Best I Remember: Super Bowl Moments

As always, I’ll preface this segment by saying these are the best I personally remember as I type this column. I might be forgetting the obvious. Also, I’m too young to remember the Dolphins back-to-back wins and remember only part of the Steeler dynasty — SBs 13 and 14.

That said, I have watched 39 Super Bowls, starting with Super Bowl 11. My most vivid memory of that game was Raider defensive backs Jack Tatum and Skip Thomas hitting Vikings receiver Sammy White so hard that White’s helmet flew 10 yards downfield. Most impressive was that White held on to the ball. I don’t remember Willie Brown’s interception return (forgive me, I was 6 years old), otherwise that might have made this list.

As always, I won’t base this list on “That’s my favorite play because my team scored” kind of memories, but you sure can in the comments section! Let’s get to it!

The Top 10

10. Super Bowl 36Adam Vinatieri‘s winning field goal. The Rams came into the game heavy favorites to collect their second straight title. The Patriots led 17-3 after three quarters, a Ty Law interception return for a score being a huge early turning point. The Rams scorching offense tied the score with 1:37 to go in the game, putting the pressure on Tom Brady to deliver. His 5 completions set up a 48-yard field goal attempt, which Vinatieri nailed. I’m too young to remember Jim O’Brien‘s winning FG in Super Bowl 5, but I certainly remember Scott Norwood‘s miss in Super Bowl 25. Vinatieri’s kick was a yard longer than Norwood’s attempt, but AV had the advantage of kicking in the Superdome, without wind gusts to push the ball wide. Still a very exciting moment, as we all wondered if Super Bowl 36 would be the first to enter into overtime.

VINATIERI

9. Super Bowl 31Desmond Howard’s kickoff return. The Packers seemed like a team of destiny. Reggie White, the spiritual leader, and a then youngster from Mississippi name Brett Favre led the Green and Gold back to their glory days, putting together both the top offense and defense under a coaching staff that included a ridiculous amount of future head coaches. But it was Desmond Howard’s kickoff return that everyone remembers from that game, coming at a point when it looked like the Drew Bledsoe led Patriots might have a chance. Howard slammed the door shut and won MVP honors.

SUPER BOWL XXXI GREEN BAY 35, NEW ENGLAND 21 Jan. 26, 1997 at New Orleans P-C file photo for 10th Anniversary of Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Victory Howard run back during second half action Photo by Dan Powers

SUPER BOWL XXXI
GREEN BAY 35, NEW ENGLAND 21
Jan. 26, 1997 at New Orleans
P-C file photo for 10th Anniversary of Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Victory
Howard run back during second half action
Photo by Dan Powers

8. Super Bowl 43Santonio Holmes’ amazing catch. A crazy game that looked like a lock for the Steelers as Bruce Springsteen took the stage at halftime. Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald weren’t going away quietly, however, and that 20-7 Steeler lead with 8 minutes left in the game turned into a 23-20 Cardinals lead after two Fitzgerald touchdowns and a safety in 5 minutes. Ben Roethlisberger’s toughness willed the Black and Gold downfield in the closing moments. Santonio Holmes scored the game-winning touchdown with seconds left, a breathtaking catch that demonstrated exceptional concentration and balance in a most pressure-filled situation.

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7. Super Bowl 49Malcolm Butler’s interception. A lot of people criticize the play call, but the amount of preparation Butler put in to make that play – the film study, reading the formation – that’s what makes this play truly remarkable to me. For Butler, a rookie, to make that kind of a play with the Super Bowl on the line will always stand out in my mind far above whether the correct play was called. NFL football comes down to who executes best no matter what the play call, and Butler positioned himself based on his preparation. That’s a champion.

6. Super Bowl 17John Riggins‘ first down and more. Joe Gibbs beat Bill Belichick to the playbook punch. Gibbs went for it on fourth-and-one with just over 10 minutes left in the game, the Miami Dolphins leading his Washington Redskins 17-13. Miami founded its lead on two huge plays — a 76-yard David Woodley to Jimmy Cefalo touchdown and a 98-yard Fulton Walker kickoff return. The biggest play of the game belonged to Riggins, however, his 43-yard glorious scoring rumble on fourth down not only put Washington up for good, it paved Riggins’ way to Canton. If any Hall of Fame member had his career immortalized from one single play, it would be Riggins from this play.

