A wild and crazy NFL season has come to a close with the Broncos winning Super Bowl 50, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Sheriff riding off into the sunset, how much dab’ll do ya, the Hall of Fame, the end for Marshawn Lynch, and our inability to win prop bets.
Will: The game itself was not the most aesthetically pleasing contest of the season. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning completed 31 of 66 passes for 406 yards combined. There were 153 penalty yards and 509 offensive yards. There were 12 sacks and 6 turnovers. Did you enjoy your Super Bowl viewing experience, or would you have preferred more points?
Derek: I’d say I enjoyed it more than most. It was ugly, but at least there were a bunch of turnovers and potential turnovers. It would have been worse if there were nothing but three-and-outs, though there were a bunch of those too. There were 15 punts, which is especially notable considering Peyton Manning completed 13 passes and Cam Newton completed 18. Thankfully, the game’s seven total fumbles made up for the lack of offensive productivity. Everybody perks up when the ball is on the ground in a close game, and it was at least close until the very end. There’s a decent chance I’ll completely forget it in a few years, though.
The worst part was watching as a fan of an eliminated playoff team and thinking “these are the best two teams in the league?” Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders has been calling 2015 “the worst NFL season since at least 2002.” After that game, I believe him. Thank goodness the pass rushers came to play. Otherwise, Brandon McManus would have been MVP.
As you know, I’m from North Carolina, and once considered the Panthers my second favorite team and will again when Cam is way different or playing somewhere else. As you can imagine, my Facebook feed is filled with Panther supporters. Among several themes I’ve noticed, one is that the referees affected the outcome of the game, which was something I hadn’t given any thought to until I saw a bunch of them mention it. Do you think that claim has any merit?
Will: I don’t recall thinking about the refs at all. The Panthers had twice as many infractions as the Broncos for twice as many yards, but none of the calls seemed particularly egregious. There was talk about how much Aqib Talib (who somehow did not get ejected) and the Denver secondary were bumping and holding Carolina’s receivers, and I suppose there’s merit to that. But more than that: hey guys, shut up about the refs, you sound like a bunch of sissies.
Without naming any potential examples or leading you in any way, did you find anything about the Super Bowl — from the pregame to the game to halftime to postgame — objectionable? I made the mistake of staying on Twitter in the hour or two after the game ended, subjecting myself to all sorts of outrage and counter-outrage and mock-outrage and counter-mock-mock-counter-outrage. Nothing about the production offended me in any way except for the inclusion of Mike Carey and Phil Simms. How say you?
Derek: No, there wasn’t anything I noticed. I’ve seen lots of people reference whatever Beyonce did during the halftime show, but I didn’t watch at the time and don’t have any particular interest in tracking it down. There are many reasons I watch sports and write about sports, but commenting on the statements famous pop stars make during halftime performances is not one of them. Besides, I’m sure the people who do enjoy discussing that aspect of sports have already made their feelings known, and they didn’t need an engraved invitation. Other than that, nothing struck me other than Simms and Carey (hopefully not dead, but possibly now unemployed) and the level of play. As bad as they were, I’d stop well short of calling them objectionable.
Not too many people object to seeing Peyton Manning finish his career with the Lombardi Trophy. Do you agree that this is it for The Sheriff? Will you miss having him around? Do you buy the rumors that he might play for the Rams next year?
Will: First, I don’t know when we started calling Peyton Manning the Sheriff, but I am not a fan. The last thing he needs is something to make him sound even dorkier than he is. It reminds me of George Bluth, Sr.’s cowboy phase from Arrested Development. But yeah, this has gotta be it for Peyton. He’ll be 40 in a couple months. He just won a Super Bowl and beat Tom Brady in the process. He still can’t feel his fingers. There is no upside to him playing for the Rams or anyone else. Go home, Peyton. And take Papa John with you.
Speaking of the Papa and forced product placement, did any commercials catch your fancy? The Pokemon ad got me super psyched until I realized it was a Pokemon ad; I still liked it, though I don’t understand what Pokemon product is on the way. The Doritos ultrasound ad is getting pilloried, not unjustly, but I enjoyed it for adding some weird to the occasion. Other than that, I don’t have much. Independence Day 2 didn’t do it for me, nor did Helen Mirren telling me not to drink and drive. I thought it was a bit of a down year overall.
Derek: My personal favorite was Anthony Hopkins’ Turbo Tax commercial. I also liked the Pokemon one, and pretty much anything having to do with Batman and Superman. I’m such a DC mark. I even thought that crappy Green Lantern movie was okay.
