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FOOTBALL!

God, do I love the Super Bowl. This year I’m hosting a party and cooking wings and a pork shoulder and I’m going to scream unholy things at the Patriots until everyone leaves me to cry tears of hatred as Tom Brady hoists another Lombardi Trophy over his head.

My guests won’t even have the decency to shoot me before they leave.

Hope you guys enjoy the game!

Oh, and cheers to all the people who I harassed enough to ask me a question to make this fifth annual Super Bowl Mailbag a reality. I didn’t answer them all because some of them had to do with the Illuminati and Blood Doping Rings that I’m heretofore unfamiliar with. But I appreciated them all and answered a bunch.

Will Eagles fans burn more cars if they win or lose?
-Sam B.H., St. Louis, MO

There are two cities in America that the rest of America counts on rioting, win or lose, and that’s Oakland and Philadelphia.
Actually, here’s an off topic story that I love about Oakland: a friend told me that back in 2006 there were rumors swirling that the Raiders might trade up and draft Vince Young. He mentioned this to a guy he knew from Oakland, who immediately got a twinkle in his eye and said, “they are gonna ride in Oakland tonight…”
I think Philly has really leaned into the role of being the debaucherous superfans we expect them to be over the past couple of weeks, and I respect the shit out of that. For some reason I picture way more severe riots if they win, though. The first Super Bowl in Philly history?! And over Tom Brady and the Patriots no less?! God, that would be epic.
Unfortunately they are gonna lose by 40 and the fans will be so drunk by the end that only a few diehards will have the energy to turn over some Honda Fits and light them aflame.
No doubt the Minnesota media will be ON it to document it all for their appalled midwestern viewership.
“Oh, gee, yeah, Marge, they are turnin’ over cars in downtown Phil-eh-delf-ee-a tonight. Gosh, I hope nobody gets hurt!”

If the Browns could choose to steal one – Brady or Belichick – which would they choose? And what if it’s 2001?

People often try and engage in scenarios like this with the Browns, and I think it’s unfair. Let’s get this out in the open and into our small fucking brains: if the Browns had drafted Russell Wilson, he’s a backup for the Cowboys right now. If the Browns had drafted DeShaun Watson, he tears his ACL in the preseason instead of the regular season.
If the Browns exhumed Vince Lombardi’s corpse and he helmed a squad quarterbacked by Tom Brady Himself that competed against teams from the XFL, they would go 5-11 and find miraculous ways to lose.
Bill Belichick was LITERALLY the Browns coach from 1991 to 1995 and he went 36-44 and earned himself ONE playoff win. He was surrounded by some of the greatest football minds ever (Nick Saban, Ernie Adams) during his tenure and he won ONE fucking playoff game. If he had arrived back in town in 2001 he would have had a far, far worse roster and fate working against him.
There is no scenario in which the Browns are good. I promise.

What’s more impressive, seven straight conference championship appearances, or seven straight NBA finals appearances?
-Sam B., Portland, ME

