I've always have this sad, distant demeanor after watching the Super Bowl. At least 20 times during the game I wish it were the Bills there instead of "Insert team" name. It usually happens during the team intros, national anthems and then the victory celebration. It sucks. I'd say it is like being the single 40-something bridesmaid at your best friend's wedding, but as a Bills' fan, it feels like you aren't even in the chapel. Instead, you are the valet parking the cars.
However, this piece isn't about getting sad and gloomy. The season is finally over and everyone is now 0-0. Welcome to the offseason. Welcome to where the hopes and dreams are reborn. How do we get to some of those dreams? By copycatting the best in the world.
The two teams we've just seen play will now be a blueprint for how the other non-playoff teams can build their teams around. It happens every year. It is like the "YOU NEED GUARD PLAY IN THE NBA TO WIN" or "YOU NEED HOCKEY CENTERS" or "YOU NEED PITCHERS, DAMN YOU!" After Baltimore, Steelers (Against Seattle) and Tampa Bay won the SB, it was about winning with kick ass defense. Then we got into the "We need franchise QBs to win."
Now for the Ravens and 49ers, it is a little of both.
Not exactly franchise QBs- As it stands right now, would you say that Flacco and Kaepernick are franchise QBs? I don't think you can. Now, the term "Franchise QB" has become like saying a team is a failure if they don't win a championship. Even if the team goes 14-2 and loses in the conference championship game or someone gets in the HOF, their careers aren't fulfilled without a title. However, you don't need a franchise QB to be successful. You need a really good QB though. That's what Flacco and Kaepernick are. They are good QBs who are getting better. They definitely did have a knack for panache this post season, but if you look at Flacco's numbers during the regular season (22TDs, 10ints and 59% completion rate), they are good but not great. Kaepernick has been a fun weapon and he's made a lot of plays, but if you dissect his running and passing numbers this past year, he gets you about 240 yards a game in total offense. Good, but not great. And that's the thing. These two QBs represent a team game when it is all said and done. This isn't Brady, Rodgers and Manning carrying your team to the SB. These are two good QBs who can make plays. Hey, there's no crime in not being elite. Being good can be good enough in the NFL if you are a QB.
Buffalo connection: Yes, The Bills need an upgrade at QB. However, they need the team around them to be better. Not to be a cliche machine here, but it is a team game at the end of the day. Flacco and Kaepernick weren't top 10 picks. They were guys drafted later in the first or in the early second. In fact, at the time of their drafting, some felt they were both reaches.
Running still matters- Tough, durable and can do it all type of backs. That's Ray Rice and Frank Gore. To me, they are the best skilled players on either offense. They are franchise backs. Rice, especially, has been such a unique talent over the years. He's small, but he runs as if he's Jerome Bettis with power and toughness. Sure, the league is pass happy, but running does serve a purpose. The 49ers were ranked 4th in rushing while the Ravens were ranked 11th. Passing wise? Ravens were ranked 15th and the 49ers were ranked 23rd. Keep on running.
Buffalo connection: Well, we all know we have a dynamite backs, especially #28, and maybe if the Bills used their backs more, they'd be more successful. But you already know that...unless you are Chan Gailey and that's why he's fired.
Weapons everywhere: Vernon Davis, Randy Moss, Crabtree, Torrey Smith, Bolden, Manningham and Denis Peta. There are some serious passing weapons on both of these teams. This comes into my elite QB can make anyone look good mindset. I think these skilled guys made their QBs look good. Davis, Moss and Boldin were studs before Flacco and Kaepernick got to them.
Buffalo connection: Besides Stevie Johnson, the Bills' WRs and TEs are average at best. Donald Jones? Overrated Scott Chandler? Get real. They'd be lucky to start on those two teams. After QB, my next need is another pass catching player for the Bills.
Beef up front- 2nd and 12th. That's where the 49ers and Ravens ranked defensively this past year. When you strip both units down, they are very similar. Defensive line has playmakers, big names at LB and a very aggressive secondary. To me, it starts with the pass rush for each team. You got Suggs and Ngata on one side and Aldon Smith and Justin Smith on the other. Both teams had guys who can put pressure on the QBs.
Buffalo connection: Well, we all know that we have talent on the Defensive line and the coaching staff butchered the philosophy. The Bills ranked near the bottom in blitzing, but according to advanced stats, the 49ers and Ravens were ranked in the top 10 in that category. Hey, Pettine likes to blitz. Do that more, fools!
Rebuilding can happen fast: I'll keep it simple: 49ers didn't make the playoffs from 2003-2010. Jim Harbaugh came in and they went to the conference title game his first year. The Ravens were 5-11 in 2007 and finished 24th in points scored. They made the playoffs twice the previous six years. John Harbaugh came in and they finished 11-5 and 11th in scoring while advancing to the AFC Championship game. They have been to the playoffs every year since. Also. the Ravens built a team that has only picked in the top 10 once since 2001. So much for losing out for a better pick, right? Get a GM like Ozzie!
Buffalo connection: Do the Harbaugh's have a 3rd brother? No? Alright, we have a new coach and maybe he can turn it around his first year. It happens...rarely. But it does.
Final word: I think what I take most from the Super Bowl teams in a blueprint sense is that you don't really need a franchise QB. To me, a franchise QB can make Troy Brown, Pierre Garcon and Don Beebe look good. I don't think Kaepernick or Flacco are those guys...yet. They may be next year or beyond, but I can think of at least 7-8 QBs I'd rather have. This is such a QB driven league that it kind of resembles the NBA's point guard position. Just a lot of talented guys in the top 14 for the position. Sure, you have guys who are better, but your team is doing pretty well if you have one of those dudes. You can't win in this league with bad QBs, but you can win with good QBs...And they don't have to be drafted in the top 10.
Also, I think both these teams from top to bottom were as balanced as you can get. They had playmakers on both sides of the ball. This wasn't Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and a bunch of nobodies winning it all. This was all about T-E-A-M.
Sure, franchise QB can make you into a Super Bowl contender quicker than any other position, but if you have balance, you can make up the difference.