Super Bowl

Super Bowl Lineup: The Best NFL Longreads This Season

From Richard Sherman’s path out of Compton to Peyton Manning’s grueling rehab from neck surgery, here’s the best Denver Broncos/Seattle Seahawks journalism from the past year.

01.31.14 10:45 AM ET

The noise surrounding the Super Bowl can be overwhelming. Throughout this NFL season, newspapers, magazines, and blogs have published thousands (and possibly millions) of stories, profiles, predictions, interviews, columns, and rants. So how do you discern what’s really worth reading? Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you, compiling the nine pieces of nonpareil sportswriting that will prepare you for the Big Game.

Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated

Extensively reported and exquisitely written, this in-depth profile of the Denver Broncos quarterback is as good a piece of sports journalism as you’ll ever read. Jenkins manages to humanize Manning while simultaneously explaining and elevating his mythology.

Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post

The definitive account of the frightening operation that almost ended Manning’s career and the arduous training, both physical and mental, that allowed the four-time MVP to recapture his brilliance.

Ben Shpigel, The New York Times

Over the past week, we’ve heard a lot about Sherman the thug, Sherman the Stanford man, and Sherman the All-Pro. But we haven’t heard many details about Sherman the kid who “survived gang-infested neighborhoods to compile a 4.2 grade-point average.” This is his backstory, rollicking and poetic and profound.

Richard Sherman, The MMQB

Here, Sherman takes off his neon gloves and picks up the pen, taking aim at the NFL’s newfound so-called concern over player safety. With the concussion debate only beginning to roil, the league’s unofficial spokesman du jour provides an eye-opening dive into the brain of a current player.

Ian O’Connor, ESPN

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When Denver’s leading receiver, Demaryius Thomas, takes the field on Sunday, his mother and grandmother will be watching from behind bars. But what was once a tale of betrayal has become one of inspiration and love.

Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine

Seattle’s ebullient coach Pete Carroll isn’t your typical NFL tough guy. Infinitely more Gandhi than Genghis Khan, Carroll encourages meditation and positive synergy while outlawing pessimism and foul language. And his team is totally on board.

Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report

On the face of it, the story isn’t new: Athlete is doubted as a child, as a college player, as a pro; athlete proves the haters wrong. But here’s where this story is different: Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman is legally deaf.

Bill Barnwell, Grantland

Few sportswriters break down a game like Barnwell, who dissects advanced statistics in a way that’s palatable to the common fan. The Super Bowl’s ubiquitous on-field storyline is obviously the Broncos offense versus the Seahawks defense, but just how great are those units, historically speaking?

Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast

Did you know that the earliest official football rules were established in 1873 at a hotel by Madison Square that no longer exists? Or that Knute Rockne’s “Win one for the Gipper” speech took place in Yankee Stadium? On Sunday, New York (well, New Jersey, really) will burnish its already-luminous pigskin legacy by hosting its first-ever Super Bowl.