Crow is not my favorite meal of the day

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- It goes down hard. Stringy, gets stuck between your teeth and in your throat, tastes like you know what. But, now and then you have to do it. When you are wrong it is one thing. When you miss the target as much as the space capsule landing on another planet on the way home that is a blow to your perceived knowledge of sports unlike any other except, possibly, losing the way Oakland did this weekend.

I chose Oakland knowing full well how smart Jon Gruden was. He was smarter than I imagined. I thought offense would dictate the pace of the game. It did. The Buccaneers' offense. I knew defense was important, but did not believe it to be the end-all, be-all of the final outcome. Wrong again. I was perfect.

Gruden apparently knew what Rich Gannon and Bill Callahan were going to do before they did. He was either reading lips, listening to their conversations and play calling by hacking into their wireless communications, or he was just running a school for coaching. Here was a team that could not find its way into the end zone in years past or even often this season, suddenly putting up 31 against San Francisco (I attributed that to a decimated Niners squad), 27 in their game with the Eagles (when Gruden totally out-coached Andy Reid) and now they post 48 against a team whose defense was almost as highly touted as their own.

Defense also killed offense. The crow isn't even cooked and I am having a tough time with it. Five interceptions and three for touchdowns. Gannon was throwing to Bucs defenders better than he was to his own. He collapsed. His brain imploded. Panic set in. Passes were forced. Two of the best receivers that game has ever seen were impotent.

Qualcomm Stadium, Super Bowl XXXVII field
Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice celebrates after sacking quarterback Rich Gannon.
The Raiders never came to life and yours truly thought they would come out firing shots across the starboard of the other pirate ship. The fact of the matter is that they never got to load their cannon. Their ship was flooded from stem to stern before it set sail. Gannon, the NFL's MVP, made one bad decision after another. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown spent most of the game looking for openings at the nearest home for the aging and futile.

Speed overcame size. It was Ferrari going against 18 wheeler and the sports car won hands down. Oakland was supposed to keep the ball and run up the score. Its offense became as much of a spectator as the guys in the corporate boxes. In the first half they had six series of three and out added to two interceptions and the defense was wilting.

This is about the time that you are supposed to say that the team you chose did not show up. That is what Eagles fans did a week ago. The fact of the matter is that the real team came to play in Philadelphia and they ran into a revitalized and much better coached club from Tampa Bay. That scenario repeated on Sunday in San Diego. The Raiders did show up. None of us that thought the Raiders would win realized just how ineffective they can be coupled with how good Tampa Bay had become. We were blinded by the silver and black, as in crow.

Jon Gruden
Jon Gruden holds the Lombardi Trophy aloft after Tampa Bay's 48-21 win over Oakland.
Jon Gruden's new minions are now the Super Bowl champs, Roman numeral XXXVII, and defense took offense to task. Pass the crow, the dark meat please. Coordinator Monte Kiffin put the defense together and Gruden made it work. Hell, the defense scored as many as the Oakland offense. The fourth highest point total in Super Bowl history from a team that was supposed to win by holding the other guys and just about making a few points of their own.

This was never a contest. You knew that when Oakland intercepted an errant pass at the outset of the game, the third play, and could not take it in. Napolean Gruden was worth all the money and players paid for him and San Diego turned into Waterloo but it was not his.

Lost in the early analysis, admittedly so, was the fact that Oakland plays with a one-dimensional, sometimes potent, offense - the pass. Gruden knew that and prepared for it. His secondary was waiting, at the spots where Gannon was going to throw before he threw. It was embarrassing. Credit defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin as well.

This team is not Baltimore or New England. Like Arnold, they will be back. They have a first-class defense and their new coach has given them offensive fire power to complement that. They not only believe, they proved that they deserve to be crowned champs of the world of professional football.

Dwight Smith
Dwight Smith runs an interception in for a touchdown. The Bucs defense had five interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, against the Raiders.
The game was over early and the tree outside my den window was filled with crows. The message was being delivered and none of them had silver tipped wings. Age showed early on and the Raiders could not win with names. Future Hall of Famers were over the hill. Time to consider retiring. Some of them did during the game. Youth was served. Speed overcame bulk.

Jon Gruden became the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl, the third to do it in his first year with the team (Don McCafferty of the Colts and George Seifert of the 49ers are the other two), and they should be the NFC odds on favorite to repeat next year.

Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit await over the next three years and none of those cities will have a home team competing for a Super Bowl any time soon. The odds to win Super Bowl XXXVIII are Philadelphia 9-2, Oakland 5-1, St. Louis 6-1, Pittsburgh 8-1 and Tampa Bay 8-1. They lead the pack who (real Pack), incidentally, came in at 12-1.

While I still have an unsavory mouthful of current crow, I would suggest that Las Vegas is going to redo those odds over the next week or so and make Tampa Bay the favorite, with Oakland dropping drastically, like a crow that has lost its ability to fly, or a pirate that no longer has a crew or ship.

Win some, lose some but you could not make a larger mistake choosing Oakland than you would driving down a one-way street. Sadly, I was at the wheel of that car. Would I be sucked in by names, colors, reputation, offensive standings again? You gotta be kidding!

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