It’s a bittersweet time in the world. Football season is officially over, and while it paves the way for the NFL Draft season again, I had to revisit a Super Bowl that will be memorable for how unmemorable it was. I delivered most of my pre-Super Bowl thoughts two weeks ago and nothing has really changed. However, today you can see why Super Bowl LIII was actually good, who should have been the game’s MVP, what SpongeBob and the Rams have in common, final Weekly Awards and so much more. Let’s start with my full analysis of the most confusing Super Bowl in recent memory.
THINGS I KNOW
I know it was a good game, but it wasn’t entertaining. Yes, there’s a difference. A game doesn’t have to be high scoring to be considered a solid, even contest. This was a defensive masterpiece, no doubt. Two of the best, most innovative offenses in football were held to 16 total points, a new Super Bowl low. The Rams managed just three measly points, tying the “record” set by the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. Both defenses found ways to hinder the creativity of the other team’s offense, and it was a sight to behold. Only a few people, diehard football fans and league experts included, could truly appreciate what was actually happening in the game. Not many people can find enjoyment in a two-yard run up the middle. Most viewers crave points; they need something physical to show how action-packed the game is. Unfortunately, defenses going toe-to-toe with offenses doesn’t make for overly exciting football. There were maybe four or five times all games where I stood up in amazement, and one of those times was for the new Avengers: Endgame TV spot. When it comes to the Super Bowl, a.k.a the greatest spectacle of the sporting world, a spectacle is indeed what’s expected. I feel like a majority of the viewers watching would have been content with only watching the final eight minutes because it included the game’s lone touchdown. While I found solace in pre-snap motions and defensive formations, this was still the least exciting Super Bowl I’ve ever witnessed after a year of offensive greatness foolishly set expectations through the roof.
I know it’s pretty incredible to witness history. By history, I am of course referring to the machine that is the New England Patriots. A well-oiled machine, might I add. The Patriots have ruled the league for 18 years now, winning six championships in their reign. As I said two weeks ago, they are without a doubt the greatest modern sports dynasty. Many people resent their greatness, partially due to their various scandals over the years. However, I can’t help but respect what the Patriots have accomplished. They won three titles in four seasons to kickstart this dynasty and have won the other three in the past five seasons. A team as great as the Patriots usually achieves the most in their prime; New England’s biggest accomplishments have come at the front and (supposed) back end of their reign. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have managed to defy the laws of sports by winning when they really shouldn’t be. Another characteristic of the Patriots is their constant roster turnover. As history has shown us, only Brady is safe under Belichick. The 66-year old coach and general manager continues to seamlessly replace his players with new ones. Running back and prominent receiver James White took over the role of Dion Lewis, who took that role from Shane Vereen, who took that role from Danny Woodhead, who took that role from Kevin Faulk and so forth and so on. It’s incredible how Belichick can exploit a player’s expandability over and over again. I could honestly write a whole column centered around the greatness that is the New England Patriots, but for now, I’ll simply sit back and think about how I’ll be able to one day tell my kids about one of the greatest teams to ever play sports.
I know Brian Flores made himself look good. The Patriots’ linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator held the second-best offense in football to three points, the lowest total in the Sean McVay era. It was also only the third time McVay’s Rams failed to reach double-digits in a game. Now that the Lombardi Trophy has returned to Boston, Flores can officially become the Dolphins’ 13th head coach in franchise history. Flores’ abilities to maximize his defense’s versatility and to game-plan a near-perfect performance should have had Dolphins’ fans drooling. Of course, the caveat with hiring Flores is that he’s this was the only season he’s ever held defensive coordinator responsibilities. He’s spent his entire 15-year coaching career with the Patriots and has held diverse roles. He’s mainly done work on special teams and defense, but he’s also spent a year as an offensive assistant and three years in the scouting department. Not to mention that he knows what it’s like to be in a winning culture. Aside from Vic Fangio, Flores was the only new coach hired this offseason coming from the defensive side of the ball. His Super Bowl performance seems to justify the hire, even if he couldn’t sign the contract until Monday.
I know Stephon Gilmore should have won Super Bowl MVP. The award was given to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who moved into second place for the most career postseason receiving yards. The last wide receiver to win the award was Santonio Holmes in 2009, but a defensive back hasn’t taken home the award since Dexter Jackson did it in 2003. Gilmore tore up the stat sheet in Atlanta with three passes defended, five tackles, one forced fumble and that huge interception in the Rams’ red-zone. Clearly, Gilmore’s accomplishments were overlooked like they have been all season. He had the second most passes defended in a season where he played like one of the best cornerbacks in football. Edelman wasn’t a bad choice for MVP, but Gilmore was clearly a better one. In a game headlined by defensive play, it should’ve been a defensive player who took home the hardware.
