The Super Bowl Story, According to Tom Brady
It’s understandable when a stunning event overwhelms a career-defining event, the way it did in Super Bowl XLIX eight days ago. We spent three or four days piling on Pete Carroll for a call that seemed (and still seems) foolhardy, a decision that cost Seattle a second straight Super Bowl victory and a decision vital to the fourth Super Bowl title of the Belichick/Brady Era. Heck, Matt Lauer of the “Today Show” flew to Seattle and sat down with Carroll for 20 empathetic minutes. That aired Friday. So that was day five of Seattle regurgitation.
Now it’s day eight, and it’s time for New England quarterback Tom Brady to get his due. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels too. And important contributors Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and the five-man line that kept Brady clean for the most important 18 plays of their lives, and the most important two touchdown drives.
I am going to isolate on Brady and McDaniels here, but that does not mean the others shouldn’t get a figurative Gatorade bath too. What New England did over the last 11-and-a-half minutes of the Super Bowl—against the defense that led the NFL in 2012, 2013 and 2014—is historic. It should not be forgotten or in any way overshadowed by the Malcolm Butler interception—gigantic, obviously, in its own right—because when the career of Tom Brady is put in a time capsule, this is the day, this is the quarter, these are the two drives, that should be best remembered. They show perfectly what made Brady a quarterback for the ages. All ages.
I spoke to Brady for an hour the other day, to get his play-by-play on the last two drives. And I spoke to McDaniels alone at length in the crazy post-game scrum. This is their story. It has a Spielberg twist on the final play that just makes it better. Perfect, in fact.
* * *
The Game Plan.
McDaniels: “I didn’t get to see tape on Seattle until about 4 in the afternoon the day after our championship game. The way we do it is, we take care of all our Super Bowl logistical work first, so we can concentrate on game preparation after that without a lot of distractions. I watched a lot of them, obviously. And when you saw people have success against them, you saw teams stringing eight or 10 normal successful football plays together. Not explosive plays. But the word that kept coming to my mind, and I must have said it to our offensive players 25 times in two weeks of prep, was ‘patience.’ I told them, ‘Maybe we can come out of the game with one or two big plays. Maybe. But just trust the process. Be patient.’ The keys, to me, were being patient and never running horizontally after the catch. Just go upfield. You’re not going to create yards by trying to get around one guy, because two guys will be waiting for you. We did so many catch-and-run drills during the week of practice. Vertical, vertical, vertical. For Tom, the key was: Do not hold the ball for four seconds, or bad things are gonna happen.”
Brady: "I watched a lot of tape. A lot."
He watched the Seahawks’ NFC Championship Game three times.
Brady: “They’d allowed the fewest big plays of any team all season, and you saw pretty early why you don’t want to go into the Super Bowl throwing up a bunch of posts, a bunch of ‘nine’ routes. [‘Go’ routes.] Richard Sherman picks off the go route every time you throw it. The plan was to exploit other parts of the field—but short parts of the field. Michael Bennett rushes from everywhere. Cliff Avril kills people. They believe in what they do. We countered that by saying, ‘Okay, here’s what we’re pretty good at: Space the field, find the soft spots, be satisfied with the four-yard gain, be happy with the four-yard gain. We were gonna be happy with a two-yard gain.”
McDaniels: “The thing nobody talks about with Seattle is their ability to create disruptive plays. We worked on that literally every day, and in our six or seven practices before the game. Ball security. How to run after the catch. We told the scout team guys to punch, strip, whack at the ball, all the time. I knew every time we would have the ball in space, they’d be chopping at it. And that’s exactly what happened in the game. In fact, I have this thing I do during the first half of our games. I write down on my play sheet what I want to talk about to the team at halftime. And after seeing this five, six, seven times in the first half, I wrote down: ‘Constantly stripping at the ball.’ And we talked to them about it again at halftime."
In 72 offensive plays in Super Bowl XLIX, New England did not fumble.
The First Drive.
Seattle led 24-14 early in the fourth quarter. After an eight-yard Bruce Irvin sack, New England had second-and-18 with 11:30 to play at the Patriots’ 24.
