The story of this year’s Super Bowl is one of failure. It’s maybe the storyline sports offers, and it starts with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and the Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who are both failures.
Burrow failed at the dream of his youth. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer started Dwyane Haskins over him, and the kid who grew up an hour away from Columbus in Athens, Ohio, felt the need to transfer to Louisiana State.
Stafford failed for 12 years in the NFL. His Detroit Lions went to the playoffs three times — and lost in the first round each time. Nor was he considered exceptional in his career, just making one Pro Bowl all that time.
Burrow and Stafford are just the marquee start of all the failures in this game. Take the Cincinnati brain trust just from a local angle. Coach Zac Taylor was promoted from a Texas A&M graduate assistant to the Dolphins’ assistant quarterback coach in 2012 to their quarterback coach the next year.
Why the quick rise? Because his father-in-law, Mike Sherman, was the offensive coordinator. Nepotism, the whispers were. When Taylor was fired with Joe Philbin’s staff in 2015 and became the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati, he failed back to his proper level.
Lou Anarumo, the Cincinnati defensive coordinator, coached the Dolphins secondary for six good-not-great years. He was a good personality with exacting standards, but he was just considered another guy passing through town when the Dolphins fired him in 2017.
Do you want more failure in this game? Los Angeles receiver Cooper Kupp had two scholarship offers come in weeks after senior season ended in high school: Eastern Washington and Idaho State. He wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t deemed good enough. He chose Eastern Washington and did well enough to be drafted — in the fourth round.
“Not fast enough again,’ he has said.
Rams defensive end Von Miller? Traded by Denver this year. Cincinnati right tackle Isaiah Prince? A failed sixth-round pick with the Dolphins who — OK, he’s struggling in Cincinnati, but is their best right tackle on a Super Bowl team.
Cincinnati owner Mike Brown? Another failure. He took over for his father, the legendary Paul Brown, and ran the cheapest organization in the NFL. The last time the Bengals were in the Super Bowl in 1988, they trained at the Dolphins’ facility at St. Thomas University.
Dolphins coach Don Shula sent over a gift to his former coach, a bottle of Chivas Regal, Paul Brown’s favorite, and Brown commented how the Dolphins’ facility was first rate. It was a pit, actually, but first-rate compared to the Bengals’ facility.
Mike sank the franchise when he took over. In 2019, the had the worst record in the NFL thanks to a late-season loss to the Dolphins — who were actually trying to lose that year. That tells how badly Cincinnati failed.
Now look at the failures. Burrow, the top pick in that 2020 draft, is a star in his second year. Stafford was traded by Detroit to the Rams last offseason. That’s where this Super Bowl matchup started. Everyone else began to matter when the quarterback mattered.
Taylor proved he’s a coach on his own ideas. Anarumo was the star of the AFC Championship game on Sunday, his half-time adjustments shutting down Kansas City’s high-powered offense and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Kupp caught 11 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, rising from Eastern Washington to become the NFL’s most accomplished receiver.
Prince? Well, he isn’t exactly stellar in the Bengals’ leaky offensive line and will be a question entering the Super Bowl. But he’s starting in a Super Bowl. That’s far beyond the failure of being cut in the middle of the 2019 season by Miami.
There, too, was Mike Brown, holding the AFC winner’s trophy. His team was the longest preseason shot to make a Super Bowl since 1999. It was considered so blah no game was scheduled on a Sunday or Monday night.
“They had a weekly opportunity to re-write their script,’ Brown said. “That pleases me.”
That’s the great part of sports, the part anyone failing right now can appreciate. Failing isn’t forever with the right mindset. Burrow versus Stafford in the Super Bowl says it best.