Super Bowl LIV Preview
One thing's for sure: Hard Rock Stadium will be a sea of red on Feb. 2, when the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs go head-to-head in Super Bowl LIV.
Both franchises have a lot to play for. KC appeared in two of the first four Super Bowls, but it’s been half a century since the team (led by a quarterback who delighted in a good cigarette and a Fresca at halftime, Pro Football Hall of Famer Len Dawson) raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Its hardy fanbase is counting on reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes to lead them back to the Promised Land. The Niners, meanwhile, all but monopolized the sport during a dynastic stretch in the 1980s, when they won four of their five Super Bowl titles behind a cast of super-achievers like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark. But it’s been slim pickings in recent years, with the team moving south both in the standings and along US 101 (to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara). Though Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick & Co. would come within a handful of points of winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, it somehow feels like eons since the organization has been relevant.
All this will change on Super Sunday in Miami Gardens. The wait will be over — for one organization, anyway. Question is, which one? Live by StubHub sat down with former NFL players David Jones and Selvish Capers to find out.
STUBHUB: Let’s start off by talking about some of the teams that aren’t here. After a strong start, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots dropped three of their last five, including a brutal loss to the hapless Dolphins, then stalled in the playoffs. The Ravens reeled off 12 straight wins led by the MVP-worthy QB Lamar Jackson, only to come up short. Are you surprised neither of them are still standing?
DAVID JONES: I’m definitely surprised by the Ravens given the type of season they were having, the momentum, the quarterback play, their defense. That was probably the biggest shocker for me. Early on, the Patriots looked good, but not like they’ve been in previous years.
STUBHUB: Even with that 8-0 start?
DAVID JONES: They hadn’t really played anyone. As soon as they went up against teams like Baltimore and Kansas City, it wasn’t a good outcome. Good team, but not a Super Bowl-caliber team.
SELVISH CAPERS: I expect the Patriots to make the playoffs every year. I am surprised they didn’t go further. At the same time, I’m not surprised because they didn’t have the same caliber of players. With the Ravens, going into the playoffs, you need to have more than just a run attack. Lamar Jackson can throw the ball, but I don’t think he’s the type of quarterback who can pick apart a defense at this point in his career. He has his go-to guys, mainly the tight ends. But I don’t think the game plan was in place to go further. I can see them as a very interesting team in the next two, three years. And I am disappointed in my Saints. [Laughs.] It never fails. It’s always something. They can never really put anyone away. In the playoffs, you have to do that. You have to come out firing on all cylinders for four quarters. The hype may have gotten to them.
STUBHUB: Have we witnessed Tom Brady’s last game in a Patriots uniform?
SELVISH CAPERS: I don’t think he’s leaving. I don’t see him retiring unless it’s after winning another Super Bowl. Jerome Bettis had one of those moments. Peyton Manning had one of those moments.
DAVID JONES: I don’t see him retiring, but no one can escape the nature of football as a business. You would have thought Peyton Manning would retire in a Colts uniform. But they made a business decision to let him go. They let a Hall of Fame quarterback go to another franchise and win a Super Bowl. The same goes for Tom Brady. When you think of him, you think of Bill Belichick. They’re synonymous. But Brady has a few more years left in him. I don’t think he can do anything more for the Patriots than what he’s already done. It’s not for the money. A player’s pinnacle is winning the Super Bowl. He’s done that several times. He just wants to play football until he can’t anymore. I feel like he’ll go somewhere else and try to do it.
SELVISH CAPERS: I don’t think so. After all he’s done for that franchise?
STUBHUB: It would be like seeing Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform, Joe Namath with the Rams.
SELVISH CAPERS: It’s just not the same. I don’t see Tom Brady retiring within the next four years.
STUBHUB: He’d be 46!
SELVISH CAPERS: I think he could still do it. He’s still out there performing, ballin’. He’s still doing his thing.
DAVID JONES: You never know when Father Time says, ‘Time’s up!’ I believe this is a young quarterback’s game. Mahomes is 24; Garoppolo is 28.
SELVISH CAPERS: It’s not. I need a resume. Show me you can consistently do this every year.
STUBHUB: We’re in for some interesting contrasts in Super Bowl LIV. One franchise excels on the ground; the other rules the air.
DAVID JONES: The age-old saying still stands: Offense wins games; defense wins championships. San Francisco has a better defense. They’re solid. Offensively, with the run game, it can seem monotonous. It’s like Floyd Mayweather in boxing. A lot of people aren’t fans of him because he doesn’t throw a lot of punches. But he doesn’t get hit. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
STUBHUB: It may not be the most exciting style of play to watch, but it sure is effective.
DAVID JONES: It is. Football is a game of strategy. If I can get 10 yards a pop running the ball every time, why would I throw it? The running game sets up the passing game, but if I don’t have to leave the run game, why would I pass?
SELVISH CAPERS: You’ve got a running back in Raheem Mostert who’s not even close to his prime. He’s just getting started.
DAVID JONES: I’d never heard of this guy!
STUBHUB: Here’s a guy who was cut by six teams in a span of 18 months. Suddenly, he’s running for 220 yards and four TDs to lead the 49ers back to Super Sunday for the first time since 2013. Mostert was absolutely unstoppable in the NFC title game.
SELVISH CAPERS: You don’t need every team to like you; all you need is one. Unfortunately, he had to bounce around to different teams, but he ultimately found that one team that had a fit for him. It’s a great story.
