Happy Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning which supposedly means 6 more weeks of winter. Ughh! I don't know if I can take anymore of this snow and cold. Phil's meteorological skills have not been all that accurate in the past, so let's hope that is the case this year. I would really appreciate an early Spring this year.
As promised, it is Super Bowl week, so I intend to provide you with my Top 10 list of Super Bowl champions from my generation. The first Super Bowl I can recall specifically watching is SB XV in January of 1981. This year the Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles in an otherwise non-memorable game. Since that is where it really begins for me, that is where my list will begin. My list will not include the legendary Packers teams of Vince Lombardi or the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the 70's. My list will not be calculated in any scientific way, it will simply be this very knowledgeable football fan's opinion on each team's place in my history.
Just to clarify up front, this year's New England Patriots team will become #1 on this list if they are able to complete their perfect Season tomorrow night. I have few doubts about that, so this list could only remain in this order for another day or so. When referring to the year of each team, I will use the year of the season not when the actual Super Bowl was played. Since the big game is always played in January (or now February) it can be confusing when discussing the teams. For example, this year's amazing New England team would be referred to as the 2007 Patriots even though the Super Bowl will technically be played in 2008. Just wanted to clarify that up front, so now let's get on to the list. Here is OLD SCHOOL'S TOP 10 SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS (1980-present):
Honorable Mention. 2001 Baltimore Ravens (SB XXXV) - The Ravens were just a wild card team that year, but they featured one of the best defenses in NFL history. They did not even need an offense to win games which is a good thing because they had Trent Dilfer as their quarterback. The team won their last seven regular season games and then four more games in a row during the playoffs. This Ravens defense led by linebacker Ray Lewis only allowed 165 points during the regular season which is an average of 10 points per game. This continued into the playoffs where they only allowed a total of one touchdown and three field goals in their three wins getting to the big game. Then they became only the third team in NFL history to shut out the opposing offense in the Super Bowl. That is amazing and I feel this team deserves recognition for that accomplishment.
10. 1986 New York Giants (SB XXI) - The Giants finished the regular season with a 14-2 record and were lead by linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Taylor did not only win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time that season, but he also became just the second defensive player to ever win the NFL MVP. Coached by Bill Parcels, this was the first Super Bowl appearance for the Giants and 23 years since they played in an NFL championship game. Quarterback Phil Simms was named the Super Bowl MVP after throwing for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns while completing an amazing 88% of his passes. It is hard to believe that this team played over 20 years ago now.
9. 1994 San Francisco 49ers (SB XXIX) - This 49ers team ended the season with a league best record of 13-3 and led the league in points scored. Their weakness in previous seasons had been their defense, but they addressed this by signing several key free agents including the incredible Deion Sanders and improved to the eight ranked defense in the league that season. Sanders won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award that season, but it is the offense who deserves the most attention. Quarterback Steve Young won the NFL MVP and he was throwing to Jerry Rice who happens to be the best wide receiver in history. Despite outstanding statistics, Young had been criticized for not winning the big game and constantly compared to the great Joe Montana. This championship served to "get the monkey off of his back." The 49ers put on an impressive display in the Super Bowl scoring 49 points. Young threw 6 touchdown passes in the game (3 to Rice) on his way to winning the Super Bowl MVP.
8. 1999 St. Louis Rams (SB XXXIV) - "The Greatest Show on Turf" were a major surprise ending the season with a 13-3 record and one of the most prolific offenses in league history. The amazing thing is that they were lead by a quarterback with nearly no NFL experience who had only previously played in the Arena League and NFL Europe. Kurt Warner had a dream season throwing for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns earning him the NFL MVP award. The team also featured offensive weapons Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The team's defense did not get as much attention but put together a solid season ranking 4th in total yards allowed. This game had one of the all time best finishes in Super Bowl history. The final play of the game ended just one yard short of the Titans scoring a game-tying touchdown. Kurt Warner was awarded the Super Bowl MVP after throwing 414 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it was that tackle that saved the victory for the Rams.
