SAN FRANCISCO – Here we are, at the end of another interminable Super Bowl week. The mail has subsided a bit, perhaps because many of my Twitter followers would rather urge me to retire than submit meaningful questions.
Well, they’re not getting rid of me that easily. Tim Graham has taught me that vicious tweets don’t kill you, they only make you stronger. Twitter is an insidious but irresistible blight on the culture, which is why I like it.
Some mail was forwarded to the Bay Area this week. I’ll try to get to as many questions as I can before venturing into the streets of San Francisco with some of my fellow antiquated sports writing pals.
Pam Kunkel asks: You’ve stated that Tom Brady is the greatest ever. However, if Peyton Manning pulls off the improbable Sunday, making him a multiple Super Bowl champion who has gone to four Super Bowls with four different head coaches and defeated Brady in three consecutive AFC title games, would you give more consideration to the five-time MVP?
Sully: In a word, no. Manning could go 37 for 50 for 328 yards and four TDs and rally his team from 10 points behind in the fourth quarter – as Brady did in last year’s Super Bowl – and I still wouldn’t change my mind.
We’ve gone over this too many times. I’ve debated half my colleagues in print, and they eventually relented. Yes, Manning has come out on top in three straight AFC title games. But Brady has won four Super Bowls and has a much better postseason record than Manning, who is 13-13 for his career.
It goes beyond playoffs and Super Bowls, though. Brady and Manning have similar regular-season statistics, and if you take the peripherals into account – mainly, where they played their home games – I would submit that Brady’s career has actually been better.
Yes, Brady struggled against the Broncos in the AFC title game. The Twitter goons are on me for not immediately recognizing that fact in print. A lack of a running game and a weak offensive line (which he overcame to win the Super Bowl last season) finally caught up with him.
If Manning gets extra credit for winning with four different coaches, so be it. Penalize Brady for having Bill Belichick the whole time. I guess Michael Jordan isn’t the greatest because he did it all with Phil Jackson.
Brady isn’t done, either. He’ll play a few more years and maybe get back to another Super Bowl. Good luck to Peyton on Sunday. He could certainly ride his defense and running game to the title, as he did with the Colts nine years ago.
919 Bills Fan asks: What’s it like to be the laughingstock of the national media after your Cam questions?
Sully: Oh, you’re hurting my feelings! I’m not sure which media you speak of, but I don’t give a damn if anyone in the media thought it was out of line to ask a legitimate question of an athlete in a public setting at the Super Bowl.
Newton opened the door by calling himself an African-American quarterback whose style might scare some people. Was no one supposed to press him on what he meant? I merely wanted to know if he felt there was still a stereotype that black mobile quarterbacks didn’t make good pocket passers.
I pressed him on the issue, a bit stridently. So what? I’ve never felt it was a reporter’s job to be polite and deferential. God knows, there are enough sycophants in the sports media who toss puffball questions at athletes and coaches and sit there with these rapt, adoring expressions on their faces.
I’ve been at this awhile, and I’ve found that some of the best answers come when you’re persistent and even confrontational.
Many athletes respect you for not backing down. I like Newton. He became more animated after our exchange and even referred to my question a couple of times.
A laughingstock? As I’ve often told my kids, I’m always happy to be a source of amusement for others. My son, who loves Newton, texted me a photo of Cam and asked, “What exactly did you say to this poor man?”
David Gena asks: Simple question: How does Mark Schmidt manage to field such a competitive team at St. Bonaventure?
Sully: It starts with a knack for seeing potential in raw recruits and developing them into solid A-10 players. Schmidt likes taking projects. That’s essential at Bona, where you don’t tend to attract the top-tier hoop recruits.
Schmidt gears his defense to the talents of his players and gets them to commit defensively. He makes good adjustments in games. His teams get better later in the season. He makes sure that his team gets the ball to the scorers.
He must be a good shooting teacher, which is rare among college coaches. The Bonnies are sixth in the country in free-throw shooting and have been in the top 16 three of the past five years. It can’t be by accident.
John Sitzenstatter asks: Former Buffalo News player of the year Jaysean Paige is having a great year at West Virginia. To this untrained eye, he was the best player on the court when he dropped 26 during a win against Kansas. At 6-2, does he have a shot at the NBA?
Sully: You’re right. Paige, who led Jamestown to a state title five years ago, has blossomed into a star as a senior for Bob Huggins. He leads the 14th-ranked Mountaineers in scoring and leads all Big 12 reserves at 14 points a game.
Paige rises to the big moment. He played big against Kansas. This past Tuesday, he scored 23 points to lead West Virginia to a big road win at No. 13 Iowa State, hitting a big three-pointer with 1:05 to play.
He’s opening some eyes, but the NBA might be a reach. Paige is a 6-2 shooting guard, so he would have to play the point at the next level. That’s an especially tough transition in the pros. But his performance this year proves you shouldn’t sell the kid short.