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  1. From - Jeremy Woo: NBA Draft Dispatch: Latest Trade Rumors and Intel on Luka Doncic, the Hawks and More By JEREMY WOO June 20, 2018 The final 24 hours before the NBA draft is a tumultuous time for prospects, teams and fans alike, with individual workouts all but wrapped up, trade talks evolving from ideas to concrete possibilities, and the shape of the first round becoming clearer. It’s arguably the most hectic stretch of the entire league calendar as teams purposefully put out information to control the public conversation and create confusing but advantageous situations. Determining what’s what is a challenge for everyone. On the eve of the draft, key storylines have emerged via reports and leaguewide chatter, much of them steeped in speculation and keeping a wide range of scenarios in play. Per usual, there has been no shortage of trade talks, and while the top of the draft has begun to take shape, Atlanta’s decision at No. 3 has come to the forefront as a focal point of this draft. Everything else trickles down from there. Given the available information, let’s sift through what we know as of Wednesday morning. 1. The growing belief among rival teams is that the Kings are likely to stay put and select Marvin Bagley at No. 2. While Sacramento has explored trading down, leveraging the pick just to move down a few spots in a draft where any of the top five or six players could end up providing a substantial return—coupled with the fact that the Hawks have been active shoppers one pick below them—offers reason for skepticism. Bagley is the only top prospect to work out for Sacramento, although the team recently met with Luka Doncic in Spain and attended Michael Porter’s pro day. It seems Bagley wants to be drafted as high as possible, rather than target a certain team, and that has put him in good position here. He’s viewed as a safe choice for the Kings, and this is a pick they can’t afford to blow. 2. The present sense that Sacramento will go with Bagley suggests that Atlanta effectively now sits in the driver’s seat atop the draft at No. 3. As we alluded to to in yesterday’s mock draft, the Hawks, who own picks 3, 19, 30 and 34, have been all over the trade market in scenarios that include the possibility trading down from No. 3, as well as packaging their other picks to grab an additional late lottery pick. The sense entering this week had been that Atlanta was conflicted about the possibility of drafting Doncic. Another layer was added as ESPN reported Tuesday night that the Hawks had thrust Doncic into real consideration for the pick. He’s certainly quite worthy if they opt to go that direction, but Jaren Jackson is thought by rival teams to remain very much in play as well. 3. Given that the Grizzlies are generally viewed as legitimate Doncic suitors at No. 4, and that the Mavericks are also thought to covet Doncic at No. 5, it’s worth noting that the Hawks are in a position of strength atop the draft. There is speculation making the rounds that Atlanta could be leveraging interest in Doncic, hoping to create a better trade market for their pick. If the Kings go with Bagley, the Hawks in essence hold the keys to Doncic, who could be an enticing target for teams all over the league, and it’s logical to entertain all of their options before settling on a decision. 4. If Memphis is indeed set on Doncic, that makes Dallas a predictable suitor in discussions with Atlanta. While they presently have little of substance to offer in trades, they do have cap space. As we reported Wednesday, the Hawks are known to be one of many teams attempting to move unwanted salary, with Dennis Schröder (signed through 2021 for $46.5 million) and Kent Bazemore (upward of $37 million through 2020) known to be available. Given the level of financial commitment required, actually dealing either player will be a more difficult task, but it’s possible Atlanta attempts to foist one of those players onto the Mavericks or another team as a price for the third pick. Still, given the hefty salary cost, there’s reason to be skeptical the Hawks would be able to offload either one. The Hawks will be one of a handful of teams with acres of cap space, and it seems more likely that Atlanta absorbs salary from another team versus offloading one. 5. The Hawks are still thought to have interest in drafting Trae Young if they’re able to move down, with Mohamed Bamba also viewed as an option. Dealing down into the Mavericks’ spot would likely give them an opportunity to select either one, along with the possibility of Jaren Jackson still falling to them there. If the Hawks are serious about bringing on Young, moving Schröder feels like a critical domino that ought to fall first. It’s worth noting that both point guards are represented by the agency Octagon, and that it would be in nobody’s best interest for them to wind up as teammates. Atlanta has explored moving Schröder, but league sources say his off-court behavior and general attitude have made him harder to trade, despite the fact he’s entering his prime years at age 24. 