A Blizzard in Super Bowl XLVIII Would Be a Big Win for Football

What were you doing when you were seven years old? Video games? Cartoons? Playing outside with your neighborhood contemporaries?

I loved video games, probably a little too much. But every year, New Jersey treated us to its seemingly annual blizzard. Homework got pushed back a day or two, and everyone knew how they would substitute their school day.

Football.

Football was a run-of-the-mill option on regular days. Throw it in the rotation with basketball, tennis racket baseball, skateboarding, man hunt.

But when it snowed, everyone reported to the Common Ground.

It’s like playing football on a Tempurpedic Mattress. Every catch was a diving attempt, the trusty double-reverse hail mary was out of the arsenal because no one could hold onto the ball, and you actually considered punting.

Snow adds that extra dimension – to any sport. It has given us some of the best games of all time:

Snowplow game, Dolphins/Patriots, December 12, 1982 (wiki)

Conditions were so poor for this game, work release inmates were asked to plow the 10, 20, etc. yard markers for officials. Inmate and Patriots fan Mark Henderson decides to clear the spot from where the Patriots kicked the eventual game-winning field goal. The fourth-quarter score accounted for the only points of the sloppy contest.

2008 Winter Classic, Penguins/Sabres, January 1st, 2008 (wiki)

During blizzard-like conditions, the puck wouldn’t slide and players looked like they were first learning how to skate. The Penguins won in a shootout.

Yankees 1996 Home Opener, Royals/Yankees, April 9, 1996 (box score)
A mundane 7-3 Yankees win became a Yankees Classic when snow fell for much of the mid-April day. The Royals committed four errors in Derek Jeter’s first Home Opener.

Snow adds an extra dimension. The playing field becomes level. That’s why I enjoy watching the pro-bowl. I don’t care it’s not “real football.” It’s entertaining. It’s different.

The main premise of this post is the excitement of the potentially unexpected and never seen is desirable enough to push aside the potential damage of the weather’s byproduct implications.

The opposition argument is certainly sound – how can you let an unpredictable force play a crucial role in perhaps sports’ biggest annual game? If you’re a fan of an elite team, I understand. But for the other 93% of fans who won’t be represented, I think a blizzard would be fun to see.

As a 2013 Giants fan, I won’t have to worry about that 7%.

Fresh Rushing Game Just One Reason New York Giants Are ’13 Super Bowl Contenders

Once Dez Bryant’s knuckles were ruled out of bounds on this play October 28th, the New York Giants sat comfortably atop the NFC East at 6-2, 2.5 games ahead of the Eagles and Cowboys, primed for another playoff appearance. Coming off a Super Bowl championship, it was logical to feel confident the experienced Eli Manning could lead his team through a serious championship push for the second straight year.

Ultimately, it seemed the Giants grew complacent with their game and let their guard down to ultimately miss the playoffs entirely, an utter disappointment for a franchise and fan base expecting more.

But 2013 will be different for Eli & Co. The brightest light at the end of 2012’s depressive tunnel was a renaissance of New York’s running game, one with energy we haven’t seen since Tiki Barber’s pre-Eli days. Journeyman-turned puzzle piece Andre Brown showed fans his brute force capabilities and rookie David Wilson showed us the explosive step Ahmad Bradshaw never offered. Couple this with New York’s weaker schedule and the fresh pressure to avoid a second straight “losing” season, the New York Giants will contend for the Super Bowl in 2013.

An athletic neophyte, Wilson’s agility and 4.40 40-yard dash (video) offer a glimmer of hope Big Blue can represent a game-changing back comparable to a Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or even Robert Griffin III (According to the New York Times, Wilson has run the 40 in 4.29 seconds). While a long shot, there’s finally enough quickness to evoke a glimmer of hope.

In the last five games of the regular season, Brown recorded five touchdowns on only 35 carries, many in Brandon Jacobs-like short yardage situations. While I couldn’t find the numbers, I don’t remember Brown rushing for a loss many times in those games.

If there’s chemistry, this duo has the potential to propel the Giants to the other end of the rushing spectrum. Both of their ’12 performances qualify for guaranteed rushes in ’13, but this “friendly” competition will add fuel to their respective fires. That extra drive should ultimately bring out the best in one, if not both of the Giants’ running backs.

