Re-Examining “Big Willie Style” With an Eye Towards Super Bowl XLVI
Last week, prior to the NFC and AFC Championships, we took a look at how those games would play out with help from Will Smith’s classic, Big Willie Style. Looking over that post, you might say that the Fresh Prince went 1-1 with his predictions, but you’d be mistaken. You see the Ravens wore white jerseys instead of black ones last weekend, which was clearly the difference between Lee Evans catching that TD pass and Billy Cundiff making that kick. Since the Ravens wore white, they couldn’t very well be the “Men In Black” now, could they? This is just another example of why more people should listen to and follow the advice here on SpreeGoogs—had the Ravens put on black jerseys, they’d be gearing up for the Super Bowl right now. As far as the NFC Championship, Big Willie Style was right on the mark—enough so that I think it’s still valid to invoke the wisdom of the Fresh Prince on this year’s Super Bowl.
SUPER BOWL XLVI
Obviously every sports media outlet will be billing this as a “rematch”, but let’s take a look at that. Really how many players from this year’s rosters started that game in 2008? That was 4 years ago. Sure, you have the same head coach and QB for each team, which are two posts that have a huge impact on how a team looks and feels to us fans. But upon closer examination, where are the other key players? The Giants’ David Tyree, Super Bowl hero: gone. Michael Strahan? In the booth. Plaxico? Shot himself in the leg and now hangs out with a bunch of drama queens.
New additions Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz, the hot names of this postseason, were playing college ball in 2008. Pierre-Paul was at community college and Cruz at UMass—not exactly places known for football.
Offensively, Giants coordinator Kevin Gilbride was there for Super Bowl XLII, so on top of Eli and Coughlin, New York’s offensive strategic hierarchy is intact. The Giants also retain Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Lawrence Tynes and Osi Umenyiora among others. But in general, there are some huge differences between this team and your Super Bowl XLII champions.
For instance, this year’s D-coordinator for the Giants is Perry Fewell. In 2007 it was Steve Spagnuolo—the same Spagnuolo who had Josh McDaniels as his O-Coordinator this past year in St. Louis—the same Josh McDaniels who is now back coaching with the Patriots…which brings us to New England.
Concerning the Patriots, we’ll start with the return of Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator from the record-setting 2007 season and Super Bowl XLII. So, the Pats still have Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and McDaniels—meaning that both the Giants and Pats offensive hierarchies remain intact. Linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins return for New England, as do Wes Welker and Stephen Gostkowski, providing a few familiar faces.
However, we have some huge changes for the Pats. First and foremost, Randy Moss is sitting around waiting for Canton to call. The Pats added Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to supplement the vertical passing game, but Moss is and always has been irreplaceable.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots defense is almost entirely different. Vince Wilfork returns, but they lost Asante Samuel, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison and Teddy Bruschi to name a few. The Pat’s new defense finally seems to be playing decently in the post-season, but it’s still a completely new unit.
ESPN knows this is a rematch for the fans much more than it is for the players. These are completely different teams and that’s just the nature of pro sports. However, the mainstay icons (Eli vs. Brady, Coughlin vs. Belichick etc.) are still around and those are the individuals that sports media outlets will use to personify each team, because devoting coverage to every player isn’t feasible (or marketable).
So, yeah these teams will have the same general philosophy, and even look the same jersey-wise, but don’t buy-into the Super Bowl rematch angle. The nature of professional sports is a transitory one. Players change teams all the time, leaving us fans to contemplate what exactly defines the continuity of our teams from year to year. So outside of the New York / New England fanbases, this game isn’t any sort of significant rematch. We’ll be fed the usual “Tom Brady / Belichick are among the best ever” lines, and “Eli is trying to prove himself” nonsense, but unless you’re a die-hard Giants or Pats fan, I suggest you wholeheartedly ignore any references to Super Bowl XLII, because it won’t give you any insight into the game we’re about to see.
However, you shouldn’t go throwing the idea of a rematch completely out the window either. If anything, this game is a rematch, just of the game already played in week 9 of the 2011 season. In that matchup when we had the current players on both sides, the Giants won. But, after the rematch we saw in the BCS title game it’s obvious that at this level of coaching the edge in a rematch tends to go to the guy who lost round one—because he has to come up with a whole new game-plan and he already knows what didn’t work the first time around.
So, what can we expect Super Bowl XLVI to look like? Well, in a way, it’s a lot like a Will Smith song. For instance, Smith’s “Miami” samples the 1980 hit “And the Beat Goes On”, so the song basically sounds the same, but it’s completely different. That’s how Super Bowl XLVI should go. Just look to the Fresh Prince—it will look and feel like 2008 in a lot of ways, but really it’s going to be a completely different entity.