Super Bowl Quick Take
My two cents on LII, coaching stuff, awards, righting a wrong, hosting teenagers for the weekend and we lose another all-time great. I thought this was going to be a fairly brief look at The Goodell Football League championship game. Wow, was I ever wrong.
It Only Takes One
The Philadelphia Eagles won their first NFL Championship since 1960 by making one more adjustment then the New England Patriots at just the right time. With just over two minutes to play and clinging to a five-point lead, the Eagles moved Brandon Graham from his usual outside pass rush position to the inside where he matched up with guard Shaq Mason. Graham was able to beat Mason just enough and knock the football out of Tom Brady’s hand. Rookie Derek Barnett fell on the loose ball, a few plays later the lead was extended to eight with a field goal and the game was all but over. Yes, I know Eagles head coach Doug Pederson rolled the dice in the first half and scored on a trick play on fourth down, but the Patriots still had a chance to win the game until the Eagles made that one key adjustment.
I really feel the Patriots lost this game in the first half. Brady threw for nearly 300 yards and averaged over 21 yards per completion, but his team had just 12 points. Too many missed opportunities and too many empty yards. But, make no mistake, New England didn’t lose the game; the Eagles went out and won it. Their offensive line was outstanding all night and Nick Foles made every throw he needed to make. Congratulations to the Eagles and their long-suffering fans; 66 years without a championship is a very long time. Here are a few more random observations on what will be considered one of the great championship games in league history.
-Both disputed touchdowns went in favor of the Eagles. So, I’m really hoping all of those conspiracy theorist fans from certain teams have been quieted. Who am I kidding? It will all start again next season the first time the Patriots get a close call.
-The decision to not matchup Stephon Gilmore on Alshon Jeffrey to start the game will haunt the Patriots. Jeffrey did a lot of damage early, but once the move was made to put his former college roommate Gilmore on him, he disappeared. Speaking of mistakes and disappearances, where was Malcolm Butler? Big mistake not playing him and trying to cover the slot receiver with a safety.
-I thought Kyle Van Noy for the Patriots and ex-Buckeye Malcom Jenkins for the Eagles were outstanding on defense.
-Did you ever think you’d see a Super Bowl where the team who did not punt once during the game lost? New England never punted. Remember what I said about empty yards in the first half.
-After watching their regular season game against the Steelers, I said I wasn’t certain either team was good enough on defense to win a championship. It turns out I was right. If you give up 41 points in a championship game at any level of football, you don’t deserve to win. The Patriots need more athletes on defense. Look for them to make that a priority in the draft and free agency.
-Speaking of the draft, I fully expect the Browns to package some of those picks they have and make an offer for Foles. No, I don’t believe he’s a long-term solution and the Browns should still draft a quarterback. But, he can certainly be the veteran presence they desperately need.
Rumor Has It
All last week we heard the rumblings that Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is in line for the same position with the Patriots. Reports have the Pats current defensive guru, Matt Patricia, taking the head coaching job of the Detroit Lions. How much of the speculation is based in fact and how much is pure speculation fueled by Belichick's well-known respect for Schiano is anybody's guess. On Friday, the Columbus Dispatch's Tim May tweeted "an impeccable source" has told him there is not an interview told him there is no interview scheduled between Schiano and the Patriots. May has been the Dispatch's beat writer for OSU for years and he is not given to tweets like this very often. So, if he says he got it from "an impeccable source" and there isn't an interview scheduled, I'm going to believe him. All of this could change after National Signing Day on Wednesday (sorry, that's just how it works folks), but for now, Schiano isn't going anywhere.
Two In A Row
Former Buckeye Marshawn Lattimore has been named the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of . the Year. This is the second straight win for ex-Buckeyes as last season Joey Bosa took home the award (I will never forgive ex-Cleveland GM Sashi Brown for not putting Bosa in a Browns uniform when he had the chance). Lattimore, a Cleveland Glenville product taken by New Orleans with the eleventh overall choice in last spring's draft, had 52 tackles, five interceptions and 18 passes defended. Could the Buckeyes make it three in a row next year for this award? Cornerback Denzell Ward is considered one of the top ten players in this draft and I can easily picture him having an award worthy season.
