You’re Not Supposed to Like Super Bowl Week, Cam; Demaryius Thomas has to Show Up

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1a. I agree with Cam Newton that all the media availability leading up to the Super Bowl is a farce. It’s amateur hour at Media Day (or, now, Media Night) and all the press conferences. (And by “amateur hour,” I mean a lot of folks from outlets that don’t obsess over football 24/7/365. Buncha losers, those guys.)

But you know what? You gotta suck it up, Cam. This isn’t happening just to you. This is Super Bowl week for a quarterback, and there’s no chance to NFL is ever going to scale back the media availability as the league does everything in its power to stay relevant in the news cycle for a full 13 days without games (sorry, Pro Bowl). The path of least resistance is to just give the same canned answers again and again and again. No one is paying attention, anyway. Until, of course, you start complaining.

“You know what’s confusing? How can I reword questions I’ve been asked so many times? Golly. Nothing pretty much has changed since I’ve seen you guys 24 hours ago. I had an unbelievable sleep, but yet I’m up here again. It’s cool. It’s like I don’t know how you want to say it. I sound like a broken record.”

Those comments are really no big deal. If anything, we had something to fill an additional 40 seconds of airtime. But Cam, if you think media availability was a bore, just wait until Sunday. You’re not going to be able to establish a rhythm because the commercial breaks are, oh, 18 minutes long. Coldplay is going to come out at halftime and play “Yellow” 23 consecutive times, and then four more times with Beyonce joining in. (I know Coldplay has other songs, I just don’t know what they are.)

Last summer I talked to Matt Hasselbeck about his Super Bowl appearance, 10 years ago. He summed it up like this…

“Dealing with the media was not fun. You spend the entire week talking about how great your opponent is, and basically just lying. Meanwhile you’re watching tape all week and you know what you’re going to attack, but you can’t give anything away. I actually felt fatigued by it. By the end of the two weeks, we were just beyond ready to play.

“I have a routine, I go out in pre-game to throw and get loose, and I couldn’t do it. There were so many former-player media types who wanted to talk. And these are Hall of Fame-type quarterbacks, and you want to show them respect. But at the same time, it’s like, Hey man, I’m trying to get ready for a game. It was odd. And it was all kind of a reminder that we’re just entertainers. I felt that same thing at halftime. It’s the longest halftime ever, and we knew it was going to be. The Rolling Stones were playing and I think they went long. And they’re the Rolling Stones, so what can you do? We were just chilling in the locker room, doing whatever. It was truly a show. This is bigger than playing football against some other football players. It’s the entertainment business, so deal with it.”

1b. I’ve only attended two Super Bowl Media Days, which are two more than I suggest anyone ever attend. In fact, here’s a shot from my one-on-one with Peyton Manning before Super Bowl XLVIII:

There was one charming moment during Super Bowl XL media day. I had lucked into one-on-one time with Marcus Trufant in the Ford Field bleachers when we were interrupted by a group of Italian journalists who, in broken English, asked Trufant to diagram a play to counter one that Heath Miller had drawn during the Steelers availability. Miller, if memory serves, had himself lining up under center before handing it to Roethlisberger on a reverse, delivering a couple of crushing blocks and sneaking out to catch a deep touchdown pass. Trufant drew up an equally absurd counter, that included him blitzing before weaving back through traffic and chasing Miller down at the goal line, stripping the ball and taking it back 99 yards for a touchdown. It was confusing and stupidly charming. And really, that’s what Super Bowl media sessions are all about.

1c. But of all the annoyances at Media Day (or Night) and the subsequent press conferences, the absolute worst (and there are always a handful of them) are the reporters who try to go meta. What’s the dumbest question you've been asked today? What’s the one question you’re most sick of hearing? Listen guy, you’re fighting through the crowd for the right to ask the same equally dumb questions to a player who will sit on his perch and ignore you the first four times you yell it, and then when he finally does acknowledge your existence he will cut his answer short when Deion Sanders shows up with a camera and a mic. We’re all subjected to the same humiliation; don’t pretend you’re above the fray.

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2. I don’t think either team is going to be able to put together more than one or two sustained drives on Sunday. The Broncos offense is full of limitations. People much smarter than I am have detailed why Denver’s pass rush spells trouble for the Panthers.

