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Archive for Sunday, January 26, 2003

Appreciate Bucs-Raiders matchup

This Super Bowl isn’t ‘best ever,’ but rather ‘as good as it gets’ in salary-cap era

January 26, 2003

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— No mindless pretense this time. No fraudulent hype of "best offense ever" or "greatest defense since ..."

For once, in this era of mediocrity in the NFL, today's Super Bowl matches two teams that perfectly reflect the who, what and why of today's league. That's because there is no who, what and why. There is no proven formula. There is no gridiron DNA for success. Just win, baybee.

To reach this point, playing for a world championship, the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did everything right, basically since September, and, now, here they are, both teams deserving of this role and certainly capable of entertaining us for three hours on a Sunday evening. Enjoy it while you can. Next year, based on the trend, will be about different teams, different styles, different everything. Such is the NFL.

"The way it is, you live for the moment -- this moment," said Bucs coach Jon Gruden, the NFL's latest famous face, and also the guy somewhat responsible for both teams being here. "The league is now about change from one season to the next. Who knows when you will catch this wave again?"

So true. There was silliness two years ago at the Super Bowl when the Baltimore Ravens were being promoted by some as having the "greatest defense ever." And again last year, when the St. Louis Rams were supposed to have the "greatest offense ever."

Actually, the Ravens belong in only one "ever" category. Worst team to ever win a Super Bowl. Which is more than can be said for the Rams a year ago, when that offense was exposed by New England, a two-touchdown 'dog.

Comparisons are simply not valid for teams in today's NFL with the way it was before the salary-cap damage started to erode roster depth in the mid-1990s. Then and now are totally different leagues. Which is why the ugliness of the Ravens-Giants Super Bowl matchup two years ago could happen, and will happen again.

I repeat: Appreciate Raiders-Bucs while you can.

But attempting to copy their Super Bowl football "formulas" is basically hopeless. As in, what formula?

Isn't a running game the engine that drives any successful offense?

Not for the pass-happy Raiders, who have thrived on a one-dimensional offense. Coach Bill Callahan attempted to tune up the run in the playoff test against the Jets two weeks ago. After a miserable first half of offensive misfortune, the Raiders went to back to winging it, and continued to do so while beating the Titans in the AFC title game.

Overall, there will be enough football intrigue, enough on-the-field talent, and enough "personality issues" to make this the best Super Bowl matchup of the salary-cap era.

The NFL is what it is. Just don't confuse today's NFL with what the league used to be.

"Best ever" is for a previous era.
"Good as it gets" is what

Super Bowl XXXVII today is all about.

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