Believe the hype. As far as intrigue goes, Super Bowl XLVI has the potential to be one of the greatest ever.
Yet, potential is just that. Much as we would like, there’s no way to know whether Sunday’s Giants v. Pats battle will come down the last play, like its Week 9 counterpart did. We can hope that Super Bowl XLVI will be an edge-of-your-seat slugfest, similar to New England’s Week 17 victory in 2007, but we just don’t know. It’s foolish to pencil in a game even half as exciting as either of those, let alone (arguably) The Greatest Game Ever Played.
But we know what’s on the line. Not many Super Bowls have has as many – legitimate — storylines and angles heading into media week as this Big Game does. There’s no need for manufactured stories. This is Brady vs. Eli, in Peyton’s House. Tom vs. Billy Boy. Red Face vs. Hoodie. New York vs. Boston. Part Deux.
Of course, having real things to talk about has never stopped the media from talking about other things. This is the story of those things, and why they are WTF-worthy.
As always, quotes below are paraphrases of general idiocy.
“The Giants and the Patriots Are Two of the Worst Teams to Ever Play in the Super Bowl.”
There’s some truth to this. The Giants are owners of a -4 point differential in their 9-7 regular season as well as Aaron Ross. An eighth grade substitute math teacher is their chief signal caller on defense. That defense, for parts of the regular season, was something beyond porous while their running game, ranked dead last, was even worse.
Meanwhile, the Patriots didn’t beat a winning team until the season’s 20th week and prominently feature five or six trashcans as defensive starters. Their best outside receiver, Deion Branch, had his last relevant moment nearly a decade ago, when he won the MVP of the last Super Bowl without a roman numeral ‘V’ in its title. And most recently, their GOAT quarterback was severely outplayed in the AFC Championship game by an opponent known best for his ‘goat’ status and his weird, half-goatee choice in facial hair.
Yet, everything is relative, and the Giants and Pats’ apparent shared mediocrity is no exception. The 2011 NFL season was nearly unparalleled in its parity, with 18 of the league’s 32 teams winning between six and ten games.
The Kansas City Chiefs, despite losing perhaps their three best players to season-ending injury, won seven games and finished in fourth in the AFC West. The three teams ahead of them each won eight times.
The Colts, the league’s worst team, were without services of the best damn spokesperson the quarterback position has ever seen. Conversely, the league’s best team – the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, may they rest in peace – was quite literally one-dimensional.
Never as great as we were made to believe, the Packers were able to succeed against middling competition as eventual league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the team’s 3rd-ranked passing attack compensated for a 27th-ranked rushing attack and the league’s worst defense. Once they reached the postseason, Rodgers’ margin for error narrowed. No one else was able to pick up the slack.
If the 2011 NFL Season is remembered correctly, it will be thought of as a season of the extra-ordinary, a year in which the mediocrity of the majority allowed the select talented few to look even more talented by comparison.
Matt Stafford and Eli Manning are very good players, but it is difficult to believe they are half as good as Dan Marino once was. Eli fell 150 yards short of breaking Marino’s single-season passing mark, while Stafford and Brady and Drew Brees were able to break the nearly 30-year-old record.
More important, however, the watered-down competition presented the perfect opportunity for an underdog to start gnashing its teeth. Recipe for 2011 success: get hot at the right time, do two or three things right while everyone else only does one, make as few mistakes as possible, then pray. The Giants can confidently say they followed that recipe better than anyone else. Lucky? Perhaps. Opportunistic is probably more apt. The Giants did both what they needed to and what no one else was able, and now they’re in Indianapolis as a result.
On the other side, the system meant a team as flawed as the Patriots would face as little resistance as possible on their path to Indy. Their flaws, especially in the regular season, would go relatively unexploited. Top it off with Tebow and Flacco in January, and its fair to say the Pats haven’t faced a team better team all season then they will on Sunday.
They did lose to the Giants in Week 9. But these ain’t November’s Giants. And while the 2012 iteration might not be The Best Team Ever, in the Year of the Extra-Ordinary, it’s difficult to make the case that they don’t deserve to be there.
“If Eli Wins The Big One – Again – He Might Just Be Better Than Peyton”
No, he won’t be. Not even might be. There’s no question here, no debate, not even if Eli wins, throws for 600 yards, wins the Super Bowl and somehow steals Giesel away from Tom in the process. Probably not even if he came back next year, dropped Gisele for Kate Upton, then threw for 600 yards in a third Super Bowl MVP performance.
In sports, we value two things above all else: the now and the championship. We elevate our winners while forgetting the ones who have done so in the past. Yes, winning is the most important thing. But contrary to what we’ve been told, it’s not the only thing. It’s completely foolish to eschew a decade of achievement in favor of two February nights, glorious though they may be.
Over thirteen seasons, Peyton Manning passed for less than 3,700 yards exactly never. He’s passed for over 4,000 yards on 11 different occasions, a feat Eli’s accomplished thrice. Peyton’s thrown at least 30 touchdowns six times and 49 touchdowns once and won four MVP awards and made five All-Pro first teams and three All-Pro second teams.
Eli’s thrown for 30 touchdowns once, in a season in which he threw 25 interceptions. He’s made two Pro Bowl teams. And great as he may be, he can’t make claim to any of the other accolades and statistics that make big brother quite possibly the greatest player of all time.
Before the 2011 season, Eli wasn’t even considered the best quarterback in his division, let alone his family. And while he has been consistently great this year, and while his past has been better than anyone gives him credit for, there’s no way thirteen extra wins can bring a man from good to G.O.A.T. Perspective, people. Have some.
“Tom Brady is As Good As Ever.”
Patently false. Don’t get me wrong, Brady is still the league’s best quarterback and quite possibly the best to ever play the position. He threw for five thousand yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Not exactly Rex Grossman-type numbers.
But watching him on a game-to-game basis, it is quite clear this isn’t the same unbeatable stalwart we’ve always watched. Maybe you can blame that on a weaker-than-usual offensive line and outside receivers, and maybe you’d be right. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there aren’t a few more passes thrown astray and a few more balls held a bit too long than ever before. The numbers say this is one of Brady’s best seasons, but the eyes say something different. And if there’s anything this upside-down, Eli-better-than-Peyton season has taught us, it’s to trust your eyes. And your gut. And then give both of them a whole lot of open field and shitty defensive backs to work with.
“Lock Up Tom Coughlin, He’s Going to Be Here For a While.”
There’s no debate: Tom Coughlin has earned himself a long term contract extension. But that’s if he wants it.
Last week, Coughlin and son-in-law/Guard Chris Snee shot down suggestions that retirement might be in the old man’s near future, but it’s certainly something to still keep in mind. Coughlin is the league’s oldest coach and will also be it’s only active one – other than Bill Belichick — to have his name on multiple Lombardi trophies. There’s little left for him to accomplish and not much time left for him to do it. Even if Tom sticks around for his ninth season in New Jersey, it’s hard to see him coaching for much longer. Bill Cowher, anybody?
Jesse Golomb is the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter, or drop him a line via email.