The Not-so-Obvious Super Story Lines
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We have a little more than to get to the brothers coaching in the “Super Baugh,” the three R’s (Ray, Religion and Retirement) and the ink that’s on Colin Kaepernick’s arms and not on Joe Flacco’s next contract.
But for now, let’s try to venture off the paths that will be beaten silly soon enough. Here are four questions we thought of well before the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens kick off the Super Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans on next Sunday.
QUESTION: So who drafted the tattooed QB?
ANSWER: Trent Baalke was a high school athletic director looking for a career in finance when the Jets called to see if he’d like to interview for a scouting position back in 1998. He said yes, went to New York, got the job and, well, just look at him now.
Today, the 1987 graduate of Bemidji State in Minnesota is one of the NFL’s hottest decision-makers. Baalke is also the guy who traded up to select Kaepernick in 2011 during his first draft as 49ers general manager.
Baalke, the Rosendale, Wis., native who became an All-Midwest Region outside linebacker at Bemidji State, traded three picks to Denver to move up nine spots and select Kaepernick 36th overall. Kaepernick was the sixth QB selected that year after Cam Newton (Panthers), Jake Locker (Titans), Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars), Christian Ponder (Vikings) and Andy Dalton (Bengals).
A week from today, Kaepernick will make the Super Bowl his 10th career NFL start. Only former Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler (six) and former Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo (seven) had fewer starts before starting in the Super Bowl. Hostetler won Super Bowl XXV, while Ferragamo lost Super Bowl XIV.
Q: Will Ravens center Matt Birk follow Lewis into retirement?
A: Unlike Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Birk won’t tell anyone whether he plans to retire after the Super Bowl, the first of his 15-year career.
“A guy like Ray Lewis, you send him off properly — press conferences, all that stuff,” the former Vikings center told the Baltimore Sun. “Guys like me, I just disappear, and then you’re sitting around one day wondering, ‘Hey, whatever happened to that guy whose locker used to be over here?’ That’s how it goes.”
Actually, that’s not how it goes for six-time Pro Bowl players. But that mentality is part of Birk’s success story as a former sixth-round draft pick by the Vikings in 1998.
Overall, the Ravens offensive line has given up only three sacks in three postseason games. That’s impressive considering three positions had to be juggled at the start of the playoffs.
Rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele was moved to left guard to replace the injured Jah Reid. Left tackle Michael Oher was shifted to his old position at right tackle and former Viking Bryant McKinnie was brought off the bench to play left tackle.
Q: Who gets the ring, Birk or Moss?
A: Birk was the 173rd pick overall by the Vikings in 1998. Chosen 152 spots earlier by the Vikings that year was Randy Moss, now a 35-year-old role player with the 49ers. One of these polar opposites will leave New Orleans with his first Super Bowl ring.
It’s doubtful they’ll interact in any way. It’s also a decent bet that they haven’t spoken in eight years.
An already rocky relationship bottomed out near the end of a Vikings loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field on Jan. 2, 2005. With the Vikings lining up for an onside kick with two seconds left, Moss walked off the field.
After the game, an angry Birk hurried after Moss and confronted him alone in the locker room. Birk told Moss that his behavior wasn’t acceptable and that it couldn’t happen again.
But Moss’ first stint as a Viking lasted only two more games. A week after a wild-card playoff win at Green Bay, the Vikings were eliminated at Philadelphia.
With reporters watching, Birk approached Moss in that losing locker room. He asked Moss, “Do you have a minute?” Moss never said a word, put his headphones on and walked out. Birk turned to the reporters and said, “Guess not.”
Q: What kind of reaction will Goodell get?
A: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s photo is hanging in bars throughout the Big Easy. Some have it attached to dart boards. Others have it posted with the words, “Do Not Serve This Man.”
Obviously, Goodell won’t be walking the streets and visiting with locals still seething over his unprecedented punishment of the Saints following the “Bountygate” scandal. But he does have a trophy to present inside the Superdome.
Fortunately for Goodell, Super Bowl crowds are notoriously flat. So he’s unlikely to garner any sort of reaction from the crowd of 76,468.
Twenty-five percent of Super Bowl tickets go to the league. Another 34 percent is split evenly by the participating teams. Only 5 percent — or 3,823 tickets in the Saints’ case — goes to the host team, while the other 29 teams split the remaining 36 percent.
Also, the more rabid NFL fans get priced aside by the scalpers and the corporate suits. Tickets to this year’s game were starting at $2,168 on stubhub.com Monday.
Four years ago, I got my brother a ticket to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. He went to the Tampa Convention Center, paid the $850 face value, got the ticket, took one step outside the building and was offered $3,500 for the ticket.
He didn’t sell. I shook my head and told him I would have done exactly what Mike Tice did with his tickets to the 2006 Super Bowl.