Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What A Bear Can Learn From A Fish

Bill Parcells retired this week, but his impact on the NFL will continue long after he's coached his last game. In fact, his shadow will loom large over Super Bowl XLI between the Bears and Colts. Why will Fred Miller, Adewale Ogunleye, and John Tait be among the five highest paid Bears on Super Bowl Sunday? Why are Tarik Glenn, Ryan Diem, and Dwight Freeney among the highest paid Colts? Because in 1981 Bill Parcells unleashed a new concept on the NFL: the blindside rusher. The impact of this move and the various counter moves attempted by Giants' opponents on personal decisions and on-field strategy are immense, and detailed in Michael Lewis's book, Blind Side. No question Parcells benefited from picking the right guy, Lawrence Taylor, to plug into his new scheme. But teams pay edge rushers, and the unnaturally large, athletic men meant to stop them, huge sums of money today because of how Parcells changed the game.

But it's another moment from Parcells' career that I look to as I consider how the Bears might beat the offensive juggernaut Indianapolis Colts. In 1990, Bill Parcells took a 13-3 Giants team into the Super Bowl. And yet, NO ONE respected the squad. The Giants finished that year among the league's dregs in points scored. Ottis Anderson led the team in rushing, but didn't top 1,000 yards. No one on the team had 30 catches. They had a quarterback controversy on their hands, with the inexperienced Jeff Hostetler retaining the reigns after collecting 614 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, arrayed against the might of this successful, but underwhelming Giants squad, was a STRONG Buffalo Bills team. 1990 was the best team of the Bills' run atop the AFC. They too went 13-3. They scored 95 points in the two pre-Super Bowl playoff games, including winning the AFC Championship by 48. Thurmon Thomas topped 1800 yards from scrimmage, and had 13 touchdowns. Jim Kelly had the highest passer rating of his career. Andre Reed and James Lofton were unguardable on the outside. The Bills were favored by more than a touchdown.

Sound familiar? If you know how this turns out, you're a happy Bears fan right now. Of course, I just asked one of my law school buddies if he saw the obvious parallels with Super Bowl XXV, and he replied, "Dude, I don't remember that game; I was eight." Ouch. That's what I get for trying my hand at journalism before going to law school. So, for those of you born after 1980: The Giants controlled the clock for 40 minutes and won 20-19. They ran the ball 40 times for 172 yards. While the Bills averaged nearly a yard and a half more per play than the Giants, the Giants limited the Bills opportunities by playing mistake free, ball control football. They ran nearly 20 more plays than the AFC champs.

These Bears are better than those Giants. And these Colts aren't as good as those Bills. The Bills led the NFL in scoring that year and were sixth in the league in scoring defense. While this year's Colts were also the best in the league on offense, their defense was in the bottom five to ten units no matter how you measure. Both the 1990 Giants and 2006 Bears were one of the top two defenses in football in the relevant season. And each was in the bottom half of the league offensively. But the Giants entered the Super Bowl without star quarterback Phil Simms. No remaining weapon on that team compared to the Bears' two-headed rushing attack.

All next week, I'll look at this game match-up by match-up. But for now, if anyone tries to tell you that the Colts will destroy the Bears on Super Bowl Sunday, remind them of Bill Parcells finest coaching hour.


Anonymous Scalia's Gavel said...

I was in boot camp. Which is similar to elementary school. Our drill instructor watched the game in his office, and intermittently came out and yelled at us, then returned to his office. He was kind enough to give us the score at the end of the game. Fortunately, his team won.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Mr.Man said...

So the Bears appear to have a somewhat better offense than the Giants had in 1990.
But don't the Bears, particularly in their Harris and Brown-less form, have a worse defense than the Giants did in 1990? Do you really think the Bears can keep Indy under 20 points?
Also, it's undoubtedly true that the Bears, playing in this years' atrocious "NFC North", went against weaker competition than the Giants, who had to deal with the Reggie White Eagles and Joe Gibbs Redskins.

12:09 PM  

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