By Jeff Risdon
$.01--Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens for winning Super Bowl XLVII, the last practical application of Roman numerals. Joe Flacco bested Colin Kaepernick in the QB battle, and John Harbaugh outcoached his little brother Jim.
Those are the storylines I will take away from this game. The Ravens also overcame the dismally creaky performance by Ray Lewis and a bad turnover by Ray Rice, whereas the Niners could not overcome a bad drop by Vernon Davis and terrible all-around play from Chris Culliver. But this game was about Joe Flacco ascending to a new level. He made several throws, many to Anquan Boldin, which showed just how far he’s come from the maddeningly inconsistent gunslinger he was even 18 months ago. Flacco earned the MVP award, a sentence I never thought I would type.
The questionable no-call in the end zone is going to drive Niners fans crazy. I certainly thought it was a hold on Jimmy Smith. To compare it to a very similar situation, there was more holding and contact here than in the Ohio State-Miami game that the Buckeyes won thanks to a debatable flag. I thought the real turning point was the Flacco-to-Boldin back shoulder throw that bailed out the reeling Ravens and kept a time-consuming drive alive.
Special teams also played a huge role in the game. Jacoby Jones taking the opening kick of the second half for a touchdown was huge. San Francisco being caught unaware that the Ravens would take a safety and have punter Sam Koch dance in the end zone to burn all kinds of precious seconds was huge. Justin Tucker booting kickoffs out of the end zone and strong coverage by the Ravens kept the field position flipped their way early. Even though the fake field goal failed, I think it still paid off as the Niners quickly went three-and-out and the Ravens scored shortly thereafter.
There will be ample time to disseminate where the two combatants go from here. Suffice to say the future is brighter for the loser, but I suspect they find little comfort in that today. Right now let’s just enjoy a very compelling game and tip our hats to the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
$.02--Most of the world will recall this as the Super Bowl where the lights went out. The seemingly interminable delay just after Jacoby Jones opened the second half with the 109 yard TD return, and it took more than half an hour to get the lights back on and power back to the press box.
CBS did the best they could with filler. I thought sideline reporters Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots did an admirable job, better than the studio talking heads. But there are only so many ways to kill a cat, and the life was completely sucked out of the game. The embarrassment on the NFL is enough that there is no way New Orleans gets another Super Bowl anytime soon. If Saints owner Tom Benson was lobbying for a new stadium to replace the Superdome, he’s probably the only person who benefitted from the delay.
I know the Niners came back much stronger from the delay than the Ravens, but I believe that is more coincidental than a product of the power outage. The Niners have shown the ability to flip the switch and rack up points in a hurry several other times against good teams, notably the Falcons and Patriots. Were the Ravens flat out of the break? Yes they were, but the Niners played (pardon the pun) lights out in the second half regardless of the darkness delay.
$.03--Baltimore now faces the intriguing dilemma of what to do with Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Obviously they have to pay the impending free agent, but that is not going to be easy. Flacco turned down $16M per year last summer, banking that he could turn in just the sort of successful year he did and raise his market value.
The problem here is that the Ravens are already strapped for cap room, enough so that it is very difficult to see Ed Reed back in Baltimore. The most cap-friendly move for the team is to hit Flacco with the franchise tag, which would cost them about $15M. The problem there is twofold. First, it’s well under market value and that will cause Flacco and his camp to be very angry. It sends the wrong message to the players on the team, saying the Ravens will even pinch pennies on their leader. If you won’t pay the Super Bowl MVP, who will you pay? Secondly, it pushes the pain further into the future. It’s also risking that Flacco has another season where he takes the team on yet another deep playoff run and makes the price even more ungodly. Even as lofty as he seems now, the price tag will only get steeper if they wait a year.
Flacco has already made rumblings about wanting more than Peyton Manning, who signed last summer for five-year, $96M. He certainly has a strong argument. In Flacco’s first five seasons he has won as many playoff games as Manning has in 15, with less than half the amount of losses. He’s just entering the peak performance age for quarterbacks and has raised his level of play to where he’s arguably the most clutch QB in the league. If five years and $100M is the starting point this summer, it will only increase to at least $110M next summer coming off the lowball franchise tag. Both sides gambled on themselves, and Flacco won. Now the Ravens have to pay for their gamble.
