Catching up with the McCaffreys, Jerry Jones, Pat Surtain, Kyle Shanahan, Dave Toub and Andy Lowry.
LAS VEGAS — Cleaning out the Super Bowl notebook from four days and three nights in Sin City and wondering whatever happened to the 46 defense. …
There have been 13 NFL Honors and Red Carpet events and in the past there were Vince Vaughn, Jeff Goldblum, Evander Holyfield, Joe Namath, Mike Ditka and Rob Lowe who strolled through and talked to us media gawkers. The highlight for me for Thursday’s Red Carpet stroll was Colorado’s First Family of Football, Ed and Lisa McCaffrey.
“No, no. That one is for the Elways, first and foremost,’’ Lisa said. “They’re royalty. We’re the jesters.”
One of the McCaffreys’ four football playing sons, Christian, was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year that night. He will play today as the starting running back for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII (58).
“Pretty cool. I mean ask us on Monday,’’ Ed said. “We’re parents, we’re fans. We love him, we support him, we’re proud of him and we’ll be there to cheer him on. Hopefully the 9ers give us something to cheer about.”
Ed and Lisa weren’t parental partiers here during Super Bowl week. They had jobs to do. Ed had his regular weekly gig with Sirius XM and Lisa has been a Radio Row regular with her Your Mom podcast. They didn’t mind the diversion. When their son is playing in the Super Bowl, there is a mix of fun and excitement, but also nerves and anxiety.
““All of the above,’’ Lisa said. “Definitely nervous like crazy but hopefully fun. Trying to soak it in. Trying to appreciate.” …
Jerry Jones endorses Penner
Face it, the biggest celebrity among the NFL’s 32 owners is Jerry Jones of the Cowboys. He also wields the most power. Jones was there in Minnesota in August 2022 to formally give his vote of approval on the Broncos’ sale from the Pat Bowlen Trust to the Walton-Penner ownership group.
“I have an adult, life-long admiration for the Walton family,’’ Jones said then. “They’ll lift the NFL.”
I stopped him Thursday on the Red Carpet to get his thoughts on the Broncos’ owner – Greg Penner has since assumed controlling interest – 1 ½ years later.
“Well since Greg’s never had any challenges I don’t know if he has the right stuff,’’ Jones said with a smile. “He makes me laugh. I’m saying that tongue in cheek.’’
“I will tell you how much it means to him,’’ Jones said. “And how much he means to his entire team, his family. You can look at where he spends percentage wise and realize he has that much into what his team does and what the NFL is. It’s impressive.”
Yes, but for all the resources CEO Greg Penner has allocated to the team – stadium enhancements, new turf, head coach salary, quarterback salary, new training center complex, improved press box food – he is 0-2 in bringing a winning a season to Broncos Country. The football business is like no other. Profits don’t determine success. Only wins. And that requires the right coach, the right quarterback, the well-blended roster.
Jones’ Cowboys haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 28 years. He knows the difficulty. Any advice he would give Penner on the challenges of trying to succeed in the NFL?
“Drink a lot,’’ Jones said as he started to walk away. He turned, “Teasing of course.”
Suit of Surtain
The Red Carpet had become overcrowded with a mass of humanity but even from the very back, Broncos’ cornerback Pat Surtain II was easy to spot. He wore the suit of the day, a Gucci-tailored ensemble that was bright reddish-orange from shoulders to ankles with a white shirt, black bow tie and dark sunglasses.
“I actually got it – yesterday as a matter of fact,’’ Surtain said Thursday. “So I got it last minute but it came out well.”
The last time 9NEWS talked to Surtain was a couple days prior to the Broncos’ season finale against the Raiders. It was mentioned the next step in his already fabulous career is to come up with more interceptions – he has just one in his last 20 games. He acknowledged he needs to make more game-changing plays.
And then a couple days later he jumped in front of a pass intended for Raiders’ receiver Davante Adams that would have been a pick six had Surtain not dropped it. His next game, a Pro Bowl 7-on-7, flag football exhibition, Surtain did have a pick six.
Sure the Pro Bowl game was a silly, fun time. But was Surtain starting to feel the rhythm of the interception?
“Yeah, I’ve always had the rhythm, no matter what,’’ he said. “It’s just capitalizing on my opportunities and making more plays. I want to continue in improving on that and going out there and making more plays.”
Surtain said he’s going to spend his offseason getting stronger – and if possible, faster – in the weight room.
Like father, like son
Where 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is much like his dad is a propensity – maybe even a desire – for finding a diamond-in-the-rough. It was running backs for Mike Shanahan when he was head coach for the Broncos. Terrell Davis, remember, was a sixth rounder. Olandis Gary was taken in the fourth round. Mike Anderson was a 27-year-old, sixth-round draft pick. Reuben Droughns was found after two injury-riddled seasons in Detroit. Peyton Hillis was a seventh rounder.
With Kyle Shanahan, it’s quarterbacks. What he has done for Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant, is remarkable. But not surprising. When Kyle Shanahan interviewed for the Broncos’ vacant head coach position in 2017, he let it be known the team could continue winning with Trevor Siemian as the team’s quarterback. This was with Broncos’ first-round pick Paxton Lynch coming off his rookie year.