5. Super Bowl 18Marcus Allen reverses field. Tables turned the next year as the Los Angeles Raiders pounded Riggins’ Redskins 38-9. One play after the Raiders ironically stuffed Riggins on a fourth-and-one, Allen donated his own epic moment in Super Bowl lore. The play seemed almost doomed from the start, as Jim Plunkett nearly bumped straight into Allen. Allen nearly ran straight into Washington linebacker Rich Milot, but Milot was too busy fighting off three Raider linemen. Allen then found himself trapped by two more defenders — Ken Coffey and Ted Liebenstein. Allen reversed field, squeezed through an opening up the middle, and raced for paydirt, out maneuvering a diving Neal Olkewicz and a sprinting Anthony Washington. Cliff Branch made a nice block on Anthony Washington at the end, and Allen’s magic permanently carved itself into the memories of everybody watching. Words can’t describe it like this video on the NFL’s website.

4. Super Bowl 13Rocky Bleier’s catch. Super Bowl 13 is the most exciting Super Bowl from start to finish that I remember. As the Steelers and Cowboys battled it out for Team of the 70s supremacy, the game produced a lifetime of memories. Thomas Henderson stripping the ball from Terry Bradshaw and Mike Hegman returned the fumble for a Cowboys touchdown. Franco Harris rushing up the middle for a key score, with Lynn Swann following shortly afterward with his own touchdown. The Swann touchdown followed a very controversial pass interference call against Cowboy Bennie Barnes, and of course there’s also the sure Cowboy touchdown that Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith dropped. The play that made the cover of Sports Illustrated, however, was a leaping Rocky Bleier collecting a late first-half touchdown that Rocky loves to point out “gave us a lead we never relinquished.” Rocky tells the story of his catch in The Game before the Money, noting that he fooled Cowboy linebacker D.D. Lewis into moving up toward the line of scrimmage before Rocky drifted back into the end zone for the score.

RockySBCatch

3. Super Bowl 34Mike Jones tackles Kevin Dyson. The Titans had tied the game at 16, as Al Del Greco‘s field goal soared between the uprights with just over 3 minutes left in the game. On the Rams first play of their next possession, quarterback Kurt Warner connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown. The score and ensuing kickoff shaved over a minute off the clock, leaving Titans quarterback Steve McNair with only 1:48 to drive 88 yards. McNair completed 5 passes and the Rams committed 3 penalties, setting the Titans up on the Ram 25 with 5 seconds remaining. Everybody watching knew a fantastic finished awaited. McNair hit Dyson over the middle, and Jones made an outstanding open-field tackle one yard shy of the goal line. Between the Rams quick TD and the Titans final drive, Super Bowl 34 remains quite possibly the most exciting finish I can remember.

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2. Super Bowl 42 — How did David Tyree catch that? The Helmet Catch. I remember watching the replays, astounded that the ball didn’t hit the ground. I’m not usually one to trumpet the sensationalized freak plays, but the context in which this catch was made makes it ultra-special. The catch trashed the Patriots undefeated regular season, kept the 1972 Dolphins alive as the only undefeated team in the modern era, and Eli Manning was no longer just Peyton Manning‘s little brother. While most credit should be given to the Giants defensive line for bull rushing Tom Brady all night, the crazy catch became the most memorable moment.

Tyree

1. Super Bowl 23 — Montana to Taylor. The Bengals had an excellent team that year. I wasn’t surprised that they held their own against the 49ers, although I was very impressed they did so without defensive standout Tim Krumrie, who went down with a broken leg early in the game. Neither offense did much for most of that day. In fact, the first touchdown wasn’t scored until there were seconds left in the third quarter, and it was on Stanford Jennings‘ 93-yard kickoff return which gave the Bengals a 13-6 lead going into the final quarter. Joe Montana hit game MVP Jerry Rice for the game’s first offensive touchdown, tying it at 13 early in the fourth. Both offenses continued to struggle, but Boomer Esiason drove the Bengals to the 49er 22 for a go-ahead field goal. The drive shaved over 5 minutes off the clock, and left Montana with just 3:04 to drive 92 yards. After famously pointing out John Candy in the crowd, Montana completed 7 of 8 passes, the last one to John Taylor for the winning touchdown with just 34 seconds remaining. Joe Cool strikes again.

Taylor

Honorable Mention

Every Super Bowl has its defining its moments. Sometimes they happen early, like the Seahawks early safety in Super Bowl 48. When they happen in groups, during multiple spots, or at the end, those games tend to be the most memorable and exciting. Super Bowl 13 is a great example.

Other moments that almost made the list include John Stallworth‘s 73-yard touchdown in Super Bowl 14. That game was much closer than the 31-19 final indicates. The Rams led 19-17 in the fourth quarter before Stallworth’s score.

Clay Matthews slamming Rashard Mendenhall and forcing a critical fumble in Super Bowl 45 also stands out. The Cowboys defense smothering Jim Kelly near the goal line, forcing an interception returned for a touchdown was another defensive play that almost made the list.

