think he would feel when you lose a game like this, it hurts, it's a hell of … I mean, what a great young player, so impressed with his poise, his leadership, he's spectacular."
Return to the final unit. The most interesting thing about this is that the Patriots had their share of the failure in the game of 13 plays and 75 yards that will go down in Brady's history as one of their best players. Brady threw five incomplete pbades in nine pbades. But his endings won the game. Third and 10 of the '35 Pats, they crowded into the full throat: a perfect strike in a crusade against Julian Edelman, who is crushed. Gain 20. Incomplete, incomplete. Now, Edelman has tight coverage, but Brady hopes to put the ball in a very tight window for a guy he shoots at his Montana hideout every summer, only the two of them … win 15. Now New England is in the Stephen Gostkowski's field – the goal range, in KC 30.
At the bank, a young defender from the Pats asked veterinarian Jason McCourty: "If we check, is that over?" McCourty, correctly, said they had to score a touchdown to end the game.
Two more incomplets. Third and 10 again, and the crowd, for one last exhausted time, cheered up.
But here is the funny thing about this work. Two players in the locker room said they were surprised to hear Brady's call to Gronk, because it was not on the game sheet, it had not been practiced all week, and, as one of them said, to know when it was the last time we execute it. "
Remember at the end of the last quarter, in the Patriots' final touchdown drive of regulation time? Brady sent a fade to Gronkowski to the Chiefs' 4-yard line, and Berry, the K.C. security, touched Gronk's outer shoulder, and gave the Patriots a clue as to what to do in OT. That is my opinion, anyway. That was the reason why McDaniels called the most impressive play of the game, a play that did not have in the game sheet when entering the game.
At the moment of the snap of the ball, with the New England tight end aligned to the left of the formation, Brady saw Berry touch Gronkowski's outer shoulder on the left, and Gronkowski ran in, protecting Berry from the ball, catching him and winning 15. Really, it was a pretty easy conclusion. And a vital one. First, New England, in the Chiefs 15.
"Gronk almost broke up with that, a great route for him," Brady told me. "Almost a touchdown, great call from Josh, you know, Josh, what he has formulated for us is huge, he puts in endless hours just to find little schema things for us, like those plays we put in this morning. the continuity here has been so important: Dante Scarnecchia, on the offensive line, Ivan Fears, with the runners, Josh, making everything work, and then coach Belichick finds the guys he likes, Gronk, Julian, and he says : "Okay, you're going to be here for a while."
Belichick is in his 19th year as coach of the Patriots. McDaniels has been on staff for 15 of those 19; Scarnecchia, 17 of the 19; Fear, 19 of the 19. Now you do not have to wonder, with the quarterback and head coach at New England since 2000, why New England can change things so efficiently on the fly.
Rex Burkhead ran it three times in 15 yards to finish it. Pats, 37-31.
One more thing I wanted to do with Brady. He had a graphic … well, I'll show you what I showed him in the locker room of the stuck Patriots, about his ability to stay in this game. Comparing Brady in the 14 postseason games he played in his twenties against Brady in the five postseason games he played in the forties:
Brady smiled. "When you started your job, compared to you now, are you better?" He said. "You have a lot more experience, that's what this is, experience, so I do not think it's that surprising, we've been struggling uphill all year, this game is hard to win, the next game is harder to win. game, you celebrate it for what it is, then we go to work on the Rams.
"I never imagined any of this, believe me, this is beyond, I mean, who could imagine this, nine Super Bowls, I just take it for what it is and I enjoy it, I love my teammates. trainers, I love my family, it takes a lot of people to support us all, I'm happy for all of us. "
And, apparently, it's never going to end.
Observations on Rams 26, Saints 23:
The game. Rams 20, Saints 20 … 1:49 remaining in the fourth quarter … third and 10 on the Rams' 13-yard line … Drew Brees throws himself to the right side line, near the goal line , and when the ball approaches the Saints. Tommylee Lewis, the Rams cornerback, interferes with Lewis and hits him near the 6-yard line. Without a flag The saints go crazy If they make the first defeat, the Saints could have milked the clock because the Rams had only one time left. But instead, there was no flag and the ball was incomplete. The Saints kicked a chippy field goal for Will Lutz. The Rams, behind New Orleans 23-20 just inside the two minute warning, seemed ready. But they led to a tied field goal and forced extra time. The question: if the flag is thrown, what is the logical movement in retrospect, does the result change? The saints are convinced that he does it. We will never know.
This is a great time to officiate. Will side-court judge Gary Cavaletto or down-court judge Patrick Turner, or both, be fired for omitting the interference penalty of the most obvious pbad in playoff history? If the call is made, it is possible and perhaps probable that the Saints would have made the Super Bowl.
The result. As soon as this call was made, I heard from a couple of acquaintances / sources about the impact of it. Al Riveron [EVP of Officiating] it's gone, "said one." He can not survive this. "Another said the league will have to pay large sums to return Dean Blandino or Mike Pereira (less likely), I think Riveron was on thin ice before Sunday. What the NFL should do, if he decides to get rid of Riveron, is to pay realistic money for Blandino to come back from his comfortable FOX concert, he is a trustworthy and trustworthy guy.
Expand the reproduction. Do not expand the amount of challenges a coach can have during a game. Only allow him to challenge a terrible call that he can not currently challenge.
