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Kickoff in New Orleans: A CNN Bleacher Report Special

Aired February 2, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down on the bayou, where the smell of binets floats in the Crescent City air, good times flow through the street like the mighty Mississippi. Backed with that so enchanting sound track of soulful blues as life marches to the beat of the brass. If Mardi Gras marks the start to a season of revelry, what better way to kick things of than with the biggest party of the year? Super Bowl XLVII arrives to a revitalized New Orleans. The magical Creole spirit has returned. And when the 49ers and Ravens line up as rivals, two coaches make history as brothers. The wait will finally be over to see how one legacy ends and if another begins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six seconds in the end zone for the touchdown!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 49ers are going to the Super Bowl!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Baltimore is heading to New Orleans!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So as the historic super dome opens its doors, welcomes all to the game's highest cathedral, football prepares to deliver its finest Sunday sermon. Kickoff in New Orleans. A CNN BLEACHER REPORT special, next.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST: Welcome to New Orleans! Where the party is clearly already in full swing. You can feel it on the streets here. We are just 24 hours from the biggest game of the year. The Super Bowl! Only this year it's got a little bit of a cajun beat. Hello, I am Rachel Nichols, alongside Ernie Johnson, wanting to welcome everybody watching in the U.S. and from around the world.

ERNIE JOHNSON, CNN HOST: And let me be the first - let me be the first to welcome Rachel Nichols to the Turner family, CNN, and Turner Sports. We have enjoyed your work for a long time on ESPN, Rachel and I know it's going to be wonderful that you're with us. And I think it's really nice that every show you do has to have a live audience. It's very, very impressive.

NICHOLS: I like this. This is a nice welcome. Need to get everybody to show up at every event I go to. So if you guys are ready for that, we're in.

JOHNSON: It's great to have you. NICHOLS: Thank you so much. And there is nothing that we love in sports more than a comeback. And this city has come back stronger than anybody might have hoped. New Orleans is hosting its 10th Super Bowl. Tying it with Miami for the most-ever. But it's been a while. 11 years. Years of devastation, loss, Hurricane Katrina, massive oil spill.

JOHNSON: But its recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. Where flooded houses once stood, unlivable, new ones have arisen. Businesses struggle now have a new lease on life. There is still more work to be done, but for this super weekend, the Big Easy is gearing up in style. We will show you that and more in the next hour.

But what brings us down here is the game. And what a game it's going to be. We welcome in the third member of our broadcast team, representing bleacherreport.com, and bringing you some Super Bowl history throughout the day. It's Jared Greenberg. Jared.

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHERREPORT.COM: Ernie, I'm glad Rachel is here as well, hopefully she can share in my rookie duties over at Turner Sports. You know, the Super Bowl ratings is what we're going to talk about and it's something that really mystified me. Because do you know anybody who doesn't gather around the TV and watch the big game? Well, I certainly don't. Let's take a look at bleacher report's top five most watched Super Bowls, beginning with the Giants and Patriots.

Three-point dramatic win for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. A year later, nearly 99 million people watch the Steelers beat the Cardinals, giving Pittsburgh a steel city six-pack. Who-dat nation piled around the TV three years ago to watch the Saints pick up a win in the Super Bowl. They're loving that here. The discount double-check was in full effect as witnessed by 111 million viewers.

We book end with the patch and Gman another wild finish between the teams. The most huge Super Bowl, 300,000 fans more watch them the year prior. Could this year's game break the record of last year? We have no shortage of storylines that won't bring people to the TV screen and of course none bigger than the Harbaugh Brothers going head-to-head in a very unique setting this week.

One press conferences, opposing head coaches yet brothers, discuss where they get their sideline demeanor from. And it's not their dad. They get the intensity from their mom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nobody in the family that has more competitive fire than my mother. And she competes like a maniac. So I -- number one, that is that. And she is just - just always believed in us. I think that's the most important thing to me, that she believed in me. And John and Joannie. And took us to games. And played catch with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: When you talk about the sibling rivalries in sports, and certainly the Harbaugh story has taken center stage here, but you've got the Mannings, in tennis, you got the sister act of Venus and Serena, in basketball, Reggie and Cheryl Miller. And boxing, of course, has the (INAUDIBLE). Now, strangely enough CNN Sports, 17 years ago did a feature on the Harbaughs, and we thought it was worth a couple of moments to bring you a piece of that. Something that Jim Harbaugh would probably prefer we not show you. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See these pants? You know, back in the '70s -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plaids were big back in the '70s.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The checkered pants. And every morning he would get up to go to school and he would have like these pants or the other ones and some kind of striped or plaid shirt. And I would say, Jim, you can't wear that to school.

