Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Super Sunday
With a bye week before the Super Bowl, all soothsayers and forecasters will have focused almost exclusively on the offenses of the two teams as the fortnight brings about the raucous extravaganza which will eventually come down to playing football Sunday next.
Defenses in football across the board today get back-of-the-hand treatment. Yet, if you sat down with all the head coaches of the league’s 32 teams, it is likely that you would hear them say that defense usually wins games.
Some insiders are changing their tune on that point, however, allowing that offenses, such as Kansas City’s, are sometimes just too hard to stop. If Sunday’s game comes down to a shootout, most observers are siding with the Kansas City Chiefs, where the youth and athleticism of Patrick Mahomes are expected to give his team the advantage over the aging Tom Brady and the upstart Tampa Bay Bucs.
The game of football has gone the way of the mobile quarterback. Give the Chiefs the advantage in that matchup. If you survey the opinion of the forecasters, they are almost unanimous in favoring the Chiefs in this ultimate contest, but are expecting a close game. The difference, they all say, has to do with Mahomes.
He is faster, more mobile and quicker than an aging Brady, who has had a remarkable career. At 43, he is older by 18 years and some would say his wizened experience might neutralize Mahomes raw talent. However, that view emanates mostly from Tampa Bay partisans.
The rooting interest here is solidly in the Chief’s corner—owing to the fact that Bulldog Mecole Hardman’s name is on the Kanas city roster. Who could not admire the handiwork of Tom Brady, however? His spectacular career is without peer, but he has enough Super Bowl rings. Let Mecole and his teammates enjoy having a ring for each hand.
Mahomes fits the mobile profile as much as any quarterback in the game. He can throw on the run with the greatest of deftness. Perhaps, his greatest ability is his escapability. He always seems to be able to extricate himself from trouble. He can turn a likely 15-yard loss into a 20-yard gain.
When Peyton Manning was in Athens to videotape a segment for “Peyton’s Places” with Georgia’s Fran Tarkenton, they talked about the game moving from the drop back quarterback style of play. Tarkenton is credited with being the originator of the mobile quarterback concept but he was buying time, trying to avoid a big yardage loss by taking a sack. He has always been a philosophical proponent of being proficient at “running the football and stopping the run” as the best route to victory.
In addition to originating the mobile quarterback in the NFL, Tarkenton also has a link with the development of the concept of the West Coast offense which came about during his years with the Giants in the days of Allie Sherman, known for his innovative and complex passing schemes. Tarkenton and former Giant quarterback, Y. A. tittle, came up with a short passing game offense, owing to the fact that New York had limited talent on the offensive roster. Yet, the Giants always led the league in passing.
For all of his creativity on the field and his innovative play, the sad fact remains that Tarkenton was unable to win a Super Bowl ring in three attempts, this statistical ignominy only exceeded by Jim Kelly’s 0-4 Super Bowl record when he was quarterbacking the Buffalo Bills.
There is no explanation as to why Tarkenton and Kelly could not win a ring in seven collective opportunities and that Tom Brady has the good fortune to claim six rings and now playing for a seventh.
I have had the good fortune to discuss this subject of winning and losing championships with a number of sports titans. Ted Williams, for example, never won a World Series ring while Yogi Berra won 10, playing for the New York Yankees. Joe DiMaggio won nine.
Williams always thought his body of work defined this career and scoffed at the talk of the “Curse of the Bambino” saying that was a latent media concoction. “We never heard anything about any curse when I was playing,” he told me a couple of years before he died.
Sports have always been imbued with fickleness. How can Orville Moody win the U. S. Open golf championship and Sam Snead not? I once asked Roger Staubach if he had any sympathy for hard luck guys who never win a ring. “No,” he said without hesitation. “It’s a game and they are all big boys.” In other words, a “let the chips fall where they may,” mantra.
You have to be cold blooded in sports. In competition, you have to hold contempt for your opponent. Football, for sure, is not an egalitarian enterprise.
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