Boomer Esiason on D&C: Ravens are ‘team of destiny,’ but 49ers have better players
|02.01.13 at 9:26 am ET|
Boomer Esiason called in from New Orleans to talk with Dennis & Callahan about the state of the 49ers and Ravens as they head into the Super Bowl, and whether the Ravens’ intangibles or the 49ers’ talent will prevail.
In a week filled with off-field news items about Ravens and 49ers players, Esiason said he doubts the accusations of PED use will slow down Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, but that 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver seems shaken up by the media attention he’s gained this week for an anti-gay remark.
“Given all that Ray Lewis has been through, from the double murder back in 2000 to all of his gyrations during games and all of the publicity that’s he’s gotten, that’s the last thing that they worry about,” Esiason said.
“Now, on the other side, Culliver, who made the anti-gay statement, he was really uncomfortable and really felt badly about what he said. I don’t necessarily know that he understood the enormity of what he said. His situation’s a little bit different, and he’s probably going to carry that a little into the game, because I really felt that he he looked very very embarrassed and overwhelmed by the whole dust-up that his comments created.”
Asked about Ravens safety Ed Reed, whom Bill Belichick admires, Esiason said he could see Reed aiming to play with a quarterback like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning assuming he leaves the Ravens as a free agent this offseason.
“I’m sure that Ed Reed probably loves this experience that he’s having with the Baltimore Ravens right now,” Esiason said. “I would think he’d be willing to take a little less money — I imagine, I don’t want to put words in his mouth — to play for one of those franchises for a chance at a Super Bowl ring.”
Esiason’s Super Bowl prediction was a tight, defense-dominated battle: “This game should be a fourth-quarter game. It should be a relatively tight game. It should stay in the 20s. I’d be really shocked if somebody scores 30 points in this game, unless there’s some breakdown on special teams, which I really don’t expect.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On whether the better team or the “team of destiny” will prevail: “There is a team of destiny and that is the Baltimore Ravens. There are maybe four or five reasons why they are a team of destiny. Ray Lewis’ pending retirement, the fact that Torrey Smith lost his brother earlier in the season before they played the Patriots, the fact that O.J. Brigance,who’s suffering from ALS, is in their front office and has been a big part of their team. How about the fact that Art Modell passed away and they wear the patches that have Art’s name on it?
“When you talk to the players, they’ve been so carefree. They’re enjoyed it, they’ve had a great time. I went to their practice the other day and it’s just so loose, it’s everything you would hope you would see. You don’t want to see guys uptight. And the guy that really seems to be embracing all of this may be the dullest human being on the face of the earth, and that would be Joe Flacco.
“The 49ers definitely have the better team. They’re faster, they’re younger. They’re an aggressive physical team — I can’t believe I’m saying this, they may actually be more physical than the Baltimore Ravens. But when you look at them on film and watch the way they played the entire season, you see what I think is the NFL’s best roster right now.”
On the surprise of San Francisco being the better defense: “It’s true, because Baltimore’s given up almost 400 yards a game on defense. Where it has worked for them — both of these particular offenses in this game are the two that have given up the fewest turnovers throughout the year. And on the other side, both defenses have come up with huge turnovers especially in the second half of the games they’ve played in the playoffs.”
On whether the 49ers are a potential dynasty: “Jim [Harbaugh] inherited a very good team from Mike Singletary. Really, the missing piece was an explosive quarterback. They had a good solid quarterback, Jim reclaimed that kid’s career, Alex Smith, Alex couldn’t do what Colin [Kaepernick] does. But they’re in a division with Seattle, and Seattle’s the other really good team in the NFC that’s young and going to be good for years to come. And why is that? Because their most important position is manned by a guy who doesn’t make a lot of money. And those two guys, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, cannot redo their contracts. Colin, it’s another year and Russell Wilson, it’s another two years. When you’re in that situation as a football team with a salary cap you can start spending money in other places to keep some of those young veterans in that core group together.
“So, yes, I agree that San Francisco will be around for a long time, and Baltimore may be on the other side of that, because when you take a look at their free agents and who’s going to be leaving their team, and the fact that they’re going to have to pay their quarterback a lot of money, I think it’s going to cost them a lot of really significant players.”
On whether the pistol offense is here to stay: “I think it’s here to stay as long as you still have athletic quarterbacks that can run like Kaepernick and [Robert Griffin III] can do. I think teams are going to be looking for quarterbacks like this, especially quarterbacks that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
“It’d be great to see the pistol offense actually culminate with a victory in the Super Bowl, and everybody can stop calling it what they want to call it, a gimmicky offense, which it’s not.
On whether Flacco is an elite quarterback: “You’re asking a former quarterback that didn’t win a Super Bowl, who would like to think that when I played I was in the upper echelon. You’re always going to get the same from me regarding these players. Joe’s numbers speak for themselves. He’s played every game for the Baltimore Ravens that he could play. He hasn’t missed a game due to injury or anything else. He is their franchise quarterback. Forget the ‘elite’ word, let’s talk about ‘franchise’ quarterback. He’s not going anywhere, he’s going to get a nice big contract, and you talk about playing your best football at the right time, given his contract status, he’s a guy that is absolutely doing that. To me, that’s how you define whether or not a guy is going to be with his team for a long time.”
On the NFL’s problems heading into Roger Goodell’s State of the League speech: “The biggest thing that we have to worry about is CTE and the concussion discussions, because that permeates not only through the NFL but down to college, high school and youth football. The NFL gave me so much, gave my family so much, allowed me to put my son’s disease on a national scope and raise over a hundred million dollars in that fight. I will never, ever take anything away from the NFL, because like I said, I was so blessed to be able to play, even though I played in the Bermuda Triangle of the NFL — Cardinals, Jets and Bengals.
“I think back to 1987 when we went on strike, and I was the highest-paid player in the league, I was one of the NFL player reps and I was really behind the strike. And the reason I was was because I was fighting for long-term health care and pension benefits, and at that time Gene Upshaw, who was our NFLPA director, told me, ‘We’ve really got to get free agency, I don’t represent the retired players.’ That’s when I basically removed myself from the equation and said the wrong guys are taking care of me. And I still say that the NFLPA, much like with the HGH testing, has a lot of responsibility here and should be doing a lot more to help the players. Of course, former players and lawyers are going after the big ticket, and the big ticket is the NFL itself. I can only hope that 20 years from now the game hasn’t changed that much from where we are now.”