One of the great things about sports is that they allow the opportunity to debate almost any subject. Over the weekend, some friends and I were discussing past teams that had won a Super Bowl and which teams were the best ever. One thing we all agreed on is that neither of the participants in the Super Bowl this year are a team for the ages. Surprisingly to me, only one other person agreed with me on the top two greatest teams. Since we could not come to a concrete resolution on the list, here are my personal votes for the top seven greatest Super Bowl teams of all time.
7. Super Bowl XVIII Champion Los Angeles Raiders
This team may not have dominated during the regular season, but they did manage a 12-4 record. Quarterback Jim Plunkett may not be mentioned alongside of Montana, Elway, or Young, but Plunkett did throw for almost 3,000 yards along with 20 touchdowns during the year. The Raiders had the best tight end in football, Todd Christensen, and a defense that included Howie Long, Lyle Alzado, Matt Millen, and defensive backs Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes. This team had a pretty decent halfback as well in the person of Marcus Allen.
In Super Bowl XVIII, the Raiders dominated the Washington Redskins from opening kickoff to the last whistle. Allen rushed for 191 yards on 20 attempts and was named Super Bowl MVP. The Raiders 38 points set a then new record for most points scored in a Super Bowl. Their 31-point victory was also at the time the highest margin of victory in a Super Bowl game.
6. Super Bowl XXIX Champion San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers may have been the first Super Bowl team to “buy” a championship, but nobody can deny just how great that team was. This was the first team led by Steve Young to win a Super Bowl. Young, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, had plenty of weapons out their on the field with him. He had a Pro Bowl running back in the person of Ricky Watters and Brent Jones, a Pro Bowl tight end. Of course, Young also had the greatest receiver to ever play the game, Jerry Rice.
On defense, the 49ers were an all-star team all by themselves. Through free-agency, San Francisco brought Charles Mann, Richard Dent, Ken Norton Jr., and Deion Sanders among others to the 49ers. Add those players along with Dana Stubblefield, Merton Hanks, and Tim Mcdonald, and the 49ers were great at guarding the run and disrupting the pass.
In Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers, the 49ers dominated with a 49-26 beating. Young threw for 325 yards and a record six touchdown passes. While the 26 points given up by the 49ers may fool the casual observer, let me assure you the game was never really that close.
5. Super Bowl X Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The “Steel Curtain” may be the greatest defense ever assembled. Linemen Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood were joined by linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, both eventual Hall of Fame linebackers. While I personally rank one defense higher than the “Steel Curtain,” nobody can deny just how hard-nosed and dominating this squad was.
Pittsburgh also had a great offense that year. Terry Bradshaw may not have had his best season during that run, but he still threw for 18 touchdowns during the season. Franco Harris was a force at running back. The Steelers also had two very real threats at wide receiver in Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.
Super Bowl X was a great game that came down to the last drive. Dallas, trailing by four with under two minutes to play, had an opportunity to win the game on their final drive. However, Pittsburgh intercepted the ball and won the game. Lynn Swann gained 161 yards on four receptions, including a 64-yard touchdown. He was named Super Bowl MVP.
4. Super Bowl XXI Champion New York Giants
I was called a “homer” by my friends when I brought this team up because of my love for the Giants. However, it cannot be forgotten that this team did win its last 11 games going into the Super Bowl. They finished the regular season with a 14-2 record, led by a defense that only allowed more than 20 points in a game twice. Not only that, but the Giants gave up only three points in the postseason heading into Super Bowl XXI.
The defense was made up of the greatest team of linebackers in the history of football. Gary Reasons, Carl Banks, Harry Carson joined the greatest linebacker of all time, Lawrence Taylor. Taylor, Reasons, and Carson all were chosen for the Pro Bowl. Taylor led the league with 20.5 sacks during the season, but it was the entire core of linebackers that hassled both quarterbacks and running backs throughout the season.
The Giants offense was led by quarterback Phil Simms, who up until Super Bowl XXI had been highly scrutinized. Running back Joe Morris set a new franchise record 1,516 rushing yards, and was also a threat to catch the ball. Tight end Mark Bavaro was Simms’ favorite target. ]Receivers Stacy Robinson, Bobby Johnson, and Phil McConkey may not have been All-Pros but they were more than adequate targets for Simms to throw to.