Most of them came off as preachy, generic, or a bad attempt at humor. I do take issue with your “not impressed with Independence Day 2” comment. That’s not the Will Gibson I know. Snap out of it, man! You may not have liked it, but Captain Steven Hiller taught us to not give up until the fat lady sings.
We’re fighting for our right to live. To exist. Don’t ever forget that. You don’t want to be the one person who didn’t see it coming when Independence Day 2 wins every single Oscar next year.
Speaking of awards, the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was announced. The newest members are: Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Kevin Greene, Orlando Pace, Tony Dungy, Ken Stabler, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Dick Stanfel. Are you opposed to any of them? Should the likes of Terrell Owens or the immortal Morten Anderson have gone in over any of them? Care to share in my outrage that Don Coryell is somehow still not in the Hall?
Will: I’m not opposed to any of them, though Harrison gives me pause because of the whole he-might’ve-killed-someone thing. But bless the Hall of Fame committee for keeping Terrell Owens, one of the five best receivers ever, out because he was kind of a dick. Favre and Pace were shoo-ins. Greene had ten seasons of 10-plus sacks. I’d have to take someone’s word for it re: Stanfel and DeBartolo, but sure, let ’em in. I suppose Tony Dungy is the only one I take some issue with, but any time you can honor a coach with a 9-10 playoff record, you gotta do it. And yeah, why isn’t Coryell in? If you have an offense named after you, you get to be in the Hall. That’s the rule.
We must interject with the most important tweet the NFC West has seen in quite some time. It seemed that Marshawn was on his way out of Seattle after this season no matter what. Now we know he’ll be retiring instead of playing with another team. How did it all strike you?
Derek: It was a bittersweet announcement. I’m happy that the Seahawks didn’t have to cut him (they would have if he didn’t retire) and I’m happy I won’t have to watch him play for another team. With all due respect to Shaun Alexander, Lynch is the greatest Seahawks running back of all time and one of the players I’ve most enjoyed watching. There are already a handful of Marshawn tribute videos and best-of lists floating around the internet, and it took all I had to not turn this article into a love letter. Marshawn was a unique player and is a unique person, and I look forward to telling strangers in bars why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Now that we’re near the end, let’s have a look at the future. Whats your way-too-early prediction for the SuperBowl 51/LI matchup?
Will: Oh hell if I know. How about Browns-Rams?
Alright, we’ve waited this long. Go ahead and have fun at Cam Newton’s expense for 10 or 12 paragraphs.
Derek: Man, I don’t even want to anymore. It feels completely unnecessary. All of my criticisms of Cam were so fully on display that pretty much everything has already been said. Besides, Wade Phillips already set the standard for having fun at Cam’s expense, and I know that whatever I come up with won’t be as good.
When I’ve talked about Cam Newton in the past, I gave my opinions and observations. Today, I’m just going to offer up facts. He spent all week saying “if you want to stop me from celebrating, stop me.” He wore golden MVP cleats with his accolades written on them. Then after the Broncos did stop him from celebrating, he shut down and acted like a child because things weren’t going his way.
If that’s the kind of guy you want to root for, that’s fine. Far be it from me to tell you who to cheer for. Just don’t sweep all of that under the rug whenever you call Cam Newton a great role model because he smiles when things are going his way. Don’t say his showboating is fine and then act like everyone else is a jerk when they return the favor after a loss. People who criticize Cam aren’t all racists. People have been rooting against showboats since long before he was born. If you want to laugh and dance and rub it in when you’re on top, don’t expect support and sympathy when you fall off the pedestal.
On that note, let’s give you all the chance to mock us for our prop bet performances. We did not actually put money down on any of these (as far as you know) since gambling is ungentlemanly, but we can still delight in (or weep over) our picks. Results are shown in red. Correct picks feature an asterisk:
Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem (From when the first note starts until she completes saying “brave”) will be over or under 136.5 seconds?
Derek: You win this round, Trebek. At least I think so. My understanding is with the stipulation of “from first note to brave,” the rendition was 2:09. Without that stipulation, it was 2:22. Seeing as we mentioned that stipulation in the original prop, I’d say it’s fair to award you the fake money.
Will*: Thank you, thank you. I will invest it wisely.
Will either team score in the first five minutes of the game? Yes (+145) or no (-175)?
Derek: Curses! Brandon McManus’ field goal came 4:17 into the game. Couldn’t you have waited a minute, Brandon?
Will: During the game I 100% thought that this prop was about scoring a touchdown, not just scoring, and I was all excited because I thought I got it right. Damnit.
Will there be a missed extra point? Yes (+325) or no (-450)?
