Super Bowl Thoughts
OK, let’s start with the obvious: Patrick Mahomes is a miracle. People—and I do not only include myself among “people,” but fully appreciate that I’m one of the leading actors—always want to turn such praise into forever arguments. Is Mahomes the greatest ever? What does he have to do to become the greatest ever? Is it even possible for him to become the greatest ever?
I don’t want to do any of that here. I’ve been on record for a while now that if I had the first pick in the NFL’s all-time draft, I’d take Mahomes. He’s the guy I’d want to start my team with. That doesn’t make him the greatest quarterback ever, and indeed I don’t think he is the greatest ever. That’s Tom Brady. That’s Peyton Manning. That’s Joe Montana. That’s Johnny Unitas. That’s Otto Graham.
I think Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever.
If there were an all-time golf tournament, though, I’d pick Tiger Woods every day and twice on Sunday.
In other words, I see “greatest ever” as something different, something grander. It’s a lifetime achievement award, and Patrick Mahomes has not yet had a football lifetime. He’s not even 29. He’s played in the NFL for only six seasons, less than half of Montana’s career, barely more than one-third Unitas’ career, barely more than one-quarter of Brady’s career. There’s no rush to rank him.
But Patrick Mahomes is a miracle.
Going into Sunday’s Super Bowl, I basically had three thoughts:
San Francisco is a better overall team than Kansas City.
San Francisco’s offense has many more weapons than Kansas City’s.
If it’s close at the end, I’ll bet on Mahomes.
It was close at the end. The main reason for this was actually not Mahomes, in my view, but a super-underrated coach named Steve Spagnuolo. A pro football coach’s life cycle is fascinating to me. Spags was a wide receiver in college, but he started his career as a defensive coach and, best I can tell, never actually coached offense. He bounced around from non-superpower college to non-superpower college in the 1980s and 1990s—from UMass to Lafayette to Connecticut to Maine to Rutgers to Bowling Green—before getting a variety of gigs with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In those days, the Eagles’ head coach was Andy Reid but, more to the point, their defensive coordinator was a guru named Jim Johnson, who (like Spags, actually) had spent a long, itinerant career picking up the hard lessons of defense. Spags learned from the master, picking up, among other things, Johnson’s elaborate collection of blitz packages. Spagnola went to coach the Giants defense, which pulled off the impossible: It shut down Tom Brady’s undefeated and unstoppable New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Instantly, Spags was a genius.
The St. Louis Rams hired him to be their head coach.
That, to say the least, did not go well.
Instantly, Spags was an idiot.
He went to New Orleans to coach the defense. Disaster; they were one of the worst defenses in NFL history. He went to Baltimore to help out. Things went well enough there that he was able to go back to New York as a defensive coordinator. Things fell apart there, he had to be interim coach for four games, and then he was without a job. Andy Reid’s defense was collapsing in Kansas City in 2018; the Chiefs gave up 37 to Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game and lost in overtime.
So Reid called his old friend Spags and made him the defensive coordinator.
The Chiefs have been in four Super Bowls and won three of them since then.