Let's not forget Greg's leg. His 48-yard field goal at the end of the regulation tied the game at 23. When the Rams got the ball in overtime, Greg Zuerlein, as is his custom, started kicking the ball into the net on the sideline. When the unsteady Drew Brees was stopped on the first overtime trip, the Rams had a shot. It resulted in a 57-yard field goal attempt at OT. How amazing it was that the kick went up halfway through the net and it would have been good from 68 or 70 yards. "I do not think about that," Zeurlein said from New Orleans. "An inch or a mile … if it's good, it's good, I do not think how much could have been good, I just knew that I hit that big one."
One by one in the first days of the new year, the candidates for coaches were questioned by the mental confidence of the Browns (the owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, the general manager John Dorsey, the strategist Paul DePodesta, the EVP JW Johnson, the staff Eliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith, Andrew Berry), the interviews last from six to eight hours each. Interim coach Gregg Williams first, then former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, Minnesota offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, badistant Saints head coach Dan Campbell, Pats linebackers coach Brian Flores, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus … and the last provisional interim coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
The Browns were looking for a leader of men, a respected man who knew his team, and not the best offensive mind available, which was the flavor of the month. They were looking for the best coach, in terms of presence, forming a team and plotting a modern offense and defense. That's why I respect what Cleveland did by hiring Freddie Kitchens, who, despite his success as offensive coordinator in the second half of the season with Baker Mayfield, had to be better than six other men who spent at least six hours each. with the interviewers. In the course of eight days. This is a coach that nobody in the organization knew, and I'm not exaggerating, when he was hired to coach the Browns runners last winter. I do not know if the kitchens will succeed or fail. But I do know: The Browns worked to identify strong candidates, ignored the most obvious (Mike McCarthy, despite their closeness to Dorsey) in the market, and did not know at the beginning of the process three weeks ago who they would hire. .
If you think the solution was in Kitchens, consider that the buzz around the team, before the Kitchens interview, was that Stefanski from the Vikings was the favorite. They loved Stefanski's interview and thought it would be a good match for Mayfield. Then Kitchens had a blunt and boffo interview, and Stefanski and Kitchens were the two leaders in the clubhouse, and they came back for the second interviews, and Kitchens won it.
Should not that be the way teams hire coaches? Denver general manager John Elway told me last week, effectively, that the solution was in Vance Joseph. Elway had "pre-drawn" (his writing) the event that Jose entered the coach's search in 2017 after Gary Kubiak, and Elway said he would never do that again. In this case, if the Browns had a list of 100 names on their list of head coaches at the start of the 2018 season, Kitchens would not have been in it. GM Ditto Chris Ballard in Indianapolis last year; he did not have Frank Reich near his list at the end of the 2017 season, and Reich finished the job, and led the Colts from 1-5 to a playoff victory in 2018.
I asked Kitchens last week for the short version of what he said to the Browns committee when he met with them on January 7.
"The Cliff & # 39; s Notes … version is fine," Kitchens said Friday from Cleveland, the southern accent still prominent in his voice 21 years after leaving the University of Alabama, where he was playing field marshal. . "I will meet the players, I will ask the players their opinions and I will listen to their comments, I will convince them that we are all in this together, and I can not do it without them, they will trust me and respect me Once you know you trust them and respect them, you can have difficult conversations, it's not personal, it's just real, it does not mean you're a player coach, if I were a players coach, I would never have been able to work for a coach. [Bill] Parcells [in Dallas in 2006]. I will make all decisions based on the team and the player. This is really, probably, the best business of the people. Coaches like to do it about themselves, but coaches are not playing the game. It is a game of players. A coach could survive two or three years without the acceptance of the players, but without that, it's over and they will have to move on to the next team. "
Pause. "That's it," said Kitchens. "When I had the opportunity to run the offensive this year. [after Hue Jackson was fired in midseason]I felt that the players respected and trusted me. I have not invented the wheel. Trust me. It's football, and many people are excellent at teaching and training football. But this team, this offensive, I felt that we respected each other and felt that we were getting results. "
Kitchens was amazed at the people the Browns were calling to find information about him. Adrian Peterson and David Johnson (trained by Kitchens in Arizona in 2017), Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald (who witnessed it for several years), Carson Palmer (coached by Kitchens from 2013-16), Kurt Warner, Bill Parcells (Kitchens was in his last Dallas team in 2006) … and A.Q. Shipley.
"I see a number that I do not recognize, and I almost did not answer," said Shipley, a center for the Cardinals since 2015. "Then I answer, and this guy says: This is something like that of the Cleveland Browns, and I was hoping I could ask a couple of things about Freddie Kitchens. I thought, Wow. You must be serious with Freddie, calling me. "But I love Freddie, and I told them that when I arrived in Arizona, Freddie was the quarterback's coach at the time, and for the first time I had seen him in football, the quarterback coach, the offensive coordinator, the quarterback (Carson Palmer) and the center, me, would meet during the week The communication between the center and the quarterback is so important for protections and other things , and Freddie understood that it would be a good idea to communicate several times each week, between Wednesday morning and Saturday night, it was a great idea, they also asked me how I thought Freddie would be in front of the whole team. The players, I think they already knew, because of what Freddie did with Baker Mayfield at the end of the year. "
"What do you call me?" Parcells told the Browns. "You've been around this guy for the past nine months.
When Kitchens heard that Cleveland would interview six coaches before him, and that he would be the last, he loved both. When he listened to all the people he called for him, he also loved it.