In the regular season, Brady was among the most deliberate quarterbacks in the league in getting rid of the ball, at 2.39 seconds per pass drop, according to Pro Football Focus. On second down he took 1.01 seconds to dump a slip-screen to Brandon LaFell on the right side. Gain of four. Third and 14.
Brady: “Would this have been a four-down situation here? I don’t know. The way it worked, Sherman had Gronkowski. Danny had a deeper incut. He was the go-to guy, but they squeezed him on defense, so I couldn’t go there. Now LaFell … He had a deep comeback. When you wait for a guy—what does he run the 40 in, and what can he run 25 yards in? Maybe 2.8 seconds, three seconds? You have to wait for him. So their rush sort of ran past me, and I moved up in the pocket. As a quarterback, you start to feel the rhythm of the pass-rush as the game goes on; your body develops a cadence. You feel what they’re doing. Russell Wilson, he doesn’t care—he can outrun them. I can’t. So I have to make the calculated decision. I had the ball quite a while there.
Me: “Well, 3.48 seconds, to be exact.”
Brady: “Probably the longest time I had all game. Julian was the last option I had on the play, and there he was, in the middle.”
Edelman caught it, bounced off Kam Chancellor, and gained 21.
New life. First down in the flat to Vereen (1.76 seconds), with an extra 15 tacked on because of a late hit by Earl Thomas.
Brady: “We knew Shane needed to play a big role in the game. The halfback would be critical against an All-Pro secondary because you’re not going to target Sherman 12 times, Chancellor 12 times. The big challenge for him was to catch it and make yards, while at least one of their guys was going for the strip. They killed the Broncos last year with that in the Super Bowl."
Now incomplete into the end zone for LaFell, trying to take advantage of the matchup against backup corner Tharold Simon. Then Vereen over the right side for two.
Third-and-eight, 8:46 to go. Four-down territory now?
Brady: “We had two guys running opposite seams, Gronk and LaFell. Both safeties had vision on that. Julian’s route was supposed to be four yards. This was identical to a play we ran [against Seattle] in 2012. I hit Wes Welker. They played that same coverage against Welker in 2012, with a lineman dropping back on him in coverage in the short middle, and I hit him. I watched a lot of tape—our game with them from two years ago three times, Dallas this year multiple times, their championship game against Green Bay three times. I’m always trying to match the perfect amount of physical preparation with the right mental preparation. And I’m 37, I’ve got to get a lot of rest. I am a person that relies on my sleep. Anyway, that is what makes my relationship with Josh so special, because I feel at this point we’ve been together so long and we know each other so well and we’re so synchronized. This game, awesome. This play was an example of that. He knew it would work. He knew Julian would be there for me, and he was. Watching that tape, I saw it from a couple of years ago—and Josh saw it too.”
Dump to Edelman. Gain of 21.
First-and-goal, Seattle 4-yard line, 8:04 left. Plenty of time.
Now, for the only time in his last 18 plays, Brady errs. Edelman runs a quick fake post on Simon, pirouettes to the left, leaving Simon in the dust, and turns to Brady—who throws a line drive too high. Too hard, and too high. But a lesson to him. And a lesson to McDaniels.
Brady: “There’s a mental part to a football throw and a physical part. The mental part is being decisive. Every throw is risk-reward. When you’ve played for 15 years, you have what I call ‘no-fear throws.’ Josh calls them that too. You’re confident, you know you’ve got it, and you just rip it. Some other throws, just before you let the ball go, you’re still not quite convinced that’s what you want to do. It comes right off your last fingertip, and you’re just not convinced. I admire Andrew Luck; he is so decisive for a guy who is so young. Aaron Rodgers, same thing. But this throw, the last thing I wanted to do was throw it to the other guy. Just as I let it go, I caught a glimpse of the DB [Simon]. He’s looking at me, I’m looking at him, as I let it go, it was a mental mistake, I got indecisive. My fault. I have had so many plays where I have made bad plays and I say, ‘I ain’t never doing that again.’ Josh has done such a good job trying to break down the mental blocks. Some of those decisions go right up to the time before the ball leaves your fingertips. On that one, it was, like, yes yes yes, NO! On my two interceptions in the game, the first one I should have called time because I just didn’t like what I saw, and then it was too late when I made the throw. Dumb throw. The second one, Bobby Wagner made a phenomenal play. He read my eyes. He got me. If I ever play those guys again, I will not lead Bobby Wagner anywhere with my eyes."
