Sports

Tom Brady reigns again, Chiefs fall flat, Carson Wentz and more

Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl in emphatic fashion on Sunday night, dethroning Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

On March 20, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady. Everything changed.

Fast forward to the Super Bowl. The confetti raining down in Raymond James Stadium, showering the home team. The favored Kansas City Chiefs, the defending champions, vanquished in comical fashion by a franchise forever defined by losing and dysfunction before Brady’s arrival.

While Brady’s stats were fine — 21-of-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns — his intrinsic value is the real storyline here.

Sure, it’s easy to talk about legacy. After plastering Patrick Mahomes on the game’s biggest stage for his seventh title, it’s hard to see anybody ripping away the GOAT card. But this isn’t about legacy at its core. It’s about Brady bringing belief and accountability, using both his mere presence and deeds to demand more from a talented team which underachieved last season.

The Buccaneers began the year 7-5 and then never lost again. They ripped through December — a longtime New England staple — and then went on the road for three straight weeks. In each game, Tampa Bay played physical with an evident belief it would win.

The former trait comes from a strong coaching staff led by head coach Bruce Arians, offense coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive guru Todd Bowles. That has nothing to do with Brady.

However, the second trait, that’s all Brady.

The Buccaneers signed a 43-year-old quarterback to bring a different attitude, and it showed up in spades in the Super Bowl. For years, the Chiefs have lived by postseason comebacks, by overcoming mistakes and laughing on their way to the locker room.

On Sunday, Tampa Bay took advantage of every Kansas City mistake. Eight penalties and 95 yards against the Chiefs in the first half. Disastrous coaching by Andy Reid at the end of the first half — calling timeouts when the Bucs were ready to go to halftime at 14-6 — was turned into seven points.

Brady found old friend Rob Gronkowski for two touchdowns. He also found him on the critical 3rd and 2 that extended the aforementioned two-minute drive.

Brady didn’t allow Reid to get away with his error as the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo did in the last Super Bowl. He pounced and cashed in.

The easy, lazy narratives will persist and survive. The Bucs won because Brady wanted to prove something. They won because Brady is a demigod. They won because the Chiefs had a bad day.

In reality, Tampa Bay won because Brady instills confidence and demands excellence from all those around him. It was shown repeatedly on Sunday against an overwhelmed, frustrated and beleaguered Chiefs squad.

So many believed Brady was finished when he signed with Tampa Bay. Turns out, he’s nowhere near done.

Power rankings

Top 10 available unrestricted free agents

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
2. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
3. Trent Williams, OT, San Francisco 49ers
4. Leonard Williams, DT, New York Giants
5. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
7. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Joe Thuney, G, New England Patriots
9. Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Football Team
10. Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos

Quotable

A brutal, horribly sad situation. Prayers to the little girl laying in the hospital. Here’s to a full, healthy life ahead for her.

Podcast

Random stat

Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win as an underdog is the second-largest victory for an underdog in a Super Bowl. The only larger defeat came in Super Bowl XLVIII, when the Seattle Seahawks walloped the Denver Broncos, 43-8. Denver entered as 2.5-point favorites.

Info learned this week

1. Chiefs have clear work ahead this offseason

After what is easily the most disappointing Kansas City effort in Patrick Mahomes’ career, the Chiefs have an obvious goal in the coming months. Get better up front.

Kansas City may lose right tackle Mitch Schwartz to retirement. Guard Stefen Wisniewski, tackle Mike Remmers and center Austin Reiter are free agents. Left tackle Eric Fisher tore his Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs can save $13 million by releasing Fisher, and even if he returns, it’s impossible to believe he’s ready Week 1.

Mahomes, despite his stat line, was brilliant for much of the Super Bowl. He was given no shot by the group in front of him. General manager Brett Veach should spend ample resources both in free agency and the draft on finding multiple starters along the front.

While it’s true Kansas City gets both guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and rookie tackle Lucas Niang, that’s nowhere near enough. It’s needs to be a complete rebuild.

2. Wentz reportedly leaving Eagles behind in short order

It sounds like Carson Wentz will soon be dealt away by the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s hear the final offers.

The Chicago Bears have been heavily-linked to Wentz, with some outlets stating the price of a first-round pick along with Nick Foles and Tarik Cohen. While the players are negligible in this potential swap, giving up a first-round pick for Wentz, who was arguably the worst starting quarterback in football before being benched, is asinine.

Whether the Bears or another team like the Indianapolis Colts is willing to give up such a high pick, they’d be better off checking in on Sam Darnold. Talking to multiple general managers around the league, I’m told Darnold could fetch a late first or early second-round pick.

Why not take a flier on Darnold, who is five years younger, much cheaper and might have the more significant upside?

Trading for Deshaun Watson, while obviously a tremendous upgrade for most teams, is understandably a massive cost. But if a team is willing to trade a first-rounder, get there intriguing asset.

3. Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson leads HOF class of 2021

Always like to recognize the greats for getting their big moment.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is welcoming Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Alan Faneca, Calvin Johnson and John Lynch along with former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders coach Tom Flores, contributor Bill Nunn and senior inductee, Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson.

While the first five new members mentioned above deserve major kudos, let’s not overlook the old heads here.

Flores was the only head coach with two Super Bowl rings who wasn’t in the Hall of Fame. He won them with Jim Plunkett as his quarterback, who remains the only signal-caller to win multiple Super Bowl starts and not have a gold jacket. This alone should have Flores in the Hall.

