Quite a game, as my beloved Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl XLV, 31-25 over a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team. A few thoughts:
- Much will be made of Aaron Rodgers and how he has escaped the shadow of Brett Favre. To be honest, I thought he'd done that a long time ago. He's a different sort of quarterback than Favre and, for the way the Packers are built, probably a better one. What made Favre so fun to watch was the way he could turn a terrible situation into something magical, but throughout his long career he'd do things that would leave you shaking your head. To me, Rodgers is more of a Tom Brady type of quarterback, a guy who knows what needs to happen and then executes it. It's also a better long-term formula for success.
- When we look back at this year, what I think is most notable is how tough-minded the Packers were. They lost their most important defensive player, Charles Woodson, in the middle of the game yesterday, but they didn't blink. We never saw much of Pat Lee or Jarrett Bush in the regular defenses this season, but when they needed to be there, when it mattered most, they were able to play well enough to make things happen. Mike Tomlin, the excellent coach of the Steelers, referred repeatedly this past week to "the standard," which is the notion the Steelers have that no matter who is in the game, they will play up to the high standards of the Steelers organization. Yesterday, when the Packers absolutely had to have it, guys like Bush and Lee played at even a higher standard.
- I saw it pointed out by someone, probably on Facebook, that if the Packers hadn't been the beneficiaries of a questionable call or two in their first game against the Vikings, that they never would have been in the playoffs. I don't suspect that's true, because it assumes that the rest of the season would have played out exactly the same way it did. That's not how things work. But it does point out how little margin for error there is in football. I believe that if the Packers were to play the Steelers 10 times, they would probably split the series right down the middle. The Packers could have, maybe should have, swept the Bears this season, but the Bears could very easily have swept the Packers. Branch Rickey said that luck is the residue of design. The reason that the Packers were able to win is that they had a superior design this year. Next year, there's a pretty good chance that someone else will find a way to crack the code. There's reason to believe that the Packers may be even better than they were this year -- imagine what Jermichael Finley might do when he returns. But that might not be enough to get the Packers back to the Super Bowl. There's a reason why the NFC has sent 10 different teams to the Super Bowl in the last 10 years. It's damned difficult to get there.
- I'm not old enough to remember the Lombardi years, but in comparing this team and the great 1996 Packers squad, I think you'd have to give the edge to the 1996 team, which was absolutely loaded. But when it comes to the enjoyment of the journey, this season beats that one by rather a lot. There were several times when I thought the Packers were dead this year, especially after the debacle in Detroit, but somehow the Packers managed to fix the problems and get on a roll for the ages. I think a lot of us expected 1996 to happen, but this year was a bit of a surprise. But again, luck is the residue of design and good fortune comes to those who put themselves in a position to experience it. And when you combine the Super Bowl victory and the great run the Badgers put on this season, 2010-2011 goes down as the best year of football I've ever experienced. It may be the best one I'll ever experience, too. That's why you have to appreciate it for what it is.