Quarterbacks and coaching. The NFL proved once again on Sunday night in Super Bowl LI that the winning formula includes a high level of performance by the quarterback, in this came the incomparable Tom Brady, and the ability of the coaching staff to maximize talent and make the correct in-game adjustments.
In coming back from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to win the first overtime game in the history of the Super Bowl, Brady and the Patriots made history. Brady has won five Super Bowls, more than any quarterback. Head coach Bill Belichick, of course, is the architect of the program that uses mismatched parts from other rosters and blends them into championship players in New England.
Quarterbacks and coaching.
There were many notes to be taken from the Super Bowl, but only one needs to be discussed here, as it relates very directly to the Eagles' 2016 season. Atlanta's offensive-possession mistakes late in the fourth quarter, when the Falcons held a 28-20 lead with just over four minutes remaining and needed only a field goal to basically ice the game, reminded all of us of the Eagles' devastating loss in Dallas. The Eagles had the football and a seven-point lead at the Cowboys' 32-yard line with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia was unable to advance the ball, so instead of lining up Jake Elliott for a field goal that would have potentially given the Eagles a two-score lead with six minutes remaining, head coach Doug Pederson called for a Donnie Jones punt on fourth down. Dallas had the football at its 10-yard line and proceeded to drive the length of the field and tie the game with a touchdown.
The Cowboys won the game in overtime.
In the Super Bowl, Atlanta had a first down at New England's 22-yard line, holding the eight-point lead. Instead of playing conservatively, Atlanta called passing plays on second and third downs, and a sack and a holding penalty moved Atlanta out of field goal range.
They call it "knowing the situation," in the NFL, and Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan picked the wrong strategy. His placekicker, Matt Bryant, has made 31-of-32 career field goal attempts of 40 yards and shorter in his long, outstanding career in the fourth quarter and overtime of games.
watched the magic of Aaron Rodgers, with his third-down throw that set up the Packers' game-winning field goal to defeat Dallas in the NFC's Divisional Round of the playoffs. He watched Brady last night keep his cool, use all of his weapons, and take what the soft Atlanta defense gave him in a torrid 19-0 New England run in the fourth quarter and then the no-doubt-about-it drive to win the Super Bowl in overtime.
New England's coaching staff deserves a world of credit, too. Brady's protection in the first half was shaky, at best. New England made good adjustments and all of a sudden had time in the third and fourth quarters to mount the comeback. The Patriots' defense also rose to the occasion, a compliment to in-game moves and counter moves made that worked.
Wentz, the Eagles believe, has that kind of top-tier talent in him, and his rookie season demonstrated the quarterback's maturity, poise, and his late-game tools (against Atlanta, in Baltimore, and at home against the Giants). Wentz has a chance to be the elite quarterback the Eagles haven't had since Donovan McNabb, and maybe even more than that. Wentz has a superior physical stature compared to McNabb, and there is no quarterback out there who puts in more time and has more love of the game than Wentz.
So the Eagles have the quarterback. They have made it very clear that the offseason goal is to bring in players to give Wentz his best chance at greatness. It's likely to take more than one, and maybe even more than two, offseason to fulfill the vision of Wentz's supporting cast.
Pederson and his coaching staff had a 7-9 first season. The Eagles didn't reach the postseason, but there were some extremely positive signs in the development of some key, young players, and in the locker room's response to tough times - the way the players heard Pederson's message and put forth great effort during a stretch run that was challenging.
Year 2 for Pederson and the Eagles starts now. Every team in the NFL is 0-0. The Eagles have some difficult decisions to make with their current roster and in free agency, which begins on March 9. The NFL Draft is right around the corner after that.
It's always going to come down to the quarterback and the coaching in the NFL. The Eagles feel like they are heading in the right direction. To get there, a whole lot of work remains. Let the 2017 season begin as 2016 ended with a Super Bowl for the ages and a quarterback, and a coach, who are the best in the history of the sport, demonstrating again how champions do it.