And then there were two.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are set to face off in Super Bowl LVII, and what a matchup it is, with a pair of star-studded No. 1 seeds battling for the Lombardi Trophy. Can't wait!
Of course, that season finale in Glendale, Arizona, isn't the only pressing NFL matter at the moment. We're still dealing with fallout from Championship Sunday while simultaneously riding the coaching carousel. Oh, and the greatest player to ever throw a football just retired. Whole lotta action, to say the least.
With that in mind, this feels like the perfect time to go around the league and get some takes off. Early in the two-week build-up to the Super Bowl, here are my big-picture statements across the NFL, Schein Nine style.
1) Tom Brady is The G.O.A.T.
Michael Jordan remains the gold standard on the hardwood. On the ice, well, there's a reason they call Wayne Gretzky "The Great One." But in the grander realm of American team sports, I believe one thing to be true:
Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. of G.O.A.T.s.
Is this a hot take in the immediate wake of Brady's retirement, which he says is "for good" this time? Nope. It's just the truth. How could it not be? Over nearly a quarter-century with the Patriots and Buccaneers, the quarterback completely dominated a salary-cap sport built for parity. Need evidence? I have plenty ...
- Brady won seven Super Bowl titles, which is more than any NFL franchise. He won six of those with Bill Belichick in New England. Then he relocated to Tampa Bay and -- at age 43! -- promptly guided the Buccaneers to the top of the NFL mountain, knocking off Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in the playoff run.
- Brady made a serious run at his fourth MVP in his penultimate season, leading all NFL passers in yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) at age 44.
- Brady retires ranking No. 1 in NFL history in completions (7,753), pass attempts (12,050), yards (89,214), passing touchdowns (649), starts (333), QB wins (251), Pro Bowl nods (15) and Super Bowl MVPs (five).
I could go on forever -- like Brady's career did -- but what's the point? How many cherries must I put on top before everyone acknowledges TB12's unparalleled deliciousness? He's the king of America's top sport.
Brady began this millennium as the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft. Twenty-three years later, he's No. 1 across the board.
2) Haason Reddick is the NFL's most underrated player
Three QB pressures, two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a partridge in a pear tree. Reddick's fingerprints were all over Philadelphia's 31-7 win over San Francisco. And this follows up a 1.5-sack performance in the Eagles' blowout victory over the Giants in the Divisional Round. Nothing new with this cat -- he's been a game-wrecking force for quite some time, whether the larger football-watching public has taken notice or not.
Reddick has posted at least 11 sacks in each of the past three seasons. The strange part: He's done so with three different teams. But Reddick, who grew up near Philadelphia and played his college ball at Temple, seems to be putting roots down with the Eagles. Just another feather in the cap of savvy GM Howie Roseman, who brilliantly pounced on the former No. 13 overall pick with a three-year, $45 million deal this past offseason. Loved the move then, and I'm absolutely infatuated with it now. In his first year with Philly, Reddick has posted a grand total of 19.5 sacks: 16 in the regular season, 3.5 in the postseason. That's the highest combined total in the NFL this season. And you can bet your bottom dollar Reddick will do his part to heat up Patrick Mahomes on Super Bowl Sunday.
A Pro Bowler for the first time, Reddick is finally getting some recognition -- but he deserves so much more. Reddick was originally miscast by his drafting team, the Arizona Cardinals, as an off-ball linebacker. Now he's a ferocious quarterback hunter, and it's open season. Philadelphia's offense has garnered plenty of attention, with Jalen Hurts' stirring rise into MVP candidacy, but the defense is every bit as responsible for the franchise's second Super Bowl appearance in six seasons. The Eagles racked up a whopping 70 sacks in the regular season -- 15 more than the next-closest team -- and they lead the league with eight more QB takedowns in the playoffs. Reddick is the tip of this devastating spear.
3) Sunday was the best performance to date in Patrick Mahomes' majestic career
One thing to remember about the Willis Reed's iconic Game 7 performance: The hobbled big man scored a grand total of four points. That was more about his mere presence, how he sent Madison Square Garden into a frenzy coming out of the tunnel and inspired his Knicks teammates to nab the franchise's first NBA championship.
