FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The state of
But there's game-changing, and then there's what is now known in football lexicon as the
You know what we're thinking. The biggest "What If?'' of all. Not to jinx or wish ill will on anyone, but imagine the reverberations of the Colts losing
Advantage who? We're talking about Manning and Brees, the top two vote-getters in this year's MVP balloting.
"Oh, it'd be over if Peyton went down early,'' Broncos' Pro Bowl cornerback
Jets fans and trivia experts know, of course, that rookie
The thought of seeing this year's glamour Super Bowl matchup being turned into a duel between the untested Painter and Brees (or Manning vs. Brunell for that matter) seems almost cruel to even consider, let alone watch play out. But that's one natural outgrowth of having witnessed the disaster that befell Texas and McCoy early on against the Crimson Tide. Could it happen in the Super Bowl, on the game of football's grandest stage?
"You're always trying to stay the course, no matter what happens out there, because you can't get down when something like that happens,'' Bailey said. "There's a next-man-up mentality in this game. But if there's one team that it would take the wind out of to lose their quarterback, it's the Colts. There's going to be at least half the guys on that team that doubt they've got a chance to win at that point. They might not admit it, but they will.''
"Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are the heart and souls of their teams,'' Revis said after the Pro Bowl. "Just like Colt McCoy was a big part of that Texas offense and the heart of that team. It'd be a big, big, huge drop-off. When we played the Colts in the regular season and they pulled Peyton and put Painter in, you could just see the drop-off and where that team would be without Manning.
"No disrespect to Curtis Painter. It's just the honesty of the situation. It shows you how great Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are, and even how great Colt McCoy is, with him going out in that national championship game. They really had no offense for a while. The freshman came in and stepped up as much as he could, but that's just too much pressure on him in a game like that.''
The loss of Manning might set the bar for in-game catastrophe, but the Saints losing Brees wouldn't be pretty either. Brunell is 39, the second oldest quarterback in the NFL behind
Now in his 17th season, Brunell would clearly have a huge edge over Painter in terms of experience, but it's fairly rare to have a backup quarterback play for any length of time in the Super Bowl. The exceptions:
Former Bengals quarterback
"The only doomsday scenario for any team in this game would be to lose your quarterback early,'' Esiason said Sunday night, before calling the Pro Bowl for CBS radio. "Can you imagine if this game lost one of the two quarterbacks? What a downer that would be. It would ruin everyone's expectations for what we think is going to be a really great Super Bowl.
"If anybody else goes out early, the teams would pick up and move on with them. Even with the big thing for Indianapolis right now being whether Dwight Freeney will be 100 percent or not, it's not the same. The Saints chances would go way up without Freeney, because him and (fellow defensive end)
I made sure to seek out one particular Pro Bowl player Sunday night who happened to be a very interested eyewitness on the University of Texas sidelines the night McCoy got knocked out of the national championship game almost before it even started. Former Longhorn and now Tennessee Titan quarterback
"I was excited being out there that night, but I was definitely hurt about (McCoy) getting hurt like that,'' Young said. "I was proud of him that he came back out to be with his team and support Gilbert after getting hurt. But I don't wish that kind of situation on anyone.
"You want to see guys out there doing what they do and leading their team to victory, like they've been doing all season. When you lose guys like that, that lead your team, that's big. It'd change your whole playbook around and make you do a lot of different things in the game compared to what you were planning to do.''
The odds are none of this pre-emptive hand-ringing leads to anything, of course. Manning is one of the NFL's all-time ironmen, having never missed a start in his 12-year career (209 games including playoffs). That's the league's second-longest streak ever for a quarterback (trailing only Favre), and the longest by anyone to begin a career. As for Brees, until sitting out in Week 17 for precautionary reasons, he had a 79-game consecutive starting streak, which was the fourth-longest active streak in the league by a quarterback.
But we know Manning and Brees will
Could history repeat itself in this year's Super Bowl?
"There's never been a guy getting hurt like McCoy in the first quarter of a Super Bowl, right off the bat,'' Esiason said. "That would be an awful scenario. Nobody, and I mean nobody, would know what to do with that. We would have just talked about both quarterbacks on CBS for six hours before the game even started. What would we do then?''