This post was written by E. Wolf in response to the overflowing San Francisco 49ers bandwagon. He is not on board. Also, you may remember him from this glorious diatribe on the Seattle Seahags.
Every year the pundits and talking heads gravitate to one or two preseason favorites, confidently declaring one or sometimes two preseason darlings to be the prohibitive favorite, almost as if playing the games were really a mere formality. Outside of the Denver Broncos and perhaps the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers seem to be the trendy preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl this year, before week 1 is even underway.
However, at least one panel seems to favor the Green Bay Packers as the preseason favorite, above even the Broncos (which, given the usual ineptitude of such scribes may not be the best harbinger for our Packers).
Similarly, the Niners are ranked two and three in the CBS and ESPN power rankings, respectively. Sadly, Brian Billick — a bona fide expert who is actually insightful and interesting — ranks them at one.
Concerning this week’s season-opening showdown between that team and our Green Bay Packers, experts and fans alike are acting as if the matter is a foregone conclusion.
ALL of the so-called experts on ESPN are picking the Niners straight up. On cbssports.com, three out of seven human “experts” (eight altogether if you include the comically named “Prediction Machine”) pick the Packers to upset them, although most are picking the Pack against the spread. With exception of Dave Richards, the author is forced to wonder how any of these experts keep their job as the season progresses, with most historically hovering around .500 and some even having losing records, but I digress.
On the radio program “Homer and Thunder,” Steve “Homer” Treu has already declared the outcome of this game on Sunday, guaranteeing a Niners victory. Above and beyond that, he, too, has anointed the 49ers the Super Bowl champions of the 2013 season.
If one were to believe this punditry, as well as online chatter on this site and many others, one might be tempted to believe the Niners to be invincible. Resistance would seem to be futile. As the Great Sun Tzu wrote, all battles are decided before they are fought, so the Packers might as well forego the sweat, tears, anguish and possibly bloodshed and simply forfeit the game. For that matter, so should any team not named the Broncos or Seahawks who stand in the way of the Niners’ bid for a sixth Lombardi Trophy.
History teaches us, however, that usually the preseason darling does not, in fact, win the Super Bowl — which is why this author does not like to see the Packers favored by Sports Illustrated experts!
The last such darling to do so was probably our Packers in 2010, but the injuries, close losses against Washington and Miami, and the debacle in Detroit rendered them a dark-horse in the running, as all these pundits had by then written them off. After all, that valiant, triumphant March on Dallas was predicated on the first Detroit road win in forever (in overtime) and the second coming of the Miracle at Meadowlands, the combined results of which only then gave the Pack control over their own destiny. The Giants in 2007 and 2011 were not preseason favorites, nor were the Ravens the preseason favorite last year. Nor does the author recall the Saints being the favorites in 2008, either.
History also teaches a very obvious but seemingly completely overlooked rule that has stood true for 40 years (and counting). Super Bowl losers do not fare well the year after. Rather, losing the big game has marked the beginning of the end for aspiring would-be world champions for a very long time.
Many of these teams do not even make the playoffs the following year. Those that do usually have less successful seasons overall. For some teams, like the Bengals and Raiders, such a loss is tantamount to a catastrophe, leading to years — nay decades — of mediocrity.
Decline, AND FALL!
Most remarkably, no team — NO TEAM — has lost the Super Bowl and then won it the year after since Don Shula’s Dolphins perfect season in 1973, after losing the big game in 1972. Indeed, since then, only one team has been able to recover from a Super Bowl loss to come back and win it with the same coach and quarterback. That would be Tom Landry’s Cowboys in 1978, who lost it in 1976.
Both of these feats happened a long time ago, in a different era of football. Quite happily, even Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been unable to overcome this.
This trend, or rule, going on for 40 years now does not mean it is impossible to overcome, just as a baseball team known as the Boston Red Sox and believed to be suffering from a near century old curse was eventually able to do something no team had ever done before: lose three before winning four straight in a playoff series. After all, the Packers 20-year winning streak against the Niners (20 years when one factors out the Jerry Rice fumble game that ushered in instant review because of the bad no-call) did not insure the Packers would keep beating the Niners in perpetuity.
