I’m disappointed that my Jets lost, of course, but I was proud of the way they fought back from a seemingly impossible deficit. I was absolutely convinced that if they had gotten the ball back with two minutes to go, they would have marched down and scored the winning touchdown. I give the Steelers credit for throwing a couple of gutsy passes at the end rather than play it safe. That’s what champions do. Good luck to them in the Super Bowl, but I’m going to be an honorary Cheesehead for the next two weeks.
A few comments on the quarterbacks:
Aaron Rodgers of the Packers has thrust himself into the category of elite quarterbacks. Many NFL fans don’t remember that it was a stroke of luck that made Rodgers a Packer. Rodgers, star quarterback at the University of California, was thought to be a possible #1 draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers, which held the first pick in 2005. Instead, the 49ers selected Alex Smith, whose pro career could be generously described as “mediocre.” (Think they’d like to have that decision back?) Meanwhile, in what became the top story of that year’s draft, Rodgers fell precipitously to the 24th pick, where Green Bay selected him as the eventual successor to Brett Favre. Further proof that the NFL draft is often a crap shoot.
Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers has a chance to win his third Super Bowl, which would be as many as Tom Brady. In his first Super Bowl season, Roethlisberger acted more as curator for the Steeler offense – keep handing off to the running backs, make some safe passes, don’t do anything stupid. Now his guts, mobility and strong arm are major factors in Pittsburgh’s success. Roethlisberger’s size and mobility were key factors in the Jets’ inability to stop the Steeler offense in the first half. If the Jets had his receivers covered, he would scramble for first-down yardage; if the Jet pass rushers got their hands on him, he would shake them off.
Can we stop badmouthing Mark Sanchez of the Jets? The criticisms I keep hearing about him are: his inconsistent accuracy, which is true, but also his ineffectiveness if the Jets cannot run the ball and his inability to bring the team back from big deficits. In fact, both were disproven today. The Jets didn’t start moving the ball successfully today until they scrapped their run-first philosophy and started flinging the ball, and if they’d had another possession, I think they would have completed the largest rally in NFL playoff history. Sanchez may never be Brady or Manning, but he’s plenty good enough to win a Super Bowl.
While we’re at it, can we stop talking about Jay Cutler of the Bears as if he’s a big-time quarterback? His reputation took a major hit today with his second-half sidelining with a knee injury that wasn’t severe enough to keep him from standing up. Since I have never been anything close to a professional athlete, I’m reluctant to question a player’s heart, but many others did, like the radio color commentator Randy Cross, who pointed out that the only way Aaron Rodgers would have let himself be pulled from the biggest game of his career would have been if he had a limb falling off. It’s notable that in the Steelers-Jets game, both Roethlisberger and Sanchez left the field with injuries that looked severe, yet neither missed a play. Meanwhile, Yahoo! reported that several NFL players were tweeting in the second half about Cutler’s heart. (Example: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted, “All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee... I played the whole season on one...”)
Here’s hoping the Steelers and Packers give us a great game in two weeks. And thanks to Rex Ryan and his staff for giving me an exciting season.