Feb 11, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Many things get lost in the joyful aftermath of a Super Bowl victory. Or, to put it more accurately, a few themes take hold and do not let go.
So it was when the Green Bay Packers proved six points better than the Pittsburgh Steelers in the XLV edition in Arlington. As usual, the tale of the winning QB trumps all with Aaron Rodgers, and a whole lot of “Lombardi Trophy goes home” and “Title back in Titletown” headlines.
Okay, fine, but the real joy and satisfaction of a Super Bowl victory is the multitude of stories found within the winning side, of players coaches and even executives who find career fulfillment, or even redemption, on the sports’ most grandiose stage.
We’ll get the Rodgers tale out of the way first, for it has multiple threads. First, Aaron himself had to succeed a near-deity, some guy named Brett. That’s harrowing enough, as anyone who followed Unitas, Montana, Marino, or Elway could tell you.
The circumstances – retirement press conference, then drawn-out retraction months in the making – made it worse, and drew in two men, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, who stood by Rodgers while undergoing severe public floggings.
From the talk-show loudmouths to the Web sites dedicated to firing Thompson and/or McCarthy, it got divisive and downright mean in the otherwise pleasant (and passionate) Packer fan base. But then that Brett guy ended up in Minnesota purple, and Rodgers, well, you know here he is now.
Thompson, never one for told-you-so feelings, is supremely vindicated. His careful, steady building of the Packer roster emphasized long-term results and not short-term headlines. And it allowed Green Bay to weather all kinds of injuries, right through the Super Bowl, when quality vets Charles Woodson and Donald Driver went to the sidelines.
They were great tales, too. Woodson lost a Super Bowl in Oakland and saw another chance (arguably) robbed from him when he sacked Tom Brady late in that snowy playoff game in Foxboro. Yes, the Tuck Rule incident.
Nearly a decade later, Woodson led the Pack on the field and in the locker room, and no one cherished that trophy more when they beat the Steelers, even with an arm in a sling.
Meanwhile, Driver, Green Bay’s all-time leading receiver (no mean feat, given the likes of Don Hutson, Sterling Sharpe and Antonio Freeman), served as another guiding hand, helping Green Bay through the Favre-Rodgers transition and accepting Aaron early. Another long-time Packer stalwart, Chad Clifton, anchored the offensive line and is finally getting a ring.
Upstate New York has a reason to feel proud. Just as Dorsey Levens, proud Nottingham High School graduate, led Green Bay’s running attack in its last championship run, James Starks, he of Niagara Falls and the University at Buffalo, did the same here, filling a void after numerous Packer backs got sidelined.
Also, how great was it that the Matthews clan finally has an NFL championship got to celebrate, thanks to big-play Clay at linebacker?
Clay’s grandfather toiled in the NFL without a title. His father logged nearly two decades at linebacker, mostly in Cleveland, without a title. His uncle Bruce went to the Hall of Fame as a dominant lineman, but also never won a title. That drought is over.
The coaches also have reason to be proud. There’s linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who played in a Super Bowl for the Steelers that lost to the Dallas Cowboys 15 years ago, now beating the Steelers in the Cowboys’ home stadium.
Dom Capers is a terrific story, too. Green Bay’s defensive coordinator toured seven colleges and eight different NFL franchises (plus one USFL stop) in his 38-year coaching odyssey, including the Steelers, but had never won it all until now. Will anyone enjoy the ring more?
And leading it all was McCarthy, the son of Pittsburgh who reached his professional summit at the expense of the team he grew up idolizing. He isn’t flashy or emotional, calmly stalking the sidelines with that laminated placard of plays.
Yet it was McCarthy’s steady, calm guidance that steered Green Bay through that stormy Favre-to-Rogers transition, and also kept cool when the Pack was 8-6 this season, and one defeat from elimination.
That loss never happened. New York’s Giants, plus Chicago (twice), Philadelphia, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, all had their chances to keep the title from Titletown. None of them succeeded. So take a Lambeau leap, Packer fans. Your guys in green and gold outlasted them all.