PHOENIX -- Due to the NFL's expanded, mandated media availability, Patriots coach Bill Belichick answers more questions and does more talking at the Super Bowl than he does in a month during the regular season.
Remarkably enough, interesting insights have ensued.
Asked the other day who was the best quarterback he ever saw, this three-time Super Bowl-winning coach seemed to indicate that it might have been Bert Jones.
"That's a tough one," Belichick said. "When I was pretty young, Johnny Unitas was very impressive and I loved watching him. I grew up in Annapolis and watched Baltimore play for years and they were kind of my team. Watching Unitas and [Raymond] Berry and Lenny Moore and all the great players that the Colts had there was pretty special. Unitas was pretty good and he was a great leader. I think there are a lot more people probably qualified to answer that than I am."
C'mon, like who?
"I have had the fortunate experience to work with some outstanding quarterbacks. Certainly Phil Simms in New York was a tremendous quarterback for our football team. Tom Brady has been the same here. Vinny [Testaverde] did a great job for us at Cleveland and at the Jets and even in his role here at the Patriots. As a pure passer I don't think I could put anybody ahead of Bert Jones. I know he had a short career and the shoulder injury, but when I was there and he was just starting his career, the success that he had and his ability to throw the ball as a pure passer and as an athlete, it would be hard to put anybody ahead of Bert Jones at that point in time."
Jones was a first-round pick of the Colts in the 1973 draft, managed to hang on for nine years, made 96 starts and compiled a passer rating of 78.2. He led the Colts to the playoffs three times, including in 1975 and '76, when they lost to the Steelers, 28-10 and 40-14.
The Super Bowl has, in its 41 years, been broadcast by an amazingly stable cast of play-by-play announcers on television.
Only 11 men can say they have done television play-by-play from the biggest game: Ray Scott and Jack Whitaker (who split the first assignment), Curt Gowdy, Jack Buck, Pat Summerall, Dick Enberg, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, Greg Gumbel, Joe Buck and Jim Nantz.
In one stretch of 25 years, Super Bowls IX through XXXIV, only five different play-by-play men handled the game: Gowdy, Summerall, Enberg, Gifford and Michaels.
Summerall did the most, 11, Enberg did eight.
Joe Buck will do his second tomorrow for Fox.
NFL (in) Europe
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced yesterday that the NFL will return to Europe for another regular-season game next fall. The New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers will be the opponents. The Giants and Dolphins played in London's Wembley Stadium this season, and the Giants have gone to some length this week to say that the experience of being away and dealing with unusual arrangements has helped them in their preparations for the Super Bowl.
Goodell, in his annual news conference, also said the league is considering seeding playoff teams differently, and perhaps giving wild-card teams with better records than division champions a higher seed in the conference playoffs. Under such a system, the Steelers would have played at Jacksonville this year, and the Buccaneers at the Giants.
"For the near term we'll focus on that possibility," he said, adding that a league-wide reseeding might be too ambitious a concept for the time being.
Cold, hard facts
Environment America issued a news release this week indicating that the home-field advantage cold-weather teams enjoy over warm-weather teams might be dissipating due to global warming.
Cold-weather teams have won more than 65 percent of their home games after Halloween against warm-weather teams, but rising temperatures might soon change that. Average winter temperatures at weather stations near 13 cold-weather teams' stadiums are already on the rise, according to one analysis. In the past seven years, the temperature in Pittsburgh is up 1.4 degrees over the average of the previous 30 years. The biggest such increase was in Green Bay, which has seen a 4.1 degree increase. The smallest change was in New England, 0.8 percent.
Don't be trying to counterfeit a Super Bowl football now.
For the 10th consecutive year, the NFL will use PSA/DNA Authentication Services of Newport Beach, Calif., to certify all footballs used in the Super Bowl. PSA/DNA will mark each game-used ball with a synthetic DNA strand that can be seen only when illuminated by a specific laser frequency.
What a relief.