Derek: I’m jumping on the anti-kicker bandwagon now. Ban kickers!
Will: Buncha nerds with their elastic hamstrings. Screw ’em all.
If Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown, his first celebration will be: open shirt Superman motion (+120), dances solo (+180), goes to crowd and gives ball away (+225), dances with teammates (+1000), spikes ball (+2000), hands ball to official (+4000), or dunks on goal post (+5000)?
Derek: We technically weren’t wrong since Cam didn’t score, so we’ll never know. I’ll stand by my original prediction and assume it would have been correct.
Will: Me too.
Which number will be higher: the number of points LeBron James scores vs the Pelicans (+1.5) or the distance of the game’s shortest made field goal (-1.5)?
Derek: This was a close one, as the shortest field goal was 30 yards and LeBron dropped 27 on the Pelicans. Yet once again, we hang our heads in shame. How was the game? Did LeBron leave any points on the floor? Should I add him to my Hate List next to kickers?
Will: Great prop, oddsmakers. The Cavs won the game comfortably, and LeBron played very well: 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Just one more three would have done it. He should absolutely be on the Hate List.
Carolina (-5.5) vs. Denver
Derek*: I got one! Yeah! No shutout for me! I’m going to submit this and hop on my yacht.
Will: I will not miss this NFL season even a little bit. Until next year.
A wild and crazy Week 11 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the performance of Thomas Rawls, the new quarterback in Denver, another JFF controversy, playoff picks, a very bad day in Baltimore, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.
Will: Thomas Rawls ran for over 200 yards. What the hell?! Is Seattle’s line getting its act together, or are the Niners just that booty?
Derek: Yeah, the Niners aren’t good. Rawls was great and the line was better than usual, but I’m not going to get too excited given how poorly San Fran’s defense has played this year, particularly in road games. Seattle now has four 100-yard rushers this year, and two of them were against the 49ers. Granted, three of those were by Rawls. Not a good year to be a lover of the legendary Marshawn Lynch, who may be shut down for at least the remainder of the regular season with a sports hernia.
Rawls is very impressive, though. I was worried about Seattle cutting both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael in favor of Rawls and Fred Jackson, but that looks to have been the right call. Turbin was already cut by the Browns and joined the Cowboys, while Michael was already cut by the Cowboys and joined the Redskins’ practice squad. Rawls is looking like the best of the bunch. In fact, he’s looking so good that he’s forcing me to write the following possibly heretical sentence:
Marshawn Lynch might get cut this offseason.
Marshawn! Could be cut! It’s looking more and more likely. Lynch makes a lot of money, and Seattle could benefit from Rawls’ rookie contract in the same way they benefited from Russell Wilson’s. Sad as it is to say, Lynch hasn’t done much this season to show he deserves the job over Rawls. The Seahawks know better than anyone else if he’s just been unlucky or he’s really breaking down, so I don’t want to jump to the conclusions. Marshawn is going down as a Seahawks legend, but Carroll’s regime isn’t afraid to cut anyone. I won’t be surprised if Marshawn is a Cowboy next year, and that makes me sad.
There was almost no sadness in Cleveland this week, but now Johnny is back in the news for the wrong reasons. He’s been demoted to third-string(!) for apparently boozin’ it up in Texas. How are Browns fans taking the news? Do you think it’s fair that he’s being benched? Should Johnny apologize for partying, even if he didn’t do anything illegal?
Will: Not great, Bob. It’s just so dumb. All of it. I was hopeful that Johnny would start the rest of the games so that the Browns could at least figure out if he was decent — I think a lot of people feel that way — but now it looks like the franchise is ready to move on from him. The only reason he hasn’t been cut already, far as I can tell, is to save money. Mike Pettine reportedly has the support of owner Jimmy Haslam and GM Ray Farmer, which is as encouraging as saying that Donald Trump is mentoring you on how to speak quietly and subtlely.
I certainly understand Pettine’s viewpoint. It seems rather arbitrary to demote Johnny so for not doing anything explicitly wrong or illegal. Perhaps the team gave him a set of guidelines to follow during the week and he spat in their face. Perhaps the team is privy to more damning information than we are at this point. Perhaps Johnny’s earlier troubles with alcohol were worse than is known publicly. Or — and I would guess this is the most likely scenario — maybe Pettine was just looking for an excuse to bench him, and this one was good enough.
Basically, I think there’s more to this story than meets the eye, the most important part being the relationship between Pettine and Manziel. Perhaps Pettine feels like he was lied to. Perhaps Johnny is rebelling. Whatever the case, the Browns look as stupid as ever. Ugh.
