Beyond the Boxscore
Most NFL QBs clearly rooting Rodgers over Roethlisberger: Does Big Ben have anyfriends?
It must pain Jerry Jones to know that he's dependent on another young quarterback in the biggest game of his stadium's life. Consider how often Tony Romo (who's had near perfect party attendance this Super week) has let Jones down and ... well, any 68-year-old double billionaire would be hesitant to believe.
But Jones must have faith in Aaron Rodgers. It's the only card this cursed Super Bowl — Jerry Jones' dream bowl remember — has left. If Rodgers delivers the Lombardi Trophy to Titletown with the type of transcendent performance that other members of the quarterback club expect from him, if the Green Bay Packers pull out a close game, almost all will be forgiven if not completely forgotten.
The ice, the inability to clean the roads of that ice (Jerry's not rich enough to bring an army of snow plows and salt trucks in from Oklahoma?), the ridiculous spreading out of Super Bowl XLV so every town in "North Texas" could feel touched, the comical glut of parties, the workers hurt from giant ice sheets sliding off the roof of Jerry World ... all of it would give way to Rodgers' coronation. If Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers win again though ... well, Jerry will still be getting grilled in the corner of one of his mammoth suites.
It's rare that a Super Bowl has had such a clear delineation between a right winner and a wrong winner. It hasn't happened since Super Bowl XXXIII in January 1999 when everyone wanted to see John Elway repeat and no one really cared about the Atlanta Falcons.
Oh, the Steelers have much more history and born-in fans than those Dirty Birds of course and they're well represented in Dallas. They have Snoop Dogg and a number of other celebs who admit they are mostly Pittsburgh backers because of Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" anthem.
But if you go by Rodgers and Roethlisberger's NFL equals — particularly other elite quarterbacks of recent past — Rodgers is the clear pick. Rodgers has built strong relationships with both Steve Young and Kurt Warner, and he's leaned on the two Super Bowl winners in getting ready for XLV.
"Kurt Warner's been a great friend really since the day I was drafted," Rodgers says. "And I've reached out to him on any advice he can give me."
The 27-old Rodgers has also turned to Steve Young, the near-perfect, six-touchdown MVP of Super Bowl XXIX. "One guy who I've gotten to know the last couple of years, who's been a great guy to rely on and lean on, and talk to, is Steve Young," he says.
That's six Super Bowls of experience for Rodgers to take from. So what's Big Ben countering with? Roethlisberger has the two Super Bowl rings he's already won and ... himself.
Just how differently are the two XLV quarterbacks regarded by their positional peers? Even other great Steeler quarterbacks can barely stomach Roethlisberger. One of Fox's big pregame features centers around Pittsburgh's four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger sitting down together in the same room. That's news in itself because of the bitterness between the two men.
"He doesn't like me and I'm learning not to like him," Bradshaw once memorably said of Roethlisberger on the air.
It's rare to have athletes openly pulling against a fellow member of the fraternity if they don't have a stake in the game. But that's exactly what plenty of NFL players and past greats will clearly be doing this Super Sunday.
Even Roger Goodell felt compelled to point out that "No one, not a single player, went to Roethlisberger's defense," when the commissioner was debating this summer on how to discipline the quarterback after he was accused of sexual assault for the second time. But as Goodell himself seemed to acknowledge this reaction wasn't necessarily about what Roethlisberger did to that Georgia coed cornered in a dingy bathroom.
Most pro athletes will blame the woman over the player every time. No, Roethlisberger isn't despised because of his track record with the opposite sex. It's mostly because it seems like he acted like a entitled jerk with other NFL players too.
Goodell mentioned all the stories that fixate on things like Big Ben refusing to sign a jersey for a player's charitable cause and the like.
But it has to be more than that. Because, in truth, if you spend any time watching Aaron Rodgers, he comes across as awfully cocky too. Even when he's trying extremely hard to be Madison Avenue friendly on sports' biggest stage, admitting that his goal for Super Bowl week was to get to the game "without saying anything stupid."
He may have needed to go to junior college before a Division I school would give him a shot, but Rodgers doesn't carry himself like no happy Cinderella sports tale. He's a sure Northern California guy who is more than delighted to throw it back in the face of his old doubters. It doesn't matter how bitter Rodgers remains at Brett Favre for trying to come back and take the Packers' starting job from him, the truth is he should giving No. 4 some credit at this Super Bowl for his development too.
You won. Favre's done, old and embarrassingly scandaled. Be the bigger man. For Warner and Young aren't the only quarterbacks Rodgers has benefitted from being around.
No, the reason most quarterbacks seem to embrace Rodgers over Roethlisberger is simple and largely lacking any moral undertones: They just see Green Bay's man as a more fitting heir to the throne.
Rodgers flashes supreme talent that captivates (just watch the tape of his 31-of-36 performance at Atlanta in the second week of the playoffs). "You look at Aaron and think he could be one of the great all-time quarterbacks," says Packers wideout Donald Driver, a Houston native who's has 12 years and almost 10,000 receiving yards of experience to back up words like that.
Most of Roethlisberger's peers don't seem to see the same in him. Warner came right out on radio this week and argued that Roethlisberger shouldn't be considered a Hall of Famer because he's never had to carry a team. And if many more quietly feel Roethlisberger is overrated with two Super Bowl rings, imagine how much he will be if he secures a third?
So Rodgers will try to spread the Steelers' defense out, to basically do what his mentor Warner did to the Steelers two years ago in the Super Bowl (when Warner threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his passes), knowing that Roethlisberger no longer has Santonio Holmes to steal the big game at the end. And a lot of quarterbacks — and Jerry Jones, if he's smart — will be rooting on every Rodgers' dart.
Few Super Bowls have ever been so simple. But, after this week, do you really expect anything to work out for Jerry? Do you?