Besides Howard’s kickoff return, the back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns in Super Bowl 35 by the Giants Ron Dixon and the Ravens Jermaine Lewis dashed excitement into a lackluster game. Chicago’s Devin Hester returning Super Bowl 41’s opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown also deserves special teams honors.

READ THE STORIES OF MEN WHO PLAYED IN THE SUPER BOWL AND THE NFL AND AFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES.

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The Game before the Money
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Experience football history through the eyes of 40 football legends, including 14 Hall of Famers and 3 Heisman Trophy winners. Legends include Frank Gifford, Bart Starr, and Bob Griese. Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Also available on Kindle and Nook.

List of Super Bowl Winners and Super Bowl MVPs

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Just to make it easy for you to locate, here is a list of Super Bowl winners and MVPs.

Super Bowl                                                                               MVP

1. Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10                Bart Starr

2. Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14                   Bart Starr

3. New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7                                 Joe Namath

4. Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7                    Len Dawson

5. Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13                           Chuck Howley

6. Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3                             Roger Staubach

7. Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7                   Jake Scott

8. Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7                         Larry Csonka

9. Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6                   Franco Harris

10. Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17                   Lynn Swann

11. Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14                   Fred Biletnikoff

12. Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10                         Harvey Martin & Randy White

13. Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31                    Terry Bradshaw

14. Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19                 Terry Bradshaw

15. Oakland Raiders 27, Philadelpia Eagles 10                      Jim Plunkett

16. San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21               Joe Montana

17. Washington Redskins 27, Miami Dolphins 17                John Riggins

18. Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9          Marcus Allen

19. San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16                   Joe Montana

20. Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10                  Richard Dent

21. New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20                        Phil Simms

22. Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10                Doug Williams

23. San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16               Jerry Rice

24. San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10                   Joe Montana

25. New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19                                Ottis Anderson

26. Washington Redskins 37, Buffalo Bills 24                        Mark Rypien

27. Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 10                                   Troy Aikman

28. Dallas Cowboys 30, Buffalo Bills 13                                   Emmitt Smith

29. San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26              Steve Young

30. Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17                       Larry Brown

31. Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21            Desmond Howard

32. Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24                      Terrell Davis

33. Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19                             John Elway

34. St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16                           Kurt Warner

35. Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7                         Ray Lewis

36. New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17                    Tom Brady

37. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21              Dexter Jackson

38. New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29               Tom Brady

39. New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21            Deion Branch

40. Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10                    Hines Ward

41. Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 17                            Peyton Manning

42. New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14                 Eli Manning

43. Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23                    Santonio Holmes

44. New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17                   Drew Brees

45. Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25                  Aaron Rodgers

46. New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17                  Eli Manning

47. Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31                    Joe Flacco

48. Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8                            Malcolm Smith

49. New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24                Tom Brady

50. Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10                         Von Miller

INTERESTING SUPER BOWL FACTS

No team has been shut out in Super Bowl history, although two offenses have been shut out. The Redskins and Giants each scored their touchdowns on special teams in Super Bowls 7 and 35, respectively……Chuck Howley is the only Super Bowl MVP from a team that lost (SB 5)…..Only 8 defensive players have been Super Bowl MVP…..The NFL pays for the championship rings, up to $5,000 per ring…..The Vikings never had a lead in any of their 4 SB appearances…..The lowest halftime score was 2-0, a lead the Steelers took into the locker room in SB 9……Don Shula was the first coach to lose two SBs, losing SB 3 with the Colts and SB 6 with the Dolphins…..Steve Tisch, chaiman of the New York Giants, is the only person to win a Super Bowl ring and an Oscar (as producer of Forrest Gump.)…..

Interested in football history? Check out The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL. 

This Might Surprise You: What Was the World Like Last Time Your Team Won a Title? Part 2

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This is part 2 in a series.

Knowing how much I love history, my wife bought me a birthday card listing facts about the year I was born. I started wondering what was happening the last time certain teams won a championship. Let’s find out, and I hope you have as much fun reading this as I had researching.

We started with the NFC East and NFC North Divisions. We cover the rest of the NFC here. Not too many championship rings in this bunch, San Francisco 49ers not withstanding.

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA FLACONS – The Falcons franchise debuted in 1966, with first-overall draft pick Tommy Nobis from Texas leading the charge. The Falcons continue searching for their first championship nearly 50 years later. The team showed promise during the Steve Bartkowski and Alfred Jenkins years, but the Cowboys, Rams, and Vikings always proved better. Atlanta’s lone Super Bowl appearance was against the Broncos in Super Bowl 33 on January 31, 1999. The Falcons found an auspicious start as a Morten Andersen field goal hoisted them to an early 3-0 lead. By the fourth quarter, however, it was 31-6 in favor of the Broncos, ending as a 31-19 rout. Since the gun sounded ending the game, we’ve entered a new millennium. What was it like to party in 1999? Smart partiers invested in gold, a mere $279 an ounce. Gas cost $1.30 a gallon, and movie tickets averaged around $5. You might have spent that $5 seeing The Phantom Menace, Toy Story 2, or American Beauty.  