So what’s the difference in this one? Who gets the edge in big plays. The Panthers would seem to have a clear advantage there, with Cam’s arm/ability to extend plays and the Ted Ginn/Philly Brown combination. On the Denver side, Emmanuel Sanders has the speed to get behind the defense but it may not matter if Manning doesn’t have the arm. And that brings us to Demaryius Thomas.

He had as quiet a 105-catch season as you could possibly have. Some of that has had to do with the Broncos’ shaky quarterback play and a lack of touchdowns. But he has also come up small on some big stages. Back in November he made Logan Ryan look like Rod Woodson circa 1992, with a one-catch, 36-yard outing (on 13 targets!) against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. In two postseason games, he has six catches for 52 yards on 15 targets; 3.46 yards per target ain’t gonna cut it. There’s no way of sugar-coating it: This season, Thomas has been invisible during the biggest moments.

With Manning in the lineup (essentially 12 full games), Thomas has only four catches of 25-plus yards, none since Week 8 against the Packers, but he remains, arguably, the best catch-and-run threat in football. Maybe C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman can break off a long run or two, or maybe Sanders gets behind Robert McClain and Manning uncorks an old-school deep ball. But, most likely, Thomas is going to have to make a short throw into a long gain once or twice if the Broncos are going to outscore Carolina.

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3. I’m trying very hard to get worked up over Peyton Manning and Charlie Sly and HGH. It lacks the comedic value of Deflategate (the greatest “scandal” in the history of mankind, don’t ya know), though I do appreciate the involvement of private investigators so incompetent that they ultimately douse the fire with gasoline. (And as an added bonus, Charlie Sly says they’re now the best of friends!) In 2036, when FX airs The People vs. Peyton Manning: American Crime Story, I hope John C. Reilly plays both PIs in a dual role, one character channeling the cop in Magnolia, the other channeling Dr. Steve Brule.

No matter how the rest of this plays out (and yes, every media outlet on the planet is still digging around this story), the stakes are just so darn low.

A 30-something potentially taking HGH to recover from a major surgery? There’s a finite supply of synthetic HGH and people who need it much more than a professional athlete, so that wouldn’t be cool. But if I were an opposing player or coach, would I consider that “cheating”? Nah, not really.

Much like you can never change the minds of the small but vocal “Brady’s a cheater” folks in the Deflategate aftermath, you will never change the minds of the “Peyton’s a cheater” crowd. It’s kinda like epistemological dualism. Though we all know what Wittgenstein had to say about that. (Or at least I think I do, from that one philosophy class I took.)

So, under the assumption that no one in the three camps (He did it!, He didn’t do it! and, the runaway winner in the polls, I don’t care!) is going to be moved by any subsequent evidence, here’s what is at stake: A potential four-game suspension for a guy who’s probably going to retire on Monday.

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4a. Like many of you, I put on my rented tux and settled in to watch last night’s NFL Honors. And then after they handed out awards like “Art Rooney Award presented by Bose” and “ Fantasy Player of the Year presented by SAP,” I took a long shower. Grow the business, indeed.

4b. Good for the Hall of Fame class of 2016, specifically Kevin Greene and the late Kenny Stabler. I was surprised Terrell Owens didn’t get in. And I know it’s upsetting to a lot of people and I don’t want to rub it in, but I don’t understand how Terrell Davis can be considered a viable candidate with only four great seasons under his belt, especially when you consider Olandis Gary had 1,159 yards in only 12 games the year of Davis’s first injury, and Mike Anderson went for 1,487 a year later.

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No way Noah Spence is still around late in the first round, right? RIGHT?

No way Noah Spence is still around late in the first round, right? RIGHT?

5. Taking a quick look forward toward the hot stove season…

a. I am giddy over Vinny Curry. Great job by the Eagles locking him up; under Jim Schwartz, he’s going to be 2016’s breakout player.

b. Also for the Eagles, I’m not sure what they do with Kiko Alonso if Mychal Kendricks is going to play the weakside in their new 4-3. The Shady McCoy deal continues to be the trade that keeps on taking.

c. I’ve been looking at a lot of mock drafts over the past week, because… whatever, they’re stupid but they’re fun. But I ask the mocking world this: In a league where pass rushers are the second-most valuable currency (behind only quarterbacks), and in a draft that at least seems to be short on pass rushing talent, how in the world are Kevin Dodd and Noah Spence going to get out of the top half of the first round?

