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Due to scheduling, we are not going to have our traditional day-after-Super Bowl Podcast. I wanted to share some of my thoughts in writing while they’re fresh and hope we can get another podcast posted soon. In no order, here are my biggest takeaways from yesterday’s game.

 

Despite the NFL’s Issues in this Modern Era, They Can Always Count on the Super Bowl to Deliver.
In January 1997, the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI to win their first championship in 29 years. While exciting for Packers fans, it marked the sixth straight Super Bowl decided by at least 10 points. Blowouts had been the norm throughout the first 31 Super Bowls. The average margin of victory had been 16.6 points with just seven games decided by one score or less. Commercials and halftime performances became defining features of the Super Bowl in large part because the one-sided games themselves rarely provided entertainment to anyone but hardcore football fans. Then, in 1998, the Broncos shocked the world and won a 31-24 classic to beat the heavily favored Packers. This game ushered in the modern era of the Super Bowl, where nearly every year, we’re treated to one of the greatest games of all time. After last night’s gem, 13 of the 22 Super Bowls since 1997 have been decided by one score or less. Two others were within one score with under 4 minutes remaining. There is a generation of young football fans that have never known the Super Bowl be anything but a classic. Today’s NFL has many issues, but the Super Bowl almost always delivers four hours of entertainment that is unequaled anywhere else.

 

The Loss Did Not Harm Tom Brady's Legacy. 
I was rooting for the Patriots to lose. Hard. I have grown so tired of seeing the Patriots and watching the media fawn over their joyless pursuit of winning. I also believe championships are a poor way to judge the greatness of a quarterback, and Tom Brady’s recent inexplicably lucky Super Bowl wins have added to roar of the unbearable “COUNT TEH RINGZ” crowd. Then yesterday happened. Tom Brady’s performance was mostly outstanding. He broke his own record for passing yards in a Super Bowl, while also becoming the first player to surpass 500 passing yards in a playoff game (breaking my childhood favorite Bernie Kosar’s 31-year-old record for most passing yards in a playoff game). It made me gain a new appreciation for what Tom Brady has accomplished. Sure, they’ve been incredibly fortunate through the years with frequent lucky bounces and early playoff exits by their would-be biggest competitors. Still, yesterday made me finally see the Patriots Dynasty 2.0 for what it really is – Tom Brady and his backup band. He looked like Aaron Rodgers last night – a guy on a defective team that needs him to play perfectly to win. Tom Brady was 90% perfect last night, and it wasn’t enough.

 

Now I have enough self-awareness to realize I only achieved this perspective because the Patriots lost last night. Had they won, I would be doubling down on my belief that arguing Tom Brady is the greatest because of his rings is simplistic at best and wrong at worst. But seeing Brady get treated like a failure for losing by fans on Social Media almost compels me to overcompensate the other way. Make no mistake, I’m taking glee in the misery of the Patriots today. As Tom Brady said in his press conference, “No one is going to feel sorry for us.” Nor should they. But last night Tom Brady was as good as anyone has ever been in a Super Bowl. If you thought he was the GOAT yesterday morning, you should be just as convinced today.

 

If You Want to Be a Champion, Don’t Become an MVP
Tom Brady became the 3rd straight NFL Most Valuable Player Award winner to lose the Super Bowl. Kurt Warner, 19 seasons ago, remains the last MVP to win the Super Bowl in the same season. However, most strange is that losing the Super Bowl/ Championship game is overwhelmingly the most common fate for an NFL MVP since the award’s inception in 1961. Of the 59 recipients of the award, 21 of them have lost the League Championship Game or Super Bowl, while just 12 have won it. Many argue that the MVP Award too often goes to a top player on one of the best teams rather than an award going to a player that is genuinely the league’s most valuable. But this shows that maybe the voters are getting it right – the league MVPs are carrying their flawed teams to heights that would be unachievable without them. That indeed appeared to be the case of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last night.

 

The Eagles have the Most Unique Quarterback Situation in NFL History
Nick Foles completed his magical run last night by notching his 3rd straight game with 100.0+ quarterback rating and earning Super Bowl MVP honors. It’s easy to contrast the Eagles season with the Packers season and wonder what Green Bay could have done with a more experienced, competent backup quarterback. But while the Eagles defense was fabulous in the two NFC playoff games, last night was all Foles. The defense was helpless against that Patriot attack, but Foles played like a franchise quarterback and was able to win a shootout of record-breaking proportions. I cannot imagine Carson Wentz playing better than Foles did last night. He outperformed Tom Brady on one of the best nights of his legendary career. Philadelphia will enter the 2018 offseason with the most unique quarterback situation in NFL History. Their backup quarterback is the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Their incumbent starter was well on his way to becoming NFL MVP before he injured his knee and is just five weeks past his 25th birthday. This situation is not like Jeff Hostetler and Phil Simms for the 1991 Giants. Hostetler was a game manager for a great Super Bowl-winning team, and Phil Simms was a career game manager in his mid-30s. The Eagles have a very tough choice, and I’m not sure what they should do. It seems obvious to go with Carson Wentz. He was fantastic this year and has his entire future ahead of him. But after seeing the regression of Derek Carr this year from MVP candidate to average following his injury, I’d be somewhat wary that Wentz will immediately be back to form. And as we’ve seen, a team’s window for being a legitimate Super Bowl contender is very narrow. Wentz might have a long productive career, but when (or if) he regains his MVP form, the Eagles championship window may have closed. It’s tempting to stick with Foles and hope that the player you saw in January is who he really is, rather than the lost player he was in December. And it’s not like Foles’ success came entirely out of the blue – his 2013 season remains one of the greatest single-season QB years in history. Is Foles in a better position to lead the Eagles to a championship in 2018 than Wentz? Hard to say. The Eagles have an interesting dilemma this offseason. One thing I am sure of – after their respective performances in 2017, neither of those players are likely willing to spend any of 2018 on the bench.

