sorry for the delay…we held the column due to the Senior Bowl
by NFL Gimpy
Allow me to do all of you a favor. After this intro paragraph, I will not use any lame Harbaugh puns like Harbowl. Yes, they’re brothers facing off against each other and it’s a really unique thing, but this dead horse will be beaten into dust. When it comes to the Super Bowl, there’s never a shortage of storylines. Last year was Patriots-Giants rematch, can Eli win more Super Bowls than Peyton, will the Brady-Belichick win their 4th Super Bowl, etc. etc. etc. This year we’re getting the Harbaugh angle, Ray Lewis’ last game, 2nd year sensation Colin Kaepernick, the pistol offense…there’s always something for reporters to write endless stupid stories about.
As you know, I hate writing the same crap as everyone else. I give you different crap. Here are some story lines I want to go over that matter a heck of alot more than what happens off of the field.
The first insane angle is that the 49ers defense has been inconsistent while the Ravens defense is thriving. The 49ers D has allowed 24 points in both games (Packers had a pick-6 to lead to their total of 31) and most of those have been in the first half, meaning they need to make adjustments at halftime to slow their opponent down. The adjustments have been effective, but they’ve needed superb offensive results in the 2nd half to win. The past 2 games are the first time they’ve allowed 20+ points in back to back games.
To compound the 49ers’ slow starts is a Ravens defense doing the exact opposite. They only allowed Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to score 34 points combined. They have forced 6 turnovers in those 2 games. If I start adding in stats from the Colts game the defense looks even better. It’s bizarre, because this is a defense that finished 17th in yards and 12th in points allowed. Getting healthy at the right time has been a huge boost, but they weren’t exactly setting the world on fire allowing 24.4 points per game their last 5 games.
This defensive dichotomy leads to a big concern for the 49ers. If the 49ers get off to a slow start like they did against the Packers (21 points allowed in the first half) and Falcons (24 first half points), will the Ravens D allow them to comeback? The Falcons and Packers defenses certainly were exploitable in the 2nd half. The Ravens have allowed only one 2nd half touchdown on defense. A slow start by the 49ers and they’re in a lot of trouble.
The big problem for the Ravens is whether or not they’re truly as good as they’ve played. I picked against them each game of the playoffs so far and while they’ve proved me wrong, I still see a team that is overachieving. On offense, they’re rarely explosive. They’re efficient, methodical, and smart. Their touchdown drives against the Patriots were drives of 13, 10, 10, and 4 plays. The Falcons scored on the 49ers with explosive plays, something the Ravens don’t do well (except when throwing at Champ Bailey). They also haven’t been down by more than one score. It took a miracle to come back against the Broncos and the 49ers aren’t going to allow anything like that. What happens if they get down 17-0? We know the 49ers won’t panic, but will the Ravens?
All NFL head coaching vacancies are finally filled. The Eagles pulled off a hell of a coup when they got Chip Kelly. This led Gus Bradley to Jacksonville (assuming he preferred the Eagles over the Jags). Just like the NFL Draft, I don’t think it’s fair to grade coaching hires because if that coach wins two Super Bowls over the next 5 years, he was a great hire. I think it’s more important to judge whether or not they got their guy. For example, the Cleveland Browns allegedly put a big press on Chip Kelly, Bill O’Brien and several others, they hired Rob Chudzinski seemingly out of nowhere. Chud wasn’t a candidate anywhere else to my knowledge. It’s fair to say the Browns coaching SEARCH didn’t go well because they didn’t get their top guys. Does that mean Chud will be a bad hire? No, just that he’s the nerdy guy a girl goes with to prom after the jock, bad boy, and class clown were already taken.
I’ll contradict myself a little bit and say that I do not see how the Bruce Arians-Arizona Cardinals marriage gets anywhere. Arians is 60 years old and a year ago he was headed to retirement. The Steelers didn’t want to keep him and it wasn’t until the Colts game calling that he got a job. He rode a wave of emotion (Chuck Pagano’s cancer) to a 9-3 record as an interim head coach. Of those 9 wins, only one was against a playoff team. 7 of them were to teams with top 10 draft picks. He also had a once in a generation rookie QB.
That’s a scenario that the Cardinals cannot duplicate. 2 of the top 4 teams in the NFC this year are in their division. Their other division opponent, the Rams, isn’t a cupcake. Arians is taking over a squad with an awful OL and one of the worst QB situations in the league. Is a 60 year old coach who was almost out of the league last year, who has only been a head coach at Temple, really the man for the job?
Arians has never developed a QB. Big Ben already had 3 seasons and a Super Bowl under his belt when Arians became OC. His time in Cleveland oversaw Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb. Sure, he worked with Peyton Manning his first 3 years, but do we really want to credit him with the success of Manning or Luck? If the Cardinals have a chance at a once in a generation QB, OK, maybe Arians is the guy. But without a reputation for developing QBs, never overseeing a dynamic offense, never running an offseason as a head coach, or never really being great at anything, how do you justify a 60 year old head coach?
It seems to me like no one really wanted the Arizona gig, much like the Jets GM gig. There are too many problems to fix. Sorry for the short column this week, I started training for a marathon relay (I get 9 miles) and I was out drinking as soon as the Ravens won. Just gotta figure out how to run my mile pace over 8 additional miles and maybe my time won’t be pathetic.