The Super Bowl will be played on Sunday, Feb. 3 in New Orleans. I know this because I can already smell the crawfish boiling in Cajun spices, can already taste the beignets, those light-as-air blobs of fried dough smothered with powdered sugar, and strong chicory coffee in the damp, early-morning air of the French Quarter. Plus, the NFL schedule says so.
Why is it, then, that Sunday's NFC playoff game between Green Bay and St. Louis seems like it should be the Super Bowl?
Pro football's two best quarterbacks, the two biggest difference-makers in the game today, will square off under the dome in St. Louis surrounded by two of the game's best running backs and all other sorts of offensive weapons.
Kurt Warner, the Rams' ringmaster, who with a second MVP trophy must now be mentioned in the same breath with Montana, Marino, Elway and, gulp, even Johnny U.
Brett Favre, whose Mississippi twang belies the fact that he was born to play grass-stained, icy-breathed Green Bay football, the way Dick Butkus was born to be a Bear, Lou Groza a Brown.
The greatest passer in the game vs. its ultimate warrior. A guy who beats you deep, with the cold heart of an assassin, as precise as a jeweler cutting diamonds. And a guy who beats you in all the little ways, who beats you with heart and verve and imagination.
If you could see just one postseason game, wouldn't this be it?
Sure, Spurrier can draw X's and O's with the best of 'em and he's going to a team blessed with decent offensive talent, but coaching in the NFL comes without all the built-in advantages that came with coaching at a national collegiate power like Florida.
His recruiting skills mean nothing because he has to wait his turn along with everybody else in a reverse-order draft that actually penalizes success. His scholarship budget (salary-capped payroll) is identical to the opposition's and releasing players doesn't necessarily free up cap money. He can't schedule who he wants and he has to play eight at home, eight on the road.
Certainly, Spurrier is a fine judge of talent and his presence with the Redskins will entice offensive free agents. But, again, the salary cap gets in the way of making wholesale personnel changes.
At Florida, Spurrier paid attention to the biggies like Miami and Florida State, but never had to worry about competition from, say, Central Florida.
The NFL is structured in such a way that even Central Florida can win the Super Bowl.
All the edges are gone, other than what he has tucked inside his head, hidden behind the visor. In a league filled with good coaches, we'll see if that's enough and if it's worth $5 million a year.
True, Dungy breathed life into a moribund, once laughed-at franchise, but how many chances should a coach have to get his team over the proverbial hump?
Saturday's 31-9 wild-card thumping in Philadelphia marked the Bucs' third straight playoff game without a touchdown. That's 12 quarters with six field goals.
It can't be said that the front office hasn't cooperated, adding the offensive likes of Keyshawn Johnson and Brad Johnson over the last couple seasons to a brew that already included complementary running backs Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn. Still, Dungy's safety-first offense underachieved.
First-class guy? No question. But six years is long enough for the same flaws and shortcomings to rear their ugly heads.
Dave Hackenberg is a Blade sports writer.
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