We’re finally here. With the football world waiting to fixate its eyes on its screens, I can tell you that all the pain, sweat, and hard-work has undoubtedly paid off. That’s right: The greatest ‘Deep Route Football Notebook’ ever has arrived! I know it seems like I praise my column every time (which I will always do), but man, did I love writing this one.
You can find an explanation on why this upcoming Super Bowl means something different than what you think it does, where young stars like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield need to improve, some clarity on how to determine the greatest player of all-time, which team is officially the best dynasty on Earth, and oh yeah, my boiling thoughts on that infamous play. Not to mention that you’ll still find a handful of unnecessary yet totally appropriate pop culture references, meaningless yet completely accurate Weekly Awards, and a sneak peak of some big things on the way. Put on your safety vests, because this DRFN is locked and loaded…
THINGS I KNOW
I know this isn’t your typical ‘Old Age versus Modern Age’ Super Bowl. There’s going to be numerous storylines beaten to death over the next two weeks in anticipation for Super Bowl LIII. One of those will be how the Rams (led by 33-year old coach Sean McVay and 24-year old QB Jared Goff) could unseat the older, more experienced Patriots (led by 66-year old coach Bill Belichick and 41-year old QB Tom Brady). It’s cool to think that this game could be the changing of the guard between NFL dynasties, mainly due to the drastic age differences between the teams’ respective head coaches and quarterbacks.
If the Rams dethrone the Patriots, is it safe to say that this solidifies a new era of innovation and creativity in the NFL? As the great Lee Corso likes to say: not so fast, my friend! The Rams’ offense and the Patriots’ offense aren’t all that different. The stereotype that accompanies the Patriots is that like Belichick and Brady, their offense is old and running its course. That is far from the case.
I know most people look at the Rams offense and think it’s so new and innovative, but so is the New England offense. In fact, they’ve been like that for almost 18 years now. No team has developed a better weekly offensive game-plan based on their players’ skill-sets and their opponents than the Patriots have; they are the true kings of innovation and versatility within the NFL. The Rams may be the hot, new kid on the block, but the Patriots have owned those streets for far longer, and it doesn’t look like they’ll give them up easily.
I know my early prediction has the Patriots defeating the Rams. My opinions can change within the next week before I reveal my final game prediction, but for now I’ll take the experienced dynasty over the young, budding one. I’m avoiding statistics until my big article next week, so for now the factors come down to a couple things. The first is, of course, experience. The Patriots have been here before and know what it’s like to prepare for a Super Bowl. The caveat in this is that the Eagles were in the Rams’ place last season as the young team on the rise and still won, so maybe experience isn’t as big of a factor as I think. My second reason is based of a gut feeling. Each year recently, I’ve had this feeling that no matter what, New England will find away to get back to the Super Bowl. There’s always excuses, such as a developing rift in the organization or Brady’s age. Whatever the case, there’s nothing like the Patriots’ dynasty (more on that later). For reference’s sake, I’ve been so-so at accurately predicting Super Bowl winners. I had the Patriots winning both the games the last two years, putting me at a meaningless .500 over that span.
As for the scores itself, I put in a lot of time with predicting those. I think I started doing it when the Giants faced the Patriots in 2008 and since then I have correctly predicted the outcome and score of one game: Super Bowl XLVIII when the Ravens beat the 49ers, 34-31. I was very close for the Patriots-Falcons game a couple seasons ago when I had New England beating Atlanta 33-29. (The score was 34-28, New England.) Don’t believe me? I have years of old notes on my iPhone as proof.
I know a new variable I’d consider when determining the GOAT. A few weeks ago I explained why determining the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time is like saying whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not; no one will ever agree. Like most other sports debates, picking the lone best QB ever is highly subjective and contains numerous variables. It wasn’t until recently that I found myself falling back to one major factor: years as a record-holder. The longer a player holds a record, the greater the record seems, hence the greater the player appears to be.
Take Dan Marino, for example. He had the most passing yards in NFL history from 1995 to 2007 until Brett Favre surpassed Marino. Since then, three other players have topped Marino’s record. One of those guys is Drew Brees, who currently holds the record. While Brees is certainly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, guys like Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are not far behind Brees. As of now, even Matt Ryan is on pace to break Brees’ record. (If Ryan matches Brees’ 17 seasons it took to get the record, Ryan will have over 5,000 more career yards than Brees.) This begs the question: Which players are products of the time period and who are actually revolutionary?
