The Super Bowl magnifies everything that happens on the field, exploding the heroes into immortals (and often into the Hall of Fame), and diminishing the losers to footnotes... or worse, to ghastly punchlines (Scott Norwood... Jackie Smith... and for Hawks fans: Etric Pruitt). Every Super Bowl is a potential pivot point for the history of pro football; Here's my top 10 Super Bowls that altered the course of NFL history:
We take it for granted now that Wild Card teams (and lower-seeded playoff teams) can get hot and run away with the Lombardi Trophy. Until the Oakland Raiders pulled off this trick back in 1981, it was uncharted territory.
The capstone to Miami's perfect season. Can you believe they were actually UNDERDOGS that day? Their mild upset means we still talk about them anytime another team even sniffs perfection.
Those '83 Redskins were defending Champs, and boasted one of the most powerful offensive attacks ever seen on the gridiron. They were heavy favorites to beat the L.A. Raiders in Tampa, but crapped away their chance at history by delivering one of the most pathetic performances in Super Bowl lore.
It's very easy to forget how formidable that '01 Rams team was. If the Pats don't play a perfect game, and if Martz had gotten the ball to Marshall Faulk more than 9 times in the 2nd half, we wouldn't be talking about Coach Hobo being near-Godlike.. In fact, we might have lived under the cloud of a STL dynasty this decade
If Scott Norwood makes that kick, the Bills are never a punchline, and might have been the team of the '90s themselves. Bill Parcells also would have missed out on that 2nd Lombardi trophy, weakening his reputation to a considerable degree.
John Elway and Brett Favre are both Hall-of-Fame QBs, but a different result in XXXII would have created MASSIVELY different historical reputations for these players. If Green Bay wins, a dynasty is begun with back-to-back Super Bowl triumphs, and both Favre and Coach Holmgren are vaulted into immortality faster and and more unanimously.
Elway? without XXXII and XXXIII, he's Marino. With them, some actually argue he is the greatest QB of all time. They are wrong. It's Joe Montana.
They didn't know it at the time, but XIII was for the title of "team of the 70s." A Cowboys win probably secured immortality for them, but thanks to Jackie Smith's dropped TD and a VERY questionable pass interference call in Pittsburgh's favor (A controversial call in a big game goes the Steelers' way? The deuce, you say!), the Steelers squeaked out a win by 4.
If New England had won last year in Glendale, they would not only have completed the first 19-0 season ever.. They would likely have been remembered as the greatest dynasty of all time, topping the '60s Packers, '70s Steelers and '80s Niners. By losing XLII, however, they tumble below the '90s Cowboys (and not just in per-capita cocaine consumption). While the '00s Pats and '90s Boys both have three rings, those Cowboys never lost a roman-numeral game.
If the Patriots win XLIV, they might vault back to the top, but XLII will always be a black mark on their historical resume.
"I'm tryin' to watch the Super Bowl; We got a black quarterback, so step back!"
-Public Enemy, "She Watch Channel Zero"
Doug Williams had a fairly solid NFL career, but for one marvelous quarter, he might have been the greatest to have ever played the game. Just in DC's 35-point 2nd quarter, Williams was 9-11 for 228 yards, with four touchdown passes and the maximum 158.3 QB rating.
Doug Williams was truly the Barack Obama of the NFL, forever burying the myth that a black man could not be a successful NFL field general.
Before this stunning upset, many NFL fans looked at the AFL the way I look at College Football now.. The Jets proved once and for all the quality of the AFL, just a year before the merging of the two leagues. This win also got Joe Namath into the Hall of Fame (and even with the win, he probably doesn't deserve to be in Canton).