Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl notes/oddities

By Rick Morris

^ Even casual football fans may now be aware of the fact that this Super Bowl has the team with the most NFL Championships (Green Bay with 12, including three Super Bowls) and the most Super Bowl championships (Pittsburgh with six) [SIDE NOTE: This fact may come as a shock to Steelers fans, who are notorious for conveniently thinking that the concept of NFL titles originated with the Super Bowl.] But the Packers/Steelers tilt also matches two teams that have gone back further against one another than any other teams in a Super Bowl, with more than 75 years occurring since the first matchup (hat tip to Peter King from Sports Illustrated). This fact may be somewhat below the radar since few if any of their games against one another are considered among the game’s most impactful. But it is noteworthy since only once before have two teams with roots in the pre-1960s NFL squared off in a Super Bowl: when the Steelers met up with the Rams in Super Bowl 14 back in January of 1980. More recently, Bears/Colts (four years ago) and Steelers/Cardinals (two years ago) matched up NFL teams who were around before 1960, but the Colts and Cardinals have moved cities since then.

^ This game also marks the first pairing of two franchises with “Team of the Decade” billing (Packers-1960s, Steelers-1970s). The Packers squared off with the Patriots in Super Bowl 31, but the Pats had yet to become the team of the 2000s. Likewise, the Steelers and Cowboys matched up in Super Bowls 10, 13 and 30, but the Cowboys had not completely locked down “Team of the 1990s” by the last contest.

^ Speaking of those three Steeler-Cowboy Super Bowls, this one in Dallas marks only the third time that a team visits a city to play in a Super Bowl when they have previously squared off against that city’s team in a Super Bowl. When the Cowboys came to Miami in January 1979 for Super Bowl 13, it marked the first time this had happened; they had beaten Miami in Super Bowl 6. Also, San Francisco beat Miami in Super Bowl 19, only to play in Miami for Super Bowls 23 and 29.

^ This game fits a trend in which the participating cities have no real sports rivalry of any kind. The last Super Bowl between metropolitan areas with a heated sports past was Super Bowl 42 three years ago between the Patriots and Giants – further fueled by the fact that most Patriots fans are also members of Red Sox Nation and that the Yankees are the favorite sports team of a great, great many Giants fans. There haven’t been very many Super Bowls over time that featured two big rival cities – the best examples were Super Bowls 39 (New England-Philadelphia), 36 (New England-St. Louis), 34 (Baltimore-New York), 30/13/9 (Dallas-Pittsburgh), 28/27 (Dallas-Buffalo), 23/16 (Cincinnati-San Francisco), 20 (Chicago-New England), 17/7 (Miami-Washington). As you can see, some of these rivalries between the cities resulted from rematches of previous Super Bowls.

^ Never before has a city hosted a Super Bowl for the first time after their home team has won one (the closest example was when the 49ers, winners of Super Bowl 16, coincidentally played Super Bowl 19 in nearby Palo Alto) – although a number of teams (Miami, New Orleans and Tampa) have won Super Bowls after their cities have hosted the big game and a few others (San Diego, Atlanta and Arizona) have lost in the Super Bowl after they played host. But three of the next four games will meet this criteria: along with this year, Indianapolis (winner of Super Bowl 41) hosts next year and the Meadowlands (home to both the Giants and Jets, who have each won the big game) plays host in three years.

^ This year’s game snaps a two-year string of first-time Super Bowl participants (the Cardinals two years ago and the Saints last year). The last such two-year period was early last decade with the Bucs in Super Bowl 37 and the Panthers the next year. Two years before Tampa made it, the Super Bowl ended a three-year period with first-time participants as Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore made it (keeping in mind that the previous Baltimore participant was the Colts). Before that, though, the only first-timers since Super Bowl 21 in January of 1987 were the Bills in Super Bowl 25 and the Chargers in Super Bowl 29.

^ This game also snaps a two-year string of head coaches who have not won a Super Bowl. The last such Super Bowl before that was 41 (Colts-Bears) and before that in the early years of the century, Super Bowls 34-37 did not have a championship coach on the sidelines at the start of the game. The last two men to face a coach who trumped them in championship experience won (Tom Coughlin and Bill Cowher), so momentum is on the side of Mike McCarthy. Coaches who enter the Super Bowl with the edge in championship experience are 13-5, but only 3-4 over the course of the last seven instances since Super Bowl 31. There are four instances of coaches who have made it to the Super Bowl in a losing effort subsequently squaring off against a rookie Super Bowl coach: those leaders are 1-3, with the only win coming in the most recent example with Dick Vermeil in Super Bowl 34 (the other times were Super Bowl 27 when Marv Levy dropped his first one to Jimmy Johnson and 11 and 13 when Bud Grant fell to Chuck Noll and John Madden, respectively).

^ Hat tip to DOU Productions for this one: the Packers will attempt to become the third franchise (along with the Redskins and Giants) to win a Super Bowl with three different quarterbacks.

^ Another hat tip to DOU Productions: Joe Buck, already part of the first father-son team to call Super Bowls (father Jack called 17 for CBS Radio), is (along with Troy Aikman) about to become part of the eighth broadcast team to call three Super Bowls. This also marks as many Super Bowls as Aikman played in for Dallas, the home city for this year’s game.

^ In a final non-football point, it is worth noting that it is fitting that the game that looks likely to be the last one played before a bitter – and perhaps lengthy – NFL lockout will be held in JerryWorld. As this 1995 Sports Illustrated article chronicled, by that point Jerry Jones was challenging as never before the unified structure of the NFL that Pete Rozelle knitted together so carefully back in the 1960s (tragically, Jones was putting his efforts into overdrive while Rozelle was on his deathbed, unable to fight to maintain the cohesiveness of the league he so loved). While the league would have issues with money going to players in any regard, they would not be so substantial if teams like Dallas and Washington were sharing more merchandising money with teams like Buffalo. So as the big game draws to a close in Cowboys Stadium, the league collectively reaps the whirlwind that was set in motion by Jerry Jones over 15 years ago.

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