Changing of the Guard: Another Super Bowl Week Begins

Al Michaels: “You’ve got all these guys aging or retiring, and yet there’s always a new pipeline…Joe Burrow is right at the top of that list”

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If it doesn’t look like Super Bowl week yet, you’re not alone.

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This is the fifth Super Bowl that games analyst Cris Collinsworth will call for NBC, along with play-by-play man Al Michaels.

But you know what?

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“This is the first,” Collinsworth said Monday in a conference call with reporters, “that had neither Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick, speaking loud and clear about what these two have meant to the National Football League.”

It also underscores what we’ve all come to understand over the past few weeks of sensational post-season football, with often surprising results – that another changing of the guard is taking place in the league.

Think about it. Almost every iconic 21st century quarterback who wasn’t named Peyton Manning has quit in the past two years.

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Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers. And now Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. And maybe Aaron Rodgers too.

A tidal wave of young quarterbacks and young head coaches quickly takes over. You know their names.

So, indeed, don’t you feel like this Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI represents something of a real changing of the guard in the NFL? The end of one golden age and the beginning of another?

I asked Michaels and Collinsworth that on Monday’s call, and they had different but interesting takes.

Says Michaels, in the 50th year after calling his first major North American sporting event, the 1972 World Series between the Oakland A’s and the Cincinnati Reds:

“There is a changing of the guard every few years in the National Football League. Who will replace Johnny Unitas? Who will replace Joe Montana, John Elway and Dan Marino? Then come the 2000s with Tom Brady.

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“We all know new guys coming into the mix have, really, always been. It’s always a bit of a handshake when there’s a bunch of good guys getting old and people say, “What’s next?”

“But now we KNOW what the next step is. And certainly Joe Burrow is right at the top of that list, along with someone like Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson. So you have all these guys aging or retiring, and yet there’s always a new pipeline… So for me, it’s an evolutionary process – and the National Football League is very lucky. I think it will go on for a long, long time. »

Collinsworth added:

“It’s interesting for me, this question. Because certainly with (Patrick) Mahomes and (Justin) Herbert and Burrow and Josh Allen – go down the list of young quarterbacks. We are in great shape in the National Football League, as a broadcaster, with the stars who are there.

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“But this is my first Super Bowl – and it’s my fifth – that didn’t have Tom Brady, and didn’t have Bill Belichick…but it’s just as exciting.”

BENGALES ALWAYS AT HOME

Super Bowl week kicked off for the second year in a row with many managers still absent.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Kansas City Chiefs only traveled to Tampa for Super Bowl LV the day before the game last year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the first team to play a Super Bowl in their stadium, were already there.

Same kind of deal this year: The Rams are already in Los Angeles, of course, while the other team arrives much earlier than the Chiefs last year, but not as early as usual on Sundays or Mondays before the big game.

The Bengals fly out on Tuesday.

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If you care (and, really, you shouldn’t), there’s no “media night” yet this year — usually held on Monday night of Super Bowl week, before the pandemic. The only day of in-person media contact with players will be Friday. Everything else? Through Zoom.

TWO CANADIANS AT THE SUPER BOWL

There are two Canadian-born, part-raised players in Super Bowl LVI — both on the Los Angeles Rams.

Michael Hoecht, a sophomore defensive lineman, was born in the western Toronto suburb of Oakville and grew up between there, Ohio, Ottawa and Toronto until he attended University. Brown.

Alaric (AJ) Jackson is a backup rookie offensive tackle who played five games in the regular season, playing most of Minnesota’s Boxing Day win. He was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario until he moved across the river to Detroit for high school and then played at the University of Iowa.

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DONALD, RAMS AIM TO DOMINATE

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is still considered the best defensive player in the NFL. He was just named first-team All-Pro for a remarkable seventh straight season.

At the start of his first press conference of the week with his team on Monday afternoon, the 30-year-old acknowledged that Cincinnati’s beleaguered offensive line could well use the fact that the Rams defensive line could be one of the from a pass-rush perspective in Super Bowl history.

But he and his D-line teammates will be no less motivated to play their best.

“Our mindset is to try to go out there and dominate – for four quarters,” Donald said. “Every week is your mindset as a defensive line.”

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A COACH TO GO

If you missed it, eight of the NFL’s nine head coaching vacancies this offseason appear to be filled.

Lovie Smith – the former Chicago and Tampa Bay head coach – was finalizing a deal to become Houston Texans head coach on Monday, reports said, while San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was named new head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The New Orleans Saints have the last vacancy to fill. After apparently interviewing Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for eight hours on Sunday, the Saints brass were looking to determine the finalists. Others reportedly interviewed include head coach Brian Flores, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, Saints special teams coach Darren Rizzi, and Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Although the Minnesota Vikings have yet to announce it, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is expected to be named head coach in the days following the Super Bowl.

John Kryk now writes a weekly newsletter on NFL matters. The content is exclusive to this platform. You can have it automatically drop in your inbox on Wednesdays just by signing up – for free – at https://torontosun.com/newsletters/

[email protected]

@JohnKryk

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