MIAMI — Welcome to Super Bowl week! Two Sundays ago, the Chiefs and 49ers punched their tickets to Miami, and both teams arrived on Sunday to a city very much still in the calm-before-the-storm phase.
Miami International Airport is decked out with some of the requisite Super Bowl trimmings. Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo posters adorn pillars at baggage claim. Staff members holding cardboard cutouts of football helmets encouraged incoming travelers arriving to share photos using the official hashtag, reminding us that this is not just a football game but a #socialexperience. The Super Bowl logo and NFL 100 insignia with a teal and palm tree motif is omnipresent, featured at the airport and on lamp posts along busy streets throughout Miami Beach. Shout it from the beachfront high-rises and let the world know: The big game is here, not just theoretically but here in the physical sense.
As afternoon turned to dusk Sunday, it was relatively quiet at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which plays host to both the NFL Super Bowl Experience for the fans and radio row for the media. But handfuls of stray football fans lingered, some wearing jerseys ranging from Dan Marino to Frank Gore to Tony Romo, walking around a concourse that will soon be packed with football fans squarely in the demographic of those ubiquitous NFL Shop commercials.
Throughout the week I’ll be dishing daily updates about everything going on in Miami. So check back each day for slices of life down here as Super Bowl LIV approaches.
A few words with…
Every day I’ll share a quick interview with somebody down in Miami. While I’ll try to find A-list celebrities (Pitbull, do you have a minute?), today’s guest is… The MMQB’s very own Conor Orr. Once upon a time Conor [somehow] convinced me to do a similar interview in one of his columns while I was on my honeymoon in New Zealand. So now we’re even.
MG: What number Super Bowl is this for you?
CO: Oh boy, that’s a good question. [Brief pause.] This will be No. 7.
MG: Thank you for complimenting my question. What was your favorite one, and why?
CO: I don’t think anything will be better than the first one, seeing as it was such an insane, eyes-wide moment. I was helping to cover the Giants for the hometown paper. It meant everything to our paper to send us out there to Indianapolis. We drove 13 hours and shared hotel rooms. The Eli Manning–to–Mario Manningham throw was great, and I had an amazing view of it from the auxiliary box at the Colts’ stadium. But also my first Super Bowl working for Sports Illustrated—Eagles-Patriots in Minnesota—was incredibly meaningful. I always wanted to work here and to sit there in the press box, next to my mentor, friend and again coworker, Jenny Vrentas, and behind Peter King, was pretty wild. It got a little misty for me during the national anthem.
MG: What are you most looking forward to this week?
CO: I always like to see how teams handle the moment, especially non-Patriots teams. Do they shut down and close ranks like the Panthers did? Do they embrace the moment? It’s such a crazy weight to bear for a coach who has already spent the entire season pressing the right buttons.
MG: Along those lines, if you had to pick either Andy Reid or Kyle Shanahan to coach your team this week, who would you take?
CO: That’s a great question. I would say Kyle Shanahan. He has less to lose, still has intimate knowledge of the experience, maybe even more so than Reid, and feels perfectly suited for the moment.
MG: Thank you for continuing to compliment my questions. The last time you were in Miami, you wrote a memorable story about the 0-4 Dolphins hosting the 0-5 Redskins in a game you dubbed the Toilet Bowl. How do you think this trip will compare to that one?
CO: Hmmm. I think this trip will be better because I will get to be in the company of more good friends as I cover the event. That said, everyone I met in the tailgate lot of the Washington-Dolphins game was lovely. I will hopefully on this trip find a more representative Cuban sandwich than the one at the stadium. (Someone please help.)
MG: Final question: Can you give me one under-the-radar player who you think might swing the Super Bowl?
CO: I think the game will swing on a Kyle Juszczyk touchdown catch off play-action. And while he’s not under-the-radar, it’s tough to keep track of all the critical components of the 49ers’ roster.
MG: Thanks, Conor.
CO: Anything for you, Mitch.
A few links from my SI colleagues to keep you up to speed.
• Albert Breer’s MMQB column, leading with how Brett Veach sold Andy Reid on QB Patrick Mahomes almost a year before he was drafted and the steps the team took to draft him.
• Kalyn Kahler on the biggest storylines of the week.
• Michael Rosenberg on why Miami Super Bowls are special.
Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park Monday night. Where have you gone, dinger machine?
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