I don’t know why we do this, but we all do, at least most of us, so as soon as I filed the Super Bowl column I was wondering if this was the best one ever. In the moment, of course, this is impossible. The thrill of what we just saw creates amnesia about past thrills and I don’t know how anyone can be sure.
Objectively, this one has a heck of an argument: the best quarterback who ever lived, with the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, a game highlighted by two of the best catches you are likely to ever see, with the added benefit of making Roger Goodell uncomfortable as fans booed him like he raised their rent.
This is the seventh Super Bowl I’ve covered, and it’s the best of the bunch, passing the Malcolm Butler game from two years ago.
There have been plenty of terrific games. Scott Norwood’s wide right, David Tyree’s catch, Santonio Holmes keeping his feet inbounds in the end zone, Mike Jones’ tackle against the Titans, Adam Vinatieri winning Brady’s first Super Bowl, Mario Manningham’s catch down the left sideline in Indianapolis, we could go on.
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But this was different. This had everything. We can debate the particulars. Most of the second quarter was dull, and the comeback didn’t take hold until some point in the fourth. But that was the loudest atmosphere I can remember at a Super Bowl, the place full of actual fans, exploding noise at every big play.
Steven made a good point on the Border Patrol, that the last year of championships have been insanely entertaining: Villanova at the buzzer, LeBron coming back from down 3-1, the Cubs winning one of the great World Series ever, and now this.
If you were on the fence about liking sports before, and this didn’t convince you, you will never, ever like sports.
I’ve shifted my feeling on this a bit in the last month. Tony Romo is a better quarterback than Alex Smith, but I believe Smith is a better fit for Andy Reid, and I know Smith is more reliable.
Bad backs don’t get better. Bad backs of professional athletes about to turn 37 never get better. Bad backs of quarterbacks who’ve made 127 NFL starts and been sacked 248 times are reason enough for anyone who loves that quarterback to beg him to enjoy his millions of dollars in retirement.
I understand that we’re talking about sports, which makes this a rotten place for nuance, and specifically we’re talking about Alex Smith in Kansas City which makes attempted nuance fair game for name calling but I am sticking with my story here:
Alex Smith is a good quarterback. He is not a terrible quarterback, like many fans want to say. And he is not a terrific quarterback, like many Chiefs employees want to say. He’s ... good.
#QBWINZ are a terrible barometer, and often overemphasized, but he is very clearly good enough to quarterback the franchise’s best four-year stretch since the 1990s. He led the greatest comeback in Chiefs history against the Chargers. He continues avoid turnovers extremely well, and is proficient at the timing throws and zone-read stuff Andy Reid likes.
You could do much worse than Alex Smith, and many NFL teams do.
But here’s the thing: even if you disagree with me that Smith’s costly end zone interceptions, general lack of effective running, and head trauma scare in Indianapolis mean you should be looking for the next quarterback, you should still be looking for the next quarterback because Smith is about to turn 33 and plays the most important position in professional sports and if you are not trying to improve there you are negligent.
But with Romo, haven’t we seen that? Haven’t we seen the Chiefs trade for an older quarterback whose team just found something better?
What we haven’t seen is the Chiefs invest a high draft pick in a quarterback they identify as the best possible fit, and they are tremendously positioned to do that now, for at least three strong reasons:
▪ They have extra picks, so trading up, if they have to, doesn’t have to ruin their draft.
▪ Alex Smith’s contract is such that the Chiefs can sort of go year-to-year now. They have too many good players to throw away a season, but Smith’s contract and Reid’s coaching means they don’t have to do that. Draft a guy, play Smith, and be patient until you think the pick is ready. If it’s by next season, you can renegotiate Smith’s deal or cut him to save $17 million in cap space to spend on the rest of the roster.
▪ This draft includes at least four top quarterback prospects who many believe would be a good fit for the Chiefs and Reid.
Speaking of which...
That’s easy — Deshaun Watson — but let’s change the question a bit to which quarterback prospect would be the best fit.
When my wife and kids aren’t around, I basically turn into a slightly less nuts version of Terez, so in Houston last week for the Super Bowl I spent a chunk of time watching tape of Watson, Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes.