McDaniels: “Tom learns from everything, and he doesn’t let it bother him. What happened next was Tom took advantage of Earl [Thomas] not being quite as aggressive as he could have been. And Danny Amendola played the back of the end zone perfectly. Tommy knows, in the tight red area, you always have to err away from the defender."
Thomas and Amendola were on the end line, Thomas to Amendola’s right, and Brady threw hard to the outside of Amendola, away from Thomas. Touchdown. Seattle 24-21.
Brady: “Earl was indecisive, thank God.”
Brady wasn’t. And he wouldn’t be on the next drive either. He would have a long memory, as would McDaniels.
The Second Drive.
Before the drive started, McDaniels said to Brady: “I got some things I’m gonna go with. I’m gonna pull ’em from everywhere.”
In the huddle to start the series, Brady, as heard on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” show, told his team: “We need a big championship drive! That’s what we need!”
First down at the New England 36 after a short Jon Ryan punt … 6:52 to play, Seattle 24, New England 21.
• Brady to Vereen, one-handed catch. Gain of eight.
• Brady to Vereen in the left flat. Gain of four.
• Edelman, in motion to the left, grabs a quick dump-off from Brady. Gain of nine.
• After a pass-interference call on Amendola, Gronkowski beats Chancellor on a shallow cross. Gain of 20.
• Brady to Vereen, right flat, Sherman sniffs it out. No gain.
Second-and-10 at the Seattle 32, 4:05 to play. Field-goal range. But no settling now.
Brady: “So K.J. Wright walks up to Gronk. We know it’s man. Same coverage Wright had on the touchdown pass to Gronk earlier. So if you’re K.J. Wright, you’re thinking, ‘I don’t want to get beat on a TD pass again,’ and he plays him high. Gronk sells the go route, and runs the stop route. Gronk knew it. Later, he told me, ‘As soon as the ball was snapped, I knew you were throwing it to me.’ Gronk’s a tough matchup. I’ve seen it for a long time. You put two guys on him, we got three wideouts single-covered. We’ll win those, somewhere. Big fast, unbelievable hands. He’s got vacuum hands."
Vereen on a quick snap, up the middle for seven. Seattle was tiring now. This was the 15th round of a 15-round donnybrook, and the Seahawks were on the ropes. Brady to LaFell—with no one covering him—for seven. Blount up the middle for two.
New England ball at the Seattle 3-yard line, 2:06 left.
Remember six minutes ago? New England ball at the Seattle 4-yard line?
McDaniels: “It wasn’t very complicated."
Brady: “After the last drive, I went to the sidelines and told Josh, ‘Josh, come back to that call. Please come back to that call.’ I knew even before the call came in what it was going to be. I knew how it was going to play out. Earl in same place. Simon in same spot. Only this time, they ended up blitzing, really a max blitz, creating one-on-one with Jules. He ran a great route. It’s a tough route to cover. The cornerback has no help. Looks like a slant. How do you not respect the coverage on the slant?’’
Edelman pushed off Simon, mildly, on the slant, then pirouetted again, just like last time. Only this time the throw wasn’t 115 miles an hour, and it wasn’t high. It was thrown medium speed, and right to Edelman.
Touchdown. New England 28, Seattle 24.
Immediately, McDaniels pointed at Brady. The NFL Films cameras captured Brady pointing at McDaniels. The message from each man was simple.
McDaniels: You executed the play exactly how it should have been done.
Brady: You trusted me on the same play again—and this time I didn’t let you down!
In the span of 10 minutes, Brady took the Patriots 76 yards in eight plays (after the Irvin sack), then 64 yards in 10 plays. He completed 13 of 15 passes. He’s had some good Super Bowl quarters in his three previous wins, but none like this one. None under this pressure, against a defense this good (though wounded, without Avril down the stretch) and with so much on the line.
