Cleaning out the Super Bowl 57 notebook, starting with the incredulity, even a week later, of how Kansas City won—and Andy Reid’s “Beautiful Mind Board:”
Three years ago, I rode to work one morning with Andy Reid before the Kansas City-San Francisco Super Bowl. We ended up in his office suite, and I got a look at a huge white board that took up most of one wall. On the board were maybe 30 diagrammed plays, in different handwriting and different colors—from him and his offensive assistants.
“We’re a democracy here,” Reid said that day. “Every coach’s ideas count.”
Last week, I asked one of the coaches, senior offensive assistant/QB coach Matt Nagy, about the process. “He has about 27 different markers on his board that you can pick from and he wants you to space out the colors so you don’t have two black diagrams next to each other,” Nagy said. “By the end of the week, you get to Thursday or Friday and it looks like probably what you saw. It can look very confusing. That’s why we call it the ‘Beautiful Mind Board.’”
Corn Dog, the play I wrote about last week, the play that turned the Super Bowl to Kansas City’s favor, was born there. But here’s the other part of why it worked: By the time KC lined up at the Philadelphia five-yard line and called Duo Left 35Y Corn Dog (thanks to NFL Films for the Patrick Mahomes wiring that filled out the call) three minutes into the fourth quarter, it had been 1,242 plays since Reid called for this particular motion—the odd Jet Motion reverse, from wide right to the right tackle, then reversed back to the original position wide right.
I can’t fault Eagles players and coaches for Corn Dog. How could Philadelphia have seen this coming? Kansas City had called it one time all season—in the second quarter of the season-opener, coincidentally in this same stadium against the Cardinals, on the 23rd offensive snap of the season. Reid called 77 quarters worth of plays, exactly 1,242 snaps over 19 games, without opting for the Jet Motion reverse again.
Then, on the biggest snap of the season, Reid called for it. That is brilliant coaching. Afterwards, he told me he credited his coaches for figuring out why it would work—and Jesse Newell of The Kansas City Star fleshed that out well, reporting that offensive assistants Greg Lewis and David Girardi studied the Eagles’ D enough to know their man scheme in the Red Zone should leave the receiver, Kadarius Toney, open once he reversed his course. And Toney was open. Wide open. Three minutes later, Reid called another play (a busted play, as it turned out, made right by Mahomes) with the Jet Motion reverse a second time. Skyy Moore was even more wide open. Mahomes, wired by NFL Films, said he saw the Eagles’ zero blitz “as clear as day” on the play, and none of the four Philadelphia cover players, inexplicably, got near Moore.
Incredible. How does something like that happen on the two most important plays of a defense’s season?
The defensive coordinator in the game, Jonathan Gannon, fell on the sword Sunday when I spoke to him about the plays. Gannon, who got the Cardinals’ head-coaching job Tuesday, told me: “Our players were prepped. I did not do a good enough job myself to put them in a position to make the play. I didn’t do a good enough job to get out of the call what I wanted out of the call. I didn’t give them the tools that they needed to win the down.
“On the second one, I thought [Mahomes] was gonna play that as a drop back and that [coverage] was a zero [blitz]. Jesus Christ wouldn’t have covered that in a zero.”
On the Toney TD, the Eagles actually had three cover players on the two receivers to the right, Travis Kelce inside and Toney outside. Once Toney reversed his Jet Motion, Darius Slay or Avonte Maddox had to cut outside to cover him, and they were both way late. Slay, on replay, appeared lackadaisical getting back, as though he expected help that never came. Clearly, Gannon thought putting three defenders on Kelce and Toney should have worked. It didn’t. I say it’s because of the element of surprise.
On the Moore TD, Gannon clearly thought he made the wrong call in zero-blitzing Mahomes. The Eagles very rarely rush seven and leave four back in coverage. This is how rare the call to rush seven was: this was Philadelphia’s 1,211th defensive snap of the year, and it was only the eighth time Gannon called for seven men to rush, per Next Gen Stats. Gannon was rueful about it a week later. Covering a wide field with four defenders against the great Mahomes is a tough chore, particularly on a slippery field when the speed and quickness of ace rusher Haason Reddick is neutralized.
But in the end, something Nagy said via NFL Films when Mahomes came to the sidelines rings most true to me: “That Jet Motion is killing ‘em!”
Three other things about the crucial plays:
- Did you notice what Kelce, wired by NFL Films, said to Toney just before he went in motion on his TD? “Control! Under control!” Kelce said. I was told after the game that KC’s players and coaches were concerned the motion wouldn’t work because of how slick the field was. Per Newell, Toney slipped and fell on the practice field in Tempe on Thursday. Thus, Kelce’s warning.