"I really wanted them to have an exhaustive search," Kitchens said. "One reason and only one reason: I wanted the organization, and I mean everyone in the room, to think: & # 39; He is our man & # 39;. I did not want them to have any doubt". I did not want them to think they wished they had interviewed other kids. So, if I got the job, I got the job because I was the best man. I have it for the right reasons. That is what impressed me about this process. I did not know John Dorsey when I arrived a year ago. He did not hire one of his friends. He did not hire anyone to win the press conferences. He hired whoever he thought was the best coach for his team. He saw something in me. I always expected someone to see it: 13 years training in the NFL, seven years training in college, doing my job, trying to improve the players. Nothing else. If nobody had seen it, it would have been fine, because I've always liked my work. "
Curious: Mayfield was one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL in the second half of the season under Kitchens. What did Mayfield think about him getting the job?
Coachspeak At home It's time to be the head coach.
"You'll have to ask him," said Kitchens. "But I'm pretty sure he's not disappointed."
The harsh reality of Adam Gase's trainer job with his quarterbacks is that, in three years, the Dolphins went from Ryan Tannehill to Matt Moore, to Jay Cutler, to Moore, to Cutler, to Moore, to Cutler, to David Fales, Tannehill, Brock, Osweiler, Tannehill. Correct: Gase, due to injuries and performance, changed his starting quarterback 10 times in 49 games as coach of Miami.
If that happens again in New Jersey, and Sam Darnold loses as much time as Tannehill (24 of 49 starts), Gase will be lucky to last three years. Gase needs to get very good results with Darnold, to be sure, to show that the Miami years were overwhelmingly affected by injuries and not by bad training. Miami finished 30º, 18º and 26º in aerial yards in the three seasons of Gase in Miami, and 26º, 28º and 17º in annotations. Gase became known as a quarterback whisperer over the years, and the fact that he and Peyton Manning have come together so well and produced large numbers in Manning's three years of training in Denver gave him to the Jets the belief that he would be a great teacher for The Darnold Formative.
"When everything is happening with your quarterbacks and you're in the moment, you only think of one word: adjust," Gase said the other day from New Jersey. "The first year, Ryan gets hurt and Matt joins us and we get to the playoffs. The second year, we're having a great offseason with Ryan, and we adapt our offense to a quarterback, and he breaks his ACL in August, and then we adapt to Jay. This year, again, we are changing field marshals. [due to injury]. When you do not have consistency as a field marshal, everything gets out of control.
"The best thing about getting to coach Sam is that I never had the opportunity to train such a young guy. [Darnold is 21.] Watching the tape, you could see how it improved game by game. He has not come close to his peak, and I have been told that he is a great guy to work with, so I am excited. April [the start of the Jets’ offseason program] it can not come fast enough. "
The Jets, according to Jason Fitzgerald's respected Over The Cap, have the second highest space in the league in 2019, $ 93.8 million. That could lead them to try the market in exchange for the expensive Antonio Brown, or in the free agency for a back like Le'Veon Bell, who has just taken the year away from football. It is too early, just days after his term, to know if Gase will favor the solution of a large amount of money for the offenses of the Jets offensive and will urge GM Mike Maccagnan to spend, spend, spend. "Having the amount of cap space we have allows you the flexibility to build the way you want to build," Tase said. "It is difficult to predict at this time what path it will take for us."
Gase will not be afraid to handle great personalities such as Bell or Brown. With the interchangeability of the backups these days, I probably prefer to spend a lot on Antonio Brown if the price of the Steelers is not prohibitive. What can be.
The new offensive coordinator of Tampa Bay, Byron Leftwich, the former professional quarterback, enters his third year as badistant coach of the NFL and first as a full-time game player, and will be tasked with perfecting the inconsistent game of Jameis Winston with coach Bruce Arians. (Leftwich called plays in Arizona last year for the last nine games of the season, after offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired.) He will also have another badignment, and one that he did not ask for: After a hiring cycle in which five of the league's seven African-American head coaches were fired and only one (Miami must hire Patriots linebacker Brian Flores after season) was hired, the focus will be on the production plan for NFL coaching candidates. Now that the owners and general managers are strongly in favor of the offensive side of the ball for head coaches, Leftwich and Eric Bienemy of Kansas City are the only two minority coordinators in the league. Therefore, the spotlight will be on Leftwich as a beacon for future African American quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators who have the aspirations of head coach.
"The pressure, if that's what you'd call it, is fine, perfectly good, I'm fine with that, I'm lucky to have this opportunity in the business, and wherever it takes us that is where it takes us. and only one thing: try to improve these players so that we can win football matches, you would be a fool if you think about something else, this is too difficult a job to deal with in any other way.
"But I understand my responsibility as one of two [minority offensive coordinators]. Honestly, I'm glad it's me. I can not stand it; I can handle the pressure. As a field marshal, I was fine with the pressure. The same here. I love the challenge of working with Jameis. I think he is a very good player. Pressure … If people see it that way, it's fine. I only see this as an opportunity to work with a good young quarterback and this offense, and I am ready for the challenge.
"What I have learned in training so far, and you know it as a player, but you really see it as a coach, is that each game has a thought process.  On Bruce's staff, he was excellent at explaining the thought process behind each game on the game sheet. Why do we call this play and why do we call it at this time? BA would tell you, and you would see his reason. The coaches are teachers. Coaching is teaching. And how Bruce understands his point of view is simple, clean and easy to understand. Many people see the screams and discomfort when they see Bruce. I do not. I see 8 o'clock at night, creating plays, explaining to his coaches why. It will be great to call the plays now, and ask Bruce to rely on some advice. "
Give me another coach that has influenced you and tell me what you have learned from him.
