Today is the day. And few people care what I think, but here are some of my musings on the themes heading into tonight's game anyway.
Pete Carroll: As a Patriots fan, I shared the prevailing wisdom in the late 90s, when Carroll coached New England, that Pete Carroll just wasn't the right guy for the job. We tend to want to hear less about being "jacked and pumped" and more about winning. That said, seeing how Carroll turned teams around after his departure from Foxboro -- first with USC, now with the Seahawks -- seems to be a pretty scathing indictment of Bobby Grier (Patriots GM during the Carroll years) and what a lousy job he did putting together a roster. Don't get me wrong, I'd still take Bill Belichick and his three Super Bowl rings any day over Carroll and his possible one. Carroll's primarily a defensive guy and while he can definitely call a great defensive game, I still don't have complete confidence in his ability to game-plan on offense. But Pete Carroll is a good guy (if a little crunchy). Sometimes I get pissed when a former Boston/New England sports figure goes somewhere else and thrives. This is not one of those times.
Richard Sherman: I feel ya, buddy, and here's why: once, when I played in a softball league, I hit the game-tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the last inning off of a pitcher who was constantly hazing me after a pretty embarrassing swing-and-miss earlier in the game -- pretty much the crowing athletic achievement of my life. And when we broke the tie and secured a walk-off win a couple of batters later, I too wanted to go find a microphone and yell into it "I'M THE BEST CLUTCH HITTER IN THE GAME! WHEN YOU TRY ME WITH A SORRY PITCHER LIKE [whatever that guy's name was], THAT'S THE RESULT YOU GONNA GET."
Still, I didn't, partially because it was beer-league softball and there were no microphones around, but also because it's just not super-classy. You seem like a pretty bright guy, your rant was somewhat entertaining, and there are plenty of NFL guys who have done way worse things than you (Aaron Hernandez, Rae Carruth). Still, sometimes it's better to leave those comments in your internal monologue.
Offense vs. defense: Sometimes a record-breaking offense makes it to the Super Bowl, faces a very good defense and gets buzzsawed (see Super Bowls XVIII, XXXVI, XLII). Denver has a record-setting offense. Seattle has a very good defense. We'll see.
Peyton Manning: Personally, I hate him (not in a personal way, I'm sure he's a good guy) because he's played his whole career for two teams I despise (Colts and Broncos). The guy's legacy is so polarizing, with his boosters calling him the greatest QB of all and his detractors calling him a choker.
Here's what I think:
Peyton Manning is unquestionably a Hall-of-Famer.
Peyton Manning is unquestionably a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Peyton Manning is not as good a playoff quarterback as he is a regular-season quarterback.
That doesn't mean he hasn't had great playoff games, it just means that, taking his overall body of work into account, he hasn't historically been as good in the playoffs. When you compare his regular-season stats and won-loss record (65.5 completion percentage; 7.69 average yards per attempt; 2.24 TD-to-interception ratio; sacked once every 32.2 pass attempts; .696 winning percentage) with that of the playoffs (64.0 completion percentage; 7.51 average yards per attempt; 1.64 TD-to-interception ration; sacked once every 31 passing attempts; .500 winning percentage), I don't see how you can dispute this. It doesn't mean he's not a championship quarterback; he's is. He's won a Super Bowl. But you can win a Super Bowl and still not be as good a playoff QB as regular season QB. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive statements.
(By the way, for all you Peyton Manning fans who screamed at me, "Peyton Manning didn't give up the 73-yard bomb in the final minute against the Ravens to send the game to OT." you're right. But the flip side to that is, the Broncos defense didn't throw the interception in OT that handed Baltimore the win.)
Nevertheless, here's were it all ties up neatly in a bow. Imagine tonight, that Denver, down 4 with a minute to play, gets the ball back. Peyton Manning's record-setting offense vs. Pete Caroll's very good defense, with Manning's brother Eli watching from the press box of his home stadium; 4th down, no timeouts left. Peyton heaves the ball into the end zone, trying to drop the ball just over Richard Sherman's head and into the arms of Welker or Thomas (either one) or Decker, with the chance to become the first QB ever to win a Super Bowl for two different franchises, and solidify his role as one of the greatest QBs of all-time, if not the greatest.
My heart hopes Sherman will tip the ball away at the last second. But my head fears otherwise.
Broncos 29, Seahawks 26.