Selfishly, I should prefer a snowy Super Bowl.
I’ve never played in the snow myself. Neither has our quarterback, Russell Wilson, who told me the only time he’s ever done it was during a practice at Wisconsin. Yet I still feel confident we would have an advantage over most teams in the snow, no matter the stage, because we run the ball well and we defend the run. Do both of those things, and your offense can run play-action and catch a defense on bad footing—and your defense forces the other team into passing situations with cold hands. Plus, I like the idea of quarterbacks with frozen fingers throwing off target and wide receivers dropping footballs.
But I still think hosting a Super Bowl in New Jersey is a big mistake.
I saw the early portions of the Detroit-Philadelphia game in Week 14. It wasn’t much to watch. The offensive and defensive lines were moving in slow motion. The receivers and defensive backs were slipping around the field. They fumbled the quarterback-center exchange two or three times just while I was watching. The Eagles pulled away in that game, but any close result in conditions like that leaves a lot of doubt about who’s really the better team.
The Week 14 Eagles-Lions game featured nine fumbles. A snowy Super Bowl could prove equally sloppy. (Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated)
This game is played all over the country, in almost every climate America has to offer, and it’s been that way for a long time. Snow happens, and that’s fine for a regular-season game or even an AFC or NFC Championship Game. A team in a cold-weather city can and should earn the right to host a game in conditions it’s familiar with. Baltimore and Pittsburgh built legacies and winning traditions on cold-weather football.
Yet the Super Bowl city is decided years in advance, and the game is supposed to be played on a neutral site. Teams that make it that far have played through the heat of training camp, winter on the road and in the comfort of domes. Whether their rosters were built for the snow or not, they probably overcame it at some point in the season. The Super Bowl should be a clean slate that showcases the athletes, not the stadium or the city they’re playing in.
How many careers are ended due to injury in one NFL season? How many people get fired? How many bodies and brains are worse off, just so we could find out who the best team is?
After all that, there should be no doubt.
Consider the millions of people around the world who watch the Super Bowl. It’s the league’s responsibility to show its audience the best possible product, and this can’t happen in the snow. Everybody wants to see great offense and passing. While you may get some of that regardless, there will be a lot more drops when the ball feels like a brick. And who wants to see Tom Brady or Peyton Manning—two of the best quarterbacks ever—reduced to dropping center-quarterback exchanges? If you’re going to protect these guys from defenses above all other positions, you might as well protect them from the elements, too.
It’s the league’s responsibility to show its audience the best possible product, and this can’t happen in the snow.
And don’t tell me it’s New York’s turn, with their newish stadium. Seattle’s stadium has been around since 2002 and we'd be a great host. Even before that, Seattle put in a few bids, but one of the reasons it didn’t get the game was because they said the weather is unpredictable: too much rain. Yet any player will tell you they'd rather play in heavy rain like that Super Bowl in Miami seven years ago than in the kind of snow we saw in Philadelphia and other northern cities two weeks ago.
I like the NFL’s way of choosing which city hosts the Super Bowl; we have the ability to choose the location based on the quality of the environment. Unlike most of the major sports, one game decides our champion. So we don't let something like an All-Star game decide where our championship is played, because the idea is the site should be fair to all. How can the possibility of snow, which gives advantages to teams like mine, and Kansas City and San Francisco, be considered neutral?
Change the criteria back to the way it was, but not just yet.