SMITH COLUMN: Super Bowl musings

Published 10:30 am Thursday, February 10, 2022

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There are so many anomalies in sports, which are as historical as mascots and game jerseys. Winning a championship is the objective of all professional athletes.  There are as many heartbreaks as there are celebrations.  Many embark on the journey but only a limited number are lionized when it comes to wearing a championship ring.

Matthew Stafford, the strong-armed quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams knows that Sunday’s game is the ultimate opportunity for him. If time for him to earn a championship ring is not of the essence, it certainly is nigh. When he asked to be traded from Detroit, this is what he wanted, which reminds one of the scene in the clubhouse following the 1975 Masters. Tom Weiskopf finished in a tie with Johnny Miller, one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus. Weiskopf lamented his coming up short by saying, “You never know if you will ever again be in position to win the Masters.”

On Monday of this week, Stafford turned 34, and while he is certainly not an old man, most every quarterback, not named Tom Brady, is thinking about retirement plans at his age. Time has passed many of them by already. Then there are the many who washed out of the league early in their careers.

The Rams are not an overwhelming favorite even though they are playing in their home stadium, the $5 billion dollar So-Fi complex that is the latest football facility to bring about shock and awe from all who find their way to its environs.

Naturally, there will be a passionate group of Rams fans at the game, but the way the National Football League distributes tickets, it will not be like a home game for the Rams.

This will be the 21st consecutive year that there will be a former Georgia player to win a Super Bowl ring, which is an NFL record that could continue with the great number of Bulldog players who keep entering the pro ranks and playing on championship teams.

In addition to Stafford, there are running back Sony Michel and linebacker Leonard Floyd who have been significant contributors to the success of the Rams this year. Then there is Rams’ running backs coach Thomas Brown whose name has been mentioned with regard to head coaching opportunity in the NFL.

Head coach Sean McVay, too, has a Georgia connection. He played high school football under Alan Chadwick, former Bulldog quarterback, at Marist High School in Atlanta. McVay became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history when he was hired by the Rams in 2017 at the age of 30.

To get into the Super Bowl this year, McVay and the Rams had to defeat the 49ers and his old friend Kyle Shanahan which brings about the question of whether or not Shanahan has the monkey on his back. He was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons when Atlanta went to the Super Bowl in 2017 with the Falcons who got off to a 21-3 lead but wound up losing the game in the most unlikely comeback in Super Bowl history.

Then in 2020 Shanahan coached San Francisco to the Super Bowl, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-20. In the NFC championship game, a little more than a week ago, the 49ers lost to the Rams, 20-17 to lose an opportunity to play in the 2022 Super Bowl. 

You would think that San Francisco has things in place to continue to make a run in the playoffs, but you never know, as Tom Weiskopf said, if they will have another opportunity.

We know the story of quarterback Jim Kelly losing four Super Bowls and Fran Tarkenton missing out on a ring in three trips to the big game. We are aware that Ted Williams never won a World Series ring, that Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, never won the PGA, the only major title to escape them.

Then there is Tom Brady with seven Super Bowl rings.

That is a record that will never be broken. You don’t have to have any credentials to make that statement. You can put that one up with Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and Ted Williams batting .400.

Lady Luck has never smiled on an athlete more than with Brady. No NFL franchise has ever won that many rings. The game will change so much moving forward that it is unlikely that anybody will ever come close to surpassing what he has done.