Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Power Of Willie Lives!

A few weeks ago when I was breaking down the likely predictions of who would win the Super Bowl, I noted that Green Bay, of the four final teams had a considerable obstacle in its way that the others didn't. The Packers had no players on their roster with a Northwestern degree. Now, Northwestern hasn't been a noted football powerhouse since, oh, 1929 or so. In fact in many years, it's been quite the opposite. But the last 20 years or so have witnessed an almost shocking football renaissance in Evanston, resulting in several graduates plying their trades in the NFL and an almost incomprehensibly bizarre streak of players winning Super Bowls.

In fact, last year Saints tackle Zach Strief made New Orleans the fifth consecutive Super Bowl champion to have a Wildcat on the field or the sidelines.

So this year, when Green Bay held on to win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday with nary a Cat on their roster, the streak was done, right?


For I missed something truly remarkable in my little-to-no research when I was writing that blog post, and that is that Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy was the Athletic Director at Northwestern University just eight short years ago. That I failed to remember this is almost embarrassing to me since I covered sports at Northwestern as an undergrad and Murphy's tenure there spanned my college years almost exactly, but the important thing is that I remember now, even if I specifically remember Murphy being named the President of the Packers three years ago and thinking, "Him? Really?"

Yes. Really.

Granted, I will admit I've often misjudged the man because a) he hired a women's basketball coach that I did not have a good relationship with when I covered the team and b) he just looks so dang goofy.

I mean, come on. Look at him. He looks pretty goofy. Or at least like he has no idea where he is.

Remarkably this makes him only the second goofiest Mark Murphy in the levels of mild fame, but when he's holding a Lombardi Trophy in his hand or that horrendously ugly new Halas Trophy, well, it's hard to criticize too heavily. Also, I'm pretty sure if he came running at me decked out like he was in his playing days with the Washington Redskins, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't consider him goofy at all. I'd probably pee my pants. But in any event, what Sunday showed is that Murphy, a world champion who despite his gooftacular smile deftly managed the departure of Brett Favre and helped build Green Bay's fourth Super Bowl winner, was able to keep alive the one consistent vein of each NFL champion from the last half decade. He may not have been a player, but make no mistake, Murphy's stewardship of the Packers means that for a sixth straight season, former part of the Northwestern football program is getting a Super Bowl ring.

The Power of Willie is not to be trifled with.

What's more is that Murphy's place as a former NU Athletic Director doesn't simply extend the streak. As a former player he is uniquely positioned to play a key role in what will surely be contentious arguments between the owners and the players association as the NFL attempts to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreement this month. Hopefully Murphy, who was considered among the more radical players in the League in the 1980s can provide a moderate voice to temper the sturm und drang that PA head DeMaurice Smith has worked up after doing nothing but sabre rattling needlessly since taking the position in slightly less than two years ago.

Until then however, we'll just have to watch recaps of this year's Super Bowl ad nauseum and hope it isn't the last football we see for two years. It's bad enough that it's the last football we'll see until August, but if there was a sendoff we had to witness this one wasn't half bad. And while I know I said B.J. Raji would be a force and he was actually somewhat muted throughout the game, my prediction that Clay Matthews would ultimately do in the Steelers was bolstered by his thundering hit on Rashard Mendenhall, which jarred the ball loose as Pittsburgh was driving for a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. As well, I've been trumpeting the impressive play of Aaron Rodgers all postseason even if the rest of the world recognized the same thing and I completely neglected to so much as mention "Jordy Nelson" in my preview. Basically, I'm a genius. Or at the very least, I'm not an utter failure.

Either way after a pretty entertaining Super Bowl, I'm not ready to deal with seven long days until Pitchers and Catchers report and six long months until people start playing football again. I'm going to have to cope. At the very least I can take some solace in that while that Championship belt seems to fit Rodgers pretty well when he wears it for real, it fits Willie even better.

Just like it has the last five Super Bowls.

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