Super Bowl and Soccer: A Guide to NFL Teams, and their Soccer Companion Clubs, Part I

Super Bowl Weekend is here, and it's as good a time as any to look at NFL teams and their soccer companion clubs...

Super Bowl Weekend is here, and it’s as good a time as any to look at NFL teams and their soccer companion clubs…

Jon Levy

The Yanks played maybe their most miserable match of the Jurgen Klinsmann era Tuesday night in Houston. But rather than turning this website into a 24/7 pessimism parade, we here at The Yanks Are Coming decided to remind you that we can have a little fun.

Last year we kicked around the idea of finding soccer equivalents for the teams in America’s most popular (best) league, the NFL. With the Super Bowl coming this weekend—Did you hear the coaches are brothers???—we thought—now here’s a great time to tie-together two sports we love and have a great time. So enjoy part one of our two part NFL/soccer series, and be sure to make suggestions or tell us what we got wrong down in the comments section. Maybe you’ll even decide you have a new favorite club in a league you didn’t previously focus on- who knows!

The NFC

Washington RedskinsDC United: These teams have historically been some of most successful in their leagues, but they’ve fallen on the hardest of times as of late. Those struggles seem to have come to an end though, with both DC area teams on the upswing. United had a good year, even with Dwayne De Rosario’s knee issues, and they should have another one this coming season. RG III- well, what can you say? He’s electrifying, he’s a leader, he delivered a team that was very mediocre to the playoffs anyway. Yes, there’s the knee injury- but that’s a different type of bad these days than it was even ten years ago. He’ll be fine.

Emulating the Giants, the Dynamo even brought Ricardo back last year. It didn't work- but both teams exude excellence.

Emulating the Giants, the Dynamo even brought Ricardo back last year. It didn’t work- but both teams exude excellence.

New York Giants – Houston Dynamo: Championship winning squads from recent years that are constantly written off after making personnel changes. The Giants are in the New York media market, but the Jets get the lion’s share of attention. Sound kinda/sorta like the Galaxy, Dynamo fans?? But these teams keep a good core of players intact, and often find a way to win over favored rivals. Eli’s team won the Big Game last year—the Dynamo have lost the last two, but they’ve been to the show! Maybe Houston should have recalled Ricardo Clark like the G-Men did with Chase Blackburn. Wait, what’s that you say? They did that already?? And they still lost? Guess Landon Donovan is just more clutch than Giants rival; Tom Brady…

Philadelphia Eagles – Palermo: The Eagles of Philadelphia share more with the Eagles of Palermo than just a mascot. Both teams have enjoyed a wonderful run over the past decade or so, qualifying for the playoffs and European football respectively, more often than they ever have. But despite this recent era of good feelings, the lack of finishing has continued to plague both sets of Eagles as it has since the inception of the clubs themselves. Philly is still without a Super Bowl ring, and the Scudetto’s still never made its way to Palermo.

Dallas Cowboys – Real Madrid: They’re as polarizing as you get in sports. They draw the big TV ratings, the most fans, and an amount of ire generally reserved for politicians. And not so suddenly they’re now both underdogs. Real haven’t won the Champions League since 2002, and Dallas is without a Super Bowl win since 1995. Meanwhile, even after beating their rivals for the Spanish league title last season, Real is still overshadowed by Barcelona, who are constantly hailed as one of the greatest teams of all time. And the Cowboys undrafted-QB-made-good is probably the most vilified good guy in the NFL. Ronaldo might as well keep spending his time at night clubs, because serving at soup kitchens for the next three years won’t make the hate go away. But hey, these guys get to be the stars of the Dallas Cowboys and Real Madrid– not a bad trade-off.

Chicago BearsEngland National Team: Both can lay claim to being the most historically relevant teams ever to play the game. But the modern era hasn’t been so kind to them. Despite inventing the game, England only has one World Cup win. And in the States, George S. Halas and the Bears can be credited, perhaps more than any other franchise, with launching the National Football League. They’ve won many NFL Championships, but in the Super Bowl era, they’ve got only one. In many ways 1966 England = 1985 Bears. Teams full of characters that walked on water with fans thereafter, despite their personal problems. At least ‘66 and ‘85 were about as far from nondescript as any championship team can get.

