I feel like I said last year that the number was too big for me to keep adding to it. I lied. Here are my 21 thoughts at the end of the 2021 NFL season.
1. Congratulations to the LA Rams … I guess.
I can’t lie. The Rams’ victory as a whole leaves a bit of an empty feeling. There are plenty of good individual stories we can get to but the team is a whole is an “industry plant” that cost the league a $790 million settlement just to force its way into the Los Angeles market. But to be fair, the Rams have built such an incredible fan base that when their new team HOSTED the Super Bowl, seemingly every reporter in attendance noted that the home fans were outnumbered by Bengals fans!
The Rams won. Fair and square. They’re the champions. But it’s more than a little difficult to embrace much of anything about their franchise or “fan base.”
2. And oh yeah, the whole mercenary thing.
Right. That makes it all the more joyless. Matthew Stafford has been there for a year, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. even less than that! The Rams proved that you can go “all-in” for a Super Bowl and have the strategy pay off (you could argue the Buccaneers did something similar a year ago).
But it’s hard to pretend that for a casual fan such a story can feel as good as watching a team win a Super Bowl whose centerpieces were largely homegrown talents or a roster that largely grew together. Maybe it makes us particularly squeamish in Baltimore because it’s so “un-Ravens-like.” Perhaps you’d argue that the Ravens should consider being a bit more like the Rams in the future. I’ve argued for some time that they shouldn’t be such slaves to the compensatory pick formula, for example.
3. But this makes those Sean McVay rumors make a bit more sense, no?
When Sean McVay answered a question about his future last week with a cryptic response about wanting to spend time with family, the internet was quick to point that his fiancée is a Ukrainian model and not unattractive (which makes sense considering, you know, neither is he).
But such a decision might also reflect the reality of the circumstances. He knows what’s coming. The Rams aren’t slated to make a draft pick until the compensatory portion of the third round this year and don’t have a first round pick until 2024. They went all in. It worked! But it might be a good time to think about starting a family … particularly if a certain defensive tackle chooses to retire.
4. Back to those individual stories.
I don’t think Stafford is a “beloved” or even particularly popular figure among casual football fans. “Indifferent” has probably been the fairer term throughout the years as he’s toiled in the national obscurity of Detroit. But he has long been both talented and suffering in his pro career, and that makes his Super Bowl breakthrough embraceable.
Aaron Donald however is on another level. He’s been such an overwhelming figure throughout his career that he has practically ruined how we judge defensive tackles throughout the sport. Watching him play football is like watching Adele sing. You know EXACTLY what you’re witnessing every time it occurs. If he really is considering retirement, the only Hall of Fame debate would be whether they should even let Ben Roethlisberger share a class with players as dominant as he and Tom Brady.
5. Speaking of Donald, the MVP voting system seems … suboptimal.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Cooper Kupp being named Super Bowl MVP (I mean, other than the fact that he came a half catch short of hitting his Underdog Fantasy Football number and I didn’t see him attempt to make a half catch even once during the game!). It’s just that considering how the game ended, there’s a pretty strong argument that Donald should have won the award. But former NFL PR whiz Chris Pika reminded us of one of the less pleasant features of the system …
Not great, Bob!
It seems as though perhaps the league should be able to identify the voting members of the media and get an immediate answer from them as soon as the game is over. Start a Slack channel or something. Cups and strings. Whatever you gotta do.
6. Oh yeah, Eric Weddle.
By no legitimate means is Eric Weddle any sort of “Ravens legend,” but he was most definitely a good and likable player during his three seasons here. He fit in like “Ultra” on the next try when your Wordle guess is “Ulcer.”
And there’s definitely something even cooler about the way he came off the beach after two full years away to help the Rams, even more remarkable considering he played the majority of the Super Bowl with a torn pec. It’s a great story. He’s had an incredible career. That’s worth feeling good about.
7. And there are others.
It’s a bummer that former Terp Jake Funk (Damascus) and Owings Mills native Blake Countess (who spent some time with the Ravens this season) were inactive for the Super Bowl, but they’ll get rings. As will former Terp Antoine Brooks and Mount Airy’s Rob Havenstein (Linganore). Congratulations to them all.
Funk once scored seven touchdowns in a state title game at M&T Bank Stadium. (Chris Berman voice) “I remember … because I was there.”
8. The Bengals HAD to be doomed by their offensive line at some point.
Those trying to second guess the decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase are still stupid, but this couldn’t continue forever. Seven sacks and 11 quarterback hits were the final numbers in the Super Bowl but if it is any consolation, it definitely FELT like much more than that.
The Bengals will still have Joe Burrow and Chase and Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd and an underappreciated defense. As bitter a pill as this might be for them, they’ll most certainly prioritize the O-line this offseason and they are the team to beat in the AFC North next season.
9. I mean, come on, you’re definitely not trying to re-litigate Ja’Marr Chase, right?
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy makes a point.
Then again, so does Glenn Clark Radio’s Glenn Clark.
10. But also, what in the hell were the Bengals’ final calls?
I’m as confused as you about running Samaje Perine instead of Mixon on third-and-1 and can’t believe the Bengals allowed the season to come down to whether they could protect Burrow on fourth down after they had literally given up seven sacks! If you have the ball with 1:25 left and two timeouts down by three in the Super Bowl and you can’t even force overtime, you deserve to lose.
