I’m looking forward to hearing from the “playoffs at any cost” advocates – you know, the ones who hope for a train wreck to bring the college world to its senses – about the wonderful matchup the NFL playoffs have produced for this year’s Super Bowl.
And this is why I respect Sunday Morning Quarterback so much. He’s a playoff advocate who admits this time this didn’t work too well:
… Under no criteria can New York’s season, one that ended with NY three full games behind the winner of its own division, with six reglar season losses – the last of those defeats to New England – be described as “better” than the Patriots’. New York beat three NFC division champions on the road, including both of the top two seeds, but the argument about the “best team,” if it wasn’t over a month ago, is certainly finished now. This is not like Pittsburgh’s wild card run in 2005, when the Steelers finished the playoffs with the same number of wins as every team ranked in front of them at their start; ditto the Broncos in 1997. The Patriots have been something else, which can’t be accounted for. If the NFL decided anything by polls, New England right now would take first, second and third place, just to accurately represent the distance. But it still has a chance, after clearly the greatest single season performance in league history, to not be the champion.
This is what we nervous folks refer to as “devaluing the regular season”.
SMQ thinks this Super Bowl pairing should serve as a cautionary tale for college football to create a postseason format that gets things right.
For those who argue playoffs undermine the regular season, though, they’ve won this round. I don’t take a step back in my advocacy (a six-loss champion that won its way through the league’s best is still preferable to opinion polls), but the upcoming Super Bowl is the worst-case cross to bear with a playoff format, and it must be faced. As a cautionary tale, this is more proof the coming college football playoff needs to set the bar as high as reasonably possible to keep out the riffraff – no two teams as far apart in accomplishment as the Giants and Patriots should be competing for the same trophy. New York finished tied with a half dozen other outfits for the seventh-best record out of 32 teams, meaning roughly 18.75 percent of the league had a better regular season; compared to Division I-A, that’s the equivalent of the No. 22 or 23 team in the nation making the championship (last year, according to the BCS standings that would have been 9-3 Cincinnati or 8-4 Auburn).
If he were calling the shots, I’d sleep just fine. The problem for me is, though, he ain’t.
He can’t even make Miles Brand happy. What makes you think he’ll make us happy? (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
UPDATE: CFN’s Pete Fiutak adds some more thoughts along the same line as SMQ’s. Money quote:
What’s the point of having a playoff system? Is it to determine who the best team is? Well, not really (the correct answer is money), because if that’s true the NFL would take all 32 teams, hold one big tournament, and everyone would be satisfied. As it stands now, an end of the year playoff forces battered and beaten teams to play in the biggest games, and it takes the luster and importance away from the previous 16 battles.
So now we’re all supposed to ignore the classic New England 38-35 win over the Giants, in the Meadowlands no less, and do this again because now it matters. No, New England didn’t give its full effort trying to go 16-0 and now it has to prove it’s the better team. No, the Giants didn’t give everything it hand in an attempt to ruin a dream season, and now it’s going to actually try.
In 1985, Villanova lost twice to Georgetown in the college basketball regular season, and then won the final game of the year when everything went right for one shining moment. So who was the better team? On the overall scoreboard it was Georgetown 2, Villanova 1, just like if New York wins the Super Bowl then the two teams are 1-1, with one team winning on a neutral site and the other winning in the other team’s park. What would it prove?