Tip o’ the cap to the Green Bay Pack. String cheese, Sheboygan brats and Miller High Lifes (or Graf’s soda) all around.
But it’s not their play in the 2011 Super Bowl that has me in awe.
Besides a well matriculated opening drive that would’ve made Hank Stram proud, the best of both teams never made the trip to Texas.
Which raises the question: When is Roger Goodell gonna’ stop caving to the greed and ditch that idle second week? It’s clearly taking the edge off the player’s game. And while they’re at it, they can also ditch those darn Roman numerals (XLV). What little cache they might’ve had back in the 70s is long gone.
And it’s not how Green Bay barely broke a sweat in the playoffs that’s so impressive, either. Three road wins is usually laudable but not when all of your opponents are stiffs.
Eagles were exposed in Week 16 by a discombobulated Minnesota team in what may’ve been the biggest upset of the 2010 NFL season (L 14-24).
When Atlanta should’ve been tightening their grip on the # 1 seed and claiming Southern bragging rights over their arch-rival, they stumble at home against the Saints (L 14-17).
Then there were the Bears: embarrassed at home in late-season games against the Pats (7-36) and the Bay (3-10), they made the NFC title game after only one win over an 8-9 Seahawks team.
Playoffs foible Seattle and their upset of the defending champs left the door wide open for GB. It also denied fans the marquee match-up (Packers v Saints) that the Conference title game is intended to showcase (2010: Saints v Vikings).
What looked to be a well-stocked kitchen of contenders in the NFC last summer turned out to be a cupboard as bare as Mother Hubbard’s. The Vikes, Cowboys and Skins were all train wrecks, the Giants never caught fire and the Saints forgot they were the champs.
The road to the Stanley Cup, this was not.
No, what’s so impressive about the Packers ascent to the top is the speed by which they got there. Unlike the quarterback factories of college (ND / USC), it’s a rare feat in the pro game to transition so quickly from one accomplished QB to the next.
The Suits deserve three cheers (and nice bonus checks) for this one. With the Lombardi trophy back in Packerland and Minnesota in shambles, Packers’ GM Ted Thompson and the Bishop must think they’ve died and gone to heaven.
Green Bay’s smooth quarterback succession ranks up there with the all-time best.
Trouble with listing is leaving someone out. But that’s why there’s a comment section. Here then, are the most notable quarterback transitions in NFL history.
Arnie Herber and Cecil Isbell (Green Bay Packers)
It was still three yards and a cloud of dust in the 1930s. But these two gridiron stars had Don Hutson’s great hands to help them perfect the forward pass (titles: ‘36 / ‘39).
Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin (Cleveland / LA Rams)
When Jane Russell’s husband retires after 1952 season the Dutchman takes the Rams to one more championship game in 1955 (titles ’45 / ’51).
Don Meredith, Craig Morton and Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys)
Dandy Don helps put Big D on the NFL map (‘66 / ‘67) while Boys might’ve had first title in SB5 if Dan Reeves holds onto Craig’s final pass, intercepted by Colt Mike Curtis. A frustrated Landry tabs Roger for 1971 and the rest is Lone Star legend (titles ’72 / ’78).
Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien (Washington Redskins)
When the greatest pro coach is debated Joe never gets the nod. Maybe he should. Gibbs was simply masterful in the art of quarterback transition (titles ‘83 / ‘88 / ‘92).
Joe Montana and Steve Young (San Francisco 49ers)
If Gibbs was the Rembrandt of QB transitioning, Bill Walsh was Pablo Picasso. I don’t know why Aaron Rodgers was complaining Monday (bench-warming), Steve waited four years for his chance. Five titles between them (’82 / ‘85 / ’89 / ’90 / ’95).
Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Drew got his ring watching Tom from the sideline but he and Parcells already had Pats on the right path when they battled Brett & Reggie in ‘97 (titles ‘02 / ‘04 / ‘05).
Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall (Baltimore Colts)
Earl had a bad day in SB3 but took WAY too much flak (the dunce who set the betting-line wasn’t paying attention to the AFL). Before helping Miami to greatness (’73), Earl spelled John in SB5 and directed Colts game-winning FG drive (O’Brien) (titles ‘58 / ‘59 / ‘71).
Ken Anderson & Boomer Esiason (Cincinnati Bengels) (AFC titles ’82 / ’89).
Phil Simms & Jeff Hostetler (NY Giants): Short-lived, but fruitful (titles 87 / 91).
If you asked a cheesehead today, ‘Was it all worth it?’ (handing Favre his hat), they’d stop, stare in disbelief and then answer, ‘Well duh hey, of course it was!’
But in their heart of hearts, under all that purple scar tissue, you might find a different answer. Brett was bigger in Badgerland than Vince, Bart and Gilbert Brown combined.
To people like Ted Thompson the sporting game never involves the emotional peaks and valleys that serious fans enjoy or endure. For his kind, sport is strictly business, viewed through the calculating eye of an accountant who adds up wins and losses like so many numbers on a ledger.
Maybe that’s what makes a good GM. And maybe it’s how Ted was able to draft a 1st-round quarterback in 2005, showing Brett Favre the door…to Green Bay’s future.
Now that the strategy is validated and Brett’s ghost has been exorcised, Ted can bring him back into the fold and celebrate his retirement with ceremony. It’s good business.
And for those smug Packer-backers still bitter over Brett going purple: if the Board of Directors wants to forgive, like all good company men (and women), you best forgive.
Keys to Sport
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.