Is it Sunday yet? That's what everyone's been asking each other all week; a week in which we've been inundated with talk of deflated footballs, press conferences, and all sorts of other bulletin board material. We'll get into all that in our Super Bowl preview, and we'll even talk a little about the actual football game that's going to be played. Coach Rob (one of CoachUp's resident Pats fans) and Matt (CoachUp's solitary Seahawks fan) share their thoughts on all the controversy and trash talk that's been swirling around and break down the following topics:
- Jeremy Lane's comments on Rob Gronkowski
- The epic Seahawks vs. Packers game
- The matchup between the Patriots' offense and the Seahawks' defense
Matt: Great, let's do this. It's on Coach Rob. Deflategate is simply a non-factor in this game. There's been lots of fun media headlines over the past two weeks to make up for the lack of news. Deep in Pats country, we're all trying to justify this with "It wouldn't have made a difference" or "Everyone does it, so it doesn't matter. They were just the ones who got caught." I hate to go old school, but I was brought up on the fact that it's the intention, the principle behind the matter. It comes down to whether Brady knowingly cheated or not. If he did, then the Pats should be penalized (with a loss of two first round picks). If he didn't cheat, and other matters were in play, then no, let's forget it and move forward. If it weren't for Spygate, I really don't think we'd be talking that much about this. We're just bored.
In a league that has lost all respect, we're in an age of lawlessness when it comes to rules. Wives were beaten, kids were abused, but Marshawn is threatened to be suspended if he wears gold cleats? Clay Matthews probably gave Russell Wilson a concussion with a nasty blindside hit, but he was only fined $2K more than 'Shawn who cupped his junk for 10 seconds on national TV after he scored. Can we PLEASE impeach Goodell? Honestly. I'm heading to Change.org right now.
The bottom line is the Pats are in the Super Bowl, and this may all be soon forgotten. But I would love to see Richard Sherman mic'd up during the game to see how many times he tells Amandola that his balls are flat.
Coach Rob: Wow. Game on I guess. I'll respond to deflategate from my perspective as a lifelong, die-hard Patriots fan, and then hopefully we can put it to bed and focus on the biggest football game of the year.
I will start by saying that I'm not blindly faithful to the Patriots to the point that I can't be rational about this. No one wants their team to be accused of cheating. The game isn't fun if your team had to cheat to win. And after considering the facts, reports, anecdotes from other football players, and my own long history around sports in general, I am confident in my notion that this was not cheating. This notion is based on my belief that Tom Brady (or a ball person) did not alter the football after it was approved by Walt Anderson, the game official. If it comes out that the ball was approved at the correct PSI, and then Brady (or a ball person) altered the balls post-approval to the point that they balls did not conform to the rules, then I would fully support that the guilty parties be punished. I just can't see that being what happened here. Do I think that Brady doctored the balls? Yes. He admitted as much. I think that Brady - like every other QB in the league - gets his footballs the exact way he wants them and then submits them to the refs for approval. I think the refs in turn simply took a look at the footballs to make sure they were not unfairly doctored and approved them. Short of introducing a Vortex football that throws an auto-spiral, it is very tough to doctor a football to the point where a competitive advantage is gained. I do not believe that the refs took a pressure gauge to 36 footballs before the start of the game and recorded the precise PSI in each of them. Regardless of whether or not they did, they gave Tom Brady some leeway and let him use the balls that he wants as they do every game. This isn't Bob BackUp we're talking about here. It's the greatest QB to ever lace 'em up. I mean, they protect franchise QBs in every other phase of the game to make the game high scoring and fan friendly. Why wouldn't they then let the QB use the ball that he wants to make the game high scoring and fan friendly?
I'm not blaming it on the refs. I'm saying, though, if the refs were fine with the balls pre-game and no one altered them after the refs gave the balls the ok, then no one cheated.
Think of the George Brett pine tar incident. For those of us who do not remember this infamous incident, it was discovered that, after belting a home run, Brett had more than the legal limit of pine tar on his bat. After confirming this to be true, the umps subsequently ruled that Brett's home run would be disallowed. To the letter of the law, Brett cheated. But, in the immediate aftermath, the league ruled that there was no correlation between pine tar on a bat and hitting home runs. In other words, the amount of par tar over the legal limit on Brett's bat did not help him hit that home run. Fast forward to the AFC Championship. Did those allegedly under-inflated footballs help Brady win that game? Well, Brady actually performed better in the second half using perfectly inflated footballs - so, no, definitely not.
In light of the Brett incident, hitters are now allowed to put as much pine tar on a bat as they please. The biggest difference between that and deflategate for me? The lack of the 12 hour news cycle and Twitter.
If anything, this should scare Seahawks fans. Coach has a proven ability to get his players to "circle the wagons" and use an "us vs. the world" approach to get the very best out of his team. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see the absolute best version of the 2014-2015 Patriots take the field in Glendale on Sunday night.
As for Jeremy Lane's insanity, I guess everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I can't get on board with this here though. Seems like a headline grab. Gronk is one of the best players in the league and might end up as the best TE ever. His route running is polished for such a big human being, and he is easily the best blocking tight end around. It's like saying Richard Sherman isn't very good. You can say it, but you don't even believe it as it leaves your lips.
