Original source (on modern site)
LAS VEGAS—On Friday, at AFC Champ Kansas City's practice in nearby Henderson, Nev., Andy Reid invited Michael Vick, his former QB, to practice to watch his current one, Patrick Mahomes. And Mahomes was cooking. On the last play of Mahomes' first series, on third-and-seven, he threw a crosser to Travis Kelce for a walk-in TD. And on his third series, he rolled out just a few steps in front of Vick and Reid and, on the move, sidearmed a bullet, probably 25 yards in the air, to a tiny window into the hands of tight end Noah Gray. "Who makes that throw!" Vick exclaimed. As Mahomes jogged past, back to the huddle, Vick said to him: "That's real! That's real!" Mahomes: "WOOOOOOOOO!" That night, Reid and the coaches were watching the practice tape. He noted they'd missed a blitz pickup, forcing Mahomes to move. "And he just slung it. Perfect. Right on target, sidearm, maybe 30 yards," Reid said, then incredulously: "And we actually get used to this?" It was an absolutely ridiculous throw, almost enough to make Vick jump in the air. And as the coaches watched the tape, one said, "I'll never get used to this." On Sunday night, Mahomes did it again. A great player like Mahomes can have games when he stumbles around, gets pressured by Nick Bosa 10 times (10!), throws an uncharacteristically lamebrain interception and scores six points in the first 40 minutes. And he still has it in him, against an oppressive defense, to finish touchdown-field goal-field goal-touchdown, and go 8-for-8 on the Super Bowl-winning drive, and win his third Super Bowl MVP. Kansas City 25, (heartbroken) San Francisco 22. Overtime. I don't know how you could watch Super Bowl LVIII and not know for sure that the game has its certain heir to Thomas Edward Brady. What Brady was to the first 20 years of this century, Mahomes has every chance to be in the next 20. At 28, and just a third of the way through his career (good health willing), Mahomes in so many ways is Brady II. "He makes the difficult look easy," Reid told me in his Allegiant Stadium office post-game, "at the highest possible level in the whole world. There's only 32 in the whole world, and he's the special of the special. I watched Tom Brady turn the keys over to him which was cool. Tom said, 'Hey, this is your league now, man.' Patrick's humble, he's competitive, he's a great teammate, good father. He does it the right way. It's great for young guys to see. It's not just God-given. It's what you do with what God gives you. Every day he comes in the huddle, he goes, 'Let's be great today.' Every day. You know he means it." He meant it Sunday night. And the 49ers just gave him the ball too much. Patrick Mahomes with 13 possessions: deadly.
KC, SF, and OT
LAS VEGAS—On Friday, at AFC Champ Kansas City's practice in nearby Henderson, Nev., Andy Reid invited Michael Vick, his former QB, to practice to watch his current one, Patrick Mahomes. And Mahomes was cooking.
On the last play of Mahomes' first series, on third-and-seven, he threw a crosser to Travis Kelce for a walk-in TD. And on his third series, he rolled out just a few steps in front of Vick and Reid and, on the move, sidearmed a bullet, probably 25 yards in the air, to a tiny window into the hands of tight end Noah Gray.
"Who makes that throw!" Vick exclaimed. As Mahomes jogged past, back to the huddle, Vick said to him: "That's real! That's real!"
That night, Reid and the coaches were watching the practice tape. He noted they'd missed a blitz pickup, forcing Mahomes to move. "And he just slung it. Perfect. Right on target, sidearm, maybe 30 yards," Reid said, then incredulously: "And we actually get used to this?"
It was an absolutely ridiculous throw, almost enough to make Vick jump in the air. And as the coaches watched the tape, one said, "I'll never get used to this."
On Sunday night, Mahomes did it again. A great player like Mahomes can have games when he stumbles around, gets pressured by Nick Bosa 10 times (10!), throws an uncharacteristically lamebrain interception and scores six points in the first 40 minutes. And he still has it in him, against an oppressive defense, to finish touchdown-field goal-field goal-touchdown, and go 8-for-8 on the Super Bowl-winning drive, and win his third Super Bowl MVP. Kansas City 25, (heartbroken) San Francisco 22. Overtime.
I don't know how you could watch Super Bowl LVIII and not know for sure that the game has its certain heir to Thomas Edward Brady. What Brady was to the first 20 years of this century, Mahomes has every chance to be in the next 20. At 28, and just a third of the way through his career (good health willing), Mahomes in so many ways is Brady II.
"He makes the difficult look easy," Reid told me in his Allegiant Stadium office post-game, "at the highest possible level in the whole world. There's only 32 in the whole world, and he's the special of the special. I watched Tom Brady turn the keys over to him which was cool. Tom said, 'Hey, this is your league now, man.' Patrick's humble, he's competitive, he's a great teammate, good father. He does it the right way. It's great for young guys to see. It's not just God-given. It's what you do with what God gives you. Every day he comes in the huddle, he goes, 'Let's be great today.' Every day. You know he means it."
He meant it Sunday night. And the 49ers just gave him the ball too much. Patrick Mahomes with 13 possessions: deadly.
A sports team is always its best when the best players are the best leaders. Derek Jeter with the Yankees, for instance. Michael Jordan with the Bulls. Tom Brady with the Patriots. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce with Kansas City.
I attended Kansas City practices last week as the Pro Football Writers pool reporter, watching and writing a short, vanilla report of what went on that day at practice. I'd done this a few times but never saw KC, and I wanted to witness Mahomes at work. That was impressive enough. But Kelce paced the field like a captive tiger when he wasn't in. He yelled at the offense that third down has to be a mentality—there has to be a drive to convert every one. He yelled a few other things that shan't be repeated here, but this guy was Mr. Intense, all week. I have a mental picture of Kelce sprinting 40 yards, in jersey and shorts, legs like powerful pistons, running all-out even when he was five yards clear of his closest pursuer. Kelce ran like he was trying to steal second in a tie game in the seventh game of the World Series.