JIM HARBAUGH: They were hand me downs from my brother. I would just wear what I had. We didn't exactly live the country club atmosphere when we were growing up. I think my mom is forgetting that a little bit. I'm just kidding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: That's the thing about TV. You can say something in 1996 and then here it is in 2013. It comes back. But the Harbaugh story has been awesome. You covered them a lot, Rachel.

NICHOLS: Yes. I love, by the way, that Jackie Harbaugh is making fun of her son's pants while she's wearing those '80s sleeves on the blouse. We keep everything. But it is amazing, we all know about Jim, we know about John, but it is the parents that are the secret weapons of this family. I got a chance to spend some time in Wisconsin with them last year. And on Tuesday morning, the Fedex man comes to their house every week during the football season without fail. It is delivering a DVD from John's team, a DVD from Jim's team. He comes into his basement, he sits down, and he starts taking notes from each team of the week, sends them back to each son.

So he is still coaching from the house, although he did say he wasn't giving either of his sons tips for this game. There are a few people who really - E.J., who can really understand what the Harbaugh family is feeling right now. But one of them is Archie Manning. I had the chance to sit down with the long time New Orleans Saints quarterback this week to talk about what he learned from watching his own sons, Peyton and Eli played each other. And what advise he gave to Harbaugh's patriot, Jack and of course, what having this game means to this city that he lives in and loves so much.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: What has it been like for you this week to see New Orleans hosting a Super Bowl again

ARCHIE MANNING: Well, it's really been fun, Rachel and we've all been anticipating it for so long. You know, really since Hurricane Katrina, trying to rebuild our city, and you know, one of the early things - not that football is the most important thing, but this building right here is important to New Orleans. And at that time, you know, we weren't sure we would ever have events. What was going to happen to this building. We weren't sure if the Saints were going to come back here, and they did. And they've been good since then. But - and that's been, as you know - you've been here so many times, been a big part of our recovery, is kind of - the resiliency of the people here, the spirit. But the Saints - it helped in so many ways. So, you know, we were also used to having Super Bowls here. And it's been 11 years. And that's too long. But the city has worked - everyone has worked so hard - to first to get a game back here, and then to get our city in shape to show off to the world.

I want this game to be special for New Orleans. And I think it is because of the Harbaugh thing.

NICHOLS: Jack Harbaugh, Jim and John's father, said you told him, "Hey, at least when the boys play each other, we can root for Eli on offense and Payton on offense." You've got two coaches where both sides of the ball matter.

MANNING: (INAUDIBLE) what they do. I mean, everybody thinks it's so great. It is a great story for everybody else but it's not - that game is not fun for them. I'm not sure Coach Harbaugh and Mrs. Harbaugh will be able to enjoy the win like the relatives of the other players on this winning team this week, because they're going to have a son - one of their sons is going to be the losing coach, too. And it takes a lot to get over that.

NICHOLS: Since you're a quarterback expert, can you compare and contrast the two quarterbacks from this football team?

MANNING: Well, I like both these quarterbacks. I like Joe Flacco and see (INAUDIBLE) between Joe Flacco and Eli. But Joe is a big, strong kid. Obviously a great arm. And just playing really well right now. Colin Kaepernick, that's really interesting. The 49ers have - they have really done a good job, kind of honing his throwing motion but at times letting him be an athlete and running these different options. So that's good for football. Great for a Super Bowl.

And I tell you, I bet the Ravens' defensive coach is a little concerned. Having two weeks for the 49ers with this quarterback who has started, what, just 10 games? You know, what new things they might put in -

NICHOLS: Not a lot of film on him.

MANNING: -- running, using his athleticism. And can he show the composure and the confidence that he's played in these other playoff games here in the biggest game of all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: And EJ, Archie said the toughest thing about watching that game is knowing all the cameras are on you, just waiting to see, are you rooting for one son more than the other?