The fact that Marino put up those numbers in a time where passing was much less heavy than it is now is a statement to his greatness. Aside from a Super Bowl ring, Brees’ accomplishments mirror Marino’s yet I believe Brees’ stats are impacted by the pass-heavy league we see now. This isn’t a Marino-Brees debate; this is me saying that if a QB can remain atop the record books despite the advancements and changes in football, he deserves more credit than others.
I know young quarterbacks try to do too much. I have a couple theories as to why, but nothing truly explains why younger quarterbacks try to extend plays more often than older signal callers. Maybe it’s a mix of eagerness and desire so commonly found in younger people. Maybe it’s signaling a trend towards taking more risks in football games. Whatever the reason is, it’s an interesting component to consider when discussing how to slow down or completely stop young quarterbacks. When I say ‘young QB’ I’m referring to the slew of guys picked within the past three seasons.
That’s typically how long it takes to determine whether a player is good or not. I’m not saying a guy like Patrick Mahomes isn’t great; he’s obviously an extraordinarily talent. I’m saying that Mahomes’ one Kryptonite, even if it is small compared to his skill, is that he’ll try to force things or extend plays. The smarter, more veteran-like response is throwing the ball away or taking the sack. Tom Brady excels at that. Mahomes is a good example of this because he’s arguably the best young quarterback in the league, which means he probably screws up less than other young quarterbacks. Nonetheless, there were too many times on Sunday when Mahomes lost significant yardage instead of losing a yard or two with a safer decision.
Obviously a player like Mahomes can risk a big loss for a big gain every now and then, but on instances like when the Chiefs were on the Patriots’ 22-yard line with 3:14 left in the first half. On third down, Mahomes tried to evade the pass rush and in doing so, was sacked for a 14-yard loss and subsequently took the Chiefs out of field goal range. Considering the game went to overtime (I know there’s no guarantee the outcome would have stayed the same), Kansas City could have used the points. If young quarterbacks like Mahomes are to take that next step, they need to learn when it’s okay to try and extend a play or to take on small damage instead of potentially bigger damage.
I know I miss the old Super Bowl logos. Nowadays, a similar template is used each year that basically just replaces the letters depending on which Super Bowl it is that season. It was slightly adjusted after Super Bowl 50 (the first and only Super Bowl to not feature Roman numerals) to add a simpler format with one main, rotating secondary color. This year, that color is navy after being light blue last year and red two years ago. It’s a nice touch, but I would love to see logos like those of Super Bowls XXXVI and XLI again. Some of them were so cool to look at.
Starting in 1994 with Super Bowl XXVIII, the logos tended to feature colors that represented the cities they played in. A good example is the logo for Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, which featured the teal, purple, and gold colors commonly associated with the city. Aside from extreme nostalgia, my favorite thing about the logos was how they progressed to reflect the times they were in. Start from the top of this photo list compiled by sportslogos.net (a favorite site of mine) and work your way down to 2019. You can see the evolution of graphics and styles wind throughout time. Who ever thought that over half a century of America’s culture can be depicted through logos for a football game?
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know if that no-call would’ve affected the outcome. This is why you decided to read this week’s column, right? How could I pass up not only one of the most controversial plays in football history, but dare I say sports history? By now, if you haven’t seen this brutal, un-flagged hit by Nickell Robey-Coleman on Tommylee Lewis, stop playing Bird Box and take off your blindfold. All the Saints needed was a field goal to make it 23-20, which New Orleans still made but left enough time for the Rams to force overtime. After a surprisingly sloppy interception by Drew Brees, the Rams drove down the field, kicked a field goal, and delivered the Saints a second-straight devastating postseason loss.
In an ideal scenario, that hit is penalized for pass interference, unnecessary roughness or even helmet-to-helmet. New Orleans could have run down the clock and kicked a field goal with no time left for Los Angeles to make a comeback. The flaw with this scenario is that there’s no guarantee that the Saints would have scored, either. Maybe a player fumbles or the kick is blocked. Additionally, the Saints had other chances to win this game. Improvements on defense and with clock management could have changed the entire outlook of the game.
Something as small as Alvin Kamara’s run for no gain on 2nd-and-10 could have impacted the game, too. My point is that yes, the officials screwed up in spectacular fashion, but other things could have happened to prevent the no-call play from ever occurring. I could play scientist and hypothesize some more, but for now Saints’ fans have to deal with the fact that they could be in the Super Bowl had the referees made the right call.
