From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez and his potentially bruised ego might be the least of the New York Yankees' problems this offseason.Ace CC Sabathia is going to have his left elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are aging stars dealing with major injuries. Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher are headed for free agency. The list is a long one for the ballclub that was handed one of its most embarrassing exits from the postseason: a thorough four-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the AL championship series."Sometimes quiet's a bad thing, right?" manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. "There's been other years here that have been extremely -- a lot of stuff going on in the offseason. Some injuries and other things we've had to deal with, and we've done just fine."While the Yankees will have plenty of decisions to make this offseason, the one that will garner the most headlines and create the biggest stir is what -- or what not -- to do with A-Rod. He returned from a broken hand in September and struggled down the stretch and right into postseason. The 37-year-old third-baseman's regular-season numbers were the lowest they've been in his career for a full season, finishing with 18 homers and 57 RBIs.Still, Girardi is planning for A-Rod to be in his lineup next year."I expect Alex to be our everyday third baseman. I do," Girardi said. "What does he have to show me? That he's healthy and ready to go."Even if the Yankees would like to trade the three-time MVP, it will be extremely difficult: they owe him at least 114 million over the next five seasons.Taking some time off after the team's early exit, Girardi hasn't spoken to Rodriguez since he benched the fading slugger three times in nine games this postseason and pinch hit for him on three other occasions. But he's prepared to deal with any of the fallout from decisions he insisted were well thought out."I'm always worried about whatever move I make, how it affects the club, how it affects a player, anything. I think it's something that, sure, I possibly might have to deal with more than I expected, but I possibly might may not have to deal with it at all," Girardi said. "As we move forward, I'll get a temperature on it, keep track of it and see how it's going."Girardi had less to offer on a myriad of possible issues that could affect the team next season.-- He felt confident that Sabathia will be ready for spring training even though the left-hander is going to have his elbow examined by the doctor who is renowned for performing elbow-reconstruction surgery known as Tommy John surgery. Sabathia went on the disabled list this August because of swelling in the elbow -- his second trip of the year to the DL after a groin strain."He pitched very well down the stretch, which made me feel very good about what's going on," Girardi said, "but at times people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is OK."-- Girardi also expects Jeter back on opening day. The captain had surgery Saturday after breaking his ankle on Oct. 13 during the ALCS. "Whenever a guy goes through something there are concerns because sometimes a player could rush it and tweak something else because he's rushing it and he's anxious to get out there ... so I think there's always a concern," Giradi said, "but, I mean, really in our hearts we believe that he's going to be ready for us."-- Giradi could not give a definitive answer on whether closer Mariano Rivera, out since tearing a ligament in his knee shagging flyballs in early May, will return next season. The closer, who will be 43 on Nov. 29, has been going through a rigorous rehab and has said he wants to return. But Girardi said he's never asked directly if he would come back. "I don't think you go through a rehab like he went with the intensity if you don't have some inkling that you want to come back," Girardi said.Rivera's status will certainly affect Rafael Soriano. He saved 42 games in place of No. 42 and now has the option to walk away from a 14 million salary for next year, terminate his contract and become a free agent.-- On Andy Pettitte: Girardi is not sure the 40-year-old lefty will be back. Pettitte went 5-4, 2.87 ERA in his return from a one-year retirement, a season interrupted when he broke a bone in his lower leg. "There's a lot of hunger and fire there," he said. "Every year as you get a year older you have to ask yourself and your family am I ready to give up eight months of my life."-- Girardi is entering the final year of a three-year contract but doesn't expect to discuss it until after next season. "I understand how it works here and I'm OK with that," Girardi said.
For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.
One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.
So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season.
In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare.
Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI..
Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career.
The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game.
Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins:
Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning
Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33
Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17
Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack.
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway
Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio
Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24
Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors.
Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe
Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27
Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21
Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career.
Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien
Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28
Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24
Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost
Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process.
Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that.
Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM.
Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England.
Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel.
It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.