It takes only three things to get to the Super Bowl. Simple to write obviously much harder to execute. This theory comes from a sports legend, the man I’ve had the great pleasure of working with the past two seasons of the United Football League on HDNet, Paul Maguire.
If you had the chance to listen to Paul forty years ago when he began a stellar career as an analyst that led to covering four Super Bowls, he was the first to give it to the audience straight, no excuses. He was the forerunner of the ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ announcer, a ground breaker before John Madden. If you heard him last season on the UFL, he still is the same sharp minded tell you what’s going to happen before it does commentator. Why there isn’t a Maguire football game, I don’t know. Marketing I guess.
And the three necessities to make it to The Game? Maguire says “Look back on forty-five years with only a couple of exceptions, there are three things that hold up to make it to the Super Bowl. You have to have a defense that is ranked in the top five or six in your conference. You have to have a relatively injury free team. You have to have the quarterback who can read defenses and make plays.”
He knows championships, having played in six of the ten American Football League title games, winning three. As one of only twenty men who played the entire ten-year existence of the innovative league that shaped the NFL as we know it today, Maguire is the all- time leading punter in AFL history.
The Steelers and Packers meet the criteria. Pittsburgh isn’t as healthy right now and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in a zone few have been entering the championship. His whole team seems destined, much like the Steelers in the 2006 Super Bowl or the Saints last year, a roll that has no end.
Maguire offers only this reservation about both squads, they let their opponents–the Bears and the Jets respectively–back into the conference title games after opening big leads. “Those games shouldn’t have been close. It made me think of playing for Sid Gillman at the start of the AFL.”
He was a linebacker and punter for Gillman, considered ‘The Father of the Modern Passing Game’ in pro football with the then Los Angeles Chargers in 1960. “Sid said ‘If you’re up 40-0 at the half you should win the game 82-0’. There was never supposed to be a let down.”
While Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t missed a beat since his off-field problems and subsequent suspension at the start of the season, plus his already two Super Bowl rings, Maguire gives the nod to his Green Bay counterpart. “They both make big plays and Roethlisberger has more big game experience, but Aaron is more mobile and reads (defenses) better.”
Paul, who has attended “over thirty Super Bowls” will entertain twenty or so at his home this year with his lovely wife Beverly. Homemade sausages from Buffalo, where he became a legend with the Bills, have been brought it for his guests as only a perfect host would do for such a special sports occasion.
After he explains to his friends once again the three things to get to the Super Bowl, they will ask the one big thing—Who’s Going to Win? “I like the Packers. Everything is falling into place for them, they have a hot quarterback and their starters are healthier.”
I can’t go against the thinking of Mr. Maguire, Packers – 2 1/2.
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