It’s been a month and — let’s see — three days since Malcolm Butler, obscure even by the usual parameters of obscurity, made the single greatest play in NFL history and helped boost Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to equal footing with Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll atop the Coach/QB Ring Collectors’ podium.
A month and three days, and the ending — or if you’ve got the time, the full fourth quarter, or hell, why not relive the whole damn thing? — still remains as enthralling and watchable as it was that delirious night when legacies were secured and that certain obscurity became a household name in New England and perhaps beyond.
Don’t know about you, but I can’t see that changing at least until we have the entire sequence of plays on the winning drive memorized in order, along with the time on the clock and the down and distance.
T.Brady pass short right to R.Gronkowski to SEA 19 for 13 yards … S.Vereen up the middle to SEA 12 for 7 yards (B.Wagner) … T.Brady pass short left to B.LaFell run out of bounds at SEA 5 for 7 yards … T.Brady pass short left to J.Edelman for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN …
I tell you, I’m getting there, and it wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever if already beat me to it. If ever you require or desire a reminder of why we invest so much time in sports, watch the last few minutes of that game. Malcolm Butler bringing down the confetti. That’s why.
Even if you have SoundFX and Turning Point and NBC’s game broadcast locked in on your DVR and ready to be queued up at any moment, this week brought one more required video to complement our collections and recollections: The official Super Bowl champions DVD arrived in the Target, Wal-Mart, or Zayres near you on Tuesday.
I haven’t watched the official DVD yet, in part because I’m skeptical of how much previously unseen stuff there is from Super Bowl XLIX. But it’s an essential purchase, especially if you’re a completionist. It will look very nice on the shelf next to the videos from XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX.
Feel free to save a spot on that shelf for L, or 50, if you know what I mean. Sure, a repeat is no easy feat, as the Seahawks discovered right before the finish line, or the goal line, I suppose. The Patriots remain the last to go back-to-back, in 2003-04, though I’m pretty sure Ray Lewis is convinced the Ravens won at least nine straight during his time in Baltimore, and has an incoherent conspiracy theory for every season they didn’t win.
Presuming you’ve managed to hit pause on the DVR or that new DVD in the last few days to catch up on current NFL news, you’re aware that its officially back to business time for the franchise. This is the silly season of rumors and transactions, but it’s getting serious now, and not just because the Patriots cleared more than $8 million of cap space by passing on Vince Wilfork’s option today.
I’ll give the great Wilfork, a two-time champion and butt-fumble protagonist, his proper due when its certain he’s not coming back. But for now, the departure of the only remaining member of the Super Bowl XXXIX champs other than the quarterback, stands as a reminder that even the sweetest moments are relegated to our memories sooner than we would like sometimes.
While those memories will remain forever warm, the duck boat engines have cooled, and during this period of roster purgatory as free-agency nears, it appears the Patriots might — might — be looking at a greater degree of difficulty than any of us want to acknowledge at the moment. Two of the Patriots’ best position players — and two of the best players at their position in the NFL — could conceivably be playing elsewhere next season.
A brief synopsis of the situation you surely know well: If the Patriots decline All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis’s $20 million option, he will be free to sign elsewhere. Same goes for safety Devin McCourty, who was not franchise-tagged by the Patriots and will now be in a position to go on a recruiting tour that he never seemed to want.
As I’ve suggested before, the Patriots will have had a successful offseason if they find some way to retain the two core players — both so talented and intelligent, with skills that complement each other’s and enhance their teammates’ — from their superb defensive backfield.
No one among us seems to have an honest clue yet on what will happen. It seems logical that if the Patriots retain just one, it will be Revis, who owns those scarce game-changing skills at cornerback and fit perfectly as a decade-late successor to his fellow Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native and future Hall of Famer Ty Law.
There’s a reason we barely heard Revis’s name in the Super Bowl other than when that buffoon Doug Baldwin took advantage of a Kendrick Perkins-caliber pick from the official to beat him for a touchdown: the Seahawks did not dare aim the football in his direction. The value of having a cornerback with that particular set of skills cannot be exaggerated.
Every team that can afford him should covet him — and will. The Jets have already announced their interest in the most clueless and Jetsian way possible — by tampering via their owner, Mr. Magoo. Rex Ryan, exiled to Buffalo, recently traded for Revis’s friend and fellow former Pitt star LeSean McCoy, which seems a desperate ploy if that is indeed the ploy. Quick, sign Tyler Palko too, just in case!
All things being equal, would you rather play for a coach who does rather than says? And would you rather play with a college buddy or 50-something guys with whom you just won a Super Bowl? If the Patriots pay, why wouldn’t Revis stay?
Even if he’s the lesser player, in a way McCourty is the more compelling decision. He was greeted as an underwhelming selection when the Patriots chose him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft; Mel Kiper Jr., forever bewildered by the Patriots’ draft strategy, touted him as a special teams ace and not much more.
He became so much more — a Pro Bowl rookie cornerback who once led to hyperbolic discussions about whether he was the next Revis. Then, after struggling at cornerback in his second year, moved to safety and became one of the best at the position, everything Steelers fans still believe the out-of-position ghost of Troy Polamalu to be.
But you wonder where the tipping point with him is in terms of salary. The Patriots didn’t franchise him at $9.6 million, and that makes sense. That’s steep. But another team might offer him a similar salary or an especially fat bonus, and then there will be decisions to made on both sides. Will McCourty, who clearly has had little interest in leaving, get an offer he cannot pass up? Will the Patriots decide that Duron Harmon or Logan Ryan or someone else can replace him at a fraction of the cost?
It’s a bummer that Wilfork’s outstanding career here may be over, though if it’s the case then the pair of championships make for excellent bookends. But if clearing that money opens the door for both Revis and McCourty to remain, well, there does happen to be space on the shelf for another DVD or two.