Reasons for Northeast Ohio to care: Kelce brothers, Buckeyes national champs, Nick Sirianni, etc.
While Cleveland isn't part of the NFL postseason, the final four is full of people to whom Northeast Ohioans easily relate.
This certainly applies to Sunday's conference championship matchups, San Francisco at Philadelphia in the NFC, and Cincinnati at Kansas City in the AFC.
Here are eight quick stories touching the teams gunning for Super Bowl 57.
1, Kelce brothers grew up Cleveland Browns fans
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce seems a slam dunk to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Eagles center Jason Kelce is almost right there with him.
The Kelce brothers grew up in Cleveland Heights with a family of zesty Browns fans. Together, in September, they launched a podcast whose name, New Heights, is a merry salute to their hometown.
Their often off-the-wall banter helped New Heights surpass 250,000 YouTube subscribers in December. It swiftly became the No. 1 sports podcast on Spotify.
Jason, 35, and Travis, 33, both played for the Cincinnati Bearcats in college after suiting up for the Cleveland Heights Tigers. They remain conspicuously connected to Cuyahoga County.
Travis blended into the throng at the epic 2016 parade celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers' championship. He can't go anywhere now without being recognized. He recently passed Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe in career receiving yards. That doesn't even count the winter soldier's 1,389 yards in 16 playoff games.
The Browns used former first-round pick Alex Mack at center in 2011, when they kept passing on Jason Kelce. It was just as well for Kelce. The Eagles didn't draft him until No. 191 overall, but they made him a starter as a rookie.
He recently was named first-team All-Pro for the fifth time.
NFL Playoffs:Philadelphia Eagles' dominance in trenches puts them on doorstep of Super Bowl | Opinion
Mack was in Atlanta in 2017 when he made second-team All-Pro. Kelce was the first-teamer.
Mack, 37, never made another All-Pro team. He retired in June after starting 17 games for the 49ers in 2021.
2, 49ers ownership could have been Browns ownership
Edward DeBartolo, a Browns fan from Youngstown, became a star local mogul when he built opulent Randall Park Mall in the Cleveland suburbs.
On his rise to billionaire status, DeBartolo sought to buy the Cleveland franchise but could not strike a deal. Instead, he purchased the 49ers in the late 1970s. It was more or less a gift to his son, Eddie, who oversaw the franchise while it won five Super Bowls within 14 seasons, starting in 1981.
A business scandal forced Eddie to cede control to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, and her husband, John York.
The Yorks and their son, Jed, are the nucleus of ownership now. Denise and John maintain a residence in Canfield, Ohio. Jed, the hands-on owner, is a former Youngstown Cardinal Mooney baseball captain.
San Francisco's general manager throughout the run to five Super Bowl wins was the late John McVay, who played football in Massillon and coached at Canton Central Catholic.
3, Bengals ownership traces to Cleveland's glory days
Paul Brown's last 10 years on Earth brought many good times. They would have been better if his Bengals had turned two close Super Bowl games against the 49ers into wins. Even at that, Cincinnati was a perennial playoff contender, coming off an AFC Central Division championship when Brown died shortly before the 1991 season.
The surviving management team was headed by Paul's son Mike, who spent his early years in Massillon while his dad built the Tigers into a national name.
An excrutiating reversal left the Bengals with the worst record in the NFL for the decade of the 1990s.
Flash forward. The Brown family, with Mike still kicking as president, is heading for its second straight AFC championship game, in an era of making the postseason seven times in 12 years. The Browns have reached one postseason in the span.
Paul Brown was founding head coach of the Browns. He led them to 11 league championship games in 17 seasons before Art Modell fired him.
It's a wild guess to conclude how "PB" would have fared had he stayed on with his beloved Browns. The Bengals team he founded is doing OK these days.
4, Ohio State's national championship brigade, plus Joe Burrow
The Bengals aren't Cleveland's team, but some of their key men played for Ohio's team.
Defensive end Sam Hubbard, cornerback Eli Apple and safety Vonn Bell all contributed to Ohio State's 2014 national championship.
Hubbard went legend in the 2023 playoffs when he returned a fumble 98 yards against Baltimore. The Bengals landed him in the third round of the 2018 draft, shortly after the Browns took defensive end Chad Thomas.
Bell was a hero in last year's AFC championship game when he intercepted Patrick Mahomes in overtime.
Bengals punter Drue Chrisman landed at Ohio State after helping Cincinnati LaSalle win OHSAA Division II state titles in 2014 and 2015. His head coach in 2014 was Nate Moore, who left for Massillon in 2015, and remains a Bengals fan.
Chrisman kicked against the Perry Panthers in the 2015 championship game. The Lancers never had to punt, but he was perfect on extra points in a 42-0 win.
Don't blame quarterback Joe Burrow that he didn't finish his career at Ohio State. He left after three years as a backup, playing now and then in garbage time.