Mike Tomlin [Leftwich had two late-career stints backing up Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.] That's easy for me. He's a unique man, a great leader of men. My time in Pittsburgh was great and very valuable. I learned a lot from coach Tomlin about how to handle the whole team. But above all, what makes him so good is that he is a leader of men. That's something that is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. "
Offensive players of the week
Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, offensive line, New England. Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, brother of chief tackle Mitchell Schwartz, saw the game from the stands at Arrowhead and said afterwards: "I'll tell you the real MVP of this game: the New England offensive linemen. The Patriots made 94 offensive plays, including 46 pbades from Tom Brady, and New England had a negative play, a kneeling by Brady, and allowed zero sacks and a significant quarterback hit. Incredible performance for the second consecutive week by a unit that should get more credit for being one of the best offensive fronts in football.
Jared Goff, field marshal, L.A. Rams. As I wrote in Week 3 (and I questioned it in the trembling month of December of Goff), it was "the moment to begin to recognize that Goff is playing really good football with Sean McVay, not just to take care of football." Goff entered the day as field marshal number two. in the game with Drew Brees, but then beat Brees. Goff justified being the first overall pick in the 2016 draft by taking his team to the Super Bowl in his third professional season. He finished 25 for 40 for 297 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception. That included lovely endings of 36, 33 and 39 yards.
Defensive players of the week
A strange confluence of defensive stars. Sorensen and Van Noy were teammates of Brigham Young in 2013.
Daniel Sorensen, security, Kansas City. Two huge plays for a type of glue in the K.C. Secondaries that were huge in the Chiefs winning the AFC title. He attacked through the New England line in a fourth Patriot and one led by Rex Burkhead, stoning Burkhead without profit and handing the ball to the Chiefs. Then Sorensen eliminated Tom Brady midway through the fourth quarter, which led to a K.C. TD Y had 14 tackles. It must be nice, play the best game of your life in the biggest game of your life.
Kyle Van Noy, linebacker, New England. The Patriots have made some killer exchanges in the Belichick Era, but this morning, many do not look better than the scam work they did with Detroit before the 2016 trade deadline. They moved a sixth round pick to Detroit by Van Noy and a seventh round selection. In other words, 24 spaces fell on day three in the 2017 draft for the player who destroyed the Chiefs in the first half of the AFC title game on Sunday. Van Noy fired Patrick Mahomes for losses of 14 and 10 yards before the interval, forcing a fumble in the second, while leading the Pats on the day with 10 tackles.
Special Teams Players of the Week.
Greg Zuerlein, kicker, L.A. Rams. A 24-yard field goal to tie the game for the NFC title at 20 with 5:03 to play. A 48-yard field goal to tie the game for the NFC title to 23 with 15 seconds left. A 57-yard field goal to win the game for the NFC title, 26-23, three minutes in overtime. A performance for Greg's ages the leg.
Johnny Hekker, punter, L.A. Rams. How similar are the saints and rams? They both love running risky fake games in their own territory. New Orleans did it last week by 14-0, with Taysom Hill moving forward for a first race. En el juego por el título, los Rams perdieron 13-0 por minuto en el segundo cuarto y tuvieron un cuarto y cinco en su línea de 30 yardas. Cada vez que Hekker camina en el campo, la defensa debe tener cuidado con lo falso; había lanzado desde la formación de despeje nueve veces en los tres años anteriores. Aquí, lo hizo de nuevo, disparándolo al artillero derecho Sam Shields para obtener una ganancia de 12 y el primer intento. Los Rams siguieron anotando para cortar la ventaja a 13-3. Esa es la segunda conversión de falso de despeje de Hekker a Shields esta temporada, y ambas completaciones fueron para 12 yardas.
Entrenador de la semana
Bill Belichick, entrenador en jefe, Nueva Inglaterra. Para algunas cosas: llevar a New England a su novena aparición en el Super Bowl, más que cualquier otro entrenador en la historia de la NFL, en los últimos 18 años … para un gran plan de juego defensivo contra los Chiefs durante 40 minutos (los Chiefs tuvieron siete puntos en su primera seis unidades) … y para encontrar y moldear a los jugadores al estilo Belichick Way una vez más. En la semana 6, cuando los Patriots vencieron a K.C. 43-40 en un gol de campo de último segundo en Foxboro, el juego fue una victoria de Brady; fue magistral esa noche. En el juego de campeonato, el juego se sintió como una victoria como entrenador por parte de los jugadores. Belichick y Brian Flores coreografiaron un plan inteligente y diferente contra Mahomes, que lo frustró temprano. Observas el juego de los Patriots, y simplemente sabes que se les ocurrirá algo contra estas arrugas ofensivas de los New Chiefs y su mariscal de campo fenomenal. Con dos semanas para prepararse para los Rams, espera que Belichick descubra cómo detener esa ofensiva también.
Cabra de la semana
El equipo de Bill Vinovich. Específicamente el juez lateral Gary Cavaletto y el juez de down Patrick Turner, quien no cometió la falta de interferencia de pase más obvia al final del último cuarto de la derrota de los Saints ante los Rams. Como viste y documenté, hay muchas posibilidades de que el resultado del juego hubiera cambiado si se hiciera esa llamada. "Es una llamada que cambia el juego, y la llamaron", dijo el entrenador de los Saints, Sean Payton. Será interesante ver a qué se enfrenta el destino Cavaletto, que las autoridades oficiantes creen que estaba en la mejor posición para hacer la llamada, y si el vicepresidente de la oficialización de Al Riveron enfrentará un calor similar por la falta de convocatoria. Eso simplemente no puede suceder, pero sucedió.
