No. 30: Super Bowl 1984 (XVIII) ‒ Worst Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls
Raiders 38, Redskins 9 ‒ This is personal. SB XVIII was the only Super Bowl I saw live and my team lost. (It's my story, I can write what I want.) It was a special thrill to treat my Dad to a game, for once. He owned the season tickets I would inherit. Our seats were on the 20-yard-line, so we had an unobstructed view of both Jack Squirek's pick-six of Joe Theismann and of Marcus Allen's 74-yard scoring run on a busted play reverse.
The Redskins set a the NFL scoring record that season and they beat the Raiders in a memorable regular season game at RFK Stadium that made the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Raiders were the only AFC team to win Super Bowls in the 1980s. I obviously jinxed my Super Bowl team and vowed never to attend another. That just me, or anyone else feel that way?
No. 29: Super Bowl 1995 (XXIX) ‒ It was a 'Niner nation. We just got to watch.
49ers 49, Chargers 26 ‒ The 49ers returned to the Super Bowl after a four-year absence. This time Steve Young instead of Joe Montana called the signals, but he was still throwing to Jerry Rice. After so many great years with Dan Fouts, the Chargers entered the game with Stan Humphries at quarterback. Young threw six touchdown passes. Humphries threw one. End of story.
Like most Super Bowls up to this period. The NFC dominated and the game was white noise as you grazed on wings and dip at your party..
No.28: Super Bowl 1999 (XXXIII) ‒ This one's for John
Broncos 34, Falcons 19 ‒ John Elway's celebratory retirement party was against former coach and sometimes nemesis Dan Reeves who build the Dirty Bird Falcons into NFC champions. In retrospect, it was a fluke year for Atlanta. The Broncos out-classed them in every way to play with a comfortable lead throughout. Elway concluded his storied career as game MVP. The game's appeal was the sentimental farewell for a winner, if not always champion.
No. 27: Super Bowl 1983 (XVII) ‒ Anyway, it's football.
Redskins 27, Dolphins 17 ‒ Remember how the 2011 Lockout made you feel about NFL owners. That's how fans felt about players in the 1982 strike. The Redskins and Dolphins made the game because they had the best strike-shortened records (8-1 and 7-2). The Dolphins weren't very good on offense, but the game featured coaching legend Don Shula against upstart, still unknown Joe Gibbs. The Redskins wore down the 'Phins by the fourth-quarter. John Riggins set a Super Bowl rushing record…that lasted exactly one season.
No. 26: Super Bowl 1996 (XXX) ‒ Anyone can coach that team
Cowboys 27, Steelers 17 ‒ Jerry Jones began the destruction of his team before the Cowboys' return to this Super Bowl. He ran off Jimmy Johnson and replaced him with Barry Switzer. But Jones couldn't match Johnson's deft touch with Draft picks to replace the cap casualties and retirees he would lose. We couldn't see that then. All we knew was that the Cowboys and Steelers were renewing their Super Bowl rivalry of yore.
You could see the start of the Cowboys slow decline in this workmanlike win. Troy Aikman's performance was pedestrian (209 yards and a score). Emmet Smith was less than dominant (49 yards, but two scores). Dallas won because of two critical INTs by Larry Brown who might have benefited from the Steelers throwing away from Deion Sanders who joined the Cowboys that season.
The game was neither memorable nor remarkable except that it was the Cowboys' last Super Bowl appearance.
No. 25: Super Bowl 1998 (XXXII) ‒ Broncos breakthrough
Broncos 31, Packers 24 ‒ The Packers returned to the Super Bowl to defend their title and there they met the Broncos, losers of four previous Super Bowls. The Packers were prohibitive favorites, but the wild card Broncos had something they lacked in earlier games ‒ an imposing power back named Terrell Davis.
The game was a close battle. The Packers twice tied the game, but Denver controlled possession with Davis. All of their scores came on the ground. Favre frankly out-performed the great Elway, but the Pack could not stop MVP Davis. The Broncos ran away with the win. Everybody loves the underdog.
No. 24: Super Bowl 2007 (XLI) ‒ Watchable
Colts 29, Bears 17 ‒ Two certainties about this game. A black coach and a white quarterback was going to win. The non-trivial certainty about quarterback was that Peyton Manning was much better than Rex Grossman. Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith made simultaneous breakthroughs as the first African Americans to coach a team to the Super Bowl. But this game was really about Peyton Manning who finally appeared in a game that Tom Brady already won three times. Fan sentiment outside Chicago was completely behind Manning.
Da Bears mimicked the '99 Ravens as a strong defense, run-first team. I did not think Manning or Grossman were particularly effective. Each threw a TD pass. An errant Grossman pass was picked for a touchdown. The Bears were ill-equipped to chase the Colts who built a third-quarter lead.
No. 23: Super Bowl 2001 (XXXV) ‒ Throwback Sunday
Ravens 34, Giants 7 ‒ The NFL entered the Millennium with a title game reminiscent of a bad 1970s Super Bowl. The 2000 Super Bowl featured QB glamour boys Kurt Warner and Steve McNair. This game offered Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins. Dilfer replaced the great Tony Banks mid way in the season. Jim Fassel was "all in" for the Super Bowl and his Giants players backed him up. He surely wasn't all in on facing the best NFL defense since the '85 Bears. All the game's drama was compressed into one minute of the third quarter that featured a Ravens 49-yard interception return followed by a Giants 97-yard kick-off return trailed by a Ravens 84-yard kick-off return.
The Ravens deserved their title, but fans do not want to build their Super Bowl parties around a game like this.
No. 22: Super Bowl 1997 (XXXI) ‒ The Pack is Back
Packers 35, Patriots 21 ‒ Bill Parcells ensured his way to the Hall of Fame by leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl, recalling Weeb Ewbank's accomplishment decades earlier of two title games with two different teams. He inadvertently ensured the Pats' future success when he hired Bill Belichick as assistant head coach. But it was Bret Favre's world and those guys were just in it.
The Packers return to the Super Bowl for the first time since SB II had a feel good element the NFL basked in. Brett Favre was the most flamboyant gun-slinging quarterback in the game. For all Favre's heroics, the signature play was Desmond Howard's 99-yard kick return for a back-breaking score. Howard was named MVP to upstage Favre and WR Antonio Freeman.
No: 21: Super Bowl 2003 (XXXVII) ‒ Al Davis deserved this beatdown
Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21 ‒ There is football drama and there's football melodrama. This game was the melodrama kind and the antagonists were Al Davis and Jon Gruden. Younger fans don't remember that Davis was once the most brilliant man in the pros. Davis had been making poor, late life decisions about football and about coaches, but his greatest blunder was not seeing Gruden as a special talent. Gruden built the Raiders into an offensive powerhouse, but I suspect Davis felt that he did it. Davis traded Gruden to the Buccaneers for four Draft picks and then promoted malleable Bill Callahan in Gruden's place.
Callahan was a decent OC but was, um, challenged in the head coach department. He knew the Raiders well. Oakland entered the game as the league's No. 1 offense. The problem was that Gruden knew that offense too and Gruden inherited a Tony Dungy defense to attack it. It showed. Tampa Bay combined its good-enough offense with Gruden's inside knowledge of Oakland's playbook to throttle the Raiders. Two things made this game watchable. One was our last chance to see another championship big play by Jerry Rice. The other was the sense that Davis brought this upon himself. There was rough justice in that.
Yesterday: Ranking the Super Bowls from Nos. 40 to 31.
Tomorrow: Super Bowl countdown from Nos. 20 to 11.