In its best-case scenario, the Giants’ new-found rushing game will force defenses to allocate more attention on the ground, therefore leading to more open receivers and an even more successful passing game.

*How the Giants won last year’s Super Bowl with the league’s worst rushing numbers is a mystery I will never solve. And while given his fair share of kudos, I feel Eli’s 2011-12 accomplishment is still underrated given that statistic.*

The only other silver-lining of New York’s underachieving season is the motivation it offers for the upcoming campaign. Before this year’s Baltimore Ravens, no team since the 2006 Steelers won a Super Bowl the year after winning a playoff game. While winning is always the ultimate goal, I theorize an underachieving season finale is heavier motivation to win than the fire to repeat. Look at the 2012 Miami Heat.

But while arguments supporting New York’s new rushing game and theories of losing seasons are nice, they’re subjective. Plus, coming into 2012 Wilson and Brown combined for four career rushes. How will they tweak their game to counter defenses’ adjustments? Brown will enter 2013 off a broken fibula and Casper the Friendly Ghost could have blocked better than Wilson. But New York’s 2013 strength of schedule is the most tangible reason the Giants will at least make the playoffs. The scheduling committee gave the Super Bowl champion Giants games against all winners  of the ’11 NFC conferences – Packers, Saints, and 49ers. This year, New York will face a much weaker schedule, one that includes the dreadful AFC West. Take out the 13-3 Broncos and that conference boasted a 13-35 overall record this year (2012 standings).

With fresh assets at hand in 2013, a favorable schedule and a new-found motivation to elude the taste of failure, it will be a season Giants fans should look forward to. I correctly predicted the Giants would not make the playoffs in 2012, but am predicting a serious playoff representation in 2013.

Plus, the Giants have home-field advantage in this year’s Super Bowl whether they play or not. That cherry-on-top motivation may put them over the hump should they hit their stride come December.

If healthy, RGIII will be the best quarterback in the league by 2015

It started with Michael Vick. A revolutionary quarterback who forced defenses to sacrifice a defender for a spy. A quarterback who can turn a broken play into a 20 yard run.

Sounds enticing, but Vick never was a great quarterback, just one that makes magic with his feet. Vick didn’t throw to a 60% completion percentage until his eighth year in the league and probably won’t win a Super Bowl. And we all know about his turnover rate.

But imagine Peyton Manning with Vick’s legs. Picture Aaron Rodgers en route to a game-winning 78-yard touchdown run after his third and fourth options were covered.

In his rookie season, the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III averaged fewer interceptions per pass than every other starting quarterback (five int. in 258 attempts; 1.3%) and threw to a 65.6% completion rate. For their careers, Manning sits at 65.2% and Rodgers at 65.7%.

Griffin’s numbers
Vick’s numbers
Peyton’s numbers
Rodgers’ numbers

In his seven full seasons as a starter, Vick eclipsed RGIII’s 2012 total of 3200 passing yards only once (2011) and only twice rushed for more yards than Griffin’s 2012 tally of 815.

But it was Griffin’s 4.41 dash in the ’12 combine that foreshadowed his dazzling ground work during the regular season. Like Vick, Griffin can break out for 13 fantasy points on one play (below). Unlike Vick, it seems Griffin can protect the football and throw accurately.

If Griffin can somehow extract enough passing potential to work up to Manning or Rodgers’ level, then his edge in the footrace department would put him at a separate level of any quarterback in NFL history.

Before we get gung-ho, we must acknowledge health when evaluating RGIII’s style of play. If he wants to remain in the league, he needs to become a pass-first quarterback who can dive into the arsenal if needed, not the other way around.

Picture this scenario – it happened week 13 against the New York Giants.

Redskins up a point with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Redskins have the ball and the Giants have two timeouts.

In this situation most offenses run the ball to eat up clock. The defense knows, so late-game situations such as these usually result in a three-and-out and a punt with two minutes or so left.

But with RGIII you don’t hand the ball off, you run the option. The defense now has to worry about a separate threat with a proportion of attention on each. What is usually a gimme three-and-out is now a mind game between Griffin and the defense.

In that game, the Giants couldn’t stop the combination of Griffin and rookie running back Alfred Morris, the Redskins ran out the clock, and took a must-win away from the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Griffin’s unique late-game threat will lead to more wins such as these.