I actually think all four would be good fits for the Chiefs, in different ways and to varying degrees. A few thoughts that apply to all four: they’d be better off sitting a year, and it’s hard to guess how the transition from these college offenses will go. Also, this is just watching tape. The important stuff for quarterbacks is often what goes behind the tape. Anyway, here we go in pseudo order:
Watson, Clemson: I like him even more after watching the tapes than I did just from watching games the last two falls. The tape showed me his receivers don’t prop up his passing as much as I thought, and several of his interceptions were on tipped balls. He does everything in the Chiefs’ offense already. His accuracy on deep passes is inconsistent, but there’s more than enough there to believe that’ll come. His leadership speaks for itself, but I also liked a moment where he threw a bad interception near the goal line but ran down the defender for a touchdown-saving tackle. You’d rather not have the interception, but he didn’t pout or quit on the play.
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina: I didn’t expect to like him this much, but he has all the physical stuff you’d want. Very good athlete, strong arm, good touch. His receivers aren’t good, either, so he earned what he had. At the end of the Duke game, he threw three passes that should’ve been touchdowns before one was caught. You wonder about only having one year starting in college, but there’s a lot to work with here.
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame: I don’t like him nearly as much as what seems to be consensus. Very raw, don’t like his touch on deep routes, and it’s hard to see how often he goes through progressions. Physically, he’s the best of the bunch, by a margin. Big, and fast enough to run away from folks. But the passing just doesn’t seem advanced enough for what some are projecting. Too many missed throws, not enough down-the-field success.
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech: His mechanics are a mess. Long delivery, terrible footwork, and he makes some awful decisions, particularly against pressure. The qualifier about transitioning from a college offense is thrice as true here, both because of Texas Tech’s system and the Big 12. Too much of his success comes on broken plays, backyard football where he’s scrambling and throwing on the run. It’s great that he’s able to have some success there, but it’s also where he makes a lot of his mistakes, and it’s hard to imagine Andy Reid putting up with too much of that. All this said, he’s intriguing for the Chiefs if they can sit him at least a year. Has a ton of what football people call “arm talent,” and plenty of made throws and plays he extends with his athleticism.
I am absolutely certain this is something we’ll talk much more about going forward, including a podcast I did with Terez about Patrick Mahomes.
Let’s pump the brakes on a few things here. Some of what’s being said about the Chiefs should be saved for bad teams without direction or success, not teams that’ve won 43 games in the last four years and just went 12-4 to win what many were calling the NFL’s best division.
That said, let me be presumptuous enough to think you might be referring to the column in which I asked six Super Bowl winners whether Smith was good enough. The stuff from Kurt Warner was particularly good, and I hope you read all of it, but here are the best two parts:
“You have to be willing to lose games for your team, in order to win games for your team. By that I mean, you have to be willing to take chances to make big plays, and you might make more mistakes than he makes, because he does a great job protecting the football.”
“If he never makes that switch as a guy who’s willing to lose games for his team, but more importantly believes he can win games for his team with his right arm, I don’t know if they ever get over that hump.”
That’s the whole thing, right? The frustration. The feeling that the Chiefs, and Smith in particular, aren’t willing to take enough chances.
No offense, but it’s absurd to say Reid and Smith are “toxic.” The group they took over for was toxic. The Chiefs have built their way into a stronger position than most in the NFL, but not as strong as a few.
We agree that it’s unlikely for a 13th-year quarterback and 19th-year head coach to suddenly and fundamentally change who they are.
With the current setup, and even with a few improvements, the Chiefs would need significant breaks to make or win a Super Bowl. That’s part of why I believe they should look for the quarterback of the future, but they have enough good players and have demonstrated enough recent success that it would be a bit masochistic to give up what they’ve built.
Ramon was asking more about the week than the game, it should be noted. This is the seventh Super Bowl I’ve covered, which is more than enough to tell you this: Super Bowls are weird. They’re all fundamentally different, because they’re in different places, with different weather, and different people.
But they’re also fundamentally the same, because that’s how the NFL works. It finds a formula it likes, and generally sticks with it, taking the same general plan — convention center takeover, interactive games, miniature fields, licensed memorabilia for sale every 10 feet — from market to market.
If this year’s atmosphere was different, particularly in a negative way, I didn’t feel it, This was certainly an upgrade from a year ago, when everything in San Francisco alternated between being spread out and cramped.
There was a lot of energy, mobs of bodies, more than enough excitement. If I had a complaint about the general atmosphere at these things, it’s that the overt capitalism and formulaic way the league puts these on means trading raw excitement for predictability.
I absolutely understand why the league does it this way, and the truth is, if I was in charge, I’d probably do it the same. The NFL and the Super Bowl are just too big to offer much of a realistic alternative. But if you go to a Final Four, or World Series, or major bowl game, there’s a little more of that raw emotion. More of that pure fun of sports.