I say this every year but good LORD do I hate smug-ass Patriot fans. You can see them coming in their stupid fucking Tom Brady jerseys and their ironic loser attitudes, sipping on Sam Adams and yelling at their buddy Sully.
Sometimes I wonder if Patriot fans actually enjoy watching football any more. Is it like watching a TV series you’ve already seen six different times, and you find comfort in knowing every line, every twist, every stupid fucking penalty that will undoubtedly go your way? Every time Tom Brady drops back to pass do they get off to the palpable sense that the collective asshole of the rest of the universe – the good side, void of Patriot fans – is tightening, like the roof of Mercedes Benz Stadium? 
If Kim Jung Un is going to send a nuke, I hope he has some mercy and sends it straight at Foxborough. We’d lose some good people, maybe, but we’d lose a whole lot more shitty people. That much I can promise you.
I digress!
One thing even I have to admit is that seven straight conference championship appearances is really impressive. And look, we can all argue the AFC is soft, but that’s like saying every fish a whale eats is small. Some of them are bigger than others, but they are all gonna end up in the Patriots’ tummy more often than not. I’m not sure that made sense, so if it didn’t, what I mean to say is the very presence of the Patriots is what makes the other AFC teams look so fucking mediocre.
It’s the same with LeBron and seven straight NBA Finals appearances – yes, the East is clearly a weaker conference than the West, but it’s hard to tell how much weaker because LeBron and his homies always fuck everyone up beyond recognition en route to a Finals appearance, where they’ve only been stymied by some really good teams from the West (we could argue the 2011 Mavs weren’t all that great, but whatever).
Put another way, one thing that bothers me is when people say LeBron is afraid of competing in the Western Conference. Couldn’t you spin that the other way, too, and say people don’t really want to sign in the East because they’ll have to deal with LeBron prior to the NBA Finals?
Which is more impressive, though, the conference championship appearances or the NBA Finals appearances? I really don’t think you can argue making the semifinals, if you will, is more impressive than making the finals, no matter the league or situation. Making conference championship appearances simply ain’t the same as making it to the Big One. (Furthermore, the Pats haven’t had to win more than one game to reach the AFC Championship in any of those seven years… LeBron and co. have always had to win three different best-of-seven series to reach the Finals).
I also find it difficult to compare the two scenarios, because LeBron James isn’t a team, even if it feels that way. He made the Finals with the Heat four straight years and now the Cavs for three straight years, and though those two teams might as well have been the same, they aren’t.
So it’s apples and oranges, but I’ll say LeBron’s accomplishments are more impressive because oh God you know how much I hate the fucking Patriots.

After foles wins the superbowl what do the eagles get in a trade?
This is actually mildly entertaining to think about. If, somehow, Foles was really really good in an Eagles’ Super Bowl win, it seems reasonable to assume a couple of teams would come knocking.
Then again, Foles is under contract for another year, and the Eagles don’t really need to trade him. As he has proven, he’s a very solid backup option, especially in their system (it would seem).
But for the sake of argument, if Foles went on to actually win this Super Bowl, let’s decide what, exactly, he would be worth. After solid seasons in Philadelphia, he was an absolute dumpster fire in St. Louis in 2015.
But now that we know for sure that Jeff Fischer was a terrible, terrible coach for young quarterbacks to have to deal with, that 2015 season can be explained away, and we are left with, well, a decent NFL quarterback. And those are hard to come by!
I think the Eagles could get a second, maybe third rounder for Nick Foles. Am I crazy? I’m definitely crazy. Jimmy G. was got for a second round pick (more on that later). Foles can’t possibly be worth that…
Then again, Sam Bradford was got for a FIRST. Who the fuck knows.
Alas, we’ll never find out because the Patriots are going to win by 100.

Do you think its appropriate hospital attire to wear my wentz jersey underneath my white coat for the week prior to the super bowl?
-Nick G., Elmira, NY

I think proper protocol for adults wearing jerseys goes as follows.
You are allowed to wear a jersey on the following occasions:
1. If you are going to the game. Oh, and the jersey you are wearing MUST be congruent with the game you are going to see. No Supersonics jerseys at a Yankees-Rays game, please.
2. If it is the opening day of the season, or the playoffs. So, if the MLB postseason started today and you wanted to throw on the old Indians jersey, go for it.
3. If it is the ultimate round of whatever sport we are talking about (Things like NBA Finals, World Series, of course the Super Bowl, and I’ll even say the whole Final Four, so you college hoops fan boys and girls get TWO GLORIOUS DAYS/NIGHTS)
4. Laundry Day
Now, you get a little leeway if you work in an office or are a high school student or whatever. For example, if the Big Game happens to be Super Bowl Sunday, and your last day of school/work is Friday? Fuck yeah, run the jersey. All week? You’re pushing it.

If I’m at an Eagles party and want to sound smart, what should I talk about? Tell me things about the Eagles’ coach.
-Abby D., Burlington, NC

Alright, I basically made my girlfriend ask me this. She actually said the second part though: “tell me interesting things about the Eagles’ coach.”
And it’s a fair point! We all know about Bill Belichick because we’ve done this an exhausting amount of times, and I don’t know dick about Doug Pederson.
So I just read Doug Pederson’s Wikipedia page and an SI Feature on him so that you don’t have to.
First thing’s first: if a movie gets made about this Eagles team – and I’m really not sure why it would – John Hamm is playing Doug Pederson, no question about it.
Here, look, I’m not the only one who thinks this!