Brady: “I haven’t thought about that yet—two touchdowns in that short a time against them. I felt good that we got the lead. I was THE reason we lost the lead. I felt like my teammates can count on me. I felt satisfied I overcame those two interceptions. I never want to be the reason why we lose.
"They trust me with the ball. All the hopes we had coming in … When you throw it 50 times, the team is saying, ‘We trust you with the ball.’ But I have to give credit to so many other guys. The emotional energy you put into games like this, the physical energy. The game is 30 percent longer, 40 percent longer because of the long pre-game and the long halftime. First time we played in 70-degree weather in two months. Football is such a game of attrition, never more than in the Super Bowl."
McDaniels: “It’s one of the best examples of what we talk about so much—we identify how we want to play an opponent, and then we design a game plan to do that, and it might be the exact opposite of the game plan we had the previous game. But we give it to the players. We told them in this case to stay patient and not panic, and to practice the way we planned. It was an incredible example of the harmony between the players and the staff, and to Bill’s leadership making it all work, and the players buying into it, and just believing. Believing in the plan is so important, and they believed—never more than this game."
Brady: “I had a nice moment with my wife Tuesday morning. Monday was taken up with getting home, and I finally had a chance to sleep Monday night … We woke up Tuesday, and, now, she’s woken up twice next to me after Super Bowl losses, and [for those] I was like, ‘The game’s today, right? What I just had was a nightmare, right? That didn’t really happen, right?’ And this time, I just looked at her and it was, it was …"
Pause. Three, four seconds.
Me: “What happened? What’d you say?”
Brady: “It was just special. Just pretty special.”
On all the cheating
One of the most important things facing Roger Goodell this offseason (you mean there’s more?) is to clear the police blotter of the nagging cheating scandals/problems that have surfaced in the last couple of months.
New England is cooperating with the investigation by Ted Wells and Jeff Pash into allegations brought by Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson that one or more footballs the Patriots used in the AFC title game were significantly underinflated. There’s no timetable for the investigation, but I wouldn’t think a decision is imminent; it took Wells 14 weeks to finish his probe into the Miami bullying scandal, and he’s been on the job here only two-and-a-half weeks.
Atlanta owner Arthur Blank told the Associated Press he expects the team will be found guilty of some wrongdoing in connection with fake crowd noise pumped into the Georgia Dome over the past two seasons. “I think what we've done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong," Blank said last week, implicitly acknowledging a violation. “Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It's obviously embarrassing. But beyond embarrassing, it doesn't represent our culture.” Some good it did. The Falcons were 3-5 at home in 2013, and 3-5 at home last season. The league could fine the Falcons or dock the team a draft choice or choices. Expect a decision as soon as this week.
Cleveland is expecting a decision soon, too, that could be harsher for the franchise than the punishment for Atlanta. GM Ray Farmer stands accused of illegally communicating via text message with coaches and in-game staffers. The NFL bans that kind of communication during games because of the potential advantage that could be gained from electronic messages from outside sources. According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Farmer could be fined and suspended, and draft choices taken from the team, if the investigation finds he texted coaches during games. Quite a week for the Browns, who also saw a spokesman for potential starting quarterback Johnny Manziel announce that Manziel was in rehab for a substance-abuse problem. The NFL also announced a one-year suspension (minimum) for wide receiver Josh Gordon for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. It never showers in Cleveland. It only pours torrentially.
Jerry Rice … Now, this is a strange one. Rice, clearly defending Joe Montana as comparisons between Montana and Tom Brady mount, has been critical of the Patriots for cheating. (Join the outside-of-six-northeastern-states club.) Now comes Rice’s admission, on an ESPN feature in January, that he used Stickum during his NFL career on his already-tacky gloves. Stickum was banned by the league in 1981, and Rice's NFL career began in 1985. As he said in the ESPN piece: “I know this might be a little illegal, guys, but you put a little spray, a little Stickum on [the gloves] to make sure that texture is a little sticky.”