Green Bay PackersUruguay National Team: Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Uruguay. Those are your most successful World Cup winning nations. Which one of these things is not like the others? Same game, now with the most successful Super Bowl winning cities. Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, Green Bay, New York. Uruguay and Green Bay are the little guys that get it done. They’re also the inaugural winners of the World Cup and Super Bowl respectively. After each taking a number of decades off from being any good at all, both teams are enjoying a renaissance, and in dramatic fashion. After barely making it to the World Cup in 2010, Uruguay went on an epic run to the semifinal. Six months later, the Packers had to win their final regular season game just to make the playoffs. They did so, and took the next four for good measure, bringing the trophy named after their legendary coach back to the frozen tundra. Each team followed their coming out party with more dominance, the Packers going fifteen and one, and Uruguay winning the Copa America.  Uruguay has no Lombardi you say? Try telling that to Copa America winning skipper Oscar Tabarez is he guides Uruguay to another World Cup semifinal…

Minnesota Vikings – Portugal National Team: I mentioned a lack of finishing in the case of the Eagles, but that virus has long since reached epidemic proportions with these two teams. How often can you get within sight of the mountaintop only to be denied? The Vikings never fail to lose at the most crucial juncture in new and surprising ways. From their four Super Bowl losses, to two relatively recent NFC Championship Game meltdowns, the Vikings are the standard bearers for “what if.” Meanwhile, Portugal can’t laugh at the Vikings for losing to the likes of Chris Chandler’s Atlanta Falcons, because losing the Euro 2004 Final at home to a much less talented Greek team actually trumps that on the futility scale. With the likes of Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal seems to want to test how many times they can have the best player in the world on their squad while managing to win nothing of significance.

Forever # 1 in Lions fans hearts, the second-greatest running back of his generation, Barry Sanders, is nearly all the Lions have had to cheer about the last half-century.

Forever # 1 in Lions fans hearts, the second-greatest running back of his generation, Barry Sanders, is nearly all the Lions have had to cheer about the last half-century.

Detroit LionsHungary National Team: Sorry Detroit, one good year and a couple nice new pieces do not define an all new identity. These teams are still the loveable losers, and neither one playoff appearance nor a World Cup qualifying win here or there can change that. Barry Sanders and Ferenc Puskás are still extremely relevant figures to each fan-base, not just due to a healthy respect for history, but partly because the good times have been so few and far between since these seminal figures retired. The Lions might as well follow Hungary’s lead with Ford Field and rename it Barry Sanders Stadium.

New Orleans Saints – Napoli: These teams aren’t really good all that often, but when they are, it’s just about the most entertaining incarnation of the sport. Both squads are coming off a ridiculously successful spell, and they’re both still exciting, but they might have already achieved all they can with their current lineups. Drew Brees and the Saints are reeling in the wake of the bounty scandal, and after a miserable year that saw a losing record return to the Crescent City- who knows how long it will take them to return to championship level even after head coach Sean Payton returns from his suspension. As for Napoli, they lost one third of their magic offensive formula this offseason when Ezequiel Lavezzi bolted for Paris Saint-Germain, and while Napoli held on this time, the interest of Manchester City and Arsenal surely means Edinson Cavani is gone soon- and Marek Hamslik will surely follow as well.

Atlanta Falcons – Sporting Kansas City: These teams have a pretty well cemented record of general mediocrity and playoff underachievement. But there’s good news! The coach/players combination is now in place for each of these teams to embark on the most successful periods in their existence. That’s kind of the nice thing about not being a storied franchise like the Chicago Bears or DC United. Even if DCU or the Bears bring home another ring or two, the comparisons to the teams of Bronko Nagurski and Eddie Pope won’t spring up right away, but what if the Falcons or Sporting KC start winning championships? For the Falcons, who kinda/sorta got over the playoff hump this year, the Golden Age more or less just started.  Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, and Roddy White can all expect to have their jerseys retired. Zusi, Bunbury, Sapong, and Kamara (despite the Norwich City loan) will expect the same if they stay in KC. Fortunately for the Falcons, Matt Ryan won’t be lured away to play in Europe if he wins the Lombardi Trophy. Not sure I can say the equivalent for KC’s stars.