Take this likeable fella and evaluate his numbers. In four years compare his passing numbers the elite ones and his running numbers to Vick’s. If he keeps pace with those guys like he did this season, you could be watching the greatest quarterback of all time.

But let’s get that knee back in order first.

Can New York City Own All Four Championships in 2012?

Probably not, but they have a solid chance to own 75% of them.

No United States city has won a championship in all four major sports in even the same decade. Granted, this is a tough task because only 12 cities house all four major sports. Can you name them?

– Oakland in the 1970s – the Raiders, Athletics, and Warriors won championships but the Golden Seals did not.
– Los Angeles in the 1980s – the Raiders, Dodgers, and Lakers won championships but the Kings did not.
– New York in the 1990s – the Rangers, Yankees, and Giants won championships but the Knicks did not.
– Boston in the 2000s – the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics won championships but the Bruins did not.

Boston nearly owned all four championships in a 365 day period from 2007-08. The Red Sox won in October 2007 and the Celtics in June 2008, but the Patriots were denied a perfect season by the New York Giants and the Bruins lost in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Boston did walk away with a hockey championship in ’08 however – Boston College won the National Championship.

The New York Giants won 2012’s Super Bowl after dropping to 7-7 following a horrid loss to the Washington Redskins. Las Vegas odds said the Giants were 100:1 to win the Super Bowl after that loss according to my father. The Knicks are currently 25:1, but more on them later.

The Yankees always have a chance – just like Boston, Philly, or any team coached by Mike Scioscia, I’ll put the Yankees’ odds at 8:1. I strongly believe the Yankees will be one of the final eight playoff teams, so from there it’s anybody’s call.

Let’s say the Yankees stay healthy, click, and get a little bit of luck. They certainly can win the World Series.

The New York Rangers shocked the hockey world this season and established themselves as the best team in the east, arguably in the NHL. Vegas odds has them at 11:2.

8:1 x 11:2 = 44:1 odds (2.3%) New York owns at least three championships in 2012, which includes the Super Bowl Champion Giants.

The Knicks have been New York’s weakest link for the last ten years, but this year they almost have a chance to win it all. Unlike football, basketball is a seven game series and is arguably the most predictable of the four major sports. For the record, I don’t see them beating Chicago or Miami, but remember – the eighth seeded Knicks beat the first-seeded Heat in the first round in 1999. Advantage ’99 Knicks though because they beat the Heat in a then-best of five series.

Passing and playing aggressive defense has given me this slim glimmer of hope with a lot of luck the Knicks can go for a title. Mike Woodson coaches a winning system that emphasizes rebounding and defense rather than D’Antoni’s double shot of offense.

Carmelo Anthony needs to score and Amar’e Stoudemire needs to buy in to Mike Woodson’s system.

Carmelo vs. Durant in game six at The Garden? Nah probably not, but if the Rangers play like they have all year and the Yankees find a way to take home #28 in November, New York will breed a surplus of haters by the Mayan Apocalypse.

…the more the merrier.

Peyton Manning was John Elway’s Ultimate Exit Plan

John Elway is the happiest person in the United States right now – not because of who he acquired, but the backlash he avoided.

Getting Peyton Manning was Broncos’ executive John Elway’s pubic relations dream.

Elway’s resistance to guaranteeing Tim Tebow job security beyond season’s end, despite his win total, shows Elway has no confidence in his tight end – err – quarterback.

But without Manning, Elway was caught in a serious PR catch 22. Let’s break it down by scenario before Manning agreed to negotiate:

Tebow starts, does poorly
Tebow’s stocky build and slow delivery are tangible flaws, and the fan base would argue the red flags are an inexcusable oversight for a co-owner who knows how to win Super Bowls.

Tebow starts, keeps winning
Until Tebow proves he can throw the ball, it doesn’t matter how well he does. Winning would suppress the Broncos quarterback debate, not squash it.

Tebow relegated to the bench, <insert quarterback here> does well
Does this new quarterback win at a rate better than Tebow’s 7-4 record? Can he prove he can throw the ball? If Elway’s new quarterback could keep this pace for a full season, it would be the co-owner’s best case PR scenario.