Players like Mahomes and Kelce realize the game's never over, and they realize they want the ball in their hands when there's a play to be made. Two cases in point:
1. Kelce angrily jostled Reid on the sideline early in this game, and it seemed to stun Reid. "He came out of nowhere," Reid told me post-game. "But that's him. He's wound up so tight. He says, 'Don't count me out! I'm good! I can do this!' I love that intensity. It radiates."
2. KC had a do-or-die fourth-and-one call in overtime, down 22-19. Make the yard, game continues. Get stuffed, the Niners are World Champions. Mahomes had three options, the third being to keep it and make something happen. That's what he did. It reminded me of the great quarterback in high school who says, Just gimme the ball and I'll figure a way to make a first down. Reid said no, Mahomes actually made the right read, and an eight-yard burst behind right tackle resulted.
KC vs. SF was 'one of the most exciting' SBs ever
Peter King reacts to Super Bowl LVIII, where the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers thrilling fashion to win their third championship in five seasons.
This was a fascinating game, for many reasons. I'll start with San Francisco. The other day, at Kansas City practice, CBS' Tony Romo was on hand to scout KC. We got to talking about Brock Purdy. Romo likes him a lot, but he did say: "It's hard to know how a guy responds to playing in the Super Bowl until he plays in one. Lots of times in Super Bowls, right at kickoff, players try to get some saliva in their mouths, and it's not there."
Purdy had his saliva, apparently. In a one-minute span late in the first quarter, he threw a pass to Chris Conley, 32 yards in the air, per Next Gen Stats, for a gain of 18. A 19-yard strike to Ray-Ray McCloud traveled 29.4 yards—and both were absolute strikes. Call Purdy a game manager, a game warden, I don't care. He went toe-to-toe with the great Mahomes for five quarters, didn't turn it over (Mahomes threw a pick and fumbled twice) and acquitted himself very, very well.
Weird overtime game too, because the rules in the playoffs have changed. Now, regardless of what the first team does with the ball, the second team gets a possession. If it's still tied after two possessions, it continues in sudden death. Next score win.
San Francisco won the OT toss and elected to receive. Surprising, but Kyle Shanahan explained why. "We just wanted the ball third," he said. "If both teams matched and scored, we want to be the ones that had the chance to [win on the third possession]."
How cruelly ironic it is that Shanahan has been on the losing end of both Super Bowl overtime games now. As Atlanta's offensive coordinator seven years ago, he saw Tom Brady overcome a 28-3 Falcons lead to win that game. And here, Mahomes overcame a 10-point San Francisco lead with 32 minutes to go to win this one. Brady and Mahomes. Shanahan now has been tormented by both, in regulation and overtime, in the playoffs and the regular season.
But this game should not fall in the category of "Games Kyle Shanahan messed up." Because he didn't. He called a shocking and beautiful backward pass to Tennessee high-school quarterback Jauan Jennings, who threw a strike back across the field to Christian McCaffrey for a TD. It's not often an offensive coach can stun Kansas City and brilliant defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but that's how it looked here.
No, the Niners did not lose this game so much as Kansas City won it. On the last series of the NFL season, Mahomes was 8-of-8 and got his team to the Niners' three-yard line with six seconds left in the first OT period.
This is what I think is crazy: Last season, to beat Philadelphia, Mahomes threw consecutive late touchdowns off the same jet motion/reverse jet motion and for reasons no one knows, the Philly defense didn't cover either Kadarius Toney on the first or Skyy Moore on the second. Nuts.
So here came Mecole Hardman—whose KC career ended when he wasn't re-signed last year, and whose Jets career ended when he was traded back to Kansas City for a bag of footballs in October. Reid called the play into Mahomes' helmet and Mahomes said to the huddle: "Tiger 12, Tom & Jerry right, Gun trips, right bunch, F shuttle." That last part was the Corn Dog motion from last Super Bowl—speed in, speed out. Hardman ran the precise jet motion, right to left, into the formation, and then quickly turned around to catch the game-winner. This year, instead of colling the play Corn Dog, Reid called it Tom and Jerry. (Reasons unknown and unexplained.) "We built Corn Dog saying, 'Well for sure they'll cover Corn Dog because we called it twice. They've seen it.'" Nope. Hardman wasn't wide open, but he was open. Really open. And KC had its third Super Bowl in five years.
Reid dictates Chiefs' game-winning SB play
Andy Reid sits down with Peter King to recite the game-winning 'Tom & Jerry' play from the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl LVIII victory against the San Francisco 49ers.
In the locker room after the game, it seemed like every player and a good number of the coaches (not Reid; he doesn't smoke anything) were celebrating with $105 Cohiba Robustos. The joy in the room couldn't be masked by the acrid fumes.
Reid thought back to the embarrassing physical beatdown the Raiders gave his team on Christmas Day. And he reached out to Antonio Pierce, the Raiders' coach, this week to thank him for it.
"I texted him," Reid said. "I just said, Hey, beautiful facility, first of all. And I appreciate you kicking our tail because you taught us a lesson. You get complacent in this business, the margin between winning and losing is tiny. You better step up. There's a time and a place for these players that have been here before. You know what it takes. If you're the veteran that's dropping the ball or you're the veteran getting the penalties, you better figure it out. Figure it out quick. This season's gonna go down."
But it didn't. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid took the worst offensive team of the six Mahomes has piloted, and they beat the 6, 2 and 1 seeds in the AFC and the 1 seed in the NFL, to win a third world title. This is officially a team for the ages.
--Front-page headline of today's San Francisco Chronicle.
We stopped playing like a jabroni, man.
--KC tight end Travis Kelce, on how the team turned it around in time to save a Super Bowl victory.
Our team's hurting, but that's how it goes when you put yourself out there… It's part of sports, part of football, part of life. I'm glad we put ourselves out there. I love our team. We'll recover, and we'll be back next year strong.
--Niners coach Kyle Shanahan on the loss.
It's going to hurt, it's going to hit in waves. That's life.
--Niners defensive end Nick Bosa.