As for Nunn, few have been more influential as a writer. The Pittsburgh scribe worked tirelessly to promote black players from little-known schools, something which helped the Steelers of the late-60s and early-70s to find and properly value men such as Joe Greene.

Finally, Pearson was a three-time All-Pro, led the league in receiving yards in ’77 and won a Super Bowl as a key cog in Tom Landry’s offense. He was long overdue.

4. Saints save cap space as Drew Brees prepares for retirement

Brees is giving New Orleans one last gift on the way out.

Last week, Brees and the Saints agreed to restructure the final year of his deal, lowering the cap hit from roughly $36 million down to $12 million. While the Saints will now pay more money to Brees’ pact against the cap in 2022, it helps what is a brutal crunch awaiting general manager Mickey Loomis.

For Brees, it doesn’t impact him much. He’ll still get his money, just more spread out. However, it’s a big help for the Saints, who currently need to shave off about $46 million more off their number provided the salary cap comes in at about $180 million.

5. A quick kudos to the NFL

Many thought this season wouldn’t happen. Almost nobody thought a season uninterrupted was possible.

Yet, here we are. Super Bowl LV has come and gone, and the NFL played a 256-game regular season schedule without having to add any extra time. The playoffs went as smoothly as possible, and in the end, the champion was valid. There was no weird COVID factor to forever taint any trophies.

Of course, there are always nits to be picked. The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly can complain about having to play on Wednesday once upon a time. The Denver Broncos played against the Saints without a quarterback, and so on. But in the end, commissioner Roger Goodell and his league figured out a way to play every game, every week, without going in a bubble.

Say whatever you want, but the 2020 NFL season was an unqualified success in the face of immense challenges.

Gambler’s game

Looking for a fun future bet? Check the Super Bowl LVI odds.

Check out the Buffalo Bills. Sean McDermott’s team might lose some key free agents this offseason highlighted by linebacker Matt Milano, who a source tells FanSided is looking for top-dollar on the market. However, at +1200, Buffalo makes sense.

In 2018, the Chiefs got to the AFC title game before falling to the Patriots. They came back the next year and won it all. Buffalo has a lot of similarities to Kansas City with a terrific coaching staff, an excellent young quarterback and stars dotting the remainder of the roster.

The Bills to win Super Bowl LVI? Not a bad option.

Two cents

The 2020 season is over. It’s now the offseason, which actually means we now have 32 teams frantically attempting to get better until football begins again.

Talking to league sources, it’s clear agents and teams are chatting already, trying to understand where certain markets are for impact players. Usually, free agency heats up at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. With the event cancelled this year, there’s an urgency to get ahead of the game with schedules being thrown off.

Then there’s worry about the 2021 cap number. FanSided spoke to three sources on this topic, and the guesses came in at $180M, $185M and flat, so it remains a mystery albeit with the expectations of a lowered number.

In the end, if the cap falls, it won’t affect the stars. They’ll get paid. Unfortunately, it’s going to crush the mid-tier player who normally gets a nice contract during the second wave of free agency. This year, there’s won’t be said wave. Get paid early, or likely get a cheap, one-year deal and wait until 2022.

Inside the league

Speaking of free agency, it’s almost certain we’ll see a future Hall of Famer leaving the only team he’s known.

Per source, the Arizona Cardinals and former All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson are parting ways barring a significant change in stances. Peterson, 30, has enjoyed eight Pro Bowl and three First-Team All-Pro campaigns since being selected No. 5 overall in the 2011 Draft.

In total, Peterson has racked up 28 interceptions, 19 forced fumbles and 12 recovered fumbles in his career while astoundingly only missing six games, all coming in 2019 due to suspension. Turning 31 in July, he’s likely looking for a new home after playing out two contracts with the Cardinals.

While he’s no longer the Pro Bowl lock he once was, Peterson is a strong bet to enjoy a strong second act somewhere, perhaps akin to Richard Sherman bouncing back with the 49ers.

Stay tuned.

History lesson

Next season, Kansas City will attempt to reach its their consecutive Super Bowl.

If the Chiefs do it, they join only the 1971-73 Miami Dolphins, 1990-93 Bills and 2016-18 Patriots as teams to accomplish the feat. Miami won the final two appearance in its stretch, while Buffalo famously lost all four and New England won the first and last legs.

Parting shot

Oftentimes, rumors are exactly that. However, when sources are involved, it’s a message being sent out without teams and agents officially getting dirty.

This offseason, it’s about veteran quarterbacks.

We talked about Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams plan last week. According to multiple reports, the Denver Broncos, Washington Football Team, Carolina Panthers, Colts, 49ers and others also inquired with significant interest on Stafford.

For some of those teams (Indy, Washington) the interest is obvious. For others, it’s an admission the current guy isn’t wowing many in his current building (Denver, San Francisco).

Furthermore, while we dove into the Wentz rumors above, there’s more at play around the league.

Last week, Las Vegas Raiders beat writer Vinny Bonsignore wrote about teams having interest in Derek Carr. While Bonsignore pointed out he’s likely to stay in Las Vegas, the story makes sense. The Raiders may not be actively shopping Carr, but their apparent willingness to listen says plenty about their stance on the soon-to-be 30-year-old. He’s good, but we can perhaps do better.

Watson is the prize of the offseason if he’s dealt, and judging from the frenzy of activity around lesser quarterbacks, the return on him would be seismic. Rightfully so.




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