The Super Bowl Report: What you need to know about Cooper Kupp
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Andrew Greif on Cooper Kupp: By 2012, as Eastern Washington University built one of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision’s top programs behind an explosive offense, some of its players were so obsessed with improvement that a custodian, with the blessing of the Eagles’ coach, Beau Baldwin, began letting players into the football offices after practice hours. Among those who tagged along for extra film or weights was a freshman receiver named Cooper Kupp.
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The upperclassmen eventually graduated. But Kupp and the propped-open doors remained.
“Ultimately, I think somehow or another a key was delivered,” Baldwin, now the coach at Cal Poly, said this week. “Those guys had 24-hour access.”
It explained why, during the 2013 and 2014 seasons in Cheney, Wash., a city of 12,000 tucked in rolling wheat fields south of Spokane, Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. received texts from Kupp at odd hours asking him to meet up at the team’s facility.
“It’d be a Sunday, it’d be a late night, and early morning,” Adams said. “ ‘C’mon, let’s go.’ We would go watch film together.”
Few positions in sports need be more aligned than quarterback and receiver, where success hinges on timing, trust and precious seconds hardwired through hours of repetitions. And in the experience of Adams, a Mission Hills Bishop Alemany High graduate who later starred at Oregon and has played in the Canadian Football League since 2016, no other receiver he has known has been as serious as Kupp in wanting to be on the same page as his QB.
After being drafted by the Rams in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, Kupp spent his first few weeks as a pro living with then-Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Goff set up a projector in a spare room to teach Kupp the offense.
When Goff woke up, he’d find the rookie receiver’s scribbled thoughts all over a whiteboard, he told the NFL Network in 2017. This season, his first catching passes from Matthew Stafford, Kupp has taken to eating breakfast and talking football with his new quarterback.
Kupp’s partnership with Goff yielded a Pro Bowl selection and a contract extension worth $35 million guaranteed. His union with Stafford has led Kupp to become only the fourth player to lead the league in receptions, yardage and touchdowns in the same season, production that has powered the Rams to Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 against Cincinnati, in SoFi Stadium.
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WHAT COLOR JERSEY FOR THE RAMS?
The Rams will wear their bone white jerseys and sol yellow pants when they play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
The Bengals, as the designated home team, chose first and opted to wear their black jerseys and white pants.
THE SUPREME SIX
From Jack Harris: There could have been a red carpet leading to the Rams’ postgame news conference Sunday night, the team trotting one major star after another out in front of the cameras to celebrate clinching a Super Bowl berth several years — and many big personnel moves — in the making.
The Rams, after all, have as much star power as almost any franchise in football: Homegrown talents at critical positions on either side of the football. Major trade additions acquired for hefty hauls of draft picks. And prominent talents who all came together to help the team beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game and book a spot in Super Bowl LVI.
“All hands on deck, everybody was ready to go,” coach Sean McVay said. “There was so many key contributors today and like I said, I’m just so proud of this group.”
It’s a roster unlike any other in the NFL, and it will try and win the franchise’s first Super Bowl while playing in Los Angeles.
Here’s a look at six of their biggest names, and how the team brought them all together to reach the doorstep of a championship.
AL MICHAELS REMEMBERS
Everyone knows the voice. NBC play-by-play announcer Al Michaels has called some of the greatest games in NFL history, and now with the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, he’ll finally get to work one in his hometown. He was in the Coliseum stands for the first Super Bowl — then the AFL-NFL World Championship Game — and recounted those memories and more for Times NFL writer Sam Farmer. Here, in Michaels’ words, are his thoughts on the league’s biggest stage:
Our country’s No. 1 sports event is coming back to Los Angeles on Feb. 13, and personally, it will provide a special thrill for me. So Fi Stadium is a 25-minute ride from my home (OK, if there’s a Sigalert, more like 75 minutes), and it will mark the 11th Super Bowl I’ve called on either ABC or NBC.
And it’s personally extra significant. On Jan. 15, 1967, I was at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the first one.
I was 22, had graduated from Arizona State the previous spring and gotten married to a girl I’d met in the 10th grade at Hamilton High. We tied the knot on Aug. 27, 1966, and Linda is the love of my life. I went to the game with my younger brother, David, and we were big fans of the upstart American Football League.