CAROLINA PANTHERS – The Panthers entered the NFL in 1995. Showing promise, coach Dom Capers had them in the NFC Championship the next year. John Fox coached the franchise to Super Bowl 38 a few years later, where they faced the Patriots on February 1, 2004. The teams combined for 37 points in the 4th quarter, including 17 in the final three minutes. Jake Delhomme hit Ricky Proehl for a 12-yard go-ahead touchdown with scarcely over a minute left, but Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal crowned the Patriots champions. Unfortunately, people seem to remember Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” more than one of the most exciting quarters in Super Bowl history. Not only did Panther fans experience a sad ending to the game, TV fans bid tearful goodbyes to the sitcom “Friends” that off-season. We also said goodbye to President Ronald Reagan, who passed away in June, 2004.

friends_cast-4557

The Friends cast facing their own wardrobe issues.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – The Saints, synonymous with losing for decades on end, beat the Indianapolis Colts for their only championship in Super Bowl 44. Drew Brees and company lifted the Lombardi Trophy on February 7, 2010. A lot of America celebrated with them in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first iPads were 10 days old at the time. There’s been an entire tablet revolution since the Saints won. Perhaps the first YouTube video Saints fans watched on their iPad was this:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – Like Saints fans, Buccaneers fans suffered tremendously. Tampa, however, had a few bright years in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Coach John McKay, quarterback Doug Williams, and defensive end Lee Roy Selmon. They hungered for a title, however, until Super Bowl 37 in January of 2003. The Buccaneer defense showcased 3 pick-sixes (2 by Dwight Smith, 1 by Derrick Brooks) in the 48-21 trouncing of the Raiders. 2003 might marked the first official year of the Homeland Security Department, the Do Not Call List, and of U.S. Marshalls flying undercover on flights. Gas prices rose significantly, nearing the $2/gallon mark. In much cooler news, Harley Davidson celebrated its 100th Anniversary, and Arnold Schwarzenegger became California’s governor. The Buccaneers, however, haven’t been back.

 NFC WEST

ARIZONA CARDINALS – The Cardinals won their last championship in 1947 — as the Chicago Cardinals. “You had to have been there” is an appropriate phrase for Cards fans because the game wasn’t on television. Only 44,000 Americans owned television sets when the Cards triumphed. Saints fans have merely waited through the iPad Revolution – Cards fans endured the entire Television Revolution as well. Not to mention the Inflation Revolution. Gas in 1947 cost 15 cents per gallon. A new car cost $1,500. The average house cost about $13,000. Still, it was likely tough to make ends meet on the 40 cents per hour minimum wage.

Charley Trippi recalls winning the 1947 NFL Championship just before Kurt Warner, Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cardinals took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43. Unfortunately for Cards fans, the Super Bowl loss extended the title drought indefinitely.

ST. LOUIS RAMS – Speaking of Kurt Warner, he and his teammates sport the only St. Louis Rams championship rings. “The Greatest Show on Turf” featured Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Marshall Faulk. They defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl 34 on January 30, 2000, right after the Y2K panic instantly subsided. At least they won this millennium. What was the world like when the Rams won? Well, Clinton was still president. Gas averaged around $1.25 a gallon. A stamp cost 33 cents. And 51 million people gathered around the television to watch the first season-ending finale of “Survivor.” Maybe you remember the Los Angeles Rams? Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, Elroy Hirsch, and Tom Fears led them to their only league championship in 1951. At least their fans could watch on national television a scant 4 years after the Cardinals championship.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – When I think of the 49ers, I think of Super Bowl dominance featuring Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, John Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, and so many other stars. Only Rice and Taylor remained out of those players when San Francisco won their last championship. The 49ers topped the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29 in January of 1995. Nearly 20 years ago. A lot happens in 20 years. There’s this whole Internet and email thing that’s taken off. . If you wanted to watch Steve Young, Ricky Watters and the rest of the 49ers on Super Bowl Sunday , you called your friends on a touch-tone phone. No email, no text, no cell phone calls 20 minutes before kickoff….and yet we all still threw killer Super Bowl parties.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Well, we currently live in a world where the Seattle Seahawks stand atop of NFL’s landscape. The Seahawks face tough sledding to repeat, their early season dominance but a dwindling memory through their mid-season tumble.