Matt: I'm with you on everything here, Coach Rob. Your theory of the events that took place on that Saturday afternoon are not only 100% believable, but likely how it all went down. As much as I want to move past deflategate, I'm not sure if we can yet.
Our favorite Pitbull-with-a-goatee doppelganger, Jay Glazer, broke the news that there was video evidence of a Patriots locker room attendant taking 24 game balls from the official's locker room into a bathroom for about 90 seconds before proceeding to drop them off at the field. Obvious questions arise. What was said locker room attendant doing in said bathroom for only 90 seconds? Was he taking a quick leak? Surely he couldn't have gone number two AND washed his hands in just 90 seconds. The Patriots are a dirty organization, Rob. I know for a fact that Pete Carroll preaches the value of good hygiene after every practice.
Sarah Koenig couldn't make the drive to the Best Buy in less than 6 minutes, and I don't think you'd be able to deflate 11 balls by approximately two pounds each in 90 seconds. But that is one speedy locker room attendant.
As for Jeremy Lane and the Seahawks defense, is it too late to make a "Lane-sanity" joke? The Seahawks' defense is INSANE. Have you ever seen Earl Thomas' post-game interviews? The dude can't put his words together. If you had Jeremy Lane on a lie detector when he made his comments on Gronkowski, you wouldn't hear a beep. That defense believes they are better than anyone else. They believe they are the greatest of all time. It doesn't mean they are right, but that is how they win games. Their swagger is real. I've watched a lot of football in my 23 years of life, and I've never seen a team have more fun on the field than that Seattle Seahawks defense. They're jumping around, celebrating after every play. It's contagious. They're in their own delusional world of "we're better than you, so we will beat you." And guess what? It works.
I don't think I need to address if Gronk is good or not. He is. I'm scared. All Hawks fans should be. The best matchup Sunday night will very likely be He Who Flies Over Offensive Lines, The Dark Knight himself, Bam Bam Kam Kam vs. A Gronking To Remember.
I could go on forever about the NFC Championship. I cried in front of my parents, brother, and girlfriend at the end of that game. I didn't care. I openly wept. Before I promptly passed out from severe emotional exhaustion and temporary PTSD, I stepped outside to hear the city begging for forgiveness. In one voice we cried out, "Forgive us, Pete. We have little faith."
This isn't a Seahawks thing (although I selfishly want it to be). It's the beauty of sports. It's not over until it's over. After Russ's 4th pick, I threw my hat, ran out of the room, and went upstairs to go watch the rest of the game by myself, knowing my weekend was most surely ruined. But that team never gave up. I mean, sure, McCarthy and the Pack served up the last five minutes of the 4th quarter on a silver platter. That two point Hail Mary and onside kick shouldn't have gone Seattle's way. But they did. And Saint Russ sure has a short term memory. Those dimes to Baldwin and Kearse will forever be etched in the fabric of the 206. These Hawks never give up, and that is what will make them difficult to beat on Sunday.
Rob: As far as I'm concerned, once you get to this stage, you just have to survive and advance. Did Seattle play their best game? No. Did the Packers make some very conservative decisions that ultimately made it easier for Seattle to rally back and take that game? Absolutely. But give credit to Seattle for forcing Green Bay into playing the full 60 minutes. The better team is representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Sunday has the potential to be one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory. There are so many story lines that make this must watch football. Pete Carroll vs. Bill Belichick. Brady vs. Wilson. The New Guard vs. the Old Guard. But the matchup that is going to keep eyes glued to televisions all over the world on Sunday night is Tom Brady's offense against the Legion of Boom. Make no mistake about it, this is a historically good offense playing against a historically good defense. Forgive me if you have heard this before, but the key to this game is going to be Tom Brady. With the personnel that the Seahawks have, they can do a lot of things. They can leave Richard Sherman one-on-one with Jo Jo LaFell or JE11. They can move Kam Chancellor up or back and let him get physical with Gronk. Then there is free safety Earl Thomas, who Tom Brady considers the best safety in football.
I'm excited to see what Josh McDaniels has scripted for TB12's group. He has done a masterful job thus far this postseason. A lot of the rhetoric has been along the lines of "Let's see what Seattle does defensively -- if they double or play with a safety over the top on Gronk, someone else has to be open." Well, -- yes and no. This isn't Indianapolis where you can let Gronk take up half the field and then pound the ball down their throats. Seattle can do too many things with both their front 7 and their defensive back group. I would not be surprised to see the Patriots spread it out early and give Gronk a chance to get in a rhythm. In order for this to happen, Tom Brady is going to have to be great. I expect big games from Gronk, Julian Edelman, and Jo Jo LeFell. But, in the end, I do expect to see the Tom Terrific that we all know and love accepting a Most Valuable Player trophy at the end of the contest.
: Seahawks: 20 Patriots: 17
Coach Rob: Patriots: 27 Seahawks: 26
This game has officially been talked about to death. Time to order the wings, sit back, and relax. Is it Sunday yet?