Say, who’s more dominant: Brock Osweiler or Brock Lesnar?
Derek: On the off chance Brock Lesnar ever see this, I’m going with him. Plus, I mentally refer to Brock Lesnar as “Brock” and Brock Osweiler as “Brock Osweiler.”
Though while his performance was sorely lacking in German suplexes, Brock Osweiler showed that it is in fact possible for Broncos quarterbacks to not throw interceptions. The Broncos even looked, dare I say, enthusiastic and energetic without Peyton Manning. Do you think Manning will get his job back if/when he’s healthy? Will you feel weird seeing him standing on the sideline against Tom Brady this weekend?
Will: I just don’t see how Peyton can get back out there. Like, it’s been public knowledge for quite a while that he’s lost feeling in his hands. Forget about playing quarterback — it feels borderline irresponsible to put him out there. Brock was pretty darn competent against the quietly-not-that-bad Bears: 20 of 27 passing, 250 yards, 2 touchdowns, no turnovers. With Denver’s defense, what they need more than anything is someone who won’t turn it over. It feels counterintuitive to say Osweiler is a better caretaker than Manning, but Peyton chucked 17 picks in nine games. He’s playing worse than he ever as, except for maybe his rookie year. Let the tall man rumble!
In NFC news, the Packers and Panthers both won handily, with the Cardinals edging out the Bengals. Who do you see as the favorite in that conference?
Derek: I think it’s the Cardinals. They’re the most talented team top to bottom. They problem is they seem to be injury prone. John Brown and Michael Floyd are banged up, Andre Ellington gets injured every five snaps, and Carson Palmer has a history of injuries that can’t be ignored. If they’re healthy going into the playoffs, I think they would be favored against anyone, even if they have to go to Carolina.
I can’t bring myself to trust the Panthers. They’ll probably be the top seed in the NFC, but they look more like a candidate to be upset. Looking at their roster, I just can’t figure out why they haven’t lost yet. Regression could be around the corner, but I’ve been saying that for a while.
I have no idea how to project the Packers. They’ve looked good at times and truly horrible at times. Their chances of success are tied to Aaron Rodgers’ health, which has been a question mark at the end of the last two seasons. I’m giving them an incomplete grade, and I don’t think they’d be favored over the Cardinals on a neutral field.
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Now that we’re getting a better idea of who will and won’t be in the playoffs, which team do you think has been the most disappointing this season?
Will: I’m going to leave the Browns out of this, though they’ve been plenty disappointing in their own right. The Ravens were bad even before they were ravaged by injuries, but it’s poor form to rip a team that just lost its quarterback for the season.
I think it’s the Chargers. They were 9-7 last year, and haven’t been worse than 7-9 since 2003. They’ve been pretty wrecked by injuries as well, so I suppose I’m breaking my own rule — and it’s rude to shit on a team that’s been embroiled in relocation rumors all year — but they are real bad. Like, almost-lost-to-the-Browns bad. They drafted Melvin Gordon and have had a full year of Danny Woodhead, but the running game has been flaccid. They have one of the worst defenses in the league.They’re victims of playing in a strong division as much as anything, especially with the Raiders being semi-decent this year, but they’ve also lost six straight.
Looking at the rest of the standings: Beyond the Patriots, Bengals, and Chiefs, most of the AFC is at or around .500. How do you reckon the Wild Card will shake out?
Derek: You know, as much as we make fun of the AFC South, there might be two AFC South teams in the playoffs. The Colts are still in first place after beating the Falcons, but the Texans are going on a nice little run to end the season. In fact, the Texans are currently the seventh seed in the AFC. It makes sense that they’ll make the playoffs when they looked like one of the worst teams in the league earlier this year.
I’d say the Steelers are the pretty clear favorites for the first Wild Card spot, assuming their horrible string of injuries comes to an end. Whoever wins the AFC South won’t enjoy playing them in the first round. The sixth seed is an absolute crapshoot. The Chiefs have it right now, but the Texans, Bills, Jets, and Raiders are the most likely remaining teams to unseat them. If I had to guess, I’d say the Chiefs because they have an easy remaining schedule. I don’t think they have a shot to make any noise once they get there, but they’ve got a good shot to make it.
The Ravens lost both their starting quarterback and starting running back for the season on Sunday. How much sympathy do you feel for the former Browns?
Will: My first instinct was less than zero; eat it, Ratbirds, but I do actually have a bit of sympathy for them. Steve Smith is a delight, sort of like Kobe Bryant before the part of him that’s good at basketball died, and Joe Flacco has taken to life as a meme well enough. That said, I wish ill upon them, especially this coming Monday.
