New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV Champions: Another Average NFL Films Production

The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV highlight package is rather average, but a bit better than the last few years.  Of course, for any New Orleans fan it is a great keepsake, no doubt.

The feature of all the team specific Super Bowl highlight packages is about an hour long highlights reel of the New Orleans Saints regular season.  This year’s edition does a decent job of showing the key highlights of every regular season game.  It moves at a much faster clip than most years, or at least seems to, and doesn’t even tease at making an attempt at building up any drama, which is the greatest failure of most of these highlight packages.  But unlike many previous years, where the film unsuccessfully feigns drama building, at least in this one you get what you get, a nice, fast paced journey through the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 season.  There is nothing particularly special about it, unless you are a Saints fan, and is entertaining enough if you are not.

This edition, however, does a horrific job of building up any of the drama of the Saints’ postseason.  It certainly shows all the Saints highlights from the Saints point of view.  But the drama building, especially of the Saints very close playoff win against the Minnesota Vikings, and their very close (despite the final score of 31-17) Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts is simply a joke.  You’d think the overtime victory against the Vikings and the win against the Colts were undramatic, almost foregone conclusions watching this compilation.  It just does a completely lousy job of it.

Worse yet, there are very few close breakdowns of dramatic plays and events during the season, and of the NFC Championship and Super Bowl wins.  It’s just a simply a highlights reel from the Saints’ perspective, and that is about it.

The Bonus Features are also a huge let down. You get the postgame celebrations, NFL media day, the halftime show, and a short personal close-up of the travails of Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, which is really the best of the Bonus Features.  The Bonus Features are simply thin and not very good.

The Saints made history with their first and rather dramatic win in Super Bowl XLIV.  While any Saints and NFL fan will enjoy the journey, the video robs the viewer of just what an amazing and dramatic run it really was.

NFL Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints Champions

The Story Behind the Wild but Winning 1990’s Dallas Cowboys

I sat down one Saturday to read Boys Will Be Boys, about the 1990 Dallas Cowboys, and couldn’t put it down.  This book chronicles the hard partying team that won three Super Bowls in four years and is definitively the team of the 1990’s.

Given the drinking, drugs, women, and super hard partying this team engaged in during their run in the 1990’s it is simply amazing that they were able to win championships.  I’m not sure if it is a testament to just what phenomenal athletes these men were, or their dedication to football and winning despite their debauched lifestyle off the field.  According to this book it seems nearly the entire team, with the exception of a few like stars like Troy Aikman, were engaged in a wild years long party off the field, while racking up wins and championships off of it.

Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wide receiver and guard Nate Newton appear to be the ringleaders of this band of imbibers.  Of course Irvin has been busted enough times with drugs and women that it comes as no surprise.  What is surprising is just how pervasive the lifestyle was.  Certainly we all know there are a handful of players on every team that lead pretty wild lifestyles, but how a team that seemed to be immersed so deeply in drinking and womanizing (and presumably other illicit activities as well) could be so successful is really amazing.

Another completely bizarre character is defensive end Charles Haley.  Basically run out of San Francisco by his teammates for his horrible behavior, he nearly fit right in with the Dallas Cowboys.  This nasty fellow was known for exposing himself to his teammates and constantly harassing them and stirring up trouble.  Only professional athletes could ever get by with the horrendous behavior and bizarre antics of Haley.

There is also plenty of other inside information about the 1990 Cowboys.  We learn more about Troy Aikman and his leadership on the field.  And of course there is great detail about coach Jimmy Johnson who turned a blind eye to off field behaviors as long as the team kept winning.  We follow how he turned a losing team into a powerhouse with adroit drafting, his arrogant yet winning ways, and his falling out with owner Jerry Jones, when two Texas sized egos found they could not coexist.  We also get a view of the inevitable decline after the inept blowhard Barry Switzer took over as head coach.

All in all this was a wildly informative book about a wild but winning team.

