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NFL Championship Thread

[ 97 ] January 20, 2013 |

I would take the 49ers -4 and, although I would expect New England to win narrowly, the Ravens +9 (just too many points.) And to state the obvious, Harbaugh really deserves a lot of credit for the gutty decision to go to Kaepernick. I really wish he was coaching in another division. (As an aside, I’ve heard more than one person assert that Chip Kelly will probably fail because his conference doesn’t require defense like the NFL. Yes, if we have learned anything this year, it’s that coaches from the PAC-12 have no chance of turning their franchises around.)

Comments (97)

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  1. efgoldman says:

    Yes, if we have learned anything this year, it’s that coaches from the PAC-12 have no chance of turning their franchises around.

    Well, yes, but Pete Carroll was always known as an excellent defensive coach, even in his pro failure years. Wonder how they would have done with Matt Flynn at QB, and/or real officials for the whole season. We’ll never know.
    I think Pats/Ravens play even for the first half (touchdown ether way) but Baltimore D wears down in the second half from all the plays over three weeks.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Wonder how they would have done with Matt Flynn at QB, and/or real officials for the whole season. We’ll never know.

      1)They were even better in the second half than the first half; what the scab refs had to do with this is…unclear.

      2)Why Carroll doesn’t get credit for drafting Wilson and playing him despite having signed Flynn to a big contract is…even less clear.

      • efgoldman says:

        Why Carroll doesn’t get credit for drafting Wilson and playing him…

        Oh, I give him all the credit in the world. But its not something a lot of coaches would have done.

      • Carroll gets all kinds of credit. It’s one of the stories of the year.

      • brewmn says:

        Chip Kelly wins by running up the score with a gimmick offense. Kelly will be demoted back to the college game by the end of his Eagles contract at the latest

        • Green Caboose says:

          There isn’t a good track record for “hot” college coaches moving to the NFL who have no NFL experience. The one clear success I can think of was Jimmy Johnson, and he was kind of the exception that proves the rule. When he was hired and put on the cover of SI he talked to SI about how his offense at Miami was superior to what half of the teams in the NFL ran. His wake-up call was going 1-15 in his first year.

          To his great credit Johnson adapted. Not only did he shift over to a conventional NFL-style offense but he also used the lesson he learned to full advantage. What he’d learned was that it was the sheer speed of the NFL players that rendered his Miami-style offense irrelevant. So he made speed an essential criteria when choosing players for his next drafts – most notably the 1990 draft with all those extra picks from Minnesota. Today speed is a key factor in all draft picks – maybe sometimes too much a factor – but in the early 90s Johnson was ahead of the curve and used that to build one of the top 2 or 3 most talented teams in history.

          However, without a big talent advantage Johnson was just a slightly-better-than-average coach. Remember that the team that was probably his greated – 1993 Cowboys – had to win an overtime game at New York in the last week of the season for the division title – over a decidedly talent-inferior Giants team. And his Miami tenure confirmed this.

          • I think the problem with college guys entering the NFL is that they don’t understand the culture of professional football, on multiple levels. Spurrier, for example, has basically said openly that he failed because he didn’t like the workload that goes along with it.

            Suffice it to say, I’m fairly certain that Chip Kelly is aware that you have to be able to play defense to win in the NFL.

            • LosGatosCA says:

              Being ‘aware’ is not the same as being committed or being prepared to coach defense in the NFL. He’ll need a top defensive coordinator, obviously. Carroll and Harbaugh had decades of NFL experience before their college assignments and Kelly clearly does not. On top of that Kelly’s offense is not a proven winning model at the next level. He could simply be the new Mouse Davis, with a lot more money or he could be the new, evolving Coryell. Time will tell.

              • “Being ‘aware’ is not the same as being committed or being prepared to coach defense in the NFL.”

                Why the hell does he need to coach defense, given that he’s an offensive coach? I mean, conceptually it’s not all that difficult: he (or the GM) needs to get talented defensive players, and a coaching staff that can turn them into an effective unit.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  Yup. As Saban, Spurrier, Holtz, Prothro, McKay, Rogers, Fairbanks, Davis, et al amply proved.