I’m not saying Pederson is THAT smoking hot, but he’s a decent looking dad with a prominent chin and some nice eyes, and the Hollywood version is always hotter.
Second thing: do NOT read that SI feature. God, I forgot how bad Peter King’s writing is. It’s like 25 pages of block quotes with some occasional vanilla commentary proffered from King’s fingertips when he wasn’t holding Roger Goodell’s small and always flaccid penis.
Also, it turns out Pederson is pretty fucking boring.
Basically, this is what I gathered: Pederson had an NFL career because he was a GRITTY butt buddy of Brett Favre. He got the chance to start for the Eagles in 1999 under Andy Reid, but totally sucked and was replaced by Donovan McNabb. But he was so GRITTY and knowledgeable that he kept landing backup gigs, often with the Packers, behind Brett Favre.
He retired in 2004 and went on to coach at a private school in Louisiana for a few years and was good at that. Andy Reid hired him as an offensive assistant in 2009, and then he followed Andy Reid around a bunch, and was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs under Reid until he was hired away to coach the Eagles.
Doug’s mom is named Teri because of COURSE she is, and his wife is named Jeannie because OF COURSE SHE IS. He has three sons because of course he does, and he goes hunting and shit with Brett Favre all the time because… you get the idea.
Like I said, he’s pretty boring. Still, I would pay all of the money I have in my bank account to watch his team beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. That’s the most relevant thing about Doug Pederson, I would argue: that he is our Only Hope.

HALFTIME! 

Give me an over/under on Niners wins next year, and then tell me how much money I should gamble on the over or under?
-Zack C., San Francisco, CA
The 2018 Niners’ over/under is one of the more intriguing in recent memory. The Niners were 0-8 when they went out and got Jimmy G for a second rounder. Then they were 0-9. He won his first five starts – the last five games of the season – and the Niners finished 6-10.
And they not only beat teams, but they beat some decent teams, including the Jags in a shootout when the Jags needed a win to earn a coveted bye.
They looked like a completely different team with Garoppolo under center.
That, paired with Kyle Shanahan’s system, has San Francisco fans rightfully excited.
I have nothing to base this on, but I think the over/under will be 9.5, and I actually am fairly confident about that. Lines aren’t based on what Vegas thinks will happen, but on what Vegas thinks bettors think will happen.
And I take the under, too. I think they regress a bit next year, but I have no confidence in that. So I’ll say bet like $3.
Also, this got me thinking about something. If the NFL is scripted – and if it’s not now, it probably will be soon – the 2019 Super Bowl will ABSOLUTELY be Brady vs. Jimmy G. The last test for an old wily veteran: the very kid who learned the craft from him. Teacher: meet student.

Can you talk about Michael Crabtree’s ELECTRIC performance in Week 16 against the Eagles?
-James M., Las Vegas, NV

So here’s a fun fact – James M. grew up across the street from me, and when I needed someone to watch the tail-end of my fantasy football championship debacle, I went across the street to his house to watch on his crazy big high definition television because my dad still lives in the Stone Age and has like a 26” standard definition TV.
To win my first fantasy football title ever, I needed 27 points from Michael Crabtree in the late game on Christmas, Oakland at Philadelphia. For frame of reference, his season high was like 26 up to that point. So doable, but not likely. Nobody cares, I know, I know. But seriously, listen to this shit.
My brother came too and ate an edible. I drank about 24 beers and was still anxious as shit, and James sat there laughing hysterically as Michael Crabtree proceeded to not even be targeted for huge swaths of time. He finished with ZERO fucking catches, and obviously, ZERO fucking fantasy points. It was hysterical. By the end, he was hardly on the field, and James kept asking me if I thought Michael Crabtree was the greatest wide receiver of all time.
Speaking of…

