Giants-Patriots blueprint should be apparent to Bears
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org February 3, 2012 10:08PM
It’s no fluke that elite QBs Tom Brady (left) and Eli Manning have their teams in the Super Bowl. | Charles Krupa~AP
SUPER BOWL XLVI
GIANTS VS. PATRIOTS
Time: 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
TV: Ch. 5 (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya)
Radio: 670-AM • Line: Patriots by 3
Updated: March 6, 2012 8:14AM
INDIANAPOLIS — As he settles into his new role as Bears general manager, Phil Emery surely will notice how the two teams playing in Super Bowl XLVI were built.
The New York Giants and New England Patriots won their respective conferences in different fashions, the former as a wild card and the latter with a 13-3 record. But there are similarities the Bears could learn from.
† First, the upright, franchise quarterback.
Much has been made of the Bears’ backup QB. But not only do the Patriots and Giants boast elite NFL QBs, both played all 16 games and weren’t among the 10 most-sacked. The Patriots’ Tom Brady was sacked 32 times and the Giants’ Eli Manning 28.
The Bears’ Jay Cutler was sacked 23 times, although he missed the final six games. Sacks are inevitable, but the Giants and Patriots clearly have more credible offensive lines than the Bears’.
‘‘The Manning family represents what’s best about America and football,’’ Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Eli and his brother Peyton. ‘‘We’re proud to compete with them. But I’m pretty proud to have Tom Brady as our quarterback, and there is no one I’d prefer to have more than Tom Brady.’’
† Second, strong leadership at the top.
There’s no denying that the Maras and the Krafts are among the NFL’s finest owners, since both have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in recent memory. But more important than anything, those two families have empowered the right football people to lead their organizations.
The Patriots’ Bill Belichick is a Hall of Fame coach, and Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin of the Giants are one of the NFL’s top general manager/coach combinations. There has been a trickle-down effect, as both organizations have consistently impressive track records in hiring coaches and scouts. Reese, in fact, was promoted after longtime general manager Ernie Accorsi retired. The Patriots, meanwhile, have lost a number of assistants and even player personnel executive Scott Pioli, yet they return to the Super Bowl again.
While much has been made of the so-called ‘‘Patriot Way,’’ former Patriots linebacker Larry Izzo, a Giants assistant special teams coach, believes his current employer is the impetus for both teams.
‘‘There are definitely similarities because it is a tough, physical, hard-nosed, smack-ya-in-the-mouth approach to football in this organization, and that has been the case for a long time, all the way back to when the team was first purchased by Mr. Mara’s grandfather,’’ Izzo said. ‘‘That tradition of physical style of play I’m sure influenced Bill when he was with the Giants.’’
Belichick was an assistant on the Giants’ staff for 12 seasons.
† Lastly, players are developed in-house, not via free agency.
The Patriots have had their share of misses lately, particularly as it relates to the defensive secondary. But they’ve also had many notable successes, such as All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski (2nd round, 2010) and linebacker Jerod Mayo (1st, 2008).
The Giants have been far more successful. But they also benefitted from some luck, holding onto undrafted receiver Victor Cruz, who developed into a Pro Bowler.
‘‘He has surpassed all of our expectations,’’ Reese said. ‘‘That happens. In scouting, it’s not a perfect science. Every now and then, you get lucky with guys like that.’’
Where the Giants have been skilled is getting production out of top picks. First-round picks Jason Pierre-Paul, Hakeem Nicks, Aaron Ross and Mathias Kiwanuka are all starters. In addition, although he was on injured reserve, cornerback Terrell Thomas, a second-round pick in 2008, was projected as a Pro Bowl player entering this season.
Struggles near the top of the draft helped doom former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.
‘‘The top of our drafts have not been overly successful, despite some success in the lower half of the rounds,’’ Bears president Ted Phillips said. ‘‘But we have to do better in the early rounds of the draft. That’s how you have sustainable success.’’
Expect a lot of big plays
Neither of these teams today has a dominant defense. So, not surprisingly, neither team is very good at preventing big plays. According to STATS, the Patriots have allowed 79 pass plays of 20 or more yards, the most in the NFL, while the Giants have allowed 60 (29th). Overall, including runs of 20 or more yards, the Patriots are last with 89 big plays allowed, while the Giants are 27th with 71.
Today’s game features two of the league’s best quarterbacks. But it also features two of the most clutch receivers. Wes Welker of the Patriots is second in the NFL with 26 ‘‘clutch catches,’’ defined by STATS as any reception on third or fourth down which results in a first down or touchdown. Victor Cruz of the Giants is sixth with 23 clutch catches.