Perspective is born from all angles. Grey Ruegamer earned some of his over the years with the help of Dan Marino and Tom Brady and Eli Manning and Brett Favre and Aaron Rogers.
“I’ve had a lot of Hall of Fame hands under my ass,” Ruegamer said.
Talk about an opening line at the office holiday party.
NFL centers can be funny guys, not to mention some of the smartest at evaluating how teams match up from one sideline to the next. There is a reason centers do best on the Wonderlic Test at the league’s annual scouting combine, and it’s not just because of hoping for a career successful enough to have all those Hall of Fame hands under, well, you know.
The New England Patriots and New York Giants will meet in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, and there might not be a better person than Ruegamer to determine which might have an edge and who might be the more cantankerous sort between Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin.
Which is like deciding who’s a worse singer between William Shatner and William Hung.
Ruegamer is the Bishop Gorman High School alumnus who played for New England during its Super Bowl winning season in 2001-02, when Brady was the game’s Most Valuable Player and the Patriots as 14-point underdogs took out the Rams.
He also played for the Giants in 2007-08, when an improbable completion from Manning to David Tyree helped lift New York past the then-unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
He has two shiny rings encrusted with diamonds and Roman numerals, one each from the teams that will fight for another in Indianapolis in less than two weeks.
“They’ve both proven that stats are sometimes secondary to reaching this point,” Ruegamer said. “Look at (Brady). He obviously didn’t have a great (AFC Championship Game against Baltimore), but a defense that hadn’t played well all season saved them. The Giants also had a defense that held its ground against San Francisco and, lo and behold, the 49ers had some critical turnovers. If the Giants don’t get those, what happens?
“A lot of the attention will be given up until the game to Brady and Manning, but they’re both going to need a lot of help.”
I get the feeling New York, if possible, would have boarded a flight from San Francisco to Indianapolis immediately after the NFC Championship Game and played the Super Bowl the following day.
More and more, the concept of having to win your way into the playoffs over the last few weeks of a regular season is paying off. Green Bay did and won it all last season. The Giants have an excellent chance to do so in this one. You can’t overstate the importance of momentum and confidence right now. The Giants have more of it than anyone else.
Ruegamer saw it both ways when preparing for the biggest game any player will compete in, saw how the difference of one or two weeks between a conference championship and the Super Bowl really didn’t amount to much.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001 pushed schedules back in the NFL, meaning the Patriots and Rams played with a week’s worth of preparation.
But in 2007, the Patriots and Giants enjoyed the two-week break that this year’s teams will get before kickoff.
“I’m not sure how big a difference the break was either time,” said Ruegamer, 35, now retired and working part time in athletics at Arizona State. “I think both teams could have played the game this week and had no problems at all. The anticipation of the event is worse than the actual event. As a player, you get tired playing the waiting game.
“Guys just want to play. There is too much time for all the storylines. It’s ridiculous the facts that come out. I guarantee someone will report what color jockstraps both teams wore during wins and losses this season.”
You mean there are ones other than white?
He says Brady is more demonstrative in a huddle than Manning, more emotional in how he leads an offense. He says Coughlin has a slower approach than Belichick when coaching, more apt to wait things out before reacting to how a game unfolds.
“I really think the bigger picture of playing in the Super Bowl goes away on game day and guys just try and stick to a game plan,” Ruegamer said. “Up until then, the media will do a very good job providing distractions. There are still guys left on both teams from when I was there in 2007. I just hope it’s a good game.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.