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LOS ANGELES — Joe Burrow showed up to the biggest game of his professional career looking like he was rejected from a 1990s Zubaz-inspired Western. He had on a black cowboy hat and a striped suit whose pattern looked like it was taken off the back of a gray and black tiger.
And give the guy credit.
Anybody brazen enough to wear this stuff has to be so confident in what’s about to happen that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to win Super Bowl LVI by three touchdowns, I thought.
The Los Angeles Rams knocked the hat off Burrow’s head in the SoFi saloon, and he couldn’t do a thing about it.
After this 23-20 Rams’ victory, Burrow showed up to his post-game press conference wearing mostly a look of disappointment and defeat.
“Yeah, it hurts,” he said, glumly. “We put a lot of work into going out there and executing and performing well, and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. So it’s disappointing.”
It would have been great to see Burrow help complete the Bengals’ improbable run from worst place in the AFC South last year to best in the NFL this year. It would have made for a wonderful story:
Joe Burrow as Joe Montana because both are so cool.
Joe Burrow as Tom Brady because both won it all their second year.
Joe Burrow as Joe Namath because, my Lord, look what he’s wearing and he’s walking off the field a cool underdog turned respected champion.
But this loss changes those narratives.
Now you have to wonder if Joe Burrow is on course to being Dan Marino — and not because he’s going to throw touchdowns at that dizzying rate.
After the game, Burrow announced next year the Bengals could complete what they failed to finish this year.
“We’re a young team, so you’d like to think we’ll be back in this situation multiple times over the course of the next few years,” Burrow said. “So we take this and let it fuel you for the rest of our careers.”
It would be an amazing story if that were to happen. Really would.
But it doesn’t often happen that way.
Not even for some of the greatest ones to play the game.
In 1985, for example, at the end of a record-smashing season, Marino lost in Super Bowl XIX to Montana and the San Francisco 49ers.
Later that spring, he and Montana filmed a soft drink commercial in which the winner bought the loser a beverage. The kicker to the commercial was Marino telling Montana, “Next year, I’m buying.”
And Marino truly thought he’d return to the NFL’s biggest stage often after getting there at age 23.
He never returned.
Aaron Rodgers got to his first Super Bowl his third year as a starting quarterback, at age 27. And he’s never been back.
Cam Newton got there the year he won the NFL’s MVP award. And not since.
Drew Brees got there once and never again, despite multiple trips to the NFC Championship Game.
The point is assuming a return to the Super Bowl minutes after losing a Super Bowl is merely wishful thinking rather than clear thinking.
And yet Burrow …
“I think that’s going to propel us into next year,” he said of the loss. “We’re going to have a really good offseason. We have a lot of hard workers in that locker room. We’re going to attack this offseason like we did last year. We’re not satisfied with what we did this year. We’re going to keep getting better and attack next year with the same intensity.
“We’re going to work really hard to get back to this moment and finish on top like we wanted to this year and we came up just short.”
To be fair, Burrow seemed to have a moment of clarity in his post-game sorrow when he admitted, “You’d like to say we’re going to get back every year, but that’s not a reality.”
The fact is the NFL system is set up to squash good teams. The Bengals that had the first overall draft pick when Burrow was taken and even the fifth overall selection in 2021 when they took Ja’Marr Chase are going to pick No. 31 in the first round of April’s draft.
And, unlike a lot of teams that reach the Super Bowl, the Bengals are quite incomplete, so they need to hit on almost every pick to be that team Burrow envisions.
They’re obviously not that team now. We saw how bad their turnstile offense line is, giving up seven sacks against the Rams.
And we saw that they don’t have a shutdown cornerback because Cooper Kupp still made plays after Odell Beckham Jr. left the game with a knee injury and the Bengals double-teamed him.
All of that matters. It’s important.
But Burrow is confident in the face of those facts that if he merely improves, he can continue to lift his team to greater heights than they reached Sunday.
“Just keep getting better, improve my game overall,” Burrow said of his next assignment. “I played better and better throughout the season, and I’m excited to have that carry over into next year.”
One has to admire his confidence. Except right now, it eerily resembles the confidence Marino, Rodgers and others had after their first Super Bowls.
After their only Super Bowls.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
5 CommentsLeave a Reply
Yeah I hear ya. There are no guarantees – especially in the stacked AFC with all those young QBs.
Fix up that O line make them pretty formidable for years Joe Cool is special but 7 sacks no bueno
Nice team, had a really good year and should be regulars in the playoffs for a while, but………….you don`t get to draft in the top 5 every year. Let see how they handle success.
Great game but the better team did win. Cincy had a lot of good things happen to them this season and in the playoffs, the breaks went their way. Raiders damn near knocked them off in the Wildcard round and that referees whistle should have blown dead that TD catch of theirs against the Raiders. The NFL even admitted the officials blowing it on that call. Tennessee blew it with poor qb play and KC had a meltdown for the ages. Very easy to say the Bengals were lucky to have reached the SB. Biggest thing the Bengals need to improve upon, either through the draft or FA, is the O line.
QB that lose on their first SB appearance usually don’t come back. But Burrow is the guy that could break that trend. Give him an Offensive Line and he will be back there in the next three years.