There was a big family connection to the AFL. Seven years earlier, our dad had gone to work for MCA and was involved in starting their sports division, negotiating television rights with the networks and representing athletes. He helped broker the original AFL television contract in 1960 with ABC. It was something like $2.1 million for the ENTIRE season! For a little perspective, some 30-second commercials for this year’s Super Bowl will be sold for approximately $6 million. Each!
To read more memories by Michaels, click here.
RAMS MAY LOSE ASST. COACH SOON
Gary Klein on the Rams: Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is expected to be hired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, according to a report by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which cites two sources with knowledge of the situation.
O’Connell interviewed with the Vikings, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris also interviewed with the Vikings, who cannot officially hire O’Connell until after the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh interviewed with the Vikings also, but announced Wednesday he is staying at Michigan.
O’Connell would become the fourth former assistant on coach Sean McVay’s staff to become an NFL head coach.
From Harriet Ryan: Police are investigating the apparent beating of a San Francisco 49ers fan found severely injured in the parking lot of SoFi Stadium during Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Rams.
Daniel Luna, a restaurant owner from Oakland, remains hospitalized at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in what Inglewood police said was a medically induced coma.
Luna, 40, was discovered on the ground by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics in the stadium’s Lot L about 4 p.m., half an hour into the Rams-49ers contest, said Inglewood Police Lt. Geoffrey Meeks. Luna was wearing a San Francisco jersey and black pants, Meeks said.
Emergency room staff at Harbor-UCLA noted wounds suggesting Luna had been attacked and contacted Inglewood police later that night.
BRIAN FLORES LAWSUIT
Dylan Hernández on the Brian Flores lawsuit: Less than two weeks before a Super Bowl that celebrates America’s splendor, John Elway has become a symbol of this country’s shame.
Named in a 58-page federal lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores against the NFL and three of its teams, the Duke of Denver has taken on a new public profile as the Face of Systemic Racism.
To be fair to Elway, the Denver Broncos are denying Flores’ claims about how then-general manager Elway and other Broncos executives showed up an hour late to interview him for their head coaching position in 2019.
The team says the meeting started at its scheduled time of 7:30 a.m. and lasted 3½ hours.
“Pages of detailed notes, analysis and evaluations from our interview demonstrate the depth of our conversation and sincere interest in Mr. Flores as a head coaching candidate,” the Broncos said in a written statement.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the scene described by Flores, who was born to Honduran parents and is Black.
The Broncos executives “looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had [sic] drinking heavily the night before,” the court papers read. “It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job.”
The team went on to hire Vic Fangio, who is white and posted a 19-30 record in three seasons.
Pictures like this are why Flores’ complaint could inspire change.
HOW TO FIND PARKING
SoFi Stadium is hosting the Super Bowl. Tickets are selling fast, and so is the on-site parking. We have all the information on how to get to the big game in this video.
SUPER BOWL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Super Bowl Sunday
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood
Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by 4 1/2 points
TV: NBC and Telemundo.
Radio: Westwood One radio (AM 570 in Los Angeles), SiriusXM NFL Radio, NFL GamePass.
Streaming: NFL app (iOS, Android), Peacock app (iOS, Android), Telemundo app (iOS, Android), Yahoo Sports
Halftime show: Recording artists Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL has yet to announce who will sing the national anthem before the game.
Coronavirus guidelines if you attend: Under Los Angeles County’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Fans attending the game will be required to wear masks and will be given KN95 masks. For further coronavirus rules and guidelines, click here.
BEST PRO FOOTBALL TEAM TOURNAMENT
Just for fun, over the next two weeks we will be running a tournament to determine the best Super Bowl/NFL/AFL champion of all time. The teams have been seeded 1-64 (using a combination of regular season record, regular season point differential and playoff point differential) and put into four regions, just like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Using the Second And Ten computer game, we will run the games to determine the best team of them all. Since there are only 55 Super Bowl winning teams, we chose nine teams from before the Super Bowl era to compete, all champions of either the NFL or the AFL. They are: 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1951 Los Angeles Rams, 1953 Detroit Lions, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 1961 Houston Oilers, 1962 Green Bay Packers, 1963 San Diego Chargers, 1963 Chicago Bears and the 1964 Buffalo Bills.
