NFL Championship Sunday did not disappoint as Tom Brady beat Aaron Rodgers in a battle of Old Guy quarterbacks still getting it done and Patrick Mahomes soundly stopped Josh Allen’s ascent in the Young Guns category. Some thoughts:
- From where I sit in Southwest Ohio, I find it hard to look at Aaron Rodgers and not wonder how much Joe Burrow’s career will resemble his. Now, I’m sure Burrow would be at least highly tempted** to sign up for 50,000 passing yards, 400 touchdown passes and exactly one Super Bowl ring right now, but as great as Rodgers has been, isn’t there a feeling his career could have been even better? Maybe that is always the case with great players — even Brady is very close to having two more Super Bowl wins — but it’s especially acute with Rodgers since, well, he lost yesterday but also because 10 years have passed since he won it all and this felt like his best chance since then.
**I said “at least highly tempted” because we know Burrow is a great competitor and very well could bet on himself to exceed Rodgers, who has been great but not the greatest. We all get a little greedy sometimes, right? But it’s all hypothetical anyway… Also I did not want to seem to denigrate what Rodgers has done because we have a bad habit of doing that with many great accomplishments.
- Beyond that, Rodgers was consistently harassed by the Buccaneers pass rush Sunday, and his coaching staff betrayed him at the end of each half (all things to which Burrow can relate). Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine hadn’t been fired yet as of this writing, but it would be justified after his decision to play just one high safety in the last minute the first half and give some guy I’ve never heard of a chance to get behind his secondary for a big touchdown rather than playing it safe and allowing at worst a field goal.
- Then in the fourth quarter head coach Matt LaFleur opted to kick a field goal with his team down eight and less than three minutes left. This is a decision that gets dumber the more one thinks about it. While converting a fourth-and-8 is no easy task, he passed on that opportunity knowing the best-case scenario was getting the ball back with bad field position, no timeouts and still needing a touchdown. That’s where it really falls apart. Maybe they would not have gotten that fourth down. Maybe they would not have gotten a 2-point conversion if they subsequently did score a touchdown. Would they have been in that much worse of a spot than the best-case scenario otherwise? Seems unlikely.
- Every year, the Packers are in it because of Rodgers. This is the mark of a franchise quarterback (something we’ve talked about in determining that Andy Dalton is not, in fact, one of those), and every year they fall short mostly because of obvious shortcomings here or there on the roster. It’s a blessing more than a curse, but it’s still something (there’s always something in sports, right?).
- So Rodgers’ greatness is assured thanks to his numbers and winning one Super Bowl (bonus for beating the Steelers), but the Packers have left something to be desired in this era. Is that the future down on the Ohio River?
- Of course winning a Super Bowl with the Bengals would be a bigger accomplishment than the Packers (since two other quarterbacks already did that), but the franchises are both in smaller markets, and if you read about Green Bay’s approach to roster building it sounds a lot like Cincinnati’s has been over the years. That is focusing on drafting and development rather than being as aggressive as some other franchises are in acquiring talent by any means necessary.
- Of course No. 2: Being in contention for the division every year is realistically about the best a fan can hope for, and it is far superior to what the Bengals were in the ’90s or even for the past five years. Would you rather have Andy Dalton and a great roster, or Aaron Rodgers and an average roster? I would take the latter, and at this point looks like the same will turn out to be true of Burrow, but time will tell.
- After getting out of quarterback limbo, the Bengals are in a precarious spot at head coach. The Zac Taylor era has been mostly a failure so far, but there are bright spots if you squint hard enough and really want to believe in him — especially if Burrow can carry him. The same cannot be said of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, but they are stuck with him a least a little while longer. On the bright side, the hiring of Frank Pollack to coach the offensive line looks good.
“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter or Facebook.