Welcome to the new Wednesday column here at Black And Teal entitled “Chasing The Lombardi”. The opening article will be about what it takes to get to the Super Bowl and contend for the ultimate prize in the NFL, The Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Lombardi Trophy is arguably the most prized possession in sports today. If you win, you’re a legend. If you never make it, your fans wear paper bags over their heads due to their embarrassment to be seen at the game. These are the extremes. What we need to know is how to get there. Is there a secret formula and can it be found underneath Gillette Stadium (Patriots)? Do we just copy past winners?
In the world of the NFL, every decision made for every franchise at any time of the year is (hopefully) made with one singular goal in the hearts and minds of everyone involved in that franchise: sacking Peyton Manning. Ok, maybe that’s the Jaguars goal every year, but the one goal that every team claims at the dawn of the year is to bring the Lombardi Trophy to their hometown. They want the glory, the memories, the cheers….the pride.
To bring the Lombardi Trophy home will always define an era for that team. That season presents the winners an etching in the stone of NFL history. Steve Sabol of NFL Films would speak on your team for years. Your team would more than likely define the next few drafts for a team that resides in the bottom ranks of the league. You and your team become inspiration. In order to look at the future, we must first examine the past:
2008–Remember how the Giants beat the Patriots? With a fierce pass-rush. This led to Jaguars fans everywhere screaming for first-round DE’s. Have we learned that it is talent and not draft position?
2009–Remember how the Steelers beat the Cardinals? The 3-4 defense with crazy blitz schemes and a special (to say the least), playmaking safety. This is still at the top of the needs list for our beloved Jaguars, unfortunately.
2010–Remember how the Saints beat the Colts? With a 3-4 defense, allowing for crazy blitz schemes. The Steelers had already made the 3-4 the new rave and with the Saints beating the “Great Un-Beatable Peyton Manning” and his Colts, well this just meant the 3-4 was a must-have.
At this point, the 3-4 was almost a craving for us. Had we forgotten how well the Giants used the 4-3 defense?
2011–Remember how the Packers beat the Steelers? More 3-4. In fact, they had just switched. The signature the Pack put on it was a monster pass-rusher and great secondary. (Ideally you’d want a scary, discipline, and effective force at every position)
With no secondary and a lone pass-rusher we find ourselves in trouble. Let’s not forget though, the crux of a 4-3 is stopping the run. Our young DT tandem is not easy to move. This is a fast-developing defensive line. Do not give up hope, yet.
Now, what did every team in these Super Bowls have in common? A quarterback that doesn’t understand defeat.
Eli Manning–it’s debatable for the regular season but can you really tell me that during the playoffs that year that Eli was mentally breakable? His performance was incredible! No question
Tom Brady–One of the best of all-time
Ben Roethlisberger–He has one of the best win percentages of any QB right now. The defense helps, but he’s still special.
Kurt Warner–Had a streak of a few years late in his career where he placed himself in legit MVP discussion. Credit to WR Larry Fitzgerald but Warner had amazing timing and a release faster than Dale Earnhardt JR. ( go ahead, comment on that)
Drew Brees–If not top-3 QB, he is on next tier and truly had a special season that year.
Peyton Manning–see Tom Brady.
Aaron Rodgers– Might be better than Favre. Do you remember that guy?
A truly special quarterback can give you a chance to overcome anything in football. However, a truly special draft class will overcome most obstacles. Draft Baby! Draft!
Or collect talent by whatever means you possess. The NFL Draft is just the financially cheaper route. The draft also allows a team the opportunity to build itself as opposed to getting players from other systems that may or may not transition well. If a player only knows your team as his NFL home, there is a better chance that he will cherish it more and fight harder.
Intangibles aside, when you draft players, you can do things like find Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers when they are young. If you were to buy players from free agency when they are 28 years old, you risk overpaying for only a few good years. This type of thinking is why the Washington Redskins find themselves in a whole every year. In 2011, it seems they have begun to climb out.
Now, I am not here to say that by looking at teams winning the Super Bowl, we should take one characteristic where they stood out and assume we get to the Super Bowl. We don’t sell out for one simple aspect. No. Many areas of improvement lead to a Super Bowl appearance and sometimes some good, old-fashioned good luck.A solid running game, a WR corps that is reliable and an offensive line that can protect enough for the QB to get rid of the ball are some good ingredients. When the team gets elite at any aspect,however, they have an identity. That identity leaves a mark upon the game and every front office that wants to get their team to the Super Bowl pays an incredible amount of attention to what got a team there. When the Giants won, everyone was crazy about getting a DE in the first round. “We can’t find a Tom Brady-type in this draft so we have to find a way to stop Brady!” they would say. It’s a great line of thought and one that proved true as Brady was on his back for at least a third of the game. However, I want everyone to remember something that is oft-forgotten: Brady did lead a game-winning drive at the end of the Super Bowl. The defense could not mirror Brady and the offense’s effort and a crazy play followed by a lobbed up touchdown pass later and the Giants are hoisting a Lombardi Trophy and somewhere Steve Young is wondering why no one is getting the Peyton Manning Monkey off of Eli’s back. Eli no longer is labeled Peytons Little Brother, he is labeled MVP of Super Bowl 42.
Quarterback and a strong defense will always be staples of how to get to the Super Bowl.
So, here is what we have learned:
To get to the Super Bowl, you obviously need the most amount of talent spread across your team as possible. The main areas of focus will be :
QB–on a good day, there is a 90% chance you can’t win without one
Protect QB–If you have Tom Brady and the Giants keep him on the ground, you lose.
Pass Rush–You might play a great QB in the Super Bowl. You have to stop him.
Be Elite in Your Identity–You need a phase of the game that is your identity. NFL coaches call this the “bread and butter’. If you are above average in every facet but lack greatness in any one facet, then you will contend. Merely contending is not enough. You have to dominate to get to the Super Bowl.
Bringing the Lombardi home can be defined in the football world as–Greatness.If you win a Super Bowl, you get the Lombardi. If you don’t, then you are left behind. You have to catch the leaders of the NFL in both Talent Acquisition and Super Bowl rings. Untik you do, you are left “Chasing” the Lombardi.