- Did you also notice Reid trying to call timeout before the Moore TD? That’s because Kelce was lined up wrong. He was snug outside the right tackle instead of the left side. “The play was in the wrong formation!” Mahomes exclaimed when he got to the sideline, via NFL Films. “I called it right, they lined up wrong.” This is why Mahomes is so great. It’s the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, third-and-goal from the four-yard line, 28-27, he’s supposed to have Kelce as a rub-receiver in case Moore needs it, play-clock near five seconds, no time to get Kelce over to the left, Mahomes knows seven rushers might be coming, and he figures, I better make something happen. “Right there,” Nagy told me, “You could see the calm Pat had. In these moments, one of the biggest moments of the entire season, Andy trusted Pat in that moment to make the right decision. Sometimes throughout the year, your quarterback is gonna make the wrong decision on a play like that. I’m telling you, Pat just doesn’t make wrong decisions there. It would have been easy with the play clock running down and the formation messed up for Pat to turn around, start walking to the sidelines and signal for time. When he didn’t, I just figured, ‘He’s got something.’”
- Think of those six coaches this year. They know each other, and Mahomes, so well that they finish each other’s sentences. David Girardi, a friend of former QB coach Mike Kafka, came on the staff after Nagy left and became a valued worker over the next four seasons. That continuity is why the offense, even in a year when five new wide receivers are folded into the scheme, works symphonically at the biggest moments of the season.
Gannon paid homage to Reid when we spoke Sunday, and said one of the truisms Reid would endorse. “I’ll never be as smart as Andy Reid,” Gannon said. “But where I do align with him philosophically is seven or eight brains are better than one.”
That’s a pretty big reason why Kansas City won the Super Bowl. Smart people, working in a democracy, with a brilliant playmaker at quarterback. Hard to beat.
The field. Adam Kilgore’s excellent piece in The Washington Post answers most of the questions about the unimaginably bad conditions of the Super Bowl playing surface: “The NFL wanted a lush Super Bowl field. It ended up with an ice rink.”
You saw the Eagles take the high road about it, with GM Howie Roseman saying both teams had to play on it. Did you see how he said it? Just my guess, but he looked mighty ticked off that his speed rushers on defense, including sackmaster Haason Reddick, looked like they needed skates, not cleats, to play on that field. Only two things to add, and this comes from a groundskeeper in the NFL: Rye grass is notoriously slippery, and when this turf was overseeded with rye to make the field green, lush and gorgeous, it probably increased the chance of slippage. And the fact that this grass was kept outside at night, with temperatures in the high thirties and forties in Phoenix overnight, could have led to more condensation from the cool weather when it was moved inside—even if, as Kilgore reports, the league dried the field when it was back inside.
Whatever the reason, the NFL better figure it out in the next 11 months. The field was inexcusable. Reddick was in on sacks in nine of his previous 10 games, and he had 19.5 sacks in 19 previous games this year. Though he hit Mahomes twice, Reddick wasn’t close to sacking him. Philadelphia had a league-best 78 sacks in 19 previous games, but got shut out against KC—the first time in three months that happened. Kansas City could gripe too.
By the way, there’s one other field in the NFL with grass that’s kept outside and wheeled in on trays for games: Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Super Bowl LVIII is at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Sirianni’s strategy. The biggest strategic questioning of a head coach coming out of the game was two-fold, both queries to Nick Sirianni:
- After a season of bold calls, why’d you punt on fourth-and-three from your own 32-yard line, down 28-27 with 10:33 left in the game?
Sirianni said this week 32 out of 32 coaches would have punted there. He might be right, except that Kansas City had driven 75 and 75 yards on its first two possessions of the half, and there was no sign they could be stopped. However, I mostly agree with Sirianni here. Philadelphia, to this point in the 2022 season, faced fourth-and-three or less in their own territory 20 times. They punted 14 times and went for it six times. On each of those six times, it was fourth-and-one, and they made it all six times. This was a very good fourth-down team, and the Ben Baldwin “4th down decision bot” claimed going for it had a 56-percent chance of succeeding. I know how this business works. If he went for it, failed, and Kansas City scored a touchdown on a short field, Sirianni would have been fricasseed.
- Why have punter Arryn Siposs active, and why punt to the dangerous Kadarius Toney?
GM Howie Roseman built a superb roster in Philadelphia, probably the best in football. But the Eagles had a bottom-quartile punter each of the last two years—Siposs was 26th and 30th in the league in net punting in the last two years. And on the most important punt of his Eagles career, Siposs booted a high-schoolish, low 38-yarder that Toney returned 65 yards to the Eagles’ five-yard line. As for not kicking to Toney, that’s the ultimate second guess, and dumb. Prior to this Toney had returned 15 regular- and post-season punts this season for a 7.2-yard average, and the Eagles hadn’t allowed a return of longer than 26 yards all season.
Bieniemy to Washington. Eric Bieniemy going to Washington is good for the Commanders, horrible for the NFL. It’s beyond shameful that a two-time Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator makes a mostly lateral move (though with full play-designing and -calling power, which Bieniemy didn’t have in Kansas City) while the NFL has devoted so many resources to the paucity of Black coaches in the league. After the 2023 hiring cycle in the NFL, there are now four Black head coaches—Mike Tomlin, Todd Bowles, DeMeco Ryans and Mike McDaniel (who has a Black father and white mother) and two other minority coaches, Ron Rivera and Robert Saleh.