“¡Qué juego! ¡Qué juego!
—El entrenador de Nueva Inglaterra Bill Belichick, a Tom Brady, por Tom Curran de NBCSports Boston, cuando Brady y Belichick se encontraron en el campo después de la victoria de Pats '37-31 en tiempo extra sobre Kansas City.
"Sí, llegué demasiado pronto. Estaba vencido, y estaba tratando de salvar el touchdown ".
—El defensor del esquinero Nickell Robey-Coleman, en la peor convocatoria de 2018, la llamada que probablemente impidió que los Saints acudieran al Super Bowl, a Robert Klemko de The MMQB.
"Sabes, al final del día, puedes llamarme antipatriótico, pero vienes a mi vecindario y me verás quitarme la camisa y dársela a alguien que la necesite. Quiero decir, ¿cómo llamarías a eso?
—Marshawn Lynch, on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO Friday night, asked by Maher his reaction to Donald Trump calling some NFL players including Lynch—who has been one of the anthem protesters in the NFL—unpatriotic for not standing at attention during the playing of the national anthem.
“He has never asked me that question, but if he did, I would be like, ‘Shut the hell up. You have many years to go still.’ “
—David Ortiz, on what he would say to Tom Brady if the latter asked for retirement advice, to WEEI’s Lou Merloni and Greg Dickerson on Saturday.
“I’m a dinosaur, one of the last guys on the bridge that goes from Jack Buck and Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell. The young breed is incredibly different … There’s a greater emphasis today on being a fan of the team you work for. That’s another reason it’s a good time for me to get out. There is a line you do not cross. What’s the definition of that line? I don’t know. I just know intuitively where I can go and where I can’t.”
—Marty Brennaman, the Cincinnati Reds radio play-by-play broadcaster for the past 46 years, to Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Brennaman announced last week that he would retire at the end of the 2019 season.
“I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good. I have been at the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s national anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl.”
—Gladys Knight, in a statement firing back at those critical of her for agreeing to sing the anthem at the Super Bowl because they believe it flies in the face of those NFL players and ex-players who protested racial injustice during the playing of the anthem before NFL games in the last two seasons.
In 1996 and 1997, Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens dueled Tennessee’s Peyton Manning twice. Yes, Kitchens was Alabama’s starting quarterback in 1996 and 1997.
1996: In Knoxville, before a then-college-record crowd of 106,700, Alabama built a 13-0 lead in the third quarter, but Manning and the Vols came back for a 20-13 victory.
1997: In Birmingham, with rookie offensive coordinator Bruce Arians calling the plays, Alabama was blown out by Manning, 38-21.
Speaking of Arians: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new coaching staff features 21 badistant coaches, four of whom are very familiar to new head coach Arians. Four of the badistants were captains at Temple between 1983 and 1988, when Arians served as head coach:
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (Temple captain, 1985)
Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong (Temple captain, 1986)
Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross (Temple captain, 1983)
Running backs coach Todd McNair (Temple captain, 1988)
“I’ve known ‘em forever,” Arians told me last week. “They’re all excellent teachers.”
This will get lost in the mania over the officiating at the end the NFC Championship Game, and maybe it should. But consider these things about the top seed in the NFC down the stretch of the 2018 season:
• Over their last seven games—five regular season, two postseason—the Saints, with a supposedly great offense, averaged a measly 19.7 points per game and went 4-3 (pockmarked by the huge no-call, of course).
• Last seven games: Saints 138, Foes 137.
• Drew Brees played six of the seven games. In those six, he had no games with three or more touchdown pbades. In his first 11 games this year, he had seven games with three or more TD pbades.
Last Monday, before leaving New Orleans after the Saints playoff game, I witnessed a scene that makes New Orleans such a warm city. I am not saying this would not happen in other cities in America, but I do see kindnesses like this in New Orleans quite often when I am there.
Revelator Coffee on Tchoupitoulas Street (one of the great American street names—pronounced “CHOP-a-TOO-lis), in the Warehouse District of the city, is a small and welcoming place. I sat in there drinking an espresso with milk at 11 last Monday when a man, maybe 30, slightly unkempt, walked in and asked the barista at the counter: “Pardon me—could I use your rest room?”
“Sure,” the barista said, pointing to the back of the narrow shop. “Back there and to the left.”
“Thanks,” the man said, and walked back. Three or four minutes later, the guy walked back to the front of the shop and said, “Hey, thanks. Appreciate it.”
“No problem,” the barista said. “Have a good day!”
The man bought nothing. Not a huge moral to the story, except maybe that part of doing business today should be (when possible, and I realize it is not always possible) to do the right thing and allow people in your neighborhood to use the rest room. This was just a nice, humane thing in a nice, humane city that is not perfect … and no city is.
All those NFL owners wanting to hire "another Sean McVay" probably weren't thinking "We need a guy who goes for the tie!"
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) January 20, 2019
Source: The Eagles have paid QB Nick Foles a signing bonus of $ 1M to account for the incentive he lost for only four plays won by Philly in the playoffs and Foles playing 33% of the plays. Philly does the right thing by the QB clutch.
– Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 19, 2019
i just found out. that not everything is about me. and i’m devastated. por decir lo menos
— ♡ Thoughts of Dog (@dog_feelings) January 14, 2019
I thought it best to let readers vent after the non-call in New Orleans that gave the Rams a valuable badist in their NFC title victory. Some of the reaction from more than 200 emails Sunday night:
Doing it for the fans. From Jack F.: “Tell me the league didn’t want Rams in the Super Bowl 53 for television ratings and fan base rebuilding purposes. How does the league explain the no pbad interference call against the Rams near the end of the championship game that hurt New Orleans’s chances to score a touchdown? It can’t.”
