John Niyo and Justin Rogers preview Super Bowl LIII and they take a look at the Lions heading into free agency and the draft. The Detroit News
Atlanta — Sean McVay ran — he did not walk — up to the podium. In front of him sat a roomful of cynics, smart alecks and assorted other arrogant ink-stained wretches yearning to slice him into little bits at Super Bowl LIII.
McVay fired away a machine-gun, staccato style, so rapidly it was tough to keep up with his comments.
“My grandfather.” “Bill Walsh.” “Coach Brown.” “The Rams.”
Hither and yon.
At a tender 33, McVay has roots, he has heritage in the NFL — and he has a team frothing to take down the mighty New England Patriots, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
And he was eager to answer every curveball question pitched at him. About his Rams. About the opposition. About pro football history.
Before him, Super-Bowl head coaches grumbled about the ritual of being required to talk to the press, the slick television personalities attached to head-smashing video cameras — and now — internet bloggers.
George Allen hated it.
“Distractions,” he would say two generations ago with the Redskins at a primitive Super Bowl.
“If I had it my way we’d have practiced until Friday in Washington. We have fine facilities at home. All the fanfare and everything hinders the players in their preparation. When you take the players out of their own environment, it hurts them.”
Chuck Noll would imply that he was the most intelligent human in the room during the Steelers dynasty. And likely, Chuck was.
“An expert is a person who can make a statement and not have to prove it,” Noll advised us.
Then there was Al Davis, the warrior from the American Football League and the Raiders.
“Get the bleep out here,” Davis once barked at me. “Get out of my face.”
One year Marv Levy, scholarly and wise, skipped the entire Press Day event before the first of the Bills’ four Super Bowls. Marv, a protégé of George Allen’s, was forced by the league to issue an abject apology the next day at Super Bowl XXV
“I was so immersed in the game plan,” Levy said humbly. “I made the decision that our first priority was to prepare for the game . . . I didn’t know it was an issue. I’m finding out.”
Born to the game
Belichick has always approached it with a sourpuss demeanor and grumpy answers despite a slight display of emotion this week.
Funny, we voted Allen, Noll, Levy and Davis into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And Belichick is a sure-shot Hall of Famer if he ever gives up coaching the Patriots.
But Belichick’s Rams counterpart has been a pleasant relief this Super Bowl week with his rattled comments.
McVay grew up as a pro football brat. The same heritage as Belichick.
My impressions this Super Bowl week is that McVay’s coaching role model is Bill Walsh, the self-style genius who created the 49ers’ dynasty.
And McVay’s grandpa, John, was an NFL head coach and executive with the 49ers during their championship seasons.
Walsh was phasing himself out as coach of the 49ers when Sean was born in 1986. But Sean had access growing up in San Francisco to the knowledge left from Walsh’s legacy.
“With my grandfather and Coach Walsh,” McVay fired, “the traits and habits and continuity, it’s humbling and flattering.”
Then McVay issued praise for Belichick’s club and how the Patriots keep managing to reach Super Bowls.
“Two years ago, I mean, to be down 28-3 and even if you were watching on TV, and to see them come back,” he said in reference to matching up with Belechick, “and to be in that category . . . he’s been so consistent . . .
“And then with my family and my grandfather and learn Coach Walsh’s philosophy and before him Coach Brown, they used to same system …”
A week before Super Bowl XVI, at the Silverdome, Walsh flew into Detroit before his team to fulfill his obligation to meet the media. The players were greeted by a grizzled man in a bellman’s uniform when they arrived at the Southfield Sheraton.
“Help you with your bag, help you with your bag?” said the bellman.
“Carry my own,” came back the response from the athletes. “Carry my own.”
“Hey, it’s me,” yelled Coach Bill Walsh, genius.
It was four years before McVay was born, but he knows the story.
“That was something Coach Walsh did to release the tension of his players,” McVay said this week at a media session. “I wouldn’t do that. Oh, I might put on a robe.”
Belichick does not rattle off his comments machine-gun style. Required to address the press throughout the week, he shows little emotion. He does not tolerate frivolous questions or even those unrelated to previous seasons and non-Super Bowl matters.
“I’m here to talk about the Rams,” he said, shoving aside a question the other day.
It is true that Belichick was a boy. He was raised at the Naval Academy. His father, Steve, once a running back for the Lions, was an assistant coach under the late Rick Forzano.
Forzano, who would become coach of the Lions, let the adolescent Belichick break down films and such. In Detroit, Belichick would serve his first assistant’s apprenticeship under Forzano.
Belichick worked his way up the ranks, assistant to Bill Parcells with the Giants at victorious Super Bowl XXV. That propelled Belichick to his first head coaching job with the Browns.
He was an unceremonious flop. Fired, hired by the Jets and resigning the same day to go to the Patriots, Belichick has won five Super Bowls. One more and he would top Vince Lombardi, who spanned the eras before and into the Super Bowl hysteria.
Belichick is 66, twice the age of his Super Bowl LIII adversary.
But they must admire each other. They admittedly swapped positive text messages during the season.
Jerry Green, a retired sportswriter, has covered every Super Bowl for The Detroit News.
Super Bowl LIII
Patriots vs. Rams
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Line: Patriots by 2.5