We now know that Johnny Manziel won’t be playing on Monday. It looks like Josh McCown vs. Matt Schaub. Why would any non-Browns, non-Ravens fan watch that game? Let’s assume that gambling is one legitimate reason. Are there any others?
Derek: Ummm. Maybe if you hate both teams and their suffering pleases you? Or if it’s on at the bar where you’re getting wings? Or if you want to see how Jon Gruden still manages to love every single player on the field? That’s about all I’ve got. The ratings will tell us exactly how many gamblers and fantasy football players have nothing better to do on a Monday night. I can’t wait.
Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.
Gentlemen of the Week
Derek: Thomas Rawls, come on down! An undrafted rookie who beat out two established draft picks in training camp and ran for the second most yards in a game in Seahawks history? That’s the stuff Gentlemen are made of.
Will: Big week for Tom. I understand that all of the other GotW winners welcomed him into the villa with open arms and open bottles of brandy. Well done by him. I’m going with Austin Davis, the Browns backup quarterback who was promoted from No. 3 to No. 2 on the depth chart for doing absolutely nothing. It takes a little luck to find success in the National Football League, and Austin has done well to seize his opportunity. I look forward to analyzing his clipboard form.
Most Hungover Fan Bases
Derek: Let’s welcome Jets fans to the realm of drunkenness. It wasn’t too long ago that they gave the Patriots all they could handle and looked like a scary Wild Card team. Now they’ve lost four of five and just don’t look good at all. The playoffs look less likely every week.
Will: The Browns feel too on the nose here, so let me see…I’m going back to the San Diego well and picking the Chargers. I feel guilty about ripping on them earlier. They lost by 30 freaking points — at home — to the Chiefs. Fans have to listen to rumors about what part of L.A. the team is going to move to. The team sucks, the circumstances suck, and that’s just no fun. At least the weather’s nice. Enjoy a drink on the beach, San Diego. You’ve sort of earned it.
For an explanation of the FanDueling series, click here.
Before we move on to the Week 2 games, let’s take a look at the results from Week 1:
My total of 109.8 was not enough to crack the top half, so my winning streak came to an unceremonious end. Not a huge surprise, seeing as my picks last week were the worst I’ve ever done, and three of my five fantasy teams lost, and my fantasy baseball team is getting crushed in the semifinals. It’s been a great week for Norton futility. But we soldier on!
I decided to go with the combo of Beckham and Adams over Julio Jones and Stevie Johnson, which turned out to be the difference. Dez Bryant’s injury certainly didn’t help. The team MVP actually turned out to be Tyrod Taylor. He scored 15.9 (more than triple his value) while Beckham, Bryant, and Greg Olsen combined to score 15.8. Ouch.
On to Week 2! Here’s the team I’m rolling with this week:
QB – Andrew Luck (NYJ@IND) – $8,900
Strange week, with not a lot of matchups I love. As such, I’m going with Luck this week. I don’t trust most of the expensive guys, like Rodgers and Brees. I also don’t trust Tyrod Taylor against the Patriots. I think Luck bounces back at home.
Also considered: Drew Brees ($8,900), Carson Palmer ($7,800)
RB – Marshawn Lynch (SEA@GB) – $8,500
Marshawn has done very well against the Packers over the last few years. They also got gashed by Matt Forte last week. I think Lynch will be heavily featured as the Seahawks try to avoid 0-2.
At least, that’s what I would do. I can’t speak for “Bubble Screen” Bevell.
RB – Ameer Abdullah (DET@MIN) – $6,400
If the Vikings’ rush defense is as bad as it looked last week, this could be a steal. Abdullah is behind Joique Bell (for now) but he’s a big play threat. FanDuel’s half point per reception works in his favor as well.
Also considered – Carlos Hyde ($7,000), Chris Johnson ($5,700)
WR – Julio Jones (ATL@NYG) – $8,800
I passed over Julio last week. I shan’t make that mistake this week. Of course, Julio’s already banged up, so I’m sure this will be the week he crumples to the ground with a non-contact injury.
WR – Jordan Matthews (DAL@PHI) – $7,000
Matthews got tons of targets last week, and the price is good enough for me to bank on that happening again.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald (ARI@CHI) – $5,900
Fitz lives! He quietly had a decent game last week. It appears the Bears can be thrown on, so I like the cheaper Cardinals receiver.
Also considered: Antonio Brown ($9,200), Kendall Wright ($6,100), Pierre Garcon (5,400)
TE – Jordan Reed (STL@WAS) – $5,000
Reed is the kind of guy who isn’t worth the headache in a season-long fantasy leagues, but his frailty isn’t a risk in daily leagues. He should be worth the price if Cousins can get the ball off.
