Ground, Pound…Sugar, Spice, and Everything Golden

San Francisco’s tough win in a battle of ground-and-pound football against the Seattle Seahawks is though-provoking.

In this, the Golden Age of Quarterbacks, we see Madden-style statistics thrown up by quarterbacks and wide receivers. Part of it can be contributed to the gross over-officiating and constricting rules against defenses in today’s NFL. As a fan, it’s fun to watch games with high scores and huge catches in pivotal moments of games. But how much is it spoiling the casual viewer of American football to gear the game towards commercially-accepted, on-field numbers?

Football, since it was invented, has always been one of the most body-damaging sports played in North America (sorry hockey, bad dental work does not equate to rough play). The greats of decades ago were renowned for their toughness and their ability to break tackles and hit with fury. This was the intent of the game: a way for big, strong men to duke it out in the name of victory, and scrawny, unable men like myself to sit and home, watch, and feel the same thrill. It’s not a sport for the faint hearted.

I can still remember watching NFL Films on NFL Network showing the brutal beauty of football. Watching heads get knocked around, tough defense, ground games pounding through tackles is all so inspiring. NFC North teams gutting each other on the field, Earl Campbell running through block after crushing block for the Houston Oilers, Dick Butkus knocking the crap out of quarterbacks, those were the days.

The Heart of a Wimp
Lately though, it’s hard to find games that show this kind of toughness. It’s all ballerina wide receivers in tu-tus and quarterbacks with a 5 yard force field that, if penetrated, is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. I haven’t seen a really brutal, black-and-blue game in a long time. As much as I love those high-scoring, Tom Brady vs. Swiss Cheese games, I love a win in a grind. It’s all plastic and fake now.

And for what? Better ratings and more money? Screw it. I’m sure Calvin Johnson can take a hit. I’m sure Mike Vick wouldn’t be more than pulp in yesterday’s NFL. In Vick’s case, the Eagles might be better off.

I respect guys like Ben Roethlisberger. I hate his freaking guts, but he ain’t no fruit cake against numerous blockers. He can take a hit, and he can throw the football AND complete the pass while taking the shot. He’s famous among NFL defenses for being one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league to bring down. He’s a player who could survive in any decade of the game’s existence. Can you say that about more than five quarterbacks in the league? Probably not.

And it’s a shame, because if teams looked for stronger, more durable quarterbacks, we wouldn’t have a problem with defenses attacking the NFL’s golden boys so much. It would be an even playing field on all sides and games would still be exciting. Why? Because players would be capable to win games without the help of the league.

If Michael Vick played in the 1970’s, he’d be done halfway through his rookie season. If Tom Brady was on the Patriots against the ’85 Bears 46 defense in Super Bowl XX, he might be paralyzed (not from physical harm, probably just from the idea of Mike Singletary charging towards him with the eyes of a bull). If Mark Sanchez played in the 1960’s in place of Joe Namath…I think with that, you can start carving his tomb stone and digging a hole for his bones halfway to China.

The Way Of The Game
Because of the emphasis on offensive juggernauts, scoring has gone up around the league and as a result, so have individual stats. But the problem with everyone being super…is that no one is super (“The Incredibles” reference? I think so). No matter how many points you put up, it’s the same goal: win.

If you put up 35 and the other team puts up 38, you won’t be rewarded for five touchdowns. You still lose. Your quarterback can throw for 450 yards and 3 TD’s, but what happens when your ground game is lackluster and the other quarterback throws 4 TD’s? You lose…right?

Um, yes. By seven.

It’s all about the wins. The league doesn’t care about field goals. They don’t care about good, hard-fought battles. They care about stats and points, and it’s hurting the game more than we know.

I don’t care who your quarterback is if your team isn’t winning games. Drew Brees is producing like his usual self, yet his team is 2-4. Sure, you can say it’s because of the bounty scandal and the way it rocked the team. They took away Sean Payton, the heart of their officiating unit. But they also took away the quarterback of their defense in LB Johnathan Vilma and it has caused the team to lose games that their offense has kept them in. It’s all checks and balances.

We Can Only Hope
Personally, I’d love to see Super Bowl XLVII played between the Seattle Seahawks/San Francisco 49ers vs. the Houston Texans. Why? Because all three of those teams rely on their defenses and their running games to win. Their quarterbacks are a part of the team as opposed to being the team. They are groups of men who play all three phases of the game and emphasize the importance of all of them equally.

But this match-up, in all likeliness, is impossible in 2012.
With all due respect to the teams above (and the latter two I mentioned are favorites to win it all), the team on the other side is going to have a top-5 passing offense with a middle-to-bottom tier defense, like the Green Bay Packers or the Baltimore Ravens.

Frankly, I’m appalled at how little chance I’m giving my own hopes and dreams for the Super Bowl this year (as I turn the lights off in my room, close the blinds, and sit in a corner in fetal position waiting for the apocalypse). This isn’t the way it should be. I’m sticking by my picks, and most people around the league would feel the same, I’m sure. But the fact is that the NFL is making it almost impossible for teams who reflect the Golden Days of 1960’s, 70’s, ground-and-pound football to make deep playoff runs. The last six Super Bowls were won by teams with elite QB’s. Not top-tier defenses. Not big-time running backs. Quarterbacks. Lots of scoring. It’s these factors that make the new look NFL hard to swallow.

I think I’ve made my point. The world is slowly coming to an end with the over-filling of the hot-air balloons that are the enormity of modern NFL offenses. 

My best wishes to teams that are trying to revive the traditions of old football. Please, for the love of all that is holy and non Goodell-a-fied, win a Super Bowl and restore balance in the world.

It’s all falling apart slowly.

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