And yet 40-year trends — or rather axioms — are instructive; they do point to something. In this case, it means that it is statistically improbable the 49ers will win the Super Bowl on the basis of that Super Bowl loss last year alone.
As abstract as that is, it thus means — despite the insistence of pundits and fans alike — the Niners (read it aloud with me) ARE NOT INVINCIBLE.
There are other more concrete reasons suggesting the Niners are far more vulnerable than would seem to be the case at initial glance, both in terms of their Super Bowl aspirations and in this season-opening showdown against our Packers.
Colin Kaepernick — Again, if one believed some of the punditry one would think the Niners — and not the Packers — had the best quarterback in the League. He is not. In this conference alone, he has not yet proven equal to Rodgers, or for that matter Drew Brees or Matt Ryan. Even Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford could be regarded as better quarterbacks, or at least have the potential to be on any given Sunday.
This seldom uttered truth is exacerbated by the very real propensity for first-year quarterbacks to regress in their second year (and later). Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Vince Young all come to mind. There are doubtless others.
The much-feared read option will be reduced to a gimmick and fad — Dom Capers and staff are reported to have spent a considerable portion of the offseason booking up on this offense. All the attention surrounding Robert Griffin III, along with last year’s painful season-ending playoff loss ensure defensive minds throughout the league will develop innovative ways to counter this novelty. Of course the nation — including, among others, Clay Matthews, as revealed in some of his recent commentary on the Mike and Mike show — saw how the Ravens addressed this. By hitting the quarterback every single time. Ironic is it not that ESPN and others foolishly anoint Robert Griffin (and by extension Colin Kaepernick) as the wave of the future when it is precisely this style of play that has compromised Griffin with significant injury? Silly rabbits.
Injuries to receiving corp (and others) — Michael Crabtree is out, as is Mario Manningham. As Monty pointed out recently, this second tier quarterback has a second-rate group of receivers. Despite assertions to the contrary, this is still a pass-dominated league. A second-rate receiving corp combined with a less-than-elite quarterback are a significant limitation that defies all the hype and pandemonium.
So what does it all mean? Aside from demonstrating that a lot of these experts and pundits might know far less than they would have us believe?
The 49ers will in all likelihood not win the Super Bowl. They will in all likelihood regress from last year.
More importantly for those of us who view the world through a decidedly green and gold tint — the Packers DO have a great shot of winning this Sunday, as well as prevailing against this team in any playoff rematch.
Aside from their vulnerabilities listed above, the Packers have the best quarterback in the league, a great, balanced corps of receivers, all of whom have explosive playmaking ability.
On defense, the Packers have a respectable young secondary that creates turnovers. As Clay Matthews leads the linebackers, Nick Perry, Datone Jones, as well as some of Ted Thompson’s other youngens on defense are at least showing some promise to rise to the challenge and play up to and above expectations, coached up like it is 2010 all over again. Most miraculously, the Packers starting tackle goes down, and somehow two young upstarts are showing, at least so far, that they can rise to the occasion.
Few teams can say this, but by good fortune the Packers can.
It must be stressed I am not saying our Packers will win this Sunday — just that they are more than capable of doing so precisely because the punditry lauding over the 49ers perceived invincibility is flawed, short-sighted, and shameless.
One last consideration — remember that 2010 game against the Patriots, in which so many thought Mike McCarthy and the Pack had no chance?
They almost won, with Matt Flynn. Of far greater importance, McCarthy was illuminated with rage and determination, bellowing in anger and defiance that “I don’t care what you think. We are nobody’s underdog.”
That passionate demonstration ignited something beautiful in our team, culminating in an ecstatic Super Bowl victory achieved entirely on the road, exacting some measure of revenge against the Eagles, Falcons, and most deliciously the Chicago Bears on Soldier Field.
So, even if our Packers do lose, it might just set off a chain reaction intensifying the will to win in this year’s quest for another Super Bowl Championship!
BELIEVE IN THE G! GO—PACK—GO!