 

Jerry Kramer is a Hall of Famer
Not much to add other than one of my legitimate happiest moments as a Packer fan was watching Jerry Kramer answer the door and seeing Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker waiting to inform him that he, at long last, had been voted into Canton. I’m not too proud to say that it brought tears to my eyes. The look of joy on his face was that of a man who has been waiting for a half-century to receive validation for all he accomplished as a young man. It was a nice reminder that someday, all the heroes of yesterday's game will grow into old men, and as much as they wanted to win, it may be equally as important that we remember they played the game. This weekend was a great one for this football fan. It’s one I won’t soon forget.

 

Rapid Fire

  • I am not seriously concerned that Aaron Rodgers will actually leave the Packers after he acknowledged the possibility over the weekend. He was being honest. If it can happen to Brett Favre or Aaron’s childhood hero Joe Montana, it can happen to anyone. That being said, the Packers should give him whatever it takes to sign him through his 40th birthday. After what we went through with Favre, I’m willing to pay Rodgers handsomely even if/when his skills decline. I want him to be a Packer for life. As long as he isn’t holding the team hostage each offseason by being wishy-washy about retirement or consistently losing playoff games with untimely turnovers, he should be able to play as long as he wants.
  • Super Bowl commercials have jumped the shark. They all are either trying to be funny or trying to be profound. Both attempts come off as lame. They need to stop trying so hard. And why did so many alcohol companies want us to drink so much water?
  • Eli Manning and Odell Beckham definitely had my favorite ad. I want to know if Eli really hoisted him up or if that was camera tricks. It would make me see Eli in a whole new light if I knew he had the guns to Gorilla Press Slam people like the Ultimate Warrior.
  • There were numerous Super Bowl records broken last night, but the one that stuck out to me was most combined total yards, as the Eagles and Patriots had a whopping 1151 total yards between the two of them. Not only is that a Super Bowl record, but it's also a record for any NFL game ever played. It would’ve taken me four or five guesses to correctly answer the game that had the Super Bowl record previously - Washington vs. Denver in Super Bowl XXII. Washington did most of the heavy lifting and until yesterday, was the only team in Super Bowl history to record over 600 yards of total offense (602). New England’s 613 yards of offense was undoubtedly impressive, but I love what Washington did in their game. The Redskins’ 602 yards were almost perfectly balanced – 280 rushing yards and 322 passing yards. That was with backups playing both quarterback and running back. It was Joe Gibbs’ offense at its finest. That guy needs more recognition as a candidate for being the greatest coach of all time.
  • The NFL needs to do two things this offseason – A) fix their catch rule, and B) tell their broadcast partners to stop obsessing with rules, replay, and penalties. Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth tainted several all-time great moments by obsessing over the rules instead of getting caught up in the magic. They were even talking about the two reviewed Eagles touchdowns in the postgame show during the Eagles celebration. I understand this is mostly the NFL’s own doing because of their dumb rule(s), but at some point, it’s time to move on. This rules obsession during broadcasts is hurting their product. Watching the NFL in recent years has felt less like a sport and more like a courtroom drama. If I never hear 'survive the ground' again, it will be too soon.
  • I'm happy to see Wisconsin running backs be Super Bowl heroes for the second year in a row - James White last year and Corey Clement this year. With the success of Paul Chryst's squad and the success of Badgers alumni in the NFL, the Wisconsin Football Program is in as good of shape as it's ever been.
  • The 2017 Playoffs were fantastic. From Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry at Arrowhead to the Jaguars putting the league on notice to the Minneapolis Miracle to Tom Brady’s greatness to Super Bowl MVP Nick friggin Foles, these playoffs were some of the best in recent memory and rescued a pretty lousy NFL season. It reminded me why I love football.

 

Well, there’s only one thing left in the 2017 NFL Season – The GOLDIE AWARDS!! The ballot is now available. Look for that episode by the end of the month. Our Board of Directors is looking for a host. The search promises to be wide and vast.

 

Eric Drews 
Host 
Green and Gold Forever 
@GreenGold4Ever

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