Kyle Shanahan’s overtime decision, plus MLB’s new youth movement

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Good morning! 1978-79 Larry Bird was basically 2010 Cam Newton.

While You Were Sleeping: Look at us. Who would’ve thought?

Guess who’s still leading the NBA’s Western Conference standings? That’s right, it’s … Minnesota?

No, we didn’t see it coming. But nobody did. Minnesota entered the season with the NBA’s 12th-highest Vegas win total expectations, yet now they’ve held off one of their primary opponents for the West’s top seed, beating the Clippers last night, 121-100. We’ll likely be talking about the Wolves all season.

Speaking of surprises: the Clips! Again … we didn’t see it. They lost seven of their first ten games even before the seismic James Harden trade, after which … they continued to struggle. And yet, here they are in the mix with the Wolves, Thunder and defending-champion Nuggets. With such a crowded West battle, I asked local guru Law Murray to make sense of LA for us.

Ninety days ago, the Clippers started 3-7. Now they’re near the top of the West. Level of surprise on 1-10 scale?
Murray: My level of surprise is a 4. Let me explain: The Clippers had to fail before they succeeded, but they made the Harden trade to succeed. That initial failure was more of a surprise than their success now.

Do you buy them as a title contender?
Murray: I’ll buy it because they’ve had an extended stretch of elite-level play ever since they started winning with Harden. They’ll be tested with a schedule featuring a lot of games against worthy competition soon, and they need to defend and rebound a little bit more consistently than they have been.

Want more hoops? Get The Bounce sent to you daily.

Also: Whoa, the Cavs actually lost a game last night.

Pulse Court: Did Shanahan screw up OT?

Back to a simmering Super Bowl debate for a minute. The decision was criticized instantly:

Why is Kyle Shanahan starting overtime by electing to receive, rather than gaining the advantage of making the Chiefs go first — and then knowing exactly how many points he’ll need? Don’t the 49ers know about the NFL’s postseason rules, installed after the 2022 Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime without Josh Allen getting a chance to respond? 

It turned out, no, many Niners didn’t know. And there was much public caterwauling, especially once Chiefs players revealed having practiced “that exact same scenario multiple times” since training camp.

It makes for easy shorthand. Shanahan has now blown three different double-digit Super Bowl leads, going back to his days as Falcons OC (who didn’t get to respond in Super Bowl OT, smh), and here’s evidence that his team wasn’t prepared for the biggest possible moment.

But wait, there’s more. 

“I threw a touchdown to this dude at the end of the game, and he looked at me, and he had no idea,” Patrick Mahomes said while embracing Mecole Hardman, who’d caught the game-winner. “I said, ‘Dude, we just won the Super Bowl!”

Football’s complex, y’all. There’s a lot going on.

So: Are we making too much of this?

  • The Niners should’ve better prepared their players, but did that part ultimately matter? What, was Brock Purdy not going to try to score a touchdown regardless?
  • Taking the ball was strange to those of us who’ve watched a lot of college OT (where going second is the move due to a slight math edge), but smart guy Bill Barnwell says it was fine: “The value of getting the ball first is to get in position to have the third possession of overtime, where you can win with a field goal.”

Verdict: Though Shanahan’s decision benefitted the Chiefs, who knew exactly what they needed on their final fourth-down call, there were numerous scenarios in which it could’ve won San Fran the game.

How about we take a deep breath and watch a 17-second video that explains everything there is to know about the NFL’s reigning pair of brothers. Jason Kelce, we’ll see you in Philly at WrestleMania, right?

News to Know

Karma is the eyes on the screen
The Super Bowl delivered a massive viewing audience, averaging 123.4 million viewers across all platforms, the most-watched program ever, according to CBS Sports. The figure was up seven percent from last year’s game, which set the previous record of 115.1 million viewers.

Cowboys hire familiar face
The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms with former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to make him their defensive coordinator, a league source told The Athletic. NFL Network was the first to report. Big job, as Dan Quinn heads to Washington. More here.

Shohei is swinging a bat
Shohei Ohtani was cleared and hit balls yesterday for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery, reinforcing the likelihood that the new Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter (and $700 million man) will be ready when the club opens its season in Korea on March 20. More here on how Ohtani looks.

More news

Youth, Served: Explaining MLB’s exploding rookie scene

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Eve! Yes, the battery reports across Major League Baseball tomorrow and Thursday. And if you’ve been thinking to yourself, “Isn’t it weird how teams just keep breaking camp with rookies on the Opening Day roster?” — and you should, for godsakes — then you’re seeing a trend.

As Britt Ghiroli writes today in a Baseball Nerd Must-Read, young players are being promoted faster, with results all over. The trends and the why:

  • Young bats and arms are popping. Last year, rookie hitters amassed a 68.6 WAR, the second-most ever. Adding in rookie pitchers’ 46.3 WAR, the combined impact on the game is 114.9 WAR, second-highest ever in a season. (They’ve done this for like 175 years.)
  • They ended prospect purgatory. The new system, as part of the CBA established in 2022, now rewards teams with extra draft picks if they promote their top prospects on Opening Day. Kris Bryant, destroying AAA for months (for no reason other than service time manipulation) … see ya. (Seriously, good riddance.)
  • Injuries 📈. Skyrocketing injury rates simply demand more call-ups. Needing 30 viable arms to get through a season? Not uncommon.

If there’s a mystery here, it’s why so many kids are actually thriving. But each year, Ghiroli notes, teams are armed with better and better developmental tools and data. The full A1 is worth your time.

Speaking of youth: 10 MLB players ready to explode plus pitchers ready to break out, Click. And just refresh Keith Law’s page all week for system rankings. Prospect nirvana.

Watch This Game

Champions League: Real Madrid at RB Leipzig
3 p.m. ET on Paramount+
Sing it together! The CHAWWWMP’E’YAAWWNSSSS! Champions League Round of 16 arrives with a banged-up Real on upset watch. Also, Mbappe coming aboard is murky! Predictions and more can be found here.

NHL: Lightning at Bruins
7 p.m. ET on ESPN+
The Bruins are certainly in the Stanley Cup (and lowkey trade) conversation — always read Sean McIndoe on Mondays — but they aren’t remotely the runaway operation of last year. Also, a second straight year the Lightning are simply dicey on the road. Should be feisty.

Pulse Picks

Let’s go Indiana State! Ranked in men’s hoops for the first time since Larry Bird was there! Also, if you haven’t read about the Sycamores coach, take five minutes. Great story.

Yes, that’s a fresh Top 100 NFL Draft prospects ready to rock a day after the Super Bowl from scouting 🐐 Dane Brugler. Also, ICYMI yesterday, Nick Baumgardner’s post-Super Bowl mock draft is here. Three rounds!

This was a major discussion yesterday: Did Tony Romo make a big mess out of the Super Bowl game-winner? Andrew Marchand argues he did. And as Richard Deitsch points out, Tom Brady, you’re officially on deck. Welcome to a big new realm of QB critiques, No. 12.

The early look at 2024 NFL Power Rankings is here. Dan Campbell is in a whole new world, huh?

really hope you read NFL reporter Doug Kyed writing about his life amidst the unfathomable reality of his beautiful daughter. You’ll read it twice. We are thinking about you and your family, Doug. ♥️

You should read a debut novel one reviewer calls “a magic trick.” Jason Kirk, the newsletters editor around these parts, wrote a remarkable book, with proceeds currently going to charity. Check it out. [Editor’s note: Sprow wrote this Pulse Pick. Thank you, Sprow.]

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The Bounce 🏀 | The Windup | Full Time | Prime Tire 🏁 | Until Saturday 🏈

(Photo: Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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