The History of the Super Bowl

The History of the Super Bowl

Marty Keane, Staff Reporter '18

On February 7, 2016, the NFL hosted its 50th Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California just outside of the San Francisco Bay area. The game featured an exciting halftime show, viewed by millions of people, and was played in the NFL’s newest stadium, but that is not what the first Super Bowl, Super Bowl I, was like. The game has changed greatly.

Though Super Bowl I was known as the “Super Bowl’, it was more known as the AFL vs. NFL Championship game. The NFL (National Football League) was believed vastly superior to the AFL (American Football League), as the Green Bay Packers of the NFL won the first two championships. But the AFL would get theirs too.

In Super Bowl III, the Baltimore Colts of the NFL were an 18-point favorite over the AFL’s New York Jets. Before the game, the Jet’s hall of fame quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath famously guaranteed a Jets victory. He delivered on his promise with a 16-7 victory proving the AFL could compete with the NFL.

In 1970 came the AFL-NFL merger, the leagues combined but retained the name of the league as “NFL”. The 70s would be a decade of dynasties.

There was the Dallas Cowboys who went to five Super Bowls, but only won two with their Hall of Fame filled lineup. The team was led by quarterback Roger Staubach and legendary coach Tom Landry, who set a record for the longest coaching stint with one team when he was head coach of the Cowboys for 29 years.

The Miami Dolphins went to three in a row, winning the second two which included the historic perfect season. They are still the only team to ever do it. The team had a one-two punch with running backs of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris mixed with Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese. Their defense was known as the “No Name Defense” due to the lack of big name players for such a great defense, though it did produce one Hall of Famer: Nick Buoniconti. Their Hall of Fame coach Don Shula holds the record of most wins by a coach at 347.

The last dynasty of the 70s, and the greatest, was the Pittsburgh Steelers. This may be the greatest team of all time. At each position, especially on defense, they seem to have one of the best ever. This dynasty was led by yet another Hall of Fame coach and quarterback combo of Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw. They had one of, if not the best, defense ever fearsomely known as “The Steel Curtain”. Together they won four Super Bowls in six years, spilling into the 80s.

With such greatness and domination through the 70s, a team largely forgotten are the Minnesota Vikings. Through the decade they went to four Super Bowls, only to lose everyone. They are one of two teams that are 0-4 in the big game, but I’ll talk more about the other team later.

The 70s was an incredible decade for the NFL, and the nation began to be really captivated by the league, especially the Super Bowl. There are some great games, like the battles between the Steelers and Cowboys that ended 21-17 in 1976, and 35-31 in 1979, both in favor of the Steelers.

The 80s would only see the Super Bowl grow. One team would rise above the others though. The San Francisco 49ers would reinvent the game. The witty coach, Bill Walsh, came up with a new type of offense called “The West Coast” offense which featured lots of passing the NFL had never seen before. The offense was keyed by one of the very best quarterbacks ever, Joe Montana, and the undebatable best wide receiver ever, Jerry Rice. They would change the game forever.

Together they went to four Super Bowls and won four Super Bowls. Joe Montana won MVP in three of those. He led his 49ers on game winning drives in the final minutes twice against the Bengals in 1982 and 1989.

Also in the 80s was the historic ’85 Bears. This team is considered one of the best ever, and the defense the same. In the regular season they went 15-1 and coasted to the Super Bowl behind the running of Walter ‘Sweetness” Payton. They won 46-10 against the Patriots.

The decade also saw the struggle of two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, John Elway of the Denver Broncos and Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. They would lead their teams to multiple Super Bowls each, all in chase of a coveted Super Bowl ring, each time coming up short. Elway would continue his chase in the 90s, though.

The Super Bowls of the 1990s was a decade filled with captivating storylines, perhaps none more intriguing than that of the Buffalo Bills.

Known as the “Four Falls of Buffalo,” it is what the name implies. The Bills did something no one has ever done before: they went to four straight Super Bowls, only to tragically lose each one. In their first attempt, the game came down to kicker Scott Norwood for a do-or-die kick. With only a few seconds left, the score was 20-19 in favor of the New York Giants. Scott Norwood attempted the 48 yard field goal but the kick was the infamous wide left.