Thursday, 11:05 a.m., Kansas City practice, Henderson, Nev. I was the pool reporter for the Pro Football Writers Association covering the AFC team all week. (The PFWA assigned one of its members to write a short report on what happened at each team's practices. I've done it a few times. Fun way to actually realize you're, you know, at a football game.) So I walk out to cover the short workout and who's standing there with Reid's agent, Bob Lamonte? The punky QB himself, Jim McMahon, wearing his signature shades. I hadn't spoken to him in probably 30 years. He was here to see his Brigham Young teammate coach.
"Andy was my right tackle his senior year at BYU," McMahon said. "1980."
McMahon, 64, has had mental and physical problems galore since he retired; he's still battling issues with his right foot and has had six surgeries on it. He walked with one crutch Saturday. But he played a round of golf Friday in Vegas. He looks like he's still at his playing size of 6-1 and 195, and he sounded great in our 15 minutes together.
McMahon told a great story about his first meeting with Bears patriarch and owner George Halas after the Bears made him the fifth overall pick of the 1982 draft.
Halas founded the franchise in 1920, played for the team for its first 10 years, coached it for 40, and was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. Now at 87, he was still running the Bears, and intended to personally sign his first-round pick.
Purdy says he has to 'be better' following SB loss
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy discusses the team's Super Bowl LVIII loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, saying he could have put the team in a better position to win the game.
Halas, McMahon said, told him right out of the box he was short for an NFL quarterback, and his arm wasn't that great. "Then why'd you draft me?" McMahon said. It was all a prelude to playing hardball with the contract offer. Halas slid the contract across the table for McMahon to peruse.
Three years, at salaries of $100,000, $150,000, $175,000. Even for that era, it was low.
"I ain't signing this," McMahon told him.
On Saturday, he told me: "I wadded up the contract, threw it at him, and walked out of the room." At the time, the USFL was being birthed, and there was a franchise in Chicago coached by George Allen. It was starting to sign players in 1982 for the opening season in 1983. McMahon met with Allen, who told him he'd offer him a better deal than the Bears offered him. McMahon told him he'd sign it. But the offer never materialized.
"So," McMahon said, "I went back and Halas uncrumpled the paper and handed it to me. I signed it."
Postscript: In 1996, McMahon backed up Brett Favre with the Packers. Reid was on the staff as tight ends coach, and he was promoted to QB coach in 1997. McMahon, 37, decided to retire after the '96 season. Said Reid: "His classic line was, 'I know it's time to retire when one of my linemen's coaching me.'"
This was an especially wacky week for crazy questions at the Super Bowl. My three faves:
To Andy Reid, on Tuesday:
"Coach, question from Germany. As you said, times have changed—the internet, mobile phones. What do you say about the conspiracies that have popped up concerning Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift? Some kind of Republican conspiracies that you made it into the Super Bowl to secretly re-elect, or help re-elect President Biden."
Reid, after a pause: "Hmmmmm." Then another 2.7-second pause. "That's way out of my league."
To Brock Purdy, on Wednesday:
"Circling the internet right now, people feel you and Lee Harvey Oswald look alike. Did you ever hear that?"
Purdy, non-plussed: "I haven't. That's my first time hearing it."
"What do you think about that comparison?" the reporter said.
I believe I am quoting Purdy accurately right here: "Uhhhhh … Ehhhhh, ah … Yeah, I du-- … Ahhhh, I don't know."
To Dre Greenlaw, on Wednesday:
"Would you get a tattoo of Brock Purdy's face anywhere on your body for a guaranteed Super Bowl win on Sunday?"
Pause. "Man, that s---'s weird … Of course I'd get [a tattoo]."
The 62nd Pro Football Hall of Fame selection meeting was supposed to be in-person this year, in Atlanta on Jan. 17, but the wave of snow and bad weather coast-to-coast made full attendance impossible. So the day before the meeting, we pivoted to virtual. The 8-hour, 23-minute meeting, as usual, was an all-day sucker—more contentious than usual, but with deep and I thought important discussions on several candidates.
Our discussions are confidential, and so I'm not able to give many specifics from the meeting. But I'll go over the headlines and tell you my opinions and as much as I can about the latest seven men to make the Hall, pushing Hall membership to 378.
The 19 who entered the day as candidates: coach Buddy Parker, linebacker Randy Gradishar, defensive tackle Steve McMichael, receiver Art Powell (Seniors and Coach/Contributors candidates) … Modern-era: cornerback Eric Allen, edge player Jared Allen, tackle Willie Anderson, guard Jahri Evans, edge player Dwight Freeney, tight end Antonio Gates, safety Rodney Harrison, returner Devin Hester, receiver Torry Holt, receiver Andre Johnson, edge player Julius Peppers, running back Fred Taylor, receiver Reggie Wayne, linebacker Patrick Willis, safety Darren Woodson.
The five modern enshrinees. I got the feeling Peppers, Hester and Freeney were the leaders in the clubhouse after the discussion period. Peppers and Freeney were superior edge players at the time the position came of age. I was surprised Hester didn't make it last year. Nobody's had a two-year period of dominance in the return game that Hester had in his first two seasons with the Bears. He returned 11 kicks and punts for touchdowns in 2006 and '07, and then most teams started managing special teams so Hester couldn't beat them. In 11 seasons, another really good return man, Desmond Howard, returned eight for scores. Total. I explain Andre Johnson below. As for Willis, tremendous respect in the NFL community. Tremendous.
How Andre Johnson broke the receiver logjam. My points about Johnson, written often, have never changed. He ran about the same 4-4-range 40- as Holt and Wayne, and at 6-3 and 230, he was 30 pounds heavier and three inches taller than Holt and Wayne. A tree trunk. He played with one B quarterback for much of his career, Matt Schaub. Holt played with a Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner, in his prime, and Wayne played with Peyton Manning. Stats are pretty close, but Johnson is 132 catches ahead of Holt, with the same yards-per-catch (13.4) as Wayne, and a bit shy of both in TD catches. I always looked at Johnson playing, and watched his speed and physicality and thought, If he keeps going, he'll make it to Canton. Glad he did.
Shanahan has 'no regrets' with team after SB loss
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan says he is 'proud' of his team and doesn't regret the way they played despite coming up short in Super Bowl LVIII.