JOHNSON: He's been a treasure, Archie has, to the game and to the city, obviously. Still to come, we're joined by a couple guys who know what it's like to play in the Super Bowl. Cris Collinsworth played in a couple of them. And how he long. And we'll hear from the most wanted man in New Orleans.

And over the next hour, we're going to be showcasing the city of New Orleans. And the people who love it. And whether you're into the Big Easy because of the food, the Saints or Bourbon street, the who-dat is a place like no other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE) Shorty, and my New Orleans is music. I've been all over different continents and when I come back home, I'm always trying to figure out what's going on new, go out on the street, play with some of the brass bands, get over to my grandmother's house for some good gumbo. I think about four or five, I can remember it a little bit, older musicians playing in my ear, showing me with my hand what I was supposed to do.

When another musician died, all the musicians come out from different bands and we make one big band to celebrate the person's life that passed. So music is in our blood. And music is New Orleans. I think it's the heartbeat of the city.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREENBERG: Seven and a half years ago, parts of New Orleans under 15 feet of water. The University of New Orleans says the economic impact this weekend, $434 million. Hi, everybody, welcome back to "Kickoff in New Orleans, A CNN Bleacher Report Special." I'm Jared Greenberg.

You know, of course, big-time players make big plays in big games. No greater stage than the Super Bowl. 49er fans, get ready to pump your fists when you see this list. The Bleacher Report's top five best Super Bowl performances. Jerry Rice in '95 was dominant. 149 receiving years, Great day for Doug Williams and rookie Timmy Smith, (INAUDIBLE) 204 rushing yards.

Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXIV, did it again. Denver on the wrong end. Jerry Rice was huge. Steve Young led a scoring drive (INAUDIBLE) to the game at San Francisco never looked back, young breaking Joe Montana's record with six touchdown passes. And there is Joe Montana. The top Super Bowl performance, Montana led San Francisco to a 55- point outburst, 22 of 29. 297 passing yards. Joe Montana has Bleacher Report's top Super Bowl performance of all-time. If you want to see the complete list and get up to speed on everything you need to know about Super Bowl XLVII, we encourage you to log on to bleacherreport.com. Rachel, back over to you.

NICHOLS: All right. Thanks, Jared. And we now welcome in bleacher report's behind the mic contributor and Fox analyst, Howie Long. Howie, of course, one of the game's best- ever defensive lineman in his 13-year career. He had a Super Bowl in there, Hall-of-famer, just a few things in there.

HOWIE LONG, FOX ANALYST: Been a good run.

JOHNSON: Howie, good to see you again, man.

LONG: Good to see you.

JOHNSON: And you know, it makes us feel old when we think about it being 30 years ago -

LONG: Right. JOHNSON: -- that you won your Super Bowl ring.

LONG: Right.

NICHOLS: Speak for yourself, Ernie. Come on.

JOHNSON: Believe me. I am speaking for me and for Howie. We do feel old. But have you seen a Super Bowl in recent memory that there's such a division of opinions split almost down the middle on the reasons the Ravens will win this and the reasons the Niners will win this?

LONG: I think that's why this game will probably be as watched a game as we have had in maybe the history of the Super Bowl. One, just the audience, the television, the experience at home is so great. And two, the two teams are so great. And you got the East Coast, you got the West Coast. Two head coaches who are brothers. Two teams that really are a mirror image of their head coach. I kind of take that toughness, that physicality to heart. And I - it's interesting, because I think they're both kind of bullies. And something has got to give. And it's going to give tomorrow.

NICHOLS: Both teams say tough off the bus from the very start.

LONG: And they really are. And they pride themselves on that. Baltimore has been - has been doing it for a long time. San Francisco is trying to establish themselves. So, as a matter of fact, I go back to that game in Baltimore last year, where 49ers lose to Baltimore, first time they coached against one another. And I think that was a really good learning experience for San Francisco. This is what championship football is about. This is when it's ratcheted up another level and this is what physicality is about.

NICHOLS: (INAUDIBLE) only 16-6 in that game. Everyone expecting an offensive explosion. We'll see which way it goes.

