You might have not be aware of this, but the Super Bowl is tonight. The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are squaring off in what could either be Peyton Manning riding off into the sunset a champion, or Cam Newton’s coronation. But unless you’re a Broncos or Panthers fan, you might not have a rooting interest, and if you’re a Syracuse fan, you don’t even have any former Orange players to cheer on. So who should you root for?
Obviously, while there aren’t any current players on either roster from Syracuse, there are some former Syracuse standouts who have ties to each team. Denver, obviously, has Floyd Little – the Hall of Famer and one of the original legends to wear 44 is one of the greatest backs in Broncos history. Floyd is also still working at Syracuse, and wouldn’t you like to support one of the most jovial and passionate Orangemen of all-time?
On the other side, Syracuse hasn’t had a lot of standout NFL players find their way onto the Carolina roster over the years. Like Floyd Little, however, the Syracuse athletics staff does have a former Panther in its employ: Joe Fields. The quarterback turned safety played a season with Carolina, and now works in student-athlete development. You can see him behind the bench at every Syracuse basketball game – he’s the guy who looks exactly like Wee-Bey from The Wire. Another former Syracuse player, Jim Turner, played for Carolina.
Of course, you may just keep things simple and decide you want to stick to color schemes. I mean, one team competing tonight does wear orange and blue. A lot of people pick their favorite teams or make their Super Bowl or March Madness picks based on uniforms, so why can’t you do the same?
Now, while there aren’t many connections to Syracuse in this year’s Super Bowl in terms of former players or coaches, there is one man prowling the sidelines for Denver you may remember, but desperately wish to forget: Brian Pariani. The utter disaster of an offensive coordinator for Syracuse under Greg Robinson in 2005 coaches the tight ends for the Broncos, which will either make you sentimental and decide that, shucks, some Syracuse connection is better than no Syracuse connection, or more likely, you’ll decide this is it. This is the deciding factor to root against Denver, because you’ll be damned if you’re going to cheer for any team featuring one of the men responsible for Syracuse football hitting rock bottom.
Then again, you might be like me and just find Peyton Manning positively delightful. He never played against Syracuse, so we don’t really have any reason to get particularly mad at him. He seems like a funny guy, too. He’s one of the few pro athletes to prove to be a quality Saturday Night Live host. And he’s the guy who threw nearly every pass to Marvin Harrison in the recently minted Hall of Fame receiver’s career. That’s got to count for something, right? And wouldn’t it be kind of cool if Peyton got to go out on top, like John Elway and Jerome Bettis?
Then again, it’s hard to go against the allure of Cam Newton. He’s spectacularly fun to watch, and despite what morons writing angry letters to the editor try to tell you, he’s no worse a role model than anyone else who celebrates after a big play. No one gets pissy about Aaron Rodgers doing the discount double check, after all. And as a Syracuse fan, you know what? The start of Cam’s career is awfully similar to Donovan McNabb’s.
Through their first five seasons as starting quarterbacks in the NFL, McNabb and Newton have put up startlingly similar numbers. In 78 games, Cam Newton has thrown for 18,263 yards with 117 touchdowns and 64 interceptions. In McNabb’s first five seasons as the full-time starter (I’m throwing away his rookie year, when Andy Reid went with Doug Pederson for the first nine games), he played 73 games, throwing for 15,978 yards with 110 touchdowns and 50 interceptions.
He faced some of the same criticisms as Newton, too, with people writing him off as a scrambling quarterback who can’t really hurt you with his arm. It was in the fifth season that things really clicked for both quarterbacks. The numbers in Cam’s fifth year (this season) are eerily similar to those put up by McNabb in his fifth season as the full-time starter. Cam threw for 3,837 yards with 35 touchdowns and 10 picks, while McNabb threw for 3,875 yards with 31 touchdowns and eight picks. That’s right around the time people started looking at both players not as just athletes playing QB, but as guys who can hurt you with their arm as much, if not more, than with their legs.
So in a way, rooting for Cam Newton is kind of like rooting for Donovan McNabb, if you decide to use my bizarrely twisted logic here. I don’t know that I’d recommend doing that, though. My logic tends to be half-baked and faulty in most instances.
At the end of the day, I’m not even sure who I’ll be rooting for tonight. I’ll probably wind up siding with the Broncos, just because I enjoy Peyton Manning and think it’d be kind of cool for him to retire a champion. But frankly, I won’t be particularly mad if Cam gets his Super Bowl and silences his critics, either.
All I know is that the pulled pork I’m making for the game today is going to be delicious, and because of that, I’ll be the true winner of Super Bowl 50.