The annual jaunt to professional football immortality, better known as the Super Bowl, begins in earnest in less than one week. Of the 32 teams in pursuit, two will be forever remembered; one as the glorious victor, the other as their inglorious victim. Who will they be this year? Will it be like last year, where two perennial playoff teams (Steelers, Seahawks) that had come up short finally achieve the immortality? Will it be reminiscent of the 1999 season when two teams came out of nowhere (Titans, Rams) to deliver not only their own immortality, but an immortal game, as well? No one really knows. And, it’s good that prediction columns are not immortal (see last year’s column).
For the past week I’ve been reading columnists, and hearing talking heads, who constantly make reference to Pete Rose when addressing the Barry Bonds issue. Some say that Rose should be reinstated, or Hall of Fame eligible, because what he did was no worse than what Barry Bonds is accused of, and Bonds is still in the game. Others say that Bonds should be banished from the game and Hall of Fame, ala Pete Rose, because he has cheated, and tarnished the integrity of the game in a way that even Charlie Hustle didn’t.
Not only are both points of view incorrect, but Rose should forever stay banned from the game and HOF, and Bonds should never be banned from the game or HOF. Their situations, their crimes, share no similarities. As a matter of fact, they are as different as night and day.
The Indianapolis Colts have basically committed to rebuilding. They have, for all intents and purposes, decided that they will not strive for Super Bowl contention in the next couple of years. However, their rebuilding project is missing one key component – the franchise quarterback that will lead the team to success in the future. Here’s a novel idea to shake up the draft, change the fortunes of a number of teams, and begin to build a Super Champion in Indianapolis.
If ever a 90+ quarterback rating lied, it was this one. If ever a 290 yard, no interception game lied, it was this one. If ever a promising season lied, it was this one. Many believed that this was the year that Manning would exorcise his playoff demons. His team, the Colts, had home-field advantage. His defense was stout. His main nemesis, the Patriots, labored and limped through the regular season only to be trampled by another team of horses (Broncos) a day earlier.
But, another playoff loss, another disappointing season, and another sub-par passing effort will likely bring another off-season of head scratching, and excuse-mongering for those still supportive of Peyton Manning. Not I, though. I don’t have to scratch my head, and I no longer need to offer excuses. I now know why Manning hasn’t, didn’t, and won’t ever, perform to his abilities when it counts the most.
Peyton Manning has quarterbacked the NFL’s best offense for the past seven seasons. With a football culture that extremely overvalues quarterbacks, it has been Peyton Manning who has received the abundance of credit for the Indianapolis Colts offensive success. Manning’s ability to read defenses, call audibles at the line of scrimmage, and make big plays with his arm is not in dispute.
However, Manning seems to do it with an ease not seen before in the professional game. Is Manning that much smarter than every other quarterback in NFL history? Or, is there a key, external, variable that allows Manning’s star to shine above the rest?
Every year fans and experts choose their favorites to win the Super Bowl according to a wide range of variables. This postseason some will pick the hottest teams going into the playoffs (Redskins, Patriots), or pick the years most consistent teams (Colts, Seahawks). Others will pick teams that dominate one side of the ball (Bengals, Bears), or that have great balance (Broncos, Giants).
However, there are certain NFL playoff trends that spread over the course of several postseasons which can give strong indications of who will and who won’t win the Super Bowl.
The Detroit Lions finished 5-11 this year. They are 21-59 over the past 5 seasons. They have four offensive players who were drafted in the top ten of the first round who have produced little or nothing. They have a clueless owner, and an in-over-his-head general manager. They don’t have a permanent head coach, and will soon be without a starting or backup quarterback.
Although it would seem that their options are limitless, the truth is the Lions have but one or two choices to make to solidify the direction, or misdirection, of the franchise for the next 5 seasons.
Michael Vick is a quarterback that possesses a combination of skills that is extremely rare. He can run with the best, he completes passes few others can make, and his arm strength is almost incomparable. And, even though his completion percentage leaves much to be desired, it doesn’t reflect his decision making. In his 3 full years as a starter, the most interceptions he’s thrown in a season are 12. I always say the most difficult aspect of the game for young quarterbacks is learning to not turn the ball over. Making plays will come, just cut down on the interceptions. Vick’s done that, so what’s the problem?
Will Brett Favre retire? Should Brett Favre retire? Are the team and management letting Brett Favre down? Is Brett Favre letting them down? Who hasn’t asked these questions about the most beloved player, by media and fans, in football today? For weeks now, questions about Favre’s future have been as persistent as any other subject, including the Colts run towards perfection.
Most football analysts claim that Favre, at age 36, still has plenty of gas left in the tank. According to the analysts, the Packers are 3-11 because Favre has a weak supporting cast. They say he has no running game, a porous offensive line, and no playmaking receiver. To them, Favre’s play is never the culprit when the team fails to perform adequately. However, any astute analysis will show that it’s Favre who hasn’t performed adequately – for years.
Haven’t we crossed this bridge already? Haven’t we passed over from raw ignorance and racial typecasting into a sophisticated understanding of individual talent? Haven’t we answered the questions about Donovan McNabb’s effectiveness, and about black quarterbacks’ abilities? Haven’t we erased the myth of non-athleticism in white quarterbacks? Apparently, and sadly, we may not have done any of the above.
The president of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP recently wrote a column criticizing Donovan McNabb for not running, and for poor team leadership. He basically said that McNabb’s play, and leadership regarding his teammates contract disputes, relegates him to being the black, athletic equivalent of Benedict Arnold.