I’m not one to indict the entire business for the acts of a few. I am also not one to dismiss rule-breakers, even if those in the game say everyone’s doing something or other. Goodell needs to be sure there are teeth in all his sanctions, preferably involving draft picks, to be sure teams aren’t tempted to cheat in any way in the future.
And one more thing: Rice should tell us which cheating is allowable and which is reprehensible, since he knows so well.
* * *
On Darren Sharper
I mentioned in this column last week that former Green Bay and New Orleans safety Darren Sharper would be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time in 2016, along with Brett Favre, Terrell Owens and Alan Faneca. I wrote those four would be leading candidates to be finalists in 2016 and said of the four players: “Pretty thin at the top, but two premier guys." Meaning Favre and Owens.
Sharper stands accused of serial sexual assault in California, Arizona and Louisiana, in some cases by using drugs on the women he attacked.
So some media people, and quite a few fans, picked up on my note, and the reaction was intense: How can you consider a man sitting in jail, accused of drugging multiple women and raping them, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I wish it had been that civil. But of course it wasn’t.
I understand the emotion involved in a case like this. The crimes are deplorable and reprehensible, and if true, Sharper should be imprisoned for a very long time. And it became very clear to me last week that fans want Sharper nowhere near the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ever. To even consider him should be cause for the 46 voting members of the Hall to first be dismissed from the committee and secondly to have their heads examined.
To clarify the way the Pro Football Hall of Fame works, we have a bylaw that says we can consider only football-related factors in determining a candidate’s worthiness for election. For example, when Lawrence Taylor was up for election 16 years ago, we were allowed to consider the fact that Taylor missed four games once for a drug suspension, but we weren’t allowed to consider his drug use or his other off-field transgressions, of which there were many. I can’t tell you whether some voters considered the other things; I can just tell you that I considered Taylor as a football player only. He was enshrined on his first season of eligibility, 1999.
Maybe you would say: If a candidate is convicted of a felony, he cannot get into the Hall of Fame. Leaving the scene of an accident is a felony. Arson is a felony. Selling drugs is a felony. Animal cruelty is a felony. Should those crimes be enough to automatically eliminate a candidate?
Maybe you would say: Don’t complicate things! It’s obvious that a very serious crime, such as murder or rape, should bar a candidate from the Hall. Obvious to whom? There are 46 voters for the Hall of Fame. Do you want to leave it up to the conscience of each individual voter as to what constitutes a crime serious enough to ban a person from the Hall?
I don’t. The voters for the Hall of Fame should consider what a player did on the field, and the influences of a coach on the game and how many games he won, and the contributions that other figures have made to the sport. Beyond that, the slope is far too slippery.
I plan to devote my Tuesday column—barring some major NFL development pushing this issue aside—to your email on the subject. Send them here, and I’ll pick a handful. Thanks in advance for your interaction.
* * *
On the passing of Dean Smith
One of my fondest memories as a sportswriter came early in my career, as a 25-year-old college basketball writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1982. On a late March Monday night in the Superdome, I was in the second row of the press area, even with the foul line at the basket where North Carolina was shooting, when 19-year-old UNC freshman Michael Jordan took a pass at the left wing. Georgetown led 62-61. Jordan was about 16 feet from the basket, not closely covered, and he rose to take a jump shot. It was perfect. North Carolina won the game, 63-62. That night was the first of many legendary baskets in huge games by Jordan.
The cool part of the story came the next morning. In those days, the media's access to teams wasn’t as tightly controlled as it is today (I am assuming it’s the same after a Final Four as for a big NFL playoff game). And a few reporters, including me, learned the North Carolina team would be leaving the next morning, pretty early, on the plane back to Chapel Hill. So a few of us went out to the airport. Not much security then; we went right out to an outer tarmac, where the players were waiting to board the flight home. I talked to James Worthy for a couple of minutes, and then saw Matt Doherty, another one of the players, and went up to speak to him. It was early, and I assumed most of the guys had been up much of the night celebrating. No matter. They had to get home. “Dean," one of the North Carolina staffers told me, “wants his players back on campus for afternoon classes. If they’ve got a Tuesday afternoon class, he wants them there.”