6. Whatever Dallas ends up doing at No. 5 feels like a major pivot point in the draft, one that’s been made cloudier by the potential movement preceding their pick. Speculatively, if the Mavericks felt they had to bypass the Hawks to draft Doncic, they could call the Kings. Still, Sacramento would be taking a big risk moving down without clarity as to which of their options could be left on the board given how few of the top prospects are known to have worked out for them. If Dallas stays put, there have been mixed signals about how much they like Mohamed Bamba. The Mavericks would seem like a solid fit for Michael Porter, but whether he’s in serious consideration here remains unclear given his health situation. Teams have also expressed concerns about his maturity level and off-the-court adjustment to the NBA lifestyle. 7. It appears Trae Young, Michael Porter and one of either Bamba or Jackson appears likely to be available at No. 5, and that Doncic seems unlikely to fall that far. That puts the Mavericks in a natural position to try and trade down, noting their apparent desire to be competitive next season and the fact Dallas has the cap space to absorb the contract of a player they like. The Magic pick sixth, and aren’t showing their hand. Another team could call Dallas and see an opportunity to pre-empt Orlando’s decision entirely and come grab the guy they want one spot ahead. The 76ers have been rumored to be calling teams about high lottery selections, and the Mavericks might be a workable trade partner depending on which players are available when they select. 8. The Clippers’ picks at Nos. 12 and 13 are where the next major pocket of uncertainty in the draft seems to fall. While they would like to consolidate those picks into a higher selection, other teams are skeptical that Los Angeles has enough in the way of attractive trade chips to make that happen. The more likely scenario right now is that the Clippers pick the player they like the most at 12, then choose to move on 13, potentially using it to add another pick later in the draft while adding another pick or asset. They could be selecting from a group of prospects including Kevin Knox, Robert Williams and Lonnie Walker. 9. Working down from there, the Nuggets at No. 14, the Wizards at No. 15 and the Suns at No. 16 are all teams that could move their picks. As SI’s Jake Fischer reported Tuesday, Denver would like to shed the salary of either Kenneth Faried or Darrell Arthur if they use that pick to trade down. The Nuggets are coming up on a major extension for Nikola Jokic while the first year of Gary Harris’s new contract kicks in this summer, putting them in a potential crunch. The Wizards could look to do something similar to avoid paying the luxury tax in consecutive seasons. If the Suns do move, they’re more likely to target a move upward and could package picks 16 and 31 to do so, potentially with a player attached.
  2. Long read, but good. Man, that brought back memories.....the craze, the ice storms...crazy On Feb. 3 the Super Bowl returns to Atlanta for the first time in 19 years. The last go-round? Well. The Rams and the Titans clashed in what would be one of the most thrilling championship games ever—but the event is remembered for other reasons. Two historic ice storms racked the region in the lead-up. And the Monday-after watercooler talk centered on the over-the-top dot-com commercials and the overnight arrest of one of the league’s biggest stars. As the city prepares to rewrite its hosting history, we look back at the last Big Game in the ATL. I. THE BID Go back four years before the game, to Oct. 31, 1996. All 30 NFL owners gathered in a New Orleans ballroom and voted anonymously on which city would host Super Bowl XXXIV, in January 2000. JIM STEEG (NFL executive director of special events, 1979 to 2005): Atlanta was up for the bid against Tampa Bay. Commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue had, in effect, promised Tampa: If you build a new stadium, we’ll play a Super Bowl there. RICH MCKAY (Buccaneers GM, 1995 to 2003; current Falcons CEO): We had gotten the vote to build [Raymond James Stadium], done our politicking and kind of knew the votes. STEEG: The Glazer family [which still owns the team] thought pretty strongly the game was theirs. MCKAY: Then Atlanta made its case: Rankin Smith was ill. STEEG: Taylor Smith made the argument, “My father is dying, why don’t you give this game to him as a reward for being a loyal [owner] for 30 years.” The vote came down and the game was awarded to Atlanta. (Rankin Smith died a year later, at 72.) MCKAY: [Malcolm] Glazer did not take that well. STEEG: The Glazers literally went crazy. MCKAY: Tagliabue, who was always the smartest guy in the room, figured a way to save a bad situation. He asked if we’d be willing to have the next Super Bowl vote right then. STEEG: So we awarded two games that day. Tampa got 2001 as a consolation. And Atlanta would host in 2000. II. THE BUILDUP Fast-forward four years. The 1999 season kicked off on Sept. 12. Neither the Rams nor the Titans were seen as contenders. In the