I know this game doesn’t define Jared Goff. It might have more explicitly outlined his weaknesses, but one bad game doesn’t mean Goff is a bad QB. Completing 19 out of 38 passes for 229 yards and one interception isn’t exactly a confidence-instilling stat-line, though. Being sacked four times didn’t help, either. For most of the game, Goff seemed flustered. He was making late throws and missing his first or second reads often. Maybe he just wasn’t cut out for the bright lights yet. Maybe he couldn’t handle the Patriots’ defense. Both are equally plausible. Goff played some fantastic football this season but still showed that he’s just a 24-year old QB still with room to improve. Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl was at 24 years old too, and he posted only 145 yards passing, though he did throw an eight-yard touchdown. The point is that the Rams are too good and too young to not return to the Big Game anytime soon, and losing this one will almost assuredly be a vital learning experience for Goff.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know how the halftime show could’ve been any worse. It was a complete and utter disappointment. Let’s start with the choice of artists. Maroon 5 obviously doesn’t satisfy the desires of most football fans which is why Travis Scott and Big Boi were brought in. Albeit, there isn’t an artist who can actually appeal to everyone. The song choices weren’t overly great or energetic either. The display itself was underwhelming and nowhere near the extravagance it was last year. I did like how they used the Mercedes Benz Stadium and the little drones that they spelled words with, even if they did debut them in Super Bowl LII. With all that out of the way, I can finally get to the real reason why the halftime show disappointed: SpongeBob. We only saw SpongeBob for a mere twelve seconds, kind of like the Rams’ offense. Yeah, it sucks that Stephen Hillenburg (the creator of SpongeBob) couldn’t be honored through a Super Bowl rendition of the greatest song ever, let alone a key component of most of our childhoods. My issue with SpongeBob’s inclusion is that if he’s going to be in the halftime show he should at least have gotten more than twelve seconds. The NFL and Pepsi basically said, “We know what you want, and we’re going to remind you that you can’t have it.” ‘Sweet Victory’ is a fantastic song that not only would have paid tribute to a legend but it would’ve saved the halftime show. I don’t know how copyright works in this scenario, but if you have the ability to feature SpongeBob in the halftime show, you should take that privilege and run with it. All in all, the misuse of the TV show and its song contributed to the massive letdown that was this year’s halftime show.
I don’t know why Julian Edelman would be a Hall of Famer. This hot topic seems to be more of a result of his massive 10-catch, 141-yard performance on Sunday than anything else. I can’t bring myself to see a valid argument in favor of enshrining Edelman to the Hall. Unlike all the other wide receivers in the Hall of Fame, Edelman has never been a top wide receiver in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2009, Edelman has never been a top-ten wide receiver in yards per game. The highest he’s ever been is 14th in 2015. That was Edelman’s best statistical season, by the way. He scored a career-high seven touchdowns and was still only 28th out of all NFL players in receiving touchdowns. Sure, he’s broken records in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, but that is not enough when some of the guys in the Hall never even made the playoffs. Don’t forget that Edelman was suspended four games to start this season for performance-enhancing substances, too. He’s a solid, underrated player but the fact that some people actually believe Edelman deserves a gold jacket is laughable at best.
I don’t know how Zac Taylor will do in Cincinnati. It feels like just yesterday when he was the Miami Dolphins’ Assistant Quarterbacks Coach. It wasn’t too long ago when Taylor held that position in 2012 before losing the ‘assistant’ label for the next three seasons. In 2015, he was promoted to the Offensive Coordinator position but didn’t survive the coaching change following the season. After spending a year with the University of Cincinnati, Taylor became the Rams’ Assistant Wide Receivers in 2017 and then the Rams’ Quarterbacks Coach in 2018. I’m simply pointing out that it feels like Taylor is massively under-qualified for the Bengals’ head coaching job. Of course, experience isn’t everything as I explained two weeks ago. There are many factors about Taylor that we don’t know that could ultimately translate to success as a head coach. Working under Sean McVay has to be a huge bonus, too, even if the value of their relationship has been blown out of proportion. The Bengals have talent on offense but still have too many holes to plug in. Taylor will have a steep mountain to climb in his first year as Cincinnati’s coach.
TRIVIA OF THE WEEK
Question: The Browns have had two playoff berths since 1990 with the first one coming in 1994. Who was their head coach and defensive coordinator?
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 Drew Lock.
Stats: In four years at Missouri, the senior quarterback threw for 12,193 yards, 99 touchdowns and 39 interceptions.
- Solid size (6’3 225)
- More athletic than he seems
- Can break off runs
- Keeps eyes downfield when on the move
- Has flashed excellence
- Relatively strong arm
- Throws with great velocity
- Excels best when getting the ball out quickly
- Especially good at sideline throws
- Very inconsistent, especially when throwing deep
- Decision making is inconsistent, too
- Not good under pressure
- Needs to learn how to go through progressions
- Tends to give up if first option wasn’t there
- Can lock on to one receiver for too long
- Throws off back foot too often
- Must improve his footwork when throwing
- Fumbling is an issue
The Unknown: Is it possible to fix Lock’s array of football-related mental issues?
