This past Saturday evening before the Super Bowl, the NFL conducted its second annual NFL Honors program. The NFL created the show in 2011 as a way to present their annual awards in grand fashion. Alec Baldwin has hosted the two programs, which provide an opportunity for athletes and celebrities to mix and mingle, and generally provide a good time.
While the show itself provides plenty of humor, and of course the valuable information of who has won each award, the real entertainment on Saturday was on the red carpet. Super Bowl Saturday Night presented by XFINITY involved a lengthy red carpet outside the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans. Athletes and celebrities walked the red carpet, which provided numerous opportunities for interviews.
The end of the red carpet featured the Xfinity Couch, where Alex Flanagan sat down with a variety of athletes, coaches and actors. Alex was able to talk visiting New Orleans with Joe Montana, pizza delivery with J.J. Watt, coming up nine yards short with Adrian Peterson and football knowledge with actor Steve Carell.
I had a chance to work the red carpet and speak with a few current and former players, as well as coaches. I also had a chance to overhear some of the questions being presented to them, and it provided for some great entertainment. One person was asking each passing celebrity or athlete what they thought would happen on a variety of prop bets. Most agreed Alicia Keys would go long on the National Anthem, and they were proven correct.
One of the unique highlights involved Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. One person asked the former Bills QB to discuss Andre Reed's case for the Hall of Fame. The timing was perfect because they were just announcing the new induction class. Kelly had not heard whether Reed had made it or not, so we suddenly found ourselves checking my phone to see who was included in the Class of 2013. Although Reed did not make it, Kelly was excited that Chris Carter did gain entry since it would help break up the logjam at wide receiver.
While a lot of the questions on the red carpet ranged outside of football, I used my time with any of the players and coaches to talk a little game in advance of the Super Bowl. I had a chance to speak with former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci. Given the high profile nature of the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh match-up, I wanted to get his thoughts on any common characteristics of great coaches. And of course, some interesting info about Dwight Clark and The Catch for any 49ers fans buried under a rock.
Troy Aikman came along a little bit later, and I was able to get into a fun football conversation with the former Cowboys star. This season has seen the pistol and read option become more popular with the likes of Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick. Many view them as gimmicks and fads. I asked Aikman if he had seen anything in his film study for FOX that might indicate more staying power for these styles of offense.
In his answer, Aikman focused on the quarterbacks involved in the play-calling. He views RGIII and Kaepernick as passing quarterbacks who can run and show off their athleticism. He sees offenses evolving and using these tools, without overdoing it. He was concerned about the hits they might take, but he pointed to the 49ers mixing and matching their offense, rather than exposing Kaepernick to numerous hits. Given Aikman's own injury history, it is not surprising that the injury concerns would be at the forefront of his mind.
Overall, it was a fun night that provided a chance to get more nuanced interviews with the athletes and celebrities in attendance. Any time you can hear Troy Aikman talking quarterbacks, Steve Young's kids speaking in Spanish to a Mexican television station or Jessie James predicting what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach, it is going to be a fun evening.