Also considered: Jordan Cameron ($5,500), Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,500)
K – Dan Bailey (DAL@PHI) – $5,000
Perhaps Dez Bryant’s injury will lead to red zone futility. That’s great news for Bailey.
Also considered: None
D/ST – New Orleans Saints (TB@NO) – $4,500
I don’t feel good about the Saints. But the price is low, and the Saints have the Bucs at home. I couldn’t help myself.
Also considered: Carolina Panthers ($4,700)
TOTAL – $60,000
A wild and crazy NFL season has come to a close with the Patriots winning Super Bowl XLIX, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including how to cope when your favorite team comes so close.
Will: It seems odd to say now, but there were wide swathes of the first half of Super Bowl XLIX that were really quite drab. The first quarter was scoreless, Tom Brady was dinking and dunking, and Seattle barely threw the ball. For a neutral observer, watching the game felt more like obligation than recreation.
Will: Oh, how things changed. The last two minutes of the second quarter saw three touchdowns scored. The second half and especially the fourth quarter were action packed, with the Seahawks jumping ahead and the Patriots fighting back. Jermaine Kearse won the senior superlative for “greatest catch most likely to be forgotten.” Richard Sherman became a reaction GIF for the ages. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick strengthened their respective cases as the GOAT, while Darrell Bevell was simply a goat.
Derek, my former co-worker, my friend, my lone Seahawk fan acquaintance…how are you? How have your emotions progressed from the time of that final pass until now? Did you notice that I’ve put our names in Seahawks colors? Do you even want to talk about it?
Derek: I’m sad, Will. I’m really sad.
I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t know the order or explanation of the stages of grief, but I think I ran through them all at some point. First, I sat down, completely dead inside, and watched everything unfold. I watched the game end and I watched the entire trophy presentation. I can’t say I wanted to. I just did, and I don’t know why.
That turned to anger. We were one yard away. One. I ranted to no one and muttered expletives under my breath. I feared I would erupt if someone said the wrong thing or some kid in class asked me a stupid question. And boy, those two things happened in spades yesterday. I should count myself lucky that I’m not typing this on my phone in the depths of some Korean prison.
I tried to rationalize it. I began to accept it. I looked for silver linings. I even found a few! But it all came back to that one yard. One yard, and Russell Wilson is the first quarterback to win two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. Pete Carroll has the same Hall of Fame credentials as Jimmy Johnson. The Seahawks go back-to-back in a time when that was thought to be impossible, making them arguably the most impressive defending champions in NFL history. Instead, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the greatest QB/coach duo of all time, and the Seahawks lost in a way that makes fear will divide the team and ruin everything they’ve created. All because of one yard.
No, I’m not feeling very good at all.
Will: The interception must be discussed. How do you read it? Was it Darrell Bevell’s fault? Pete Carroll’s? Russell Wilson’s? Ricardo Lockette’s? Or did Malcolm Butler just make a great play?
It was idiotic, of course. I’ll illustrate this point with an anecdote involving my girlfriend, who is Korean and had never seen a football game before we started dating in 2013. I’m estimating she has now seen about 10. We didn’t watch the game together, but she visited me on Monday night to hide my knives and poisonous chemicals. We watched the final two minutes of the game, because it wasn’t enough for her to know that they lost. I needed her to know how they lost. We got to the play before the interception, and had this exchange:
Me: What play do you call here, Coach Shannon?
Shannon: A … a running play?
Me: Mmhmm. Anyone in particular?
Shannon: They … they just give it to Lynch, right?
I pressed play, the carnage unfolded, and I was proud of how angry she was. I imagine it was the final time this game will be playing on a TV near me and I feel something other than abject misery.
To answer your question, all of the people you mention deserve some of the blame/credit. Bevell did Bevell things. Carroll didn’t put a stop to it. Russell probably should’ve seen Butler coming. Lockette definitely should have fought a little harder. Butler made a great read and a great play.
Because of his track record, and because it was his call, I’m putting most of the blame on Bevell. I’ve mentioned him twice before on this site: here and here. Here’s a quote from our recap of the NFC/AFC Championships:
The play-calling was questionable at times, but I often feel that way about Darrell Bevell. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was getting mentioned for head coaching jobs at this time last year but wasn’t brought up once this year.
He’ll call a few plays a game that make him look like a genius, then goes a full quarter where it seems like he’s calling plays while texting and driving at the same time.