We continue with the first round results from the Joe Montana Region:
No. 1 1984 San Francisco 49ers d. No. 16 2012 Baltimore Ravens, 27-17
Joe Montana passed for 286 yards and two touchdowns and Roger Craig and Wendell Tyler combined for 189 yards on the ground.
No. 15 1967 Green Bay Packers d. No. 2 1991 Washington Redskins, 41-21
Another big first-round upset as Bart Starr passed for 221 yards and two TDs as the Packers also had a kickoff return for a touchdown (Travis Williams) and Tom Brown returned an interception for a touchdown.
No. 3 2004 New England Patriots d. No. 14 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23 (OT)
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 29-yard field goal in OT for the win. Tom Brady passed for 385 yards, Corey Dillon ran for 108 and Deion Branch (126) and David Givens (121) had over 100 yards receiving.
No. 13 1987 Washington Redskins d. No. 4 2003 New England Patriots, 28-6
Doug Williams passed for 316 yards and three TDs, two to Art Monk, who had 114 receiving yards. The Washington defense intercepted two Tom Brady passes.
No. 5 1964 Buffalo Bills d. No. 12 2019 Kansas City Chiefs, 24-7
Future vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp passed for 250 yards as the Bills scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.
No. 11 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers d. No. 6 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 13-7
A defensive struggle as the Steelers took a 13-0 lead into the fourth and held off a late Eagles rally.
No. 7 1996 Green Bay Packers d. No. 10 1961 Houston Oilers, 31-21
Brett Favre passed for 266 yards and three TDs as George Blanda completed only 15 of 47 passes for the Oilers and was intercepted three times.
No. 8 1992 Dallas Cowboys d. No. 9 1971 Dallas Cowboys, 20-17
The key blow was by Kelvin Martin, who returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter for the go-ahead points.
Tomorrow: First-round results from the John Madden Region. The teams:
No. 1: 1976 Oakland Raiders
No. 2: 2016 New England Patriots
No. 3: 1989 San Francisco 49ers
No. 4: 1982 Washington Redskins
No. 5: 1966 Green Bay Packers
No. 6: 1950 Cleveland Browns
No. 7: 1999 St. Louis Rams
No. 8: 2009 New Orleans Saints
No. 9: 1981 San Francisco 49ers
No. 10: 1968 New York Jets
No. 11: 2014 New England Patriots
No. 12: 1995 Dallas Cowboys
No. 13: 1983 L.A. Raiders
No. 14: 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 15: 1980 Oakland Raiders
No. 16: 1988 San Francisco 49ers
SUPER BOWL POLLS
Two Super Bowl polls for you to vote in: Which team will win, and who will be named the game’s MVP? Click here to vote. Results will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOTBALL PLAYER?
I asked you to send me the name of you favorite football player and why, and I was deluged with answers. Answers will be printed starting today. Keep sending them in by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.
Matt Gaffney: My favorite was Merlin Olsen. He was a tremendous defensive tackle, strong, quick, agile & hostile. It’s hard to mention Merlin without including Deacon Jones. They worked well together, but after Deacon was traded Merlin did the same things teaming with Jack Youngblood. Jerry Kramer said Merlin and Alex Karras were the two best he ever played against. Kramer gave the overall nod to Merlin based on his relentlessness.
Gordon Pattison of Los Angeles: Growing up in L.A. in the 1950’s, all of my friends and I were Rams fans. We each had a favorite player and had our mothers sew his number on the jerseys we wore when we played sandlot football in the neighborhood. My favorite was quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. It was thrilling to see him play at the Coliseum when he connected deep to Tom Fears or Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. He was also a fine punter. His booming kicks where a marvel to see.
James Broms: Bo Jackson. His speed and power were awe-inspiring and, like Jim Brown, he was virtually impossible to tackle one on one.
Highlights from Super Bowl IX. Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl X. Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl XI. Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl XII. Watch and listen here.
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