NFC, St. Louis was coming off a 4–12 campaign, but for years its front office had been hoarding offensive talent, culminating in ’99 with the first-round selection of N.C. State receiver Torry Holt and the fortuitous signing of Arena League QB Kurt Warner. The Rams added to that mix offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who would create a scheme unlike any the league has ever seen. MIKE JONES (Rams linebacker, 1997 to 2000): We were the worst team in the NFL the year before that. We couldn’t find a way to win. HOLT (Rams receiver, 1999 to 2008): When they drafted me, I was like, “I don’t want to go to this s----- team.” But then I got there and saw all the talent and . . . Oh, my God. JONES: First it was the trade for [running back] Marshall Faulk [from the Colts, in April]. Then the Kurt Warner story. ISAAC BRUCE (Rams receiver, 1994 to 2007): And Mike Martz. MARTZ (Rams offensive coordinator, 1999): I was in Washington with Norv Turner [in ’97 and ’98] and he made a comment in a meeting that we had such good third-down plays, and we didn’t often get to use them. We kind of laughed. Then I went to the Rams . . . . **** VERMEIL (Rams coach, 1997 to ’99): When I brought Mike here, I told him the offense would be his baby. Neither he nor I anticipated it’d be as explosive as it was. MCKAY: They suffered the injury at the end of the preseason to their starting quarterback [Trent Green], and now here comes Warner . . . . WARNER (Rams QB, 1998 to 2003): My first thought was: This system is perfect for me. HOLT: I remember looking at the pages of plays and how vertical everything was in the passing game. WARNER: We were going to throw it down the field, and we were going to try to score on every play. BRUCE: I like to compare it to when Muhammad Ali first came on the scene. WARNER: A lot of people didn’t believe we would be able to sustain that. MARTZ: It was the antithesis of the way the game was being played at the time. We said, “If you can cover everybody, God bless you. But I bet you can’t.” WARNER: It was the perfect storm. We had a collection of talent that was ridiculous. HOLT: We were pretty **** good, man. We were the Greatest Show on Turf. The old Oilers had rebranded and relocated to Tennessee. After two 8–8 seasons in two temporary homes, their first year at Nashville’s Adelphia Coliseum, in 1999, was spectacular, with a star quarterback-running back tandem and a tenacious D. AL DEL GRECO (Oilers/Titans kicker, 1991 to 2000): When I got to the Oilers we were a pretty good team. It went downhill when [QB] Warren Moon left, in ’93. BRUCE MATTHEWS (Oilers/Titans, 1983 to 2001): [Owner Bud] Adams announced in ’95 that we’d be moving. Those next four years sucked. DEL GRECO: The last season in Houston there was a “Save the Oilers” rally at City Hall. There were about 38 people. MATTHEWS: We were a lame duck team. We’d had seven years in a row in the playoffs. Then, all of a sudden, there’s 17,000 fans in the [Astrodome]. Everything about the move was billed as, “Wait till ’97! We’ll play in Memphis the first year, but they’ll embrace us!” That wasn’t the case at all. EDDIE GEORGE (Oilers/Titans running back, 1996 to 2003): We couldn’t give away tickets in Memphis. Playing in front of 16,000 fans, the majority cheering for the opposing team . . . . It wasn’t conducive to winning. MATTHEWS: The ’98 season they said, “We’ll play at Vanderbilt Stadium [in Nashville]—then we’ll really start experiencing what it’s all about!” That sucked as well. KEVIN DYSON (Oilers/Titans receiver, 1998 to 2002): [In ’99] we move again, finally, to Nashville. But now it’s, What’s our name going to be? What are our colors going to be? When they finally made that announcement, it was a special moment. We knew who we were. MATTHEWS: There was newfound optimism. New uniform, new name, new stadium . . . DYSON: Now we are home. DEL GRECO: We’d been building, adding bits and pieces. Eddie George. Steve McNair was coming into his own. GEORGE: The key piece was finding a dynamic pass rusher, a game changer on the defensive side. We drafted Jevon [Kearse in ’99], and Day One he made his presence felt as the freak of nature he was. DYSON: He changed our team. We were championship-caliber. The Titans went 13–3 and entered the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 4 seed. JEFF FISHER (Oilers/Titans coach, 1995 to 2010): We were built well. We were built physically. It wasn’t a fluke that we got there. GEORGE: Most teams weren’t built the way we were, hadn’t gone through what we had. We were mentally, physically and emotionally tough. MATTHEWS: And we beat the Rams earlier in the year. We matched up well with them. We really felt like, “This is going to happen.” GEORGE: [Going into SB XXXIV], everyone was giving it to the Rams. It’s going to be a blowout; it’s not worth watching. We embraced that. St. Louis also went 13–3, breaking records with an offense that changed how football is played and earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed. MARTZ: We had been [6–0] when we played the Titans earlier that year, and they beat us 24–21. They