In Super Bowl XXI, the Giants surprised the Denver Broncos by passing the ball more than expected. Simms was more than up to the challenge, setting a record for most consecutive completions in a Super Bowl by throwing ten straight. He also set a record for highest completion percentage in a Super Bowl, going 22 for 25 (88 percent). Passing for three touchdowns and 268 yards, Simms was named the MVP of the game as the Giants won 39-20.
3. Super Bowl XXVII Champion Cowboys
Talk about a team loaded with stars. Troy Aikman at quarterback, Emmitt Smith at running back, and Michael Irvin at wide receiver is mind boggling to this day. People often forget that this offense also had Jay Novacek at tight end and wide receiver Alvin Harper. The Cowboys also had an impenetrable offensive line. Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski, both Pro Bowlers, opened up holes for Smith to run through and made sure Aikman had time in the pocket to find his playmakers.
With an offense like that, it’s hard to forget that this Dallas team had the league’s number one rated defense. The defensive line included Charles Haley, Tony Tolbert, and Jim Jeffcoat. Ken Norton Jr. led a solid core at linebacker, and along with great defensive backs such as Kenneth Gant and James Washington, the defense would show just how good it was during Super Bowl XXVII.
Dallas gave up only 17 points against the high-octane Buffalo offense and forced nine turnovers. The Cowboys’ offense took care of the rest. Aikman, the game’s MVP, threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns .The Dallas offense scored two touchdowns in 18 seconds to end the first half and then scored three times in 2:33 in the fourth quarter to put the nail in the coffin for good. Dallas routed the Bills 52-17.
2. Super Bowl VII Champion Miami Dolphins.
I wavered back and forth on making the only undefeated team in football history as the number two Super Bowl team of all time. However, I just could not place them over my pick for number one. Miami played nearly flawless football on both sides of the ball the entire season. Their “No-Name Defense” allowed the fewest points in the league during the season, and their offense had three great running backs in Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Eugene Morris. Quarterback Bob Griese was a great field general, and after he went down in week five with an injury, backup Earl Morrall led Miami in winning the last nine games of the regular season.
Super Bowl VII may have only been decided by seven points, but that does not tell the story. Miami dominated the game throughout, allowing the Washington Redskins to get across midfield only once. Washington’s only score of the game came on the infamous fumble by Miami kicker Garo Yepremian. After a botched field goal attempt, Yepremian tried pitifully to pass the ball. His bobble and fumble was recovered by Mike Bass, who took the ball out of the air and ran it back 49 yards for the touchdown.
1. Super Bowl XX Chicago Bears
No team in the history of football dominated like this Bears team. They were cocky, arrogant, and best of all, they were good. Chicago went 15-1 during the regular season, losing ironically only to the Dolphins. They were an all-star cast who weren’t afraid to tell everybody just how good they were. After all, who can forget the “Super Bowl Shuffle?”
The Bears were led on offense by arguably the greatest running back ever, Walter Payton. Pro Bowl quarterback Jim McMahon had a solid season that year. Wide receivers Willie Gault and Dennis McKinnon, alongside tight end Emery Moorehead, were great weapons for McMahon to throw to. The Bears offensive line had two Pro Bowlers, Jim Covert and Jay Hilgenberg, and along with fullback Matt Suhey opened holes for Payton and ensured McMahon would stay protected.
The Bears defense was nightmare-inspiring. Linebacker Mike Singletary was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was joined at linebacker by Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall. William Perry, “The Fridge,” is probably the most remembered of the defensive line that included Dan Hampton and Richard Dent. In the secondary, Leslie Frazier, Mike Richardson, Gary Fencik, and Dave Duerson totaled for 20 interceptions during the season.
The New England Patriots were given little chance against the Bears in Super Bowl XX. It was justifiably so. Chicago tied a Super Bowl record by recording seven sacks on the day, and held New England to a record-low seven rushing yards. Richard Dent would be named Super Bowl MVP for his performance. He was credited with 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as the Bears beat up the Pats 46-10.
No matter your opinion on just who is the greatest Super Bowl team of all time, nobody can deny the greatness of the seven teams mentioned above. All seven put up stellar performances in both the regular season and the Super Bowl. They also played with great heart, something that all champions do.