This was, without a doubt, the quintessential Bevell game. Credit him for some excellent calls, like the pass to Lynch on the wheel route on the final drive and rolling with the hot hands of Chris Matthews. But he made some incredibly dumb ones, naturally including what many are calling the dumbest call of all time. Like Bill Buckner and Steve Bartman before him, that one moment will become his legacy. He was up for head coaching jobs last year, and now he may never get one. The stigma of that call will follow him into every job interview he has for the rest of his career. Does he deserve all of this?
What do you think? Was Bevell’s call a fireable offense?
Will: I understand anyone with that sentiment, but I don’t think so. Beyond Wilson and Lynch, it’s not like this offense is bursting with talent. Doug Baldwin and company are nice players, but I would be surprised if any Seahawk receiver makes a Pro Bowl. They did well to make it to the Super Bowl with the allotted skill position talent. Bevell just boned the call.
Which has a greater absolute value: the ecstasy of last year’s victory or the pain of this year’s defeat? Is this the most painful sporting moment of your life? What can you compare it to?
Derek: Unfortunately, it’s probably pain of this year’s defeat. As wonderful as last year felt, it almost seemed a little too easy. The game last year was never close, and I briefly thought “Wait, that was it?” I thought it would come down to some late heroics like the NFC Championship. As strange as it is to say, it was almost disappointing that it was a blowout. The lack of drama made it anti-climactic. Don’t get me wrong, that game was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was satisfying to watch the Seahawk defense shut down the vaunted Bronco offense. I also don’t dislike the Broncos, so the blowout didn’t give me the special satisfaction that a blowout of a team like the 49ers would.
I don’t hate the Patriots like I did in 2007, but losing to them was worse than losing to the Broncos would have been. I’ve mentioned before how angry it makes me when people refer to Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis as Super Bowl champions. Now I’m going to feel the same way whenever someone discusses the Brady/Belichick legacy. I’ll always think about that one yard.
Was it the most painful sporting moment? Yes, I think so. Football is my favorite sport and the Seahawks are my favorite favorite team. I detailed all of their horrible losses last week, and this one was the worst. The Hornets have sucked too much to have anything near that big of a stage. The only things that comes to mind are various World Cup losses (those always seem especially painful) and Armanti Edwards’ final game at my alma mater, Appalachian State.
Football makes these kinds of games especially great or especially terrible. I’ve heard references to Bill Buckner in the ’86 World Series and the Spurs blowing Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. But those were both in Game 6. Their teams got to play another game, and they couldn’t seal the deal. No such luck in football. Just seven months of listening to people talk about that play.
What if this is it? Brett Favre won the Super Bowl in 1996. He went back in 1997, and lost to the Broncos. He played 13 more years and never went back to the Super Bowl.
I’m not sure what I would compare it to. When I think about it, I end up realizing I’m a psychopath. Was it like getting a winning lottery ticket that was covered with ricin? No, that’s silly. It’s a game! That I wasn’t even playing! Why do I care so much? None of these guys even know who I am. Why does it bother me? Then I start buzzkilling myself for being so tied up in something that doesn’t matter, but I think about that one yard again and the process restarts.
Winning was so much more fun. It was easier justifying happiness over a great win than sadness over a horrendous loss.
Care to throw a Cleveland spin on this? Earnest Byner has crossed my mind once or twice.
Will: The similarities to the Fumble game are striking, but this reminds me more of another Browns tragedy, the infamous Red Right 88 call against Oakland in the 1980 playoffs. The Browns were at the 13-yard line, trailing 14-12. Rather than run the ball before kicking a field goal, the Browns ran the eponymous pass play. Coach Sam Rutigliano told quarterback Brian Sipe to throw it in the lake unless he had a wide open man. Alas, Sipe threw an interception on a pass intended for Ozzie Newsome. The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks’ mistake feels worse because it was in the Super Bowl, and they were but a single yard away. This probably isn’t helping. I’ll stop now.
What were you thinking as the skirmish broke out after the Pats took their final knee? Did your baser instincts prevail as you rooted for mayhem? Were you embarrassed to see the Seahawks instigating a conflict? Were your eyes fixed on the business end of a bottle of soju?
Derek: I hadn’t kicked into the anger stage yet. I was still mostly dead inside. I silently shook my head as it was going on.
I was probably more infuriated when I checked Twitter, because people were breaking out the word “class.” I’ve reached the point of getting angry whenever someone calls out another team or fan base for a lack of class. I know it’s irrational, but I’ve heard so much righteous indignation and high horsedom (if my team horrendously loses the Super Bowl, I get to make up words) in sports debates over the years that I tense up whenever I see or hear it. Every team employs a jerk or two. Every fan base definitely has its share. You want to call Bruce Irvin a punk or a sore loser? Fine. But the whole “this entire team/fan base has no CLASS!” argument joins “it is what it is” as a first ballot Hall of Famer in my Irritating Sports Cliche Hall of Fame.