$.04--The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the class of 2013 on Saturday. Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, and Dave Robinson will all don the mustard blazer in Canton in early August.
This is an excellent class, featuring three of the best players of the 1990s and early 2000s. Every 4-3 defense is perennially looking for the next Warren Sapp, a disruptive interior presence with great quickness and brute strength. His bombastic persona defined the Buccaneers franchise for a long time, and he was one of the most difficult linemen ever to contain.
But if anyone could handle Sapp, it was Larry Allen. Longtime readers know my man crush on Bruce Matthews, who I consider the greatest lineman of my lifetime. Allen is one of the very few players that I would consider worthy of argument as his equal, or perhaps even better. Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman are in the Hall of Fame because of him, not vice versa. For my money Larry Allen is the greatest player from the Dallas Cowboys of the last 30 years.
Ogden epitomized the blind side protector as the left tackle for the Ravens from their inception to 2007. What made Ogden special was his devastating run blocking at left tackle and his relentlessness once he got his paws on a defender. Like Sapp and Allen, Ogden is a first ballot Hall inductee, worthy of special commendation with that status. I will say that he played at least one year too long, however, as did Allen in San Francisco.
Then there are the more debatable inductees, Carter and Parcells. I’ve been involved in numerous debates about Parcells, often heated arguments. My stance is this: if you just consider his Giants tenure and the historical context of that accomplishment with that particular franchise, Bill Parcells belongs. But the rest of his career was spent making excuses for numerous disappointments despite having teams that should have won more than they did. His ability to quickly turn around the Patriots and Jets is commendable but far from unique. If you can separate the two, great, but I cannot.
Carter is a tough call. He might have the greatest two hands in NFL history, and his ability to grab the ball with those hands and extend his body well out of bounds with his toes still touching is legendary. I was a huge fan of Carter’s during his Ohio State days as well. But statistically he is inferior to some other contemporary candidates in all but receptions and touchdowns, where he ranks fourth all-time in both. His yards per catch, first down, and seasonal yardage totals don’t hold up well comparatively to finalist Tim Brown, or even the widely discounted Henry Ellard, and he wasn’t the dynamic impact player like a Michael Irvin or Lynn Swann. I would have put Brown in before him, but that doesn’t negate my belief that Carter belongs.
$.05--I’ll handle the senior committee inductees, Culp and Robinson, with a larger issue. I never saw Robinson play, and I only caught the disappointing Detroit coda of Culp’s career, so I cannot speak on their worthiness. I do live in Houston, where Culp made the bulk of his career, and judging from the local reaction his playing style makes Sapp look like a wuss. The problem with them is the perception that they got in at the expense of some others, notably Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and Michael Strahan. Even though the senior committee inductees are not included in the voting cap, many people believe they are inducted over the finalists not chosen.
The Hall of Fame needs to address this public perception issue, and address it swiftly and aggressively. The first change that needs to be implemented is that coaches, owners, and league officials should not count against the fivr-per-year limit. Bill Parcells is in at the expense of Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams, among others. That’s not fair and it’s not right. Secondly, the committee needs to announce the senior committee inductees separately. The Baseball Hall of Fame does this, and it spares confusion. Go ahead and induct them all together but make the announcements separate. If this is too much work for some members of the voting committee, I’m sure they can be replaced.
Besides, when was the last time a senior committee finalist nominee didn’t get in? They put Charlie Sanders--arguably the least deserving hall of fame member in any sport--in a few years ago; his closest career comps are Riley Odoms and Jeremy Shockey. Yet recognizable greats like Tommy Nobis, Ken Anderson, and Ray Guy can’t pass muster. They need to put some fresh blood into the senior committee, which is admittedly difficult as fewer people of sound football mind can remember players before the Super Bowl era any longer.
$.06--The city of Cleveland is still basking in the afterglow of Art Modell failing to even make the final 10 in the Hall of Fame consideration. The reaction on Twitter and Facebook was nothing short of ugly and obnoxious, and that includes close members of my own family. It’s apparently even more savory with the timing, as Modell’s former team is in the Super Bowl in the year of his passing.
