Interview: Jesse Palmer Talks Super Bowl

With Super Bowl weekend now upon us, we caught up with Canadian native and former NFL quarterback-come-sports commentator Jesse Palmer. Football enthusiasts know Palmer as the college football analyst for ESPN/ABC in the US (Palmer currently lives in NYC) and a football analyst for TSN here in Canada. The ladies may know the not-too-shabby-looking Palmer better as “The Bachelor,” as he starred in the fifth season of the popular reality show. The 34-year-old also hosts Recipe to Riches on Food Network Canada. With the big game just days ahead, however, our chat stuck to football. Palmer offered thoughts on everything Super Bowl XLVII, from who is the better quarterback, to sibling rivalry in the NFL and who will put on a better halftime show – Beyonce or Bieber.

Given your time spent as a backup QB, and the fact that Colin Kaepernick was the backup QB to Alex Smith, who led the 49ers to two consecutive winning seasons prior to his concussion, including the NFC championship in 2011, what do you think the mindset of both players will be going into the weekend? How do you think Alex Smith is handling the transition?
I think Colin Kaepernick will be extremely focused on the task at hand. One of the most impressive aspects of Kaepernick’s play this season has been the fact that he’s never once looked over his shoulders, and has never feared losing his job back to Smith. I would expect that Sunday will be no different. Having been a teammate of Alex’s back in 2005, I can tell you that he too will be extremely well prepared in case his number gets called Sunday night. Alex is the consummate professional, and even though this season has not gone the way he would have liked or anticipated, he is always supportive of his teammates, which ultimately is what makes him a great leader. 

How do you think Kaepernick has prepared himself for his first Super Bowl appearance after playing only half a season in the NFL?
As a second year pro, there is really nothing that Kaepernick could do to prepare himself for this game – this is easily the biggest game and environment he’s ever been in. I don’t think the moment will be too big for him, however. I’ve been most impressed by Kaepernick’s competitive fire. I always saw that while covering him in college during his time at Nevada, and we’ve seen it again this year when he out-duelled Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. We will see that same competitive fire on Sunday I’m sure.

What do you think of the read option style of offence played by mobile QBs like Colin Kaepernick and others like Russell Wilson and RG III? Do you think this is the future of the style of QB that we will see in the NFL, or is it a fad like the Wildcat?
I think we are seeing the evolution of the QB position, as more and more teams are incorporating the zone read into their offensive playbooks. Any defensive coordinator will tell you that defending a mobile QB is their biggest nightmare, because defenses are forced to defend the entire field due to the QB’s running ability and throwing the football. These “spread” principles are not just a fad, and I think we will see more and more of them in the coming years throughout the NFL. 

In your opinion, who is the better QB: Joe Flacco or Colin Kaepernick, and why?
Today I would say Joe Flacco. I’m not ready to say he is elite, although he is playing at an extremely high level right now. No other QB has ever taken his team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. He’s already played in three AFC title games. He was a dropped pass away from reaching the Super Bowl last year. Flacco has become a clutch player, having thrown 8 TDs vs 0 INTs this postseason, all while beating Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks, and the Ravens are now winning games because of Flacco, not despite him. I wouldn’t yet put him in the same category as Manning, Brady, Brees or Rogers, but if he wins on Sunday, he takes a giant step closer to being considered an elite QB.

Will the retirement of Ray Lewis overshadow the rest of the Ravens’ team?
I don’t think so. While Ray Lewis is definitely one of the all time greats to ever play the middle linebacker position, I think the emergence of Joe Flacco, as well as the success head coach John Harbaugh has had, will become equally as celebrated if the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII.

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Do you think that the Ravens would be in the playoffs without the return of Ray Lewis?
They would certainly have made the playoffs, but I don’t think they would be in the Super Bowl. Ray Lewis is the pulse of the team, and is their unquestioned leader. He ignites passion and energy into his sideline, as evidenced this postseason. Lewis has played some of his best football during the playoffs, and his mere presence on the field makes this team so much more dangerous. Ray Lewis is certainly not playing the same calibre of football he was back in 2000 when they last won the Super Bowl, but he has been a major reason why the Ravens are in New Orleans this week. 

Who is your pick for Super Bowl MVP?
I think Colin Kaepernick will win the MVP award. He has been lights out in two playoff wins thus far, and I expect that if he can stress the Ravens D with his arm and legs, then the 49ers will win Super Bowl XLVII. 

Given that the Harbaugh brothers are dominating the headlines as being the first brothers to go head-to-head as coaches in a Super Bowl game, one can’t help but wonder if fans would have rather witnessed the other potential match-up between the Manning brothers. In your opinion, what is the greatest sibling rivalry in the NFL or even in professional sports?
It’s tough to compete with the Manning rivalry, based on the fact that each QB was drafted first overall and each has played in two Super Bowls, having won three between them. It is very rare in sports to see the type of success that both Peyton and Eli have had, especially when playing the toughest position in pro sports. I will add that the Klitschko brothers of boxing is a remarkable story as well…

What is the future of the Pro Bowl?
I think they will continue to play the Pro Bowl so long as players give adequate effort. It is unfair for fans to expect 100% effort every play, as players don’t want to risk injury in a meaningless game played after the season. At the end of the day, the Pro Bowl should be about entertainment for fans, similar to the NHL all-star game. 

Given the recent poll of NFL players who voted 39% in favour of support of Roger Goddell, what does he need to do to leave a lasting legacy as commissioner of the league? What can he do to regain player support?
I think Roger Goodell’s legacy is being formed now, as he’s taken the lead with respect to player safety, and maintaining the integrity of the game. Many players don’t approve of Goodell because he suspends and/or fines them for illegal hits. That’s his job, and it’s the only way to encourage safer play across the league on a week in/week out basis. While Goodell may not be the most popular commissioner amongst players, he is in fact doing what is necessary for the sport and for player safety at a time when concussions and health risks have become a major focus throughout the NFL and abroad. 

What would you set the over under at for the number of buttons on Chris Shultz’s suit this Sunday? What are the odds that the suit will be brown?
I would risk 2:1 odds that his suit will be black, with three buttons. This is the 4th Super Bowl I’ve worked with Schultzy, so I’m going off of experience… 

Beyonce or Bieber? Who will have the better half time performance?
Gotta go with Beyonce. After signing a $50 million deal with Pepsi, it better be good.

Finally, can you offer any advice for young broadcasters?
I am so blessed to have this opportunity to work with ESPN and TSN, as well as with Shaw Media on Recipe to Riches. I’m still learning everyday on the job! I think it is important to work hard and grind at it. This is an industry where nothing comes easy, and at the end of the day you’re only as good as your last show. It is such a competitive industry, and it’s important to remember that someone else wants your job – badly. So don’t be afraid of experimenting in different roles, or covering different stories or angles. The more you can do, the better. 

You can catch Palmer’s post-game analysis on TSN following the game.