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6. So Johnny Manziel wants to go to Dallas and Colin Kaepernick wants to be a Jet. Apparently beggars can be choosers.

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7. I was serious earlier in the column when I mentioned that I only know one Coldplay song. But I’m sure they’ll be fine at halftime (especially with Beyonce there). The Black Eyed Peas—a group that can only be defined as “musicians” or “performers” only in the loosest definitions of the terms—were the halftime act a couple years ago, setting the bar as low as it can possibly go.

Still, for Super Bowl 51, just stop the madness and call Dave Grohl. Three songs is all you need with the Foo Fighters—“This is a Call,” whatever you want in the middle (preferably something else from the 90’s, but they’d probably go “The Pretender” or “Walk”), then “Everlong.” For goodness sake, “Everlong.” I mean, did you see the Letterman finale?

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8a. So my 3-year-old daughter, Kelly, is on an embarrassing losing streak. After starting 4-1 in the playoffs, she’s dropped five in a row. We brought her back to pick the Super Bowl because, hey, if we’re going to pay her exorbitant salary, we might as well put her to work. I’ll just give this disclaimer: Think twice before you place a high-stakes bet on the advice of a 3-year-old picking games based on photos of team mascots. (As always, since we don’t put photos of our kids on the internet, I have one of Kelly in her linebacker stance during a backyard football game and Luke Kuechly’s face in place of hers)...

8b. As for me, I have nothing original to add to the discussion. I think this game is much closer to a coin flip than most people are assuming, but in the end the Panthers come up with a couple of big plays that the Broncos can’t match. Panthers 23, Broncos 20.

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9. I think, while you’re counting down the hours to kickoff, you should spend some time with The MMQB Reads of the Week: The Super Bowl 50 Road Trip.

I had the pleasure of participating in the first half of the road trip, Manhattan to Chicago over a five-day span, along with Jenny Vrentas, Kalyn Kahler and John DePetro (Robert Mays was a gameday inactive; though he did make a solo trip to Detroit before meeting up back home in Chicago). It was exciting times. I ate at Panera. Twice! And I bought a new hat. It’s brown!

Anyway, my five favorite stories from the trip:

CINCINNATI: Jenny Vrentas on Luke Kuechly, Gentleman Linebacker.

AURORA, Colorado: Robert Klemko on Timmy Smith, forgotten Super Bowl hero who landed in prison.

PONTIAC, Mich.: Robert Mays on the current state of the Silverdome, birthplace of the 49ers’ dynasty.

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah: Emily Kaplan on ‘The Naming of a Star,’ a visit to Star Lotulelei’s parents.

CIN CITY, AGAIN: Kalyn Kahler’s wide-ranging Q&A with Ickey Woods, one of my childhood favorites (and, well, a childhood favorite of anyone who grew up in the 80s). And yes, they danced.

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10a. Looks like everyone had a great time at The MMQB Tweetup in San Francisco. I’m a little hurt that no one attended my East Coast event, on the street outside the Bridgeport 7-11. I was out there with a Super Big Gulp full of Dr. Pepper and straws for anyone who wanted to share. Did everyone who reads this really have something better to do on a Tuesday morning?

10b. This is the last Gameday 10 Things of the season since, well, it’s the last game of the season. I appreciate the kind word(s) I received over the past couple months. Really, I appreciate the fact that anyone showed up to read these at all. Though I fear that one day, decades from now, in the final moments before you’re released into the sweet embrace of gentle death, among your final thoughts will be All those wasted hours reading that turd who wrote the Gameday thing on Peter King’s site.

For the next seven months I’m sticking to my day job as a 90-hour/week editor (though I might pop in with some nonsense during free agency or the lead up to the draft). But until then, enjoy this evening’s game and a happy and healthy offseason to all.

10c. I think, at 6:27 p.m. ET, you should turn your volume all the way up and press play…