I think I say this every year, but here goes anyway: if you’ve never been, and your team makes the Super Bowl, and you have the means to do it, you should absolutely go. Honestly, even if you don’t want to pay for tickets, and have to fly home Sunday to watch from your couch, you’d have a blast.
But otherwise, you’ll probably be disappointed.
This was sent after the Super Bowl, but I’m using it here to replace a question about whether the Royals were OK with filling the last two spots of the rotation in-house.
Spoiler alert: they weren’t.
I expected them to sign someone, but am mildly surprised it was Hammel, mostly because of cost and a few conversations I had with some folks. But the deal isn’t enormous — two years, $16 million, and the omnipresent mutual option for a third year that essentially serves as a way for the club to further backload the money — and Hammel provides a level of dependability.
He was, probably, the best starting pitcher still on the market and the Royals got him for a price far less than he or anyone else expected him to make at the beginning of the offseason.
He’s more of a placeholder than difference maker. He’s 34, and while he’s made 27 or more starts six times in the last eight years, he’s never thrown 180 innings in a season and his production has hovered around the league average.
There’s a lot of value in that, particularly for the Royals, who can now avoid a hint of desperation as they fill in the last spot of the rotation.
Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas and Hammel make for a representative first four. After that, the Royals are probably choosing from a group headlined by Nate Karns, Chris Young and Matt Strahm.
You could do worse, and a week ago, it looked like the Royals were going to try.
We’ll get more into this as the week goes on, but this mostly completes a terrific offseason under brutal circumstances for Dayton Moore and the men who work for him.
But this is a team that expects to win this year, and has a chance, with health and the right breaks, to get back into the postseason after last year’s disappointing 81-81.
The rotation is solid, if unspectacular. The bullpen could be strong, maybe not like the 2014-15 laser show, but again strong depending on how well they’re able to fill the innings between the starters and Kelvin Herrera.
The offense has to be better, and there are plenty of logical reasons to believe it will. Alex Gordon was terrible last year. I believe his wrist hurt more than he’ll ever admit, and that he’ll be much better in 2017, if he can stay healthy. They essentially add Mike Moustakas, who is in the prime of his career. Eric Hosmer should be ready for the best season of his professional life. Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss add power.
One man’s guess on the lineup:
Alcides Escobar, SS
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Sal Perez, C
Alex Gordon, LF
Jorge Soler, RF
Brandon Moss, DH
Raul Mondesi, 2B
One man’s suggestion for the lineup:
Alex Gordon, LF
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Jorge Soler, RF
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Sal Perez, C
Brandon Moss, DH
Alcides Escobar, SS
Raul Mondesi, 2B
Either way, that’s a group that could be closer to the middle of the league in runs scored (like they were in 2015) than the bottom (like they were in 2016).
There’s enough here to hope, at least, which is what the current leadership is going for.
If I understand the term correctly, I actually don’t think there’s a competitive cliff. The Royals have enough to expect another winning season, and they’ve built themselves in a way to keep that going — even if they’re sacrificing a bit of high-end in the name of consistency.
But, yes, absolutely, the Royals haven’t been as good in the draft as they need to be or that most believe they’ve been.
An incomplete but somewhat informative point can be made by looking at the firstround picks from those seasons: Aaron Crow, Christian Colon, Bubba Starling and Kyle Zimmer. Crow went 12th overall. The others were all in the top five.
Mike Trout, Shelby Miller, Chris Sale, Matt Harvey, Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rendon, George Springer, Addison Russell and Corey Seager are just some of the guys the Royals left on the board when they picked.
Yes, I understand, we could play this game with every team, in every draft. But particularly now, with MLB rules prohibiting teams from overpaying picks (which is how the Royals got Wil Myers in the third round of 2009) the Royals have to be better than most.
Instead, from those four drafts, Colon is the best of the bunch.
Baseball’s draft is perhaps the biggest crapshoot in sports, but that’s not good enough.
Some of this depends on what you mean by “up for grabs,” or, for that matter, by “REALLY.”
I believe Kansas will win the league. If I had to bet, I might even say they’ll win it outright. But while at the beginning of the season I thought the spread could be two games, it’s something close to 50-50 that they’ll share it with Baylor or West Virginia.
At the moment, they’re one up in the loss column on Baylor, and two on West Virginia. But a lot can happen. KU never plays well at Texas Tech, or at Oklahoma State. They play at Baylor, and West Virginia at home. Those are four games they could lose without it being a shock.
