Posts Tagged ‘Super Bowl’

Who’s Your Man?

Tomorrow’s AFC Championship game has two high profile quarterbacks – New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.  When it comes to a title game, who would you rather have on your team?

 Big Ben and Mark Sanchez are light years apart in public image.  Roethlisberger’s off the field problems – careless motorcycle driving, two different accusations of sexual assault and a possible drinking problem – have given him a bad boy image.  His QB performance this season has certainly helped repair that image somewhat, but if he doesn’t take the Steelers to the Super Bowl, we have to wonder if fans will once again be reminded of his misdeeds.

Sanchez, on the other hand, has somewhat of a golden boy image.  His wholesome looks, combined with his Southern California roots, make him the perfect candidate for a Hollister ad campaign.  Not only can he pull off a sun-kissed, fun loving surfer image, but he also embraces his refined, cultural side as well.  This past summer, he appeared at the Tony Awards and introduced a song from a Broadway musical, while admitting that he is a big fan of theatre and the arts since moving to New York.  Talk about a multi-faceted personality!

Both Roethlisberger and Sanchez were first round draft picks.  Sanchez was the 5th overall pick in 2009.  When drafted, he had only 16 starts under his belt as a USC Trojan.  He started only one season, but led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and Rose Bowl Championship.  In his first year with the Jets, he took his team to the playoffs, but ultimately lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game.  He became the 4th rookie QB in NFL history to win his first playoff game and the 2nd to win two playoff games in his rookie year.

Despite only 2 years in the NFL, Sanchez exudes the confidence of a much more experienced player.  Perhaps his poise and leadership skills can be traced to his childhood.  Sanchez’s father – a former Army Sergeant and fire department captain – believed in teaching his son how to think quickly and to be a leader.  As a child, Sanchez mastered these skills by doing drills such as dribbling a basketball without looking – while reciting multiplication tables.  Sanchez’s father would have Mark stay after practices and do these drills in order to learn how to concentrate and think fast in a pressure situation – two skills that are serving him well as the NY Jets QB.

Roethlisberger was the 11th pick in the 2004 draft.   When drafted, he had 3 years of experience playing at Miami University of Ohio.  He broke every major record at the university and dominated the Mid-American Conference as well.  Since he started playing for the Steelers in 2004, Big Ben has compiled an impressive resume, too numerous to list.  Some of his major accomplishments include 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowl Selection in 2007, and oh, by the way, TWO Super Bowl Championships!  Big Ben was the youngest starting QB to ever win a Super Bowl.

Sanchez may have had an upbringing that helped him develop leadership and quick thinking skills.  But Roethlisberger clearly has the advantage when it comes to playoff experience, where those types of skills are truly tested.  He has a 9-2 playoff record, compared to Sanchez’s 4-1 playoff record.  Another advantage Big Ben has is his 6’5” 240 pound frame that makes him a real challenge for defenders to bring down. 

So, which QB would you want on your team tomorrow?  If we were only choosing based on likeability, Mark Sanchez – the California surfer with a love for Broadway – wins hands down.  But if we want to have the best chance of winning the game, Big Ben is our man.   His size, combined with his playoff experience, arm strength and mobility, make him our choice for this fabulous AFC Championship game.

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Risk Taker or Play Maker? Which Jay Cutler Will Show Up?

As the Chicago Bears head into Sunday’s NFC Conference Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, the question on many fan’s minds is which Jay Cutler will show up.  Cutler is a complex character both on and off the field.  On the field, he has moments of sheer genius, coupled with moments of utter idiocy.  Off the field, he is seen by some as aloof, while others view him as something of a wise-guy jerk.  One thing is for certain, Jay Cutler will be key to the Chicago Bears’ destiny this weekend.  Love him or hate him, he is the Bears’ quarterback who will try to propel his team into the Super Bowl.   Here’s our view of the complicated Cutler.

Last week against the Seahawks, Cutler played in his first post-season game and had an outstanding day.  In that 35-24 victory he threw two TDs, ran for two TDs, had no interceptions and earned a respectable 111.3 QB rating.  But the Seahawks defense failed to effectively pressure Cutler for most of that game.  Their coverage seemed to break down, leaving wide receivers wide open.  Cutler made the throws he needed to and the Seahawks paid for their miscues.  But can Cutler expect the Packers’ defense to play that poorly?  He shouldn’t count on it.  The Packers’ defense has a blitzing, aggressive style that could expose Cutler’s tendency for making poor decisions that lead to turnovers.

