There are certain things in life that just seem right.
For example, I have seen several players attempt the old “Rock the Cradle” dunk in the past ten years. JR Smith, Josh Smith, LeBron, even the greatest dunker of all time – Vince Carter. But every time I see Young Jordan, rocking the short shorts and the classic cursive “Chicago” across his chest, it just seems right. No one else has ever combined the fluidity, grace, and power on the dunk like Air himself. Even if someone was able to do it better, we would never admit it, because Jordan was put on earth to perform that dunk.
Another great example is Junior Griffey in the Home Run Derby. There was always something perfect about watching the guy with the smoothest swing of all time, flip his hat around backwards, and loop deep fly after deep fly over the fence. A few years ago, Josh Hamilton amazed us all with his incredible display of power, but I remember thinking to myself that it just didn’t seem as beautifully effortless as a young Griffey.
So yeah, certain things in life just seem right…like the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.
Image source: NY Daily News
It’s no secret that I’m a die-hard Colts fan. But even I have to admit that there’s a certain symmetry to watching the Packers compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Beyond that, a closer look at this Packers’ team really reveals one thing: the manner in which the “Small Time” Packers got to the Super Bowl just seems right.
Founded in 1919 by “Curly” Lambeau, the Packers are the second-oldest franchise in the NFL. They are the only professional sports team in the United States that is owned by the community and basically functions for no profits.
As the Packers bandwagon – driven by Aaron Rodgers – has gained steam the past few weeks, the entire nation has come to the conclusion that they are one of the most talented teams in football. But a closer look at their roster really says one thing: they are just as small-time as their city and organization.
Oh sure, Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in all of football; Clay Matthews is an absolute terror on the other side of the ball, while Charles Woodson, Donald Driver, and Greg Jennings are big names. But past that? It’s really quite shocking.
As an avid Colts fan the past ten years, I have watched as Peyton Manning and a few big names (Freeney, Wayne, Clark) have made the Colts look and sound like more of a juggernaut than they really are. But in actuality, the Colts have been a team without a legitimate defensive tackle, playmaking defensive backs, and a terrible running game for quite some time now. Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews have done the same thing for the Packers in the past four weeks. But that doesn’t mean they are any less “Small-Time.”
Just look at their defense. Unless you are a Packers fan, I bet you couldn’t name more than three of their starters: Pickett, Raji, Jenkins, Matthews, Hawk, Bishop, Zombo, Woodson, Williams, Peprah, and Collins.
And this was the SECOND-ranked scoring defense in all of football! Think about some of the defenses they finished ahead of: Baltimore, Chicago, San Diego, and the NY Jets. Despite the amazing play of Clay Matthews, there is no reason that the Packers’ defense should be ranked that high.
So how have they done it? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure: there no-names have been getting it done.
A playoff game for the Packers against their arch-rival. Lose and go home. Eric Walden…their backup ROLB leads their team with 11 tackles and 3 sacks in a narrow victory. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Wild Card Weekend
Playoff game against Michael Vick and the popular Philadelphia Eagles. Again it’s Eric Walden stepping up in the clutch with 5 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Then Tramon Williams (someone that is gaining a lot of attention lately but I guarantee you had never heard of three weeks ago) picks off Michael Vick in the final minute of the game. The small-time players just keep making plays.
At Atlanta against the #1 seed Falcons. In case you didn’t know, Matty Ice doesn’t lose at home. Some guy named Desmond Bishop leads the team in tackles and forces a key fumble early on while the game was still reasonably close. Williams picks off two more passes and returns one for a TD late in the first half to really ice the game. Who are these guys?
The hated Bears again. BJ Raji, a high draft pick seemingly ices the game late in the 4th Quarter with a pick-six. But it was Sam Shields, an undrafted rookie from Miami that really stole the show with 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 2 interceptions.
No more than three weeks ago, I sat here and complained that it simply wasn’t the Colts year. Injuries and bad luck had gone against us. And while it remains true the Colts were banged up (starters lost 89 games this season), the Packers had it NEARLY as bad by missing 83 games.
And yet, here we stand, waiting for the Super Bowl, and the Green Bay Packers are getting ready to lace up their cleats. It really is quite amazing.
You know, maybe it’s not surprising. When you really think about it, there are a lot of reasons to believe that teams with no names have small advantage. At the end of the day, if you are in the NFL, you are an incredible athlete.
So let’s say that a first round draft pick has 10 percent more ability than a guy like Sam Shields that went undrafted. Now you give that first rounder a guaranteed contract for the next five years, and you tell Sam Shields that he has to scrape and claw just to earn a minimum deal. Maybe the first rounder only achieves 70% of his limitless potential and Sam Shields maxes out his. Which player would YOU rather have?
It’s a tough one. You can’t argue against talent. Some players are always going to beat lesser ones. But the fact remains: the Green Bay Packers are exciting to watch, and Rodgers and Matthews are about as good as it gets, but the reason they have been so successful this season, especially in the playoffs, is because their small-time players have made big-time plays.
Yes, some things in life just seem right, and I gotta say, the 2011 Green Bay Packers playing for the Lombardi Trophy is one of them.
* – Clay Matthews photo source: WeAreSC.com