And then there were five. With the kickoff of Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa on Sunday there will remain only five NFL teams that have never played in the league's signature event. The vagabond Cardinals, now of Phoenix, Az., posthumously of Chicago and St. Louis, finally played their way into the big game. They will meet their antithesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who seem to have claimed a regular place for the championship fight.
That leaves the relatively new Houston Texans and the somewhat new Jacksonville Jaguars joining the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns as teams that have never played in a Super Bowl. Oddly enough, the Baltimore Ravens, who won Super Bowl XXXV, used to be the Cleveland Browns before bolting for greener pastures in Maryland. Cleveland landed a new team and promptly named them the Browns. The "Nevers," such as never sniffing the Super Bowl, may have been more appropriate.
How long will it take for these five teams to break the ice? Perhaps it would be fitting that the Browns and the historically terrible Lions hold out to meet in the Golden Anniversary Edition of the Super Bowl in seven years. Their fans have waited this long, what's a few more lifetimes gonna' hurt? Just think of the wisecrack storylines in late January 2016. Many would likely refer to The Apocalypse.
The NFL powerbrokers have not seen fit to even throw a crumb Cleveland's way by letting them host the game to watch others play in their stadium. They should have built a dome. That honor has been bestowed upon Houston, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and even Detroit, twice! I may not live long enough to see it, but my money is on the Browns being the last NFL team to ever qualify for the Super Bowl. If the league ever expands again, I know I'll never see it.
As the Cardinals have proven this season, it is hard not to improve in the NFL. The deck is stacked in your favor in the name of parity. If you have a bad season you get high draft choices and an easier schedule for next year. Even the Bidwell family, who owns the Cardinals, try as they might, have now managed not to avoid the Super Bowl.
Hiring Ken Whisenhunt as their head coach was a step in the right direction. He was a longtime NFL assistant after a career as a role player with the Falcons, Redskins and Jets. We have all heard about his serving as the offensive coordinator with the Steelers when they last won the Super Bowl in 2006 but being turned down for their head job when Bill Cowher retired. Maybe it was more luck than acumen on choosing a coach, they've only had 34 of them, but Whisenhunt has led the Cardinals into unknown waters.
Closer to home, we remember Whisenhunt as the Richmond Academy grad who played for Georgia Tech. Interestingly enough, the Cardinals website lists Whisenhunt as a native of Atlanta, which may represent the place of his birth. It also could be that since high school football in Richmond County is worse than the Cardinals ever have been, it was decided not to jinx the franchise by mentioning Augusta and football together.
I like Whisenhunt, I like the Cardinals and I'm glad they are in the Super Bowl. On Sunday though, it will be hard for me not to root for the Steelers. If their receiver Hines Ward is not my favorite all-time football player, then I don't know who is. I literally love the way he plays and his attitude. I hope his knee injury does not keep him from playing effectively. I like the Cardinals spunk, but with their great defense, I'll pick the Steelers, say 21-17.