                  Coaching is coaching. Nothing left to do but pick up the Lombardi trophy as they all did.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  Here’s a coach who won a national title and built several college programs – Dennis Erickson.

                  Lifetime NFL coaching record – 40-56, peaked at 8-8, no playoff appearances.

                  Compared to a sub-500 pro coach Wayne Fontes – 66-67 peaked at 12-4, won 9 or more 3 other times. Playoff record – 1-4 in 5 appearances

                  Pretty different skill set required.

                  I can not envision Wayne getting past the breakfast part of a national NCAA football coaching interview. Yet Dennis Erickson got the job at the premier program at the time and won a national title. Their pro records speak for themselves.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  Of course, Fontes replaced Darryl Rogers of Arizona State/Michigan State coaching fame. Granted he was not as successful as Kelly. But then John McKay, for example, was wildly more successful than Kelly when he was at USC.

                  18-40 was Rogers’ pro record with the Lions. McKay was 44-88 with Tampa, 13-28 in his last three years, well after he peaked at 10 wins.

                  Chip Kelly may be just the guy for the Eagles. History says it’s a high risk expectation.

                • I’m not sure why you’re trying to argue with a mythical person saying that college coaches have lots of success. My point was just that I’m sure Kelly doesn’t think that defense is immaterial to the NFL game, and will probably make an attempt to get good defensive personnel.

  2. c u n d gulag says:

    As a Giants fan who doesn’t like the 49ers (but respects them, and their history), I’ll have to root for them – I have this visceral hatred of all things Atlanta, and Georgia.

    Sherman should have salted the earth, on his “March to the Sea.”

  3. Green Caboose says:

    I’m in the ABP camp (anybody but Patriots). Patriots fans – and I include the Northeast-centric national sport media – have become as bad as Yankee fans. Possibly because the fans were on the short end of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry for all those decades.

    ‘Course, the Pats are the smart pick to win it all, and if it weren’t for their fans I’d probably rooting for them because Belicheck is a hell of a coach … I love how he makes the smart decision even if it runs counter to conventional wisdom and risks post-game criticism. I know Denver could use some coaching like that.

    I have to agree with taking the Ravens plus the points. Good chance the Ravens will keep it close. I thought the 49ers were close to a sure thing but if the Falcons can keep it close (after losing a big lead for the second playoff game in a row) it could go either way.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      By ‘smart pick’ you mean that conventional wisdom will be that Belichick/Brady aren’t expected to lose their third consecutive Super Bowl since his cheating was exposed after his three dominating 3 point wins.

      And Chip Kelly has exactly nothing in common with Harbaugh or Carroll in terms of coaching style. If Kelly learns how important defense is in the NFL faster than Coryell, he may survive long enough to make an impact. If not, he’ll join Holtz, Saban, et al as realizing college is a better fit.

      • Green Caboose says:

        I LOVE to point out that Brady/Belicheck’s 3 super bowl victories were by a grand total of 9 points. Has anyone noticed that the Pats have won exactly zero super bowls since they let their phenomenal place kicker, Adam Vinatieri, go? Starting with their first playoff win, the “Snow Job” game with the infamous “Tuck Rule” ruling that prevented the Raiders from winning, the Pats were blessed. They won a TON of close games. I remember in the 2007 AFC championship, with the Pats getting the ball late down 38-34, commenting to my co-watchers that while Brady had a long list of 4th quarter comebacks few were by more than 3 points. Of course he failed.

        Belicheck is a master of winning close games AND of preventing comebacks from opponents by running up the score. I compliment him on both points. But when his team needs a TD to prevent a last-minute loss to an opponent with a strong defense his record is poor.

      • John says:

        Do you really think there’s a causal connection between the “cheating” and the latter day failure to win a Super Bowl? Are the Patriots without “cheating” good enough to repeatedly get to the Super Bowl or AFC Championship game, but somehow incapable of winning it all? How is that supposed to work?

        • Cody says:

          Well, although I don’t believe this, there may be a case that it was just enough.