Baylor is at Oklahoma State on Wednesday, home to Kansas, and later this month have a Saturday-Monday turnaround of at Iowa State and West Virginia at home. West Virginia can probably only lose one more game for a share of the league title, and they still have to play both Baylor and West Virginia on the road.
But it’s not hard to imagine KU losing two more games. Maybe three. In that case, Baylor has a very good shot at sharing the league title.
Baylor is really good. I know they just lost at home to K-State, and they’ve never finished higher than third in the league, but this team has a lot going for it — long, talented athletes, experience, terrific defense, and some guys who can score.
Yeah, absolutely, it’s still open.
I don’t think the minutes are a big deal. These are college kids, in terrific shape, playing two games a week. You can imagine them getting worn down mentally, but that’s true of any team.
The depth is mostly a problem inside. They can’t have Landen Lucas in foul trouble, or even worse, injured. Frank Mason is having the best year of any Kansas point guard in the last 30 years, at least, and at this point is 50-50 for national player of the year. Josh Jackson is having the best one-and-done season in Bill Self’s time.
But Lucas is indispensable, and I don’t use that word lightly. If Lucas gets injured, I don’t see how KU can win more than two games in the NCAA Tournament.
But he’s also a terrifically smart player, and by now in his 31st season of college basketball knows how to save energy and fouls when he needs to.
The problem KU is going to run into is if they have an off shooting night, or whether they can get enough stops. But that’s always been true.
We had another question about whether I believe Lagerald Vick should be playing, so let’s just fold them both into one tidy answer here.
I don’t believe it’s something bigger. This is a bad look for the program, but this is not The Program.
You never want any connection to investigations or police, but let’s go through each case.
The first time Carlton Bragg was accused of battery, charges were never filed because of insufficient evidence. He was then arrested and charged with battery before the prosecutor ruled he was actually the victim, and then had a drug charge apparently for being one of the thousands and thousands of college students across the country to have a bong in their room. He’ll pay a fine, and if he successfully completes diversion, that’s it.
Just reading between the lines and talking with some people, I would be surprised if anything came of the investigation into a rape that was reported in December at the basketball players’ dorm. It’s important to note that KU police have not named a suspect in that case.
The Lawrence police investigation into vandalism of a car near the Yacht Club, in which The Star has reported that Lagerald Vick and Josh Jackson are persons of interest, is troubling. But, again, charges have not been filed, so I’d like to wait for more information.
Finally, the University of Kansas Title IX investigation that — again, according to a report from The Star — found Vick likely punched and kicked a woman in late 2015 (the same woman whose car would be damaged outside the Yacht Club a year later) is also troubling. Domestic violence should never be excused, or tolerated. But no criminal charges were brought in that case, and what’s been made public is a true but incomplete part of the story.
I find it hard to believe that Bill Self doesn’t know more about what happened, and find it nearly impossible to believe he’d take this kind of risk without being sure.
Maybe I’m wrong about that — maybe Self is wrong about it — but that would surprise me. The Bragg accusation was a little different, because there was a criminal charge, among other things, but Self suspended Bragg immediately until the prosecutor charged Bragg’s accuser instead.
Self doesn’t have a track record of sticking up for his guys when he shouldn’t. So, I don’t know. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt.
Bruce Weber is a good basketball coach, a so-so recruiter, and a rotten PR man.
That’s as succinctly as I know how to put it.
K-State has had a strange season. The non-conference schedule was filled with glorified scrimmages, which meant we really had no idea what that 11-1 record meant going into conference play, and the Big 12 season has included swings like a loss to TCU at home followed a few days later by a win at Baylor.
K-State isn’t alone there, of course. KU won at Kentucky, and lost to Iowa State at home. This is how college basketball goes, because college basketball is a sport played by college-aged humans.
They lost another close one last night to Kansas, but I still think K-State is better than 50-50 to make the tournament. I know this is an aggravating thing to go through for KSU fans. Five of the eight losses are by three points or fewer, or overtime. Just win two of those, especially if one is against KU, and the season feels a lot different.
Of course, that doesn’t matter. K-State was supposed to be beyond that by now. The close-loss thing was fine to point out last year, with a rebuilt roster in the wake of Marcus Foster’s dismissal, but it holds no weight now.
K-State is now 5-6 in the league. It will likely be favored in five of its seven last league games. If the Wildcats win four, they’re .500 in a strong league, and depending on some factors including their Big 12 Tournament performance, that should be enough to get in the NCAAs.