What I’d do if I were Roger Goodell: I’d clean out all those in the league office assigned to improving the record on Black coaches and hire a new leader for the initiative. I’d start over. NFL EVP Troy Vincent surely has the passion for the job but the results are too far from satisfactory. I don’t blame Vincent, but at some point there’s got to be a new voice, a new leader. Bring in a new person with fresh eyes. Then have yet another urgent session at the league meetings in Phoenix next month with every owner, president and GM on hand. Roger Goodell has to make influencing the decision-making of 32 owners a 2023 priority, even if he feels like he’s done everything he can.
Sneak story. I doubt you’ve seen many stories quoting NFL sources or Competition Committee sources saying anything substantive about what can or should be done about the rugby scrums that became commonplace on short-yardage plays in the 2022 season. The Eagles were the best at it, by far, converting 34 of 38 quarterback sneaks into first downs. As a long-time Competition Committee-watcher, I’ve seen the way they handle plays like this. The committee, led by chair Rich McKay, doesn’t leak much, at least until after it meets for the first time in the off-season at the NFL Scouting Combine. The committee is due to meet in Indianapolis beginning early next week, and will hear from the influential Coaches Subcommittee on the issue.
I believe, through no Deep Throats, that the committee will try to adjust the rule that allows players to push the quarterback from behind, rather than the quarterback simply trying to make the short yardage with no teammate propulsion. Anytime there’s been a clear strategic tweak to a rule that makes it either unfair to one side or turns a play into something that was never intended—such as the rugby scrum the Eagles and others have used—the Competition Committee listens to all parties and tries to adjudicate fairness.
Why, you might ask, won’t the committee start to put its case out in public to garner media and public support for whichever way they’d be leaning? A couple of reasons. Because we’ve all seen the Eagles simply use a rule legally to gain an advantage no one could have seen coming, the committee doesn’t want to appear to be jumping on a team that did nothing wrong. Also, a three-quarters vote of the 32 teams would be needed to change the rule. So only nine teams (or eight plus the Eagles, presumably) would be needed to quash any attempt to change the rule. You saw that new Denver coach Sean Payton said last week he’ll make the play a part of his offensive strategy this year. You know from recent history that the Saints use a physical sneak strategy with 230-pound quarterback Taysom Hill. So it’s not a stretch to think that at least nine teams could be bullish on keeping the rule the way it is. This will certainly be something to watch, and I think it could be a big story when the NFL holds its annual meetings in Phoenix March 26-29.
On Jalen Hurts. “You either win or you learn.” That’s what the Philadelphia quarterback said after the game. It’s a perfect measure of the man. On his football journey from Tuscaloosa to Norman to south Philadelphia, Hurts has proven two things: He will not rest until he is the best he can be and until he wins the last game of the season. If I’m an Eagles fan, or a member of Eagle brass, I am thrilled that this excellent quarterback—who will be just 25 on opening day 2023—is the quarterback I’m rooting for to take us to the promised land. He will, or he will absolutely exhaust himself trying.
For Philadelphia, two who got away. The Colts hired offensive coordinator Shane Steichen from the Eagles’ staff as head coach; the already celebrated Brian Johnson, Sirianni’s QB coach, should fit into that role seamlessly. It won’t be as easy defensively. Jonathan Gannon, the widely respected defensive coordinator who ran everything about the Philly defense, took the Arizona head-coaching gig when it was offered by owner Michael Bidwill 24 hours after he walked off the field Sunday night. “We had to iron out a few things Tuesday morning,” Gannon told me Sunday from Arizona. “But it was pretty much done Monday night. Things happened fast. Howie Roseman told me after the game, ‘You won’t be coming back with us to Philadelphia. You’re staying here to interview for the Cardinals job.’” That’s when he officially learned the Cards requested permission for him to interview.
A quick conversation with the new Arizona coach:
FMIA: Kyler Murray’s been a little bit of a polarizing figure. How did he figure into you taking this job?
Gannon: “If Kyler Murray isn’t here, I don’t take this job. I think this offense will look much different. This guy does things that it completely handcuffs you how you play defense – at times. I think we can take him to another level and unleash his full skill set. We’re not gonna put him in gun all the time, I’ll tell you that. We’ll have two significant offenses with his skill set: one being under center and one being in the gun. Then obviously we’re gonna do what’s comfortable with him. The way to take pressure off the quarterback and the O-line is to put him under center at times. That’s the missing piece I thought they had with Kyler. They were in gun all the time. When you’re in gun all the time, you don’t make the defense defend certain play types. Now, when you get him under center, the defense has to defend a lot more type of play types. So there’s really two offenses I see us using.”
FMIA: Sounds like you were ready to leave, but it wasn’t easy.
Gannon: “I loved Philly. I love Mr. Lurie [owner Jeffrey Lurie]. I love Howie Roseman. I love Nick Sirianni. They came back and they were like, here’s a new offer. It’s gonna pay you more than being a head coach. That’s cool and I loved it there but I wanted to be a head coach and I was excited about this because of Mr. Bidwill—Michael, as he would say—[GM] Monti Ossenfort, and Kyler.”
FMIA: Reportedly, you are going to hire 29- and 35-year-old coordinators (defensive coordinator Nick Rallis, 29, and 35-year-old OC Drew Petzing). You have conviction on both young coaches?