11. Speaking of overtime.
I can’t pretend like I wasn’t rooting for the game to go to the overtime frame just because the league would have deserved to have it shoved back in its face again. It is remarkable how quickly these things disappear from our consciousness. After dominating the national conversation just three weeks ago, not a single question was asked of Roger Goodell about the overtime debate during his annual Super Bowl week press conference. (To be fair, there were more important questions to ask about Dan Snyder and minority hiring in particular.)
We can’t allow this to simply disappear from the forefront until it rears its ugly head in another key game. It needs to be fixed.
12. And before we move on from the Bengals, some thoughts on Eli Apple.
13. Halftime was great. Don’t embarrass yourself by saying it was the best ever.
Prince’s halftime show in Miami was the most significant moment in modern pop culture history.
This halftime show featured 50 Cent performing “In Da Club,” which is definitely a moment in modern pop culture history.
The show was wonderful and perfect for the game’s West Coast locale. 50 Cent’s appearance was wildly unnecessary. If your lineup is a veritable “Murderers’ Row” of heavy hitters, you do not need to try to find some at-bats for Jeff Reboulet, even if he did once hit that home run off of Randy Johnson.
It might well have been the second greatest halftime show of all time. But there will never, in the history of time, be a debate about the best. And I’m so very confused about a revelation I made last night:
14. What about next year?
The Super Bowl is back in Arizona, so I can only assume they’ll do the right thing and give us the Jimmy Eat World/Gin Blossoms halftime show we deserve, right?
Realistically, it has long felt like Taylor Swift would eventually get a halftime show but the internet has buzzed about BTS being a potential answer. Considering their overwhelming international appeal, I’d almost be willing to bet on it.
15. And speaking of that!
It was quite nice to FINALLY be able to bet on the Super Bowl here in Maryland this year. If only you had some friends who told you to get to the FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland to take advantage of the 5-1 prop bet of Trey Hendrickson, Von Miller and Aaron Donald all having at least one sack in the Big Game. If only …
And if you had been at the FanDuel Sportsbook Sunday, you would have heard your pals tell you to bet Cooper Kupp as an anytime touchdown scorer no matter the odds AND to bet the over (7.5) for Evan McPherson’s points scored. You probably would be much happier today.
16. And while we’re at it.
If you’re headed back to the FanDuel Sportsbook this week, perhaps to watch the Daytona 500 on Sunday, I’d maybe toss in a futures bet while you’re there. Mike Florio’s conspiracy theory about Tom Brady and the 49ers is just juicy enough that I’d want to toss a couple bucks down on them at +1500 to win Super Bowl 53. (The Bills and Chiefs are rightful co-favorites at +700, while the Ravens sit at +2100 with the Bengals.)
17. Here’s the list of the good commercials.
End of list.
18. The whole announcing situation is super weird, right?
It’s more than a little odd that we don’t know exactly what’s going on with Al Michaels (who has lost only slight heat from his fastball) and NBC as Amazon enters the fray next season. The Amazon thing still feels weird in and of itself, but Michaels and Troy Aikman have been tied to it at every turn and yet both were visible during Super Bowl week and none of the parties involved seemed to prioritize getting it all straightened out ahead of time.
What I can say with confidence is that Mike Tirico should be calling games weekly for someone — and he happens to work at NBC at the moment. Michaels would go a long way to bringing some juice back to “Monday Night Football” if ESPN could swing it. Sean Payton will be a priority candidate for all of the networks but McVay would seemingly be just as desirable, if not more.
19. We need to get this date thing figured out soon.
We’re not talking about this enough. In 2027, Feb. 14 is a Sunday. If the NFL keeps the same calendar, that will place Super Bowl Sunday on Valentine’s Day. That is … absolutely unacceptable. Some of you are thinking “I don’t care.” Others are thinking, “We can just go out the night before.” Even others are thinking “maybe brunch?” And there are a few who are thinking, “oh … oh that’s gonna cause a problem.”
We don’t need that problem. And moreover, our institutions can’t handle this. Did you go to your grocery store this weekend? It was a confused mess. Dogs and cats living in the produce department. A pandemic-heightened nightmare. We need to put a week’s worth of distance between the events again. The NFL has long wanted to extend the season to 18 regular-season games (which would conveniently bump the Super Bowl to Presidents’ Day weekend and ALSO rid us of another idiotic preseason football game). Let’s get it done ASAP.
20. The Hall of Fame class is weird!
Tony Boselli should have been a no-brainer a decade ago. Like Aaron Donald, the hell with longevity. If you’re dominant, you’re dominant. See “Johnson, Calvin.” I’m still confused as to why Patrick Willis isn’t in yet.
But with no receivers making the cut this year, I’m really wondering whether former Ravens Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. will EVER work their way into the equation. Andre Johnson, Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne highlight the continued logjam at the position. The only good news is that there are no surefire first-year eligible candidates at the position until Larry Fitzgerald in 2026. The bad news is that Joe Thomas, Dwight Freeney and Darrelle Revis are all strong first-year candidates entering a crowded room next year.
21. And finally, we could really use a post-Super Bowl sporting event of some sort.
Even if you believe I’m being disrespectful to the illustrious history of the “Monobob,” the Olympics occur just once every four years and even so, they won’t always be happening on the other side of the world.
For those of us who are no longer interested in elongated pre- and postgame shows, those of us who are riding the high of having a friend tell us to make a sack trifecta prop bet or those of us who would like to get a few bucks back that we just lost, it feels like Gonzaga should commit to playing an 11 p.m. EST Sunday night game every year or something. It just feels like a complete crash when the football game ends.