Will: What will your enduring memory of the game be?
Derek: Lots of choices. The call. The interception. Sherman’s reaction. K.J. Wright constantly in soft coverage on Gronk as I wondered if Dan Quinn was thinking more about the Falcons’ draft board than Wright’s well-being. All good choices. But, as you might have guessed, the lasting image is this:
Will: You probably didn’t find this funny, did you?
Derek: It was funny. It also hurt a lot. Kind of like the Onion article with the headline “God: ‘F*** Russell Wilson.'” Here are my aforementioned silver linings:
- I saved some money. I spent an embarrassing amount on Super Bowl stuff last year. I have no regrets, as I was prepared to do it again this year, but it will be nice to put the small fortune toward something else.
- Percy Harvin will get less money. He played enough games for the Seahawks this season to get paid for their success. If the Seahawks won, he would have gotten more money. As Richard Sherman played with torn elbow ligaments that will require Tommy John surgery and Earl Thomas played with a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum, I couldn’t help but wonder how much less injured Harvin would have to be to miss the game. At least he’s finally done profiting from the Seahawks.
- The team is young, and most of the core is tied up through the foreseeable future. Let’s just hope this isn’t the sort of loss that rips the team apart. Plus, the 49ers look to be imploding, so maybe the NFC West won’t be as tough as it has been in the past few years.
Let’s Drown Your Sorrows in Our Gambling Winnings/Losses
Time to review our wagers. We did not actually put money down on any of these, as gambling is ungentlemanly, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t delight in (or weep over) our picks. Maybe that will help. Results are shown in red. Correct picks feature an asterisk.
Will either team score in the first six minutes of the game? Yes (-105) or no (-125)?
Derek: And they still managed to hit the over.
Will*: The Seahawks shut them out for six minutes! That’s something, right?
The first touchdown of the game will be passing (-160) or something else (+130)?
Derek: The last touchdown of the game was passing, too. *drinks lighter fluid*
Will: Yes, the pass was thrown, but there was surely some running involved as well, no? I’ll give this one to Vegas on technicality.
Will there be overtime? Yes (+500) or no (-800)?
Derek: Yes, there was no overtime, because Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown on the Seahawks’ final offensive play, and Tom Brady couldn’t get the Patriots in field goal range. *swallows match*
Will: There there, friend. There there.
Will there be a defensive or special teams touchdown? Yes (+150) or no (-185)?
Derek: Remember when Kam Chancellor returned that interception for a touchdown three weeks ago? That was cool.
Will: Let’s just move on.
Idina Menzel’s rendition of the National Anthem will be over 122.5 seconds (+105) or under 122.5 seconds (-145)?
Derek*: Also a close call. I’ll thank her for winning me some fake money by watching Frozen again at some point in my life.
Will: I’m a little bummed about missing this one, but I think I’ll be able to let it go.
More crotch grabs: Marshawn Lynch (-120) or Katy Perry (-120)?
Derek: But one football was defecated. What were the odds on that?
Will: Tough game for crotch grabbery. Strong game for ball poopery.
Will Katy Perry show cleavage during the halftime show? Yes (-800) or no (+450)?
Derek*: I was getting worried for a little while there. Thank goodness she changed outfits five times.
Will: The only thing better than owning an actual printing press is betting on Katy Perry showcasing the goods.
Who will the Super Bowl MVP thank first? Teammates (+175), Does not Thank Anyone or Mention Any on List (+200), God (+200), Fans/City (+700), Coaches/Owner (+800), or Family (+800)?
Derek: Wasn’t it his family? I don’t know. I picked God, and I don’t think he mentioned God once.
Will: I couldn’t make this one out either. It wasn’t whatever I picked. Props are dumb.
Finally, the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning head coach will be Orange (+150), Clear/Water (+250), Yellow (+400), No Gatorade/Liquid Bath (+500), Red (+650), Blue (+700), Green (+900), or Purple (+900)?
Derek: Good call! The Seahawks used orange last year. I might have known that when I picked it this year.
Will*: I could not be prouder of this. “Correctly picked blue Gatorade” will be on my tombstone.
New England (-1) vs. Seattle
Derek: Everything is stupid.
Will: My perfect postseason died in the Super Bowl. Yours did as well, albeit for different reasons.
I hope y’all enjoyed the game a bit more than that. Thanks for reading.