Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Jan 2013

Andy Benoit's Super Bowl Diary, Day One

(Look, Andy Benoit is in New Orleans! He's the first FO writer to ever be credentialed for the Super Bowl specifically representing Football Outsiders rather than some larger site, and he'll be sharing his experiences with a daily diary, then submitting Audibles comments from inside the Superdome on Sunday. -- Aaron Schatz)

As host cities go, New Orleans is close to ideal. It has a great layout, terrific culture, and a travel-oriented infrastructure (i.e. a convention center that’s literally a mile long). In short, it’s a warm Indianapolis.

The 49ers got into town Sunday night. They’re staying at the Marriott, which is a 10-minute walk from downtown and Bourbon Street. The Ravens, who got in Monday night, are staying just a few buildings over at the Hilton. There isn’t a ton of buzz at this point -– most of that is reserved for later in the week. (The hotel rates jump nearly tenfold starting Thursday.)

I’m about to go to Baltimore's press conference. There have already been two Niners press conferences. Both times, Jim Harbaugh stood at the podium and either evaded meaningful football questions, politely dismissed stupid questions, or humored the easy-to-humor room when fielding irreverent questions. For instance, when asked about President Obama’s recent comments about football safety, Harbaugh went into a multi-paragraph dissertation about the upside of his large-headed infant son, Jack. The TV Azteca people, predictably, sent a wildly under-dressed beauty queen reporter to the event. In the room were about 100 casually dressed men, 20 respectably dressed women, and one young lady in a tiny bright blue dress. Given TV Azteca’s track record, whoever they send to the circus that is Media Day tomorrow will be stark naked.

The redundancy of the press conferences is somewhat mind-boggling ... almost as mind-boggling as how many reporters take it so seriously. They fiercely cling to their recorders even though the NFL e-mails everyone a transcript of what was said not long afterwards. It’s a credit to a lot of the reporters that they’re so committed to crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s. It doesn’t help that the Niners, thanks to Harbaugh, are known for not saying much. There’s a lot more optimism for the Ravens press conferences, presumably because Ray Lewis rarely finds a microphone he doesn’t love.

I’m meeting our old buddies Mike Tanier and Doug Farrar for dinner after the Ravens press conference. Doug is allergic to seafood but has indicated that he may be willing to "test" the allergy for the first time in years ... as they say, "When in NOLA..."

If you have any questions about the Super Bowl scene (or the matchup itself, since, you know, all of us at this site are kind of into the football aspect of the sport), feel free to pose them in the comments section. I will check back tomorrow and try to answer what I can.

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 28 Jan 2013

38 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2013, 4:17pm by bengt


by Anonymous.reader (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 8:17pm

Do you think the writers 'fiercely cling' to the whole process because its how things have been (and thus, obviously always should be)? Or because sheer manpower is the biggest advantage they have over independent websites like you guys, sportsonearth, etc. etc.? I'm curious if you have input on their motivation

by Jerry :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 11:55pm

Sports on Earth is a joint venture of USA Today and MLB Advanced Media. So I wouldn't describe it as independent.

by Sergio :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 8:24pm

Have fun Andy!

-- Go Phins!

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 8:28pm

If the TV Azteca tv reporter was Ines Sainz of Jets/Nacho/"You can't sexually harass a Mexican, it's part of their culture" infamy, she would rock the hell out of a Tyvek jumpsuit; which in a large group of older men might be very handy.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 11:12pm

I'm guessing someone might already do this on media day... but, just in case :

Please ask Colin Kaepernick and Joe Staley if they burned that old man.

Ask Jim Harbaugh when he wants some cake.

And ask Matt Birk if he'll make you a Mai Tai.

by young curmudgeon :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:21am

1. Your other article that is current on the site, "Film Room," has illustrations. This one would be better if it had illustrations, too. Like, for instance, the TV Azteca reporter...

2. I'm a little uncertain about citing the terrific culture of New Orleans, then saying "it's a warm Indianapolis." I understand that Indianapolis is a very nice city and is almost certainly underrated in terms of culture, sophistication, etc., but we're talking NEW ORLEANS here. I mean Cajun and Creole and Bourbon Street and beignets and Arnaud's and the Neville Brothers and Brennan's and Louis Armstrong and Mardi Gras and Jean Lafitte and...and...and...

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:41am

New Orleans is a predominantly black, city that owes its heritage to French-speaking rejects from proto-Canada, known for its crushing poverty, rampant corruption, and endemic violence, wrapped around its failure of a football franchise. What charm it has is redeemed only by its ethnic tourist section and its remaining river-front wealthy white enclave. Much of its population base has disappeared in recent years, having fled to a more prosperous sun-belt city.

In short, it's a warm-weather Detroit.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 7:11pm

For Super Bowl purposes they're very different. Detroit had to hold a "WinterFest" to get people downtown Saturday and Sunday, and while there are, of course, pockets of activity, there's no equivalent of Bourbon Street.

by Joseph :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 7:36pm

{I grew up in Gretna, a suburb of New Orleans on the Westbank side of the Mississippi River, since I was one year old. I still have my legal residence there.}

Obviously you've never lived there if you think it is "predominantly" black. 1/3, maybe; however, with the recent influx of Hispanics (I have met Mexicans, Hondurans, and Dominicans), I'm guessing ~50% Caucasian, ~30% African-American, ~15% Hispanic, ~5% other (there is a decent number of Vietnamese, for example). Also, I don't believe they were "French-speaking rejects", but rather chose to come live (near) here. The population base that "disappeared" went from ~1 million pre-Katrina to ~800K when the Saints won the SB a couple of years ago. Don't know what the most recent population census would be. [I am talking about the metro area, not what the postal service calls "New Orleans."] From what I have read and seen, the areas that are sparsely or non-inhabited are the poorer neighborhoods where the homeowners/residents did not have any homeowners insurance, flood insurance, or sufficient insurance to repair their dwelling. The neighborhoods that I personally know about and have been in both pre- and post-Katrina were extremely African-American.
As for their "failure" of a football team, I know a few teams that would love to have their last ~10 years (CLE, JAX, DET, BUF, to name a few).

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:10pm

To be fair, the city of New Orleans (not the metropolitan area, but the city itself) is predominantly black.

From the US Census by way of Wikipedia :
"According to the 2010 Census, 343,829 people and 189,896 households were in New Orleans. The racial and ethnic makeup of the city was 60.2% African American, 33.0% White, 2.9% Asian (1.7% Vietnamese, 0.3% Indian, 0.3% Chinese, 0.1% Filipino, 0.1% Korean), 0.0% Pacific Islander, and 1.7% were people of two or more races. People of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 5.3% of the population; 1.3% of New Orleans is Mexican, 1.3% Honduran, 0.4% Cuban, 0.3% Puerto Rican, and 0.3% Nicaraguan."

by mikedewitt :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 1:24am

This has nothing to do with football, but tell Doug that I too had a seafood allergy (among other food allergies), but I recently overcame it based on a theory known as orthomolecular medicine, which sounds fancy but really just espouses taking megadoses of various vitamins in order to stave most modern diseases, not to mention those pesky food allergies. I sat down with a couple of ounces of chicken (an allergen for me) and armed with nothing more than about 5,000 mg of vitamin C, proceeded to eat the entire thing. Read more about it here: www.doctoryourself.com, or watch the documentary Food Matters on Netflix. Don't let Doug do something foolish!

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 1:32am

In the event Doug does do something foolish, one of you should write the screenplay for Fearlesser starring Kurt Russell and Monica Bellucci as Doug and his wife.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 10:26am

Jeff Bridges?

by RickD :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:16pm

Isabella Rossellini?

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 5:03pm

Jeff Bridges dies at the end of Fearless, so, when you think about it, it really has to be Kurt Russell or Fearlesser: The Doug Farrar Story has to be a zombie movie. And I think we can all agree those are a little played out at the moment.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 5:46pm

Does Bridges die in that flick? It's been years and years, but I seem to remember him having some sort of pseudo-miraculous recovery from anaphylactic shock, as result of his conquering his fear of death, via self examination prompted by surviving an airplane crash. Or some damned psychologically based mumbo jumbo Hollywood screenplay nonsense.

(edit) Had to check, and he does survive eating the forbidden fruit, after his idiot psychotherapist makes him allergic again. Isabella saves him, of course. Maybe he came back a zombie, though, and we missed it as the credits rolled.

I do like the idea of crashing planeloads of people with food allergies, into Iowa cornfields, however, as a possible cure for an over-active immune system. Inefficient as hell, but unique!

by putthatinyerpipe (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 7:01am

Ask FO how their preseason projection for SFO could be so terrible.

by Thok :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 8:55am

They didn't anticipate the improvement in the SF offensive line, which frankly nobody did. (Also, they didn't anticipate Kaepernick would be as ready to take over as he was, but that's a smaller issue.)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:42am

They had the same record with Smith as they did with Kaepernick, didn't they?

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:25am

Something like 6-2-1 with one and 7-2 with the other I think? So pretty much.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:12pm

Even their offensive DVOAs are essentially identical.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:18pm

Yeah, but Kaepernick is ahead on clutchness and moxie.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 1:58pm

Wait, our projections for San Francisco were WRONG??? I had no idea! How am I just finding out about this now? This is the first time we've ever been wrong in ten years of analysis!

That's it, shut the whole website down. We're closing up shop. Without being 100 percent correct about everything, there's simply no point.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 3:40pm

Maybe you shouldn't have doubled-down in the pre-season when the hoi polloi said your rating of the 49ers was insane.

Pride goeth before the fall, and all that. The correct response is to eat your crow, and then figure out what happened this year that isn't done traditionally.