Doherty talked about the exhilaration of the win. I looked over to the side, and there was Jordan, with a packed gym bag slung over his shoulder, wearing a coat and tie, as all traveling Tar Heels did. He was also carrying a film projector in his right hand, and a few canisters of film (this was in the pre-video days) in the other hand. I asked Doherty, “What’s Jordan doing with that film projector?”
"The freshman always carry the film and the film projector," Doherty said.
Coat and tie. Back for Tuesday afternoon classes. Freshmen, regardless of their greatness, earning their stripes. That’s what I thought of Sunday, when I heard Dean Smith had died at 83.
Quotes of the Week
"Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than coach Smith.”
—Michael Jordan, on the passing of Dean Smith.
“Look fellas, it’s the same thing we talked about in the Baltimore game. We just need everyone to do their job! All right? There are no new plays. We have to contain the quarterback and get to his level. We’re getting high-armed because we’re not playing with our hands. We have to step up and challenge the line of scrimmage. We have to wrap [Marshawn] Lynch up. We have to do a good job in our man-to-man coverage. There is no mystery here, fellas. It’s trusting each other and everybody doing their job!”
—New England coach Bill Belichick, to his defensive players, gathered on the bench in the second half of the Super Bowl, imploring them to remember their fundamentals, on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” program, in a similar rant to those he’s given his defenses for years.
"You gave me the best year of my life!”
—Julian Edelman, to Bill Belichick, on the field after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, as captured by NFL Films and aired on “Inside the NFL.”
"You know what? You guys went out there and won it. It’s a players’ game."
—Belichick, to Edelman, via NFL Films.
"I’d do anything for you, coach.”
—Edelman, to Belichick, via NFL Films.
"It was the worst result of a call ever. The call would have been a great one if we catch it … Going back again, we might do it differently. I’m not going to tell my opponents which way I’m going to do it.”
—Seattle coach Pete Carroll to Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today Show,” on the Seahawks’ play call of a pass that was intercepted and cost Seattle the Super Bowl eight days ago.
Stats of the Week
By the end of 2015, games Josh Gordon will have played since the start of 2013: 19.
By the end of 2015, games Josh Gordon will have been suspended for since the start of 2013: 29.
The Patriots played 19 games this season, including three in the playoffs. They didn’t have a single back who averaged six carries a game, measured over 19 weeks.
LeGarrette Blount had 107 carries, including regular-season and playoff games. Shane Vereen had 104, Stevan Ridley 94 and Jonas Gray 93. Of course, Blount and Gray and Ridley were on the Patriots' active roster only part of the season, but it’s a startling number, to see how New England divvied up the work in the backfield, and to see no one had to be a Pro Bowler to get the job done.
That has to be the least-accomplished world championship backfield in the Super Bowl era. Just goes to show you that you can field a great team without employing a great running back.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
This is 10 days old, and my apologies for not getting it in the column last week. But below is the playlist from Seahawks’ practice on Wednesday before the Super Bowl. Coach Pete Carroll plays a mix of mostly hip-hop from start of practice to the end. His players (and even coaches; you should see quarterbacks coach Carl Smith moving to the music) love the fact that, instead of piped-in phony crown noise, they get to hear what they might hear in their cars driving home after practice.
Elvis Presley? Interesting.
1. Who Gon Stop Me (Jay-Z and Kanye West)
2. So Sophisticated (Rick Ross)
3. Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes)
4. Live Your Life (T.I., featuring Rihanna)
5. We Own It (Fast & Furious) (2 Chainz, featuring Wiz Khalifa)
6. A Little Less Conversation (Elvis Presley)
7. Let It Rock (Kevin Rudolf, featuring Lil Wayne)
8. Errrbody (Yo Gotti)
9. Best Day of My Life (Gazzo Remix) (American Authors)
10. You Don’t Know (Xtra edited) (Eminem, featuring 50 Cent)
11. All I Do Is Win (Evil Empire)
12. Remember the Name (Fort Minor)
13. Bugatti (Ace Hood)
14. Safe & Sound (Capital Cities)
15. i (Kendrick Lamar)
16. Show Me What You Got (Jay-Z)
17. Delirious (Boneless) (Steve Aoki, Chris Lake, Tujamo)
18. Turn Around (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Flo Rida)
19. Electric Feel (MGMT)
20. I’m Back (T.I.)
21. Still D.R.E (Dr. Dre)
22. Shellshocked (Juicy J & Wiz Khalifa)
23. Wife (Er Spenzo)
In other words, right up my alley.