7. 1998 Denver Broncos (SB XXXIII) - This Broncos team won back-to-back championships after beating the Packers the previous year. The team was dominant that season winning their first 13 games in a row and finishing with a 14-2 regular season record. Though John Elway steals so much of the attention (undeservingly), it is running back Terrell Davis and the offensive line that made this offense click. Davis won the NFL MVP this season after rushing for over 2000 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. The Broncos defense was also very solid giving up the 8th fewest points in the league. John Elway would go on to be named the Super Bowl MVP in the last game of his career as he went on to retire. Though I feel Elway was very over-rated during his later years, this team won two Super Bowls in a row and that gets them ranked a little higher on this list.
6. 1991 Washington Redskins (SB XXVI) - This was one of my favorite teams in NFL history as they finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. Coached by Joe Gibbs, they had both a dominant offense and defense. The offense lead the league in points scored outscoring their opponents 485 to just 224 that season. The defense ranked third in fewest yards allowed as well. The offense featured a vaunted offensive line, nicknamed "The Hogs," who lead the league in fewest sacks allowed and also opened huge holes for the running game. Joe Gibbs won his third Super Bowl as the Redskins jumped out to 24-0 lead and cruised to victory. Quarterback Mark Rypien was named the Super Bowl MVP. Outstanding team.
5. 2004 New England Patriots (SB XXXIX) - These Patriots won back-to-back championships and this actually made it an incredible 3 in 4 years. Many of the same players are playing for this year's Patriots team which is looking to make history. This ranking is more of a cumulative affect of all 3 of those championship teams and, as I said earlier, they will bump all the way up to #1 with a win Sunday. Coach Bill Belichick and his outstanding quarterback Tom Brady are the glue that holds this team together. They have had many high quality players over the course of these Super Bowl winning seasons, but the strength seems to lie in the system. They seem to be able to fill holes and keep on rolling. We will revisit this dynasty's place if they win their 4th Super Bowl in just 7 years.
4. 1996 Green Bay Packers (SB XXXI) - I am obviously biased when it comes to the Packers, but this particular team was pure greatness. This Packers team was dominant having both the top ranked offense and top ranked defense as they finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. They only allowed 210 points and scored a league best 456 points becoming the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to be the best in both categories. The defense was lead by the "Minister of Defense" Reggie White and the under-rated LeRoy Butler. The leader of the offense was clearly Brett Favre who won his second consecutive NFL MVP award that season after throwing nearly 3900 yards and 39 touchdowns. They even had spectacular special teams with kick returner Desmond Howard who returned 3 punts for touchdowns that season and set an NFL record for punt return yards. Howard became the first special teams player to ever win the Super Bowl MVP primarily for his 99-yard kick off return TD and setting the Super Bowl record for total return yards. I felt that Favre probably deserved the Super Bowl MVP as he threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for 1 more himself. This team, coached by Mike Holmgren, is one of the best single season teams in NFL history, in my opinion. If they would not have been upset in the Super Bowl by the Broncos the following year, this might be more recognized. It is pretty amazing that Favre is still going strong 11 seasons later and hopefully we will see him come back for one more.
3. 1989 San Francisco 49ers (SB XXIV) - This team won back-to-back championships after the play known simply as "The Catch" the previous year. Bill Walsh retired as coach and George Seifert took over becoming just the second rookie coach to win a Super Bowl. These 49ers had an NFL best 14-2 record in the regular season lead by quarterback Joe Montana who won the NFL MVP. Like Steve Young later on, Montana had the luxury of throwing to Jerry Rice who caught 17 of Montana's 26 touchdowns that season. The 49ers defense ranked third in the league this season in fewest points allowed. They had two losses, but one was to the Rams by just 1 point and the other was to the Packers by 4 points. The Super Bowl game itself was a dominant performance as they dismantled the Broncos 55-10. They scored 8 touchdowns in the game (2 each quarter and missing one of the PATs), with Montana throwing 5 of them on his way to Super Bowl MVP honors. This was Montana's third Super Bowl MVP and his fourth championship win. They were an amazing team for most of the 80's and 90's which makes it sad how far this team has fallen off in recent years.
2. 1992 Dallas Cowboys (SB XXVII) - This dynasty ended up winning 3 of 4 Super Bowls and this year marked the first of those championships. They are ranked this high based on the cumulative effect of all 3 championship teams. In 1992, the team finished with a 13-3 record. Similar to John Elway in Denver, quarterback Troy Aikman received a lot of attention as the leader of the Cowboys, but it was really the exceptional running back Emmitt Smith and a dominating offensive line that made this offense great. Aikman was efficient, but it was Smith that made everything possible. Smith would go on to set the NFL record for career rushing touchdowns as well as rushing yards. This team had a strong defense as well giving up the fewest yards in the league this season, though no individual players really stand out. Aikman would throw 4 touchdowns and win the Super Bowl MVP this year with Emmitt Smith winning it the following year. Jimmy Johnson deserves a lot of credit for building this dynasty as well as coaching them on the field.