No favoritism, just incompetence. From Mark Z.: “As a Saints fan that attended today’s game, we are still in the ‘did-that-really-happen?’ mood. It is hard to believe that anyone with an unbiased view would not call PI, and now the league office admitted to Coach Payton that it was helmet to helmet, too. I do not think the refs favored the Rams, just pure incompetence. How can this multi-billion-dollar business preach fairness yet there is no recourse or accountability for this? Just ‘We blew it.’”
One possible fix. From Kevin Z.: “Give teams three challenges per game, and every play is reviewable. If it adds 10 minutes per game, so be it. (Although coaches could be more frugal in using challenges to hold onto them for more important plays late in the game). It’s a small price to pay to ensure career-altering calls are correct.”
Might only get worse. From Billy Q.: “Gambling, in its many easily accessible forms to come, will only exacerbate the emotions around these game altering blown calls.”
Think of the big picture. From Dean W.: “A single call does not lose games. Great game plan by the Rams to slow the game down and put pressure on Brees when it mattered.”
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Championship Sunday:
a. It will always be remembered for the most significant officiating call in a playoff game since the Tuck Rule.
segundo. The end of both games reminded me of a playoff baseball game with your heart racing on every pitch in the ninth inning.
do. Great comment from former Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga last night on Patrick Mahomes: “Mahomes does stuff that I have never seen Favre or Rodgers do. I have seen 100,000 plays of those guys live playing against them in practice and watching them on games from the sidelines. That baseball background has helped him.”
re. Man, that roughing-the-pbader call to extend the crucial Patriots’ drive with seven minutes left on Chris Jones of the Chiefs. Brutal. Total phantom call.
and. What a catch by Chris Hogan on the same drive, the diving one-hander. Now that was a real catch.
F. One of the reasons the league won’t be crying over the officiating fiascos: The ratings for these two games should be ridiculously high.
g. Alvin Kamara > Todd Gurley. At least after Halloween of this season. Markedly.
h. Block of the Postseason: On the Saints’ first TD of the game, a Drew Brees throw, Mark Ingram had to pick up the blitzer, Rams linebacker Dante Fowler Jr.
i. Tough to give backup Saints tight end Dan Arnold a drop on that end-zone miss—he had to reach high to bring it down as he was falling. But the Fargo kid will re-live the one that got away this offseason.
j. Caught part of the Westwood One radiocast of Rams-Saints. Interesting sideline report from Ed Werder after a first-quarter series by the Rams. Werder said the sideline was “frantic” in trying to fix communication issues with QB Jared Goff’s helmet. Said he tried on three different helmets trying to get one that would allow him the plays called into his helmet by Sean McVay. Nice reporting.
k. Then Kurt Warner, in the booth, late in the first quarter: “Really surprised there wasn’t better preparation [for the noise] by the Rams.”
l. Michael Brockers, Michael Brockers. You cannot be undisciplined against the Saints, period. But on fourth-and-two at the Rams 10-yard line? Awful job there.
metro. Is it just me, or did Bill Vinovich’s crew in New Orleans swallow the whistles in the second half? Look at Nickell Robey-Coleman holding Ted Ginn Jr., on a crucial third-down chance at the start of the fourth quarter. Obvious interference there. Ignored.
north. What a lovely throw, the 36-yard Jared Goff drop-into-a-bucket to Brandin Cooks late in the first half. Best throw of the day in New Orleans.
o. Ndamukong Suh was a major impact player for the Rams. He’s playing well late this season.
p. Smart primer on the Nick Foles situation in Philadelphia by Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
q. Also, good intelligence on the state of Foles from former Eagles president Joe Banner—who knows all the players in the drama—this week on “The Peter King Podcast.”
r. BTW, happy 30th birthday, Nick Foles. (It was Sunday.) Bet he wishes he was playing football rather than eating cake last night.
s. My guess: Foles to the Jags.
2. I think it is just amazing that franchise back Todd Gurley will finish the 2018 season in a job-share with C.J. Anderson, cut three times by losing teams in the previous nine months.
3. I think I don’t do this often (once in my career have I picked the Super Bowl teams in the preseason—Green Bay versus Pittsburgh in 2010) so I will make note of it here. My prediction column from Sept. 3 correctly predicted a Rams-Patriots matchup in the Super Bowl.
4. I think this one caught my attention. In his first mock draft, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who is smart, had Kyler Murray to the Patriots late in round one. Not stunning, based on the fact that the Patriots were very interested in smallish Baker Mayfield last April. Say Tom Brady plays two more years, minimum, which seems realistic. And say Murray goes to the Pats and Bill Belichick tells him: Soak in everything for a while, we’ll find some valuable role for you, get bigger and stronger, and you’ll have a chance to the be the quarterback here long after I’m gone.
5. I think the most damaging coaching loss this month was Mike Munchak, who made a lateral move (line coach to line coach) from Pittsburgh to Denver after finishing second to Vic Fangio for the Broncos head-coaching job. Family reasons did influence the move, but the loss to Pittsburgh’s rock-solid line, and the loss of a rock-solid person on a shaky Steeler team right now is not good.
