Leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII
The big hype machine known as the NFL is in full swing as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens prepare over the next two weeks for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Orleans.
You have probably already heard and seen some of the headlines and storylines such as the “Bro Bowl”, “Har-Bowl”, and “Super-Baugh” and all drama of this being Ray Lewis’ last game. By the time we get to the big game, we will all be tired of the hype, and ready to finally watch the game.
Before The Freak dissects the Super Bowl in columns next Friday and Saturday, you really have to look at the two tough and season-changing decisions both Jim Harbaugh (49ers) and brother John Harbaugh (Ravens) made that truly defined their seasons, and got them to this Super Bowl.
Coaching in the NFL has to be the toughest coaching job in professional sports as their decisions are heavily scrutinized and examined for a full week until their next game. Sometimes these decisions work, but many times they backfire, leading them to be fired at the end of the season.
One of the biggest gambles by a coach in recent memory happened in Week 10. That’s when 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith was knocked out of the game with a concussion against the Rams. Smith is replaced by sophomore Colin Kaepernick, who comes in and plays very well. Smith receives the start the following week against the Bears, and he soundly beats them.
Coach Harbaugh then had to decide between a now-healthy Smith, who had at the time a season passer rating of over 100, and the young and athletic Kaepernick, who he knew would give his offence a different dimension because of his running ability.
However, there is an unwritten rule in football where players never lose their job/position due to an injury. Harbaugh had a very difficult decision to make as Smith was also a very popular guy in the dressing room, and there was a chance the other veteran players could turn on him, he would lose the whole team and probably kill their playoff chances.
But Harbaugh went against conventional wisdom, rolled the dice and named Kaepernick the starter, and the rest you can say is history. It was a gutsy decision at the time, and it makes Coach Harbaugh look like a genius.
Brother John Harbaugh of the Ravens also was faced with a big decision that ultimately changed Baltimore’s season, and this didn’t concern any particular player but a coach.
With Baltimore struggling offensively at mid-season with then offensive co-ordinator Cam Cameron, Harbaugh decided to fire Cameron late in the season in Week 14 while the Ravens were still in first place in the AFC North. This decision was very surprising for a division-leading team.
Cameron was replaced with Jim Caldwell, who didn’t provide the immediate offensive results Harbaugh was looking for until Week 16 against the Giants, and this production has continued during this playoff run. Not only has the offence improved with Caldwell, but his play-calling has led to quarterback Joe Flacco taking more shots down the field. This forces safeties to play deep, which opens up the short-to-intermediate routes for Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, and really helps Ray Rice in the running game.
Firing your offensive co-ordinator this late in the season was a bold move by Harbaugh, but it has paid dividends and look where this decision put his team!
Both brothers have an arrogance to them, and they gambled with their personnel decisions. But, at the end of the day, these moves paid off big time with a trip to New Orleans and the Super Bowl.
Stat of the week
The Pats and Tom Brady were an astounding 67-0 (won-lost) when leading at halftime at home, but the Ravens changed all that. The Ravens came back from a 13-7 deficit at the half to win 28-13.
Pet peeve of the week
The Freak doesn’t know how many other people were affected by last Sunday night’s power outage, but come on, how can the power go out on Championship Sunday in the middle of the Patriots-Ravens’ game?
The Freak would like to thank local Pats’ fans Jason Ahern and Dave Chisholm for accommodating The Freak during the power interruption. There were some sad-looking faces when the game was over, and they even blamed it on the Giants and The Freak’s bad karma (Wes Welker dropping another big third-down pass like in last year’s Super Bowl) for the Patriots’ loss.
Bonehead play of the week
Coach Belichick and Brady are usually so good at time management that it was astonishing that they would let the clock run down at the end of the first half and only have time to kick a field goal rather than having a couple of shots at the end zone that would of put them up by 17-7 rather than 13-7.
Brady who is usually very aware of the time clock could have either threw the ball away on that play, or called timeout immediately after he slid. Hard to believe these two would mess up like this in such a big game.
Last week: 1-for-2.
John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.