After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers easily defeated the overly hyped and supposedly unbeatable Kansas City Chiefs in rather dominating and spectacularly boring fashion, I was left pondering what had just happened. The game was being billed as potentially the greatest Super Bowl matchup in years, maybe ever.
The man renowned as GOAT versus the young superstar who has been anointed the heir apparent. The NFL hype machine would have us all believe that is his destiny. I seem to recall seeing this movie script play out before on the NFL's biggest stage, with a very similar ending actually. Bill Belichick, the GOAT of head coaches, and the New England Patriots going up against Sean McVay, youthful mastermind seemingly destined to take the top spot in the NFL coaching hierarchy, of the Los Angeles Rams. Different game, same result. Old GOAT dominated presumptuous new challenger for the throne.
Both contests have two common denominators. The first and most obvious would have to be Tom Brady. The second is harder to distinguish, but even more impactful. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the best TEAM in the NFL by season's end, and that is precisely why they won the Super Bowl in such a dominating but boring fashion.
After a roller coaster ride of a regular season, the Buccaneers headed into the playoffs with plenty of momentum and zero glaring issues on either side of the ball. They won each playoff game by controlling the line of scrimmage, both on offense and defense. Even when they lost the turnover battle, their defense rose up and limited the damage. Each unit complimented the other, the sheer definition of team football.
Super Bowl LV ended up being spectacularly boring. I remember the same thing being said about the Patriots/Rams matchup a couple years ago that I mentioned earlier. Super Bowls are where legends are supposed to be made, and the spectacular commonplace. Think back to Lynn Swann, Jerry Rice, Marcus Allen, Joe Montana; the list could go on and on. Players who made unthinkable plays in unforgettable moments. James Harrison immediately comes to mind. Now think back to Sunday's game. If we are being honest, there wasn't a single spectacular play or unforgettable moment. Unless you go bananas over penalty flags or dropped passes.
No, in all honestly, the most impressive thing about Super Bowl LV was the very workmanlike approach utilized by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to dominate the Kansas City Chiefs. They were focused and businesslike all week leading up to the game. Tom Brady set the tone for the whole team all week, a business minded approach that he learned from his career long relationship with Bill Belichick. Make no mistake about it, the Belichick effect was still very much evident in Tom Brady during Super Bowl week.
Trying to explain Tom Brady's greatness to a novice fan is like trying to explain Larry Bird's greatness to young fans who have only seen old footage. Brady has never been athletically gifted for the position, but he is consistently a step or two ahead of the competition both mentally and in preparation. He also almost always makes the best business decisions for the present moment, both on the field and off. Like throwing the ball away or falling to the ground in the fetal position prior to taking unnecessary punishment in the pocket. Or making the wise decision to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first taste of life as a free agent; the perfect local for him to pursue another Lombardi Trophy and solidify his legacy as the greatest winner in NFL history, not just a byproduct of the Belichick dynasty in New England.
Just like Belichick, Brady only cares about one thing. Winning football games. Nothing else matters, and egos will not be tolerated. If an opponent struggles to stop the run, Brady has no problem turning around and handing the ball off forty times a game. Winning is all that matters to him, to both men actually. Some would go so far as to suggest to the point of cheating, but I will let history be the final judge on that subject.
I wholeheartedly believe that the NFL would have preferred that the Chiefs had defeated the Buccaneers Sunday night. That Brady would have passed the metaphorical crown over to Patrick Mahomes as the Face of the NFL, but Brady and the Buccaneers had other ideas. The Buccaneers controlled both lines of scrimmage throughout the game, controlling both the pace of the contest and the time of possession in the process. The Buccaneers proved capable of being a balanced offense when they needed to be, accompanied by a outstanding defense that complimented the offense throughout the playoffs.
The Buccaneers victory is actually a good omen for the NFL, and should provide both hope and a blueprint for success for other franchises. The Buccaneers had no glaring weakness, a hard feet to accomplish in the salary cap era. They proved that the best TEAM could still win in the end. All the Chiefs speed and offensive creativity proved meaningless against a defense capable of neutralizing those attributes, all while attacking the Chiefs weaknesses in the process.
The offensive and defensive lines are the foundations for any successful football teams, from which winning traditions are built. Controlling the line of scrimmage is always a barometer of winning football, a precursor if you will. The Steelers have to rebuild their fundamentals and foundation as a franchise. The good news is they are aware and know where to start.
A team without a mobile QB, no new age gimmicky offense, or a young matinee idol for a HC won yet another Super Bowl. In the end, it looks like the fundamentals of football still remain. Who would have thunk it?