Buffalo lost the next year 37-24 to the Redskins, then get blown out the next year by Dallas, and lose again to Dallas next year.

This brings us to the dynasty of the Dallas Cowboys when they 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, one of only two teams to accomplish that feat. The team was led by “The Triplets”, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvine, and the NFL’s all-time leading rusher: Emmitt Smith.

Through the 90s and the 80s, football legend John Elway struggled to win the elusive Super Bowl. He had gone to three Super Bowls and lost them all. He was at the end of his career made it to his fourth Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers. With the game tied, Elway made a forever remembered play where he dove head first for a first down, was hit in the air and spun around like a helicopter and landed for the first down. The play set up the game winning touchdown and capsulated his need to do anything for a Super Bowl. He would go on to win the next year too and then retire.

The 90s would end with one of the best Super Bowls ever, when the Tennessee Titans came up a single yard short of a touchdown on the very last play to send the game to overtime against the St. Louis Rams. Kevin Dyson was seen famously stretching his arm just inches from the goal line.

The 2000s became the decade of the closest and most exciting Super Bowls.

The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years spurring a dynasty that continues today. But let’s go back to how it started.

They were off to a bad start in the 2001 season when their star quarterback Drew Bledsoe was badly injured. A second year, 6th round draft pick named Tom Brady would come in to play. He changed the season around leading them to the Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams whose offense was known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

The Rams were an 18 point favorite but found the game tied at 17 with less than two minutes left. “Tom Terrific” would lead them to the game winning drive and be named the game’s MVP. Two years later he would do it again, another game winning drive in the final minutes, 32-29 final score versus the Carolina Panthers. Each game ended on Adam Vinetari’s field goal on the last play. And the following year would end with Brady’s second Super Bowl MVP in a 24-21 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brady would continue making it to Super Bowls, but then came up short twice to the New York Giants led by Eli Manning in some of the most heart-breaking losses ever.

There was the 2007 season and the Patriots were just the second team ever to make it to the Super Bowl undefeated. The team wasn’t just winning, they were blowing teams out.

The Giants were written off as having no chance, until they found themselves down 14-10 in the final minutes. On a crucial 3rd and 5, Eli Manning dropped back and appeared to be sacked. Miraculously, he escaped as the Patriot defenders pulled on his jersey. Manning fired the ball down field and David Tyree made an improbable catch on his helmet. It set up the game winning touchdown and the “Giant” upset.

In this decade the Steelers added two more victories, giving them the most in history with 6.

Through the 2010s, the Super Bowls have been thrilling so far. There was the Packers’ 2011 victory over the Steelers, 31-25, that brought the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay.

The next year Eli Manning led the Giants to their second Super Bowl upset of the Patriots, again led by a crazy catch on a last minute drive for the win.

In 2013, it was legendary linebacker Ray Lewis’ last ride with the Baltimore Ravens. With him motivating the team, they went to the Super Bowl against the 49ers. It was a back and forth battle, also famous for a power outage during the game, the Ravens found themselves leading 34-31 late, and the game was saved with a goal line stand preserving the win.

Last year featured a Super Bowl for the ages. The defending champs, Seattle Seahawks, versus the Patriots trying to prove their dynasty never stopped. After two clutch fourth quarter touchdown drives led by the living legend, Tom Brady, the Patriots had déjà vu.

It was another miracle catch in the final minute setting up another last second touchdown for the win. The Seahawks were at the one yard line when quarterback Russel Wilson threw to the seemingly open receiver on the slant. Patriot’s cornerback, Malcom Butler, stepped in and made the interception that sealed the win. Tom Brady got his fourth ring and third MVP, once again adding to his greatness.

So now we’re back to this year’s big game, Broncos vs Panthers. Every game has had something unbelievable and memorable. With so much history embedded in this game, who knows what this year’s teams will do make this Super Bowl last forever.