For those of us in Atlanta, Super Bowl XLIX was nothing more than just another game. We watched and enjoyed it like millions of other fans outside of Boston and Seattle. And while, not many of us cared who won or lost the game itself, there was plenty to be learned. Falcons fans can Super Bowl XLIX with these four major observations.
- Don’t be an over-reactor! I often implore fans not to be this way. I have to talk many of you off the ledge after any give game, loss, big decision, etc. For all of you screaming at Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell for throwing the ball instead of running it, relax. It wasn’t as horrible as a decision as it seems. No, I wasn’t in love with the play call, but it wasn’t the worst play call ever! Pete Carroll’s reasoning was fair and well-thought out. The result was bad. Not the play call. You can split hairs about Russell Wilson not putting the ball in the right spot or Ricardo Lockett not doing enough to fight for the ball. Or you can just say that Malcolm Butler made one hell of a play to help his team win a Super Bowl. Like 99% of all games in pro sports, the players decided it on the field. How it should be! I’ve also seen a lot of chastising Darrell Bevell and questioning whether he should be considered a top assistant anymore because of the play call. Those people are idiots. By that logic, the Falcons new head coach Dan Quinn will be awful because his defense allowed 14 points in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl to lose the game. Stop it. Don’t be an over-reactor.
- What is Julio Jones future? Outside of both quarterbacks, who were the two most unstoppable players on the field last night? Arguably, it was Julian Edleman for the Patriots and Chris Matthews for the Seahawks. They combined for 13 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns. And neither defense could figure out how to stop them. Edleman’s cap number this year is a respectable $4.75 million. Matthews made $510,000 this year and was stocking the shelves at a Foot Locker six months ago. I’m not saying let Julio Jones walk. But the Falcons better think long and hard about how much they want to pay him and what his worth is to this franchise long term. Julio has a lot of value. I just don’t think he is worth that much. When I watched the last few Super Bowls, I’ve seen a lot of wide receivers make plays. None of them have made the type of money that Julio will command. Quarterbacks make the wide receivers, not the other way around. Matt Ryan will be fine without Julio.
- Find a quality running back, now! It should have been a consistent theme for fans watching the roles that the running backs played in Super Bowl XLIX. Clearly, Marshawn Lynch is a rare back that isn’t easy to find. He stabilizes an offense that isn’t loaded with playmakers. Furthermore, he sets a physical tone and is a leader. On the flipside, New England didn’t run the ball very much. And they didn’t use their big, physical bruiser, LeGarrette Blount. Rather it was Shane Vereen catching a game-high 11 passes from Brady that was their real running game. The Falcons need, preferably, one running back that can run the ball and be a threat to catch it out of the backfield. It will make Matt Ryan’s life easier. It will keep the offense in manageable down and distance scenarios. And will control the game offensively. The last two years, this team has been missing that dimension to their offense, badly. Dan Quinn needs to bring that back.
- Head coaches are always too smart for their own good. We watched two of the best and smartest coaches in the game go at each other in Super Bowl XLIX. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are masterminds at their given craft. But EVERY coach is their own worst enemy. They all think that they are smarter than everyone else, including their more accomplished opponent. Pete Carroll’s decision last night, as I stated above, was not the worst decision in the world, but clearly we all agree running the ball was the smarter, safer play. He over thought it. Out coached himself! He was too worried about leaving Tom Brady and Co. with too much time. It cost him his second Super Bowl. I say this to remind everyone of two things. 1) Many fans ripped Mike Smith for his game management skills and questionable decisions. We all realized that he’s not Belichick or Carroll. Duh! Very few are. 2) Dan Quinn isn’t either of those guys … yet. Just because Quinn is a Carroll-understudy, doesn’t mean he will bring the same pedigree or success. There are dozens of things that make successful coaches in the NFL – mostly talented players. Quinn has his work cut out for him and a steep hill to climb. So before we lump Mike Smith in with Rod Marinelli (who coach the 2008 Detroit Lions 0-16 team) and make Dan Quinn the next Bill Walsh, let’s remember that coaching mountain is one that very few get to the top of, and even fewer stay.