REGGIE HAYES: More to this Super Bowl than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
Super Bowl LII week is here, and there’s more to this game than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
There’s more to this game than speculation over whether the New England Patriots’ Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history and whether Belichick is the most devious, underhanded villain in NFL history. I mean, whether Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history.
The Patriots vs. the Philadelphia Eagles this coming Sunday might not elicit passion from most of the country. And you might be sick of hearing about Brady and Belichick. (If not, my Brady contribution: You don’t have to like Tom Brady to enjoy watching him play.)
So what else in the name of Gronk can we get excited about as the week’s buildup begins?
Here are five storylines not directly involving Brady and Belichick:
1. Redemption time
A long time ago, Philadelphia Eagles fans bemoaned their unfortunate luck to have Nick Foles playing quarterback. I’m kidding. It was two weeks ago. Foles stepped in to play for the injured Carson Wentz and he’s been erratic at times. That’s one reason he’s a backup quarterback. But Foles is one big game away from proving playing well is the best revenge.
Foles dominated the Minnesota Vikings, completing 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. If he does the same against the Patriots, he’ll be the most talked about quarterback in the game. And the winning one.
2. City of brotherly doubt
Philadelphia has a reputation for being home to some of the worst, if not the worst, sports fans in the country. They booed Santa Claus. Some of that is surely a defense mechanism because Philadelphia teams so rarely win a championship. The only Philadelphia title team in the so-called four major sports since the 76ers’ NBA title in 1983 was the Phillies’ World Series title in 2008.
The last time the Eagles won a championship, the Super Bowl had yet to be invented. However, that 1960 NFL Championship win was over the Packers and legendary coach Vince Lombardi. So maybe it’s time to prevail again over a legendary coach.
3. Old face, new place
One of the players who will be trying to disrupt Foles and the Eagles will be James Harrison. Harrison revived his career over the last month or so with the Patriots after seeing little playing time this year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he made his reputation as a disruptive force. His departure from the Steelers was noisy, with some Steelers disparaging his worth as a teammate. He says he holds no bitter feelings for the Steelers, and he’s showing the kind of late-career grit that deserves some admiration. Harrison is in position to get the last laugh with a Super Bowl ring, which won’t be fun for Steelers fans and those who have no affection for the Patriots. In other words, just about everyone.
4. Danny boy
One quick reference to Brady: The stereotype is the quarterback helps make seemingly average receivers look spectacular. In truth, he pulls the best out of underrated receivers. Amendola has worked his way up in the NFL, from practice squads with the Dallas Cowboys and Eagles, to his first real contributions with the St. Louis Rams in 2009. He spent four seasons with the Rams before joining the Patriots in 2013. Working with Brady has allowed him to demonstrate his special skills.
In the AFC Championship game against Jacksonville, Amendola caught seven passes for 84 yards, including two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. There are no underdogs on the Patriots, but Amendola comes close.
5. The kicker
People always say it’s tough to follow a legend at quarterback. What about place kicker? Stephen Gostkowski took over as Patriots kicker after the greatest kicker of the last 20 years, Adam Vinatieri, was allowed to leave in free agency, taking his record-setting style to the Indianapolis Colts. Vinatieri expanded on his legend, but Gostkowski has established his own credentials. He passed Vinatieri as the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer. All that’s lacking is a last-second, Super Bowl-winning field goal. My guess is everyone from Boston to Providence will be pulling for that. The rest? New fans of Nick Foles.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.