My friends, THE GURU is all set for the big game. Hold my calls. Set the out of office autoreply. Ignore anything that isn’t Super Bowl-related. And buckle up for a carb-laden Sunday.
The record was 2-0 in the Championship round, improving this year’s playoff mark to 9-1 (90.0%) and the overall won-loss to 132-76 (63.8%). But you don’t care about that, and neither do I – let’s jump right into analysis of the big one.
I’ll begin here: unlike most of the well-intentioned human population, I’m not in any way a hater of the Patriots. In fact, I admire Messrs. Kraft and Brady for all they’ve accomplished – it’s truly amazing. Both seem to be the type of guys with whom I’d be willing to share Chapstick. As for Belichick, well, I do have some respect for him but, given the many documented ethical lapses during his tenure, it’s tough to feel too good about the coach.
Of course, people are as partisan about their sports teams as they are about their politics so folks will make excuses for Coach Bill just as they would for Trump or Clinton. Belichick, by the way, is the football equivalent of the latter – pretty accomplished but it’s hard to believe a word he says.
Trump’s football doppelganger? That’s an easy one. It’s none other than Conrad Dobler, a man who is widely acknowledged as one of the dirtiest guys to ever play in the NFL. That said, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and was highly effective – and, who knows, it’s certainly possible the same may one day be said of Trump, minus the postseason trips to Hawaii.
But we aren’t here to talk politics so let’s get down to brass tacks. I’ve got two over-arching thoughts on Super Bowl LI.
First, I believe it will be a very close game. Why do I say that? It’s simple – under Belichick, the Pats haven’t played anything but tight Super Bowls. In fact, each of Bill’s six appearances has been decided by either three or four points. You heard that right, cap’n. Here’s the list:
Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17
Super Bowl XXXVII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
Super Bowl XXXIX: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Super Bowl XLVI: Giants 21, Patriots 17
Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Astonishing, isn’t it? In fact, I believe it can be argued that, despite his impressive 4-2 Super Bowl record, Belichick has largely underachieved – yes, you read that right – in the big game.
Now, I’m not a bettor by any stretch but a quick use of the Google machine tells you this: the Patriots have never covered a Super Bowl spread as a favorite. They dropped two games to the Giants when they were favored, including SB XLII when New England was giving 12 points. And they also barely beat both Carolina and Philly despite being a hefty seven-point favorite each time.
Think about this: what if Pete Carroll had decided to run Marshawn Lynch from the one yard line two years ago or tried another play besides a slant? A Statue of Liberty, a fumblerooski, a puntrooski, Big Lebowski. Anything but a slant. If Seattle had executed at the goal line, it’s likely that Belichick would enter this weekend on a three-game Super Bowl losing streak. Now, all this doesn’t mean he isn’t a great coach – he is likely one of the top five in history – but his Super Bowl chops can leave a bit to be desired.
In fact, when compared to the three other coaches who have won at least three Super Bowls – Chuck Noll (4), Joe Jackson Gibbs (3) and Bill Walsh (3), Belichick is decidedly less dominant when winning the big game. A championship is a championship but not all wins are created equal. So let’s assess Super Bowl dominance by looking at the margin of victory numbers for the four coaches:
-Gibbs, 18.3 points – wins by 10, 32 and 13 points
-Walsh, 10.3 points – wins by 5, 22 and 4 points
-Noll, 7.5 points – wins by 10, 4, 4 and 12 points
-Belichick, 3.3 points – wins by 3, 3, 3 and 4 points
And Gibbs, as THE CHIEF would obligate me to note, is the only coach to win at least three Super Bowls by double digits. Holy FATBACK HOBBS on a Popsicle stick – it had to be said.
Back to the Patriots. Are they actually the least dominant dynasty in history? Perhaps. Though, at the end of the day, maybe the number speaks volumes of Belichick – in a good way. His teams have never been the league’s most talented or most star-laden but he wins far more than he loses, including in the Super Bowl. And some believe the mark of a good team is the ability to win the close ones, whether you dominate or not. Food for thought.
Second, I believe Dan Quinn is the most important coach in this game. Everyone is talking about Belichick and, that’s fair, given all that he’s accomplished. But the guy he’ll see across the sideline is impressive in his own right.
Though this will be Quinn’s first Super Bowl as a head coach, it’ll be his third Bowl on the sidelines in four years as he was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks in their back-to-back appearances after the 2013-14 seasons. In fact, it was one of those efforts that I’ve been thinking about for much of the week, along my ponderings of the chili con queso and pepperoni rolls I’ll crush on Sunday afternoon.
In 2013, the Denver Broncos weren’t just high-powered under Peyton Manning – they were the highest-scoring team in NFL history, scoring 76 touchdowns (!) and 606 regular-season points for a stunning average of 38 a game. And after a 10-point win over New England in the AFC Championship game, many thought the Super Bowl would be a Broncos’ coronation. Mr. Quinn, Medicine Man, had other ideas.
The Seattle defense, coached by Quinn, was incredible that evening, holding the Broncos to just 306 yards and eight garbage-time points, the only time in the past 15 Super Bowls that a team has been held to single digits. In fact, Seattle’s defense scored nearly as many points (7) as the Denver offense in making Manning, who threw an NFL-record 55 regular season touchdown passes, look mortal.
So, while Belichick is highly accomplished, let’s not overlook his counterpart, a guy who might’ve picked up a thing or two while coaching under both Nick Saban and Pete Carroll. And, given that Quinn spent part of his time as a young coach at my dad’s alma mater, it’s not too hard to pull for him.
It’ll be a good one and I’ll roll with the underdog, much like I used to do at Wawa with my man THE BRUISER back at ol’ Lehigh – always with mustard, relish and onion. And it’s not because I want the Patriots lose – I’m actually indifferent – but because I think Atlanta is better positioned to win.
Call it Falcons 27, Patriots, 24.
Enjoy the game, all. And thanks for reading this season. God bless.