1. The Ravens are elite. We’ll start this morning with the Super Bowl, and as we close the 2013 season, it must be acknowledged the Baltimore Ravens are one of the NFL’s elite organizations. This has been true for a while, with this season – and their 34-31 victory over San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans Sunday – confirming it. They long have been slotted by many just outside that group of elite franchises, but with five consecutive postseason appearances, three AFC Championship games during that time and now a Super Bowl title, what organization ranks above them? All Hail Ozzie Newsome.
2. You find your quarterback however you find him. This has been a prevailing theme of the playoffs, and certainly was a theme of Super Bowl week. Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers weren’t projected as can’t-miss quarterbacks entering the draft. Credit the 49ers for seeing Kaepernick’s potential and shaping an offense to fit his style. But Sunday was Flacco’s day, so we’ll close this topic with him. He was the 18th overall selection in 2008, taken 15 selections after the first quarterback selected that season, Matt Ryan of the Falcons. Few thought Flacco would be elite, but he is. Now, he has the ring to show it.
3. It doesn’t have to be *all* quarterback. Quarterback is key. You must have a good one to win a Super Bowl. The exceptions to that historically are rare. But while the Ravens and 49ers got exceptional quarterbacking play throughout the playoffs, they also were there because of solid front offices that historically drafted well. Each team also has a head coach exceptional at blocking out noise and setting organizational tone. Each would be an ideal example for the Jaguars to follow – the 49ers offering an example that an organization can turn quickly with the right coach (Jim Harbaugh) and the Ravens a model for the entire league of an organization that can be consistently successful over time without obtaining that elite, can’t miss quarterback.
4. The 49ers are going to be good for a while. Forget Sunday’s result. An NFC Championship game appearance last season, and a Super Bowl appearance this season... All of that in Jim Harbaugh’s first seasons and with two different quarterbacks. They may need to modify the offense a little and Kapernick must get better, but he figures to do that with time.
5. The Jaguars’ turnover won’t be total. We move on to the Jaguars, and we’ll start with General Manager David Caldwell telling the Florida Times-Union he liked some of what he saw when evaluating the roster last week. “I’m actually encouraged by what I’ve seen so far,” said Caldwell, who told Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union he has watched all 16 Jaguars games from last season. “I kind of went in without any preconceived ideas of the team and just graded each player individually and how they’re going to fit into our schemes.” This jibed with reason and logic. Just because a team goes 2-14 doesn’t mean every player is bad, whatever the perceived talent level. There definitely will be new faces on the roster, and the team certainly will look different, but the roster overhaul in the short term may not be what some observers anticipate.
7. The Jaguars will have a new look next season. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan on Friday confirmed the team will have a new logo and/or design, with the new appearance “rolled out (on) the NFL’s schedule.” Khan added, “It’s going to be great." Stay tuned.
8. London sellout. The Jaguars’ game against the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium in London on October 27 is sold out, Khan also confirmed to the T-U. “A pleasant surprise,” Khan called it.
9. Caldwell has a sense of humor. Dempsey asked Caldwell who the Jaguars would take with the No. 2 overall selection in the draft. His reply: “Punter.”
10. The offense has talent. Caldwell said he liked what he saw of some of the offensive talent, specifically mentioning the absence of
12. The staff should be complete next week. Bradley said midway through last week he expected the coaching staff to be filled out in about a week. He also said he feels good about the state of the final two major hires, tight ends and running backs. Look for the moves to come later this week.
14. Caldwell likes
15. Maurice Jones-Drew is critical next season. Caldwell said multiple times in New Orleans he believes Jones-Drew – a three-time Pro Bowl selection from 2009-2011 – remains part of the team’s core offensively and is key next season. Jones-Drew held out of training camp last season, but said late last season he plans to participate this season. Of Jones-Drew’s contract, which has one year remaining, Caldwell said, “We’ll address that toward the end of the season.” Jones-Drew also said in New Orleans that while the foot injury on which he underwent late-season surgery remains in a cast he anticipates a full recovery. Jones-Drew called the injury a “mid-foot fracture.”
16. Shad Khan’s happy with the fan support. Khan told Dempsey he was pleased with fan turnout at EverBank Field in 2012, his first season as the franchise’s owner. “They did everything we could have asked them to,” he said. “The energy, the scene, the environment - everything is wonderful except maybe the final score.” Khan said owners talked to him at the Super Bowl about the energy of the Jacksonville fan base. “It wasn’t just how I felt,” Khan said. “It made a very profound impact even on visiting teams that this is something special.”
17. Khan feels good about the future. Khan said not only does he like the new organizational structure of general manager and president reporting to owner, with head coach reporting to general manager, he has gotten positive feedback leaguewide following the hirings of Caldwell and Bradley. “We’ve got a lot of work done,” Khan said. “In the last month, the most important thing is not how it feels but did we get the right people? I have heard nothing but exceptional comments from other owners and other coaches that we’ve got the best.”
18. The draft will be the focus. Khan has said multiple times since the end of the season free agency may not play the role this off-season as it has in the past few offeseasons. He said the same thing in New Orleans, that the early days of free agency next month may not feature the Jaguars as big players. “We have to focus on really putting a team together through the draft and then filling a hole or two with free agents,” he said. “That is the winning model.”
19. I was wrong. I know – shocking, right? But the Super Bowl hardly could have gone different than predicted here. The thought here was the 49ers’ offense was too balanced, and their team overall too balanced, for the Ravens. The thought, too, was they were mentally tough enough to overcome a big deficit in a pressure situation. Ah, well.