An important aside: The NFL leadership must change if this game we love is to survive. A public outcry is needed to replace Roger Goodell with a man who will protect the game and behave in ways that compliment the game - not destroy it to appease politically correct groups and spend thrift players who squandered the money they earned from the game.
I want to review the end of last year briefly - particularly the last game of the year. Upon further review... my suspicions and conclusions about last year's Super Bowl remain unchanged
Justin Smith is an amazing, and under-rated player. It was disconcerting how Justin Smith's injury impacted the team's play. After he went down, Fangio's defense suffered mightily. A four-man pass rush that actually gets to the quarterback before he throws is essential. Fangio's defensive scheme relies upon that happening. With Smith injured, that did not occur often enough. Fangio appears "squeamish" to blitz unless and until the opponent is preparing to score. Teams scored far too often. Fangio's reluctance to blitz is another error that needs attention and reconsideration. The defensive backfield was exposed and that revealed the weaknesses therein. Man on man coverage, and zone coverages - failed - too many times to take comfort in that crew. They are suspect; and if they hope to return to the Super Bowl must improve. Nnnnah-Nnamdi must step up - he is primed to so do. Eric Reid must earn his selection. I'm not sold on the starting corners. Only time will tell if the 49er corners can improve their coverage - without a strong pass rush.
Commentary on the Big Game... What a hose job. It's clearly evident to me the outcome of the Super Bowl was written hours after Baltimore earned a birth. Was it not readily apparent that the Commish needed a distraction... something to quash his decision making troubles; decisions that led to player mistrust and anger. The Saints fiasco was compounded with other dubious decision making.
Roger needed someone or something to distract the public away from his actions and assuage the player's emotions. Ray Lewis was called. Ostensibly, Roger sought Ray Lewis to calm the players down and project a willingness to reconsider his methods based upon Ray-Ray's advice. Ray agreed to become a member of Goodell's Inner-Circle and feed the Commish advice on how to handle player disputes and penalties. Roger went on TV and the radio to brag about his hiring Ray - and elucidate the public on Ray's insight and helpfulness to him. Roger additionally praised Ray's career and Super Bowl win. Ray's return from injury in 2012 was noted; ad nauseum. All told, Ray's career could use a boost to seal his Hall of Fame Birth.
These activities sum - to something ugly.
That sum is the aggregation of what factors? What details were included when Roger and Ray discussed their business arrangement. Make no mistake - this "deal" was no different than any other business deal. They contain responsibilities and remuneration for the work done. What did Ray want (demand) from Roger? Or... What did Roger offer Ray?
A second Super Bowl win looms large.
BTW... did ya know one of Roger's underlings broke 40+ years of Super Bowl tradition and hand selected the officials for the game? The football zebras site has the details. http://www.footballzebras.com/2012/12/30/6035/.
Roger's "Lil Bitch", Mike Signora did the deed to keep Roger's hands clean. On top of placing unqualified officials for duty in the Super Bowl, Signora and others erased the negative marks, the grades those officials earned through their actions officiating regular season games, to "Qualify" them for the Super Bowl!!!
To sum that zebra post:
"Merit system apparently discarded. To further bury the merit system used for postseason assignments, a former official said that there are officials on the Super Bowl roster who have failed written rules tests. Also, the supposed front runners will be sidelined for the playoffs.
Ed Hochuli and Gene Steratore are not assigned to the playoffs,” an officiating source said."
Can you connect the dots? Is it becoming clear? Do not you see the NFL Commish cannot guarantee a Super Bowl win, but he can certainly stack the deck in a team's favor (like assigning officials with specific instructions). These officials were literally bought and paid for. The refs earn big money if selected for the Super Bowl. There may have been other "incentives" if the desired outcome materialized.
Something is rotten. There is something nefarious afoot in the NFL's leadership. Why was the traditional selection process changed? What could motivate the NFL leadership to change a system used since the Super Bowl's inception; a system that was not disfunctional?
I assert Roger Goodell made promises to Ray for saving his reputation with the Players; and their Union. Last year's Super Bowl had officials who FAILED the written test. These same officials were unqualified to officiate the most important game (if the traditional rules of MERIT were applied to the selection process).
Psssst! You are not suppose to know this, but... When all the facts are considered, Roger Goodell's actions infers his reputation is more important than the integrity of the game - FACT! Roger is/was willing to risk the public learning he acted to FIX the Super Bowl, and destroy the confidence of fans that games are officiated fairly. This can only mean Goodell's personal interest(s), his reputation and legacy, are more important than the game.
Recall the last Play of the Super Bowl - when the entire Ravens squad was holding; the Niners were set to score, (but not one flag was thrown) that play was exemplary of the officiating throughout that game. The officials gave the Ravens an advantage, and win.
The last comments on the article referenced above says it all:
"Someone needs to investigate this most serious matter, I’m sure its very deep & at the end, someone got paid big money. Jim Harbaugh needs to know, because he & his team got robbed!"
Let's hope Goodell let's Ray Lewis make command decisions this year so his reputation and meddling doesn't interfere with the Super Bowl or any other game. Roger Goodell is unfit to lead the NFL. Any person willing to risk the integrity of the game for personal gain must not have access to decision making that jeopardizes the game, the players, and the fan base. Goodell's intentionally strained focus upon head injuries, and the decisions made thus far, to change the way the game is played, stands to ruin the game of football. Evidence further suggest Roger's reputation and legacy are his primary concerns. The long term, negative consequences of his decision making is less important. Goodell has shown he is willing to act outside the bounds of credibility to defend, and remove himself from criticism. He has little respect for the game and even less for the players and fans he misled. Roger Goodell must go.