Three Themes After The Super Bowl

Russell Wilson versus Johnny Manziel? There’s no comparison | AP photo

Russell Wilson versus Johnny Manziel? There’s no comparison | AP photo

In the wake of the Seattle Seahawks’ demolition of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, there are several narrative threads, some of which seem absurd.

One is that Peyton Manning choked again on a big stage. Manning wasn’t great, but the domination was so complete that no quarterback in NFL history could have stopped Seattle. The Seahawks’ front seems especially effective against pocket passers.

The Saints’ Drew Brees and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan didn’t fare any better against that defense, and despite being out of rhythm and getting picked twice, Manning still set the Super Bowl record for completions.

Quarterbacks get a disproportionate share of credit in wins and blame in losses, and no quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl by himself.

And many Super Bowls have been decided by fortunate plays. Wasn’t it the great Joe Montana who threw the ball right into the hands of a Cincinnati defender, who dropped the ball and allowed heroics to follow?

Would Jim Kelly have been scorned if Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood’s field goal had been 4 feet to the left? And would Eli Manning have been the Super Bowl MVP if David Tyree hadn’t made the greatest (and most improbable) catch in the game’s history, when the Giants shocked the Patriots?

Fate and circumstance often intervene, sometimes unkindly, in the small sample of NFL playoff games. Regular-season games drastically increase the sample size of quarterback play, and even Manning’s fiercest critics concede that he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and probably the best full-field reader of defenses in the history of the league. Best quarterback? Probably not, since everyone wants to judge that by the number of championships, but Manning earned his place in the conversation a long time ago.

Another thread is the trumpeting of the future greatness of the Seahawks. Some conveniently forget that Seattle was one deflected pass away from watching the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Also, there is a tendency for players on winning Super Bowl teams to exploit their success for bigger contracts elsewhere. We see it every year. Even if billionaire owner Paul Allen wanted to pay huge bucks to keep his team intact, salary cap issues render that impossible. Statistics say repeating is extremely unlikely, so Seattle fans should enjoy this one today and hope for the best tomorrow.

A third thread that marries the NFL to college football is the incessant comparison of Seattle signal caller Russell Wilson with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. About the only thing they have in common is being short for NFL quarterbacks. Wilson is a meticulous grinder and conservative executor of the Sea-hawks’ offensive scheme. He makes very few mistakes. With Manziel, you have an absolute gunslinger. Much more like Michael Vick or Brett Favre, he’s a high-risk, big-play guy who will turn over the ball a bunch in the NFL.

Next up will be the NFL combine followed by the draft, where analysts will dissect the virtues and flaws of future prospects.

I talked to one analyst who has Manziel being the fourth quarterback taken behind Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida’s Blake Bortels and Fresno State’s Derek Carr. I’m not much of a gambler, but I’d lay odds against that one!