By Jason Keidel
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If it’s hard to wrap your head around a final game framing Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, coached by the gaseous Harbaugh brothers, you’re not alone. To New Yorkers, this is a most soporific Super Bowl between dots on each coast. For the first time in forever, we don’t have the Giants (or my beloved black & gold) to root for or the Patriots to root against.
Most of us know that last Sunday was the last real football affair, one the purists can parse solely on gridiron merits. The playoff party that hosted ten people now balloons to 30, festooned by the trendy sort who spend all game on their cell phones and pause only for commercials and Beyonce. They will root for the team in red or purple because they are wearing red or purple.
But if you need deeper, deductive resonance in the 47th Super Bowl, look at quarterback and coach. Perhaps the only debate more nauseating than the loop over elite quarterbacks is the eternal duel between old school and new school — the ancient euphemism between old and cool. The Kool Kids will say we’re on the lip of history, led by a long-limbed QB with a scroll of a tattoos burned into his bicep.
Have we seen a changing of the guard? We’re so used to the routine of the dominant quarterback — from the Manning brothers to Tom Brady to Big Ben to Drew Brees to Aaron Rodgers — making his annual appearance in the Super Bowl, that this iteration of the nation’s biggest game feels a bit awkward. Between the haughty Harbaughs and Kaepernick, the RoboCop of a quarterback with spellbinding talent, some say we have seen a significant shift in the NFL’s playbook.
But maybe that’s a premature postmortem. It’s too early to declare an altered archetype, as three of the final four quarterbacks (and nine of the 12 total playoff QBs) were classic pocket passers. Only Kaepernick, with his cheetah’s stride and cannon arm, flanked by a brutish line and a violent defense, looks anything like a revolution.
Sure, we were charmed by mobile passers, and drawn to Russell Wilson’s maturity and RG3’s plurality. But we need a larger sample size to see if Kaepernick is indeed the LeBron James of the NFL — a point guard in a power forward’s body. There’s no doubt that next year will present the 49ers’ quarterback with puzzling packages and real-world violence. Up to now, he’s run a red carpet through secondaries on his way to the Super Bowl. Against Green Bay, 174 of his 181 rushing yards came before contact. That just won’t happen next season.
With each early winter exit, Peyton Manning and Brady are looking a little brittle, slow and old. The magic they summoned for so long is increasingly elusive. Like any aging legends, we see the slow decay in timing and talent, even if they’re still superlative and as hungry as rookies. The two-headed quarterback beast that has dominated the NFL for a decade looked prehistoric compared to Kaepernick. But Flacco is hardly Mike Vick, and he loves to keep his large frame planted between the hash marks.
It says here that the pocket passer won’t go the way of the pterodactyl. Even players as gritty and gifted as Kaepernick, Wilson, and Robert Griffin III will learn the meat-hook realities of sprinting past the line of scrimmage with any frequency. It also says here that 15 years from now, Andrew Luck will be the last man standing, with his penmanship all over the record books. And with a little face lift around them, it’s quite probable that Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Rodgers will make more rounds with the Lombardi. And while two younger men have the headsets cupped around their caps, don’t dump the symbolic dirt over Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick just yet.
So brace for the deluge of anecdotes and non-sequiturs surrounding the Harbaughs, the football family du jour until Eli or Peyton return to the big dance. Get read to jam the mute button and hope that the blather about tooth fairies, first dates boxers or briefs is brief. Sadly, for most of us, the only way to wait for this game is to wager on this game.
On a scale of 1-10 — as compared to other Super Bowls — how excited are you for the big game next Sunday? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…