On Sunday, former Illinois Fighting Illini offensive guard Ted Karras accomplished a feat that not even Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Joe Montana could match. In his third year in the league, Karras backup offensive guarded his team to its third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
Karras started 43 of Illinois’ 49 games, missing one game and coming off the bench for another in 2013 due to an unspecified injury that put him in a walking boot and missing the last four of the 2014 season with an ACL tear. In college, only the most insurmountable obstacles would keep him out of the game. In the NFL, however, nobody has been able to keep him out of the Super Bowl.
Karras has a 33-10 record in the regular season as a backup offensive guard, which is good for a 0.767 winning percentage. If that weren’t enough, backup offensive guard isn’t even his only position. That 33-10 record doesn’t count the six games he started at guard and center. Karras won five of these, while New England had a different result from a victory in the sixth. The incredibly versatile Karras also plays around 20% of special teams snaps.
It’s in the postseason where Karras really shines, amassing an astonishing 7-1 (0.875) record. This dwarfs Tom Brady’s paltry 0.744 postseason win percentage. For comparison, Aaron Rodgers is a fairly pedestrian 9-7 in the playoffs; Steve Young went 8-6; and Dan Marino went 8-10. Karras boasts a perfect record as a postseason starter, and it’s unlikely that record will be blemished by the upcoming Super Bowl.
We all know that wins are the only stat that really matters, especially postseason wins. Anyone who wants to claim that Tom Brady has elevated the team to three straight Super Bowls obviously doesn’t understand how Karras’ arrival in New England changed things. As an offensive coordinator, when you have a weapon like Karras in your depth chart, it might as well be an entirely different sport you’re scheming for. The playbook opens up when you force the defense to focus the gameplan around the threat of Karras taking the field at any time, and neither the Chargers’ nor the Chiefs’ defense could keep its composure in the face of such a threat.
Only time will tell if the Rams can, or if Karras will backup offensive guard New England to his second title in three years.
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