Getting It Right FINALLY
I've had my problems over the years with some of the selections and omissions made by the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. All-time greats like Art Monk and Andre Reed waiting as long as they did was just wrong. The same goes for Paul Krause, a four-time All-Pro who retired in 1979 and is still the NFL's all-time interceptions leader, was made to wait 14 years before election. But, the most egregious year-after-year snub was finally righted when Green Bay Packer great Jerry Kramer was chosen by the Senior Committee for the class of 2018. Kramer spent eleven seasons at right guard (1958-68), winning five championships, named All-Pro five times, and was selected to the league's 1960's All-Decade and 50th Anniversary teams. He was even All-Pro in his final season of 1968. How did the selection committee manage to overlook a player with these credentials? He was an integral part of the league's first truly legendary team, which was led by its most legendary coach (Vince Lombardi) and was famous for being one of the lead blockers on Lombardi's signature "Packers Sweep". Thanks to his book "Instant Replay", which chronicles his 1967 NFL Championship season with the Packers, it isn't like the Kramer was easily forgotten. Leaving this guy out of the Hall for 44 years might be the worst omission by any of the four major sports halls of fame in their combined histories. I'd love to hear the argument from selection committee members as to why a quarterback who had a .500 record as a starter, barely completed 50 percent of his passes and threw far more interceptions than touchdowns merits induction before someone like Kramer. I have to be honest, I'm genuinely happy for him and happy to see those Packer teams brought back into the public eye again even if it is for just a short time.
Clock Is Ticking
With National Signing Day looming on Wednesday, the time for college football programs to impress potential recruits is growing short. Ohio State hosted the nation's top-rated offensive tackle this weekend, NIcholas Petit-Frere of Tampa. Adding another tackle to this class is a priority for Urban Meyer, but Petit-Frere is considered a longshot to sign with the Buckeyes. Most recruiting analysts believe he will sign with either Florida or Alabama. However, if you can get a player to visit, you have a chance and Meyer is known as a great closer. Also, Greg Schiano has ties to Berkley Prep, the school Petit-Frere attends, from his time as the head coach of the Tama Bay Bucs. It may be an outside chance, but I'd rather have an outside one then none at all.
Both Ohio State and Penn State came away from their in-home visits last week with Maryland offensive tackle Rasheed Wallace. Virginia Tech is also invloved, but most feel it will come down to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. If Walker chooses Ohio State, it will be the second time this recruiting cycle Meyer and his staff have been able to swoop in and change the mind of a player thought to be leaning heavily towards Penn State. During thre early signing period in December, Tyreke Smith of Cleveland picked the Buckeyes after some thought he was all but commited to the Nittany Lions.
Last week I wrote that Dayton Dunbar running back Tavion Thomas had quietly met with Meyer after decommitting from Oklahoima, scheduled an official visit for this weekend and many felt he was a sure bet to pledge his services to OSU. But, according to Eleven Warriors, the Buckeyes cooled on Thomas last night and he now appears to be headed to the University of Cincinnati.
Winton Woods linebacker Christopher Oats was another scheduled to be on campus in Columbus this weekend, but cancelled his visit and will probably sign with Kentucky instead.
Goodbye To A Legend
Jim Stillwagon, one of the all-time great Buckeyes, passed away Saturday night at the age of 68. Stillwagon was a defensive lineman and part of the "Super Sophs" that led Ohio State to national championships in 1968 and 1970 (yes folks, this team is officially listed as a national champion despite losing its bowl game). He was a two-time All-American, won the Outland Trophy and the first-ever Lombardi Award. After leaving Ohio State, he spent five seasons with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League where he was a three time all-star and was runner-up for the Outstanding Defensive Player Award in 1972. Stillwagon took an interest in weightlifting in high school and was so chiseled, one of his fellow recruits early in their freshman season of 1967 thought he was a senior. The Mount Vernon, Ohio native might be the greatest defensive lineman in Buckeye history.
As mentioned earlier, Wedenesday is National Signing Day. I hope to have a recruiting wrap-up ready to go sometime that night or Thursday at the latest.