had us down 21–0 at half. JONES: After that first game we knew that if we got them on a neutral site we could beat them. DEXTER MCCLEON (Rams cornerback, 1997 to 2002): It was definitely revenge. HOLT: We wanted to get that *** back. III. THE STORM A destructive ice storm—hundreds of car wrecks, including one 47-car pile-up; $48 million in damage—was certainly not the way the NFL wanted to usher in its biggest event, but that’s what it got in Atlanta one week before the game. Locals called it a 100-Year Storm—and then, two days before kickoff, a second one hit. FISHER: The Super Bowl fell immediately after the conference championship games. One week. That made everything more difficult. MCCLEON: When we got there, there was ice all over Atlanta. MARTZ: It was hanging from the trees. DAVID RATCLIFFE (Georgia Power CEO, 1993 to 2003): It was one of the worst ice storms we ever had. We had 350,000 to 400,000 people out of service. STEEG: Those were the days before practice bubbles. The Titans were at Georgia Tech, the Rams were at the Falcons’ practice facility. Both were outside. TODD HEWITT (Rams equipment manager, 1986 to 2001): We planned like it was Green Bay in late December. All the players had thermals. Coaches had gloves, stocking caps; everyone had hand warmers. HOLT: It was still cold as all get-out. GEORGE: It felt like we were practicing on sheets of ice. HEWITT: I ordered blowers. The sidelines looked like a street corner, a bunch of guys huddling by the heater. BRUCE: If you were looking for Isaac Bruce, I was right next to the heater. STEEG: And there wasn’t enough room in the hotels. We had to put a tent in the parking lot for [Titans] press conferences. FISHER: Players didn’t want to go in there for interviews, it was so cold. And cold in the South is different—it’s a wet, bone-chilling cold. STEEG: It was so cold the orange juice we put out for everybody literally froze. MCCLEON: Everything was ice. All the roads were frozen. The buses couldn’t move. STEEG: But by midweek we were thinking, O.K., we’ve blown through this and we don’t have to worry about it anymore. RATCLIFFE: Then the second storm comes. It was like, Can we get a break here? HEWITT: On Saturday we didn’t even go to the stadium for practice, because of the weather. We had a walk-through at our hotel. MARTZ: Cars slid off the road. It was a nightmare. It created havoc. STEEG: You know when Hartsfield Airport closes down it’s reached a really serious point. VERMEIL: I had family members that almost didn’t get there. It was a disaster. STEEG: The NFL had its big party scheduled for Saturday night. Three or four thousand people. They canceled it because nobody could get to it. HEWITT: We ended up taking our kids to Hooters instead. BRUCE: Still, I don’t think the weather dampened the whole mood. We knew on Sunday we were playing in the Georgia Dome. MCCLEON: Guys were so excited. We could have been playing in Alaska. GEORGE: There could have been a tsunami and I wouldn’t have noticed. We were in the **** Super Bowl. IV. THE BROADCAST It was the start of a new millennium—no, the world did not end on Jan. 1, 2000—and American industry was embracing the digital revolution. Riding this wave, a whopping 25 (mostly unknown) Internet companies paid exorbitant fees to purchase 30-second ads to air during what would come to be known as the Dot-com Bowl. MIKE ZAPOLIN (Tech entrepreneur): This was the year that made the commercials part of what the Super Bowl is. STEVE JOHNSON (Chicago Tribune TV critic): Through the ’90s this was building as a cultural phenomenon, but that 2000 game really cemented the feeling. ROBERT LACHKY (Anheuser Busch CMO): We had become known as the ultimate advertiser in the Super Bowl. Ten years in a row of dominance. Then, all of a sudden, the buzz was the dot-coms. ZAPOLIN: The frenzy of investment [in dot-coms] was overwhelming. You’d go to your dentist and your dentist was like, “Oh, yeah, I have a startup fund. I have an incubator.” GEORGE: I was getting approached by entrepreneurs. Everybody had a dot-com . Somebody knew somebody that had an uncle . . . . JOHNSON: People were throwing billions of dollars around, right and left. And all of that led to this ridiculous onslaught of ads. That and the phenomenal success of a really great commercial the year before. ZAPOLIN: had a successful Super Bowl ad, and now they had a billion-dollar market cap. I owned and I said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to do a Super Bowl ad to launch this thing?” . . . . We approached ABC. They said, “We can sell you one of Pepsi’s ad spots, but you have to pay $2.75 million.” STEEG: The ad rates went up dramatically that year, to [an average of] $2.2 million, a new high. ZAPOLIN: It was an arms race. But the commercials had to be crazy. JOHNSON: They were all determinedly wacky. ZAPOLIN: Cyberian Outpost had an ad where they shot gerbils out of a cannon. It was insane. JOHNSON: The E-Trade ad was two guys and a dancing chimp. Onscreen it said, “Well, we just wasted $2,000,000.” Basically you had the sense that a bunch of companies were just