          The way in which Belicheck was cheating would hardly blow other teams away. It would only help. If we’re talking a difference of 3 points…

          • John says:

            Yeah, but that doesn’t explain at all why the latter-day Patriots continue to do very well in the regular season but then lose in the playoffs. Since the cheating was discovered, the Patriots have gone 76-20 in the regular season, including one 16-0 season. That is by a considerable margin the best regular season record of any team in that period. They’ve won their division every year except the one Brady was injured, and they’ve gotten to the Super Bowl twice, along with this year’s trip to the AFC Championship game.

            If Belichick’s “cheating” is essential to his success, why do the Patriots have the best regular season record in the 6 seasons since the cheating was discovered? This kind of thing seems like bullshit.

            • Cody says:

              I certainly wouldn’t say it’s “essential” to his success.

              I would argue that getting to the SB takes a lot of luck often coming down to a very close game. Through all those SB seasons the Patriots were a very good team – but some playoffs they had a little extra. If you got one FG off knowing the defenses signals, you could easily swing a lot of games your way.

              The Patriots weren’t a bad team then, but just super “lucky” to keep winning tight games to the SB. In the regular season, the Patriots were a great team. So were the Colts. But they didn’t win so many close games like the Patriots.

              • mpowell says:

                Yeah, the Pats have stopped winning close playoff games at anything more than the typical rate, whereas they started the last decade 9-0. That could be interesting.

                • John says:

                  Do you think that there’s enough of a sample size on “close playoff games” for this to be meaningful? Wouldn’t it make more sense to look at all close games?

                  Also, wouldn’t the departure of Vinatieri have a much more obvious role in such a change than the signal stealing?

                  Additional question: Why is it, that in the NFL, everyone gets all bent out of shape over signal stealing, but no one gives a fuck about rampant steroid use, while in MLB, everyone gets all bent out of shape about steroid use but no one gives a fuck about sign stealing?

              • So the winning of playoff games and Superbowls makes the Patriots “lucky,” but the losing of them is pure merit.

                Those grapes must be pretty sour.

  4. Joe says:

    Atlanta decided not scoring for some time after having a good lead worked for them once … let’s see how it works now.

    • Kurzleg says:

      I turned it off after SF got it to 24-21. Atlanta had already used all their tricks defensively, and Roman had figured it out. Same on the offensive side of the ball for Atlanta.

  5. Santa Claustrophobia says:

    Bashing on the PAC-12? No way!

    It’s like hippie punching. It will never go out of style.

  6. Fighting Words says:

    GO NINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Fantastic game (well, apart from the first quarter).

    I do feel bad for Tony Gonzalez though.

  7. laurastrand says:

    Niners!!!! (said a Bay Area Fan).
    A great game til the very end!

  8. Alan in SF says:

    And while we’re on the Pac 10, thank you, LaMichael James, and please come back Tony Gonzalez.

    Still imagining if Jason Kidd had stayed one more year at Cal and played alongside TG.

  9. Alan in SF says:

    12, sorry. It is 12, isn’t it?

  10. Dirk Gently says:

    I’m on the ABP wagon, although really I dislike all four franchises. But since we’re denied the Manning bowl, and since truly compelling teams like Seattle, Washington and Indy are out, I’ll have to root for the Harbaugh bowl.

  11. Question: Is Mike Smith the new Marty Schottenheimer?

    • LosGatosCA says:

      If he built a defense like Marty did, he might be. But he hasn’t.

      • I meant in the “always a bridesmaid” sense

        • LosGatosCA says:

          Well, Smith might develop that way, but he’s 144 wins and 14 more playoff games away from a definitive answer to your question.

          • Green Caboose says:

            Hey, Atlanta went a lot farther this year. Their opponents, Seattle and San Fran, were both formidable. Losing to SF in an extremely close NFCC game is extremely disappointing for Atlanta, but nevertheless a step forward.

            Schottenheimer had some bad luck in the 80s and early 90s, losing some close games with Cleveland and KC. Eventually it got to him, so much that he did some really stupid things with SD. I don’t think Smith is anywhere near that point yet.

