By Don Wanlass
It could be the passing of the torch. Or it could be a win for wisdom and experience over youthful energy.
One way or the other, Super Bowl LV Feb. 7 in Tampa, Florida, figures to be a battle between two quarterbacks: Tom Brady, arguably the greatest ever with six Super Bowl victories high on his list of accomplishments against Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who many observers believe can supplant Brady as the greatest ever some day.
It’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl where a team is playing in its home stadium.
The NFL is a quarterback’s league so most of the spotlight will shine on Brady and Mahomes. It will be Brady’s 10th Super Bowl, five more than any other quarterback (John Elway started five during his career with the Denver Broncos).
Brady is 6-3 in Super Bowls, obviously the most wins of any Super Bowl quarterback and tied for second for the most losses.
He is considered by many to be the greatest of all time, even though Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are both 4-0 as starting Super Bowl quarterbacks.
Mahomes guided the Chiefs to last year’s Super Bowl win, a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Brady guided the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl in his first year with the team after spending his first 20 years with the New England Patriots. Mahomes is in his fourth year after the Chiefs traded up to draft him 10th overall in the 2017 draft.
The two teams met in week 12 this season, with the Chiefs winning on the road 27-24.
In that game, the Chiefs led 27-10 after three quarters before Brady engineered a comeback that came up short. Brady hit receiver Michael Evans with a touchdown pass to pull within three points with four minutes remaining but the Chiefs were able to run out the clock and hold on to the win.
In that game, Brady threw for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns, but was intercepted twice.
Mahomes threw for 462 yards and 3 touchdowns without an interception. Tyreek Hill caught all three touchdown passes on plays that covered 74, 44 and 20 yards and the Chiefs held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
Look for Tampa Bay to try and shutdown the Mahomes-to-Hill connection early and look for a game with less scoring than the first battle.
I’m picking the Chiefs by a 24-21 score, but you can’t count out Brady in a Super Bowl. That’s when he becomes Tom Terrific.
QB 2: Speaking of quarterbacks, the Rams and Detroit Lions tried to upstage the Super Bowl this week by agreeing to trade quarterbacks.
It was a trade of former No. 1 draft picks. Stafford was chosen by the Lions first overall in 2009 out of Georgia. Goff was chosen first overall by the Rams out of Cal in 2016.
It took Stafford two years to become the Lions’ starter. Since then, he has thrown for more than 45,000 yards and 282 touchdowns. His first season as a starter he guided the Lions to a 10-6 season, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns.
He threw for more than 4,000 yards in six straight years from 2012 to 2017, but the most touchdown passes he has thrown since 2011 was 32 in 2015.
His record as a starting quarterback is 74-90-1, so why did the Rams give up Goff, two future first-round draft picks and a third-round pick this year?
The answer: Because the Rams really wanted to get rid of Goff. Head coach Sean McVay soured on Goff this season after he committed four turnovers in a loss to Miami and three more in a loss to San Francisco. He also missed on two late passes in a late-season loss to the Jets, which McVay faulted his execution, or lack thereof, on the plays.
Two years ago, Goff and McVay had the Rams in the Super Bowl, but Bill Belichick outcoached the boy genius coach McVay in his second season and the Rams lost 13-3. Since then, the Rams have gone 9-7 and 9-6 and some of the luster has fallen off McVay.
He and general manager Ed Snead have decided that Stafford is an upgrade, even though he is almost 33 years old and Goff is 26.
The Rams signed Goff to a contract extension in 2019, guaranteeing him $110 million. They will take a $22 million hit on the salary cap this year for getting rid of Goff so early.
The trade is hard to fathom for a lot of reasons. Goff obviously had fallen out of favor with the Rams. His lack of mobility was noticeable when he sat out the last game of the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals and backup quarterback John Wolford led the Rams to a win that clinched their playoff berth, running for a couple of key first downs late in the game and earning praise for his mobility from McVay.
Stafford is not considered a mobile quarterback. He is a protypical drop-back NFL quarterback who has run the ball 345 times in his career for 1,198 yards.
In 2019, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson gained more than 1,200 yards on only 176 carries. That’s a mobile quarterback.
Stafford may throw the deep ball better than Goff, but Goff and three draft picks was too much for the Rams to give up for a quarterback whose best days are behind him.
It’s a daring move by the Rams, which may prove costly in the long run.
GOING HOME: The road to a WNBA title got a little harder for the Los Angeles Sparks with the news that star Candace Parker was signing a free agent contract to play in her hometown, Chicago, with the Sky after 13 seasons with the Sparks.
Parker has averaged 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds a game during her career while winning two WNBA most valuable player awards and one championship.
She was the MVP of the WNBA Finals in 2016 when the Sparks won their last WNBA title.
“I’m so thankful and so lucky to have played for an amazing organization with the Sparks,” Parker said. “It’s difficult to leave, but in a way, I’m getting the best of both worlds.”