Gannon: “One hundred percent convicted. You know, I talked about in the interview and the other guys that I interviewed for those jobs were all on the younger side, too, probably. One defensive guy was a little bit older. Age isn’t a prerequisite for firepower. I’ve always thought that. When we got to Philly, we had the youngest staff in the NFL. There’s a reason that our [players] ran into the building to come to work. I love that. I’m gonna have some guys with major, major experience worked into the staff because I value that, too. But as far as who’s running the offense and the defense, age was never a factor for me – what was in their brain and what was in their heart is. It’s capacity and character. That’s what I’m looking for in a staff.”
America doesn’t know Gannon. It certainly doesn’t know his coordinators. In 25 minutes on the phone Sunday, I learned Gannon doesn’t lack for enthusiasm.
“One of my biggest mentors is Mike Zimmer. Is my personality the same as Mike Zimmer? No, it is not. Am I in alignment with a lot of things that he did as a head coach for discipline, accountability, player performance? You bet your ass I am. That’s not saying like I’m a tough guy. Because I’m probably gonna run that more like Nick. They’re completely different personality types. But I’ll say this: Someone that worked around me would never say I’m soft on people.”
Gannon will need some patience. This team in the last 14-and-a-half months went from the NFC’s top seed in 2021 to a disaster area by the end of 2022. This roster needs a retooling, at minimum, and will be without Murray for a number of games as he recovers from his torn ACL.
Hello, Next Gen. So you thought it was startling, on the last two touchdowns of the 2022 NFL season, that no defensive player was in the same zip code of either Kadarius Toney or Skyy Moore when they scored. Per Next Gen Stats, Toney had 11.2 yards of separation from the nearest defender; Moore had 13.1 yards of separation.
In the NFL’s 284 regular- and post-season games this season, there were 793 TD passes. Toney’s reception had the 16th-most target separation of any touchdown this season; Moore’s had the ninth-most.
That means that the two Kansas City touchdowns that won the Super Bowl were among the easiest two percent, by measure of defensive separation, of the entire season.
Quotes of the Week10
Let’s go! Let’s go win! Got it?
–New Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon, meeting his quarterback, Kyler Murray, for the first time at the Arizona facility in Tempe the other day.
The field was an embarrassment to Big Shield and everyone associated with it. Whatever the precise reason, players constantly slipped from start to finish. The NFL, as it does whenever there are issues with the field, denied that there were issues with the field.
–Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, on the condition of the Super Bowl LVII playing surface.
They’re gonna have to carry me out of here in a casket.
–Bengals coach Zac Taylor, on the Nebraska-based “HuskerOnline” podcast, on his affection for Cincinnati as a franchise and place to live.
Let’s do the math — 33 years of four sports, I guess that’s 132 seasons. And we won two championships. So it’s more natural for me to end my time complaining about how the Eagles should have won the Super Bowl and blew it because the defense collapsed.
–Legendary WIP morning sports talk host Angelo Cataldi, retiring after 33 years lording over Philadelphia sports, to Rob Tornoe of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
It was a good time. I spent it well. I treated it like a college professor on a sabbatical. I had a full video setup of everything in the league, just as if I was a coach in somebody’s office. And studied a lot of different situations and facets of the game. Already came up with a new coverage or two that I’m anxious to try out.
–New Miami defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, to the Dolphins team site, on his time away from football since being fired by the Broncos 13 months ago.
Average age of Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon and prospective offensive and defensive coordinators Drew Petzing and Nick Rallis (as reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero): 35 years, 2 months old.
Gannon (40 years, 1 month), Petzing (35 years, 11 months) and Rallis (29 years, 7 months) have to be one of the youngest trios, or the youngest, to ever lead an NFL team.
Brock Purdy last played a high school football game, in Arizona, in 2017. Trey Lance last played a high school football game, in Minnesota, in 2017.
Lance started 17 games in college, at FCS school North Dakota State, and threw 318 passes. He has started four games for the 49ers and thrown 102 passes.
Purdy started 46 games in college, at Power Five school Iowa State, and threw 1,467 passes. He has started eight games for the 49ers and thrown 233 passes.
Lance has 21 starts with 420 passes thrown since high school.
Purdy has 54 starts with 1,700 passes thrown since high school.
That’s an ocean of a difference in experience, and in level of experience, for Kyle Shanahan to consider as he weighs who will be his starting quarterback in 2023.
Sept. 7, 2023. Thursday night. Opening night of the NFL’s 104th season.
Facts and theories and tea-leaf readings that we know:
- Kansas City, Super Bowl champ, will host, and NBC will telecast the first of 272 regular-season games.
- Kansas City has nine home games scheduled—division games against the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders; AFC matches with Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Miami; and NFC games with Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia. A very strong home schedule.
- Traditionally, the NFL doesn’t put the best game on the defending champs’ schedule in the week one slot. It would be surprising to see a Super Bowl rematch (Philly-KC) as the opener. Also: I think it’s more likely than not that the league keeps strong contenders Cincinnati and Buffalo off the opening-night slate so they can be gem primetime games later in the season.