Tebow relegated to the bench, <insert quarterback here> does poorly.
This would be Elway’s worst case PR scenario. If you’re going to bench a quarterback that wins, you had better be right – which is why I think Tebow would have started the season as Broncos quarterback. It would have made the most PR sense, which unfortunately shows how the media has literally affected sports.

Peyton Manning’s presence takes an enormous weight off Elway’s shoulders. Even if Peyton Manning starts the season 0-4, Elway remains off the hook – it’s what any owner would have done. An 0-4 start with any quarterback other than Peyton Manning would unfairly put the Broncos owner in hot water.

Think of Peyton Manning as #2 Duke. No one will attack you for not picking Lehigh to advance to the round of 32.

Now the Broncos just need to find some wide receivers…

LeBron…This is Why You Will Never Be Michael Jordan

LeBron James is the most athletic, talented, and arguably strongest pound-for-pound player in the league today. He has the gall to take, and hit, circus-clutch shots like this (skip to 2:54)…and this (skip to :45), yet under 24 seconds in the final period, he’s a consistent no-show.

LeBron James is the “The fans’ pressure greatly affects me” poster-child. And we  love it. We fans know we have the collective ability to greatly affect arguably the most powerful character in the NBA.

That’s why it’s so much fun to hate LeBron James – because it works.

*For the record, I do feel bad for LeBron. All he wants is to be loved… it’s just not working out for him.

Dear LeBron,
Here’s a list of your PR moves that made me cringe:

7/8/10 The Decision, & “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach”
How you interpret this: I’m benefiting a charity. This is a great PR move.
How the fans do: “My talents?!” ugh…and yes LeBron, you are the center of attention. I know that’s what you want. Thanks for making yourself bigger than the game.

11/30/11 – Tossing out free T-shirts at an Ohio St. basketball game
How you interpret this: I still love you guys. I’ll never forget where I came from!
How the fans do: It’s like Benedict Arnold giving out free burgers & dogs on Independence Day.

10/11/11 – Tweeting to ESPN’s John Clayton asking when NFL teams can sign free agents.
How you interpret this: The NBA is locked out, but I’m a football fan like the rest of ya!
How the fans do: Why are you worrying about football?! Don’t you care the NBA canceled the first two weeks of the season yesterday?

2/17/12 – Announcing you wouldn’t rule out going back to Cleveland
How you interpret this: I was loved in Cleveland, maybe THAT’S my key to being loved again.
How we do: LeBron… ugh just don’t say anything.

The interesting theme here is (I feel) LeBron truly thinks these aforementioned slip-ups would result in a more positive public image. However, LeBron has dug himself a PR hole so deep he can’t escape with a few pseudo-events or actions. To improve his image, he must at least play a major role in a Heat championship, and multiple times – a feat immensely difficult. I’ll talk about this more later.

And why, LeBron, do you make your twitter handle @KingJames? It comes off as self-centered to the average fan – especially the ones who love hating you.

On a random note, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Eli Manning, and Albert Pujols don’t really tweet. Do the winners naturally avoid twitter? Do great ones recognize social media as a distraction? A concentration retarder? Let me know in the comments.

Fans try to affect all superstars. The difference is the truly great ones either ignore or thrive off the hate. What happens when Kobe, Reggie, Jeter, Eli, Michael, and any other big time winners get hated on?

Kobe Bryant – He was blacklisted after his sexual assault case in 2003. Today, he’s arguably the closest player to Michael Jordan. Kobe claims he has had not rivals in his career, and I think he’s right.

Reggie Miller – No championships, but if you don’t think there was a direct correlation between pressure and performance, watch ESPN’s documentary Winning Time: Reggie vs. The New York Knicks.

Derek Jeter – Five-time World Series Champion in America’s biggest market. Non-Yankees fans have been trying to hate Jeter for 17 years, yet he continues to show he is unaffected.

Eli Manning – The biggest reason why the Gotham Giants have won their two most recent Super Bowls. Okay, you can argue defense carried them in 2007, but not in 2011.

Michael Jordan

LeBron has made some big mistakes in his NBA career – only some aforementioned, but his biggest mistake is one he has yet to overcome – not being himself. He wants to be Michael Jordan so badly. Choosing #23 for the first seven years of his career was LeBron’s inaugural mistake.

It showed weakness. It immediately conveyed he wanted to follow in Michael’s footsteps, not pave his own legacy.