Also: On Friday, a Snoop Dogg song, “Drop It Like’s Hot,” was playing at a loud decibel level early in practice—with Snoop Dogg on the sideline, a guest of the team, watching practice. (Snoop loves the Steelers, but he also loves USC, where Carroll used to coach, and the two became friends when Carroll coached the Trojans.) As the Snoop Dogg song played, Carroll jogged over to the rapper and they hugged.
After Carroll left, I went up to Snoop and said, “Must be strange, listening to your music at a Super Bowl practice, with you in the house.”
"That’s championship music right there," Snoop said. “Hip-hop’s a great adrenaline rush. This is locker-room music, and guys love having this playing at practice. Pete understands players. He’s all about letting players be themselves.”
A few minutes later, Snoop introduced his son, Cordell Broadus, to me. Cordell is a vaunted high school wide receiver from Las Vegas, and he signed last week to attend UCLA. He was polite and quiet when we met.
"You’ll be writing about him someday!” Snoop Dogg said.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
I was walking my daughter Mary Beth’s 11-year-old shepherd/lab mix Lucy on the East Side of Manhattan early Friday morning when a man, looking slightly deranged, approached us. He leaned down to the level of Lucy’s snout and said, more than a few decibels too loud: “GO BITE A MAILMAN!” He then walked on as though nothing happened.
Only in New York, kiddies. Only in New York.
Tweets of the Week
If it weren't for Eli Manning there wouldn't even be a discussion over best QB ever. Weird.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) February 6, 2015
Two late touchdown drives by Manning’s Giants, one in 2007 and one in 2011, accounted for winning touchdowns against Brady’s Patriots. Brady’s won four Super Bowls, tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most quarterback wins in the 49-year Super Bowl era. If either the David Tyree Velcro catch or the Mario Manningham left-sideline catch is not made, Brady could have an extra win or two.
I apologize ppl after doing my research about stickum! The NFL banned this in 1981. All players did it! #equalplayingfield
— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) February 7, 2015
One moment does not define you; the journey does. We will outlast this.
— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) February 5, 2015
We're saddened to hear of the loss of Dean Smith - a tremendous coach and teacher, but an even better person. Condolences to the UNC family.
— Duke Athletics (@Duke_ATHLETICS) February 8, 2015
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the Bills made a good signing in Richie Incognito, and that’s with the full understanding of his past. I’ve been waiting for some smart team to give a good player desperate to prove his worth—and understanding his leash is very short, and tight—another shot. I thought it would be the Broncos in 2014, but John Elway passed. So many players get second chances, and Incognito—a walk-in, day-one starter and tone-setter—deserves one, despite the ugliness and sickness of his well-documented harassment of Jonathan Martin in 2013 in Miami. In my mind, a year-and-a-half out of football because of the Miami case, with full knowledge that one bad incident and he should be gone, is enough.
2. I think that was a very impressive opening press conference for new head coach Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Now if he can just find a pass-rusher and great cover corner, he’ll be able to start playing defense the way he did in Seattle.
3. I think Peyton Manning’s playing football in 2015. Of course, by now, every one does. That’s assuming his arm, neck and legs pass muster in a team physical a month from now.
4. I think Marshawn Lynch is probably playing football in 2015. But that means he’ll have to be happy with the money he’ll make this year. And that is going to be a tricky process. Under almost any circumstance, Russell Wilson’s average salary in 2015 will be roughly double what the Seahawks would pay Lynch, and Lynch is not going to be fond of that. Lynch is due $7 million in salary and roster bonus this season, and the team is likely to re-do the deal to make Lynch $3 million or $4 million richer in 2015. But would that be enough, particularly when Wilson will be starting a new deal that will average something in the neighborhood of $21 million a year? And does Lynch want to have the hassles in his life that obviously come with all the attention he hates in the NFL?