SUMMARY

As we learned in an earlier blog post, history gives Seattle an advantage over many teams who don’t possess a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Russell Wilson joins Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger on the roster of previous Super Bowl winners on teams with winning records. Don’t be too surprised if one of those QBs topples teams with better records in this year’s playoffs.

THIS MIGHT SURPRISE YOU: WHAT WAS THE WORLD LIKE LAST TIME YOUR TEAM WON A TITLE?

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This is the first in a four-part series.

Knowing how much I love history, my wife bought me a birthday card listing facts about the year I was born. I started wondering what was happening the last time teams won a championship. Let’s find out, and I hope you have as much fun reading this as I had researching.

We’ll start with the NFC East and NFC North Divisions. Some of the most decorated trophy rooms in football reside here, their championships might seem longer ago than one might think. As Bruce Springsteen says, “Glory Days – They’ll pass you by.”

 

NFC EAST

DALLAS COWBOYS Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Company dominated, winning 3 out of 4 Super Bowls. For their last title, the Cowboys topped Carnell Lake (remember him?) and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 30.  That January of 1996. Bill Clinton’s first term in office. Hootie and the Blowfish had the number one song in the country. A stamp cost 32 cents. Keyshawn Johnson would be the first pick in the upcoming draft, with future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden going fourth overall. Yep, it’s been so long since the Cowboys won the Super Bowl, that a Hall of Famer’s been drafted since then. Maybe we shouldn’t mention that HOF Walter Jones was drafted the next year. Or that the Colts drafted Peyton Manning merely two years later. Then again, maybe that puts it all into perspective.

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Above: Jerry Jones and Barry Switzer wrestling for the Lombardi Trophy.

NEW YORK GIANTS – Fairly recent for the Giants, of course, after winning in February 2012. What was going on? Tim Tebow’s overtime playoff touchdown pass against the Steelers was part of those same playoffs. The U.S. encountered several tragedies later in 2012, including the shootings at Sandy Hook and the movie theatre in Colorado. Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast. While the Giants championship doesn’t seem so long ago, a lot’s happened since then.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Norm Van Brocklin, old enough to play against Sammy Baugh, quarterbacked the Eagles to their last championship in 1960. He mentored a spritely, young Sonny Jurgensen that season. John Fitzgerald Kennedy won the country’s presidential race in 1960, and was simply “President-Elect” the day the Eagles beat Green Bay 17-13. Kennedy and then still-living presidential icon Herbert Hoover could have cut the rug to 1960 chart toppers by Elvis Presley (“Stuck On You” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”), Chubby Checker (“The Twist.”), and the Drifters (“Save the Last Dance for Me”). Quite the Inaugural Ball. And this was before handy dandy things like space travel, the Beatles, and handheld calculators. Mankind had merely just invented the Etch-A-Sketch when Ted Dean scored the winning touchdown and Chuck Bednarik made the game-saving tackle against the Packers. How on earth did they figure out Dean’s yard-per-carry without calculators?

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Above: Kennedy and Hoover

WASHINGTON REDSKINS – The Redskins topped the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 26 on January 26, 1992. President George Bush Sr. telephoned Coach Joe Gibbs as players Mark Rypien, Charles Mann, Gerald Riggs, Jeff Bostic, Chip Lohmiller, and Ricky Sanders poured champagne over themselves. The Dow Jones topped out at just over 3,400 that year. Before we crowned the next Super Bowl winner, we’d all rushed out to see the following flicks: Wayne’s World, White Men Can’t Jump, Basic Instinct, A League of Their Own, and A Few Good Men. Good year for Hollywood as D.C. basked in the glow of winning, and we basked in the glow of VHS and the Popcorn Pumper – complete with that little compartment to melt butter in.

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NFC NORTH

CHICAGO BEARS – They weren’t here to start no trouble, the 1985 Bears were just doing the Super Bowl Shuffle. Did the Washington roster bring back memories? Well, how about President Reagan’s congratulatory phone call getting passed around from Richard Dent to Dan Hampton to Walter Payton to Willie Gault? And of course,  “The Refrigerator” William Perry and shade-sporting, headband-touting Jim McMahon. You might remember McMahon getting fined for writing on those headbands. You might also remember that when the Bears won in January 1986, ancient Bear pioneers Bronko Nagurski and Red Grange were still alive to Shuffle to the champs’ theme song. They also could have shuffled to Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” and “Danger Zone” from the Top Gun soundtrack. Little did Bears fans know they were headed toward their own danger zone, still waiting for that next ring nearly 30 years later.

