With almost two weeks of what will be non-stop Super Bowl coverage around the football world, there will come a time when the same story is recycled and then recycled again. It’s one of the drawbacks of actually having a week off between the conference championship games and Super Bowl Sunday.
It’s also only magnified by the fact that this particular Super Bowl between Tom Brady’s New England Patriots and Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks has a whole bunch of storylines surrounding it.
On that note, here’s a brief look at the top storylines for Super Bowl XLIX set to take place February 1st in Arizona. We will provide you our in-depth look and normal weekly piece a few days prior to the big game itself.
Pete Carroll Against His Old Team
At some point, every football-related newspaper or website will cover this back story between now and the Super Bowl itself. It’s a story that pits Carroll’s previous struggles in the NFL against his current success at the same level. Carroll coached the New England Patriots for all of three seasons (1997-1999). It came at a time in his career after he was promoted to a head coaching role following a two-year stint as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. Okay, that’s a storyline in and of itself.
While not disastrous by any stretch of the imagination, Carroll’s three year stint in New England wasn’t anything to write home about. He finished .500 or better in all three seasons, earning playoff spots in 1997 and 1998. However, following an eight-win 1999 season, Carroll was fired. He was then replaced by Bill Belichick, who is leading the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl in his 15 seasons as the team’s head coach. Did we mention that prior to his gig in San Francisco, Carroll was the head coach of the New York Jets? Good thing we did, because it’s a stint that lasted about 364 days longer than Belichick’s tenure as the Jets head coach.
Tom Brady’s Third Attempt at Matching Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw
It’s probably a good thing that Mr. Brady isn’t taking on a certain NFC East team this upcoming February in his sixth Super Bowl appearance. After hoisting the Lombardi in his first three tries, Brady has lost his last two attempts to match Montana and Bradshaw with four Super Bowl titles. Both losses have come against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
If you look at Brady’s overall performance in these FIVE Super Bowls, not much has changed from his early-career success. After throwing a combined six touchdowns compared to one interception in wins against St. Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia, Brady compiled three touchdowns and one interception in his two losses to the Giants. The difference between success and failure for the Patriots can be summed up by the following statistic. Their defense forced a total of one turnover in the team’s two losses compared to eight in the three Super Bowl victories. Overall, New England’s five Super Bowl appearances with Brady at the helm have been decided by a total of two points.
A Dying Dynasty vs A New Dynasty
No matter how much success New England has over the next couple seasons, its Tom Brady-led dynasty is surely going to come to an end at some point in the not-so-distant future. At 37 years old and with 237 NFL starts under his belt, Brady simply isn’t gong to be able to cleat up forever. In fact, this might be his last chance of earning that elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy.
At 62 years old and with 40-plus years of NFL coaching experience, Bill Belichick’s future is a bit less certain. Unlike actually suiting up on the field, coaches can (health permitting) man the sideline into their golden years. The oldest coach in the NFL today is New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin at 68 years old. So, Belichick’s window is likely closing as well.
Interestingly enough, Seahawks head man Pete Carroll is the second-oldest head coach in the league at 63. Though, it’s safe to assume that he’s a more youthful individual than Belichick. At least, that’s the conclusion we can draw by looking at the two on the sideline. The biggest comparison to draw here is between the quarterbacks. Russell Wilson (26) was 11 years old when Brady attempted his first NFL pass back in 2000. As a whole, Seattle was the seventh-youngest team heading into the season at an average age of nearly 26 years old. Even when Carroll retires, Seattle will boast the youth on the roster with potential replacements within the coaching staff to succeed for some time.
Rob Gronkowski vs Earl Thomas
This is a matchup that will be the central focus of film sessions for both teams heading into the Super Bowl. The best all-around tight end in the NFL going up against one of the best defensive players of the modern era. A player in Gronkowski that makes opposing linebackers and defensive backs look like road kill the vast majority of the time going up against a safety in Earl Thomas that eats pass catchers alive with the widest coverage net of any safety in the league.
Tom Brady put up 14 touchdowns compared to five interceptions for a 109.7 rating when targeting Gronkowski during the regular season. Meanwhile, Thomas allowed just two interceptions with a 85.6 rating when he was targeted. It truly is strength versus strength in this one.
In reality, whoever wins this matchup will likely be hoisting the Lombardi when all is said and done in Arizona next month.