            • LosGatosCA says:

              +1. Marty won every where, even Washington (8-8, w/ Snyder is like 10-6 anywhere else)

              He was 35-13 in his last 48 games. Pretty impressive finish for a head coach that never won the Super Bowl. Only two losing seasons with 4 different franchises. Mike Smith might duplicate that success, but too early to tell. Same for the post season-but it will only take one hot streak at the right time to win it all once (or twice if you’re Tom C).

              • Alan in SF says:

                Mike Smith will be the Marty Schottenheimer when the Falcons fire him and spend the next decade missing the playoffs.

                Winning in the playoffs is a crap shoot; 49ers were 5-4 in NFC championship games during their “dynasty” years with Montana and Young. (OTOH, 5-0 in Super Bowls)

                • Mike Schilling says:

                  The 9ers were 5-0 in Super Bowls during a period when the NFC was 15-1. Not a coincidence.

                • Green Caboose says:

                  There is some crap shoot to playoffs, especially in this era of close games. However, a string of losses probably does indicate a problem.

                  For example, during the 49er dynasty years they went three straight years losing in the first round between the 2nd and 3rd Super Bowl. In the first two of those games their vaunted offense scored only 3 points. In the third their first string offense again scored only three points – only a pick 6 and two late TDs with an improvising Steve Young gave them 24 points.

                  There was indeed a fundamental problem – Walsh was hesistant to change a winning offensive formula but the best defenses in the league (NYG, Minnesota, Chicago until Buddy Ryan left, Philly after Ryan arrived, and Washington) had solved it. They got lucky in the 1988 season when circumstances gave them a clear path through the playoffs, but it wasn’t until Walsh retired that Holmgren and Montana were able to completely revise the offense.

                  1989 was a terrific year for the 49ers and when Holmgren and Montana were reviewing the game films of Dan Reeves Denver they were stunned to realize that Denver was still running the early-80s style defense – which in the AFC was still enough to be competitive. They knew their revised offense would make mincemeat of Denver and they did exactly that.

                  Most 49er fans blamed Montana for those three “dark years” between the 2nd and 3rd wins – but it was actually a coaching issue. It’s hard to realize that a legitimate HoF head coach, and one who established all kinds of offensive trends, could take so long to adapt to changes in NFL practices but that’s exactly what happened.

    • Captain C says:

      The combined first half score of Atlanta’s two playoff games was 44-14 for the Falcons. The combined second half score was 42-10 for their opponents. I’ve never seen a playoff (or even playoff-caliber) team wilt like that. That may put Smith in a class of his own as far as regular season success not translating into playoff excellence goes.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        First off, the Falcons had the good fortune to be playing the early game each weekend against a West Coast team.

        As for playoff futility, first and second half, nobody matches the Jimmy Johnson Miami record. He lost his last two playoff games with the Miami Dolphins by a combined 100-10, after which he went on permanent vacation and left Dave Wannstedt in charge, iirc.

        Granted that was two consecutive playoff games over two seasons. I still have the vision of Don Shula smiling in my head.

        • Captain C says:

          That 62-7 loss to Jax was especially impressive; IIRC, that was his last game ever. Still, JJ did get a couple rings with the ‘Pokes (in part thanks to the Herschel Walker trade bounty).

      • mpowell says:

        Part of it is that Smith is terrible on in-game strategy. But I can’t really explain it fully. I’m not sure it’s possible to do.

        • The difference between the Ravens and Falcons gameplan yesterday is really striking. Atlanta threw everything they had at San Francisco in the first half, basically handing the 49ers coaching staff the chance to make major adjustments at halftime. The Ravens, on the other hand, played for a sixty minute game, kept it close in the first half, and played two completely different gameplans that left New England’s defense completely on their heels in the third quarter.

          That’s a difference of experience, patience, and confidence in your team.

      • Ed K says:

        I’m fairly sure the Eagles must have done something similar a few times… Still think Andy Reid’s basic failing in the playoffs was his absolute inability to make effective adjustments later in games.