- We can’t know everything about the schedule yet because teams are not fully formed yet. For instance, what happens if Aaron Rodgers is traded to Las Vegas? That changes the landscape significantly. A Vegas-KC opener with Rodgers versus Patrick Mahomes would be a ratings bonanza for the league. But if some lesser light—Jarrett Stidham, Baker Mayfield—enters camp as the Raiders’ quarterback, the matchup against Kansas City is just meh.
- One logical theory I heard last week: The NFL has a lot of network mouths to feed, and could use KC games versus the Eagles, Bills and Bengals as tentpole events for the NBC, CBS and ESPN schedules. Maybe Eagles-KC on an October Sunday night on NBC, Bengals-KC on a CBS doubleheader game in a November Sunday late-afternoon window, and Bills-KC as the highlight of the ESPN slate.
- One league person told me something to keep in mind about the opener: In the last two years, the NFL put ratings-drivers on opening night—and the one thing the league won’t want is a headline a day or two after the game reading, Ratings down 11 percent for NFL opener. However, the fact that the 2022 game drew an audience of a modest (for an opener) 21.3 million for the non-competitive Bills-Rams game probably means the NFL will get an increase even if Kansas City’s foe is not the Bengals, Bills or Eagles.
- There’s a wrinkle in whatever the NFL does—Kansas City will use one of its home games in Germany in November, a game that would be televised in the U.S. at 9:30 a.m. ET, 6:30 a.m. PT. It’s not a premier window for a TV audience. The NFL traditionally does not schedule division games in Europe—30 of the 34 games in England and Germany have been non-division games—because most teams like to keep home-field edge in division games. It’s likely that the game Kansas City hosts in Germany (likely Frankfurt) will be against Detroit or Chicago, and possibly against Miami, but I’d think the NFL would want to hold Miami-KC as a doubleheader or primetime game because of its attractiveness. My bet for the Germany game: Detroit versus Kansas City in Frankfurt—because the league won’t want to risk exporting a 2-8 team (and Chicago just might be that) and a non-competitive game in a significant window. I’m not saying Chicago will be an also-ran by mid-November; I’m saying Detroit’s got a better chance of being a contender this year than Chicago does.
- So with all of that as a preface, what game is most likely to be the opener? I don’t think the league knows. If Rodgers ends up in Vegas, that becomes the favorite. If Rodgers ends up somewhere else and NBC gets the game it wants of the three premier Kansas City home matchups (my guess on that is Philadelphia), I think you could see Denver (Sean Payton/Russell Wilson debut), Miami (return of Tyreek Hill) or the Chargers—not a high-ratings team but with a quarterback, Justin Herbert, who could make the game a shootout.
Too much will happen between now and early May to have a great idea of the 2023 opener, but that’s what seems logical right now.
King of the Road
This is not a road-warrior note per se, but it is about how the sausage gets made on the road.
If you’re on TikTok or Instagram, you may have seen this:
The Chiefs tied the Super Bowl on a play called Corn Dog. #nfl #superbowl #chiefs #mahomes #andyreid
A few weeks ago, I asked a couple of my NBC Sports bosses, Matt Casey and Ron Vaccaro, if I could have a producer/video person be with me for the two hours after the Super Bowl. Sometimes after Super Bowls, I’m able to get some unique access and information. Sometimes I’m not. It could be that NBC would agree to send someone and I’d strike out. But Casey and Vaccaro agreed to send one of our best, NBC Sports producer and videographer Annie Koeblitz.
In the two weeks before the game, I asked both Andy Reid and Nick Sirianni: If there’s a huge play in the game, and it’s a key to your victory, I’d love to break it down with you after the game. No guarantees from either coach, but I felt if there was a vital play late in the game, I had a chance to get it explained to me—and, for the first time, explained on camera for the world to see, I hoped. The day before the game, I emailed each PR staff and told them my hopes for post-game that I’d be able to get five minutes, alone, with the coach, accompanied by my videographer.
With 12 minutes left in the game, and Kansas City driving for the go-ahead touchdown, Kadarius Toney went into Jet Motion from right to left (speed motion), stopped, turned around, and was wide open for the TD pass from Patrick Mahomes. If Kansas City hung on to win, I knew that was the play. It helped that three minutes later, on the opposite side of the field, Skyy Moore ran the same motion—stopping and reverting to the left side—and scored another wide-open TD.
So after the game, downstairs in the media mayhem, waiting for the locker rooms to open, I diagrammed the play on a piece of paper from the Next Gen Stats “dot play” on Twitter, placing each of the 22 players in position at the snap of the ball—KC players in red, Eagles in green. I got into the Kansas City locker room, spotted EVP of communications Ted Crews (he knew what I wanted), and he went to check with Andy Reid to see if he’d see me. A minute later, Crews came back and motioned Koeblitz and me into Reid’s office. Not much bigger than a cubicle, really, with Reid’s grandson and agent on chairs. I sat on one across from Reid, and Koeblitz wedged herself into a corner and began taping. “Gimme the mic,” I said. And I showed him the play on a clipboard, and he described it. I needed the name of the play.
