January 29, 2009


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LONGSHOTS: Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
by Dave Long

The big game comes our way this Sunday when the Steelers and surprising Arizona Cardinals meet at some time after 6 p.m. — which always has me thinking about Super Bowls past and present. And since my streak is intact of having seen every one of the 42 games to date, here are some random thoughts on this week’s game and those from the past that relate to the present.

Super Bowl 101: Who is the only Super Bowl-winning coach to once be a part-time assistant basketball coach working for Bobby Knight?

The biggest question for me about the Super Bowl is how in the name of Bobby Joe Conrad did that team the Patriots annihilated 47-7 two weeks before the playoffs started make it all the way to the big game? I mean those Cardinals looked like they were in the fetal position over a little snow in that one.

Having said that, while I’d like their chances against Arizona if they somehow made it to the game, I wouldn’t against any of the top three teams on the AFC side. After seeing the Titans, Ravens and Steelers in the playoffs it’s clear to me the Patriots are not one but two notches below those teams defensively. And since you win in the playoffs with defense, it would have been one and done. 

If you don’t agree with me, then answer this. Why did the entire Patriots defense get only one vote cast their way in the All-Pro voting? I don’t mean one vote for the team. I mean while DeMarcus Ware got 28 votes at linebacker by himself, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel et al. combined to get just one insignificant vote! And that went to rookie Jerod Mayo. I’ll have more on how to fix this group in the coming weeks.

So even though Arizona has a little of that same mystic feel the Pats had in 2001 and I’ve been wrong about them in their last two wins, since defense does win in the playoffs I’m still taking the Steelers.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for Arizona. The Kurt Warner story is one of the more remarkable comebacks from the scrap heap ever and that Larry Fitzgerald has been something to see and will be MVP if the Cards somehow do win.

I thought I had a pretty cool “nice to know but you don’t need to know” piece of info when I was going to say Mike Tomlin is the first guy to coach a Super Bowl team having never played in the NFL himself. But then I started to think about it and I was, as they used to tell Rodney Dangerfield when he asked strangers for directions, way off!

It’s quite the opposite in fact, as starting with the guy the trophy is named after, Vince Lombardi, (who won the first two Super Bowls), 28 of the 42 titles came from coaches who never played in the league, including Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson, who won three apiece; Bill Parcells, George Seifert and Mike Shanahan, who won twice; and Brian Billick, Jon Gruden, Tom Coughlin, Hank Stram, Dick Vermeil, Mike Holmgren, John Madden and Weeb Ewbank, who all won once.

So if I went with my first impulse, I’d have gotten the mother of all “What A Stupid I Yam” Awards.

Of all the sidebars in the game, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhut may be second best after Warner. Because, while he’ll never admit it, I’ve got to think playing Pittsburgh makes it an even bigger game for him since he was on the staff when he finished second to the outsider Tomlin when the Steelers were looking for a new coach after Bill Cowher stepped down.

I’m pretty much on an island of one about the Patriots considering a Herschel Walker godfather offer for Tom Brady if one comes along. But I’ll tell you, the Cardinals had one of those deals back in the day when they traded star running back Ollie Matson to the L.A. Rams for 11 guys! Of course they did it while they were still the Chicago Cardinals in 1959, but it’s still nice to see it finally paid off.

It says here the dumbest move ever by a team after winning the Super Bowl was the Rams pushing Dick Vermeil out following XXXIV in favor of “rising” coaching star Mike (K) Martz. Vermiel went to KC and turned the Chiefs around while it was all downhill for the Rams after Martz was thoroughly undressed by Bill Belichick two years later when the Pats shocked the football world by winning Super Bowl XXXVI over the 14-point favorite Greatest Show on Turf.

While some may dicker over my selection of which team actually had the better defense since some are pretty close to each other, by my count the team with the best defense had won 29 of the 42 Super Bowls. The better offense triumphed over the better defense only five times and in eight of the games the defenses have been a toss-up, which means the better offense of the two came out on top.

The team that defied the odds was the 49ers, who had the better offense in all five of their wins and never had the clearly better defense.

No matter if the Cardinals shock us for another time this week by winning, it can’t go higher than the fourth-biggest upset in history. It would be behind the Pats over the Rams at number three in 2001, the (gulp) Giants over the undefeated Patriots last year at number two and the AFL Jets beating the all mighty NFL Colts in Super Bowl III in the top spot. And contrary to Jints fans in New York thinking otherwise, the lead between the Jets and last year is like Jerry Rice’s lead in most TD ever over Emmit Smith — unapproachable.

Super Bowl 101 Answer: None other than the Big Tuna was a part-time assistant coach under Bobby Knight at Army when he also was a coach on the football staff.

The key stat in this game will be pressures, not necessarily sacks by the Steelers on Kurt Warner because the more they make him check down or hurry his throw the less likely he’ll be able to get the ball to Fitzgerald and the dangerous Anquan Boldin. 

The key stat for the Cardinals? What their average gain is on first down, as they better they do on first down the more they will be able to stay out of third and long and thus away from all-out Pittsburgh pressure in that situation.

I know the Steelers are favored by just seven on Sunday (I give the points), but does anyone know the over-under on when Boldin will get into it with one of the coaches on the sideline?

Enjoy the game, everyone.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

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1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
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12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
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11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
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10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
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9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
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7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
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6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
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1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
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10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
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10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
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Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
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The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat