The One That Got Away

Let's start with a trivia question, because everyone loves a trivia question: Which quarterback holds the record for most passing yards in a Super Bowl game? Who's got the second-highest total?

The Fitz Factor

Let us now peek behind this column's curtains. Last week, the following item had to be left on the cyberspace floor:

Free Advice To The Eagles
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been the MVP of the playoffs so far. At one point in the first half of the team's showdown with the Carolina Panthers, quarterback Kurt Warner had completed 12 of 15 passes for 178 yards and Fitzgerald had 151 receiving yards on six catches — accounting for 85 percent of their passing yards on half the receptions. I know the Cardinals positioned Fitzgerald in unusual formations and disguised him, but he's 6-foot-3, has a huge mane of dreadlocks and has "Fitzgerald" on the back of his jersey. HEY, EAGLES: COVER HIM!

To the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans, I can only apologize. Had my advice seen the light of day, your team might have seen fit to dedicate a nickelback to Fitzgerald.

In truth, good defenses are loath to adjust their coverage based on how scary receivers seem when viewed on film. They figure, "Ah, but he hasn't seen our defense yet." As it turned out, the only opportunity Fitzgerald got to see the Eagles defense was if he looked behind him, because he scored three times in the first half.

So how will the Pittsburgh Steelers adjust to Fitzgerald in the Super Bowl? My guess is that, like the Eagles, they won't. They will figure, "But he hasn't seen our defense yet." The Steelers' defensive scheme is similar to the Eagles' blitz-heavy approach. They will want to throw their standard, which is to say tricky, defense at the Cardinals and see how Arizona responds. And while Pittsburgh probably won't start off dedicating a player on Fitzgerald full time, they might play closer to the line and get physical with him early, in what's called "press coverage."

By the way, my colleague David Folkenflik won the Arthur Rowse Award for press coverage. That was a different type of press coverage, though Folkenflik does like to jam Judith Miller at the line of scrimmage so she can't get lost in the backfield. Also, Troy Polamalu hates it when reporters fail to disclose their political affiliations. But the overlap ends there.

Trivia Answer

Kurt Warner's 413 yards in the St. Louis Rams' Super Bowl victory against the Tennessee Titans in 2000 were the most ever thrown by a QB in a Super Bowl. And Warner's 365 yards during the Rams' loss to the New England Patriots in the 2002 Super Bowl was the second-highest total. In the latter game, Warner had 220 more passing yards than Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP. Brady went on to win two more Super Bowls, including one more as MVP, but Warner won the greatest gift of all: never having to bag groceries again.

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Should Warner make the Hall of Fame?

New Coaches Wet Behind The Headset

The NFL Network says 14 of the past 18 head coaching hires come to the job without any NFL head coaching experience. As noted NFL guru/pie crimper Martha Stewart might ask, "Is that a good thing?" Well, yes and no. The "yes" is because I like when new blood gets an opportunity. The "no" is because, as ESPN's Chris Mortensen says, there shouldn't be a stigma against hiring a candidate with head coaching experience — yet there is. Never mind that Tony Dungy, Bill Belichick, Don Shula, Weeb Ewbank, Dick Vermeil, Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin all won Super Bowls on their second stints as head coach.

In this off-season, Eric Mangini was scooped up by the Cleveland Browns after crash-landing the New York Jets in the Hudson, but all the other hires were either coordinators or, in the latest trend, position coaches. As a general rule, position coaches are the guys an owner yells "Hey Coach!" at and then turns to his assistant and asks, "That guy in the track suit, he's a coach here, right?"

Talk Amongst Yourselves, With A Caveat

I find most Hall of Fame debates tiresome, except when it comes to RUN DMC — those guys totally belong in the Rock 'n' Roll HOF. While arguing that one player is better or worse than another player from 20 years prior may be good (i.e., time consuming) sports-talk fodder, it strikes me as an impossible exercise. So if Kurt Warner wins his second Super Bowl and you want to put him in the hall, that's fine. If you don't, that's also fine, and I have your counterargument ready-made.

Glance at the list of Hall of Fame QBs, and you'll see indisputable name after indisputable name. The three modern-era inductees one can even slightly quibble over are Bob Griese, Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly. (OK, Joe Namath had pretty anemic lifetime numbers, but he was Joe Namath.)

Consider the records Kelly, Aikman and Griese had as starters. Kelly was 101-59, Aikman 94-71 and Griese 92-56. By contrast, Warner's record is 57-44 — fewer wins than even Steve Grogan, Jeff Garcia and Craig Morton, and the same as Brian Sipe.

Unless you count the USFL, then Sipe destroys him.

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