Michael takes the final shot. He didn’t care what you thought. Reggie wanted Knicks fans to hate him – and what happened the last time he played at the Garden? Knicks fans serenaded him with respect – chanting “Reggie! Reggie!” as he left the floor. Barring a crazy steroid scandal or anything unforeseen, Derek Jeter will be cheered in his final game at Fenway Park. I guarantee it.

Fans aren’t dumb. We know who the star players are. Fans judge a player not just by physical ability, but reaction to immense pressure. LeBron has failed to show he can handle the latter.

LeBron, in your best-case-scenario form, here’s how you can become loved again:

1) Fail in Miami. Not on purpose, but if you win even one championship here then leave for Cleveland, it conveys, “Okay, I got one – I’m ready to help you guys now.” Because that’s a slap in the face.

2) Opt Out and Return to Cleveland – Prove to the fans in Cleveland you’ll give up what you went to Miami for – a shortcut to an NBA Title. That will convey, “It doesn’t mean anything if I don’t win it in Cleveland.”

3) Lead Cleveland to an NBA Title

Be The King.

But right now, where’s the killer instinct LeBron? If you don’t have it… that’s okay. Honestly. If you can’t be Michael Jordan it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person nor are you a bad basketball player. If you win in Miami congratulations – that takes hard work. However, you will never be Michael if you win in Miami. You’ll never get back Cleveland’s respect, and you can keep your twitter handle @KingJames because it won’t mean anything.

The King? I have a new one…Dwyane’s Prince.

Bill Belichick’s Poor Time Management Cost the Patriots the Super Bowl

Mario Manningham’s catch was a key turning point in yesterday’s Super Bowl, but not for the obvious reason.

Of all the storylines of yesterday’s game – Manningham’s catch, Wes Welker’s drop, Gronkowski’s absence, why is no one talking about Bill Belichick’s time management decisions late in the fourth quarter?

Why don’t you call a timeout after Bradshaw’s seven yard run on 1st & 10???

This is the most underestimated moment of the Super Bowl, and I can’t figure out why this has garnered zero attention. After Bradshaw’s run on 1st & 10 with 1:45 to go, I smirked when I realized Bill Belichick was not going to call a timeout. The Patriots had two left, and it was 2nd & 3.

What on Earth are you saving those timeouts for? Offense? The Giants are going to run the full 40 seconds off the clock – about 40% of the time you have to work with.

They ran the time off, then scored two plays later. Here’s what Belichick should have said during the timeout he should have called:

“If they get the first down, call our last timeout to stop the clock. We’ll let them score the next play. But when you stop the Giants on this second down play, call a timeout, and we’ll stop them on third down.”

The worst case scenario of either listed above is the Giants get a first down on third down. You let them score the next play, which would take those same 40 seconds off the clock. The only drawback at that time would be one less timeout, but that’s the educated gamble you need to take.

The ideal, yet realistic Patriots’ scenario late in the game was to have the ball after they let the Giants score, but with 1:37 left to play, not :57.

Ninety-seven seconds is enough for Tom Brady. Fifty-seven seconds was not. His head coach let him down.

On another note, I’m almost 100% sure Belichick would have called a timeout if he had three left. He only had two because of earlier in the drive:

Challenging Manningham’s catch was the wrong decision.

…most importantly because no highlights showed any indication Manningham’s feet were out of bounds, but that’s the guys upstairs’ fault.

By challenging the play, you put yourself at risk to lose a key timeout. I think it was more beneficial for Belichick to keep the challenge flag in the arsenal, play the cards you were dealt, and save the timeout.

With about 3:40 to play, the Giants are at midfield, and if they score quickly, you put yourself in the exact position Tom Brady said he wanted to be in: down and with the ball late in the fourth quarter (but with more than :57 seconds).

If the play came on third or fourth down, challenge it, but the Giants were in four down territory. In the self-destructive “prevent” defense every team plays in that situation, Eli Manning would have gotten a first down in three plays anyway.

Granted, you can say, “Corey, so then why don’t you just not play defense and let them score from midfield?” I’m not arguing let them score, but the lost timeout ended up leading to a huge Belichick mental error.

I am arguing if Tom Brady had 1:37 left instead of :57, the Patriots are your Super Bowl Champions.