Everything you didn’t think you needed to know about the NFL playoffs:
• When I moved to Minnesota to cover the Vikings in 1990, one of the first players I met was Steve Jordan.
Three years later when I switched to the Twins beat, one of the first players I met was Pat Mahomes.
Next Sunday, Steve’s son and Pat’s son will try by very different means to lead their teams to the Super Bowl.
Pat’s son is Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Steve’s son is Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan.
The Twins drafted Pat and hoped he would become a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the mid-1990s. Patrick’s brilliance and cool make him easy to root for. Having known his father, that’s even easier.
Pat was a superb athlete who bounced around the big leagues for more than a decade. The first time I met him, the former basketball player was leaping into the rafters of the Twins’ old minor league clubhouse in Fort Myers, comparing his vertical with Willie Banks’.
Mahomes was not a phenom like his son, but he built a longer-than-most major league career in part by being humble and coachable. In a sport filled with a lot of behind-the-scenes grumbling, I never heard anything bad about Pat as a human.
As for Patrick, he is the most exciting player in America’s most popular sport. Nice work, Dad.
Steve Jordan was one of the classiest members of an often-chippy locker room, a pass-catching tight end in an era when teams didn’t use pass-catching tight ends as creatively as they do today. His son, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is an excellent pass rusher, and also one of the best run defenders among the NFL’s many quality ends.
• Another semi-local angle played out Sunday. Vikings fans are familiar with the work of Nick Foles. He shredded the Vikings in last year’s NFC Championship Game and won a Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium. His loss on Sunday at New Orleans likely means that he will be playing elsewhere next season, and North Dakota State product Carson Wentz will start for the Eagles with a less-threatening backup on the roster.
• Defense wins championships? Sure, and rotary phones are great for making long-distance calls. The top four scoring offenses in the NFL are the final four teams remaining in the playoffs.
• Championship Sunday will feature four excellent coaches of varying résumés.
There is Bill Belichick, whose résumé needs no addendums. There is Sean Payton, who has won a Super Bowl, and Andy Reid, who might be the best coach in the league who has not.
Then there is Sean McVay, who is the same age as Ryan Saunders, yet has made the playoffs twice and just won in the playoffs for the first time.
• Tom Brady and Mahomes were born 18 years and 1 month apart. Drew Brees and Jared Goff were born 15 years and 9 months apart. Those are the first- and third-widest margins in NFL playoff history. No. 2? Brady vs. Marcus Mariota. The Patriots won that one, 35-14 over the Titans a year ago.
• Saints All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas caught 12 passes for 171 yards on Sunday and led the NFL in catches this year. In 2016, the Vikings chose Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd overall pick in the draft. The Saints chose Thomas with the 47th.
• The latest shuffling of NFL coaches is remindful of the arrival of Dennis Green in Minnesota. He had never been an NFL head coach, but he amassed what I believe is one of the greatest coaching staffs in league history.
Tony Dungy. Monte Kiffin. Tom Moore. Willie Shaw. Ty Willingham. John Teerlinck. Brian Billick. Tom Batta.
One of the best members of that staff was John Michels, the longtime offensive line coach revered by great players such as Randall McDaniel. Michels died last week at 87. He coached in all of the Vikings’ Super Bowl appearances and was as good-hearted and tough as anyone I’ve met in the game.
That staff is a constant reminder that head coaches need a lot of help, and a lot of diverse personalities, if they’re going to survive.
• Brady will appear in his 13th conference title game on Sunday. The Vikings have appeared in 10.