Super Bowl XLVI for the Birds?

An improved Eagles defense could put the team among next season's Super Bowl contenders. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS, Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls, the Packers have won three and that's just the way it is. The rich get richer and the Eagles search for a defensive coordinator.

For whatever it's worth, the right two teams got through yesterday - Packers over Bears, Steelers over Jets. Also, for whatever it's worth, the Eagles aren't a million miles away from playing in this game again. They need a better defense - nobody has ever won a Super Bowl allowing 377 points, which is what the Eagles allowed in 2010 - but they do not necessarily need a great defense.

These thing run in cycles. This year, the top two teams in scoring defense made it to the Super Bowl, but it isn't always that way. The New Orleans Saints won it with offense last season. The Indianapolis Colts won it with offense in the 2006 season. The key is still to be great at something, and the Eagles can be great at offense (assuming that the end of this season was not the blueprint everyone will use to terrorize Michael Vick in the future).

You wonder about winning it with offense in Northeastern winter weather, especially if you don't run the ball more than the Eagles typically do. You wonder about how Vick is possibly going to stay healthy when the NFL goes about the absurdity of an 18-game season, and how you can count on winning it with offense if you can't count on a healthy quarterback. These are legitimate questions for a long winter.

But the more they can improve the defense, the less those questions matter. It is presumably what this new defensive coordinator is all about. In this offseason of labor uncertainty, it is impossible to plan for a lot of personnel changes seeing as how nobody knows what the free-agency rules are going to be or if there is going to be a salary cap again.

The next Super Bowl, after this one, after the anticipated lockout, is likely to be won by the coaching staff and the front office that best navigates through this uncertainty. That, also, is presumably what this defensive coaching staff shakeup is all about.

But between then and now, there is Super Bowl XLV - Steelers, Packers, defense. Same as it ever was.

Now for a word about the Bears: ugh. Happiness is not having to cover that team. First, there is the whole Jay Cutler business, which is beyond impossible in a journalistic sense. He says his knee was hurt and that the doctors made the decision to pull him from the game. To question this is somewhere between lamentable and lousy, but that is what is currently happening. People inside and outside the football business are all over this one.

Like Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, who wrote on Twitter, among other things, "Man shoot that [bleep] up with a needle. He ain't got to do much jus drop back and throw the ball."

It isn't right, but nobody will be talking about anything else for days - except, that is, for the matter of Bears coach Lovie Smith.

After Cutler left the game, and after venerable backup Todd Collins proved to be awful, the decision was made to go to third-stringer Caleb Hanie. It was a good call - Hanie rallied the Bears admirably, all things considered - but Smith committed coaching malpractice by putting in Hanie with 57 seconds left in the third quarter, thereby losing the opportunity to re-insert either Collins or Cutler in an emergency.

If you wait until the start of the fourth quarter before putting in the designated third quarterback, you can go back to the other guys. Let Collins hand off twice - as Hanie did anyway in his first two plays - and all options remain open.

Again, it was malpractice.

And somebody else's problem.

If the Bears and Jets had managed to win yesterday, they might just have formed the worst pair of contestants in Super Bowl history. The Packers and Steelers spared us all from that.

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