Few Super Bowls don’t leave more than ample aftermaths and the Baltimore-San Francisco one did not disappoint, in so many ways:
How close are the Bears?
Closer than critics might allow. There are two “close’s” here. As close as their quarterback is willing to take them, and as close as the talent level of Phil Emery’s drafts.
My reason for picking the Ravens to win Super Bowl XLVII was predicated on which team had the better quarterback, which was Baltimore with Joe Flacco. With his winning the MVP award, that makes six of the last seven MVP honors going to quarterbacks.
Jay Cutler is not good enough to win a Super Bowl. Yet. He and the world need to stop marveling at “all the tools” they claim are in his supposed talent box and realize that being a championship quarterback is a holistic proposition. If Cutler can trust Marc Trestman, and let go of some misdirected thinking and passing, the Bears will be back in the “best in the NFC” discussion at the very least.
The reason the Ravens and 49ers are good and, in Baltimore’s case, have been for some time, is the talent base. Ozzie Newsome has long been recognized as one of the NFL’s best general managers, and has the draft record to prove it.
Super Bowls are ultimately won by players, not coaches. Emery’s task is not to put more talent around Cutler, but to build the talent foundation in every phase of the Bears. The performance of Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Hardin and Evan Rodriguez this season will be the best indicators of whether the Bears are moving in the Baltimore-Newsome direction.
John’s call was far, far bigger than Jim’s
Jim Harbaugh was given lavish acclaim for making the decision to go with Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith in the days that followed Kaepernick’s handling of the Bears. But Jim by his own account was simply going with the “hot” quarterback. And if Kaepernick hadn’t worked out, he could always have gone back to Smith, who’d gotten over the concussion that had him out of the Bears game and gave Kaepernick his big chance.
But John’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replace him with Jim Caldwell, with only a handful of games remaining in the season, will go down as franchise-altering. Caldwell coached Flacco to a truly elite level, letting the strengths of the quarterback flourish.
If that hadn’t worked and worked fast, John could not have switched back to Cameron. That was an all-in call.
Brian Urlacher is a better middle linebacker than Ray Lewis (was).
All of the “he’s old, he’s broken” perseverating over the Bears’ middle linebacker has too often obscured the reality that Urlacher is still a very good football player. The same slack Lewis was accorded this year, and last year in particular, hasn’t been accorded Urlacher and it should be.
‘54’ is three years younger than Lewis, who was just a guy production-wise against the 49ers. No rooting interest here, but Urlacher means as much to the Bears defense as Lewis did to the Ravens’, was covering more ground than Lewis as his knee came around, and the Bears will move on from Urlacher at their own defensive peril.
Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree get it
The 49ers did not lose this Super Bowl because of an official’s non-call of pass interference/holding on a final Colin Kaepernick pass thrown to wideout Michael Crabtree. And both guys said so, pure and simple.
Buddy Matt Maiocco out at CSNBayArea.com chronicles Kaepernick’s blunt assessment that he “made too many mistakes.” Take note of that: A very young, very talented player blaming himself points to someone who will work to fix things in a game that already is a danger to the NFL. That should seriously worry teams in the NFC at the very least. You would much prefer Kaepernick to be blaming the officials, his receivers, the power outage, anyone and anything but himself. This is an arrow pointing even more sharply up, because of the attitude.
Same with Crabtree, who simply said, “I’m not going to blame the refs.” Good. Because the refs didn’t call three straight pass plays in that closing series, leaving Frank Gore and his 110 rushing yards to play decoy; or throw an interception or fumble, the latter leading to seven Baltimore points; or allow a 108-yard TD kickoff return.
Young guys who get it and point thumbs rather than fingers are the dangerous ones.