I don’t know how the NFL fixes this. Talk about beating a horse when it’s down. (My apologies for lack of a better idiom. Please don’t report me to PETA.) I know I just gave my thoughts about what happened in the Rams-Saints game, but I still have some things to say about what happens next. For starters, I bet Roger Goodell sunk deeper into his corporate turtle shell after seeing all the drama following the game. This is a terrible look for the league, especially after the fantastic season we just witnessed. Albeit, the referees were anything but fantastic. Most of the speculation regarding the NFL’s actions have to do with firing the officials who worked that game. Some people are also clamoring for a complete overhaul of the officiating system, including how instant replay can be used. There is one specific idea that’s been floating around social media, thanks to this simple tweet by Saints’ WR Michael Thomas.
The tweet is referencing an article in the NFL’s rulebook that gives the commissioner authority to appropriately determine “the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.” If it’s in the rulebook, it has to be important, right? Sorry Saints’ fans, not only will this never happen, but this would be so dangerous. It would set a precedent that the commissioner could step in and change how games ended. If this happened, how long until fans would demand the reversal of meaningless game in Week 17? In my opinion, the best way to distill the situation is to fire the officials responsible for the no-call and allow coaches to throw a challenge flag under two minutes. Imagine how many more games would be positively affected if that were to be implemented.
I don’t know if there’s any dynasty you can compare to New England’s. Not in the NFL, not in college, maybe not even in sports. The Patriots are just that good, and have been that good for nearly 18 years. While they have nothing historically on teams like the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens (14 championships from 1956-1979) or the NBA’s Boston Celtics (they won 16 championships from 1956-1980), the Patriots do have something that those teams don’t. Even individuals like golfer Jack Nicklaus and tennis player Roger Federer can’t compare.
Why? Those are dynasties of the past. The Patriots are the best sports dynasty right now. There is no other team nor individual who has accomplished as much as New England has since the turn of the century. There are countless facts and statistics that can support this, so I’ll only throw a few at you. This is New England’s 11th Super Bowl appearance, the most in NFL history. Another Super Bowl win would give the Patriots their sixth world title, tying them for most of all-time with the Steelers.
On the other hand, losing would give them the most Super Bowl losses ever, but there’s worse distinctions to be had. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl this year, they’d have the most playoff wins in NFL history as well. As for Belichick and Brady, it would give them their sixth title together. Only five other coach-player duos have achieved that across the four major North American sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). The last duo to do that? The NBA’s Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan in 1998.
I don’t know why Brandin Cooks has been overlooked for so long. Ironically, I don’t think I would put Cooks in the top-ten list for NFL wide receivers. That’s more of a nod to the number of stars littering the position, though. What makes Cooks so dangerous is his ability to make plays all over the field. His speed is top-notch and aids his effectiveness on both deep routes and on screen plays. Despite his skill-set, it confuses me why Cooks has been dealt not once but twice already in his five-year career. Cooks has topped 1,000 yards receiving in all but his rookie season while playing for three different teams. He recently beat the team that drafted him (the Saints) and next week he’ll play against the team the Saints traded him to (the Patriots).
Here’s another fun fact for you: each time Cooks was traded, a first-round pick was involved. Even New Orleans traded up for him during the 2014 NFL Draft. It’s absurd to think that three of the best teams in football this year all had Cooks on their roster at some point. Luckily for Cooks, it looks like he can stop renting U-Haul trucks after he rightfully secured a five-year, $80 million contract extension over the summer. With the way he’s been involved in the Rams offense lately, I can see him continuing to be a consistent threat for years to come.
TRIVIA OF THE WEEK
Question: The age gap between Tom Brady and Jared Goff is the largest difference between two starting QBs in Super Bowl history (17 years and 72 days). Which two QBs previously held this record?
Check out the ‘Awards’ section for the answer.
Every week, I’ll feature a college football player who recently grabbed the spotlight. This week, I’ll be highlighting Terry Godwin.
Stats: In four seasons at Georgia, the Senior receiver totaled 35 receptions, 1,800 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.
- Speed shows when he bursts off the line of scrimmage
- Separates well from defenders, especially at the beginning of plays
- Plays with fluid hips and smooth footwork
- Superb route runner
- Constant threat to make big plays
- Not afraid to extend body and/or arms to catch ball
- Reliable hands
- Great and willing blocker
- Praised for East/West Shrine Game performance
- Slender body (5’11, 185)
- Doesn’t seem to have a wide variety of open-field moves
- Didn’t see much action in college
- Might be limited to a slot receiver
- Not much of a jump-ball option
- Struggles in winning them, too
The Unknown: Will Godwin be able to find success lined up anywhere but in the slot?