Packers’ defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, has had to devise schemes in the past to deal with Cutler.  Capers had to defend against the Chicago QB 4 times and was quite successful, with the Packers winning 3 of the matchups.  The Packers’ defense held Cutler to a 56% completion rate and only 4 TDs.  In those 4 games, Cutler threw 9 interceptions and his QB rating was a pitiful 57.49.

 Green Bay likes to employ nickel and dime defensive sets – meaning using either 5 or 6 defensive backs.  Cutler has struggled against this scheme in the past and Capers will likely use this strategy to rattle Cutler into making some of his infamous bad throws into tight coverage. 

So which Cutler will show up for Sunday’s pivotal game?  Will it be the risk taking Jay Cutler who has never led his team to a winning season since his high school days?   Or will it be the effective playmaker we saw last week against Seattle?   No one denies his arm strength and his ability to make big plays as a gunslinger-style QB.  But given his record INTs last season (26) and his tendency to take risks when pressed, he is an unpredictable factor in this week’s game.  An impulsive, risk-taking QB with a brooding personality in an NFC Championship game?  Sounds pretty irresistible to me!

Falling Star…Is the Season Over for the Dallas Cowboys?

Last Sunday, NY Giants linebacker Michael Boley sacked Dallas Cowboy QB Tony Romo early in the second quarter, driving his left shoulder into the ground.  Romo suffered a broken left clavicle and it appears he will be out for at least 8 weeks, if not the entire season.  For a team that was 1-4 before last week’s game, the injury to Romo is devastating and will make it nearly impossible for the Cowboys to salvage this season.

So what happened to America’s Team?  The Cowboys entered this season as a Super Bowl favorite.  Most sports analysts affirm that the Cowboys have the most talented roster in the NFL, yet their performance has been abysmal. 

The Cowboys have played sloppy, undisciplined football these past few weeks.  Penalties, mistakes and an apparent lack of enthusiasm seem to characterize this team.  Why does a team that has appeared in 8 Super Bowls, more than any other team in the NFL, seem to be so unmotivated? 

Perhaps the problem lies at the top.  Team owner Jerry Jones perceives himself as a football expert and his enormous ego leaves no room for a coach who can outshine him.  Jones is a “hands on” owner and Head Coach Wade Phillips is just the kind of weak pawn Jones can use in his life size game of chess.    

A headstrong, opinionated coach takes the spotlight and control away from Jerry Jones and, in the end, it really does seem to be all about him.  In the 1990s, Jimmy Johnson coached the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories and was responsible for some of the best draft picks and trades in NFL history.  Johnson left the Cowboys after he and Jones simply could not work together, due in large part to Jones’ insistence on so much control in the day to day coaching aspects of the organization.

One thing is for certain, the Cowboys are now facing a much more difficult challenge since Romo’s injury.  With the trade deadline passed, Dallas must rely on backup QB Jon Kitna to lead the offense.  Is it just me, or is it absolutely shocking that the 38 year old Kitna is the backup QB on a team as prestigious as the Cowboys?! 

Kitna came into the Giants game last Sunday and seemed totally unprepared and overwhelmed.  Isn’t it his JOB to be ready to go into the game at a moment’s notice? A quality, heads-up coach would not have a QB the caliber of Kitna as their backup.  Sorry, but there is simply no excuse for it!

Today the Cowboys face the 3-4 Jacksonville Jaguars at home.  The Jaguars defense has been struggling, especially against the rush.  But the Cowboys haven’t had an effective rushing game this season, so in all likelihood, the Jags will be able to control this part of the game.  This means Kitna will be forced to throw the ball to his very capable receivers.  The problem is Kitna’s tendency to drop back deep to pass.  Expect the Jaguars to aggressively pass rush and hit Kitna hard and often to rattle the backup and give the Jags a victory.

It seems unlikely that the 1-5 Cowboys can make the playoffs.  So at this point, they need to look to next season and the future of the organization.  Will Jerry Jones be able to put his ego aside and hire a new coach capable of instilling discipline and motivation to this very talented roster?  Or will his thirst for fame make it impossible for him to give up control of the team to someone who is more knowledgeable about the game? 

This year’s Super Bowl will be held at Jones’ new, beloved Cowboys Stadium.  Jerry Jones will be relegated to spectator, rather than participant, despite all the predictions his team would be playing for the championship.  This humiliation alone may be enough to force Jones to hire a more capable coach who can do the things necessary to start winning. 

The injury to Romo cannot be used as an excuse the rest of this season for poor performance by the Cowboys.  That was happening long before the loss of Romo.  Instead, the Cowboys need to use the injury as a wakeup call and make the organizational changes that will allow this gifted roster to continue the winning tradition.  It is time for Jones to bring the Cowboys back to their “America’s Team” status.

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