DETROIT LIONS – Think that’s long? The Lions had waited nearly 30 years for their next championship by the time Da Bears trounced the Patriots in Super Bowl 20, and are still waiting. Detroit last won in 1957, although they had a good run of success in the 50s – winning 3 titles. All that changed when they traded Bobby Layne to Pittsburgh. Layne defiantly cursed the franchise, stating the Lions would never win again. So far our money’s on Bobby. The Lions haven’t come close to a league title since they traded him in a simpler time when there were only 48 states. (The U.S. granted Alaska and Hawaii statehood in 1959.) One Michigan native just told me, “That’s why so many people follow college football there.”

GREEN BAY PACKERS – Doesn’t seem like too long ago that Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and A.J. Hawk ran off the field winners of Super Bowl 45. Still, they are 3 of only a handful of Packers remaining from the roster that hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February of 2011. Up-to-minute tech geeks posted on their iPhone 4, but couldn’t get the 4s with built-in Siri until the World Series rolled around. The Japan earthquake struck that year, and the Navy Seals struck down Osama Bin Laden. How sneaky is inflation? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation calculator, $100 in 2011 had the same buying power as $105 does today. Equivalent to one fewer latte or five fewer scratch-offs.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS – Famously lost four Super Bowls in the 1970s. Often overlooked is whom they lost to – the Steelers, Dolphins, Raiders, and Chiefs – the most powerful teams in those franchises’ histories, and some would argue some of the greatest teams ever assembled. The resilient Vikings never won an NFL title, with their last shot being Super Bowl 11, played on January 9, 1977. That team featured soon-to-be Hall of Famer Mick Tingelhoff, and current Hall of Famers Carl Eller, Paul Krause, and Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton would later retire the game’s all-time leading passer. $100 in your pocket back in ’77 scored you $392.50 worth of today’s goods. That’s a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd records, or a lot of tickets to a hip new movie named Star Wars. You might have also put that $100 toward a brand new Apple II computer or Atari 2600 – both were released in ’77. Postage stamps cost 13 cents, and a gallon of gas only 65 cents.

SUMMARY

Having a little fun here with football, the cost of living, and history. It’s fun looking back and seeing what else was going on in the world when a particular team won. We’ll cover the rest of the NFC next week.

QB Reality – Why Most Teams Stand No Chance

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UPDATED: Super Bowl 48 was a bit of an anomaly. Maybe. We’ll see if Russell Wilson wins another Super Bowl, which he’s already in position to do. Stark reality looms for teams without a quarterback sporting a championship ring: Out of nearly 50 Super Bowls, only 31 quarterbacks have won.

Of those 31 quarterbacks, 11 have won multiple Super Bowls. That equates to 28 of the 48 Super Bowls, roughly 60 percent of the games. The trend stays fairly steady through the Free Agency Era. Multi-winning quarterbacks have won 11 of the 21 contests, and only 15 quarterbacks won championships. Before Free Agency, 16 quarterbacks won those 27 SBs.

Dawson

Dawson in Super Bowl 4.

Wilson and Joe Flacco won the last two, perhaps slightly bucking the trend. In the Super Bowl era, however, Super Bowls 3-5 were the only three straight SBs in which the winning quarterback didn’t win multiple times on Super Bowl Sunday. Even that statistic’s a stretch, as SB 5 was Johnny Unitas’ third NFL championship, and SB 4 was Len Dawson’s second title, including the 1962 AFL Championship. (NOTE: For simplicity, I counted the Unitas/Earl Morrall tandem as one winning QB.)

11 quarterbacks have won multiple Super Bowls. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana each won 4. Troy Aikman and Tom Brady, 3.  All of these men were clearly top-tier QBs of their day. Of the remaining 6 multi-winners, only Jim Plunkett and Eli Manning don’t fall into the clearly elite class. Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, and John Elway are indisputable legends. Ben Roethlisberger is close, certainly warranting serious Canton consideration.

A roll call of top single-time winners includes Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Ken Stabler, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. All exceptional talents, and high above the majority of their peers. Add those 8 with the multiple winners, and you’ve got 19 of the 31 Super Bowl winning QBs. Moreover, it’s 75% percent of the games (36 of the 48 Super Bowls),

JoeNamath

 

Namath giving the only finger that matters after SB 3.

Incredibly, the trend holds true dating back to the 1940s. Only three championship quarterbacks – Frank Ryan (64 Browns), Billy Wade (63 Bears), and Doug Heinrich (56 Giants) won only one championship in post single-wing times.

All other championships were won by multiple-winning quarterbacks. Excluding the 1944 Championship which featured tailbacks rather than quarterbacks, 22 of the 25 NFL champions from 1940-1966 featured multi-championship winning quarterbacks. (Note: Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin both saw action for the 1951 Rams. Waterfield started the championship game; Van Brocklin threw the winning touchdown. Both won individually only once. Waterfield with the 1945 Rams; Van Brocklin with the 1960 Eagles.)