Bottom-Line: Lock is a huge project who has flashed potential but still needs lots of areas to improve. With the right coach, I can see Lock being a good quarterback in a couple years or so. The likelier scenario is he busts.
Early Team Fit: New England Patriots
Early Projection: Late First-Round
The ‘Hands’ Award: Brandin Cooks
In a game with very, very few impressive catches, I’ll give this award to someone who dropped not one but two potential touchdowns (though one of them was on Goff). Playing against his former team, Cooks did make a bobbling one-armed snag with 17 seconds left in the game. It was one good play among a couple bad ones, but it’s still good enough to receive the final ‘Hands’ Award of the football season.
Uniform of the Week: Los Angeles Rams
Bold move going throwbacks in the Super Bowl, which looked incredibly sweet under the lights of the magnificent Mercedes-Benz Stadium. These better not get trashed when the Rams update their uniforms in a year or two.
Weekly Warrior: Johnny Hekker
It’s not often I commend punters, though Hekker’s performance made me realize I should reconsider my approach. Aside from the third-most punts in Super Bowl history (a feat we all totally saw coming), Hekker set a new Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt. Ironically, the previous record holder was Patriots’ punter Ryan Allen, who competed with Hekker for the starting punting job at Oregon State in 2008. Hekker won that battle, but it’s Allen who got the last laugh over ten years later.
The Blunder Ball: Greg Zuerlein
Sheesh. You know it wasn’t the best Super Bowl when the Rams’ special teams is winning awards. Having missed four field goals (two of which were 50+ yarders) all season long, Zuerlein missed a 48-yard field goal by a landslide. While rumors of an injury certainly help his case, this missed kick is just another disappointing moment from an underwhelming game. I’ll give Legatron the benefit of the doubt by saying that even if he made the kick, there was still five seconds left for the Rams to pull off a miracle.
Commercial of the Game: NFL 100
The Hyundai ad with Jason Bateman was clever, but like Marshawn Lynch in the commercial, this two-minute-long celebration of 100 years in the NFL takes the cake. The ad kicked off the ‘NFL 100’ campaign and featured a boatload of stars from throughout NFL history. There was Jim Brown, Mike Singletary, Joe Montana, Deion Sanders, LaDanian Tomlinson, Peyton Manning, Aaron Donald and Tom Brady, to name a few. Whoever wrote the script needs a raise because it perfectly encompassed each player and what they were known for, such as Saquon Barkley hurdling a defender or Ed Reed lurking in the background. The ad’s production was incredible too as that ‘ballroom’ was actually multiple sets filmed at different times. While football fans probably appreciated this ad more than others, the commercial still could appeal to various demographics with its humor, spontaneousness and upbeat tone. Well done, NFL.
Broken Crystal Ball Award: Me and Twelve Other Armchair Staffers
Before the season, I joined twelve other staffers here at Armchair All-Americans to make our official predictions for the 2018-2019 season. The only thing we managed to all correctly predict? We’d all be wrong. A lot. Look no further than our Super Bowl predictions. No one picked the right Super Bowl matchup, though three people had the Rams losing and one person had the Patriots winning. Remember when I said, “We can all be specific with who we’re laughing at in February”? Now’s your chance. To see how we did with our awards predictions, keep reading. (Spoiler: It did not go well.)
Trivia Answer: Bill Belichick (Head Coach) and Nick Saban (Defensive Coordinator)
Question: The Browns have had two playoff berths since 1990 with the first one coming in 1994. Who was their head coach and defensive coordinator?
I could have gone with another crazy Super Bowl stat, but this has been my favorite trivia question for years now so it only seemed right to finally feature it. After the 1994 season, everything went downhill for the Browns. A year later, the team shockingly relocated to Baltimore as Saban took the head coaching job at Michigan State. As for Belichick, he took his first stint in New England and became the Patriots’ assistant head coach and defensive backs coach for a year. He took the same job with the Jets for three seasons before being promoted to head coach… and then resigning at his introductory press conference. The rest is history.
ONE LAST THING
The NFL announced their official season awards at the NFL Honors last Saturday, and they were all relatively predictable. I’ve tried twice during the season to predict the awards, first at midseason and again in Week 17. I’m more interested to see how the Armchair staffers and I did during the preseason. We didn’t do too hot with our Super Bowl predictions, and our award predictions weren’t spot-on, either. No one correctly guessed the MVP, Defensive Rookie of the Year or Coach of the Year. Two people got the Offensive Player of the Year right while three accurately pinpointed the future Defensive Player of the Year. The biggest success was the Offensive Rookie of the Year with nine correct guesses. Of course, one name doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, I said I was torn between Matt Nagy (the eventual winner) and Bill O’Brien before settling on the latter. It just goes to show you that as well as you think you know the NFL, this has been another season of unpredictability, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now that football season is over, no need to worry because I’m not going anywhere. Next stop: Draft season!
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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