- - Sunday, January 20, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Super Bowl LIII will be a matchup of the old and new NFL genius — arguably the greatest coach in the history of the league versus the prototype of the 21st-century football coach.

The Dark Knight against the Golden Boy.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick will match wits with Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, and the preparation for the chess game between the two coaches will likely dominate the days leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in Atlanta.

There will be a spotlight on New England quarterback Tom Brady, perhaps the league’s most recognizable star who remarkably is still playing at an elite level at the age of 41. But this Super Bowl will be about the coaches and the comparisons and contrasts between the two.

For Belichick, he will be going for the undisputed crown of the greatest coach in NFL history. Some would make the case that he has already achieved that place in league history, with eight AFC titles and trips to the Super Bowl during his 18 seasons as Patriots head coach. He has won the coveted title in five of those trips — which ties him for NFL championships with the man whose name is on the trophy both coaches are going for — the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the Super Bowl winner.

It may be the only trophy Belichick values. Last year, when his team defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 in the AFC title game, he quickly handed off the Lamar Hunt trophy for the winner to someone else without raising it up for all to see, treating it like a participation trophy.

No, there is one trophy that matters to Belichick, 66, and this Lombardi trophy has the extra meaning of putting him one up on the great Lombardi, whose Green Bay Packers won five NFL championships, two of them the first two Super Bowl titles (ironically, the founder of the NFL, George Halas, won six NFL championships over the 42 years he coached the Chicago Bears from 1921 to 1963, but for whatever reason, his name never seems to be in the discussion).

Standing on the sideline in his way will be McVay, who, at 32, stands a chance to be the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl, and may be the heir apparent to Belichick as the league’s coaching genius. He took over the Rams heading coach job in 2017 and led the team to an 11-5 record and the NFC West division crown. It was their first winning season and division title since 2003, when the franchise was located in St. Louis.

The Rams making it to the Super Bowl is a marketing gift for the league, which had had no presence in the Los Angeles market since 1995 — when the Rams moved to St. Louis.

Now, LA has two, including the relocated San Diego Chargers, who were knocked out of the playoffs last week.

Both of the LA teams will share a celebrated new stadium

Another marketing gift is McVay right out of central casting — the smart, handsome, personable young coach — and they are likely celebrating his presence on the league’s biggest stage at NFL headquarters. Publicly, he is the antithesis of Belichick, who has raised the rude and muttering press conference to an art form. Belichick drips disdain. McVay exudes charm.

Belichick carries the baggage of two NFL scandals on his resume. There was Spygate, when Belichick was caught illegally taping New York Jets coaches signals during a 2007 game. And there was Deflategate, when Brady was accused of deliberately deflating footballs in a 2015 playoff game.

The heavy penalties that followed were likely payback for Belichick’s years of skirting, and often breaking, the rules.

McVay? He’s a Boy Scout.

He is also a painful reminder for Washington Redskins fans of the dysfunction and self-destruction of their franchise — though they need little reminder of that.

McVay, the grandson of John McVay, who was the San Francisco 49ers general manager who helped build five Super Bowl champions, came of age as a football coach with Washington, first joining Mike Shanahan’s staff as an assistant tight ends coach in 2010. He would be part of what has now become a storied staff that included Kyle Shanahan, now the 49ers head coach, and Matt LaFleur, just hired as the Green Bay Packers head coach.

He left in 2017 to take the Rams job, leaving Redskins fans to bemoan the idea that McVay was allowed to leave instead of becoming their head coach — as if anyone, even a young genius, could succeed with this franchise.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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