5. I think I probably would have made the same decision as former CFL wideout Duron Carter—signing with Indianapolis, where GM Ryan Grigson has a well-documented love of Canadian players, and where he’ll be catching balls from Andrew Luck. But it’s interesting to note that Carter got zero signing bonus in the process, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. The NFL wasn’t as hot for Carter as he thought.
6. I think teams thinking of signing Greg Hardy will have to consider what the NFL sanction against him will be under the league's new domestic violence guidelines, even after his case was dismissed on Monday because his accuser did not make herself available to testify. Hardy, who is on the commissioner's exempt list, is one of the best pass-rushers in the league and is expected to be a free agent. The NFL said on Monday that his status "remains unchanged until we fully review the matter."
7. I think, the way Lawrence Taylor has lived his life, even number 56 has to be a little surprised he made it to birthday number 56 the other day. Hope you have many happy ones in the future, LT.
8. I think anniversaries don’t usually hit me as much of a surprise, but I was taken aback to think it’s been five years (as of Saturday) since the Saints won their Super Bowl over the Colts. Three, maybe. But five? The Saints’ greatness seems so recent, but five years is forever in the NFL, and Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have lots of reconstruction to make the Saints real contenders in 2015—and they have to work around a bad salary-cap situation at the same time.
9. I think one of the most telling moments in the NFL Films footage from the Super Bowl, seen on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” show and also this video, was Marshawn Lynch, grinning, walking toward the Seattle sideline after the fateful last-minute Russell Wilson interception, and passing right by Pete Carroll, and neither of the two men saying a word. If I may read Lynch’s mind, regarding the play call: You cannot be serious with that call. Tell me that just didn’t happen.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Hey Chris Fowler: Kudos for great years doing the College GameDay show on ESPN. You’ve been more than a traffic cop. You’ve been a good conscience too.
b. Had a wonderful time Friday night in New Haven, Conn., having pizza at Modern Apizza (thanks for the great recommendation, Ron Vaccaro; fantastic and fast pizza and Italian Cabernet), then watching Yale beat Dartmouth 81-66. My niece Katie’s husband, Jon Cormier, is the son of Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier, and so we had a mini-family-reunion for the evening. The outcome could have been better for the group, but I was so impressed with the effort and skill of these players, and it was fun to watch a game as a fan. One basketball note: Yale can really shoot threes.
c. Last Monday, back at Newark Airport after the Super Bowl, I had the chance to ride back into the city in a car with NBC skating analyst Tara Lipinski, courtesy of an NBC perk. What a charming, nice person, with great stories from the old days of figure skating. Good to see that someone whose life was so singularly focused for so long—she won Olympic gold in 1998—can grow up to be a normal person.
d. I've never met Chris Paul. His remark about the female official, Lauren Holtkamp, struck me not as sexist, but as a frustrated reaction to what he thought was a very bad call.
e. For about the 33rd time in my life, or maybe the 433rd, I stopped what I was doing when I came across “Casablanca” on TV Saturday and watched the final 40 minutes. Everyone in that is so good, not just Bogart. Sidney Greenstreet: very underrated character actor.
f. Coffeenerdness: Flat White, you’ve won me over. My grande drink of choice now.
g. Beernerdness: Say it ain’t so, Anheuser Busch. Nine years after buying Rolling Rock and taking the brewing out of Latrobe, you’re taking Rolling Rock out of the classic green bottle at the Newark brewery and making it available only in cans? Best green bottle in brewing! Best bottle in brewing! No! I’m glad it’ll still be obtainable in bottles at its other three breweries, but I fear my local establishments, 10 miles from the Newark brewery, will have Rolling Rock only in cans now. Just another bit of my youth, in the dustbin of history.
The Adieu Haiku
Sad with no football?
The draft's 80 days away.
So there’s that. Okay?
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