SUPER BOWL LII: After the Bowl is Over

It’s here! Super Bowl Sunday is finally here! And as we build up to the big game, it seems a good moment to look forward to what might happen for the two teams after it is all over.

We can almost hear you thinking it: ‘Are they nuts? The game they’ve been building up to all week is here, and now they are looking past it before it has kicked off!’. But time in the NFL doesn’t stand still. The official NFL year has another four weeks to run after the game. With that in mind, it seems only right to look to four things which, win or lose, will be on the minds of the two franchises come Monday morning.

1. Where does Nick Foles go from here?

Whether the Eagles win or not, Foles knows that as soon as Carson Wentz is fit again, he’s back to holding the clipboard. Will that be enough for him? There are certainly a number of QB-needy teams out there, and only one Kirk Cousins to go around. He’s still under contract, so the Eagles could get a good price for him if they wanted to.

On the other hand, Foles isn’t like most other NFL players. A devoutly religious man, he takes online courses from a seminary, and has in pre-Super Bowl interviews expressed a desire to become a high school chaplain once his playing days are over. He’s the son of a multimillionaire, too, and has expressed an interest in following his father into the restaurant industry as well (his father made around $30m from selling his own restaurant chain). If the Eagles decide not to shop him, there’s a good chance that he won’t be in Howie Roseman’s office asking for a trade.

2. What about those who are Eagles free agents?

The key issue for any successful NFL team is whether or not they can keep enough of that team together in the seasons afterwards. The NFL model, with free agency and salary caps, is designed to prevent any one team becoming dominant. Which is what makes the Patriots’ success so remarkable. They have an almost preternatural ability to determine which parts of the roster can be pruned and which players will fit as replacements – helped, of course, by a quarterback who has historically been willing to earn less than market value so that his valued teammates can have more.

The Eagles will need to emulate that. They have 14 players subject to free agency come March 4, of whom three – LeGarrette Blount, Nigel Bradham and Dannelle Ellerbe, will start tonight. Of these, Bradham and (arguably) Ellerbe are priorities for re-signing, especially given the lack of depth at linebacker and that another of the UFAs on the list is the best of those back-ups, Najee Goode.

Retaining Blount is probably less vital, considering the performance of Jay Ajayi since his arrival, and that one of the more intriguing names on the list is the evergreen Darren Sproles, who has announced that he plans to keep on playing after losing 2017 to injury.

3. Who will be the new coordinators in New England?

Today marks the last stand of one of the most successful coaching units in NFL history. Once the game is over, Josh McDaniels will be off to Indianapolis to take over as head coach of the Colts, whilst defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will be headed for the same role in Detroit. The two of them have run these units since 2012, so Bill Belichick will need to find two new henchmen.

The Hoodie has been here before, of course. He lost Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel after the Pats’ early success at the start of the 2000s and the franchise kept on going. And although the departures of McDaniels and Patricia have been open secrets for at least the last fortnight (no formal announcement of their appointments can be made until after the game, in accordance with League rules), there has been a surprising lack of rumour about their replacements.

Even allowing for Belichick’s fondness for playing his cards close to his chest, that suggests that the appointments will come from within. Chad O’Shea, the wide receivers coach, was entrusted with play calling during a pre-season game this year and would seem to be the obvious replacement for McDaniels. Meanwhile, linebackers coach Brian Flores has reportedly turned down at least one college head coaching job to stay with the franchise, suggesting that he has been promised Patricia’s office. Crucially, both have been with the Patriots for more than a decade, which is definitely long enough to earn the trust of the notoriously cagey Belichick.

4. Will Tom Brady retire?

Yes, we know! We know! Brady has said that he wants to play until he’s fifty. Allowing for the fact that it was a statement almost certainly not intended to be taken at face value, a lot has changed since it was made. Not only have there been the rumours of a falling out with the organisation over his personal fitness ‘guru’ and the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo, but he is now losing the man who has been his offensive coordinator for half of his career. Just this week he curtailed his regular appearance on Boston radio station WEEI after a presenter on a different show criticised his daughter.

In short, the more that time goes on, the more that Brady becomes a tetchy middle-aged man. And the tetchier he becomes, the more he risks becoming a distraction to the Patriots organisation. Belichick doesn’t do distractions, no matter who they are – just witness the way that Wes Welker was moved on, despite his friendship with Brady.

Which is not to say that the Patriots will be pulling the plug on Brady any time soon. On the other hand, a win today will give him six championship rings – a record. At that point, there will be nothing else for him to achieve in the NFL. He’ll be aware of how the likes of Peyton Manning damaged their legacy by playing for too long (even if doing so did bring Manning another ring). And he said this week that much had changed. Although the odds are still long, today might be the last time that we see Tom Brady under center.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    It’s here! Super Bowl Sunday is finally here! And as we build up to the big game, it seems a good moment to look forward to what might happen for the
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