Panthers and Warriors are very good — just not as good as ’85 Bears and ’95-96 Bulls
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This is not a homer column. But if you insist on calling it a homer column, at least call it a two-for-one homer column.
The 2015 Panthers are not as good as the 1985 Bears were, no matter what happens in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The 2015-16 Warriors are not as good as the 1995-96 Bulls were, regardless of whether Golden State breaks the single-season victory record.
I know: Don’t the pompoms get in the way while I’m typing?
But eyeball tests are eyeball tests, and my eyes don’t see the best ever when I’m watching the Panthers or the Warriors.
Let’s start with Carolina, a discussion that, in my world, seems forced. But the comparison was brought up as the Panthers laid waste to the regular season, and it has been a topic of conversation as they prepare to face the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. It’s a debate that happens every time a team cruises through its schedule. Is Brand X as good as that Bears team was? The answer is invariably “no.’’
Let’s go strength vs. strength. Carolina has Cam Newton, a big, fast, ridiculously talented quarterback. The ’85 Bears never saw anything like him, but it works both ways: He hasn’t seen anything like the collection of players who made the 46 Defense work. That would be Hall of Famers Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Mike Singletary. It would be Steve McMichael, Otis Wilson, Wilber Marshall, William Perry, Dave Duerson, Gary Fencik, Leslie Frazier and Mike Richardson.
We’ll never know in our mythical matchup if Newton could have taken the beating that the Bears’ defense regularly gave quarterbacks. But if Newton were to go back in time, just remember that pass rushers were allowed to treat quarterbacks like crash-test dummies back then. If the ’85 Bears time-traveled forward, I don’t think it would have been much different.
The Panthers went 15-1 in the regular season, losing only to the Falcons. The 1985 Bears also went 15-1, losing to the Dolphins.
You can do anything with statistics, possibly even floss with them, but these stand out: Those Bears won by an average of 16.1 points in the regular season. The Panthers won by an average of 12 points in the regular season. In the playoffs, the ’85 Bears won by an insane average of 27 points. So far, the Panthers have won by an average of 20.5 points. Very, very good. Just not as good.
I won’t be surprised if Carolina wins by two touchdowns Sunday. But I don’t see a beat-down coming similar to the 46-10 thumping the Bears gave to the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Steve Grogan is still looking for a few of his body parts.
Now, on to the Warriors, who, as of Friday, were on pace to break the single-season record of 72 victories, set by the 1995-96 Bulls.
I love the Warriors. I love the way they pass, I love Draymond Green’s toughness and I love how the ball barely disturbs the net when Stephen Curry hits a three-pointer. Although it’s true that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen never saw anything like Golden State’s perpetual-motion offense, it’s also true that there haven’t been many teams with two lock-down defenders like Jordan and Pippen. I’d pay imaginary money to see Curry and Klay Thompson try to deal with them.
Stats? If you insist, but painting Jordan & Co. by numbers takes the poetry out of it. Or the poetry slam, more precisely. Like the ’85 Bears, they were beautifully nasty. That Bulls team led the NBA in scoring at 105.2 points a game and held opponents to 92.9, third best. As of Friday, the Warriors were leading the league in scoring at 115.4 points and were 12th in opponents’ scoring, giving up an average of 102.7. The point differential is very similar – 12.7 for the Warriors, 12.3 for the 1995-96 Bulls.
Different eras. But that’s the point – and fun – of the discussion. Which of the two teams could better deal with the demands of a different period in history? It has been 20 years since the Bulls when 72-10, but they don’t look anachronistic today. When you see black-and-white clips of Bob Cousy, you’re waiting for someone to break out the butter churn. You see clips of Jordan and Pippen, and you know they would still dominate the NBA. When will we reach the point when their games look out of place? Another 20 years? Thirty? That’s how good they were.
On Thursday, the Warriors were honored at the White House for last season’s title. President Barack Obama, a huge Bulls fans, took a friendly shot, referring to the 1995-96 squad as “the greatest team in NBA history.’’ It was blatantly partisan. And correct.