In the same situation three years earlier, in his office after the win over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV, Reid told me about “2-3 Jet Chip Wasp” that broke open the game. This time, when he told me the name – “Corn Dog” – I was taken aback. I thought he was kidding. He was not. So the rube in the video is me.
Back in the press box, while I wrote, Koeblitz put the video together. The NBC Sports team put it atop my column the next morning, and she got it ready for social media. By Saturday, 616,800 TikTokers had seen it on the NBC Sports TikTok account, 318,000 on Instagram and 38,000 on YouTube.
Teamwork, baby. The bosses let it happen. Koeblitz made it happen. And my two FMIA word people, editor Sarah Hughes and my editorial assistant, Amelia Acosta, produced the column that told the world about it. I filed the top of the column in three sections so Hughes could get it ready to publish—at 1:41 a.m. ET, 4:41 ET and the last, short one at 5:11 ET—while finishing other sections of the column. At 5:34 a.m. ET, Hughes pressed the publish button on the 10,733-word FMIA. Corn Dog, in words and video, hit the ‘net.
My thanks to all.
Tweets of the Week30
11 months ago, Andy Reid stood up in a privileged session at NFL owners meetings and passionately and directly asked league owners why Eric Bieniemy hadn't gotten a head coaching job. Here we are, another coaching cycle complete, and EB still hasn't gotten an offer.
— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) February 14, 2023
Jones, veteran NFL reporter, works for The Ringer.
Eric bieniemy possibly leaving the chiefs as the OC to Washington for the same position makes me sick🤮
— Charles Woodson (@CharlesWoodson) February 17, 2023
The Hall of Fame defensive back speaking for many as Bieniemy finalized his new contract as Washington’s offensive coordinator.
Comparison over past 5 seasons of the offense Eric Bieniemy is leaving vs one he’s joining, per @EpKap:
PPG 1st 30th
Yards PG 1st 31st
Yds/play 1st 31st
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) February 17, 2023
Ed Werder covers the NFL for ESPN.
Most games catching Bob Gibson:
Tim McCarver (214)
Ted Simmons (143)
Most games catching Steve Carlton:
Tim McCarver (236)
Bob Boone (147)
McCarver caught 450 Gibson/Carlton games. Amazing.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) February 16, 2023
Paul Hembekides works for ESPN.
Crisler Center in Ann Arbor is lit up Green and White to honor Michigan State before tipoff. pic.twitter.com/vMEn5C34F6
— Michael Cohen (@Michael_Cohen13) February 19, 2023
Michael Cohen covers college sports for FOX.
RIP Raquel Welch 🙏…remember her epic appearance on Seinfeld pic.twitter.com/YSN7CbCjh8
— Wu-Tang is for the Children (@WUTangKids) February 15, 2023
RIP, Raquel Welch.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @peter_king.
Deion Sanders and the “Upper Room” at the Hall of Fame. From Dick Taylor, of Minneapolis: “I want to weigh in on Deion Sanders’ advocacy of an upper room for the Hall of Fame: I think it’s a dubious idea. Once you create an upper room, i.e., a caste system, you’re immediately implying the necessity of an upper upper room … Tom Brady is the consensus GOAT. By definition, there can only be one player in this category, so how could he be left slumming in one of the other rooms? Surely, living members of the newly minted lowest room will resent their diminished status, and, no doubt, fans will start squabbling over which player goes where. Now we’re set on a path of controversy and ill will.”
The problem with the idea, in my opinion, is your lesser point: Say there are 75 super players/coaches/contributors in the upper room. And say there are about 300 in the “lower” room. How would you feel if you were relegated to the lower room? You’d feel like a lesser Hall of Famer. And the honor of making the Hall of Fame would be cheapened. That’s why I’m against it.
Dayton says I’m arrogant. From Dayton Hale, of Nashville, Tenn.: “You seem to have a blind spot for your arrogance. Who are you to tell a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders, who is and isn’t a game changer? You never played. You never put a helmet on. You never got hit. You don’t know what you are talking about. That is why a lot of people don’t think ‘journalists’ should vote on the HOF. There are 8 billion people on the planet. Larry Allen is one of the top three or four people in the history of earth at his job of playing guard.”
I’ve voted for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for 31 years. Am I not allowed, then, to have an opinion on the phrase “He changed the game” when it comes to judging great players? In my opinion, Larry Allen did not change the game. He was a great guard. How did he change the game? Did he change the way offensive football is played for future generations? I doubt it sincerely.
You’re right about the way the quarterback sneak has been changed. From Michael Leibick, of Plantation, Fla.: “The quarterback is lined up for an obvious sneak and he has two 300-pound linemen pushing him from behind. This play has become a norm and accepted as a ‘great play.’ I want to watch football, not rugby.”
My point exactly.
Isaac was not a goat. From Dave Culbertson, of Houston: “I think naming Isaac Seumalo your Super Bowl goat was a reach. The goat play was the essentially unforced fumble by Jalen Hurts. As you point out, this turnover might have been the key play of the game. Since it was unforced, it is certainly worthy of ‘goat’ consideration.”