JOHNSON: Take me inside the mind of a player right now, a shade over 24 hours from kickoff. Did you want to back then fast forward the clock and say let's play this game now or did you need that 24 hours to try to get in the right frame of mind after a week or two weeks of getting ready? LONG: You know, I always kind of felt the moment before the moment of impact was always the most unnerving. The closer you got. The faceless enemy, pre-game warmups, the speeds, the - you know, all of the things leading up to it. That's great. But it's kind of like being in a fight. Once you're in the fight, you're fine. But it's the moments before the fight and the first collision. Once it's a collision, it's just a football game. The Jets, the Star Spangled Banner, all the hoopla, the 4,000 media. And I think these players are primed, they're ready to go, they're well-prepared. And I think they're excited.

NICHOLS: And this week, of course, always a time to talk about the game, the state of the game, as well. Roger Goodell, talking about a lot of topics the other day, but one of the big ones was an 18-game schedule. He's been pushing this a couple of years. The players have been pushing back. What do you think?

LONG: Well, you know, it's interesting. My perspective at 25 versus 53 is considerably different. You know, 13 surgeries later, versus when I was 25. I understand now the carnage and the price you pay on the back end. And I think because the game has gotten so much bigger, so much faster, so much more physical, I think we're at the envelope. It's almost like we need restrictive plates. And I think to add two more games to an already really long season, these guys who are playing in this game, you know, some guys are sitting at home for four or five weeks.

JOHNSON: You know. And you talk about reaching really a critical stage in the game of football. And you can tell, when the president feels compelled to weigh in on what's going on, he says, "I think those of us who love this sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact, it will probably have to change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. It may be a little less exciting. But it will be a whole lot better for the players. And fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much." Roger Goodell responded to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER GOODELL: I started playing the game when I was in fourth grade, tackle football in Washington, D.C. and I love the game of football. And I started as a fan. But I wouldn't give back one day of playing tackle football. The benefits of playing football, teaching you the values, teaching you character, teaching you how to get up when you're knocked down, how to work teamwork, they're extraordinary lessons in life that I use to this day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Howie, this has been discussed so much this week. And you, as a former player, and you as a dad whose son plays in the NFL, you hear from people saying what are they going to do next, play flag football? I mean, what - how do you see it, and are you concerned for your sons' future in football?

LONG: Well, there's a couple things. And when my older boy, Chris, who plays for the Rams, came to us. And I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. He said "I want to play football." And we didn't push it when he was young. And I remember lying in bed that night as most parents do, lights are out, you're staring at the ceiling, and you're talking about, you know, well, what do you think? "I don't know, well, maybe he'll get his nose bloody and come home." Little did I know he would go on to become an all-American in college, second player picked in the draft.

NICHOLS: Well, he does have some good genes.

LONG: And now we have another son, Kyle, who will be in this year's draft. My position was as a former player. And I understand parents - their reluctance to have kids play football. My thing was, I can't help you with your biology. I can't help you with your chemistry. But I can teach you how to hit people and how to defend yourself. So I helped coach all three of my boys for eight years. I certainly understand the reluctance of some parents. And I certainly understand that we need to clean the game up.

And the commissioner, I think - the goal is a noble one. But it's the implementation. You know, if the Ed Reid hit and subsequent suspension to me, I didn't see that as a suspension. I didn't see that as an egregious hit. When it's an egregious hit, fine them, suspend them, bring them up. I agree.

JOHNSON: Thirty years from now, will we still be playing the same kind of football we are right now?

LONG: It will probably be faster, and I think we're slowly moving away from the head contact. The problem is, if I am launching - and you have to launch at some point. To hit you as a receiver or running back. And at the last millisecond, you adjust your head in reaction to my coming at you, now I've gone from hitting you in the chest to hitting you in the head.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

LONG: You can't control that. Here's the sport. You stand down there 40 yards with a fiberglass helmet on, I stand here 40 yards from you. We run full speed at one another. That's an inherent danger in football. That's reality.

NICHOLS: And a guy who knows more about that speed collision than almost anyone in the league is Ray Lewis, who is going to be playing his final game, his last ride. And take a look at some of the stats. 26th overall pick in the '96 draft. And by the way, Ray Lewis can recite every single player taken ahead of him. Two-time A.P. defensive player of the year, Super Bowl MVP, and, of course, he has told his teammates, fans, and anybody else who will listen, this is his last ride. So what do you think as this guy is leaving the game, the kind of impact he had? And what kind of note is he going out on?

