We’ve seen some great misdirection plays over the years when the Pro Bowl comes to town. But none better than the sweet move Mike Smith pulled off yesterday.
The Atlanta Falcons coach heads up the NFC on Sunday in what now passes for the NFL all-star game, back in Hawaii after commissioner Roger Goodell took his talent to South Beach last year — or at least a portion of it that wasn’t resting up for the Super Bowl.
The league office insists that what it once considered an experiment of dessert before the main course is a rousing success. That’s because it claims a 40 percent TV ratings increase last year from 2009, the last time the Pro Bowl was played after the Super Bowl (and also the last time it was played here).
So, yesterday was the Annual Andy Reid Memorial Media Gathering at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Eagles coach is still alive and well, but it’s been a few years since he hosted his yearly I-just-missed-the -Super-Bowl-so-here-I-am luncheon. Somehow, it was always Reid who drew the duty of coming out to Hawaii a couple of days early to fill our notebooks with sweet nothings. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it.
Now, instead of coaches from the losers of the championship games, we get a guy on the wrong end from the week previous — hence, Mr. Smith Goes To Waikiki.
He said nearly all the right things yesterday, despite intense grilling from the jaded throng of investigative journalists on hand mostly to investigate where to pick up credentials.
"I’m looking forward to diving in," said Smith, referring to coaching the NFC and perhaps a dip or two in the Pacific.
Then he said something that would’ve been a major error when the world was right and the Pro Bowl was played after the Super Bowl.
"There’s no better place to be on Earth this week."
We can give Smith a pass on that, since the Super Bowl is next week. In the old days, this media opportunity was held a few days before the Roman numeral game — so Hawaii would only be the second-best place for an NFL coach.
It went quickly and uneventfully. No one asked if he thought the Packers, who knocked out his Falcons two weeks ago, would beat the Steelers. No one asked him about Jay Cutler. No one asked how many more players he should have if the NFL adds two more regular season games.
Those are the questions you ask on the side. Or maybe the next day, after practice.
USUALLY WHEN the NFL holds its pre-Pro Bowl press conference ("press" meaning just about anyone who can press the button on a camera phone), in addition to a coach, the dais includes a player and a cheerleader. This time, no glib baller or hot pom-pom waver.
But then, after the questions and answers, one of the spokesmen announced "a surprise."
Four cheerleaders immediately entered the room, ostensibly to pose for photos with the Pro Bowl trophy, stationed in a corner of the room away from the main door.
When they got to the trophy, the photographers reacted like piranhas coming off of a long fast.
Everybody else’s eyes went left, too.
And Smith went right — right out the door, after a quick photo op with the cheerleaders. We have to assume he went out the door, since it was like Cutler’s injury: No one actually saw it happen.
Poof! Like magic.
You know, he had to go "dive in," work on some trick plays. Figure out how to blitz without it looking like a blitz, since defense is illegal in the Pro Bowl.
No worries, we’ve got all week.
FOR HIS first pre-Pro Bowl press conference, I’ll give Mike Smith a B in Happy To Be Here and a B-plus in Thrilled To Work With These Great Players.
And, needless to say, he killed the curve in Escapability.
Andy Reid would be proud.
Reach Dave Reardon at email@example.com.