Sorry Panthers, but give me Rivers vs. Wilson
Posted January 6
Eight quarterbacks are still standing in this NFL season and two – San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Seattle’s Russell Wilson – are N.C. State products.
Carolina Panthers fans will just have to forgive me for hoping Rivers and Wilson also will be the last two in the championship chase on Super Bowl Sunday – Feb. 2 in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.
It’s not that I have anything at all against the Panthers’ Cam Newton or any of the other surviving team leaders.
A title for Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson, 77, would be a just reward for a man who has devoted much of his life to establishing Charlotte and the Carolinas as major players in the world of professional sports.
A Super Bowl win for Denver and 37-year-old Peyton Manning obviously would be a crowning achievement in a remarkable recovery from injuries that could have ended his record-setting career.
A win by New Orleans would give Drew Brees, who will turn 35 on Jan. 15, two rings and a straight shot to the Hall of Fame.
In only his third season with the Indianapolis Colts, young Andrew Luck already has established that the franchise’s rich quarterback legacy – Manning, John Unitas, Earl Morrall, Bert Jones – will continue for years to come.
With one more championship, New England’s Tom Brady would join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks with four rings.
Colin Kaepernick taking San Francisco to two straight Super Bowls would be an indication of pending greatness for a former Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback who overcame some of the same obstacles that confronted Wilson.
But there is one big – literally – difference between Wilson and the 6-4, 230-pound Kaepernick, who may not have had the prototypical NFL skill set but did have the size to make the 49ers and a few other teams believe he could be a quick fit.
At 5-11 and 205 pounds, Wilson, a third-round draft pick in 2011, would join Brees (6-0, 205), Fran Tarkenton (6-0, 190), Joe Theismann (6-0, 195) and Bob Griese (6-1, 190) as the smallest Super Bowl starters ever.
Had it not been for Seattle coach Pete Carroll’s willingness to think outside the quarterback box, Wilson may not have been drafted at all, much less given a quick chance to earn a starting role.
A Super Bowl win for Wilson would be something right out the basketball movie “Hoosiers” – a win for all the little guys who never got there.
Chargers have frustrating franchise history
Rivers, 32, is in danger of falling into the category of a long-time starter whose career ends with a stuffed stat sheet but very little meaningful hardware.
To a degree, Rivers is dealing with a Chargers curse of sorts.
The franchise has had some of the most prolific passers in NFL history – Dan Fouts, John Hadl, Brees, Jack Kemp, even Unitas (one season, 1973) in addition to Rivers.
But only once since the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970 have the Chargers reached the Super Bowl and that resulted in a 49-26 loss to the 49ers and Steve Young in 1995 (’94 season).
Before the merger, the Chargers reached five AFL championship games and won just one – a 51-10 rout of the Patriots.
After Sunday’s 27-10 upset win at Cincinnati, The San Diego Union Tribune newspaper reported an interesting exchange between Rivers and backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who was arriving at Clemson just about the time that Rivers was ending his four years at State.
“Eight quarters, eight quarters, just eight quarters away (from reaching the Super Bowl),” Rivers said repeatedly.
At Denver (4:30 p.m., Sunday, WRAL), the Chargers will be a 10-point underdog to Manning and the rested Broncos.
Chargers linebacker Donald Butler told reporters, “There’s no pressure on us now.”
But knowing Rivers, he certainly will not take that sort of carefree attitude into the game. He’s running out of chances and no one has worked harder for a championship. He had a distinct last-man-standing, Crockett-like personality in college and that part of his life hasn’t changed.
The odds are against Rivers and the Chargers at Denver, just as the odds are against Rivers/Wilson finale. But it would sure be something that Triangle sports fans would remember forever.