Oh, the story lines we will leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII:
The Unstoppable Force (a Broncos team that averaged 37.9 points per game in the regular season and 25.0 ppg in the playoffs) meets the Immovable Object (a Seahawks team that surrendered 14.4 ppg in the regular season and 16.0 ppg in the playoffs)
The offensive genius of Adam Gase and Peyton Manning facing off against the defensive caginess of Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn
The calculating surgery of Manning versus the bravado of Richard Sherman
Another story line which deserves at least some attention is how Super Bowl XLVIII will showcase the classic example of the craftiness of experience versus the exuberance of youth. When we look at the twenty-two starters listed in the depth charts on each team's official website, we find that the Broncos represent experience while the Seahawks represent youth.
The Broncos' eleven offensive starters have an average of 5.8 seasons in the NFL, compared to an average of 4.5 seasons for the Seahawks' starting eleven. Denver's offensive starting eleven have an average of 4.0 playoff seasons and have players that have appeared in four different Super Bowls. Seattle's starters have an average of 2.2 playoff seasons and no Super Bowl appearances.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos' bring a starting eleven with an average of 5.6 NFL seasons, 2.7 playoff seasons and one player with Super Bowl experience. The Seahawks counter with an average of 4.6 NFL seasons, 2.8 playoff seasons and no-one that has been to a Super Bowl.
The experience versus youth contrast holds true between each team's three main coaches (head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator). The Broncos' top three have a combined 49 NFL seasons, 19 playoff seasons and 3 Super Bowls, while the Seahawks' top three have a combined 38 NFL seasons, 19 playoff seasons and 0 Super Bowls.
Why is the difference between experience and youth important? Perhaps the largest reason is that "Super Bowl week" is unlike a team's normal routine. Typically, teams use Monday through Friday for team meetings to both review the previous game and prepare for the next one, film study, game planning, walk-throughs, rehab of injuries, etc. The routine, from what we've heard is very consistent from week to week. Teams will then travel to their away games on Saturday afternoon or evening. The main thing is that the routine is organized, consistent, with minimal contact with the media and the players go home each night to sleep in their own beds.
Now enter the Super Bowl week. Set aside the sheer emotion generated from having gotten to the big game. Set aside all the bragging, trash talking and attempts to be politically correct that have gone on up to this point. The week before the Super Bowl arrives, and the teams go through a routine which is unlike what has gone on the previous twenty weeks. Major changes:
1)Both teams are away teams.
2)The teams have arrived for the game on the Sunday before, not the Saturday before.
3)The teams are not using their normal practice facilities.
4)There are major media events every single day.
5)The players are living out of suitcases for a full week.
6)There are new sights, new places to visit, new fans to meet and greet.
The list could go on and on. It would not be too large of a stretch of the imagination to see how players could get caught up in the moment, distracted from their routines, dazzled by the spotlight as it were.
It falls upon the coaches and veteran players to help the younger players deal with this. This is one aspect of the preparation for the Super Bowl in which the Broncos would appear to have an edge. Denver has three starters (Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and two coaches (Head coach John Fox, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio) who have been through this media circus before while the Seahawks cannot make the same claim.
We could speculate that these five (Manning, Welker, Rodgers-Cromartie, Fox, Del Rio) could provide a stabilizing influence on the rest of the team when it comes to dealing with the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl. This is not to belittle the Seahawks' starters nor their coaches -- they are obviously one of the two best teams in the NFL in 2013. It is rather the recognition that they have not been in this specific situation before, and that might prove to be something of a deficit for them. Then again, it might not.
In any event, listed below are the relative seasons of experience that each team's starters and coaches are bringing to Super Bowl XLVIII. The twenty-two starters listed for each team have been drawn from the current depth-chart posted on each team's official website. The NFL seasons counts include the 2013 season, since it is finished. The Post seasons counts include the 2013 post season, since games have been played in the 2013 post season. Super Bowl XLVIII has not been included in the Super Bowl counts since that game has yet to be played. The coaches' season counts include only those season in which they served a team as a coach -- be it an assistant, a coordinator or a head coach.
The units have been grouped by offense versus defense.
|Denver Offense||Seattle Defense|
|WR||Demaryius Thomas||4||3||0||LDE||Red Bryant||6||3||0|
|LT||Chris Clark||4||3||0||LDT||Tony McDaniel||8||2||0|
|LG||Zane Beadles||4||3||0||RDT||Brandon Mebane||7||4||0|
|C||Manny Ramirez||6||3||0||RDE||Chris Clemons||9||6||0|
|RG||Louis Vasquez||5||1||0||LOLB||Bruce Irvin||2||2||0|
|RT||Orlando Franklin||3||3||0||MLB||Bobby Wagner||2||2||0|
|TE||Julius Thomas||3||3||0||ROLB||Malcolm Smith||3||2||0|
|WR||Eric Decker||4||3||0||LCB||Richard Sherman||3||2||0|
|WR||Wes Welker||10||6||2||RCB||Byron Maxwell||3||2||0|
|QB||Peyton Manning||16||13||2||SS||Kam Chancellor||4||3||0|
|RB||Knowshon Moreno||5||3||0||FS||Earl Thomas||4||3||0|
Denver's offense has an average of 5.8 NFL seasons experience and 4.0 playoff seasons, while Seattle's defense has an average of 4.6 NFL seasons experience and 2.8 playoff seasons.
