The unstoppable force met the immovable object in Super Bowl LV — and what we thought would be a quarterback competition for the ages ended up being Tom Brady’s one-sided coronation and a statement for something much bigger than a game.
Brady may have won his NFL-record fifth Super Bowl MVP, but he wasn’t truly the catalyst of Tampa Bay’s 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs — at least, not on Sunday night.
The Bucs’ second title in franchise history came down to two words that start with the same letter: defense and diversity. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians assembled the most diverse staff in the NFL, the league’s only one with all Black coordinators and multiple women.
The offense under H.D. Woodson graduate Byron Leftwich and the defense helmed by Todd Bowles each made history en route to an unlikely rout in the first Super Bowl with an actual home field advantage.
The Bucs are the 1st team with four 30-point games in a postseason.
They are the 1st team to beat 3 SB MVP QBs in a postseason (Mahomes, Rodgers, Brees)
Tom Brady is the 1st player in NFL history with 50 Pass TD in a season (including playoffs) for a Super Bowl champion. pic.twitter.com/VbPVbhKg7S
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 8, 2021
final tally, via @ESPNStatsInfo:
Mahomes was pressured on 29/56 dropbacks–the most of any QB in Super Bowl history.
Brady was pressured on 4/30–the lowest of his SB career.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) February 8, 2021
Patrick Mahomes, while admittedly limping on a toe that needs surgery and playing behind an injury-riddled, makeshift offensive line, was harassed in ways he’d never before experienced in his pro career and his magical run as the human Rubik’s cube no defensive coordinator could solve was completely derailed.
Here are the path’s that Patrick Mahomes (top) and Tom Brady (bottom) took before pass attempts in shotgun during tonight’s #SuperBowl
White: incomplete pic.twitter.com/TLFEOxzwhr
— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) February 8, 2021
Often, coordinators like these are already locked-up as head coaches elsewhere, or we’ve at least heard ad nauseam about their genius long before we see their Super Bowl handiwork. Yet, Bowles wasn’t a finalist for any of the seven head coach openings in this hiring cycle.
And before you point to his 24-40 record as head coach of the New York Jets, I’ll remind you that the NFL has proved many times that failing with a dysfunctional franchise doesn’t preclude a coach from getting another chance.
Bowles’ successor Adam Gase got that gig immediately following an uninspiring 23-25 stint in Miami, and Norv Turner had not one, but two losing stints as a head coach in Washington and Oakland before landing a coveted job with the loaded Chargers in 2007.
Leftwich has no such baggage, and at 41 years old and possessing all the quarterback-centric experience NFL owners crave, he still didn’t get a single interview for a head coaching job.
Don’t talk to me about inexperience or paying dues; his four years coaching in the NFL are equal to new Chargers coach Brandon Staley’s — and Leftwich is three years older and has more experience as a coordinator.
There’s such a fundamental lack of respect for Leftwich and Bowles that they’ve literally been deemed indistinguishable.
Sadly, this could’ve been an NFL owner during a job interview. https://t.co/pYPuti9Vky
— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) February 8, 2021
Oh, and that defensive line that harassed the most electric player in the NFL all night? A woman had a hand in coaching them up.
First team with two women on their coaching staff to make it and win the Super Bowl
Assistant Defensive Line Coach: Lori Locust
Strength and Conditioning coach: Maral Javadifar pic.twitter.com/A8pLMBAmnI
— Tyler R. Tynes (@TylerRickyTynes) February 8, 2021
I’ve written dozens of columns bemoaning the NFL’s problem with hiring practices. The league has acknowledged the issue to the point that they’re now offering draft picks to teams that cultivate minority talent that is then elevated elsewhere.
It shouldn’t take borderline bribery to do the right thing and it should not take one incredible game on sports’ biggest stage to show NFL owners that more varied points of view in a room equals better results.
But if that’s what it takes for them to realize football is only America’s game if it better reflects America, so be it.
Beyond Brady’s brilliance, Tampa is celebrating because the Buccaneers organization learned that diversity isn’t some inconvenience designed to complicate the hiring process. It is a necessary element of success — and finally something this copycat league actually should emulate.