You have a point, Dave. I thought of that. I actually thought of naming Hurts both an offensive player of the game and a goat. But I didn’t do that, because the only reason Hurts fumbled is because a fourth-and-two-feet play that likely would have been converted on a quarterback sneak (Eagles were 34 of 38 on sneaks this year) was turned into a fourth-and-five play that resulted in the fumble and the touchdown. If Seumalo doesn’t false-start, odds are that the Eagles would have gone up 17-7 or 21-7 on that series instead of falling into a 14-14 tie when Nick Bolton returned the fumble for a Kansas City touchdown.
Inconsistency of officials on the James Bradberry hold comes in from a Parisian fan. From Francesco Segoni, of Paris, France: “The silliest type of criticism I’ve heard is that the call should not have been made because of the magnitude of the moment in which it happened. I couldn’t disagree more. The most infuriating thing about officiating is inconsistency. Good refereeing is steady, consistent, predictable: calling penalties always the same way, whether it’s the Super Bowl or a mid-September AFC South bottom-feeder matchup.”
Agreed, Francesco. Officiating is a hard business that we all want to make much easier than it is. But when a jersey grab is seen and restriction happens, it must be called, regardless of the ticky-tackness of it.
A super rematch in Germany? From Chris Fried, of Philadelphia: “What better way is there to grow the interest of American football in continental Europe than to have the Super Bowl rematch played in Germany in November?”
I know a lot of German fans who would want to kiss you right now, Chris. As I wrote earlier, I think the NFL will have bigger plans for the game in a better time slot and as a major network jewel game.
10 Things I Think I Think40
1. I think when Bob McGinn, the longtime Packer chronicler, talks about big events in Green Bay, I listen. (I subscribe to Tyler Dunne’s “Go Long” Substack, and it’s there.) McGinn on the future of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay:
“As of right now, I’m convinced — based on my own instincts and knowing the NFL and knowing what happens after all these defeats and discussions with someone who has firsthand knowledge of this organization, of the Packers’ internal debates — that they are done with Rodgers. That’s the way it is right now, that he’s not coming back. They’re disgusted with him and they’re done with him and they’re moving on.
“ … They’ve turned the page. They don’t see Rodgers as a guy who’s really working hard anymore. They see a guy who — when he reported this year — his body wasn’t so-called ‘tight’ and strong as it was. They see a guy who blew off the offseason last year.”
2. I think it all fits a pattern we’ve been sensing since the end of the season. When the Rodgers could be traded story was broken by Adam Schefter, that didn’t happen in a vacuum, without smoke. Now it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Rodgers finally decides whether he’s going to play this year or not.
3. I think it’s absolutely eerie how much the Rodgers story in 2023 reminds me of the Brett Favre story in 2008. Fifteen years ago, the team wanted more dedication or an early decision on retiring from Favre. Could this iteration of the front office want the same thing from Rodgers?
4. I think if Derek Carr makes progress in signing with the Jets (I have no idea if it happens), that’d be the first sign that the Jets would rather have the younger, surer, not-quite-as-good thing in Carr versus Rodgers. Again, I have no idea if Carr ends up with the Jets, but it’ll be telling if they go hard after him this week.
5. I think a few coaches got short shrift—none more than Eric Bieniemy—in the head-coach derby in the past five weeks. Another prominent one, to me, is Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Anarumo was the architect of a defense that had a three-game winning streak against Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes until the AFC title game, when Kansas City broke the schneid on a last-second field goal, 23-20. The Cincinnati defense, in the game’s last 33 minutes, held Mahomes to punt, punt, TD, fumble, punt, punt, field goal. Anarumo’s a dynamic person, his players love him, and yet he got to the finals of just one job—Arizona. Good for the Bengals that he stays, but I hope he gets longer looks next coaching cycle.
6. I think I’d love to see you at our annual event, a fundraiser, in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine. The details:
When: Friday, March 3, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: Sun King Brewery, 135 North College Ave., downtown Indianapolis (.9 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium).
Cost: $25 per ticket. Purchase here.
What it is: I’m joined by media friends and, hopefully, an NFL person or two to discuss all things NFL, NFL Draft, and Colts. We’ll answer your questions, have a beer or soft drink with you (Sun King has some great beer) and stay till you get sick of us. We’ll auction off some stuff too.
What it benefits: Teachers’ Treasures, which turns each dollar raised into $15 of school supplies, given for free to teachers at 270 schools in central Indiana—at which at least 60 percent of students are on reduced-cost meal programs. In an average day at Teachers’ Treasures, housed in a former Kroger store, about 100 educators walk through and pick up about $500 worth of supplies to bring back to the classroom. Last year, we raised about $15,000—which led to $225,000 of school supplies being made available to central Indiana teachers.
If you can’t come: You can donate to Teachers’ Treasures on the EventBrite page or their organization page (both linked above), or you can buy one or more tickets and we’ll donate them to local groups to allow people to come.
This is always the highlight of my Combine trip. I hope to meet you there a week from Friday.
7. I think there is perhaps nothing scarier than AI beginning to infiltrate how we think and feel. Why do I write this in a football column? A reader, John Jerrim, sent an email to me Sunday, saying he’d asked ChatGPT to “write a haiku about Peter King.” ChatGPT came back to him with this:
Peter King, writer.