I have thought of Siemian as I watched Purdy here and there the past two years. Siemian wasn’t that far away from the Mr. Irrelevant slot when he was a 7th-round compensatory pick in 2015. Seems to me Purdy and Siemian have similar builds, which is on the smaller side as NFL prototype quarterbacks go. And both spin the ball well.
No doubt, Purdy has already been more successful than Siemian was. Then again, Siemian never had Kyle Shanahan as his coach or George Kittle as his tight end.
“When you say surprise that mean something we didn’t know from watching tape,’’ Shanahan said Tuesday of Purdy at his Super Bowl press conference at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort. “We knew his measurables were smaller but I’ll say that first day I saw him at rookie training camp I said, ‘All right, that’s not what we thought.’ Those legs are much bigger and we called him, Baby Bosa, the first day.”
Is there one thing about Purdy that makes him one of the NFL’s best the past 1 ½ seasons?
“You can’t be great in this league unless you have like 20 things,’’ Shanahan said. “So Brock’s got it all.” …
The other 2017 candidate
There were three candidates who interviewed for the Broncos’ vacant head coaching job after Gary Kubiak resigned for health reasons following the 2016 season. Kyle Shanahan. Vance Joseph, who got the job. And Dave Toub, the Kansas City Chiefs’ special teams coordinator.
Toub also interviewed for the Chargers’ head position that year but the job went to Anthony Lynn. Toub hasn’t interviewed for a head coach job since, even though he continues to be considered one of the NFL’s best special coordinators.
“I’m 61 years old now and I think I had my chance,’’ Toub said in an interview Wednesday with 9NEWS. “I had I think a total of four or five interviews in a period of time from about 2010 to about 2017.’’
Toub’s agent is Paul Sheehy, who is based in Littleton. Toub and Sheehy were teammates at Springfield (Mass.) College. As I said in respect to interim head coach Jerry Rosburg last season, I always thought special teams coordinators should get more head coach opportunities. They are the only coordinators who oversee the entire roster. Offensive and defensive coordinators, who only work with one unit, keep getting the head jobs. The exception is John Harbaugh, who’s been exceptional as the Ravens’ head coach the past 16 years, averaging 10 wins a season and winning the Super Bowl in 2012.
“You see the whole team,’’ Toub said. “You work with the whole team, offense, defense. You talk to the whole team. It’s unique that way but it’s not acceptable, it’s not the norm for (special teams coordinators) to get (head coach) opportunities.”
How may offensive coordinators like Josh McDaniels, Arthur Smith and Nathaniel Hackett fail as head coaches in part because they have no command of defense or special teams?
“It’s a quarterback-driven league there’s no question about it,’’ Toub said. “So at least they want to say they have one side of the ball taken care of and go from there. But there have been a lot of guys that have been qualified who came from special teams who would be excellent, excellent head coaches.”
Toub noticed how the Broncos’ special teams unit improved this year under Mike Westhoff and Ben Kotwica.
“They were much improved,’’ Toub said. “Mike’s a different guy now. I love him to death. He’ll let you know he’s damn good. Ben is a key, how he handles it. Nobody can handle a situation like that better than Ben. He’s a military guy, good background. Solid coach.” …
Here’s to coach Lowry
After the McCaffreys, the other top A-lister walking the Red Carpet this week was Andy Lowry, head coach of the Colorado high school 5A state champion Columbine. He was named the AFC’s National Coach of the Year after he was nominated by the Broncos.
“I’ve been using the phrase I’m just a kid in a candy store right now,’’ Lowry said. “All of this is incredible. We were at media day earlier today and taking in just how big the NFL is and how big the Super Bowl is. You look at this row of cameras right now is incredible.”
It’s safe to assume Lowry doesn’t get many kids from those 7 on 7 summer passing camps. Big, strong, tough kids? Columbine is for them. Columbine has won six 5A state championships since 1999 with Lowry as head coach. In its 28-14 championship win against powerhouse Cherry Creek, Columbine completed 1 of 2 passes. The completion went for 23 yards. The incompletion was intercepted. The option run game, though, compiled 257 yards and 3 touchdowns off 50 carries.
“It’s what we do,’’ Lowry said. “I learned everything we do from George Squires at Lakewood High School. Back in ‘85 they won a state championship with 27 kids (plus 5 sophomores called up in case of emergency). He’s been my mentor. Taught me everything I know.
“Our kids work extremely hard all year long in the weight room. They embrace it, they trust it and it’s a physical brand of football which is a little bit different than what everybody is playing right now. It works well.’’ …
I am a lifelong Packers fan who has no problem admitting the 1985 Chicago Bears had the most dominant defense in NFL history. The 46 defense, which defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan named after the jersey number of hard-hitting safety Doug Plank, put 8 men in the box and blitzed terror into skittish quarterbacks.
Over time, Bill Walsh’s version of the West Coast offense was able to counter the 46 and today play callers and quarterbacks are too smart, and receivers too talented for the aggressive 46 to work without getting burned. Wink Martindale, who was once a disciple of Buddy Ryan’s son Rex, is a heavy blitzer who has been one of the league’s better defensive coordinators the past six years. But the league has become enamored with Vic Fangio’ safer defensive system that protects against the big play. …
It’s cyclical. If it seemed like NFL games were a little more boring in recent years it’s because it has been. In 2020, five teams averaged 30.1 or better. The past two seasons, no team reached the 30-point-a-game threshold.
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