Super Bowl XLVIII – or 48 if you must – pits the league’s best offensive team, the Denver Broncos against its best defence, the Seattle Seahawks in a fitting collision of rival forces.
But for most of the 60 minutes, or three or so hours in real-time, it will be a back and forth between two quarterbacks of contrasting styles. Super Bowl aristocracy Denver and their classic NFL QB, Peyton Manning against the brash upstart Seahawks and their off the cuff playmaker Russell Wilson.
The outcome could be make or break for Texas A&M sports management major, Johnny Manziel – who has decided to forego a third year as starting QB for the university’s football team and try his luck as a somewhat unconventional QB choice for NFL teams.
Manziel’s hopes on Sunday will be represented by Wilson, whose pace is as explosive as his arm while Manning is the classic pocket passer. The veteran QB is the statuesque figure who stands tall in the centre of the pitch surveying the field to pick off his chosen receiver with a 30 yard pass thrown with pinpoint accuracy.
Defences though must not only fear Wilson’s passing game but also his running ability – and still factor in his ability to throw while on the move, across the backfield.
While Manning embodies the qualities NFL coaches have long looked for in QBs, Wilson is one of a new generation – ‘dual threat’ QBs. He was selected 73 picks after the Washington Redskins had made Robert Griffin Junior the second player taken in the 2012 draft. Griffin. also known as RGIII, is the dual threat QB who ignited a stale offence in a stellar 2012 rookie season which ended in injury that hampered his 2013 season.
RGIII, Wilson and the Carolina Panthers’ 2011 number one draft pick, Cam Newton have threatened an NFL revolution. Teams must re-evaluate the position and decide between the classic pocket passer or the all action potency of a tough running yet still lethal passer as their offensive spearhead.
In 2012 Indianapolis Colts opted to build their team around number one overall selection, QB Andrew Luck. One reason the Colts are thought to have favoured Luck over RGIII to take over from their former starter, Manning, was how susceptible to injury RGIII is due to his style of play.
This May the Houston Texans must evaluate the merits of the dual threat V the pocket passer when selecting the NFL’s number one overall draft pick – with Manziel, the most vivid example yet of a dual threat QB to enter the NFL.
As the brightest star in his home state these past two autumns a clamour has grown for the Texans to opt for Johnny Football, who bounces off tacklers, spins from the clutches of 300 lbs giants and makes the impossible seem routine.
But while fans gawp at Manziel’s heart in mouth style of play, coaches – or anyone not caught up in the heat of the moment – realise much of his highlights reel is a showcase of errors of judgement. Spectacular plays, yes – but ones that could easily be game changing defensive plays.
This May’s draft has rich picking at QB: Terry Bridgewater, of Louisville, has long been touted as the number one overall pick while the Texans are also thought to favour the University of Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. Both – in stature and in style – are more typical NFL quarterbacks. The Texans may well feel these more muscular specimens will better stand up to the physical rigour of pro football than Manziel, who at 6’1 is also considered short by NFL QB standards.
Since declaring himself for the draft most pundits seem to have settled on the opinion that despite Manziel’s potential flaws and a childlike enthusiasm for playing football, he is a rare special talent who is too good not to play in the NFL.
Will the outcome of the Super Bowl influence Manziel’s draft position? As he seems a sure-fire top five pick – and it would hardly register as a major shock if he is chosen first over all – it will be difficult to judge but he represents the advancement of the dual threat QB in the NFL – and is perhaps the least typical NFL QB to be installed as a certain early first round draft pick.