LONG: Well, you know, I think it's been kind of an odd week for Ray, and it's unfortunate. Because I think the Super Bowl and Ray's career should be defined by the game. I think at the end of the day, and people say where does Ray Lewis stop in terms of the best middle linebacker in football? I'm reminded every year that I go back and I'm sitting in that room across from Dick Butkus, Willie Lanier and so many great players like Ray who defined their era, it's hard for me to say one guy is the best of his run. But I will say this. I don't think there's a player who has a combination of ability and leadership as Ray.

JOHNSON: One-word answer as we go to break. Who do you like, Ravens or Niners?

LONG: Well, I've got a son in that division, so I'm kind of partial to the NFC West a little bit. So I'm going to go Niners.

NICHOLS: Excellent. Thank you, Howie. We won't hold you to that. Maybe we will. We'll see.

LONG: Everybody does.

NICHOLS: When we return, Beyonce had an answer for those who thought that she might be lip syncing during Sunday's halftime performance. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNSON: And we welcome you back to "Kickoff in New Orleans," a CNN Bleacher Report special. This city absolutely electric, the day before Super Bowl XLVII. I don't exactly understand why they're making me do this. Why I have to play the heavy and deliver Bleacher Report's top five worst super bowl halftime shows.

Number five, up with people. 1986. That's not fair. Super Bowl XLV was number four, the Black-Eyed Peas. Now, number three was the winter of magic parade. And I'm in total agreement. Super Bowl XXIX had the second-worst. How can it be the second-worst when Tony Bennett and Patti Labelle are involved?

NICHOLS: You can't slip on Tony Bennett and Patti Labelle.

JOHNSON: And the worst Super Bowl show ever, 1989, Elvis Presto. Probably correct on that. Must say, as a child, I actually saw up with people.

NICHOLS: But not Elvis Presley.

JOHNSON: Up with people, meet them wherever you go.

Anyway. You may have heard about Beyonce lately, singing at the inauguration, the national anthem and all this hoopla about did she lip sync, and she said she did go ahead and sing with the pre- recorded track. She is performing at halftime of Super Bowl XLVII this week to prove that yes, indeed, she can sing the anthem on her own. This is how she started her press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEYONCE SINGING NATIONAL ANTHEM)

BEYONCE: Any questions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERNIE JOHNSON, CO-HOST: The only questions were what she is going to sing at halftime of the Super Bowl.

Pre-game will be emotional. Jennifer Hudson and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Chorus, that will be a highlight of the pregame ceremonies. National Anthem will be sung by Alicia Keys and Beyonce performing at halftime.

And you may not realize it, but I lip synced that entire segment. When we return to New Orleans, we'll analyze the Super Bowl with "Bleacher Report's" behind-the-mic contributor and NBC analyst, Cris Collinsworth.

Keep it here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JARED GREENBERG, TURNER SPORTS: We welcome you back to "Kickoff in New Orleans: A CNN Bleacher Report Special".

That is the Mercedes Benz Super Dome. We are coming to you from Fulton Street in New Orleans.

Hi, everybody. I'm Jared Greenberg. Welcome back to the show.

You know, 46 Super Bowls have been played 55 times the Super Bowl MVP has been named a quarterback.

Let's review "Bleacher Report's" top five quarterback performances in the Super Bowl. And kids, you too can go from bagging groceries to winning a Super Bowl MVP.

Kurt Warner, three appearances, a win and most valuable player honor.

From an undrafted player to a guy picked in the 17th round. Nothing like setting the bar high, right out of the gate, Bart Starr of the Packers. Back-to-back wins in Super Bowl I and II.

A sixth round pick, Tom Brady, five Super Bowl appearances, three wins, twice the most valuable player.

Finally, a first round pick, Terry Bradshaw, four Super Bowl appearances in six years. Two-time most valuable player.

And Joe Montana also a perfect 4-0 in Super Bowls, and his last one coming right here in the Big Easy.

Guys, you know, the Super Bowl is played in a controlled environment down here. Right now, gorgeous atmosphere, 66 degrees. Three hundred sixty-five days from right now, we'll be in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Today, the forecast, oh, a brisk 30 degrees. There's a chance of an inch of snow. Imagine that one year from now, guys.

JOHNSON: Yes, imagine doing the show inside that day, if we have a vote.

