No Tom Brady. No Aaron Rodgers. No Drew Brees. No Ben Roethlisberger. No Peyton Manning.
No Eli, either.
Tough to imagine a Super Bowl in this era without at least one of those gunslingers in the spotlight.
Yet none is.
For only the second time since 2003, the NFL’s championship showcase won’t feature a quarterback named Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger or Manning.
Fact is, Super Bowl XLVII is the rarest of all Super Bowl rarities: It has no quarterback star-power.
Joe Flacco? Right.
Colin Kaepernick? Might have it later but doesn’t have it now.
For better or for worse, the story lines of the Feb. 3 showdown in New Orleans have little or nothing to with the quarterbacks. They are about the Harbaughs, Ray Lewis ... and little else.
Doesn’t mean it won’t be a great show. The brother vs. brother aspect is equal parts intrigue, improbable and compelling. The Lewis element, depending which side of his very mixed legacy you celebrate or despise, is an interesting aside.
Then there are the teams themselves. San Francisco, the obvious favorite. Baltimore, the overachieving underdog. This Super Bowl, more than any other in recent memory, is about teams, not quarterbacks. In theory, that’s what championships should be about.
But in reality, the Super Bowl is almost always about quarterbacks. It can cement immortality (think Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman) or harm legacies (think Craig Morton, Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly, Ken Anderson, Dan Marino and Drew Bledsoe).
Take last year’s Indy Super Bowl, for example. The Giants weren’t great. Neither were the Patriots. But it didn’t matter. In one corner was Eli Manning, trying to join an exclusive multi-ring club. In the other was Tom Brady, seeking vengeance — and a fourth Lombardi Trophy — after being bested three years earlier in a classic shootout with Peyton’s little brother.
In the end, the rematch was as priceless as the original, and nobody cared that the Giants sneaked into the playoffs 9-7. Or that the Patriots were one of the worst defensive teams to ever reach the Super Bowl. What mattered was the quarterback drama, which, in the end, satisfied the audience (except in New England) in every conceivable way.
Which brings us back to Super Bowl XLVII — the first NFL championship minus a Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger or Manning since 2003, when Tampa Bay thrashed Oakland 48-21. Tampa’s quarterback was Brad Johnson. Oakland’s was Rich Gannon. Neither was MVP.
That distinction went to Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson. It’s belonged to an offensive player every year since, including six times to quarterbacks.
Could the streak end in New Orleans? Possibly. Kaepernick is young but has budding MVP qualities. Flacco is a not-so-flashy veteran who made MVP plays in the playoffs.
But for this Super Bowl, more than any other since 2003, the quarterbacks aren’t center stage. The coaches are. The 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh vs. Baltimore’s John Harbaugh. Little brother vs. big brother. The ultimate sibling rivalry playing out in front of a global audience.
Ray Lewis? Love him or loathe him, his story can’t be ignored. He’s retiring after 17 seasons. He was MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. He’s a 13-time Pro Bowler. He’s arguably the greatest linebacker of all time. He’s applauded for his charity work.
And he beat a double-murder rap in 2000.
So what does it all mean for Super Bowl XLVII? It means it should still be an entertaining show, with or without a quarterback at center stage.
At the end of Super Bowl Sunday, that’s all we really ever want.