  12. Green Caboose says:

    Two weeks from now everyone will know the most minute detail about everyone in the extended Harbaugh family.

    I, for one, am glad. Love seeing the Media Darling lose. You realize that for 9 years Belicheck and Brady have proven that they CAN NO LONGER WIN THE BIG ONE?

    (this as meant as sarcasm, if it is not obvious)

  13. Joe says:

    Down by 15, the best thing to do is just watch the clock bleed out to around the two minute warning. You are Brady, no problem!

    Should be a pretty good SB. I guess the team ahead early should watch out.

  14. jeer9 says:

    1. Belichick was surprisingly conservative inside the Baltimore 40 and seemed uncharacteristically concerned with a field position game.

    2. The Patriots did something seriously wrong to Bernard Pollard in a previous life, and karma is a bitch.

    3. Wes Welker is one great receiver, but that’s two years in a row with a drop at a key moment.

    4. While having the #1 offense is certainly exciting, I’d prefer a better defense.

    5. The Ravens outplayed the Pats just like last year but got the breaks they deserved this year.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      The Patriots are suffering from realizing their full potential almost every single game. That means a very good regular season record, but their collective talent level, especially on defense is declining, just as the NFL business model requires.

    • mpowell says:

      Well, they always flame out with a <20 point performance. If your offense can't put up 3 consecutive playoff games with 20 points then I'm not sure it's actually the best in the NFL. That's not easy to do, but we're talking about the alleged best offense in the NFL and it's been what 4 years in a row now? So yeah, I'd prefer the defense too, thank you very much.

  15. I look forward to Erik’s “Joe Flacco can’t play” post tomorrow. :)

  16. Green Caboose says:

    So I just want to compliment the Baltimore fans who attended the game in New England. For whatever reason Ravens’ fans have taken to chanting the “OLE” chant that is comment in soccer games (kind of like Denver’s “IN – COM – PLETE” chant or White Sox fans singing “na na na na – na na na na – hey hey hey – goodbye” when an opponent’s pitcher is relieved. What was fun for me was that the visiting Ravens fans were so numerous that we could hear their “OLE” chants on TV.

    Of course, this also means that large numbers of Patriot’s season-ticket holders put their playoff tickets up for sale. Yet ANOTHER indication that Patriots fans have become over-spoiled with their team. I remember in SF in the early 90s that playoff tickets were easy to come by because the fans were so blase about the whole thing after 4 SB wins.

    • Dirk Gently says:

      It’s not just the haughtiness and entitlement: fans were pouring for the exits when there was plenty of time for Brady to mount a comeback, and made almost no noise on the final Ravens TD drive. I think they rival Eagles fans for being the worst in football.

  17. Manju says:

    The Media needs to investigate this Brady-Bundchen thing. She could be just Travolta in a wig. You never know. He’s a good actor. He actually put on weight to do Pulp Fiction. That means he’s serious.

    Plus Scientologists would do anything to secure Brady. Can we get The Atlantic on this please?

  18. LosGatosCA says:

    Deion and Michael Irvin on the NFL Network – ‘This is not the first time two brothers have coached in the Super Bowl – Lovie vs Tony was the first.’

    LMAO

  19. Cody says:

    1. There was some rumbling about the Patriot’s lack of post game press. Was it Michael Strahan that said Belechick “acts like a baby” every year after they lose?

    2. Isn’t Stanford in the Pac-10? Don’t they play amazing defense? I know Oregon doesn’t, but Stanford certainly does from what I’ve seen.

  20. Dogen says:

    I don’t think it took any special courage for Harbaugh to keep starting Kaepernick. So what if he got hurt running? Alex Smith is always available as a back-up. I agree it was a brilliant move to keep playing Colin, but not courageous.

    • I wouldn’t use the word courage to describe what NFL head coaches do; his decision to switch QBs might better be described as daring or risky.

      If the 49ers had lost to the Packers and if that loss could fairly be attributed to QB performance, Harbaugh would have been roasted for the decision. Fired? No. But definitely roasted.

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