Biggest surprise: probably Antonio Gates not making it. I never thought he was a first-ballot lock, but he had a good chance in going in as a rookie candidate. With more touchdown catches (116) than any tight end ever, he's got a great case. And he will make it. My opinion is the cases for those thought perhaps to be farther away than Gates—Patrick Willis, Devin Hester, Jared Allen—had good sessions in the voting Zoom. I always say this: Making the Hall is hard, and only five of 15 can make it in a given year. My feeling is Gates didn't knock down the door, but I'm one voter, and others might disagree. I bet he makes it in 2025.
Buddy Parker. I was unhappy with Parker not making it. It was one of the longest debates in the history of Hall voting—70 minutes, 38 seconds—and I'm unable for reasons of voting security to say something significant that was discussed. Parker was 4-1 in his Detroit coaching era versus the best coach in the first 50 years of pro football, Paul Brown (and maybe ever), including 2-1 in league championship games. He improved the Steelers when he went there, and he was most responsible for developing the nickel defense in pro football.
Next year: A healthy class of new candidates comes up for the five modern-era slots. My guess, in order, of the top candidates for the Class of 2025, with ^ denoting first-year eligibles:
1. TE Antonio Gates
2. ^ K Adam Vinatieri
3. ^ LB Luke Kuechly
4. ^ QB Eli Manning
5. ^ Edge Terrell Suggs
6. ^RB Marshawn Lynch
7. DE Jared Allen
8. T Willie Anderson
9. WR Torry Holt
10. CB Eric Allen
11. ^ G Marshal Yanda
12. WR Reggie Wayne
Now for some detail work. How I voted:
On the cutdown to 10: Eric Allen, Jared Allen, Anderson, Freeney, Harrison, Hester, Gates, Johnson, Peppers, Woodson.
On the cutdown to 5: Jared Allen, Freeney, Johnson, Hester, Peppers.
On the Seniors/Contributor (yes or no): Gradishar yes, Parker yes, Powell no, McMichael yes.
I'm going to list the order of candidates discussed, and time of discussion for each candidate. But do not draw much from it; most often, but not always, the discussions for those deemed very likely to enter are short. Times of discussions, with asterisks on the seven who were elected:
Parker, 70 minutes, 38 seconds; *Gradishar, 15:26; *McMichael, 10:02; Powell, 15:00; *Hester, 22:22; Gates, 35:55; Holt, 13:00; *Johnson, 22:45; Wayne, 37:30; Anderson, 13:40; Evans, 11:58; Jared Allen, 14:05; *Freeney, 11:35; *Peppers, 7:50; *Willis, 12:55; Eric Allen, 10:52; Harrison, 19:18; Woodson, 13:53; Taylor, 12:08.
With this being my 40th season covering the NFL, I chose a 53-man roster of the best I've covered last week. I didn't pick all the best players. I picked the guys I'd want on my team, including some role players (Chris Hogan, David Tyree) or some players with different skills (Hines Ward) that are important when putting a complete team together. More than 300 of you responded. I picked the thoughts of 12 of you. Quick points, with my quick responses:
John Kruszyna (Lee, Mass.): "Are you ranking receivers by blocking over yards, receptions and TD's? Ask all 32 GMs if they would choose Hines Ward over Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison or Larry Fitzgerald."
It's not their team. It's mine. I want the best blocking receiver of the past 40 years (who also had 1,000 catches) on my team.
Alex Vydrin (Tyumin, Russia): "Greetings from Siberia. I wanted to write an appreciation letter to you, for including one of my favorite players of all time - Hines Ward. I totally didn't expect him to be there. But Ward was the epitome of what Steelers football is all about. Everybody game-planned around his blocking ability as much as his receiving skill set."
First email (I think) ever from Siberia! Thanks, Alex. I was roundly criticized for the Ward pick, and I get it. But no apologies.
Brad Martin (Colchester, Vt.): "Astonished you left off Emmitt Smith. You reference 'impact games, be winning players, don't rest until they succeed.' Emmitt embodied those characteristics more than any of your top three."
He did, and I considered him strongly. No one out-produced him, but I thought Barry Sanders was the best back I covered, LaDainian Tomlinson the most unstoppable scorer, and Derrick Henry the best power-back. Lots of people wrote in about Smith. General tenor: You've lost your mind.
Gary Grossetti: "No Ronnie Lott on the list of greatest safeties? Not even a passing mention? That one didn't make sense."
No good reason to not have Lott, and many of you wrote, aghast at me picking Tyrann Mathieu over him. You're correct, I'm sure. I do know he played corner and safety, both at high levels. Mathieu is the most versatile safety I've covered.
Chris Monahan (Villa Rica, Ga.): "You put a lot of very talented guys on, but didn't actually make a team. Please show me an NFL team that carried four quarterbacks. I don't believe it happened nor will it again. Three would have been right and would have allowed another running back or receiver."
I plead guilty. You're right. I'm just not taking Brady, Montana, Manning or Mahomes off my team. But I appreciate the fact that you recognize what makes a football team, and a real roster would not include four QBs.
Ryan Reilly: "Curious why you went with Chris Hogan instead of Julian Edelman. Edelman basically carried the Patriots throughout the postseasons of 2013-2019 (minus the ACL season in 2017)."
Only because the Patriots, for 20 years, had an offensive trademark. The vast majority of their offensive players were good but not great, but they played superbly together in a system with the GOAT quarterback. Hogan defined that. He and Malcolm Mitchell were crucial receivers down the stretch in the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever.
From Matt Hoover: "Two words—Derrick Thomas."
Twelve words—Very deserving, but Von Miller and LT fill that role for me.
From Greg Figone: "For years, my friend and I have debated whether you are a Patriots fanboy or not. I have defended you. But I just don't have a defense anymore. I had nothing to say when I woke up this morning to a text from my friend, simply saying 'Chris Hogan.'"