Mahomes, on the other hand, went out on one ankle and shredded Lou Anarumo's stout Bengals defense for 326 yards and two touchdowns. And he did so while the injury bug was actively devouring his receiving corps. Just amazing stuff. I'm still mesmerized. After a week full of trash talk -- from Cincinnati defensive backs to the Cincinnati mayor -- Mahomes' shut everyone up. Or, as Chiefs owner Clark Hunt eloquently summed it up, "Superman put on his cape."
This was indeed superhero stuff. Without Tyreek Hill, whose offseason departure was supposed to significantly hinder this attack, Mahomes completed passes to 10 different pass catchers to reclaim the Lamar Hunt Trophy. With a high ankle sprain, an injury that's supposed to significantly hinder world-class athletes, Mahomes inflicted vengeance on Joe Burrow and the reigning AFC champion Bengals. This was Mahomes' most impressive performance yet. Can't wait to see what he has in store for an encore on the sport's biggest stage.
4) That Bengals loss will sting until Joe Burrow wins it all
Cincinnati fans are really hurting in the wake of this defeat. They're fuming over how the game was officiated, and I had some gripes of my own on that front. But the cold, hard truth is that Cincy had chances to win this game. Joe Burrow threw two interceptions on forced passes into coverage. The Bengals had two fourth-quarter possessions with the score knotted at 20 apiece, and they failed to even reach midfield, much less put points on the board. And then, of course, Joseph Ossai committed the late hit that set up Harrison Butker's game-winning field goal.
All of that stuff stings -- badly. But there is a salve to soothe Cincy's pain, and he wears the No. 9 jersey. Burrow recently said the Bengals' Super Bowl window is "my whole career," and I believe him. Until he gives the Queen City its first Lombardi Trophy, though, this loss will burn.
5) Best Super Bowl storyline? It's the Andy Reid bowl!
I love Andy Reid. And what he accomplished in Philadelphia should never be forgotten. Remember Rich Kotite? Ray Rhodes? Not exactly pillars of stability in Philly. Then Reid came along and changed everything during his 14 seasons with the franchise, making the playoffs nine times and winning six NFC East titles. Reid's Eagles played in four straight NFC Championship Games just after the turn of the millennium, making the Super Bowl in the final season of that streak. But he never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy ...
... until he got to Kansas City. When Reid took the Chiefs job in January of 2013, Kansas City was fresh off a 2-14 season. Reid immediately guided the Chiefs to an 11-5 playoff campaign in Year 1. Now in his 10th season with the franchise, Reid has posted an astounding record of 117-45 (.722 winning percentage), claiming each of the past seven AFC West titles. And in the 2019 season, Reid gave K.C. its second Super Bowl title, 50 years after the franchise's first triumph.
Reid is the best coach in the NFL today not named Bill Belichick. He's an all-timer with the wins and offensive influence to prove it. He's a no-doubt Hall of Famer, having reshaped the franchises in two football-crazy cities. Super Bowl LVII will be a lovefest from both fan bases, and I'm ready to soak it in.
6) Sean Payton is perfect for the Broncos
The Broncos got it done! Denver sent a 2023 first-round pick (No. 29 overall) and a 2024 second-round selection to New Orleans in exchange for Payton and a future third-rounder, per NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. We haven't seen the contract details, but you can be sure Denver's paying top dollar. And you know what? Sean Payton is worth every single penny. Forget about the draft currency relinquished: This hire is an absolute home run for the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group.
Remember what the Saints were before Payton's arrival? A franchise that had logged one playoff berth and two winning campaigns in the previous 13 seasons. In Year 1, Payton guided New Orleans to the NFC Championship Game. In Year 4, the Saints won their first Super Bowl title. The man posted a 152-89 record (.631 winning percentage) in NOLA. And two of his better teams were thwarted by unthinkable outcomes in back-to-back postseasons: "The Minneapolis Miracle" and the missed pass interference against the Rams.