His last appearance in Ohio Stadium came against Illinois on Nov. 18, 2017. Starter J.T. Barrett played until it was 45-7. Backup Dwayne Haskins was in for a few series until it was 52-14. Urban Meyer sent in Burrow near the end, in time for two incomplete passes and a sack.
It is strange to contemplate that Barrett played quarterback for the Buckeyes for four years, mostly as the starter, while Burrow went three years without a start before transferring to LSU.
Barrett went undrafted in 2018 and never played a game in the NFL.
5, Kyle Shanahan lived the dream in Cleveland
The Browns' most exciting start to an expansion-era season arguably unfolded in 2014, when Kyle Shanahan was the new offensive coordinator.
Expectations were low coming off a 4-12 finish under head coach Pat Shurmur, and lower still in the first half of the season opener, when head coach Mike Pettine's team got humiliated at Pittsburgh.
A miracle comeback nearly beat the Steelers and set the stage for a 6-2 hot streak, capped by a 24-3 Thursday night win at defending AFC North champ Cincinnati.
Shanahan got the most out of a patchwork cast of backs and receivers but got hit by a double whammy. First, center Alex Mack broke a leg in a dominant win over Pittsburgh. Second, quarterback Brian Hoyer got benched in favor of Johnny Manziel after the record fell to 7-5.
Shanahan asked out of his contract after the season. In San Francisco, he is preparing for his third NFC title game in five years, currently using a rookie quarterback, Brock Purdy, who reminds no one of "Johnny Football."
Shanahan's surprising San Francisco quarterback, Brock Purdy, developed at Iowa State under head coach Matt Campbell, which is another Ohio story. Campbell made All-Ohio at Perry High School and All-America at Mount Union. The Campbell connection gets better. He was a Mount Union teammate of Nick Sirianni, whose Eagles will face Purdy in the NFC title game.
Brock Purdy vs. Jalen Hurts:Brock Purdy, Jalen Hurts once staged an epic duel in college. Now, the QBs meet in NFC championship game.
6, 2022 NFL sacks leader Nick Bosa is from Ohio State
The only man with more sacks than Myles Garrett in the 2022 regular season was Nick Bosa. Garrett led the AFC with 16. Bosa led the NFL with 18.5.
Bosa's career at Ohio State ended with the disappointment of appearing in only three games for the 2018 Buckeyes. He was a force for the 2016 team that went 11-2 and for the 2017 team that reached the final four before falling to Clemson.
The 49ers acquired Bosa with the second pick of the 2019 draft, after Arizona took Kyler Murray. Bosa was the highest-drafted player from Ohio State since the Rams picked Orlando Pace first overall in 1997. A year after Bosa went at No. 2, Washington made Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young a No. 2 pick.
Another key 49ers player, Kyle "Juice" Juszczyk, played high school ball for the Cloverleaf Colts before going to Harvard.
Shanahan dreamed of acquiring a bruising, athletic fullback like Juszczyk when he was with the Browns. Shanahan landed him as a free agent in 2017, when Cleveland also made a bid.
Safety Tashaun Gipson, whose four years in Cleveland included a season on the same team as Shanahan, signed with the 49ers this year and has started every game.
7, Eagles landed the man from Mount Union, Nick Sirianni
Larry Kehres coached Nick Sirianni at Mount Union and has remained a mentor through the years.
Sirianni was offensive coordinator of the Colts when Kehres paid a visit a few years ago. Tom Manning, another of Kehres' former Mount Union players, was tight ends coach, under head coach Frank Reich.
Kehres found himself in the middle of a technical conversation among Colts coaches.
"They were fast tracking it with their understanding of passing the football,"Kehres said. "I couldn't even keep up."
Now Sirianni is Maxwell Club's NFL Coach of the Year as top man with the Eagles.
Sirianni never misses a chance to talk about his beloved Mount Union Purple Raiders.
8, Battle of Ohio better than nothing for Cleveland
Amid their struggles in the wake of reaching the 2020 playoffs, the Browns are 3-1 against the Bengals.
If Cincinnati does one better than last year and wins it all, the Browns can say they beat the team that won the Super Bowl.
Cleveland's best game in 2021 surely was a 41-16 rout of the Bengals. Baker Mayfield posted a 132.6 passer rating, compared to Joe Burrow's 69.0. Nick Chubb ran 14 times for 127 yards and two TDs as the Browns improved to 5-4.
It was a similar story in 2022 when the Browns belted the Bengals 32-13 on "Monday Night Football" on Halloween. Chubb ran for 101 yards and two TDs. Amari Cooper amassed 131 receiving yards. Burrow took five sacks.
The Bengals fell to 4-4 that day. They haven't lost since.
Reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: NFL final four features Kelce brothers Nick Sirianni, Joe Burrow