I get it, Greg. I knew people would hate that pick. I make no apologies for taking one of the great role players I've covered and who was instrumental in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and who was a perfect of example of why the best team of my tenure was the best team. Remember: This is a team I put together. Except for picking four quarterbacks, I tried to form it with some players with different resumes but who played the roles they were asked to play. I know you are dubious, but thanks for reading nonetheless.
From Mark Indrebo: "It's hard to keep a straight face and say Tedy Bruschi is better than Bobby Wagner. The only way you do that is if you're a fan of New England. Now, I really don't mind that you're a fan of New England. Your writing has proven it for the past decade or more. What bothers me is that you refuse to admit it."
I didn't say Bruschi's better than Wagner. He isn't. But is Hines Ward better than Larry Fitzgerald? No. Is Chris Hogan better than Andre Johnson? Of course not. I chose players I value highly, some for specific roles or skills, players I felt were crucial pieces to some great teams. One of the guys I always knew would be on my team is Bruschi for his value to a Super Bowl defense for so long.
From Jake Harding, of Ottawa, Ontario: "Thank you for recognizing Tedy Bruschi. Tedy was and will remain my favorite football player ever. He was the heart, soul and class personified for those early Patriots teams."
That's exactly why he made it.
From Michael Cassidy: "You have heard of Jim Brown, haven't you?"
I have. He'd been retired for 18 years when I started covering the NFL, and as I said in my post last week, this team included only players who I've covered.
From Edward S.: "How is Terrell Davis your number 4 back? Your top 3 needed no explanation, but help me out on Davis please."
Sure. Davis played in eight playoff games. In seven, he exceeded 100 yards rushing and the Broncos were 7-0 in those games, and he rushed for 5.6 yards a carry. And in the eighth playoff game, he ran for 91. Two Super Bowls: 55 carries, 259 yards, three TDs. Best playoff back in my 40 years.
A recurring element in the column this year: a video memory of one of my favorite memories of 40 years covering pro football.
In 2015, I wanted to find a player to do a story I'd always wanted to do: A week in the life of a quarterback. I asked on my training camp trip, and into the season, and finally I found someone not only willing but enthusiastic: veteran Cardinals QB Carson Palmer. I think I sold him when I said, "Your kids are probably going to ask one day. 'Dad, what's your job really like?' You can just show them this story." He agreed, with an asterisk. "You'll have to convince Bruce [coach Bruce Arians]. Not sure he'll want to do it." So I met with Arians, and he really didn't want me to do it. Honestly, I don't know why he said yes after a few days of thinking about it, but he did.
We picked the Nov. 1 Arizona-at-Cleveland game. Non-conference game, decent chance for the Cards to win. And I was in Palmer's home at 7:35 p.m. Tuesday night before the game when the gameplan hit his email, and he started learning the 192 plays in the offensive plan for the game five days away. "I'm freaking out right now," Palmer told me, hand-writing in pencil each play into his notebook. Most players use a stylus and tablet, but Palmer felt the old-fashioned way, and writing the plays and protections and progressions were best done—at least for him—by hand.
What a fun story.
40-For-40: Palmer's playbook and southwest winds
Peter King recalls shadowing Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer for a week in 2015, leading up to a windy matchup with the Browns in Cleveland.
Offensive players of the week
Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City. His third Super Bowl win in six starting seasons puts him in ridiculously rare air. Watching him early, you'd never have thought he'd finish 34 of 46 for 333 yards, but he did. A virtuoso performance.
Christian McCaffrey, running back, San Francisco. What a day in his first Super Bowl: 80 yards rushing, 80 yards receiving and the off throwback TD from Jauan Jennings in the second quarter.
Defensive players of the week
Trent McDuffie, cornerback, Kansas City. One of the rising-star corners in the game made a huge play to stall a San Francisco drive at the two-minute warning. Per Next Gen Stats, his 16th unblocked pressure of the season—most in the league by five for a DB—caused Brock Purdy to throw incomplete, and the Niners were forced to kick a field goal with 1:53 left in the fourth quarter. Had Purdy lengthened the drive, he might have been able to either run out the clock or run it way down. As it was, KC had 1:53 to tie or win it, and tie it the AFC Champs did.
Nick Bosa, defensive end, San Francisco. Played one of his best games ever, with 10 pressures, consistently getting Patrick Mahomes off his preferred throwing spot. Shined brightest when the game was the biggest.
Chiefs defeat 49ers in OT to win Super Bowl LVIII
Mike Florio reacts to the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl LVIII win over the San Francisco 49ers, analyzing Kyle Shanahan's late-game decision-making and Patrick Mahomes' greatness in big games.
Special teams players of the week
Mitch Wishnowsky, punter, and Chris Conley, gunner, San Francisco. On fourth-and-11 from the Kansas City 45-, early in the third quarter, Kansas City was stuck in quicksand. Wishnowsky boomed one that bounced inside the 10. Conley was in such a perfect spot to down it that you'd have thought he could read the future. Conley downed the perfect punt at the KC two-yard line. Patrick Mahomes and his mates got nine and a half yards, but Javon Kinlaw smothered Isiah Pacheco on third and one, and Kansas City had to punt. Pretty amazing: The AFC Champs managed three points in the first 40 minutes of the game. Plays like the one Wishnowsky and Conley combined to make were one good reason.
That wasn't it for Conley. On Wishnowsky's next punt, Conley wrangled down returner Richie James for no gain at the KC 14-yard line. Two punts, two great plays in a row for Conley.
Coach of the Week
Andy Reid, head coach, Kansas City. Picked the perfect time to call the same play that won last year's Super Bowl—Corn Dog—to win this year's Super Bowl. Reid's third Super Bowl victory was an example of the patience he shows with his team. First nine drives: five punts, six points. With Patrick Mahomes, he knows it's never over, and he called the game aggressively till the end of overtime.
--Emmitt Smith, on the "Maggie and Perloff" on CBS Radio, asked by Andrew Perloff why the Cowboys retained Mike McCarthy as head coach.
Taylor Swift is in Tokyo right now. The only thing farther from the Super Bowl is the Carolina Panthers.
--Keegan-Michael Key, host of "NFL Honors."
What does it feel like having your arm chopped off?