Boys Will be Boys

Tom Coughlin’s Memoir of the New York Giants 2006 Super Bowl Season

Tom Coughlin’s memoir of the New York Giants 2006 season and win over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII could have been a lot more than it is.  Like the public persona of the coach, it lacks a bit of personality and inside information that football fans are looking for.  I did find it worthwhile reading, anyway.

This book functions as a mini autobiography of Coughlin’s coaching career and the high pressure and long hours it requires to be a successful coach in the National Football League.  One of the better features of the book is learning about his coaching pedigree and his discussion of how he had to loosen up a little bit with the New York Giants, who as most recall, were seemingly in near mutiny of Coughlin’s old school rules and discipline.

And while Coughlin does a good job with the above, his recounting of the season and the Giants team is often devoid of personality and inside information about how the team overcame some of the squabbling and questions about leadership to go on their improbable run to a Super Bowl victory.  He certainly plays lip service to the quiet leadership skills of the oft criticized Eli Manning and his rocky but repaired relationship with older players like Michael Strahan, but it more reportorial than emotional engaging.

There also is little about football strategy and X’s and O’s in this book, which is fine as I didn’t expect much.  But for an avid football fan like myself that always adds a great deal to a book about football.

Despite these drawbacks, I am sure New York Giants fans will enjoy this look back at the season from Coughlin’s perspective.  I would not, however, recommend this to the casual football fan.

A Team to Believe In: Our Journey to the Super Bowl Championship

Observations on Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints over Indianapolis Colts 31-17

I know this is coming woefully late but I figure better late than never.

The 2000’s offered up some of the greatest Super Bowl contests in its 40 year history. After having so many blowouts and games that simply did not live up to the hype, the 2000’s saw mostly close contests between evenly matched teams. Super Bowl XLIV looked to be another great contest between two of the most prolific offenses in the league, and it more than lived up to its hype. Despite the final score, the result of a last minute, coffin in the nail touchdown by the Saints, this was a nail biter to the finish.

New Orleans certainly had karmic energy on its side. No matter what team the AFC sent to the Super Bowl, New Orleans was going to be the rooting interest of even the most casual fan, not only because people wanted to see something good happen to the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but its history as a losing but lovable, inept franchise gave it an underdog feel, despite clearly being one of the three best teams in the league this year.

This game was almost evenly played from the start, and but for a few crucial calls by the gutsy Saints coach Sean Peyton and a crucial mistake by Peyton Manning, the Colts mostly outplayed the Saints. The first half featured a quick 10-0 lead by the Colts but the Saints held on for two field goals to make it 10-6 in a surprisingly low scoring first half. Given the way both offenses could move the ball up and down the field, the Colts receiving the ball at the beginning of the second half seemingly gave them a great advantage.

But in what will go down in one of the gutsiest coaching decisions in Super Bowl history, Sean Peyton went for an onside kick at the beginning of the second half to steal a short field and possession from the Colts. Get the ball and score and you put your team in good position to win the game. Don’t get the ball and give Peyton Manning a short field, you may end up the butt of jokes and pariah for the rest of your coaching career. After one of the nastiest scrums I’ve ever witnessed for the ball, the Saints come up with the possession and proceed to score a go ahead touchdown, 13-10 Saints.

The onside kick was the play of the game. It is what really won the game for the Saints and wrested control back away from the Colts as both teams could clear move the ball on each other. After that it was a tit for tat, and again Peyton called for a successful two point conversion after a touchdown leading to a seven point advantage with just over three minutes to go.

I suspect most fans, like me, figured that Peyton Manning and the Colts were on their way to game tying touchdown leaving the Saints a few moments on the clock to get into field goal range for a win. The Colts were easily driving down the field getting close to scoring position. I commented to a guest watching the game with me “wouldn’t a pick six be great right here?” A few moments later, Manning throws just that, an interception returned for a touchdown by Tracy Porter, the Saints’ second year cornerback. And that was it.