We now bring in "Bleacher Report's" behind-the-mic contributor and NBC analyst, Cris Collinsworth, his eighth year NFL career, all with the Cincinnati Bengals. Twice he went to the Super Bowl with those Cincinnati Bengals. He was an all-American for the University of Florida. Drafted by the Bengals in '81. Three pro bowls. At least 13 career sports Emmy Awards.

I think that may have been last week. He's got about 462.

And we welcome Cris Collinsworth to the proceedings here in New Orleans.

Always good to see you, Cris.

CRIS COLLINSWORTH, NBC ANALYST: Ernie, good to see you.

Rachel, welcome. How about this?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CO-HOST: Thank you very much.

COLLINSWORTH: Your new job for you, and sitting next to a legend over there. Pretty good.

NICHOLS: I'm a lucky girl.

JOHNSON: You know what, I had forgotten one other thing about your biography. Because of your speed, and you were a fleet wide receiver, who actually began your career as a quarterback.

He's the only guy on the set who actually once raced a horse. Look at this, from 1983. Who was the horse?

COLLINSWORTH: It was a horse called Mr. Hurry.

JOHNSON: He did --

COLLINSWORTH: He had a career of 109 races without a win until that day. Beat me, yes.

JOHNSON: Did you challenge the horse?

COLLINSWORTH: Well, honoring long story. I was making fun at the local guy at the track telling him his horses weren't very good, so they set up the match race, and it didn't go so well. JOHNSON: Go ahead, Rachel.

NICHOLS: We're not going to let you race any of the NASCAR drivers then.

COLLINSWORTH: Good idea. Any time I get around you, I get a little nervous. I know you've got something in your hip pocket that I'm going to get hit with.

JOHNSON: Believe me, all the guys upstairs. Nothing to do with it, Chris.

NICHOLS: We want to ask you, of course, about the football game. Talk to us a little bit about the quarterbacks in this game, what you think we're going to see from these two guys, especially Colin Kaepernick, a bit of an unknown quantity here.

COLLINSWORTH: You know, Rachel, I really think there is a chance this game could possibly change the way we look at the National Football League, and especially the quarterback position, because we have Russell Wilson this year, we have RG3. Now, Colin Kaepernick.

And if he should win the Super Bowl, think about that. Think about the last time there was a significant change in the NFL. And how we looked at running offenses in the NFL. It's always been the Tom Bradys, it's been the Peyton Mannings, it's been the Eli Mannings.

Every once in a while, there is a Steve Young that comes along that can move a little bit. But this read option is creating real problems. Every defensive player I talk to talks about the same thing, because by the time you figure out who has the ball, now you've got an NFL caliber quarterback with a 94-mile-an-hour fastball, which is what he was as a pitcher. Back away from the line of scrimmage with about five seconds to throw. And his receivers are 30, 40 yards down the field. Zone defenses cannot handle that.

NICHOLS: And questions about him: is the stage going to be to bright, is he going to be able to handle it?

I want to show you guys something. This is a kid who has never lacked confidence. This is a letter he wrote in the fourth grade. They asked him to write a letter to themselves.

He not only predicted that he might be playing for the Niners, that's in there, but he said he was 5'2" at the time, and he predicted his current height, 6'4". So he's obviously got a good streak until.

He can see the future. And we know he sees himself winning this Super Bowl. Pretty amazing for a guy --

COLLINSWORTH: If he can do that, he needs to go to -- like Wall Street and start predicting the stock movement or something.

NICHOLS: Forget the Super Bowl, right? He needs to get out of here.

COLLINSWORTH: He's a great kid, though. He really is. But I think -- I don't know if enough attention has been paid to the job that Jim Harbaugh has done. Alex Smith ended the year with a 104 quarterback rating, third highest in the NFL. He gets benched because of the potential of what Colin Kaepernick could be. And what Colin Kaepernick could be turned out to be pretty special.

I mean, when he -- to me, the most impressive thing he did during the course of the playoffs was against the Green Bay Packers. He came out, threw a pick six, interception the other way, and he still went on from there to play one of the most impressive games we've ever seen by a quarterback in the playoffs. Throw for 180 yards. That kind of poise got a lot of people's attention.