spending all their venture-capital money on this one shot. And in many cases blowing it spectacularly. JONATHAN BEAMER ( CEO): For a lot of these companies, the world wasn’t quite yet ready for them. ZAPOLIN: Only a few months after the game, the bubble burst. All the funding stopped. Then it all crashed. MCKAY: Within four years, half of those companies didn’t exist. HOLT: But it’s still so fitting that the Internet was the new wave, revolutionizing the world. And the Greatest Show on Turf was a new wave. We were creative, we were innovative. We were the Internet of football. V. THE GAME Despite the ice storm (and a bomb threat that came about 45 minutes before kickoff), the game went on. Faith Hill belted out the national anthem and at 6:25 EST, on Jan. 30, 2000, the Titans kicked off to begin Super Bowl XXXIV. MCCLEON: Our game plan was to stop Eddie George and keep Steve McNair in the pocket. JONES: Eddie was the center of their offense. He set everything up. HOLT: I had never seen a running back that big [6’ 3” and 235 pounds]. I was enamored and in awe of his size. MCCLEON: And Steve was like an extra running back. Even if you got your hands on him, he could shake you. The Titans were dangerous in many ways. MATTHEWS: We struggled early. Offensively, we weren’t playing very well in the first half. GEORGE: We got out of our element. We were wide-eyed and got away from our game plan. FISHER: We got caught up in the Greatest Show on Turf and tried to throw the ball all over the yard. We were not about that. GEORGE: It was like we were playing in quicksand. But [the Rams] weren’t scoring either. HOLT: We were moving the ball up and down the field, but we had problems in the red zone. MATTHEWS: We were very thankful our defense held them to field goals. DYSON: It gave us a fighting chance. BRUCE: I don’t think the Titans had a Hall of Famer on that defense, but they played so well together. MARTZ: Their whole deal was pressure. It seemed like they blitzed on every snap. HOLT: They had Kearse. The Freak, man. The Freak. MARTZ: He was going nuts. Nobody could block him VERMEIL: They were knocking Kurt down. He got whacked. HOLT: He took a beating. You could hit a quarterback back then. And they were hitting the quarterback. MCCLEON: We led 9–0 at halftime, played about as well as we could on defense. But you knew those guys were going to get it right at half. BRUCE: Field goals weren’t going to beat this team. Not the Tennessee Titans, led by Steve McNair. It just wasn’t going to happen. But first, the halftime show: Phil Collins! Toni Braxton! Christina Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias! Giant puppets! And fireworks! STEEG: The halftime show was important in history because ABC broadcast the game, and Disney had just bought ABC. Now, for halftime, you basically got the production company of the network broadcasting the game. That begot CBS two years later wanting [its Viacom partner] MTV to do the halftime show for their Super Bowl, which a couple years later begot MTV doing the Janet Jackson show. BRUCE: Walking back on the field, the smoke from the halftime show settled right at the top of the dome. It had no exit. HEWITT: It looked like we were in a fog bowl, or like there was a fire. MCCLEON: Our offense took it right down the field to start the second half. You couldn’t ask for a better start: 16-0. We thought we had the game in hand. HOLT: We got the rhythm now. Here comes the Greatest Show on Turf. JONES: When we got up on teams, they usually didn’t come back. BRUCE: But the Titans had different plans, man. GEORGE: They felt like they’d won the game. Jeff Fisher said, “They’re celebrating. What are you going to do about it?” DYSON: We looked over at the Rams celebrating and it was like, Let’s calm down and do what we do. If we go out doing what we do, we can live with that. VERMEIL: They just started pounding it. They were patient. They didn’t play as if they were behind 16–0. MATTHEWS: We went back to what had gotten us to that point. DYSON: Hand the ball to Eddie George left. Hand the ball to Eddie George right. And let Steve McNair make some plays. We beat them down and wore them out. HOLT: Eddie had two physical touchdown runs to bring them back. More powerful, physical runs that I had seen in quite some time. JONES: Before we know it, we look up and a 16–0 game is now tied 16–16. GEORGE: The possibility of us pulling off this magical season was within our grasp. We felt like we were destined to win. MCCLEON: They had the momentum at that point. Martz was thinking, We need to do something to get it back real fast. MARTZ: With two minutes and 12 seconds left, we thought we’d take a shot. VERMEIL: I said, “Mike, this corner is about five and a half yards off Isaac Bruce and they are playing one-on-one. He can’t cover Isaac Bruce one-on-one.” And Mike called the play. BRUCE: Twins Right, Ace Right, 999 H Balloon. I knew immediately I was getting the football. HOLT: It was an All Go. BRUCE: Four receivers spread out, they all run down the field, try to take the top off the defense. And I had a free release. HOLT: Kearse