And the convenient Kaepernick explanation ain't it.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 3:46pm

Will you please leave this until after the superbowl? Just wait one damn week.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 4:39pm

I thought the also convenient "DVOA can't account for Harbaugh being a huge coaching upgrade" explanation WAS it.

by Tyler (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 5:08pm

Barnwell already covered most of this (since he had similar predictions). Plus, Aaron and Co have talked about EVEN WHILE PREDICTING that they weren't sure they agreed with DVOA, however, they weren't going to change the system to make it different. I'm a Niner's fan, and I had no problem with their prediction; shoot, it didn't seem to hurt the Niners any!

Anyway, thanks for all you guys do Aaron and Co.

by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 5:44am

It's definitely better to be predicted to be rubbish in the preseason and that turn out to be wrong than to be predicted to be brilliant in the preseason and have that turn out to be wrong!

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:40am

An FO guy got credentialled and you didn't steal it for yourself Aaron? What the heck is wrong with you? I don't think you're taking your role as the big boss seriously - the boss is supposed to take any sweet assignments for themselves.

by snafu (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:12pm

I'm driving into town for my first Super Bowl this Friday and had some questions about the scene. Quick note about me, I'm a 49ers fan and my only experience in NOLA is one night out for Mardi Gras last year.

For partying on Friday and Saturday night, do you recommend St. Charles or Bourbon St?

Are there organized tailgates planned for Sunday? I don't have a ticket, so I'm not sure if I can get into the Official 49ers Super Bowl tailgate outside the stadium. Google searching hasn't been very helpful for assessing my options.

What traditional Super Bowl parties are open to the public and worth attending?


by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:39pm

I always liked Rock N' Bowl, on S. Carrolton. It's a little hard to explain, so just Google it. Things have gotten a little fuzzy for me there a few times.

by BywaterBrat :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 1:27pm

Neither- go to Frenchmen Street.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:19pm

Damn, Vernon Davis has monster guns. (watching press day on NFL network)

by J_Flan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 5:25pm

As a strategy to contain the read option, couldn't the DE or Outside Linebacker hit the Quarterback without knowing whether the QB is carrying the ball? I don't think it is against rules to hit a runner who is faking the carry. A defense will give up running yards to the running back but the trade-off is getting a bunch of hits on the QB and perhaps limit the play calling of read option to protect their QB.

by Tyler (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 6:15pm

I don't think this would fly. Kaep is pretty obviously not carrying (or faking) when the DE/LB get to him. The fake that he does that kills is the first step during/after the handoff. After that he becomes pretty obvious in that he doesn't have the ball, but it's that first step the freezes the D. You're going to have a hard time plowing into a QB who is just standing in front of you without the ball and not getting booted (I would hope) or at least penalized.

Luckily, the Niners have one of the best backup QBs in the league as well.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 6:34pm

That's okay. Ray Lewis has sacked him, too.

\we're talking about Harbaugh, right?

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 3:31pm

This is exactly how I was coached to deal with the option in high school when I was playing DE. My job was to hit the quarterback, every single play if it was coming my way and hold contain if it wasn't, those were my responsibilities. The OLB (we tended to play a 4-4-3 against option teams) always hit the running back, ball or not, that was their responsibility.

Of course in HS the QB isn't as gifted as Kaepernick, so the hand offs or pitches aren't as quick, the QB isn't as quick, the running backs aren't as quick, the o line, TE, FB and other blockers are easier to defeat and refs tend to not throw flags as quickly. Coach said even if I got flagged a couple times, as long as I hit the QB, I was doing my job. It was fun to play option teams, and my counterpart on the other side of the line was a better player than I was so they tended to run my way more often, so I got to lay out the QB a lot. We were good enough that we made most of the teams abandon the option by halftime, if not sooner. Then we would go back to our base defense responsibilities.

Even the best team at running it that we faced (the QB and the feature running back were both state finalists in the 100m dash) ended up going away from it against us, even though they crushed the rest of the conference with it.

I think against the 49ers you want to have the 49ers defense (the Bears would work too with a full speed Urlacher and fewer other injuries I think). Linebackers that are good enough to cover the TE or running back in the passing game, and then you can just have a safety (preferably a bigger harder hitting one) assigned to the QB, with disciplined linemen you keep running lanes closed down better, and can get time for help to limit runs to 4 or so yards. Playing man coverage is dangerous (as we saw in the GB game). While San Fran isn't a cover two team, they have the other ingredients. Chicago, which still does a fair bit of Cover 2 is set up pretty well in the base to handle it as long as everyone does what they should. Of course as we say, while Chicago might have been able to do it, an older and injured Urlacher wasn't able to cover the TE, so San Fran torched them with Davis, they tried some other options and gave up a couple of huge passing plays outside and deep.

by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 4:17pm

Having fallen victim to the New Orleans public transport system during our autumn holidays, I can only warn everybody not to expect 'a travel-oriented infrastructure'.