HOLLYWOOD, CA – It’s rare when the Young -N- Fun team wins the Super Bowl; the ‘69 Jets, the ‘74 Steelers, the ‘81 Niners, the ‘85 Bears (though they did have the grand old Sweetness) and maybe that ‘01 Patriot team (though “fun” isn’t quite right). I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple, and while the Panthers were one of the youngest and funnest in a while, the joy had reached such a fever pitch over the last few weeks that they seemed to develop an immunity to it. Tough loss for Riverboat Ron Rivera, for even with the drops, overthrows, and penalties they pretty much dominated statistically and were a mere play or two away from this thing going the other way. He never got to do anything remotely “riverboat,” and his usually solid special teams in particular let him down. See Cam Newton’s tight, terse press conference afterwards, that was a man betrayed by joy.
Peyton Manning knows that feeling all too well. Even in victory that isn’t joy expressed in that fivehead of his so much as relief. In what had to be statistically the worst performance by a Super Bowl winning quarterback ever, it became painfully clear by the end that even just managing the game was perhaps asking too much. The Broncos had a total of just eleven first downs all game, and none after the very first play of the fourth quarter. Denver fans (my wife and Cookie included) know great pessimism and are champions of the power of negative thinking, and there was little doubt that a crushing last minute defeat (so much worse than the blowouts they’re accustomed to) was at hand. It meant handing the ball off on third and long and putting the game in the hands of the defense. Seconds later, Von Miller makes Gary Kubiak look like a genius, and gives Manning blessed release. Forget Disney World, when you specify that you’re “going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight,” it feels less like a celebration and more like “I’m gonna pass out on the couch.”
— Meet The Matts (@MeetTheMatts) February 8, 2016
It’s not Manning who epitomizes the antithesis of young and fun, however, it’s Wade Phillips. I know it sounds weird, but you should be grudgingly happy for Phillips because it gives all of us hope that if you just stick at something long enough, you just might win the Super Bowl. He’s sustained professional coaching mediocrity since the 1970s, worn some bad sweaters on the sidelines, made unpopular (and unsuccessful) decisions like starting Rob Johnson over Doug Flutie, was a dud in Dallas, worse with Houston (where the team was so bad he stepped in after HC Gary Kubiak had to be hospitalized mid-game, mid-season), and out of football entirely in 2013. If anybody had their chances, it was Wade Phillips, and it’d be easy to gripe about the coaching-carrousel not finding any new blood… but Kubiak repaid the loyalty by handing him an all-world defense to play with, and Phillips had the wisdom to keep a relatively simple playbook with it.