--Jets owner Woody Johnson, asked what it felt like when Aaron Rodgers got hurt on the first drive of the first game of the season.
Damar Hamlin came back from the dead, but that wasn't enough for him to win Comeback Player of the Year.
--Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. Joe Flacco won it, and let's give him credit. He did come off his couch.
Tony was the flavor of the month. We've all been the flavor of the month. This month, Greg Olsen is the flavor of the month. It comes and it goes. If you're a golden boy for too long, you're going to get shot down. Everybody in every business: politics, sports, business.
--Al Michaels of Amazon Prime Video, on the backlash against Tony Romo in the press and the public, to Ben Strauss of The Washington Post.
Oh, what might have been. On Draft Day 2021, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch envisioned being in future Super Bowls, but they envisioned being led by quarterback Trey Lance. Instead, well, you know the rest.
But the Lance story was a bizarre backdrop to Super Bowl LVIII. I found myself thinking during Super Bowl week: I wonder if Lance will watch this Super Bowl. Or will it be too torturous for him to see? It seems impossible to think that the career of the third pick in the draft in 2021 may never get off the ground. I am convinced it stems from one major factor: his incredible lack of experience.
Lance's attempts, not counting preseason games, year by year in the last seven years:
Seven football seasons, 553 passes thrown by Trey Lance.
In his last seven seasons, Patrick Mahomes has thrown 4,262 passes. Perhaps most interesting, Mahomes has thrown 193 more passes in this season alone than Lance has thrown in the last seven years.
With Lance being a backup to Dak Prescott in Dallas, it's likely he won't play much if at all in 2024, barring injury. To get good -- especially for a green FBS quarterback from North Dakota State to get good -- he's got to play. And 2024 could well be the fifth straight year Lance won't play much. 2024 will be Lance's age-24 season, and there's still no indication that he'll ever be a good, never mind franchise, quarterback. The third pick of the 2021 draft isn't a bust, yet. He's a bizarre, inexperienced man of mystery.
Fortieth Super Bowl covered. I went the first six days without seeing a newspaper. My favorite line on the subject came when I asked at the front desk of the Mandalay Bay, a hotel so big it could be a city, if newspapers were sold anywhere. "We don't do newspapers very much here," the front-desk guy said. Or apparently at all.
At the Paris Hotel on the Strip, there are sundries shops called Le Journal (which translates to "The Newspaper") and La Presse ("The Press"). On Sunday, I finally saw the Las Vegas Sun's Super Bowl preview edition. Good issue, chock-full of preview stories with some Vegas navel-gazing with a tinge of We finally made it. Whew. Good to have breakfast at least one day flipping through the local paper.
Fantastic tidbit from Chris Berman in Vegas the other day, if you assume Joe Biden and Donald Trump will face off in the 2024 presidential election:
The Super Bowls played in calendar years 2020 and 2024, between San Francisco and Kansas City, were followed by Biden-Trump presidential elections.
Did consecutive elections featuring the same candidates ever happen in such proximity to the same two teams meeting for the NFL title? Berman, an American history major at Brown, went back in time, in his head. "Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson faced each other in two straight elections," he told me. "I had to go back and look at those years, and who was in the NFL title game each time."
Berman nailed it. Eisenhower beat Stevenson two straight times, in 1952 and 1956. Both of the victories came months after Cleveland and the Los Angeles Rams met in NFL title games—both times in L.A., both times with Cleveland winning.
Three Vegas things:
1. Couldn't decide whether to see Meek Mill or Menopause the Musical (not making that up), or Carrot Top Saturday night on the Strip. Tough call. [I might be kidding.] So, exhausted from the week anyway, my wife and I had an early dinner and I was in bed by 6:45. That's right, 6:45 in the evening sleeping in Vegas. We had to be the only ones.
2. Menopause the Musical. What a country.
3. Went to see Oilers-Golden Knights, with Vegas breaking Edmonton's 16-game winning streak. Excellent arena, very knowledgeable fans (around us, anyway), and some interesting concession prices. Paid $17.50 for a big Budweiser and said to my friends Matt Casey and Ron Vaccaro from NBC: "I could get five or six of these in the bodega near my place in Brooklyn for this price."
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why not Belichick in one of the pre-Super Bowl ridealongs? From Mitch Komninos, of Stuttgart, Germany: "Your Gallery of the Week illustrates perfectly why reading your column every week is a must-read. Incredible idea to use the coach's way to work to interview him and get unique insights that you can share with your readers. In the first two years you rode with coaches both times Bill Belichick was the coach of the opposing team. Did you ask him whether you could ride with him?"
Mitch, I did not ask. I have not talked to Belichick since the Spygate incident of 2007. I think he thought I was unnecessarily hard on him over it. I reached out a couple of times to mend fences, but he wasn't interested. Which is okay—he owes me nothing. That's just the way it goes in this business sometimes. I thought Doug Pederson and Sean McVay were great on those drives.
On profanity. From Don St. John, of Mansfield, Conn.: "'Bleep happens.' I've always wondered where and how do you draw the line on profanity? Is it the standard imposed on you by the organization for whom you're writing (whether SI in the day or NBC now), or is it your call? Because you may be the only person in America who ever uses the word 'batcrap,' when we all know, even kids, that the right word is really … well, batbleep."
Great question, Don. The magazine never wanted us to use profanity. But over time, as vocabulary and standards have evolved, I've judged using profanity on a case-by-case basis. If it's flippant and meaningless, I never use it; I'll just write around it, either by using an ellipsis or just not including the word. If it means something, it's different. If there's a dustup on the field during a game, and the dustup has meaning and the game is meaningful, and I find out reliably what's said in the dustup, I'll use it, possibly with some dashes to cover up the f--- words or whatever. I try to be respectful of the readers and make sure I don't use profanity for profanity's sake.
Thank you, thank you. From Kerry Paulson: "Kudos to you for running through the tape. A must-read and a must-listen. You've never been better."
Man, that makes it all worthwhile. Seriously. Thanks, Kerry.
