Championships change people, lives, history, and quite frankly everything. This effect goes both ways as reputations of legends and losers are both formed during the most anticipated 60 minutes of football each year has to offer. This particular season brings two opponents who couldn’t have had a more different public image entering the season. People love contrast in all aspects of life, whether it’s wearing white T-shirt with dark-colored jeans or watching superheroes defeat supervillains, it seems that all things must have their opposite. That statement rings true in this year’s Super Bowl matchup as an explosion of opposition is set to detonate on Super Sunday. Are you rooting for the good guy or the bad guy? That’s completely up for you to decide. Just remember, your villain is another’s hero and rightfully so.
The city of Los Angeles is divisive on its own, with some praising LA while others roll their eyes at the mere thought of it. Ironically, this perception seems to have crept onto one of its NFL teams. The Rams, who will play the Super Bowl in their own newly built 5.5 billion dollar stadium, match the glamor of their home city. The Rams add to this flare by way of a star-filled roster. One could respectfully think Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp and Jalen Ramsey would be enough star-power for one franchise, yet the Rams went out and got more by adding Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr, and Matthew Stafford since the end of last season. That’s an unthinkable amount of flash, even for Southern California. Los Angeles constructed this impressive roster by mortgaging a ginormous amount of its draft capital as the Rams last first round pick was Jared Goff in 2014 and their next first round pick won’t occur until 2024. The glamor doesn’t end with the Rams’ players as they are led by Sean McVay, who some would consider the flashiest head coach in the league. The 36-year-old’s success is seen all over the NFL as many of his assistants have received head coaching jobs. For better or for worse, the young coaching star has evolved the idea of what it takes to be an offensive mastermind. Trading bundles of picks, moving to Los Angeles and taking a chance on a young head coach were all aggressive and what some would call risky moves. It looks to be paying off thus far. However, there would be zero debate if they add a Super Bowl LVI ring to their trophy case.
The Cincinnati Bengals are going to the Super Bowl. Though true, that statement sounds weird. History agrees with its unusualness, as the Bengals have not reached a Super Bowl since 1989 when they fell to Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers. Since that era, the Bengals have had more disappointments than celebrations. Those dark days seem to be disappearing quicker each time Joe Burrow takes the field. After being selected number one overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, Burrow has been the centerpiece of one of the fastest rebuilds in history. Last year, things were ugly in Cincinnati with Burrow tearing his ACL and the club only winning four games. Obviously, the Bengals were able to turn that ship around, but they did so in their own way with no resemblance to the Rams blueprint. While Los Angeles is constructed of proven veterans, Cincinnati’s roster is full of hungry, young talent. Burrow is accompanied by Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, who are all under the youthful age of 25. While those names may not carry the same level of stardom as the Rams, it’s likely not long until they will. Surely with a victory in the big game, their names will be thrust into even larger conversations than they already are. Until then, the story is how they built this thing so quickly. Zac Taylor was hired in 2019 and in his first two seasons posted a record of 6-25-1. That record speaks for how difficult those years were. However, the former McVay assistant kept his head held high and in collaboration with the front office, built a contender that not many saw coming. The Bengals have drafted Sam Hubbard, Higgins, Burrow and Chase all within the past four years. This year’s offseason additions of Trey Hendrickson and Mike Hilton have solidified an overall excellent roster that flew under the radar all year long. While the Rams and others were making headlines, the Bengals were sneaking their way to the top of the AFC North before making noise in the playoffs. Will there be more to prove? Nobody knows yet, but the Bengals hoisting up a Lombardi trophy would be unforgettable.
One team plays in Los Angeles, the other in Cincinnati. One team has a 5.5 billion dollar stadium, the other is the only NFL team without an indoor practice facility. One team has the stars, the other team has the young studs. The only thing left to decide is who will prevail. This game is more than a win or loss in the score books, it will add to a long-standing debate of how to build an NFL roster. To Cincinnati, the draft was vital and the biggest reason they have turned into the team they are today. To Los Angeles, the draft has been a punch-card to bring in impactful and talented stars. Somebody did it right, and the other almost did. Fans and NFL front offices should be captivated by what will come to pass on February 13 when the stars meet the studs.