Monday, January 21, 2013

Football Wrap: 49ers/Ravens Heading To the Bayou!

I’m bringing it back for old time’s sake. The Return of the Football Wrap to offer some takes on the NFC/AFC title games cause there’s a lot I saw Sunday.

I’ve doubted Joe Flacco for a while. I’ve criticized him as much as anybody. But it’s clear that he’s proved himself. All 5 years of his career has ended with at least one playoff win. He’s been in 3 AFC Title Games and now is in the Super Bowl. He’s called his shot and now he’s backing it up.

What more can you say after outplaying Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their houses? He's no longer a game manager. Pretty Flacco can win with his arm now and he's starting to live up that nickname I gave him (hat tip to Mos Def)

Even more impressive that the Ravens’ defense shut out New England in the second half.  That was vintage Baltimore – hard hitting, playmaking (3 turnovers) and frustrating a great quarterback. 

While Joe Flacco thrived in the postseason, give a ton of credit to offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell sparking things.
By the way, this month has been a special one for Black coaches. We had 3 Black coaches win BCS Bowl games at a time when there’s a glaring need to bring a Rooney Rule to help get more Black coaches hired. Now we have a rare Black offensive coordinator in Jim Caldwell getting credit for how he’s opened up the Ravens offense since becoming OC on Dec. 10.

Caldwell led the Colts to the Super Bowl back in 2010 as head coach. He was passed over for head coaching hires this offseason. Yet here he is, back in the Super Bowl spearheading the offense. He deserves a ton of praise for his work when the Ravens’ D was spotty most of the year. 

Along with general manager Ozzie Newsome, he is reminding the NFL why they need a Rooney Rule and why they must enforce it beyond head coaches. We need more qualified minorities to get in the interview network so they can prove themselves as coordinator, general managers AND coaches. 

On to the Tidbits....

I didn’t question Tom Brady’s legacy after last year’s Super Bowl. Not going to after this loss. It’s been 8 years since he won a ring and he’s become a much better quarterback since then. He went from Troy Aikman to Dan Marino. But the 2nd half of Brady’s career has been as fascinating as anything.

And low twos to Bill Belicheck skipping the postgame interview with CBS. What a chump. It's easier to be a punk when you're winning but when you lose, it comes off far worse.

I gotta be honest. I’m not anywhere near a 49ers fan. The 90’s rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys raised me to hate them but always respect the folks who did work. But what they did to Atlanta was one of the most incredible things they’ve done in 10 years.

Yeah Colin Kaepernick, your wild ride just survived some of the biggest bumps of the season.
Down 17-0, they won. I don’t know who to credit more – the 49ers’ great resolve and Frank Gore powering the attack or the Falcons collapsing once again like we all thought they would.

(Seriously. The Falcons have been playoff frauds the last three years. Green Bay blew up their house in 2010. The Giants held them to two (TWO!!!!) points in 2011. They got lucky against Seattle this year and now this?? Let’s not mention their past history how they backed into the 1999 Super Bowl and then watch Eugene Robinson blow that.)

But big ups to San Francisco for that great comeback. Big ups to Colin Kaepernick doing the same thing Tom Brady did in 2001-02 in coming off the bench to go wild in the postseason. Big ups to my alma mater’s former head coach Jim Harbaugh being a rare coach to succeed in college and the pros.

Most importantly, big ups to Randy Moss going back to the Super Bowl. I can’t wait for Media Day!! 

Finally, let’s pay our respects to the end of a great career. Tony Gonzalez played his last game on Sunday and in my opinion, he’s not just the greatest tight end ever. He’s one of the greatest pass catchers ever regardless of position. He was the only bright spot Kansas City had during most of his career and yet he put up numbers year after year.

I first heard of him as a two-sport star at Cal who helped the Bears get to the Sweet Sixteen. My prep colleagues told me that Gonzalez was also dominant in both sports in high school here. I just respected how he kept on producing and even though his team was terrible, he trudged through it. He finally got to taste a postseason victory last week so I’m happy he at least got that.

To me, he’s a bridge from 90’s trendsetters Shannon Sharpe/Jay Novacek to folks like Antonio Gates/Jimmy Graham/Rob Gronkowski. He became a focal point of the Chiefs offense and in Atlanta’s pass happy style, he thrived in his final years.  See you in Canton, Tony. One of the finest players my state has produced.

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