On sports gambling. From John Bylsma: "I wanted to mention the gambling issue. The NFL lies indefensible, I believe, for flipping once a critical amount of dollars was reached. I don't think I have to touch on the prevalence of gambling ads being tossed in the viewers' faces. What I am disappointed in is the general lack of meaningful public outcry. I appreciate you often taking a firm stance, but why is the viewing public not speaking up? Where is our outrage over so many people directly affiliated with the NFL pushing gambling? More to the point; in your knowledge of the industry, how can we who feel strongly on this [and] make our voice heard? Is there any recourse, other than to silently seethe?"
Excellent email, John, and I feel what you feel. Sometimes I feel like the get-off-my-lawn Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino" decrying the pervasiveness of gambling. In 10 years, we'll have thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, in our society either broke or hopelessly addicted to making a bet. And the NFL is watching it happen and raking in the millions. I would suggest writing a thoughtful letter to:
Commissioner, National Football League
345 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10154
Please do it. He needs to hear from you, and many others.
1. I think it was interesting to hear Andy Reid say he asked Mahomes, Kelce and Chris Jones, his three most notable play-leaders, to give the night-before-the-game speeches Saturday. The one that seemed to resonate most: Kelce's "We have the formula and they don't."
2. I think it was good to hear absolutely nothing about the grass surface at Allegiant Stadium after the debacle of last year.
3. I think I struggled with my MVP vote through the second half, going from Nick Bosa if the Niners won, to maybe Jauan Jennings with his receiving and passing TDs, to the redeemed Christian McCaffrey or the steady Purdy … and as for Kansas City, I was totally up in the air until the final drive of the game. As the confetti started falling, I texted "Mahomes" to the keeper of the ballots.
4. I think Philadelphia giving up a home game and playing in Brazil on the opening Friday of week one, Sept. 6, is smart for the Eagles. You might say, "Smart? To fly nine hours for a football game?" Yes, smart. Think of it: Teams don't play the last weekend of August. So the two teams going to Brazil will be able, if they choose, to fly to Brazil a week early—or four or five days early, and they'll have plenty of time to get acclimated. Also, assuming they play Friday night, they'll be able to fly home Saturday, take Sunday, Monday and possibly Tuesday off to get ready for the week two games. I think playing on Friday of week one, even nine hours away, isn't onerous.
5. I think now, as for the opponent, I'm guessing Cleveland. Philly has nine home games next year. The NFL has leaned away from scheduling one of the three divisional home games as an international game. So let's assume the NFL keeps that up when the slate is released in May. That leaves Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Green Bay. Let's eliminate a few:
Carolina has a game in Germany this fall. Highly unlikely the Panthers would be asked to play a second international game.
Pittsburgh, cross-state rival, plays in Philadelphia once every eight years. Sincerely doubt the league would steal the Steeler game from Lincoln Financial Field.
Jacksonville in England every season. Don't see a South American trip in the Jags' future.
Three left: Cleveland, Atlanta, Green Bay.
Green Bay. Not that this makes the determination, but Philadelphia would hate to lose a date in Philadelphia versus the Packers.
Now Atlanta and Cleveland. Hmm. Who knows if Atlanta can have a ready-made team, and/or a competent quarterback to compete in week one under new coach Raheem Morris? The NFL doesn't want a mystery team in a big marquee game in week one. That leaves …
Cleveland. Won 11 games with five different quarterbacks. Have a scarred but likely good quarterback back healthy, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. I'm sure the NFL hasn't made the call, but the Browns make the most sense to me.
6. I think I have a few thoughts on the NFL awards announced at the Super Bowl:
Anderson, Texans: 695 plays, 7 sacks, 64 pressures, 36 defensive stops*
Carter, Eagles: 599 plays, 6 sacks, 47 pressures, 27 defensive stops*
Turner, Rams: 729 plays, 9 sacks, 47 pressures, 45 defensive stops*
(A defensive stop is graded as a successful play made by a defender that stopped the offense.)
How Heyward honors his father's legacy
Peter King sits down with Steelers veteran Cam Heyward to reflect on how his late father Craig remains a steady presence in his life, why he's committed to charitable endeavors and what he wants his legacy to be.
7. I think everyone who bets on pro football should listen to what Kyle Shanahan told me before Super Bowl LVIII, on the vagaries of this sport:
"It always comes down to one game. Three hours. Who the hell knows what happens in those three hours? I've seen games I thought would be low-scoring turn into a shootout, a throwing-fest. I've seen games I thought would be in the thirties turn into 13-10 at the end. It really could be anything, no matter what type of offense or defense you have. That's what you realize as you go through all of this, all the scouting, all the preparation. It's how do you win the game? These two teams have two weeks to think of every possible way to be prepared. Kansas City does it, we do it. Then once the kickoff goes, that's when you find out how it's going. It changes as you go through the game. That's why you never stop thinking. You never stop preparing, adjusting. It's fun—a constant challenge.
"That's why I can't believe people gamble on this stuff. I do this for a living and I have no clue. No clue. I'm not just saying that. What's so cool about football is it can go any way. But to gamble on it? Crazy."
8. I think I have one word in response to Shanahan on football gambling: preach.
9. I think I loved this from Patrick Mahomes on Caitlin Clark: "Hopefully I never have to play her one-on-one because she'll be for sure getting buckets on me."
