Of the big four professional sports in the United States, the NFL is the only one without a team located outside of the country. Yet when the end of the NFL season arrives, tens of millions of people from all over the world tune in to watch the most illustrious championship in American sports.
The Super Bowl needs no introduction to its significance. Businesses of all kinds spend millions of dollars to obtain 30 seconds of ad time during a timeout. The half-time show itself is a multi-million dollar production. Franchises in major cities now invest billions of dollars into new stadiums with the hopes of eventually hosting the game in the future.
When you really sit down and think about it, the actual game that lies between everything else can get lost in the picture. When it comes to fanbases whose teams are rarely exposed to such an extravaganza, the appeal can naturally fade away over time.
This past week marked the 30th anniversary of Super Bowl XXIII. On January 22, 1989, the Cincinnati Bengals maintained a 13-6 lead over the San Francisco 49ers entering the fourth quarter, a lead they could not hold. Quarterback Joe Montana threw two touchdown passes in the final period and went on to secure his fourth Super Bowl ring, solidifying the 49ers as the team of the decade.
Three decades later, the quarterback who many proclaimed to have passed Montana in the all-time rankings is on the verge of claiming his sixth Super Bowl ring. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his head coach Bill Belichick have ruled the NFL for nearly 20 years. This upcoming Sunday will be the duo’s ninth Super Bowl, which is a greater number than any other team can boast. Just when we thought the new blood of the AFC was going to put a stop to the dynasty in New England, they reminded us, once more, to never count them out.
But they’re not invulnerable. We saw the most recent example of this last year when the Philadelphia Eagles beat them thanks to the superb play from quarterback Nick Foles. Our next contender for the throne is the team that the Bengals have had eyes on for quite some time now. The Los Angeles Rams can attribute their uprising into the NFL’s elite thanks to aggressive team-building, and fresh coaching and philosophies, things the Bengals have lacked for what seems like an eternity.
On the surface, Super Bowl LIII may not interest you very much, especially if the poor refereeing and overtime rules made you rage quit the other week. These reasons should be able to pull you back into watching if you bleed orange and black.
The upstart versus the golden standard
The entire appeal of this matchup lies in the start contrasts between each franchise. The Rams have had their quarterback Jared Goff for just three seasons. He’s still just 24 years old. Their head coach is about only eight years older than him and has been with the team in less time, but Goff’s play began to show signs of life when McVay arrived on the scene. The magic of McVay’s leadership lies within an advanced acumen of scheme and talent utilization packed within a hyper-processor of a brain, with about 10 terabytes of memory.
McVay’s turnaround of the Rams, who’ve been in southern California for just three seasons, is mightily impressive. But isn’t true greatness success that is sustained? No duo better exemplifies that than Brady and Belichick. They not only make it out of the AFC on average every two years, they’re on the verge of tying the entire Pittsburgh Steelers franchise for the most Vince Lombardi Trophies.
Everyone wants to emulate the Rams that have thrived under McVay, and a win over the mighty Patriots would solidify that league-wide desire. It would also justify the Bengals’ specific motives, which gets us to our next point.
Will Zac Taylor arrive in Cincinnati a champion, or a runner-up?
We’ve had to wait for over two weeks now for the Bengals’ next head coach to be officially hired by the organization. We know it will happen, but we’d like to see it actually materialize, which is understandable.
Taylor’s youth and exposure to a team that’s been modernized on the field and in the offseason is the source of the excitement that his hiring has sparked. We know he plays a vital part in their in-game operations, we know he’s another highly-touted mind for the game, what’s left to find out is if the system he’s likely to bring over to the midwest is one that can topple a powerhouse.
When it’s all said and done, Taylor will not be credited with the outcome of the game, win or loss. He’s just the quarterbacks coach, he doesn’t call plays, throw challenge flags, or hold nearly the authority that McVay does, and for good reason. He’s not McVay, and the notion that he’d be a clone of him when he’s running the show is absurd. He’s his own man, and we’ll see if his team is able to keep up with the unstoppable force that is the Patriots.
Last but certainly not least, nobody playing in this game deserves to win more than No. 77 for the blue and yellow.
The glamour of the Super Bowl has always been primary influencer into who gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A player of Whitworth’s caliber undoubtedly deserves a eventually golden jacket and a bronze bust of that shiny bald head. Will he reach that eternal glory without a ring on his résumé? It hasn’t worked out in Ken Anderson’s favor, that much is for sure.
For so long, Whitworth was denied the opportunity to truly contend for the Super Bowl with the Bengals, despite playing at a consistently high level. When he left for Los Angeles in 2017, he helped ignite an offensive explosion that has made the Rams into the contenders the Bengals now strive to become. He has one more year left on his current contract, but you’d have to think he’ll get no better shot at winning the Super Bowl than this game. Not every team returns to February football so quickly like the Patriots do.
There is no debate. If you root for the Bengals, you’ll be rooting for the Rams. Your possible hatred for the Patriots put aside, Whitworth deserves this. He’s earned this, and this may be his one and final chance.
Go get that ring Big Whit.