This super bowl seems to be a little odd. There seems to be, in some ways, a lack of excitement. Perhaps it’s because the past few years were somewhat legacy defining. The Patriots, beating the Falcons while coming from behind added to the greatness of the Belechick/Brady dynasty, Mahomes winning his first felt like the passing of the torch and the Buccaneers winning helped define a blueprint against Mahomes and further cement Tom Brady’s place in history.
This time around there are some relatively fresh faces. Joe Burrow and Ja’marr Chase are the upstarts who are set on disrupting the league. There are two young, brilliant coaches in Zac Taylor and Sean McVay competing for their first Super Bowl. Matthew Stafford is appearing in his first superbowl after spending years in the football purgatory that is the Detroit Lions.
Those who seem to be driving interest in Super Bowl 56 are those who feel as though the Bengals are the most compelling story line. I’ve always been partial to the helmet and am not one to call out the bandwagon (cause who cares really)? However I will say there’s a lot more people yelling “Who Dey” then I can remember.
So the case for the Bengals is simple. They are a perceived underdog. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. Firstly, before Joe Burrow got hurt last season he looked very good. Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon were always effective when healthy and Ja’Marr Chase was an early draft pick who was expected to be NFL ready from the jump. The defense was considered to be much improved and the only issue was the offensive line. The division featured a shell of Ben Roethlisberger leading the Steelers, an injured Baker Mayfield leading the dysfunctional Browns and the Ravens who looked more like a wartime ICU than a football locker room. They’re only true weakness has been their offensive line. Perhaps this is why the bulk of Cincinnati wins have come by three points or less. Either way, Cincy’s success was not entirely surprising to me.
So people are out in droves cheering for the perceived underdogs. This storyline kind of bores me. Perhaps it’s because it’s flawes to begin with. However, it’s more than that. As afan we should ALL want the Rams to win. They’re showing that playing for now is what matters. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown weary of 3 year plans and broken promises. The Rams have been “all-in” for a while. They added Von Miller to an already terrifying defensive line. They added Odell Beckham Jr. this season and they brought along Jalen Ramsey in a previous season and have managed to keep him. Stafford himself was “bought” in a trade for Jarred Goff who could never really deliver the height of the McVay offense. So the hell with draft picks and the future. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, the Rams are looking to win now and that’s what ALL fans should want.
Then there’s the LA fans. One of the greatest criticisms I’ve heard/seen over the last two weeks is that there aren’t any LA Ram fans. The team moved from LA, to St.Louis and then back to Los Angeles. The city has seen the Raiders come and go and prior to the Chargers return from San Diego, the Super Chargers represented yet another team that let it’s tenure in tinseltown expire. When you combine that with the idea that LA is a city built by transplants, it’s no doubt that the fandom may be new. However, this doesn’t make it less legitimate. Additionally, there is nothing that injects fandom like success. We tend to think fanbases need to suffer. However, as time goes on I’m starting to believe it’s incumbent on ownership to earn fandom. I grew up in Montreal during the frenzy that was the 1993 Stanley Cup win. I can say firsthand that a generation of kids grew up as lifetime diehards as the beloved Canadiens disposed of the great Wayne Gretzky. Winning today would do a lot to instill fandom in what has been traditionally a transitional fanbase.
However, THE story for me is Matthew Stafford. Yes, I’m an admitted Georgia Bulldogs fan (Go Dawgs! Go 2022 National Champs!). It is hard to root against Matthew Stafford. The dude has been great and had his career wasted in Detroit by a truly terrible franchise. I’ve been of the opinion Matthew Stafford has been on his way to Canton for some time. It’s becoming a less and less shocking opinion but when you look at his stats it’s surprising that it took so long for him to get his dues. Winning a Superbowl would go a long way to cement that campaign. His window is shrinking and who knows what the Rams will look like in a season or two. I will grant the Joe Burrow and the Bengals are exciting. Burrow’s career is just starting and if he is as great as I think he is, we should expect him to get back here yet this may be one of, if not the final opportunity for Matthew Stafford.
But…I did lose that Game to Terry Tam. So, all my money’s on Cincinnati, making this the most conflicted I’ve ever been on a Super Bowl Sunday.