was closing on Kurt. Kearse hit him and took a little bit of juice off the ball. GEORGE: He came within an inch. MCCLEON: But Kurt just took a chance. BRUCE: After that it was me and the defensive back running stride for stride . . . then the ball dropped out of the sky, into my hands [for a 73-yard catch]. VERMEIL: Bang. Touchdown. But we scored [to make it 23–16] too fast. GEORGE: We looked at the clock and said, “Oh, we got plenty of time.” MATTHEWS: There was no doubt we were going to drive down and take this thing to overtime. BRUCE: One minute and 48 seconds left, and we’re playing Steve McNair? Oh my goodness. Here we go. DYSON: We started on our own 11. GEORGE: And that’s when 9 went to work. FISHER: It was a drive for the ages, what Steve was able to do. BRUCE: I think a legend was introduced to America on that drive. HOLT: I’m seeing him move the ball. I’m in awe. It was beautiful to sit there and watch him show his mastery of the position. MCCCLEON: We were looking at that clock like, Please run! We went like 30 straight plays against Steve. That was one of the toughest things I’ve ever been through on the football field. BRUCE: I didn’t want to see him succeed, but I felt helpless at that moment, watching his greatness. MCCLEON: We got them to third down [with 22 seconds left]. Steve was scrambling around; it looked like we had him bottled up a couple times. VERMEIL: [Defensive end] Kevin Carter had him in his grasp and was spinning him around. JONES: Then Steve takes off. He whirls around. BRUCE: He had two defensive linemen—about 600 pounds—hanging on him. HOLT: Two of our biggest guys, he’s shedding them off. BRUCE: It’s a true example of what we call “country strong.” DYSON: Steve extended the play and I found a crease in the zone, and he delivered. I caught it [at the 10] to set up the final play. HOLT: That’s when I was like, S---. DEL GRECO: This stuff doesn’t happen unless we are supposed to win. MCCLEON: They called a timeout with six seconds left. Time for one play. BRUCE: I was getting my mind right to play the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. GEORGE: If it went into overtime? They didn’t have a chance. They were exhausted. VERMEIL: We were worn down from chasing McNair, tackling Eddie George. HOLT: That’s what Super Bowl moments are all about. The two best teams in the National Football League going one on one against each other and it all comes down to one moment, one play. GEORGE: The play that everybody remembers. MCCLEON: We had a combo call [on defense]. 77 Blast. Cover 7 on both sides DYSON: When I saw they were in zone, I knew the ball was coming to my side. JONES: I [was covering] the inside. So as I’m running with [tight end Frank] Wycheck I’m looking at Kevin Dyson the entire time. DYSON: Frank was pushing vertical, extending Mike. I’m coming underneath Frank to force that linebacker to make a choice. JONES: Kevin comes underneath. I see him plant his foot in the ground to come back for the ball, and I come with him. I don’t think he sees me. I think, I’m going to kill Kevin. DYSON: I saw him, but I didn’t think he was in position to make a tackle. I thought I could run through his arms into the end zone. JONES: He catches it, and when I wrap him up I have my arm around his right hip. He tries to extend. DYSON: I remember seeing the yellow paint of the end zone and thinking I had it. JONES: Then I bring my left arm around and I catch his knee right as he’s going up. He falls like a tree because he can’t keep his balance. DYSON: As I’m going down, I do that one last extension. If I could just get the nose of the ball across. . . . Then I see the blue and gold confetti coming down. DEL GRECO: They call that The Tackle, I guess. HOLT: Talk about moments. Mike Jones had his moment. LACHKY: Mike Jones, God bless his soul. HOLT: I want to hug him now. GEORGE: I recall looking up at the clock to see if there was more time left. It can’t end like this. DEL GRECO: There has to be more time. MATTHEWS: To this day when I watch it, I’m thinking we’re going to find a way to win this thing. DEL GRECO: You wonder what that party would have been like if we won. HOLT: We partied like s--- in the locker room. I ended up going to different parties in Atlanta that night. Next thing I remember, I was on top of a truck, bobbing and weaving in St. Louis. VI. THE MURDER At approximately 4 a.m. outside one of those parties—in Buckhead, seven miles north of Georgia Dome—two men died in a stabbing incident. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, in town for the festivities, was arrested and charged with double murder. The news broke Monday morning. MCCLEON: That was supposed to be the time we wake up as Super Bowl champs and it’s all about us on the news: the Miracle Rams. But the talk that morning was all about what happened in Buckhead. FISHER: We made it back to Nashville on Monday, and all the headlines were about Ray Lewis. GEORGE: We didn’t know if he did it, didn’t do it. We just knew two people were dead and they were accusing Ray of doing it. HEWITT: Players were talking about it on the plane home [Monday], as we were getting ready to take off. Did you hear what happened? Where was it? It was right here!? DYSON: I was actually at that same party. I left just before the incident and went to another party. It was surreal. STEEG: I got a call Monday from the police telling us [Lewis] was under arrest. I had to go tell Tagliabue. He was at a chef’s table at the Hyatt. I got him, and I remember going back up the elevator trying to explain what little I knew: There was a murder investigation and Lewis was in the middle of it. GEORGE: To wrap your head around him being involved in a situation like that was mind-boggling. MATTHEWS: All I know is, I wanted him suspended for the next year’s playoffs. [He wasn’t.] Instead they beat us. The Ravens’ defense was just nuts. STEEG: You go from Ray Lewis being arrested to, a year later, he was named MVP of [Super Bowl XXXV]. GEORGE: Certainly, it was a strange time. Lewis ultimately pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice but was cleared of charges. He settled with the families of both victims. VII. THE RETURN After two decades of unprecedented growth and the opening of the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in 2017, Atlanta will host another Super Bowl. This time, city and league officials believe they’ll get it right. (Oh, and Tampa? The city is hosting again in 2021.) GEORGE: I’ve heard people say Atlanta should never host another Super Bowl. MCKAY: When I went to work for the Falcons [in 2003, as GM] we tried to make a bid for the Super Bowl in ’07. We were pretty confident we had a good bid. I think weather played a big part in us not getting that. [That game went to Miami.] RATCLIFFE: All of us are hoping [a storm] doesn’t happen again. This is a huge opportunity for Atlanta to demonstrate the progress we made from 2000. STEVE CANNON (CEO of AMB Group, which owns the Falcons): It’s interesting, when you look at that 19-year span, how Atlanta has developed as a city. MCKAY: It’s a completely different Atlanta. CANNON: In 2000, this wasn’t considered one of the most significant cities in America. It is now. MCKAY: We as a city have really done a very good job in hosting a lot of big events over the last 30 years. There is one event that didn’t come off perfectly and that was the Super Bowl. We want to change that perception. HEWITT: Now you just have to pray that the weather doesn’t drop. MCKAY: If it happens, we are prepared for it. We spent a lot of time with the weather plan. The city is so much better suited to deal with inclement weather. We don’t want to host just this Super Bowl. We want to host Super Bowls. We want people to say: “This is as good a place to host a Super Bowl as any other place in the country.” SCOTT JENKINS (Mercedes-Benz Stadium GM): If the weather cooperates, we are going to set the standard for what the Super Bowl is. MCKAY: Bring a pair of shorts.
  3. MMQB In his Fourth Season with the Falcons, Grady Jarrett Insists It’s Only the Beginning Play Video YOU MIGHT LIKE NFL DRAFT: WHEN WILL QUARTERBACK RUN TAKE PLACE IN FIRST ROUND? QUICKLY With the end of his contract looming, will the Falcons lock up Jarrett with an extension this year? The defensive tackle, who has continued to improve since his career game in Super Bowl LI, is keeping his hopes up. By JONATHAN JONES June 26, 2018 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Had the Falcons hung on to win Super Bowl LI, and had the Patriots not completed the most improbable comeback in Super Bowl history, who would have been named the game’s most valuable player? More than likely it would have been QB Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP who posted a 144.1 passer rating in Atlanta’s loss to New England. But what about second-year defensive tackle Grady Jarrett? He tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks on Tom Brady, including two when the Pats were inside the red zone early in the fourth quarter, forcing a field goal. Coming into Super Bowl LI, Jarrett had just four sacks in two seasons. The former fifth-round pick (one of the biggest steals of the 2015 draft, which we’ll revisit in a bit) never had a problem stopping the run at Clemson, but his pass-rushing skills needed work at the next level. Head coach Dan Quinn would start Jarrett but normally take him out during obvious passing downs—something which Jarrett understandably hated. But some injuries on the interior of the Falcons’ line forced the coaches to use Jarrett on third downs more frequently. Now here he was in the biggest game of his life, tying the record jointly held by Reggie White, Darnell Dockett and Kony Ealy. That life-changing game has been a springboard for Jarrett, who started every game last season for the Falcons—he totaled a career-high four sacks and was the best in the league in getting behind the line of scrimmage. NFL NFC East Offseason Report Cards: Eagles Boost Receiver Corps While Cowboys, Redskins Still Need Pass-Catching Help “It sucks that we came out on the losing end of it because things could have been different. If you’re in your second year and you win Super