This is why I will never give up my love affair with sports.
Fans prognosticate twenty-four/seven at the water cooler, pundits analyze every angle and possibility in the media, and players strut with swagger in front of the cameras.
Then game time comes.
All week we heard about Tim Tebow and his heaven-sent ability to throw the ugliest spiral since the Cleveland Indians were an NFL franchise.
It was only the divisional weekend, but Tom Brady had a message for NFL fans. The message was, “I’m a two-time MVP, a three-time champion, and I turn down sex from a supermodel.” He proceeded to remind everyone that there is no debate over the best quarterback in the NFL. Period.
Tebow showed he’s still a boy among men. Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. Manning, Eli. Manning, Peyton. Drew Brees. These guys win games by themselves.
The choke was in. But this was the undercard.
The 1972 Dolphins went 17-0, after a 14-0 regular season, the only team in the modern era to go undefeated throughout. The 2007 Patriots went 18-1, after a 16-0 regular season, the only team to win 16 in the regular season and 18 straight in one year.
After that you have five teams in history to go 15-1 in the regular season. The 1984 49ers were the first. They convincingly won the Super Bowl, solidifying a dynasty that would see the team win four championship and go to the playoffs every year but three between 1981-1998.
Ironically, the next year saw the Chicago Bears put together a 15-1 season. They powered through the playoffs so well that this team is likely one of the greatest single-season teams ever put together – if for no other reason than the Super Bowl Shuffle breaks the tie between two dozen teams that could vie for that title.
Thirteen years passed until the 1998 Minnesota Vikings put together the most prolific offensive season in history (until the next century started) to go 15-1. This franchise was the first to lose 4 Super Bowls. They are the franchise that had the term “Hail Mary” dubbed against them. They own the worst trade in NFL history. And they were also the first team to go 15-1 and not win the Super Bowl, or even make it to the Super Bowl.
Lastly, the 2005 Steelers went 15-1, but laid a similar dud in the AFC championship game to join the Vikings in this exclusive club of futility. I am sure this pain for Steeler fans is lightened by the fact they won the Super Bowl the following year and then won it again three years later.
That brings us to today’s game.
This contest included the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
This quarterback was having the greatest season ever played.
This team has been dubbed the greatest to ever step onto the Gridiron.
The game was being played on the most hallowed ground in the Universe.
These are all statements uttered by expert and influential media this year to describe Aaron Rodgers.
Unfortunately, these statements actually describe the ugly duckling, the forgotten stepchild (read: brother) Manning, Eli.
As a futile Minnesota sports fans, I often trumpet many regular-season or single-game accomplishments of my favorite teams and players. Just as often, the closest Yankee or Packer fan will often utter some prissy statement about how only championships matter.
Well, if that is true, then we just saw the biggest choke in the history of the NFL.
Champions deliver when it matters. After the sports media had rode this team all season long, suddenly many were predicting this epic upset. Much like the Packer team from last year, the Giants went from awful to desperate to unbeatable in the span of two months.
Listen, had you asked me at the beginning of the season who I would vote for as the greatest QB of all-time, I wouldn’t even blink: Peyton Manning.
Now, I’m pretty sure he’s not even the best in his family.
If I believe what everyone tells me, then regular season wins do not matter (especially when evaluating player performance) and while it is popular to judge a quarterback solely by win-loss record, it is simply an inaccurate barometer.
If we are to judge players on their performance in big games, then Manning, Eli is the greatest quarterback of all-time. Listen, he led a team effort in 2007 where the Giants single-handedly destroyed what would have been the greatest season in professional athletics — he gave it a Mike Tyson beating, and now it is stained with a huge black eye, of what might have been.
All anyone talked about this year was the birth of a legend. It’s possible that Tim Tebow suited up in the #12 at Lambeau, as the stat lines are similar, but that wouldn’t be fair to Packer fans. This was a home game and Green Bay never held a lead, and while the score was close through the first half, they were struggling to keep up.
They were completely dominated, at home, by a team that barely played .500 football through the regular season. I’ve been alone in saying this all year, but the hype around crowning Rodgers and this Packer dynasty has been absurdly premature. The “Hail Mary” to end the first half was embarrassing, proving that their entire defense is a joke. A ton of playmakers on defense, but they never play as a team. Always looking for their own highlight reel, they forget that giving up 400 yards a game is not an equation for success.
Brett Favre won a Super Bowl in his 4th year as a starter, then the next season laid a total deuce in the Super Bowl after being favored by two scores. He never returned to the Super Bowl, his legacy tarnished in Wisconsin, and his reputation a laughingstock in the NFL. Rodgers won a Super Bowl in his 4rd year as starter, then the next season laid the most pathetic performance from the leader of an elite 15-1 team we’ve ever seen.
The Packers won all year solely on media hype. Other teams would step on the field on lay on egg, letting Rodgers eat them alive because he was supposed to do so, it was already scripted. The Giants through 120 minutes of football against this team had one drive, which ultimately resulted in the regular season loss against the Packers, that made them look like an inferior team. Otherwise, the Giants believe in what they are doing and absolutely dominated the Packers.
This weekend was very telling for the future of the NFL.
When the going gets tough, there are the Tom Brady’s and the Manning, Eli’s. Then, there are the Aaron Rodgers’ and the Tim Tebow’s.