Two Way Street: Sports Editors Grant Huhn and Nick Eliason talk Super Bowl, playoff systems, and more

Chris Ware/MCT

Nick Eliason and Grant Huhn

1. Who will win the Super Bowl?

Nick:  Colts. The difference in this game will be defense, and the Colts’ defense is a whole lot better than the Saints’.  The Colts have two of the best pass rushers in the league in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathus, but Freeney will be limited due to an ankle injury.  They will keep the pass-first Saints on their toes.  The Colts deal with pressure better than any team in the NFL.  They’ve had comeback wins in more games than not.  Not to mention they’ve got Peyton Manning and a bevy of good receivers.  If the Jets defense couldn’t stop the Colts offense, the Saints definitely won’t.

Drew Brees has done the impossible by leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl ever.

Grant: New Orleans. These offensive forces are going to battle it out until the last minute of action, making for a high scoring and entertaining game. The Saints’ dynamic running game of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush is going to open up the passing game for receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey. Drew Brees will do his thing, throwing for a handful of touchdowns and 300-plus yards, leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in the 43-year history of the franchise. The outcome depends mostly on the efficiency of quarterbacks Brees and Peyton Manning, so if the New Orleans defense is able to put enough pressure on Manning, then I expect the Saints to prevail.

2. Who is the best athlete/actor?

Grant: I’m going to have to go with Shaquille O’Neal- not because of his acting ability, but because of the entertainment he provides. If you haven’t seen Shaq in “Kazaam,” then you have not experienced a true cinematic masterpiece.  This must-see features Shaq as a rhyming genie in a plot-less film that never should have been made. Without Shaq, this is quite possibly one of the worst movies of all time. Although the movie is garbage and the acting is horrible, Shaq provides enough entertainment to make it worthwhile.

Nick: Peyton Manning. Manning has been in countless commercials over the past five years and almost all of them are entertaining (except for some of the new ones).  He’s hosted SNL and made an appearance in the ESPY awards.   He is one of the most marketable athletes because he has a plethora of class and almost everyone seems to like him.  This guy is just naturally funny, even when he plays football (have you seen his drop back?).

3.  World Series Champs Vs. Japanese Champs?

Nick: Bud Selig is negotiating a plan to have the World Series champions play the Nippon champions in his last hurrah before stepping down as baseball commissioner after the 2010 season.  I think a battle between the best teams from the two biggest baseball nations in the world would be a splendid idea.  Both leagues have very different play styles so it will be interesting to see how they match up.

Grant: Who wouldn’t want to see the best team from the U.S. and the best team from Japan compete in a series for national pride. If you have seen a professional Japanese baseball game, then you know that Japan has the most passionate and animated fans in the world. Personally, I think that this series would be just as exciting as the World Series, if not more. This series would represent serious competition on an international basis, like the Olympics, with the nations representing their respective champion teams. The one problem: how do you have a series between two teams that are roughly 12 hours away from each other? A compromise: play the series in Hawaii.

4. Which sport has the most effective playoff system?

Grant: I’m going with the NBA. The downside is that with eight teams from each conference making the playoffs, it prolongs the playoffs by having three rounds until the championship. The upside is that eight teams make the playoffs, making it easier for teams like the ‘06 Warriors to squeeze into the eighth seed and knock off the first seed Mavericks in the first round.  The NBA’s 16-team playoff format gives the playoffs a more diverse outlook and offers some interesting matchups.

Nick:  NFL. I think the NFL is the most balanced of all the systems.  The MLB leaves too many teams out.  The NBA brings in too many teams; teams that are barely above .500 make the playoffs when they are completely undeserving.  The NFL gets it just right by allowing two wild card teams into the playoffs.  In the MLB, teams that are more deserving than weak division leaders always get left out, such as the NL West a couple years ago.  Of course, the MLB would need to allow three wild card teams into the playoffs and add another week to the already long playoff system.  But this could solve another problem with baseball’s playoff system.  Playoff games should be played everyday or with just one bye day.  The best team should have depth in terms of their pitching.  They shouldn’t be allowed to just start their top three starters.

5.  How much of an influence does a coach have on a team’s success?

Nick: Tons.  Before Pete Carroll took over as head coach for USC, the Trojans were decent at best.  Now they are one of the elite teams in the country.  The Niners are beginning to turn it around after Mike Singletary took over for Mike Nolan part way through last season.  Singletary transformed Vernon Davis from a prima donna to one of the best tight ends in the country.  Coaching is especially important at the college level when players are still developing.  Iowa’s coach Kirk Ferentz turns three star recruits with potential talent into top-notch football players.

Grant: A coach represents merely an instructor and a guide for the team, and how a coach goes about instructing the team is clearly important. But when it comes to the game itself, the factors of success depend on the players’ abilities to execute. Of course, with any good team, the coach is going to get at least a moderate amount of credit for the success. But there are plenty of coaches whose success is dependent on the superstar players they have. Take Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown for example: Without LeBron James, his game plan and coaching strategy would completely change because the Cavs’ current offense is dependent on LeBron’s infinite abilities. Not to discredit Brown, but without LeBron he would never be Coach of the Year. Also, Phil Jackson is only a