Won’t be enough to kill the frustration felt by many fans with Weber, though. K-State could be worse. It should be better.
I also think he will get in, and that some of the backlash against him not being in already includes too much emotion and not enough thought.
Terrell Owens was a great player — fifth all-time in catches, second in yards, third in touchdowns. He had a nine-year run from 2000 to 2008 that was among the best to ever do it. Five times he made first-team All-Pro (probably would’ve been six if not for an injury in 2005).
But I do think T.O.’s case is about more than numbers, and not in a good way. How you are as a teammate matters, in football more than perhaps any other sport. And Owens wasn’t just a bad teammate. He was a destructive teammate.
That’s not just me saying something, either. That’s what you hear from players and others who were around him especially in San Francisco, but also some in his other stops, too.
Look, I don’t agree with everything the committee did. I’m surprised Owens didn’t make the list of 10 finalists, and I don’t know why Jason Taylor had to be rushed in on his first year of eligibility.
But I have a huge amount of respect for the voters, and I’m probably not supposed to say this since I’m a baseball voter and not football, but I believe football has the better process.
This is not a few writers holding grudges. This is some of the best, most informed, objective people around the game coming to a meeting with information and insight from those who saw it from the inside-out.
Owens will get in. He was too good of a player not to. But I understand why he hasn’t been selected yet.
I think so, for the most part.
Both sides of the relationship could probably be a little better. It’s always been easy to make jokes about the stereotypes of the defensive and snobby soccer fan, and that caricature wasn’t created out of nothing, but it was also created in part by unnecessary and gratuitous slams from sports fans who don’t like or perhaps don’t “get” soccer.
Like Transformer movies, I hope this is a trend we can move past.
It’s worth pointing out that Sporting’s leadership made a business decision with the rebrand, to appeal to, cultivate, and grow the soccer-centric community in Kansas City over chasing the sports fan who hasn’t yet embraced soccer.
From a business perspective, it was absolutely the right move. Doing it the other way means not really making anyone happy. Soccer folks are annoyed you’re “dumbing down” their sport, and it’s a game that’s best sold without apology.
By doing it this way, Sporting has built itself into more of a destination, an event, which naturally draws in non-soccer fans on its own.
The trick is to keep this going, particularly as Sporting — similar to what the Royals are doing, actually — transitions into a new roster and new build.
I think Sporting and its fans, generally, have done a good job selling the sport and club. For people not already inclined for soccer, the setup can be a little intimidating. The maniacs in the Cauldron, the different competitions, the intricate strategy. It can be a lot to take in, particularly now that the franchise is (and this is a good thing!) past the days of having super cheap or even free tickets.
One of the biggest challenges going forward is to have more of a presence on TV. I’m still a little confused about how Sporting’s new TV contract with Fox Sports KC is going to work.
I haven’t gone through the schedules, but Sporting and Royals games routinely conflict, which means Sporting is pushed to Fox Sports KC Plus. It’s always hard for fans when the same games are on different channels — this is something the NFL is talking about with its Thursday games — and I would guess that many or even most Kansas Citians have never heard of Fox Sports KC Plus. I hadn’t.
It’s a big ask of people to go hunt that channel, particularly if the point is to attract new fans.
But, I’m not sure I’m actually answering your question here. If you mean on a more personal level, I think we’re past the point of there being much of a contentious relationship between soccer fans and non-soccer fans.
Sporting is part of Kansas City’s sports scene. Has been for years. There are, of course, some who don’t like it, just like there are some who don’t like NASCAR, or college sports, or the Royals or the Chiefs.
Don’t judge Timothy and me.
I’m at the point in my life where I have two separate ideal dates: one with the wife and kids somewhere like Waldo Pizza, and the other with the kids at home and the wife somewhere like Osteria Il Centro, with a drink or two after, the kids somehow sleeping until 9 or so the next day.
Daddy likes his sleep.
Look, I love spring training. I love it because it’s baseball, and I love it because it’s the best place to get work done, and I love it for all the corny reasons old baseball people talk about, with green grass and sunshine and spring and all of that.
But Surprise is, um, not awesome. Kyle Zimmer has spent more time in Surprise than most, and put it perfectly when asked if he’d grown to like it: “Not really. You can only go to Walmart so many times.”
Rosie’s is good, and has the added benefit that you’re 50-50 to run into Art Stewart there. You can find some decent hole-in-the-wall Mexican places. But the options are less than awesome. I’m all about that Chipotle and Jimmy Johns life in Surprise.
There are worse ways to live.