Sunday, January 25, 2009

8 In The Box

1. The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl. The wobegone, vagabond franchise that has brought you David Boston, Timm Rosenbach, Dan Dierdorf, and Cuba Gooding Jr., has finally done something to justify their existence.

They tried really, really hard to blow it, burning thru a 24-6 lead like it was nothing to find themselves behind 25-24 in the 4th quarter. They are, after all, the Cardinals. But the fact is that the 2 best players in the stadium were both wearing red and white, and when the Cards fell behind it was in the hands of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald to bring them back, and they did it.

A pair of big completions to Fitzgerald set up an 8 yard pass from Kurt Warner to Tim Hightower on 3rd down to put the Cardinals ahead 30-25. A successful 2 point conversion made it 32-25.

Philly got the ball back with 2:41 left, and a chance to go right back down the field and tie it. They got into Arizona territory, but then Donovan McNabb threw 4 straight incompletions to turn it over on downs and end it. 375 yards and 3 TDs for McNabb, 1 unconverted chance to bring his team back and tie the game when everything was on the line, and prove that he is as Andy Reid said he was, "The best quarterback in the NFL."

2. If Warner and Fitzgerald were the 2 best players on the field in that game, there is no question who the best was, and the best in all of these playoffs and probably the best in the league is right now. Larry Fitzgerald has been the story of these playoffs. In 3 games he has caught 23 passes for 419 yards and 5 TDs. He's gone up against 3 different defenses and completely dominated all 3 of them.

Never before has a wide reciever just taken over a postseason like this. It's virtually impossible to do so. Teams can scheme their coverages to double team a guy, and take him out of the game. For a team like the Cardinals, it's even easier to do that because nobody respects their running game and with Anquan Boldin injured he's the only option you need to worry about in the passing game. He is literally the only threat the Cardinals have right now. And still he does this. It's the single most impressive thing I can remember seeing in any playoffs.

3. For the second time in 4 years, the AFC's representative in the Super Bowl will be the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers 23-14 win over the Ravens was the definition of a defensive struggle. The game had only 24 first downs, where by comparison the Eagles and Cardinals combined for 43 first downs. The score that salted the game away was a defensive score, a 40 yard INT return by Troy Polamalu. It was everything anybody thought it could be, and a game any football purist would love.

Chicago Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers Comiskey Park 1946

4. So there's your Super Bowl, Steelers vs. Cardinals. I know what you are all thinking. This is the first Super Bowl, or to my knowledge, major team sports championship of any kind that involves two teams that were once one franchise.

But Mr. Football, you say, what are you talking about? What could you possibly mean?

In 1944, World War II necessitated the temporary merger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Cardinals into an unholy alliance known as Card-Pitt. This was the second season in a row that the Steelers were forced to combine operations and rosters with another team, as in 1943 they merged with the Philadelphia Eagles to form the "Steagles".

Card-Pitt was really bad. They went 0-10 that year. Maybe part of that was because they had "co-coaches" with the head coaches of the Steelers and Cards splitting the head coaching duties. They were known unofficially as the "Carpets", as the opposition routinely either walked all over them or beat them like rugs.

Card-Pitt, according to then Steelers owner Art Rooney, was "the worst team in NFL history". Now, 65 years later, these two teams re-unite to give us what could be the worst Super Bowl in NFL history. Yaaaaay!

5. This story has been pretty well documented I think, but it does provide about the most interesting storyline I can come up with for this Super Bowl.

After Bill Cowher retired, the plan was to make Ken Whisenhunt the new head coach of the Steelers. However, there is a thing in the NFL called the Rooney Rule that requires any franchise looking to hire a head coach to interview a minority candidate. "Rooney" of course is the family that owns the Steelers. It wouldn't look really good for the owners of the team that are responsible for the Rooney rule to not hire a minority head coach. Depending on who you believe, the NFL League Office reminded them of this.

So, because of this, Ken Whisenhunt was now not the Steelers head coach, Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was, and Whisenhunt left the Steelers organization to become Arizona's head coach, and took a bunch of Steelers assistants with him.

This isn't to say Tomlin did not deserve the job. He certainly did and he's proving to be an elite head coach. What it does say is the Steelers choose their leaders better than any organization in pro sports. They've had 3 head coaches in the last 35 years or so, and the 2 candidates they were down to in their last hiring process are meeting in the Super Bowl. This organization knows how to find a good head coach.

6. You would think that a group of guys who went 9-7 in the regular season and wear the uniform of a club that has been schedule filler for the better part of the last 90 years would all be huggy kissy and united in a frenzy of "nobody believed in us" love right about now. You'd think so, but you'd be wrong.

Anquan Boldin, who you will recall had his face shattered into a billion pieces earlier this year and had to have it surgically re-assembled, had a shouting match with one of his coaches on the sidelines of the NFC Championship game, and left the field without celebrating with his teammates after the game. He's a very sad panda. That and Kurt Warner has to wake up to idiotic stories about whether he or Matty Jacuzzi should be the Cardinals quarterback next year, which is about as relevant a question as whether Warner or Jake Plummer should be the Cardinals quarterback next year. Oh yeah, and the starting running back has made it 100% clear he'd rather be playing for the BC Lions than the Cardinals next year.

So, a 9-7 team where everyone wants out takes on a team who plays boring caveman football. No wonder 1/2 the Super Bowl commercials will be for ShamWow.

7. Let's see what's new on the NFL Coaching Carousel of DOOM

- The Jets new head coach is former Ravens DC Rex Ryan. If Rex's wife has a baby, he will name it "Brett". Regardless of gender. It works for both.

- The Browns have hired a new GM to go with their new head coach, Mangenius, who I have apparently maybe played basketball against once 15 years ago. The new GM is Mangini BFF George Kokinis, who was apparently an intern with the Browns when Mangini was a ballboy.

- Kansas City has fired Herm Edwards. Herm was traded to the Chiefs in 2006 from the Jets for a draft pick that turned out to be useful running back/return guy Leon Washington. Herm went 9-7 in his first season as Chiefs coach, then proceeded to rebuild the team in his image, which turned them into a hopeless 2-14 team whose best player is 50 year old Tony Gonzalez. The only thing memorable about Herm's KC career will go down as being the time he and Tony Dungy dressed up like each other and made out after that playoff game.

- The Raiders still do not have a head coach. Jon Gruden's out there. I'm just saying.

8. And finally, time for my Super Bowl Pick.

I think this will be a close game. Neither of these teams have a habit of blowing other teams out. Pittsburgh doesn't have the offense to do that and Arizona doesn't have the defense.

If you wonder how Arizona got to the Super Bowl, they did it by making the other team turn it over. Philly turned it over 3 times against them, Carolina turned it over 6 times, Atlanta turned it over 3 times, including 1 that resulted in a Cardinal TD.

What this game is going to hinge on entirely is how careful Ben Roethlisberger is with the ball. If the Steelers turn it over 3 or more times, they'll lose. Ben threw 15 picks this year, which, if you are a math whiz, is about 1 per game. So he does give it up.

In these playoffs though, the Steelers have taken excellent care of the ball, turning it over only once in two wins. So they should continue to do that. I will issue a very sissified pick, if Pittsburgh turns it over less than 3 times, which I think they can do, they will win. If not, all bets are off.

Call it 24-20 Steelers.

1 comment:

dook!e said...

does matty jacuzzi use a shamwow to towel off after his bathing ritual, or does he let the women lick him dry?