Did Peyton Manning choke? Manning and his teams, including in college, for whatever reason, seem to always come up short in the big games. It’s amazing that one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks of all time with one of the most consistently potent offenses year in and year out can’t seem to get over the hump in the playoffs. But I don’t think Manning chocked as much as Porter simply made a great play. Unlike most Patriots fans, I kind felt sorry for Manning.

But the Colts were facing a team that played loose and Sean Peyton coached the game to win, not to lose, which greatly benefited the Saints. So many times, including the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, the coach plays not to lose, and then loses. Hats off the Sean Peyton for an amazing and, I’ll say it a third time, gutsy coaching strategy.

This game will go down as one of the all time greats and firmly place the Colts as a great team that just can’t seal the deal when it counts most.

Drew Brees was named the MVP of the game. He deserved it.

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Offensive Player: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Trace Porter, CB, New Orleans
Offensive Lineman: Jonathan Goodwin, C, New Orleans
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans

Review of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: New England Patriots History

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from New England Patriots History by Sean Glennon

Triumph Books 2009

Review by C. Douglas Baker

There are many books now available detailing the history of the New England Patriots. Having read many of them I find that nobody has really come up with anything new to say. The typical “stories of” books essentially tell the same tales and I am not sure why the recent ones are even published because they have nothing new to say. And that is certainly the case here. There really isn’t anything new that hasn’t already been published elsewhere.

That said, this book, for the most part is fairly good. Most of it focuses on the team of the 2000’s, walking through the dynasty years and some of the pivotal moments of this decade. Not that it completely ignores the past, there are chapters talking about that as well, but it is more upbeat and positive than similar books that dwell on all the bad things that have gone on with the Patriots in its history.

The book briefly talks about all the bad things too, of course, like Darryl Stingley getting paralyzed in 1976, the Lisa Olson incident, Super Bowl XX, the horrible ownership of the 1990’s, and Spygate. I have to say, even though I’m sick of hearing about it personally, the author gives pretty short shrift to Spygate.

The author does a good job of talking about the resurgence of the Patriots under Bill Parcells, his most critical decision being the choice of Drew Bledsoe as the number one draft pick, who lead the franchise to winning records and a Super Bowl, over Rick Mirer, who was bust for the Seattle Seahawks. And it goes on to rightly praise the virtues of coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.

There are also vignettes about some of the greatest Patriots players like Adam Vinatieri, Troy Brown, Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Steve Grogan, Tedy Bruschi, and John Hannah, to name a few.

The one area I disagree with the author is when he discusses the pivotal moments of the 2003 season which lead to the Patriots second Super Bowl win in three years. He identifies a tough, gutty win over the Tennessee Titans in week five as being the turning point in the season because the team showed a toughness and ability to win that it failed to show the previous season when it missed the playoffs (in that season Tennessee clobbered the Patriots physically in a dismal Monday Night Game).

To me one play defines the 2003 season. In week 13 after taking a commanding lead against the Indianapolis Colts at halftime, the Colts came back in the second half and had the ball first and goal from the one yard line with little time left on the clock. After three stops, on fourth and goal from the one, Willie McGinnest stones Edgerrin James on a run attempt to seal the win. Had McGinest not made that play at the end of the game, the Colts, not the Patriots, would have had home field advantage in the playoffs. And that, to me, was not only the most critical game of the season, but one of the most critical plays in Patriots’ history.

I can’t imagine a non-Patriots fan wanting to read this book, especially if you’ve read similar accounts or histories of the teams. For Patriots fans I would say, reading anything about the Patriots is enjoyable, but this book did not provide any new insights that haven’t been discussed elsewhere and I would not recommend it.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly New England Patriots: Heart-pounding, Jaw-dropping, and Gut-wrenching Moments from New England Patriots History (Good, the Bad, & the Ugly)