1. 1985 Chicago Bears (SB XX) - Mike Ditka coached this team to an incredible 15-1 regular season record. The Bears won their first 12 games before losing their only game of the season to the Dolphins. After that loss, they proceeded to steamroll the competition all the way to a Super Bowl championship. Who could forget "The Super Bowl Shuffle"? More importantly, who could forget the most dominant defense of all time? This defense was lead by linebacker Mike Singletary who won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and Richard Dent who ultimately won the Super Bowl MVP. The Bears defense allowed both the fewest points and total yards in historic fashion. This team also featured one of the best running backs ever to play the game in Walter Payton. The offense surprisingly ended up ranking second in points scored as well as leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. It was an impressive performance all season and this continued in the Super Bowl where the Bears crushed the Patriots 46-10. The Bears defense only gave 123 yards for the whole game, only 7 rushing yards while getting 7 sacks and scoring a touchdown on an interception return. The only unfortunate aspect to the Super Bowl victory was that the great Walter Payton was not given an opportunity to score a touchdown in what ended up being his only Super Bowl appearance. Coach Ditka has stated that he feels this to be his greatest regret in his career. Nonetheless, the 1985 Bears are the best team of my generation (but for how much longer?).
There is my list. I am sure there is plenty of room for debate. I did consider both the 2006 Colts and 2005 Steelers, but likely my most obvious omission would be the 1984 49ers. I already had two other 49ers teams on the list which I felt ranked higher, so I left this team off despite their impressive 15-1 regular season record. Let me know what you think. Who is missing or who is not ranked correctly? Will you consider the 2007 Patriots the best team of all time if they win this year's Super Bowl?
Here are some more interesting Super Bowl tidbits for you. When I have no clear favorite team in the game, I always at least want the game to stay close. In recent history, we have a few games that stayed interesting (namely the three Patriots wins each by a Vinatieri field goal and the Rams heart stopper in XXXIV) though the statistics have proven it is important to get off to a strong start. The last 12 teams to lead the Super Bowl at halftime have gone on to win. The last to lose were the Buffalo Bills, who couldn't hold a 13-6 halftime lead to the Cowboys and ended up losing 30-13 back in Super Bowl XXVIII. Worth noting, though, is that the Giants have trailed at halftime in all three of their Super Bowl appearances, yet have won two of those games. The New England coach referred to by some as "Hoodie" (because of the hooded sweatshirt that he often wears) has a pretty impressive place in NFL coaching history. Bill Belichick has one of the best postseason records by a head coach in NFL history. In fact, of all coaches with at least 10 postseason games, only the great Vince Lombardi has a better winning percentage in postseason play than Belichick. His 15 postseason wins are the fifth-most all time, and one more win this postseason will give Belichick his fourth Super Bowl title. Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll is currently the only head coach to have won four Super Bowls. Belichick also appeared in 3 other Super Bowls (winning 2) as an assistant coach with the NY Giants and New England Patriots. Not bad for a guy who was fired by the Cleveland Browns back after the 1995 season. He has about as much personality as a pile of rocks, but you cannot argue with success.
There you have it. One of the longest Kickin' it Old School posts to date. Thanks for reading and be sure you check out the archive for past postings. One quick news update that I just heard... Art Monk was selected to be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame today!!! As you may have read in my January 8th posting, I felt that Monk was more than deserving of this honor and I am so happy that he will finally receive it. Enjoy the Super Bowl and we will get back to some pop culture in the coming days! Peace and much love.
Check this out: You may have seen this Subway commercial featuring a football referee in a "fresh moment." I think it is pretty funny and appropriate heading in to the big game. Click here if you want to see it... www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcFtcoo0ic4
Quote of the day: "A person's greatest strength develops at the point where he or she overcomes their greatest weakness." -Elmer G. Letterman
Download this: "Let My Love Open the Door" by Pete Townshend - Originally on his 1980 album titled Empty Glass