Let me be clear: Art Modell deserves the everlasting enmity from Browns fans. I get that; I grew up in the 216 area code and still have the bulk of my close relations in the 330 and 440. Modell made his own mess with a series of imprudent business decisions that laid the groundwork for the exit, which was exacerbated by the very real threat that both the Indians and Cavaliers were going to leave Cleveland without a bailout that even today’s risk-hungry investment bankers would find unpalatable.
But to dance on his grave and continue to treat him as an unspeakable pariah is classless. You got your team back. You got the logo (err, lack of logo) and the name and all the great history back. You got the grand stadium that Modell dreamed of and was denied several times by both city and state officials, who spent far more than Modell ever requested to do so. It ignores all the great accomplishments Modell did, both for the city of Cleveland and the NFL in general. Monday Night Football was his idea. Televising the draft was his concept. Pooling money so that small markets could not just survive but thrive is Modell’s handiwork too. Without what Modell did, there would be no teams in Jacksonville, Buffalo, Green Bay, Indianapolis or (insert bitter irony) Cleveland today. He’s a big part of the reason why the AFL/NFL merger went down as smoothly as it did and why the Super Bowl is as great as it is today.
Is all that good for the league and for the city of Cleveland really so easily erased by the creation of the Ravens? I guess I don’t really have a problem with that. He made his own mess and legacy. But it should be enough that he failed to get in the Hall of Fame in such a year, with his old team in the Super Bowl wearing patches honoring his life and how much he meant to that franchise. If he couldn’t make it in this emotionally convenient year, I highly doubt he ever makes it even as far as he did in this year’s voting. That should be enough for Clevelanders. I beseech my hometown to stop proving Sam Wyche correct; you ARE better than this, Cleveland.
My personal favorite ad came early, the Hyundai spot about “what are we going to do today?” Inventive, creative, funny, and prominently featuring the product being advertised. It narrowly edged out the Ram truck “farmer” ad, which made me proud to have grown up on a farm. I also really liked the Budweiser Clydesdale ad. Even though I loathe Budweiser products, they always do a wonderful job with their advertising. The musical choice of Stevie Nicks’ haunting “Landslide” was perfect. Tide made the house laugh with the Montana stain ad, which is great because it’s not an ad that can really be shown beyond the game. M&Ms appealed to the Meatloaf lover in me. I also really liked the Audi ad with the solo prom boy. The NFL Network scored with the Leon Sandcastle draft spot, one that my wife particularly enjoyed. She also liked the Calvin Klein ad with the extreme close-up of the model’s private region, which brings me to the ads I didn’t care for.
I know some people really liked it but I thought the Taco Bell ad with the seniors gone wild was poor. The concept was entertaining but I’m still wondering what it has to do with Taco Bell. The Coke race across the desert to the giant bottle seemed cheesy. In the spirit of cola equity, I didn’t much care for the Pepsi ad with the teenage house party. And can we just move on from the GoDaddy.com schlock?
$.08--Super Bowl Quickies
1. For a guy claiming to be better than Jerry Rice, Randy Moss sure seemed awful lethargic and disinterested in what could be his last Super Bowl. He perked up a bit after the delay but for someone of his historical relevance, I expected to see a lot more energy and hustle.
2. It’s really hard to believe that CBS cannot do any better than Phil Simms as their lead dog color man. Between his unctuousness and his inability to properly identify the action or actors on the field, it made me long for, well, pretty much anyone else.
3. It is absolutely inexcusable that Cary Williams was not ejected from the game for shoving an official in an early fracas. I understand the NFL wants to avoid having the officials play a major factor in the game, particularly in a season where replacement officials stunk up the joint, but there is no way they cannot eject a player who contacts an official. Shame on Jerome Boger’s crew for that.
4. For all the midweek talk about Ray Lewis and deer antler spray, I think a little facet got lost in the shuffle. It’s a sublingual concoction. That means under the tongue. I don’t care how badly I hurt or how quickly I need to recover, I’m not spraying deer antler anything into my mouth. Not exactly a glorious victory for Lewis either; he was the least effective player on the field for either team and directly responsible for the record-setting Kaepernick TD scamper.
5. Aldon Smith is a truly impressive speed rusher around the edge, but when he isn’t beating the tackle with pure speed around the edge he’s almost worthless as a football player. He’s the NFL version of Jason Kapono, an exceptional 3 pt. shooter but barely a D-3 level talent at anything else.
And now it’s draft season!
Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers