I’m disappointed that ESPN is contributing to the meaningless “best ever” nonsense in its post-game coverage of Denver’s Super Bowl win.
First, let’s be honest and admit that there is no way to compare players and teams across multiple generations. Not only is each game unique, but it’s a completely different game now. Players have changed. They are bigger and faster — and more athletic — especially in positions that were historically brute strength positions. The style of play has changed. Many of these teams played when the passing game was primarily deep balls to wide receivers, and quarterbacks were required to hold the ball 3 plus seconds. The rules have changed as well. No longer can you pile drive quarterbacks, hit defenseless receivers, and laying more than a pinky on a receiver will likely draw a flag. The west coast offense, spreading the field with 5 or 6 receivers and quick release passing, read options and designed quarterback runs weren’t around in years past. These comparisons just aren’t realistic.
Second, similar to the above point, the situations these teams face pretty much defines their legacies. The Cowboys of the 70’s and the Niners of the 80’s had some pretty incredible defenses, but their offenses dominated other teams’ weaker defenses to the point that their own defenses got less recognition. Teams like the 85 Bears or this year’s Broncos, who go into a game and win it almost solely on the strength of its defensive performance is always going to get more recognition. It may not mean that the Niners’ or Cowboys defense was less stellar — it may just be that historical perspective is being colored by the filter of a specific situation.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, all this talk of comparison detracts from what should be talked about, and that is the stellar performance these players put on the field in the biggest moment — when it counted the most. The Steelers, Patriots and Panthers were the three most potent offenses in the NFL this season. When they got into post-season play, they performed their best. Yes, they were the #1 defense all season long, but they took it to another level in the post-season. And when playing the #2 defense in the league (and make no bones about it, Carolina’s defense is almost as good as Denver’s), shut their offense down to minimal production, this defense took the game over — scoring 7 points outright, and giving their offense the ball at the goal line for a gimme score to seal the game. Their pass rush was relentless. They literally battered Rothlisberger, Brady and Newton. Von Miller was a man possessed. Not only was he assaulting the quarterback every time he rushed the passer, I saw him run with a slot receiver 30 yards down the field and break up a pass play. That is insane talent. He is a gifted freak of nature. That’s what we should be talking about. Forget how he, or anyone on this team, compares to guys that played 30 years ago; what we saw Super Bowl Sunday was a performance that shines on its own stage, in its own right. It was a dominating performance that we haven’t seen for many years, and may not see again for many more years. These guys deserve to stand in the spotlight alone for what they did. Let’s not take the spotlight off their brilliant performance by bringing in teams from 30 years ago to share the stage with them. This is their moment. Let’s let them have it.