Remember Denver's last three head coaches? Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett. After swinging and missing on three first-timers, the Broncos needed a proven commodity. That's Payton, who's a combination of Bill Parcells and Sean McVay. The 59-year-old is a future Hall of Famer, a culture changer and a quarterback guru. That last part is obviously crucial for this particular assignment.
Frankly, given how poorly Russell Wilson played in his debut season in Denver, I was mildly surprised Payton was even interested in this job. Remember, this team plays in the AFC West, the division featuring the great Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. But you have to assume the man has a plan -- and who am I to doubt him? If anyone can get Russ back on the rails, it's Payton. What a coup for the Broncos and their amazing fans.
7) DeMeco Ryans is exactly what the Texans needed
I loved Ryans as a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Texans. As the franchise's new head man? Well, I just voted him Assistant Coach of the Year on my Associated Press ballot, so you better believe I love the hire for Houston.
The Texans have been a rudderless mess since they blew a 24-0 lead at Arrowhead in the 2019 playoffs and then traded DeAndre Hopkins two months later. This resulted in three straight losing seasons, two straight one-and-done coaches and one organization in serious disarray. Now Ryans is here to calm the waters.
The 38-year-old has made a meteoric rise in the coaching industry, having begun his second career as a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers in 2017. Over the past two years as San Francisco's defensive coordinator, the Niners have allowed just 18.9 points per game, which ranks second in that span. Over that same time period, the Texans have allowed 25.7 ppg, ranking second-to-last. San Francisco's defense was an absolute beast this season, ranking first in scoring D, total D and opponents' three-and-out percentage.
Ryans, who was one of the hottest coaches in this cycle, immediately adds credibility to a franchise that had lost its way. Given proper time and resources, he's going to deliver a winner to Houston.
8) Dak Prescott NEEDS Mike McCarthy to call plays
A season marked by offensive ups and downs in Dallas ended with a Divisional Round loss to San Francisco in which the Cowboys failed to clear 300 yards while Dak Prescott threw more picks (two) than touchdown passes (one). Prescott's numbers went in the wrong direction in the latter stages of Kellen Moore's tenure as offensive coordinator, culminating in the most disappointing season of the QB's career (just 238.3 passing yards per game, with 23 touchdowns against a league-high 15 picks). So it was not a surprise when the team and Moore went their separate ways. It just wasn't working out any longer -- and I think all parties involved will be better off with the split (more on Moore in a second).
Mike McCarthy has won 12 games in each of the last two years, and he finally captured a playoff victory this season. He seems to have job security, but he also surely knows the deal: There will be expectations for Dallas to go further in next year's postseason. Though things got bumpy in the end for McCarthy in Green Bay, he showed over his time with the Packers that he is an excellent play-caller and quarterback guru. I can remember Aaron Rodgers raving to me on SiriusXM Radio about McCarthy's quarterback school, and how the coach used to game-plan with Rodgers during the week. This is why I'm zeroing in on the idea of McCarthy calling plays in Dallas, as NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported is a possibility.
Hopefully, the Cowboys also help Prescott by adding more talent, but handing McCarthy the play-calling reins would really even out Prescott's play.
9) Kellen Moore and Justin Herbert are a perfect match
The well-respected Moore didn't have to wait long for a new gig, snagging the Chargers' coordinator job shortly after saying goodbye to the Cowboys. And this is a great fit.
Justin Herbert is a quarterbacking freak, but it's safe to say his full potential was not tapped over the last two seasons with Joe Lombardi as coordinator. Herbert is an excellent deep passer, ranking in the top 10 in passer rating on throws of 20-plus air yards over the past three years, per Next Gen Stats (among those with 100 such attempts). And yet, his deep-passing rate declined in each of the past two seasons, from 10.3 percent of pass attempts in his rookie campaign to 8.9 percent in 2021 and 8.2 percent in '22. It didn't help that Herbert's playoff debut ended with a shocking collapse against the Jaguars.
I believe Moore has the offensive mind to unlock Herbert -- and the Chargers need things to click instantly with their QB, who is eligible for an extension this offseason. It is crucial for the Bolts to take advantage of the window that opened with Herbert's Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2020.