All of the American Football League championships before the merger were won by multi-winning QBs. George Blanda won the first two before Dawson beat Blanda in the 1962 title game. Tobin Rote quarterbacked the 1963 Chargers after doing likewise for the 1957 Detroit Lions. Jack Kemp won the last two with the Buffalo Bills the final two years before the merger. The Cleveland Browns won every AAFC championship, guided by Otto Graham. Graham also led the Browns to 3 NFL Championships.

Chargers

It gets more disconcerting if you have a low-grade quarterback running your team. Most one-time winning quarterbacks beat forgettable quarterbacks in championship games. Trent Dilfer beat Kerry Collins. Doug Heinrich beat a man named Ed Brown. Rarely does a quarterback below the golden grade win over a top-tier QB for a championship. There are a few exceptions, such as Doug Williams topping John Elway, and Frank Ryan getting the better of Johnny Unitas. Williams’ and Ryan’s defenses, however, gave up a combined total of 10 points in those games.

The tide may be turning, as 7 quarterbacks have won the last 10 Super Bowls. But again, only 15 quarterbacks have won Super Bowls in the Free Agency Era, and this year’s Patriots/Seahawks matchup follows the trend.

If you add the 1940 – 1966 era to that to the Super Bowl Era, 50 of 72 championships were won by quarterbacks who won at least one more championship. Only 43 quarterbacks have won a championship since 1940 (Unitas/Morrall both given credit for SB 5.)

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Legendary Insights: Don Maynard Part 3

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on June 24, 2014
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This is the final post in a three-part series recounting my recent chat with New York Jets legend Don Maynard. The first two discussed Don’s modified game equipment and the Jets passing attack. Today we take a look at the Jets magical run to Super Bowl 3 and their historic victory.

FEWER SACKS = MORE WINS

Most quarterbacks dropped back about 8 yards to throw. Jets quarterback Joe Namath usually backed up 10-12 yards, compensating for a lack of mobility from chronic knee problems. The few extra yards gave Namath more time to throw, and his sack total is one of the lowest in NFL history. Maynard credited much of the Jets success to an usually low sack total, allowing the passing game to flourish.

1968 AFL CHAMPIONSHIP

The Jets played the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL Championship, a few weeks after their famous “Heidi Bowl” debacle. Maynard guffawed suggestions that the Jets thought about the Heidi Bowl during the championship. “Any game you’ve played has nothing to do with the one you’re playing today,” he said.

In the championship, the Jets trailed Oakland 23-20 in the fourth quarter. Maynard explained that Jets players could provide Namath with information until Joe knelt down in the huddle. After Namath crouched, he’d have the floor. Maynard recognized a weakness in the Raiders coverage and told Namath, “Got a long one when you need it.”

A few plays later, Namath  hunkered down in the huddle and said, “Alright, we’re going to go for it now. Nobody hold on this play.”

Namath launched a high, arching pass toward Maynard, but Shea Stadium’s swirling winds swerved the ball off course. What the New York Jets website dubbed, “Joe Namath’s Greatest Throw”, would have fallen incomplete without Maynard’s incredible adjustments under pressure. “We always had the terminology of catching it over your left shoulder at about ten o’clock,” Maynard said. “The wind caught Joe’s pass and took it around to eleven, twelve, one, and two o’clock. I went all the way around and caught it at two o’clock, going out of bounds on the 6 yard-line.” (Watch the play here.)

Namath then drilled a six-yard pass to Don for the winning score, and the Jets were on their way to Miami for Super Bowl 3.

SUPER BOWL 3

Don said the Jets mostly ignored the media predicting a double-digit loss against Baltimore. “Half of us don’t even read the papers….You just go out and play the other team. Even though the Colts had won something like fifteen straight ball games, we just went out there and played.”

A hamstring injury had impaired Maynard before the AFL Championship. It nagged throughout that game and into Super Bowl 3. Maynard’s 118 yards and 2 touchdowns against Oakland led the Colts to believe Don had fully recovered. “The Colts double-teamed me all game,” he said with a chuckle, adding that George Sauer pulled in 8 catches for 133 yards as a result.

Maynard applauded Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer’s efforts, crediting them with  important roles in the historic win. Snell hammered out 121 yards rushing. “I don’t think Joe threw at all in the fourth quarter,” Maynard recalled.

SUMMARY

The Jets rushing defense rated tops in the AFL in 1968. Their pass defense stood second in the league for two straight seasons. They gave up fewer yards than the Colts vaulted defense, in a league known for its offense. Led by the Hall of Fame tandem of Maynard and Namath, the Jets offense finished second overall in the AFL, outdoing the Colts in total yards and scoring. Kicker Jim Turner led the AFL in field goals and scoring, and averaged over 10 points a game. His 145 points bested Colts kicker Lou Michaels by over 40.  Turner kicked 3 field goals in Super Bowl 3, while Michaels missed both of his attempts.