JOHNSON: When you look at this quarterback comparison -- Joe Flacco, we talked a lot about Colin Kaepernick. What is it about Joe Flacco's game that has impressed you, and especially his performance in the postseason, throwing touchdowns and no picks?

COLLINSWORTH: That eight touchdowns, no interceptions. But he's really done a fantastic job.

It's really great watching a volleyball match going on while we're talking here.

But the thing that's been impressive with him, since they made all the changes on the offensive line, you know, they took --

NICHOLS: Changed coordinators.

COLLINSWORTH: -- on the inside, come back around the other way. Three different position moves on that offensive line, only four sacks allowed in three games.

Now, when you have that kind of protection for a guy like Flacco, who has been through the wars, you know? This guy has been in those big games against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And on the road against some of the toughest teams like the Patriots and Peyton Manning in Denver.

So I think that at least historically, you would say Joe Flacco and the Ravens have the edge, because he has the experience coming into this big game. But I don't know if Colin Kaepernick knows that he's not supposed to do well.

You know, that's the bizarre thing about it. He is -- he is as big an X factor in this game as any quarterback, as any player I can remember in a long time, because you just don't know how he's going to handle the moment. As great as he has been in the playoffs, and I played my rookie year in the Super Bowl, you walk out on that field for Super Bowl Sunday, it's different. It is just flat out different.

NICHOLS: And I want to ask, we talked so much about the coaches and the fact that they're brothers. What about them coaching on the field? If this is going to be as close a game as everybody thinks it is, do you think that it's going to come down to one of those should we go for it on fourth and inches calls or some other coaching decision, and whose got the edge there? COLLINSWORTH: Well, there will always be a moment or two like that during the course of the game. You know, these two guys for being brothers could not be more different human beings.

You know, John is very corporate, CEO, button-down, decision-maker, you know, very much -- you know, you ask him any question, he sort of handles it.

Jim, you ask him a question, and he goes -- it's like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." And, you know, he's like -- and he's thinking -- and he's -- you know, he just cannot -- you know, he's an intimidator. He's a guy that you look at him as a player, and you go, is that guy crazy or is he messing with me or what?

But he is such an effective leader. He's done such a tremendous job coaching these young quarterbacks. Probably the coach of the year as far as what he was able to accomplish with this team, especially on offense.

NICHOLS: By the way, if Colin Kaepernick could have predicted that we were going to get "The Shining" in this show, then he really should go to Wall Street.

But I do want to ask you about one of the more serious issues that came out this week. There's always some sort of controversy that comes up during Super Bowl week. And this time, we had cornerback on the 49ers, Chris Culliver, just make an off-handed remark, but it was not one that was met with a lot of people very concerned about it.

He talked about how he would not like to have a gay teammate. And the 49ers came out right away, said that they don't approve of that. They would welcome anybody.

But it certainly stirred a lot of opinion around the league. And I wanted to get your thoughts on sort of how you see that changing, as we move into the next decade, because we know the attitude we heard this week has been there. But what do you see for the future?

COLLINSWORTH: I think the future is very much moving in that direction, much more open society, a much more forgiving society of everybody, that encompasses everybody, that brings everybody into the family. And I think the NFL would get there.

You know, sometimes you hear a little bit of this, and a guy makes an off-color comment, and you just go -- remember, these are young kids. They say things, they probably don't mean. And I think in this case, it was just a mistake. And, you know, I don't think he meant it.

And I don't believe that the NFL players would not be able to accept anybody in any situation in an NFL locker room. There are too many strong personalities in there that it wouldn't -- they wouldn't be able to overcome everything. It would work.

NICHOLS: But you hope the sports is equalizer, right? If you can play, you can play.

JOHNSON: Cris Collinsworth, always good to see you. Keep up the great work on Sunday night. We always love watching you.

COLLINSWORTH: Congratulations. Good to have you here.

JOHNSON: As a reminder as we go to break: go to bleacherreport.com for more in depth analysis, stats and opinion. Also be sure to sign up for the team stream app where you can get real-time updates sent right to your phone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NICHOLS: Welcome back to New Orleans where this weekend there's some folks who are Ravens fans, some are 49ers fans. But everyone is a fan of this city. And wow, how far has New Orleans come? We have been talking about those who live here are continuing to fight their way back from the devastation of hurricane Katrina.

