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What’s at Stake in Super Bowl LVIII?


Hooray!  After eighteen weeks of regular season football along with another four weeks of postseason, we have arrived at the finale: it’s Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers Part II!  It’s the Super Bowl LVIII Special we dreamed of…right?  Why do you all look so angry…and why are you starting to pick up stones…ouch, okay okay, I get it – we’re all a little sick and tired of the Chiefs.


Yeahhh, so maybe we’re all starting to get a little Chiefs fatigue.  That’s really a we problem versus a Chiefs problem, because at the rate things are going, we might have to get used to the idea of Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl as a regular occurrence.


This wasn’t supposed to be their year.  Frankly, neither was last year.  What the Chiefs are doing right now is impressive – back-to-back championship appearances with a roster that most thought was in a rebuilding phase.  What happens when they finish that rebuild?  Wait, don’t answer, I don’t want to think about it…


while they haven’t quite eclipsed the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots in their Super Bowl…synonymity?  Synonymousness?  Synonymability?  (I’ll keep workshopping that…).


In other words, the Chiefs don’t have that rental property on Super Bowl Island yet, but they’ve broken ground.


They’ve become the NFL’s standard-bearers.  If you want a blueprint on how to develop a franchise QB and an elite offense, just run tapes of the 2019 Chiefs.  If you have questions on how to rebuild an entire offensive line overnight, see the Chiefs 2021 offseason.  If you want a how-to on crafting a homegrown, dynamite defense, the 2023 Chiefs can help you there.


But of course, the 49ers aren’t too far behind either.  Under the directive of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, the Niners have developed arguably the NFL’s most talented roster.  You could be forgiven for confusing them for an All-Star team – just listen to some of these names:


  • LT Trent Williams: 4x All Pro, no doubt Hall of Famer

  • RB Christian McCaffrey: 3x All Pro, 2023 Offensive Player of the Year, likely Hall of Famer

  • WR Deebo Samuel: 1x All Pro, one of the most unique offensive players in football

  • TE George Kittle: 4x All Pro, possible Hall of Famer and a dominant player in both the run and pass games

  • WR Brandon Aiyuk: 1x All Pro, extremely shifty and one of the better route-runners in football


And that’s just their offense!  On defense they have guys like defensive end Nick Bosa (2022 Defensive Player of the Year), linebacker Fred Warner (widely regarded as the best ‘backer in football), cornerback Charvarius Ward (2023 second-team All Pro), and a host of other impact players at every level.  If there ever was a team that had a case for the “super team” label, it’s the Niners.


But of course, you can’t mention the Niners without mentioning Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft – their baby-faced quarterback Brock Purdy.


Purdy is Batman to Mahomes’ Superman.  With Mahomes, it’s easy to understand why he’s so successful.  He has all the physical gifts you could ask for: an arm that could heave a football clear across the Rocky Mountains, the mobility of a coked-up Tasmanian devil, and the fearlessness of Stonewall f-ing Jackson.  As for Purdy…it’s a little more complicated.


He doesn’t have the stature of an elite QB.  His arm isn’t rocket-powered, and his throws aren’t laser-guided.  His mobility is fine, but it’s more miniature horse than stallion.  He doesn’t look the part, and he’s propped up by the premier-est of premier talent.  If you thought Batman was rich, take a look at Brock Purdy’s surroundings.


But that’s just fine for the Niners.  They don’t need Superman.  Superman is great, but sometimes he can cause a lot of collateral damage.  Batman might not offer you the same kind of game-ending power, but his methodical style can work just as well.


So, what we have here is a failure to communicate – sorry, I defaulted to Cool Hand Luke – what I mean to say is, what we have here is two pretty evenly-matched teams.  They both have plenty of star power, innovative coaching staffs, and previous Super Bowl experience – and both have plenty at stake for tomorrow's big game.


For the Chiefs, this is their opportunity to really cement themselves as one of the greatest teams in NFL history.  You can quibble with their “dynasty status” right now (two in four years doesn't exactly qualify), but if they win tomorrow, that case will be closed.


For Mahomes specifically, another ring will immediately vault him into the upper echelon of all-time NFL QBs.  He’ll still have a ways to go to catch up with Brady, but his dominance in the regular season and postseason will give him plenty of ammo when measuring against the G.O.A.T.  Mahomes already has a case as the most-talented QB the league has ever seen, and another ring only strengthens that perception.


Another ring would also do wonders for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.  This run with the Chiefs has been everything Reid could have ever dreamed of – he went from guy who couldn’t quite get it done in Philadelphia to possibly the second-greatest coach in NFL history behind Belichick.  Another ring would go a long way, but most importantly, it establishes Reid as a coach who was always capable – he just didn’t always have the pieces.


As for the 49ers, the stakes, incredibly, are even higher.  This is Kyle Shanahan’s third trip to the Super Bowl – once previously as a coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, and previously as the head coach of the Niners in Super Bowl LIV – and he really needs this one.  The stink of 28 - 3 will never, ever wash away.  Shanahan needs a championship just to get back to square one.


Big picture – the Niners as a whole really need this one.  This entire season has always, from day one, been about getting back to the Super Bowl after a pitiful NFC Championship Game appearance in 2022 where the Niners didn’t have anyone available who could complete a pass.  The Eagles, by virtue of – you know – having someone who could throw the ball, wound up representing the NFC in the Super Bowl LVII.


Maybe a fully healthy Niners team could have beaten the Chiefs in the Super Bowl last year.  Then again, maybe not.  Either way, they’re getting their chance to prove everyone right or wrong, and they’d better make the most of it.  If we see another 28 - 3 debacle or if Purdy misses a deep throw late in the game like Jimmy Garoppolo did in Super Bowl LIV, the jokes will be flying in a severe way.


Okay, so maybe this isn’t the Super Bowl we all wanted, but at least there are plenty of storylines.  It might be two Evil Empires squaring off against one another, but it’s somewhat comforting knowing that the loser will be excoriated on social media.  That’s our victory, and no one can take it away from us.


So, while it might be a little harder than usual for the casual fan to get up for this game, we know the Chiefs and Niners won’t have that issue.  There’s plenty riding on the outcome for both teams.  Legacies are at stake – some need that perfect ending, and others that have just begun.  On Sunday, some of these legacies will go up in flames.  If you can’t bring yourself to root for one of these teams, know that rooting against them is acceptable too.

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