Football his pen, ink his field.
Words score touchdowns too.
8. I think, aside from the fact that’s a better haiku than any I’ve written all season, it’s just eerie. I’m slightly honored, but mostly creeped out, that Artificial Intelligence might one day be able to write a column like this. Maybe even today.
9. I think Howie Roseman doesn’t need my help. But I think the Eagles have a quarterback to sign and will have to be judicious, very judicious, with their free-agent cash. I think corner James Bradberry and guard Isaac Seumalo will get big offers elsewhere and should be free to walk. I wouldn’t give Miles Sanders a big offer; backs are easy enough to replace. I wouldn’t get emotional about a great Eagle, Fletcher Cox, unless he can return for low money. Roseman knows he won’t be the most popular guy in town, or in the locker room, in the coming weeks. One player he might be able to keep for okay money is defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Happy trails, Angelo Cataldi. No talk-show host working today in any market in the country repped, ripped and analyzed the local sports scene with the love and fervor that you did in Philadelphia. Good luck in retirement.
b. Story of the Week: David Gardner of The New York Times, on a former journeyman baseball player, John Jaso, who retired early to live his dream: “No More Spring Trainings.”
c. Living at sea.
d. You might remember Jaso. He wore extra-long dreads playing for the Pirates late in his career. More notably, he caught the last perfect game in baseball, Felix Hernandez’s, in Seattle. Now he has a different life, to say the least.
e. Wrote Gardner of Jaso:
He pulled in career earnings of more than $17 million, according to Spotrac.
But he found the M.L.B. life to be unfulfilling in some unexpected ways. “Baseball set me up for life,” he said. “I love it, and I respect it. But it was part of this culture of consumerism and overconsumption that began to weigh really heavily on me. Even when I retired, people said: ‘You might be walking away from millions of dollars!’ But I’d already made millions of dollars. Why do we always have to have more, more, more?”
Boating filled the void in his life. He familiarized himself with every foot of the ship. He took a class for diesel motor mechanics and installed solar panels and a wind generator. He devoured hours of YouTube videos about the electronics and made sure he knew what every wire did. “If anything goes wrong in the open ocean,” he said, “I’m the only one out there to fix it.”
All that was left to do: Learn how to sail.
f. RIP, Raquel Welch.
g. She defined “sex symbol” early in her career, then spread her wings later. Her “Seinfeld” appearance was one of the most memorable of a star in series history. (See it in Tweets of the Week, above.)
h. “If you do it again, I’ll feed your genitals to a wolf.”
i. And brawling with Elaine Benes. Perfect.
k. Profile of the Week: Norimitsu Onishi of The New York Times on a famous fired Canadian TV anchor, Lisa LaFlamme, who let her hair turn gray during Covid, and was fired by TV network CTV soon afterward. “Business decision,” said CTV.
l. Being gray on TV for a woman is bad for business.
m. Onishi on the 58-year-old LaFlamme, who was named the country’s best anchor not long before being fired:
Her departure set off multifaceted debates across Canada, especially after The Globe and Mail newspaper reported it may have been linked to Ms. LaFlamme’s hair — which she had chosen to let go gray during the pandemic when hair salons and other businesses shut down. The network’s owner, Bell Media, which denied that “age, gender and gray hair” had been factors, named a 39-year-old male correspondent, Omar Sachedina, as her successor.
She said she started letting her hair go gray during the pandemic’s second wave, inspired by an older sister who had done the same and a female boss who endorsed the decision.
The reaction, she said, was overwhelmingly positive. In a year-end roundup program, she joked, “Honestly, if I had known that the lockdown could be so liberating on that front I would have done it a lot sooner.”
n. Speaking of women being treated differently than men, whatever were you thinking, Don Lemon?
o. A 51-year-old female politician, Nikki Haley, recently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “isn’t in her prime.” That’s what Lemon said. He apologized, but that’s a tough one to walk back.
p. Great farewell message from Kent Somers in his last column of a long journalism life at The Arizona Republic:
As I leave, I’m fearful. Not for what’s ahead for me, but for good journalism. When other journalists have heard of my retirement, most have congratulated me then quickly noted that it’s great I’m going out on my terms.
That’s sad because it’s an acknowledgment of how fewer journalists there are working now. Our communities have suffered because there are questions that aren’t being asked, stories that aren’t being told.
q. Couldn’t say it better, Kent. Thanks for the message, and for the career.
r. Good luck on an important podcast project, Tashan Reed.
s. Reed is a bright young writer from The Athletic, and this five-part pod series investigates being Black in the NFL today.
t. News item: Former President Jimmy Carter enters hospice care at home. Peace and best, best wishes to a great American. I love the way he lived his post-White House life, becoming a staple at Habitat for Humanity builds for years, teaching Sunday School in Georgia until recently, and traveling the world spreading democracy and good will everywhere. What a beautiful life he has led, a life to be envied and used as a beacon for future leaders in all countries.
The Adieu Haiku
One for five. Sidelines are still
A white coach’s world.