Carolina Panthers – Seattle Sounders: Expansion teams generally don’t have a great amount of success in the NFL, but the Panthers have actually been a relevant playoff team for most of their existence. They came out of the gates hot like the Sounders, landing a spot in the NFC Championship Game in just their second year, and unlike their expansion buddies in Jacksonville, they’ve managed to be good on a much more consistent basis. The Sounders will hope to stay their course and at least equal that feat, without the eventual soul-crushing year of coming in last place of course.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Calcio Padova: These teams pioneered revolutionary defensive systems that changed the game forever. For the Bucs it was the Cover 2; now their variation of this zone is eponymously known as the Tampa 2. Meanwhile, the defensive system that Italian soccer is known for, Catenaccio, was workshopped to perfection at Padova before making champions out of Inter Milan and the Italian national team. Sadly for Padova and the Bucs, these defensive innovations lifted them to levels that they’ve been unable to recreate as of yet. At least the Bucs are still in the NFL; Padova hasn’t been back to Serie A since 1996.

Joe Montana before Montana, Johan Cruyff was the perfect player in the perfect system for the great Ajax teams.

Joe Montana before Montana, Johan Cruyff was the perfect player in the perfect system for the great Ajax teams.

San Francisco 49ers – Ajax: Another comparison based on scheme, but this one’s even better than the Tampa 2/Catenaccio argument. Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense  = Total Football. Both Ajax and the Niners soared perhaps higher than any teams ever in their glory day, sparking copycat wannabes with varying degrees of success for decades to come. Joe Montana and Johan Cruyff were the perfect players to drive these exciting new systems. Recently both teams have lost their way though, and they’re getting back to basics in totally different ways. Ajax is embracing the club’s roots and walking the path of former player Frank de Boer, while the Niners are creating an all new defensive identity, and running the ball on offense rather than going back to the West Coast ideology. Now, the 49ers are in the Super Bowl, somewhere Ajax hasn’t been in far too long- but it took awhile to get back. And if you are into the whole history thing- San Francisco is a multicultural, tolerant, wonderful place with a not-so-well known darker history when it comes to treatment of the Chinese; Amsterdam is a multicultural, tolerant, wonderful place with a not-so-well known darker history when it comes to the Holocaust.

Seattle Seahawks – Tottenham Hotspur: Style over substance. It’s more important to make a splash for the fan-base than it is to actually win anything. Somehow the fans actually stay committed though, so I guess owners Paul Allen and Daniel Levy know what they’re doing to some extent. Things changed for a couple years while Mike Holmgren and Harry Redknapp were in charge, but even then, the teams still didn’t actually win anything. And now the slimy college coach (NFL flop) and slick Portuguese manager (EPL flop) are in charge. Trophies will follow? Sorry guys.

Arizona Cardinals – Fulham: Larry Fitzgerald is Clint Dempsey, minus Deuce’s recent ungraceful exit. And as bad as Clint’s obstinate behavior looked, at least he got his transfer. The best wide receiver in the world is still in prison as it were in Arizona. These historically pretty bad franchises actually got to the Super Bowl/Europa League Final a few years back, but that’s a distant memory due to personnel turnover and even a coaching change at Craven Cottage. As a final note, this is me being nice to the Cardinals and going with the recent identity of the team. Historically, the Cardinals are defined by moving all over the place, from Chicago, to St. Louis, to Arizona, and being pretty much irrelevant all the while. I could have gone MK Dons.

St. Louis Rams – Aston Villa: Both teams had a consistently good period relatively recently, but they’ve been on downward spirals ever since. The Rams are much further along in their comeback though. You have to feel for a guy like Rams running back Steven Jackson, who showed up just as the dominance was ending in St. Louis. The Rams may be on the upswing, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jackson had to carry the franchise through the dark times. A similar burden could be in store for young Villa players like Marc Albrighton or America Eric “How High?” Lichaj. The recent Cap One Cup exit to Cinderella Brentford might be rock-bottom, as 1-15 was for the Rams not long ago.

Jon Levy is Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at jon.f.levy@gmail.com and you can and should follow him on what we think is one of the more “underrated” Twitter feeds in the twitta-verse @TYAC_Jon. 

Filed Under: FeaturedFebruary 2013

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