Moments after the Broncos were crowned Super Bowl 50 champions, team president John Elway stood on the podium, hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and declared, “This one’s for Pat.” Dedicating the win to the Broncos’ ailing owner Pat Bowlen, who was unable to attend due to his advancing Alzheimer’s, was classy, poignant and emotional. It invoked the memory of Bowlen inversely saying “This one’s for John” after the Broncos’ first Super Bowl win with Elway 18 years ago. It was perfect, actually.
Elway’s euphoric smile on that stage could be felt for miles, setting the tone for the Broncos to presumably revel in their own success, their place in history. Bask in the glory of what for some will be the greatest moment of their lives.
But unfortunately, even freshly minted Super Bowl champions share the same obsession as the rest of us—Cam Newton.
The Broncos’ postgame locker room largely doubled as a Newton bashfest. Cornerback Aqib Talib gloated in victory: “There ain’t no Easter Bunny, there ain’t no Santa Claus, there ain’t no Superman,” a quote proudly tweeted out by the Broncos.
Referencing the game-sealing fumble that Newton didn’t dive for in traffic, linebacker Danny Trevathan got personal, according to The MMQB’s Robert Klemko: “That’s the way he is. Playing for himself.”
In fairness, players in a postgame locker room don’t give speeches to the media. They are asked questions and often provoked to say something controversial. Still, it seemed like Talib and Trevathan, adorned in Super Bowl Champions attire, very much had Newton on their minds.
What was not provoked, however, was Von Miller posting to Instagram a team picture of the Panthers, their regular faces all photoshopped with the now infamous crying Michael Jordan memes. Admittedly I instantly laughed and respected the creativity, but then it hit me: Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP—at that point just two hours ago—why on earth would he care so deeply about mocking the Panthers?
If there was ever a moment to make the story about yourself and not Cam Newton, this was the moment.
The same philosophy applies to 68-year old Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who this morning gloated on Twitter:
Phillips, named the Assistant Coach of the Year at the NFL Honors on Saturday night, has had a comeback for the ages with Denver. His schemes worked to perfection against the Panthers, and if MVP stood for Most Valuable Person instead of Player, it very well may have gone to Phillips.
Yet his first post-Super Bowl tweet is to ridicule Newton, 42 years his junior? Really?
What’s the point of the NFL’s postgame handshake ritual if one team is going to drop the sportsmanship and rub it in just hours later?
Of course Newton, an outspoken showboater with his signature dab, is an easy target. Just like many a sack artist have mimicked Aaron Rodgers’s discount double-check after driving the Packers QB to the ground, a certain amount of dab mocking is expected.
In the regular season and even the playoffs, a healthy dose of trash-talking on social media can be an entertaining sideshow, allowing players who exist in a league governed by militant rules to showcase their individualism.
But the Denver Broncos just won the Super Bowl. The freakin’ Super Bowl. There is no round two. It’s over. Cam and dabbing and the Panthers should be completely irrelevant to the Broncos at this point. They should have been as soon as that clock hit 0:00 and the Lombardi-shaped confetti showered the field at Levi’s Stadium.
The post-Super Bowl chatter has been no different than the pre-Super Bowl chatter. It’s all Cam, all the time. The Super Bowl champion Broncos, with their subset of interesting storylines, have the best opportunity to change the conversation. Instead they’re feeding the beast as much as anyone.