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. The ceremony for Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to recognize his 1,000th NHL game, then the game against the team he won three Stanley Cups with, then the 3-2 win, and the moments with his family and the fans and Sidney Crosby … all I can say is, hockey really knows how to honor its own.
b. Fleury: "Got goosebumps a little bit." I did too.
c. And his three beautiful kids … "Je t'aime, Papa." Wow. Just wow. How does a dad keep it together after hearing that. Then Sidney Crosby giving him a painting of all the moments of his hockey life is so, so hockey.
d. There's not a lot funnier than Jon Stewart on deep-dish pizza.
e. "Lemme tell you something: This is not pizza! This is tomato soup in a bread bowl! I wanna know, when I get drunk and pass out on my pizza that I'm not gonna drown!"
f. Journalism Story of the Week: Keith O'Brien of The Atlantic with a near-and-dear statement and story: You'll Miss Sports Journalism When It's Gone.
g. There's a great story in here about how Sports Illustrated broke the Pete Rose gambling story—and how those resources have disappeared with the decline of that magazine. And with the erasure of the watchdog New York Times sports departments, and with deep cutbacks of other journalism entities. Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent told O'Brien he thinks there's a "very high probability" of more cases like the Rose affair, but, as O'Brien writes: "He's just not sure who's going to be around to cover it."
h. Writes O'Brien:
"The new sports-media reality is troubling—and paradoxical. Sports fans are awash in more 'content' than ever before. The sports-talk-podcast industry is booming; many professional athletes host their own shows. Netflix cranks out one gauzy, player-approved documentary series after another, and every armchair quarterback or would-be pundit has an opinion to share on social media. Yet despite all of this entertainment, all of these shows, and all of these hot takes, true sports-accountability journalism is disappearing.
"… Professional sports reporters are already missing stories. Last summer, student journalists at The Daily Northwestern—not sports writers at the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun-Times—exposed a hazing scandal within the Northwestern football program. The grown-up journalists missed the story because they weren't looking. They weren't there, and they probably won't be there next time, either."
i. The way I see it: The vast majority of content on the pro football scene is people reacting to the news, not pursuing the news. It's people with opinions, takes—hundreds of analysts. It used to be reporters outnumbered analysts 10 to 1. Now analysts outnumber reporters 10 to 1.
j. Cool New York Story of the Week: Flaco the owl escaped from the zoo, and he's a great New York success story, per Gothamist and WNYC radio.
k. Flaco's one of the fun things about living in New York. He's shown up on a pitcher's mound at Central Park (and played with the rosin bag), and on window sills of tall apartment buildings, peering in. And this wildlife photographer, David Lei, has followed him and documented his travels.
l. According to Lei, Flaco had to learn how to fly again after being in captivity.
"He really just needed to embrace that instinct and rediscover his wild nature. He initially wasn't very good at flying. He'd get exhausted quite quickly, flying a short distance from one tree to the next, crashing into branches when he went to land, but he kept at it. And over time, he got better. He got better very quickly, actually. And before long, he was quite graceful in flight.
"We were also quite fortunate to watch him learn how to hunt. One other way that I could see Flaco's confidence increasing was in his hooting.
"Flaco is now going on 14. He is well into adulthood for the lifespan of an owl. He had lived in captivity his whole life: born to captive owls, didn't know how to fly, didn't know how to hunt, didn't know how to survive in the wild when he was first released.
And yet he was able to figure all that out and create a totally new life for himself in New York City."
m. Wow. Long live Flaco!
n. I had never heard of Nebraska football guard Ethan Piper before reading this interview with Piper by Evan Bland of the Omaha World-Herald. But this football retiree is a person well worth knowing.
o. Piper told Bland:
"When I was hurt and had lots of free time my favorite thing to do — and I still do it and will continue to do it — is talk with Nebraska fans who are homeless. Anytime I felt bad about my situation I would walk downtown and talk to them. When you tell them you're a Nebraska football player, they'll talk to you for 45 minutes. Those genuine interactions have helped me a lot in the last three months. It's my favorite thing to do, not because it's an ego boost but because it's a chance to relate.
"Most of those guys end up there because of injuries or circumstances. My injury could have been like that if I wasn't with Nebraska football. Those are the interactions I love the most. It's the bread and butter of life. I'd just ask them, 'Can I talk with you for a little bit?' Most people are pretty open, I've come to find out."
p. What a kid. Ethan Piper is awesome. The Midwest is awesome.
q. Happy trails, Linda Wertheimer. Retiring after 53 years at NPR, Wertheimer has been doing the news I consume daily ever since I started listening to the news. Good luck to her.
r. Hall of Fame Story of the Week: Sam Borden of ESPN on Steve McMichael's long road to Canton. It's an emotional piece by Borden, as it should be for a man counting his days battling ALS.
s. Such a sad but somehow uplifting tale about McMichael's attitude, and that of his wife Misty.
t. Wrote Borden:
"One day last summer, Misty could tell something wasn't right. It happened so fast. Steve was feverish. The mucus in his breathing tube was a swirl of colors and darker than usual. He was having trouble staying awake. A doctor came to the house. It was pneumonia, the doctor said.
Misty knew what that meant. And she knew that the DNR, the "do not resuscitate" form she and Steve had signed months earlier, meant she wasn't supposed to call an ambulance. Because Steve absolutely, positively wasn't going to a hospital.
Except they'd gotten a telephone call a few days earlier.
Misty went to Steve. She held his hand. She looked at him and said, "Honey, the Hall of Fame called, do you remember?"
… She said, "You've been waiting so long … And if you get in, I want you to be here. I want you to see it."
She also didn't know if Steve even had the strength to make it a few more days, let alone months. But in that moment, the only thing Misty did know for sure was that the man she loves was closer than he had ever been to this thing he wanted so much. And so she thought that he might want to try.
"Do you want to see it happen, honey?" she asked, and Steve's head shifted. His eyelids had been fluttering, but suddenly they steadied. He was staring at her. Misty locked her gaze on Steve's face.
"Do you want me to rip up the DNR?" she asked. "Blink once for yes, twice for no."
Misty held her breath as Steve looked up at her. He blinked once.
u. Great story. Great storytelling by Sam Borden.
v. Here's Borden's tremendous piece, produced by Josh Vorensky, that aired Sunday on ESPN. You'll cry.
w. "Mongo only pawn in game of life." One of the great lines in Peter King movie history, and Alex Karras, playing the part of Mongo, uttered it in "Blazing Saddles." The Bears loved the movie, and nicknamed McMichael Mongo. And that's what he's been called, mostly, for most of the last 35 years.
x. Cool Super Bowl Story of the Week: Katie Deighton of The Wall Street Journal, on the history of the Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl commercials.
y. The Clydesdales! Hay-List celebrities, per the paper!
Corn Dog beat Eagles
Tom and Jerry beat Niners
Next year? Shake It Off.