That second Super Bowl title remains elusive for the Jets and Bears. Might there be things goin’ on that you don’t know?
The Packers and Steelers certainly seem to merit their spots in Super Bowl XLV. The Packers zipped through their playoff schedule displaying the dominance of a top seen, not a bottom seed. As the Falcons can attest.
Sunday’s 21-14 dousing of the Bears played to form.
The Packers took the opening kickoff, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had them in the end zone in barely four minutes. Eighty-four yards in seven plays. Seven-zip before you could say, “Chicago Bears. Monsters of the Midway.”
Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security after the ease of their opening drive, the Packers managed only one more first-half touchdown. But they entered the half with a most comfortable 14-0 lead.
Comfortable because the Bears hadn’t generated any offense at all.
Quarterback Jay Cutler spent the half wandering over the field, dazed and confused. His stats confirmed his malaise: 6-of-14 for 80 measly yards and an interception.
He retired for the day after attempting one series in the second half. Reportedly, he succumbed to a knee injury sustained late in the first half. He also had a boo-boo on his elbow, and a bruised ego.
Meanwhile, three states over, the Steelers exerted their own dominance over the formerly wise-cracking Jets. In this one, the opening drive lasted 9:06; it took the Steelers 15 plays to traverse 92 yards.
By the time the Jets kicked a field goal to end the first half, they trailed, 24-3.
The final Steeler touchdown came courtesy of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who fumbled while being sacked, William Gay returning it 19 yards.
To that point, Sanchez was 3-of-9 for all of 24 yards. And the fumble.
Even though Sanchez would rally the Jets, the hole was too big to escape.
Likewise, the Bears would rally behind Caleb Hanie, of all people.
He led the Bears to two fourth quarter touchdowns, but also hurled the game-winning interception into the ample meat hooks of Packer nose tackle B. J. Raji, who lumbered 18 yards to score.
Bottom line: the Jets and Bears were both denied their second Super Bowl appearance due to their less-than-stellar quarterback play. Nothing new there. But, interestingly, it all seems so Faustian.
The Jets won Super Bowl III in one of the most important games in NFL history.
They paved the way for the NFL-AFL merger by upsetting the Colts, thus proving the AFL’s best could compete with the NFL’s best. It made the merger more palatable, more acceptable.
That game upheld the prediction made by Jets quarterback Joe Namath earlier in the week, when he outrageously guaranteed that the 17-point underdog Jets would win.
What price victory?
Namath hobbled through the rest of his career, starting every game only twice in his final eight seasons with the Jets.
He was succeeded by another Alabama quarterback, Richard Todd.
Todd spent his career hurling more interceptions (161) than touchdowns (124). He did manage to lead the Jets into the 1982 AFC championship game, where he promptly threw five interceptions and lost to the Dolphins, 14-0.
Todd was succeeded by Ken O’Brien, out of the football factory known as the University of California, Davis.
Selected with the 24th pick in the 1983 draft, O’Brien’s choice elicited a “Who’s he?” from none other than Don Shula. Immediately, Shula selected Dan Marino with the next pick.
Since Browning Nagle replaced O’Brien in 1992, the Jets haven’t managed to keep the same quarterback behind center for more that three straight seasons.
Among the luminaries: Jack Trudeau, Glenn Foley, Ray Lucas, Rick Mirer, Quincy Carter, Brooks Bollinger and Kellen Clemens.
Vinny Testaverde did lead the Jets into the AFC championship game in 1998, but that team had the benefit of Bill Parcells as head coach. And they lost to Denver, 23-10.
Likewise, the Bears. Their magnificent 1985 team, led by quarterback Jim McMahon and coach Mike Ditka, won Super Bowl XX convincingly.
The Bears were destined to win the Super Bowl under Ditka. He was named head coach by the Papa Bear himself, team founder George Halas. It was one of Halas’ final acts before his 1983 death.
What price victory?
The fragile McMahon never started more than nine games in any subsequent season. He was succeeded by Jim Harbaugh, who has proved to be a much better coach than quarterback.
After Harbaugh’s four-year stint ended in 1993, the Bears haven’t had the same quarterback for more than two straight seasons. This is not a recipe for success in the NFL.
Nor is starting any of the following: Rick Mirer, Steve Stenstrom, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Henry Burris or Craig Krenzel. The list is endless, but space is limited, and you get the idea.
So while it appears that the two best teams are headed to Dallas, you just might wonder if that’s really the case. There’s things goin’ on that you don’t know.