6. I think my favorite Pro Football Talk post of the week, coated in irony the way Frosted Flakes are coated in sugar, comes from Mike Florio’s story entitled, “Patrick Mahomes fires up the marketing machine.” Via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, Florio writes about Mahomes:
Mahomes has deal with Hunt’s, Adidas, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Panini Trading Cards, Airshare, SSM Auctions, TicketsForLess, Bose headphones, Hyvee, Advocare, and Goodcents Deli Fresh Sub. Mahomes also has become involved in a virtual-reality experience in which football is played from Mahomes’s point of view. Mahomes also will have a cereal bearing his name. “It’s been renamed Mahomes Magic Crunch,” agent Leigh Steinberg told Pryor. “We were originally going with Patty Flakes, but they tested out names and that’s sort of where it’s at.”
Steinberg wants to avoid oversaturating the market with Mahomes’ name and likeness.
Looks that way.
7. I think the moral of the story of the John Harbaugh extension (as reported by Chris Mortensen) is that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is going to pay market value for quality, which he always has done. Anyone who works for Bisciotti will tell you how fair he is. And whatever the money ends up being for Harbaugh—my guess is it’s in the ballpark of $10 million to $11 million per year—I think the big question is how many years on the extension. I have always thought Harbaugh could be the Chuck Noll of the Ravens, a guy who could have staying power in Baltimore because of his youth and his relationship with his players and the fact that Bisciotti is not a kneejerk owner. Noll coached the Steelers for 23 years. Harbaugh has coached Baltimore for 11. He’s 56 and could pbad for 45. Just guessing this deal, if he completes it, could take him to around year 15, when he’ll be 60. Coaching 15 years in one spot today, with the pressures on the modern head coach, is pretty amazing. Bill Belichick and Marvin Lewis have done it, though Cincinnati is a unique situation because the owner there values familiarity more than other owners. Good for the Ravens for making this happen, because I thought there was a real chance Harbaugh, a very confident man, would coach out his final year and see what he was really worth as a coaching free agent a year from now.
8. I think one of the really weird things about this week—Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala., a must-go for all teams and scouts and draftnik media—will be Mike Mayock in a Raiders windbreaker. Instead of sharing info and player gossip with 32 teams, Mayock now will have an audience of one: Jon Gruden.
9. I think this stood out to me among the Tampa Bay hires on Bruce Arians’ new staff: the appointment of Antwaan Randle El as an offensive badistant. Randle El, 39, was drafted in both football and baseball, and played for the Steelers and Washington for nine NFL seasons. Asked in 2016 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette if he would choose to play football at a high level if he had it to do over again: “If I could go back, I wouldn’t. I would play baseball. … Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I still could be playing baseball.”
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. My Favorite Story of the Week: Kent Babb of the Washington Post on the complicated story and life of Andy Reid.
segundo. Memo to anyone in journalism school (or, for that matter, any professional in our business too): If you want to know how to write a detailed, gripping, complete story on a complex character, read Kent Babb on Andy Reid.
do. Media Project of the Week: by Elizabeth D. Herman and Celeste Sloman for the New York Times, portraits and words of the women of the 116th Congress. Herman and Sloman got 130 of the 131 female legislators to sit for portraits over the last two months, and paired the photos with words about their duties and their significance.
re. I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s inspirational to see the progress of so many women, such as the first Somali-America legislator in our history, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, elected in November: “The disconnect between the America I heard about in the refugee camp, a land of opportunity where everyone had an equal shot at a better life, compared to the one I found has motivated me since the first day I arrived.”
and. If you’re a parent of a young daughter, or of any child for that matter, I think the significance of these pictures and these words could have a great impact. Email the link to your kids, or text it to them. Kudos to Herman and Sloman for fantastic work.
F. Football Story of the Week: Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated on the weird and sad and unfortunate lives of former first-round quarterback Todd Marinovich and his domineering dad, Marv.
g. Excellent and enlightening work about the “raging beast of a father” that should be a cautionary tale for sporting helicopter parents everywhere.
h. Football/Health Story of the Week: by Ken Belson of the New York Times. Really smart read about linemen after football—those who can shed the unwanted weight that leads to health problems later in life, and those who remain obese. Excellent stuff about the post-career struggle, and how for some, such as Joe Thomas of the Browns, the after-football weight loss is pretty matter-of-fact.
i. Podcast of the Week: “The Big One: Your Survival Guide,” by Jacob Margolis, Misha Euceph, Arwen Champion Nicks and Megan Garvey of public radio station KPCC in Pasadena, Calif. A great primer on the chance of a killer earthquake in southern California sometime in the next 30 years (a 50 percent chance, per the pod), and well worth the listen wherever you live. It’s a smart mix of science and what happens to a region when a giant quake hits.
j. As one Los Angeles-area earthquake expert says: “We’re better prepared for the big one than any big city in America, which is to say we’re woefully unprepared.”
k. TV Story of the Week: Jeff Glor of CBS Evening News, on the wonderful story of how the life of a Tuskegee airman has been carried on by a family that didn’t know him.
l. Humanitarian of the Week: Jack Bogle, the founder of investment giant Vanguard, died last week and the Philadelphia Inquirer–his hometown paper—feted him well.
metro. “Jack could have been a multibillionaire on a part with Gates and Buffett,” one Oregon investment manager told the Inquirer. But Vanguard, instead, was essentially owned by the investors in the mutual funds Vanguard selected. “He basically chose to forgo an enormous fortune to do something right for millions of people. I don’t know any other story like it in American business history.”
north. Coffeenerdness: This is just an appeal from a Peet’s fan stranded in New York City, where there are no Peet’s shops and no Peet’s available other than at JFK. (Those airport Peet’s are pretty meh.) Bring me a big Peet’s, Peet’s. Come to New York.