Bottom-Line: This year’s class doesn’t have many quick route-running receivers like last year, but Godwin certainly fits the bill even if he was constantly overshadowed in the Georgia offense. He might have to add more muscle if he wants to play as an outside receiver.
Early Team Fit: Washington Redskins
Early Projection: Mid-Round Pick
The ‘Hands’ Award: Ted Ginn Jr.
It was really, really hard to pick the best catch out of only two games, so I’m really hoping there’s a good one in the Super Bowl. Either way, the show must go on. The ageless Ted Ginn Jr. gets the nod this week with this sailing snag in mid-air despite an approaching defender. One of the hardest things for a wide receiver to do is focus on catching the ball while also avoiding or bracing for a big hit. Ginn did both seamlessly.
Uniform of the Week: New Orleans Saints
More teams should don black and gold because the Saints simply make it work. The accents of white stand out on the all-black uniforms the team wore Sunday. The gold helmets may be among the nicest in the NFL thanks to the hint of glitter speckled throughout the gold paint. As elite as these uniforms are, I’d love to see them whip out these phenomenal threads more.
Weekly Warrior: Kyle Van Noy
I remember when Van Noy was a leading defender for BYU. Five years later, he’s notching two sacks, ten tackles, and a fumble recovery in the AFC Championship. After barely making a dent in his first three seasons, Van Noy has come alive for the New England’s defense (as forgotten mid-round picks usually do when they become a Patriot). He could be a crucial piece for the Patriots if they want to secure the Lombardi Trophy again.
The Blunder Ball: The Saints-Rams Referees
I don’t think I need to emphasize on this any more. If you’d like, I suggest reading what I had to say about the ‘recent’ trend of officials making bad calls from a couple weeks ago.
The Dirty Diaper Award: The NFL’s Overtime Rules
What do a dirty diaper and the NFL’s overtime rules have in common? Both stink. Unfortunately, nobody wants to change them. I hate to break it to you, but they need to be dealt with immediately. I’ve proposed new amendments to the NFL’s outrageous overtime rules before, but if you’re seeking my help for that diaper, you’re better off letting the baby do it.
The Don’t-Touch-the-Stove Award: Hue Jackson
Even Hue Jackson couldn’t follow this golden rule, because he just got burned. Once again, by Baker Mayfield. This hilarious clip of Mayfield cooking on Cooper Manning’s show is the epitome of getting roasted. I’m not sure how long it took for Baker to whip up this spicy joke, but I’m glad he delivered it because it was cooked to perfection. I’m sure Baker is still salty for when Jackson joined their division rivals, though the Browns did finish with a better record than the Bengals. That included the Browns beating Jackson and the Bengals twice, so I’d bet Baker is relishing in his sweet, sweet revenge. (I’m going to go eat now.)
Trivia Answer: Peyton Manning and Cam Newton
Question: The age gap between Tom Brady and Jared Goff is the largest difference between two starting QBs in Super Bowl history (17 years and 72 days). Which two QBs previously held this record?
Separated by 13 years and 48 days, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton faced off three years ago in Super Bowl 50. The older Manning came out victorious then, but it should be noted that out of the four Super Bowls featuring the largest age differences between starting QBs, the elders have won two and the youngsters have won two.
We’ll see if Brady or Goff can tip the scales in their age group’s favor. On a somewhat related note, Bill Belichick and Sean McVay represent the biggest age gap between Super Bowl head coaches, too. They have 33 years and 283 days between them, which breaks the record set 56 years ago by Don Shula and Weeb Ewbank in the legendary Super Bowl III game.
ONE LAST THING
With the Pro Bowl this weekend, I thought it would be time to give a look ahead for the ‘Deep Route Football Notebook’, starting with my second annual Awards Edition next week. It won’t be your normal DRFN but it will be like last year’s column. It’s probably my most fun article of the year because it’s not the yearly awards I’ve already predicted; it’s random awards like I’ve been doing each week. After that I’ll have a Super Bowl-focused article followed by my annual recap article, also similar to last year’s. Once those columns are out of the way, I’ll shift my focus to the NFL Draft. Trust me when I say big things are coming…
The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, fantasy updates, and more. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
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