And to take a look firsthand, we sent out an unlikely duo -- former "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit model, Damaris Lewis, and former Saints running back, Deuce McAllister.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMARIS LEWIS, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT MODEL: The city of New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times. It's a great location, great weather, great food and tons of things to see and do.

This year, having the Super Bowl here will mean something a little bit different. It's the first time they've had the Super Bowl here in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Let's go check it out.

Good morning. Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Final board. Let's go play in some traffic. Let's go, Elvis.

LEWIS: She has been playing there for about 30 years.

Hurricane Katrina, was it something that affected you in a major way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was. I evacuated on the Saturday before the storm hit with my two cats and a weekend bag of clothes. Ten days later, I was actually watching CNN, and I was watching my house burn down to the ground.

LEWIS: After the storm, the rebuilding process, what was that like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thing that struck me after Katrina, everybody came together. And we've been bouncing back very strongly. I'm very proud of the city. I think we've come back stronger than most people expected.

LEWIS: So we're on Frenchman Street. What about this part of town? What's cool about it? DEUCE MCALLISTER, SAINTS QUARTERBACK: Right now, we're at DBA. You've got Snug Harbor. Next store, Spotted Cat, right across the street. All you have to do is listen for the music.

LEWIS: Super Bowl is here. Getting ready. How are the people reacting to the Super Bowl being here?

MCALLISTER: We need people. Let to see this city, just really thriving after Katrina, I think that you'll see, well, hey, let's go visit New Orleans. It should be a tremendous game.

LEWIS: Who is your pick?

MCALLISTER: If I had to pick a team, I have friends on both teams.

LEWIS: Uh-oh.

MCALLISTER: I would probably go with the Niners.

LEWIS: So there you go. You heard it. He's picking the Niners. We'll see who wins.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNSON: Tell you what. If you had not had the chance, if you had not visited New Orleans, put it on the to-do list -- great city, great people, great hospitality.

NICHOLS: Absolutely.

JOHNSON: More to come on "Kickoff in New Orleans," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NICHOLS: They've got (INAUDIBLE). The party going in New Orleans.

Now, these people, some of them are going to watch the game. But everybody watching at home, not only wants to see the football, but the commercials. And everyone has their favorite, of course. I love when they replay that classic, the Mean Joe Green.

But there's some new ones this year. And got to tell you, we have one that has gotten over 4 million hits already on YouTube. Hasn't even run on TV yet. Take a look at this ad from Volkswagen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate Mondays.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they're the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No worry, man. Everything will be all right. Yes, man. Don't fret me, brother. Sticky bun comes soon.

Yes, wicked coffee, Mr. James.

Julia, turn the frown the other way around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Dave, you're from Minnesota, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, the land of 10,000 lakes, the Gopher State.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are three minutes late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't be no cloud on a sunny day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, chill, Winston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respect boss, man.

ANNOUNCER: That's the power of German engineering.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: I've got to tell you, that commercial caused some controversy. But the Jamaican government actually came out and endorsed it. They said they love it.

JOHNSON: Yes, man, I like it too. Definitely a thumbs up.

Mean time, the actor, William Dafoe involved in a Super Bowl ad, this one for Mercedes Benz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM DAFOE: Nice car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure is.

DAFOE: Make a deal with me, kid. You can have the car and everything that goes along with it.

(MUSIC)

DAFOE: So what do you say?

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks. But I think I got this.

ANNOUNCER: This September, set your soul free. The seductive CLA starting under $30,000 from Mercedes-Benz.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: All right. Just a sampling of what you're going to be seeing in the commercials on Super Bowl XLVII.

We'll be back to wrap things up here on "Kickoff in New Orleans: A CNN Bleacher Report Special" -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NICHOLS: Welcome back to New Orleans. We are closing in on that time. We are almost 24 hours from the Super Bowl, which means it's prediction time. Who do you got?

JOHNSON: I got the Niners. And I got it in double overtime. Going to be a Super Bowl for the ages.

Rachel?

NICHOLS: I'm going to pick a Harbaugh. How do you like that?

JOHNSON: Oh, come on. Come on!

Hey, it has been a pleasure, on your first show for CNN to be with you.

NICHOLS: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much.

For Rachel Nichols and Jared Greenberg, this is Ernie Johnson.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon starts right now. So long from New Orleans.