o. Beernerdness: Fortunate to have tried Second Line Saison (aka “A Saison Named Desire) from Second Line Brewing in New Orleans. Sort of a clbadic saison with more of an orange tint than I expected. Tasty and light. If it wasn’t lunch, I’d have had two.
p. Tuesday’s going to be a good evening. Have tickets to “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
q. NBA Note of the Week: In the Nets’ 145-142 OT win over the Rockets (Nets are pretty good, by the way), Brooklyn and Houston combined to attempt 106 three-point shots.
r. Imagine: 2.2 three-balls per minute.
s. The rest of Ten Things Number 10 … Cincinnati-centric.
t. RIP, Turk Schonert. He died of a heart attack Thursday in South Carolina at 62. Got to know him when he was a backup quarterback for the Bengals in my one year covering the team, 1984. Great quarterback room—Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, Schonert. Schonert was a quiet, sandy-haired, carefree guy who had a few starts (the biggie: as a Falcon QB, he beat Dan Marino head-to-head in the Orange Bowl in 1986) and stayed around because he was egoless and the perfect backup, always helpful to the guys playing over him.
u. My Turk story: Our young family lived on the east side of Cincinnati, and there was a large group foster home there with about 200 boys. Toward the end of the ’84 season, I got the nutty idea that it would be nice to get a couple of players and maybe even the coach, Sam Wyche, to come by and wish the kids Merry Christmas. So I asked Wyche, who was an amateur magician, Cris Collinsworth and Schonert if they’d come by one December weeknight. All said yes. Wyche came in a magician’s tux and put on a 20-minute show. Remember the Sony Walkman? That was the first widely available portable music player (at least the first one I recall), and in the early eighties, kids just had to have them. Leave it to Collinsworth to know what those needy kids would love—he went out and bought a Walkman for every one of them, and he and Schonert and two of the team’s cheerleaders got them wrapped and gave them to the kids. When they opened those gifts, the boys went nuts. I remember that night Schonert thanked me for including him; he just loved it, and he was in his element doing something good for the kids. Esiason always loved Schonert because, as a backup, you can either be submarining the starter or helping him. Schonert always was selfless.
v. Imagine a coach, especially, doing that today. I can’t. I think it was during the season, but I can’t swear to it, because the Cincinnati season ended that year on Dec. 16. But either way … times have changed.
w. A note about Marty Brennaman, who, as I noted in Quotes of the Week, will retire as the Reds’ radio play-by-play guy after 46 years at the end of this season. I got to Cincinnati in Brennaman’s seventh season; I was a low-level sports reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer, and one of my badignment was to back up Ray Buck covering the Reds. So I got to know Brennaman, who already was the Big Man on Campus around the fading Bed Red Machine, and he was wonderful to me—in part by giving me crap the same way he’d give it to Johnny Bench. I’ll always remember in my fourth and last year covering the team, in August 1983, our daughter Laura was born in Cincinnati. I don’t recall how Marty found out, but I do recall this: That night, on Aug. 23, 1983, the Reds were in Chicago, and I (probably unwisely) was listening to the game in the hospital, and Marty Brennaman told Cincinnati and the entire Midwest on 50,000-watt radio giant WLW: “Congratulations to Peter King of the Cincinnati Enquirer and his wife Ann on the birth of their daughter Laura. Hope they’re all doing well tonight on this great occasion. Welcome to the world, Laura Phyllis King.” (I’m doing that from memory—so it’s close if not verbatim.) He’s one of the best baseball play-by-play guys ever, too.
x. Always thought this was interesting: Brennaman has done about 7,500 Reds games since 1974. In the first half-inning of the first game he ever did, the 1974 opener against Atlanta, Brennaman broadcast the 714th home run of the great Hank Aaron’s career at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. That home run tied Aaron with Babe Ruth for the most homers in major-league history. And that’s how long Marty Brennaman has been the voice of the Reds.
Thursday … New York City. The NFL will release its injury data report for the regular season in the league’s midtown Manhattan offices. It’ll be interesting to see if concussions, which spiked north last year, went down in 2018—and what role the NFL’s new helmet rules may have played in the head-trauma results. This is the first season the NFL and NFLPA combined to ask players to wear the helmet types that were judged the safest, and to urge players who wore low-performing helmets in prior seasons to wear safer ones this year. The ones that tested below the NFL/NFLPA standard were grandfathered in this year. Next year, the league/union helmet standard won’t be a recommendation—it’ll be a rule. Only the helmets with NFL/NFLPA approval will be allowed to be worn in NFL games.
Sunday … Pittsburgh. On this day 50 years ago, the Steelers named little-known Colts badistant Chuck Noll as their head coach, and introduced him to the media at the Roosevelt Hotel in Pittsburgh. Noll got the post after the Steelers considered Penn State coach Joe Paterno (who didn’t want the job) and Cleveland badistant Nick Skorich (who did), and became the Steelers’ fourth coach in six years. As Michael MacCambridge wrote in his excellent Noll bio, “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work,” Noll was asked at that press conference how it felt to come to a city of losers. “A city of losers?” Noll said. “That’s a lot of nonsense. Geography has nothing to do with winning. Winning is a product of work and attitude.” You know the rest of the story: The Steelers have had three coaches—Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin—in the half-century since, and the franchise’s six Super Bowl titles are the most in the Super Bowl era. It all started with Cool Hand Noll.
One hell of a day.
Sean Payton: apoplectic.
As all Saints should be.