Blends of outstanding offense, defense and special teams often crystallize into championship rings. The Jets were statistically better than Baltimore in several categories in 1968, including turnover ratio. Consistent to that ratio, the Jets were +4 in turnovers against the Colts on Super Bowl Sunday. While Super Bowl 3 is often cited as one of the greatest upsets in sports history, perhaps the Jets were substantially underrated.

*NOTE* Several of the quotes used above are from The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL. The book will be released by the University of Nebraska Press on September 1, 2014, but you can order it now on Amazon.

Super-Bowl-IIIRing

Chuck Noll, Rocky Bleier and Retirement

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on June 17, 2014
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In my opinion, Chuck Noll is one of the five greatest coaches in pro football history. My other four are Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Paul Brown, and Tom Landry. Everybody else is second tier in comparison, although I might accept arguments on behalf of Sid Gillman. Noll likely learned exceptional amounts from both Brown, whom he played under, and Gillman, whom he coached with. Interestingly, Don Shula and Noll were teammates under Paul Brown. Noll later worked under Shula as an assistant in Baltimore, absorbing that painful Super Bowl 3 loss. Perhaps that loss still burned in Noll’s stomach while coaching the Steelers, and helped ensure his focus for their Super Bowls. Like I heard NBA champion Kurt Rambis say once, “You’ve gotta hate losing more than you love to win.”

In honor of Coach Noll, I’ve decided to post a story from The Game before the Money that Rocky Bleier shared. Rocky started considering retirement after Super Bowl 14. He decided to he would play one more year.

“I decided the next year, 1980, would be my last. The Steeler motto was ‘One for the thumb’ [a fifth Super Bowl ring.]

I said to Dan Rooney, “I think this will be my last year. I wanted to let you know if you need to make some decisions. Do you think I should tell Chuck?”

I didn’t really want to tell Chuck. Chuck was the type of guy who’d say, “If you’re thinking about retiring, then you’ve already retired. So why don’t you just leave now?”

Dan said, ‘Maybe we should wait.’ [Laughs.]”

Rocky did wait to tell Noll, Although the season ended as a disappointing one for the Steelers, for Bleier it gave him a full year to say “Farewell” to the game he loved so much. Noll coached another decade, through the 1991 season. Unfortunately, the Steelers only won 10 games once under Noll after their 12-4 championship season in 1979.

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Coach Noll with Terry Bradshaw

Rocky scoring a go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl 13, just before halftime.

Rocky scoring a go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl 13, just before halftime.

This Might Surprise You: Joe Theismann

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on May 30, 2014
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Memories of Joe Theismann, with his thick eye black and bright single-bar facemask, are often synonymous with the Washington Redskins. But what if he hadn’t worn number 7 for the red and gold?

That almost was the case as Theismann, a collegiate star for Notre Dame, was actually drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1971. Theismann, however, declined Miami’s offer of $55,000 over three years. That’s right, $55,000 over three years. Theismann asked for that amount, but the stickler was a $35,000 bonus Theismann would owe back if he missed any of the three seasons. Joe opted for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.

In 1974, the Redskins traded for Theismann’s rights and he jumped straight into the lineup – as a punt returner. He didn’t start at quarterback until 1976.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN?

At the time Theisman was drafted, Bob Griese had been the Dolphins’ starter since 1967. He led them to the playoffs in 1970 before three consecutive Super Bowls in the following years. It’s possible that Theismann might have toiled in obscurity until 1980, when Griese suffered a career ending shoulder injury. It’s also possible Griese would have lost his job to Theismann in 1972, after Griese went down in Week 5 with a dislocated ankle and broken leg. Also, a potential quarterback controversy might have threatened the Dolphins back-to-back championships with a divided locker room.

SUMMARY

For the two quarterbacks, things turned out as well as they could have. Griese went on to the Hall of Fame, and Theismann went on to win Super Bowl 17 with Washington. Ironically, the Super Bowl win came against the Dolphins, after Griese’s career had ended. Theismann didn’t produce the game’s most memorable moments, however, throwing two interceptions in the second half while Miami clung to a slim lead. John Riggins proved to be the game’s hero, with a 43-yard rumble on 4th and 1 that proved to be the winning touchdown. Theismann also quarterbacked Washington to Super Bowl 18, a 38-9 thumping at the hands of the Los Angeles Raiders. It wasn’t the first time Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett took the spotlight from Theismann: Theismann finished second to Plunkett in the voting for the 1970 Heisman Trophy.