Ratto: All the two ways this weekend could be better

It's a football Sunday, not a referendum on the nation's soul

Ray Ratto
January 31, 2020 - 8:59 am

The San Francisco 49ers have failed to expose the kind of evil in the Kansas City Chiefs that would make Super Bowl L-Whatever a true passion play, and frankly, the Chiefs have failed just as well. They are forcing you to generate your own emotion, and that hardly seems like the proper way to treat a customer.

But this isn't like boxing, in which you choose the opponent that best matches your style or box office appeal. There is no Conor McGregor here, just two football teams doing football things.

Now something could still happen this weekend to make it a hot delightful mess, but after 12 days we've seen none of it. Play the percentages. It's a football game Sunday, not a passion play or a referendum on the nation's soul or truth or beauty or the dignity of man. Someone gets a parade, and someone else gets to bitch all spring and summer.

In other words, we need the football Sunday to be really good, really cool, or really weird. It's all we have left, and so we need:

# The 49ers to run the ball on every play because that's what they do best.

# The Chiefs to pass the ball on every play because that's what they do best.

After all, it would be the one thing that would separate this game from some of the more mundane matchups in Super Bowl history. We as a country have become jaded about what we want in our football -- specifically, for someone, anyone, to beat the New England Patriots. Watching a resurrected 49ers team play a Chiefs team that hasn't seen the Super Bowl in 50 years doesn't exactly inspire the hatred that give the Super Bowl its truest connection to the current America.

But you never know what the game will provide, and this is a rare chance to see two directly opposing football systems. Not philosophies, systems. Both Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan are adept at playing with what they have, but Reid has a team built on the joys of a frog-voiced sprite throwing the ball from all parts of the field with almost all parts of his body, while Shanahan has a team built on a quarterback whose jaw mesmerizes wildlife and whose signature move is taking the snap and turning around to give the ball to someone else.

There. That seems properly simplistic.

Pundits all week have been feeding their assignment editors with ideas of how J.R. Garoppolo can and must impact the game through the air because the new orthodoxy demands more passing than the 49ers do. Indeed, the 49ers have repudiated their long and proud history by running the ball more often relative to their total offensive plays than nearly every other team in this decade. Between Jim Harbaugh, who ran Bo Schembechler's offense, and Shanahan, running a version of his own dad's, the 49ers have thrown the ball fewer times in the Teens than any team other than Seattle, and run it more often than all but seven teams. In the world of big numbers, the 49ers are an offensive throwback, and weirdly have had their most success in this decade as a running team.

In short, people demanding things of Garoppolo for his own "legacy" (as though someone can have a legacy after the equivalent of two full seasons) are essentially telling him to do something that is at least minimally bad for his team. At the same time, those same pundits want Patrick Mahomes to do more of the thing he's really superb at doing and is prone to want to do anyway. This dichotomy is actually the true center of a Super Bowl that has in all other ways been a festival of bland. People who get paid real American cash to explain football to the zoo animals want the 49ers to do their second-best thing and still beat a team doing its best thing. Utterly counterintuitive, borderline ridiculous, indisputably ridiculous and in all ways the perfect exhibit of America in 2020 -- wanting things that don't make sense just for personal amusement.

Thus, this right here  is your one true key to the Super Bowl. Every time the 49ers pass, they are failing. Every time the Chiefs run, they are failing. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that, and anyway, you'll be too drunk by halftime to even remember what team is supposed to do what.

Now THAT is the Super Bowl in the third decade of this century.

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