New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril and defensive end Michael Bennett during the third quarter of the NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2014 2:49 PM
OK, let’s just say it. The Saints should be in the NFC Championship game today.
No reason the Who Dats shouldn’t still be fighting it out for a chance to go the first experimental Arctic Super Bowl, also the first to be played in a New Jersey landfill.
The Saints were good enough. Think about it. If you’d known going into the season that their defense was going to be as good as turned out, you’d have booked reservations long ago.
But that’s not happening, so you face quite the dilemma today.
Over and over this week I’ve heard the sad refrain that, realistically, football season is over and “I don’t really care who wins anymore.”
Get real. That’s no way to live your life. There has to be more to football than hoping your board numbers come up at the end of a quarter.
So work with me here. Maybe we can figure something out with these two championship games.
San Francisco at Seattle is interesting, but also a tough one.
Saints old-timers will recall that back in the old NFC West days, Joe Montana and later Steve Young were constantly teasing, then torturing the Saints’ modest efforts to get NFL relevant, usually under Jim Mora.
How long do you hold a grudge?
Then again, Seattle is the only team to beat the Saints twice this season, the only team to beat them convincingly and the last team to beat them at all and finish the season that shouldn’t have ended this soon.
I’ve heard the theory from Saints fans that if they can’t win it all, there will be some consolation in having gone down to the eventual Super Bowl champions.
That’s pretty lame in my book. Maybe in college ball, but this is the NFL.
It’s a coin flip, but I’d put more Saints fan self-esteem stock in the satisfaction of having beaten the 49ers should they prevail.
But there’s more, of course.
Saints fans may actually be reduced to rooting against a team rather than for one, which can be rewarding in a curious kind of way that only your psychiatrist can fully explain.
The coaches offer some hope in that area. The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll still strikes a nerve in this region. I always found him kind of interesting and occasionally refreshing, but I understand the bruised feelings that, while at Southern Cal, he never did quite apologize for blatantly claiming a share of the 2003 college national championship with LSU.
The 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh can’t be as smart as the smug look on his face suggests he assumes he is. Which can be annoying, although I can’t give any concrete examples of anything criminal he’s done.
Anyway, those two guys are living proof that successful college coaches can make the transition to the NFL, which flies in the face of the pro game’s arrogance.
So there’s something to be said for both.
Quarterbacks? The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Niners’ Colin Kaepernick are the new breed, maybe the future of the NFL, athletic guys who are as quick afoot as strong of arm.
Wilson seems like a genuinely nice young man, Kaepernick has his moments of senseless bravado and, in the end, Wilson is much easier to spell anyway.
There’s a bit of an LSU factor here too.
The Seahawks employ two former Tigers, although with an asterisk. Both cornerback Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware, neither of whom should have left Baton Rouge early last year, technically are on injured reserve and aren’t likely to ever actually play for the team.
The Niners, on the other hand, feature two LSU starters, and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and safety Eric Reid are two of the most popular Tigers in recent memory.
Easy choice there, if that kind of thing is important to you.
The other game is Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, but only the hard-core NFL fan (certainly not the game promos) will recognize that they have teammates around them.
This is like the 427th time they have faced each other and, once again, there’s not much not to like about either.
Brady is probably too good looking for anybody’s good and his wife is a super model with an enticingly unspellable name. But it’s hard to feel too sorry for Peyton’s place in the universe either.
Among casual fans and X-and-O junkies alike it’s like the age-old “Gilligan’s Island” question: Ginger or Mary Ann?
The Broncos’ John Fox has always seemed like one of the real decent guys in the NFL and, well, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick really doesn’t care what you or anybody else think about him. That can be refreshing too.
He was also Nick Saban’s mentor before Saint Nick starting doing all the mentoring.
Neither team has enough history with the Saints to leave a bad taste so that’s a wash.
There is, however, an LSU factor here, too. It basically comes down to whether you want to see the Broncos’ little Trindon Holiday — who can fit on most charm bracelets — outrun the Patriots on returns or see Stevan Ridley run over the Broncos’ defense.
Maybe I’m being wishy-washy here.
If you just want to root for the winners try these:
Broncos over Patriots. Niners over Seahawks.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org