DAVID JONES: Look at Tom Brady. He wasn’t drafted until the sixth round, the 199th overall pick. Every team took a pass on him. The game has changed. Running backs are more disposable. Raheem got cut a few times. He had to wait for a couple of players to get injured. That can become disheartening, but it’s about being in the right situation — and a little bit of luck. You’ve just got to be prepared until your number is called. He’s taking advantage of the opportunity.
STUBHUB: The Chiefs were once regulars in the Super Bowl. But they haven’t won the Lombardi Trophy in 50 years. The 49ers certainly know what it takes to get to this stage, too. They were the team of the ‘80s, yet they’ve really struggled in recent years. One of them will step back into the winner’s circle on Feb. 2.
DAVID JONES: I’m torn, man. On one hand, being a former defensive player, I love the way the Niners’ defense plays. On the other hand, I’m a huge Andy Reid fan. I would love to see him get a ring. Everywhere he goes, Andy makes things happen. He’s one of the greatest coaches of our time.
SELVISH CAPERS: Is he one of the greatest coaches of our time?
DAVID JONES: Would you say Charles Barkley isn’t a Hall of Famer because he never won a ring?
STUBHUB: Dan Marino.
DAVID JONES: Yes. There are a lot of greats who don’t have a ring.
SELVISH CAPERS: I get that, but as a coach, it’s a little bit different. I know he made it to the Super Bowl with [Donovan] McNabb and the Eagles, but he couldn’t get it done. I will say, he knows how to find talent. He knows what makes his system work. But can he finish?
DAVID JONES: We’ll see. It’s old school versus new school.
STUBHUB: That new school is Kyle Shanahan. Although you guys didn’t overlap in Washington, you each spent time with him when he was the offensive coordinator with the Redskins. You’ve got to be impressed with all that he’s been able to do in San Francisco, where fans had all but given up hope in recent years.
SELVISH CAPERS: When I was there, he was still finding himself, finding what works. He was underneath his dad [former head coach Mike Shanahan], so he kind of had that blanket to help him. But he did his due diligence by learning the systems, going under coaches and learning from the greats how to be successful. Ultimately, he got his opportunity and took advantage of it. I commend him for taking the process seriously. I wish him the best. I thought he was a great coach. He was my first offensive coordinator in the NFL.
DAVID JONES: He was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons when they lost the Super Bowl  to the Patriots. They were up 28-3. That one was hard to watch.
SELVISH CAPERS: But he eventually found what works for him. He was a believer in Jimmy Garoppolo when I was not. I don’t know how he saw that. I knew he was a decent quarterback, but I didn’t see this.
STUBHUB: The last time we sat down, neither of you had really bought in on Jimmy G. He’s now 21-5 as a starter. He’s not a big passer, but he does find ways to win. The numbers don’t lie. It’s getting increasingly harder to bet against him.
DAVID JONES: No, it’s not. Tim Tebow also excelled as a starter. In the NFC Championship against Green Bay, Garoppolo threw only eight passes! That doesn’t scream greatness. I think he does what they ask him to do well. I’ve seen him make some great throws. I’ve seen him make some great reads. But I’m not ready to put him up with the best. To me, he’s Tier II. Patrick Mahomes does everything better.
SELVISH CAPERS: Mahomes is a true quarterback.
DAVID JONES: He can do it all.
STUBHUB: He’s probably the best runner the Chiefs have.
SELVISH CAPERS: Garoppolo is a true quarterback, too. I just think the system he’s in limits his capabilities.
DAVID JONES: Or does it mask his weaknesses?
SELVISH CAPERS: He may throw the ball no more than 10 times a game, but if the run game alone helps you win, why change it up?
DAVID JONES: As an offensive lineman, you should know that the pass game opens up tremendously when your run game is successful. If I have a great run game, then I can throw the ball more.
SELVISH CAPERS: If it needs to be thrown.
STUBHUB: We’ll find out soon enough if KC can stop the run.
DAVID JONES: You also have two of the best tight ends in the game going up against each other in George Kittle and Travis Kelce.
SELVISH CAPERS: The two K’s.
DAVID JONES: Kelce’s got a little bit more style and swag, runs better routes. But Kittle is tough. He can catch anything you throw in his radius. You’ve got [49ers wide receiver] Deebo Samuel coming into his own, Emmanuel Sanders, too.
STUBHUB: So what does it come down to — do San Francisco’s defensive strengths trump KC’s offensive prowess?
DAVID JONES: Unless they’ve got someone who’s track-speed fast…
SELVISH CAPERS: The Cheetah, Tyreek Hill.
DAVID JONES: Right. Richard Sherman is a great corner, but he can’t run with Hill.
STUBHUB: Okay, give me your Super Bowl LIV picks and the final score.
SELVISH CAPERS: It’s going to be a high-scoring game.
DAVID JONES: I don’t see Jimmy putting up tons of points.
SELVISH CAPERS: It’s not just Jimmy though. With San Francisco as a whole, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. You don’t know if you’re going to get the run attack, the pass attack, the interception/pick-six. I have not seen a team like this in a while.
DAVID JONES: I say 49ers, 31-28.
SELVISH CAPERS: That close? I think it’ll be the 49ers, 35-21.
DAVID JONES: Mahomes can score whenever he wants to score.
SELVISH CAPERS: He can. But not against this defense.
The first player ever drafted out of Division II Wingate University, cornerback David Jones spent parts of six seasons in the NFL with the Saints, Bengals, Jaguars and Redskins. After transitioning from tight end to offensive tackle at West Virginia, Selvish Capers played for the Redskins and Giants, as well as a stint in the CFL.