OK, I’ve been hearing too much over the past 12 hours about how Super Bowl XXXVIII was the greatest ever played and how the Pats are the greatest team ever. Hold on here folks. Yes, the Super Bowl was exciting. Yes, the Pats are good. Yes Bill Belichick is the best coach in the league right now surpassing The Tuna, Gruden, and even Dennis Erickson. But lets gain some perspective here, the Pats of this season have a long way to go before getting into that “Best Ever” discussion and the game itself, while entertaining pales in comparison to some others.
First the team issue. Start by looking how the Pats compare to some of the other great single season teams in NFL history. The 1972 Dolphins still have to be considered the best team of all time. Sorry, but going undefeated gets you that cred. Next there were two 49er teams that were better one season teams than this year’s Pats. The first was the 1984 team that only lost one game, and that one was on a bogus pass interference call at the end of the game. Bill Walsh says the 1984 team was the best one he ever coached. The ’84 Niners went on to crush Miami in the Super Bowl.
The second 49er team that aces the current Pats is the 1994 team. The ’94 squad split their first four games, losing to the Montana led Chiefs and the famous 40-8 pasting by the Eagles. After that SF played only a few close games blowing out most teams they faced (42-3 at ATL, 41-16 vs. TB, 35-14 at NO, 50-14 vs. ATL, 38-15 at SD, 42-19 vs. DEN). The Niners lost the regular season finale 21-14 at Minnesota in a game where the leading passer for SF was Elvis Grbac and the leading rusher was the man all true Niner fans still despise, one Adam Walker. The point is the Niners rested their starters that day because, unlike this year’s Pats, SF had already clinched home field throughout the playoffs. The 1994 Niners went on to crush Chicago in their first playoff game 44-15, beat the two-time defending champion Cowboys in the NFC Championship game, and demolish the Chargers 49-20 in Super Bowl XXIX.
As far as looking at teams over a longer period I don’t think the current Pats can yet be compared to the Steelers teams of the 1970’s, the 49ers of the 1980’s, or the Cowboys teams of the 1990’s. The closest team to compare them to would be the 97-98 Broncos, and I would give those teams an edge given that they won their titles back to back. Also, the teams mentioned above were perennial playoff teams. The Pats missed the tournament last year.
So, while winning fifteen in a row is impressive it isn’t enough to get the Pats the moniker of best ever; now on to the game itself. It was thriller, no doubt about it. But the first 27 minutes were a bore. The only saving grace in that opening was that it allowed time for people to show up at the party and get to know the people they hadn’t met. From a football standpoint it was awful. After three minutes of excitement we were treated to a scoreless third quarter whose only redeeming value is that it allowed me to win the scoring pool for a second consecutive quarter. The fourth quarter had everything you want in a Super Bowl, lead changes, turnovers, big plays, scoring, suspense, dubious coaching choices, and a game winning kick. But there have been better games.
For one, the 2001 Super Bowl where these same Pats beat the Rams in a game that had all the same drama and a higher level of overall play. Also, the 2001 game had the added fun of seeing the plucky underdog backup QB and his band of B level free-agent castoffs defeat the big bad “Greatest Show on Turf.” Of course we all have our favorite Super Bowl moments, but bar none, the greatest game ever played on the last Sunday of the season was the 1988 game between the Niners and the Bengals. The game included goal line stands, and of course the 92 yard game winning “John Candy” drive which culminated in a TD pass to John Taylor.
-It seems to be vogue to compare Tom Brady to Joe Montana. Sure, there are some similarities; and Brady is now a two time Super Bowl MVP, but lets settle down for a few years on this one. I for one am still feeling burned after anointing Terrell Davis the best ever after the 1997 campaign. Brady is good, maybe even great, but remember when everyone wanted to send Kurt Warner to Canton in 1999. Where is he now? Where will he be next year? How much does he have left?
-Why was Dr. Who singing about astronauts before kickoff?
-Was it just me, or is Janet Jackson’s nipple pierced? Vibe eat your heart out.