|Denver's Defense||Seattle's Offense|
|LE||Malik Jackson||2||2||0||WR||Doug Baldwin||3||2||0|
|DT||Sylvester Williams||1||1||0||LT||Russell Okung||4||3||0|
|NT||Terrance Knighton||5||1||0||LG||James Carpenter||3||2||0|
|RE||Shaun Phillips||10||6||0||C||Max Unger||5||3||0|
|SLB||Nate Irving||3||3||0||RG||J. R. Sweezy||2||1||0|
|MLB||Wesley Woodyard||6||3||0||RT||Breno Giacomini||4||2||0|
|WLB||Danny Trevathan||2||2||0||TE||Zach Miller||7||2||0|
|LCB||Champ Bailey||15||5||0||WR||Golden Tate||4||2||0|
|RCB||Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||6||3||1||QB||Russell Wilson||2||2||0|
|SS||Duke Ihenacho||2||2||0||FB||Michael Robinson||8||2||0|
|FS||Mike Adams||10||2||0||RB||Marshawn Lynch||7||3||0|
Denver's defense has an average of 5.6 NFL seasons experience and 2.7 playoff seasons while Seattle's offense has an average of 4.5 NFL seasons experience and 2.2 playoff seasons.
Denver's players boast an average of over a year's more experience on both sides of the ball in both seasons in the NFL. The Broncos also have the edge on seasons in which they made the playoffs. Finally, they have players who have played in four Super Bowls. There is a similar difference between the Broncos' and Seahawks' coaches.
|Denver's Coaches||Seattle's Coaches|
|HC||John Fox||25||10||2||HC||Pete Carroll||20||11||0|
|OC||Adam Gase||7||3||0||OC||Darrell Bevell||5||3||0|
|DC||Jack Del Rio||17||6||1||DC||Dan Quinn||13||5||0|
Denver's Super Bowl Edge
The Broncos have three players and two coaches who have been to the Super Bowl as starting players and coaches: QB Peyton Manning, WR Wes Welker, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, HC John Fox and DC Jack Del Rio.
Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to two Super Bowls, XLI and XLIV. In 2006, he faced the Chicago Bears in SB XLI. The Colts fell behind 14-6 in the first quarter but took a 16-14 lead into the locker room at the half. They went on to win 29-17. Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. His second trip came in 2009 in SB XLIV when he faced the New Orleans Saints. The Colts jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first and led 10-6 at the half. They went on to lead 17-16 at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter saw the Colts miss a field goal. New Orleans responded with a touchdown drive to take a 24-17 lead after a successful two-point conversion. Indianapolis was driving for a tying score when Saints' CB Tracy Porter intercepted a Manning pass and returned it for a touchdown to seal the game.
Wes Welker also participated in two Super Bowls: XLII and XLIVI. Both of these games came while he was catching passes from Tom Brady for the Patriots. In 2007, Welker saw action in SB XLII against the New York Giants. This was a see-saw game which saw the Patriots trail 3-0, lead 7-3, trail 10-7, lead 14-10 before finally losing 17-14. Welker caught 11 passes for 103 yards in that game. Four years later, in 2011, Welker returned to the Super Bowl in SB XLVI. The Patriots again faced the New York Giants. In this game, the Giants jumped out to a 9-0 lead. The Patriots took a 10-9 lead into the locker room at the half. They extended their lead to 17-9, saw the Giants edge closer at 17-15 and eventually lost 21-17. Welker was held to 7 catches for 60 yards. After the game, Welker blamed himself for losing the game after dropping a pass when he was wide open at the New York 20-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie saw action in 2008 in Super Bowl XLIII. He was a member of the Arizona Cardinals team that faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the Cardinals had fallen behind by a score of 20-7 in the third quarter, they were able to catch up and take a 23-20 lead in the fourth. Arizona ultimately lost 27-23. Rodgers-Cromartie had five tackles and two passes defensed in that game.
John Fox has been to two Super Bowls as a coach, SB XXXV and SB XXXVIII. In 2000, he was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants when they faced off against the Baltimore Ravens in SB XXXV. Although the Giants lost 34-17, the defense only gave up 20 offensive points. The Ravens produced two touchdowns on a 49-yard interception return and an 84-yard kickoff return. Fox's defense gave up 111 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown along with 153 passing yards and 1 passing touchdown. It forced the Ravens to kick two field goals on stalled drives. The Giants' defense also produced three sacks. Fox returned to the Super Bowl in 2003 when he led the Carolina Panthers into SB XXXVIII to face the New England Patriots. This is a tightly fought game that saw the Patriots edge out in front then the Panthers catch up. With 7:06 left in the game, the Panthers took a 22-21 lead. The Patriots seized a 29-22 lead with 2:55 left. The Panthers were able to tie the score at 29-29 with 1:13 left. Unfortunately, after tying the score, the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40-yard line. The Patriots were able to move the ball to the Carolina 23-yard line and kick the game winning field goal with 9 seconds left. The Panthers did have a chance to field a kickoff but were only able to return the ball 20 yards as time ran out.
Jack Del Rio was a linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens in their trip to Super Bowl XXXV in 2000. He was on the opposite side of the field from John Fox in that game. The Ravens won that game 34-17 on the strength of their defense and special teams play. As mentioned above, Baltimore produced two non-offensive touchdowns, one of which was an interception return. The Ravens defense held the Giants to 66 yards rushing and 112 yards passing. The Ravens intercepted Giants QB Kerry Collins four times in the game, one of which was by linebacker Jamie Sharper.
It will be interesting to see if the Super Bowl experience that Denver brings to this contest will help to offset the youthful exuberance of the Seahawks. The Water Cooler Quarterbacks believe it will.