Bowl MVP, it’s crazy,” says Jarrett during Falcons’ minicamp. “The following year I have a really good year, chosen for the Pro Bowl as an alternate and I led the league at tackles for loss [or no gain] at my position. My first three years in the league I was in position to be a Super Bowl MVP and also a Pro Bowler. “I just want to keep coming to finally get over the hump and make things into ‘what is’ instead of ‘what ifs.’” Jarrett’s success in the Super Bowl gave the defensive lineman the confidence he needed to know he can be a successful pass-rushing interior lineman in the league. And in 2017, he started all 16 games and stayed on the field. His 16 tackles for loss or no gain led all interior defenders, according to Pro Football Focus. “We had a sense that would happen with him because he has such quickness,” Quinn said. “Really good traits for a 300-pound guy that he can beat you to the punch. Get-off at an inside position is really one of the attributes that make him hard to block because he’s kind of coiled up, coiled up and then he’s ready to go. “You saw those tackles for loss that he makes, which are disruptive, that’s also him being on the move. We had the sense that he had the traits to become that.” Grady Jarrett (97) pulls down Tom Brady for one of his three sacks in Super Bowl LI. ROBERT BECK Now that he has become what Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff thought he could be, the Falcons are faced with a decision. Because he fell to the fifth round, Jarrett signed a four-year rookie deal worth $2.527 million back in 2015, which means he’ll cost less than $2 million against the Falcons’ cap this season. Atlanta clearly wants to hold on to Jarrett, but the Falcons also have to pay left tackle Jake Matthews. The team also needs to ink safety Ricardo Allen to an extension after he just signed his second-round tender, and running back Tevin Coleman is in the last year of his rookie deal, too. On top of all those pressing needs, wide receiver Julio Jones wants a new deal that pays him like the top wideout he is. The Falcons would love to lock up Jarrett before the start of the season. But if he plays out 2018 on his current deal—while continuing to show the same improvement he has each of his first three years—and waits to test the market, he’ll likely find that his number for 2019 and beyond is higher than what Atlanta would offer today. “What you said is true, and that has to be taken into account as well,” Jarrett tells me when presented with that scenario, all while not giving any indication one way or the other that he’d accept an early offer to play out his deal. “But all my focus is on this field right now, because if I don’t perform on the field nothing else matters. I’m a guy who focuses on his work and I’ll let the rest take care of itself.” He says he’s always bet on himself on the field, and off the field, here’s why you should bet on him. NFL NFC North Offseason Report Cards: Vikings Go All-In for Kirk Cousins, Packers Bring in TE Help During his rookie season, Jarrett knew he wanted to take up a cause away from football but hadn’t exactly identified what that’d be. He had always had a soft spot for victims of bullying, and in 2015 he noticed cyberbullying was getting more attention. He started a “Big Men Don’t Bully” campaign, and he encourages both victims of bullying and bystanders to speak up when they see something. Jarrett has even spoken to elected leaders at the Georgia state house about his anti-bullying efforts. The Falcons have put together a “Protest to Progress” campaign within the past three months where 17 players, Quinn and owner Arthur Blank spent time with the Atlanta police, area youth and Habitat for Humanity to help the community through action. Jarrett specifically spent time with at-risk youth discussing their interactions with Atlanta police while those police officers were in the same room. “I thought it was good for the group of people that we touched, and hopefully they take it to someone else and they take it to someone else,” Jarrett says. “It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but if you don’t take a step then there isn’t any progress ever made.” Jarrett’s care for others is genuine—something I saw up close while talking with him. Early in our sitdown, two older gentlemen walked by Jarrett and tapped the defensive tackle on the shoulder. One of the men first asked if he was a rookie, then recognized him somewhat and called him “Garrett” before finally landing on Jarrett, the lineman from Clemson. Jarrett learned from his mother that it doesn’t cost anything to give a stranger a piece of your time. He didn’t run these men off, didn’t give clipped answers, didn’t turn his back to them even as the more talkative man recalled his days as an official during the Danny Ford Clemson years and what exact day in July his grandson from Texas will be coming to training camp looking for autographs. “You’ve had a great career with the Falcons,” the man told Jarrett, about two-and-a-half minutes into their chat. “Thank you, sir,” Jarrett said. “It’s just the beginning.”