Since Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time, where does he fit in amongst the greatest athletes of all time?
-Jesse, San Francisco, CA
Okay, I’m gonna take a lot of shit for this, but I don’t think Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. I think he is certainly the most accomplished football player of all time, and I’d be fine with someone calling him the best quarterback of all time (I disagree, and would again argue he is simply the most accomplished quarterback of all time).
Basically, it boils down to the fact that when Tom Brady went down in 2008, Matt Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record. Matt Cassel was fucking terrible, but Belichick and the Patriots’ system is so unstoppable that you or I could quarterback the Patriots to a win over the Browns.
Tom Brady is incredibly good at what he does, and he fits the system that was built around him, but no, I don’t think he’s the best football player to ever live. (Nobody is asking, but I would probably go with the Super Hip Take of Lawrence Taylor if you put a gun to my head, as nobody in the history of the NFL changed the game like LT did).
Furthermore, I’d like to make this point: We, as a society, value winning over all else, and that is a flawed system. I know, I know, I sound like a loser, but hear me out. Everything about sports is artificial. No matter the sport, it is a made up league of teams, playing a made up schedule, with a weird system at the end to crown a “champion.” For us to judge how good a player is based on what his or her team accomplishes over the course of their career is a really strange way to decide how good a player is, and how they compare to other players.
Why are we so obsessed with ranking athletes? Why will we never cease arguing about LeBron vs. Michael? And why is winning always the metric we use to measure a player’s greatness?
All of a player’s successes or failures are a product of context, circumstances, and a multitude of factors that are beyond their control.
Let’s use Brady as an example. It wasn’t that long ago that Brady hadn’t won a Super Bowl in almost a decade. Now let’s suppose for a second that the Pats lost to the Seahawks three years ago – Marshawn Lynch punches it in from one-yard out. Totally believable. In fact, it felt inevitable for a glorious thirty seconds or so. All of the sudden, in this scenario, the outcome of that game is NOT different because of anything Brady did or didn’t do, but he’s now 3-3 in Super Bowls. Now let’s say last year Dan Quinn remembers how football works and the Falcons run the ball in the fourth quarter several more times. Again, the Patriots would have lost for reasons that have nothing to do with Brady, but Brady is now 3-4 in Super Bowls (and 0-4 in Super Bowls post-Spygate) and we are literally having a discussion about whether Brady and the Patriots are choke artists. Which is fucking absurd! But it would really, actually be happening, and very, very small portions of history would have had to change for it to be so.
It shouldn’t reflect on Brady, but in our current informal Judicial System it would. Similarly, I don’t think he should receive all the credit for the Patriots’ successes. Sure, he hasn’t had what we think of as traditional playmakers at key positions, as many people like to point out, but he’s always had an incredible offensive line and scheme that let him hang in the pocket and do his thing. The Patriots are good because they are good as a unit. We are obsessed with putting faces to teams, and so we associate Brady with all that success. And he is surely the piece it is all built around, but that does not necessarily make him the greatest football player of all time.
But Jesse, you seem like a decent guy, and I’ll answer your question the way you’d like me to answer it: as if I were a suit on ESPN with very vanilla opinions that nobody should give a shit about.
Give me Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, Wayne Gretzky, and then Tom Brady, and we’ll call it a day.
Also, Tom Brady is currently taking steroids. It’s a fact. Look it up.

Where do you think Justin Timberlake’s performance will rank in the pantheon of Halftime Show Performances?
-Graham, Efland, NC
It feels like every single year I assume the halftime show is gonna suck, and then I walk away from the halftime show with a newfound respect for the artist. This especially started for me in the winter of 2007, when I was a stupid 19 year old who didn’t really know who Prince was.
Holy shit, that halftime show is the greatest ever and it’s not even close.
I slept on Beyonce, for God’s sake. I was like, eh, she’s fine. Amazing halftime show.
I definitely assumed Bruno Mars sucked, and he was awesome.
Actually, another embarrassing one in the Prince ilk: I thought Tom Petty was trash until the halftime show!
Anyway, I kinda like JT. So maybe that means he’ll suck? I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to predict these things.
I will say that he’s absolutely going to be performing a track with N’Sync, so look out for that. BYE BYE BYE (bye bye!).

I should also stop trying to predict Super Bowl outcomes, as I’m 1-3 in that realm during mailbags, but I’ll always take a good opportunity to try and reverse jinx the Pats.

The Pick:
Patriots 38, Eagles 17

P.S.: I have money on the Eagles moneyline because I’m a fucking idiot and a terrible gambler. FLY EAGLES FLY.