On Sunday, February 3, 2013; the NFL will stage its World Championship Game in New Orleans for the 10th time in Super Bowl XLVII. The Louisiana Superdome (now officially sponsored by Mercedes-Benz) will host the Super Bowl for the 7th time. Come on BMW!!!
The first three Big Easy Super Bowls were played at Tulane Stadium, otherwise known as the Old Sugar Bowl – the site of the annual college Sugar Bowl Game before that event too moved to New Orleans. Let’s take a look at the History:
Super Bowl IV: Tulane Stadium, January 1970
Kansas City Chiefs defeated Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans first Super Bowl pitted a team that played in the Inaugural Super Bowl – the Kansas City Chiefs coached by the affable Hank Stram against the Minnesota Vikings coached by stern-faced Bud Grant. The Chiefs, in the bright red jerseys that they still wear today, relied on the running of Mike Garrett in a decisive victory over the Vikings. While Bud Grant would guide three more Minnesota teams to Super Bowls in the 70’s, the Chiefs have not made the trip since Super Bowl IV.
Super Bowl VI: Tulane Stadium, January 1972
Dallas Cowboys defeated Miami Dolphins
This was the Cowboys first World Championship, back before they became “America’s Team”. This Game involved two of the greatest coaches in NFL History (Dallas’ Tom Landry and Miami’s Don Shula) and two of the premier Quarterback on the 1970s (Dallas’ Roger “The Dodger” Staubach and Miami’s Bob Griese). Staubach, the 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner from the Naval Academy, earned his Nickname for his ability to elude defenders during mad dashes out of the pocket.
The Cowboys and Dolphins became two of the NFL’s best teams in the 1970s – combining to win Four of its Ten Super Bowls (Two each). Although Miami would lose this battle in New Orleans, the Dolphins would win the next two Vince Lombardi Trophies, going an Undefeated 17-0 in 1972 (the only team from the Super Bowl Era to achieve such a feat).
Super Bowl IX: Tulane Stadium, January 1975
Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Minnesota Vikings
“Mean” Joe Greene was one of Coca-Cola’s biggest endorsement figures of the 1970s. Here, in a “Classic” commercial, he shares a Coke with a fan after the Steelers win the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl IX represented the beginning of one NFL Dynasty (the Steelers) and the continuation of one franchise’s Era of Disappointment (the Vikings). With this victory in New Orleans, the Steelers would begin a run that would produce Four Championships in the 1970s – all directed by their Hall of Fame QB Terry Bradshaw. The Vikings, on the other hand, who had lost the previous Super Bowl (VIII to the Dolphins), would lose another (XI to the Raiders) to conclude an 0-3 Record in 1970s Super Bowls.
Although Terry Bradshaw was in the spotlight of Super Bowl IX, the Steelers defense, led by pass-rusher “Mean” Joe Greene, carried Pittsburgh to victory, holding Minnesota to only 6 points in the 16-6 final outcome.
Super Bowl XII: January 1978, Louisiana Superdome
Dallas Cowboys defeat Denver Broncos
Even more than their Silver Star, Tom Landry (with his fedora hat and gray suit) continues to be the most recognizable symbol of “America’s Team” – the Dallas Cowboys.
Super Bowl XII was the first NFL World Championship Game to be played in a dome. At the time, the new Louisiana Superdome (home of the Saints) was being nicknamed “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, the first domed structure to reach a higher summit than Rome’s ancient Pantheon.
Super Bowl XII was also the first World Championship appearance for the Denver Broncos, led on defense by the ferocious Lyle Alzado and Tom Jackson (an ESPN star for the past 25 years). “Orange Crush” (as they were called) demolished their way through the AFC, finally dispatching their rival Raiders for the AFC Title.
This Game would be the crowning achievement of Cowboys coach Tom Landry’s Hall of Fame career as his “Doomsday” Defense (with Ed “Too Tall” Jones) suppressed the Broncos. A young running back from the University of Pittsburgh – Tony Dorsett ran all over the Denver defense, leading the Cowboys to their 2nd World Title of the 1970s.
Super Bowl XV: January 1981, Louisiana Superdome
Oakland Raiders defeated Philadelphia Eagles
Even though both of his parents were blind, Jim Plunkett had a stellar college career at Stanford, was selected First Overall in the 1971 NFL Draft, and then led the Raiders to 2 Super Bowl Championships.
The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t much a part of Super Bowl History, only competing in 2 of the 46 World Championship matchups, losing both. But Coach Dick Vermeil and QB Ron Jaworski (another current ESPN mogul) made the trip in 1980. The story of this Game was as much Political as Football. It was announced on Game Day that the American Hostages (featured in the current motion picture Argo) would be returning home from Iran. The American public heard the announcement of the Hostages’ Return on Superdome locker room telephone from newly inaugurated President Ronald Reagan, after he congratulated Raiders Coach Tom Flores and Owner Al Davis on winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In terms of the fooball that day, Raiders QB Jim Plunkett controlled the Game for Oakland, earning MVP Honors in the 27-10 victory.
Super Bowl XX: January 1986, Louisiana Superdome
Chicago Bears defeated New England Patriots
Even defensive prodigy William “Refridgerator” Perry got to carry the ball for Da Bears in Super Bowl XX, shown here barreling over the Patriots into the end zone.
New Orleans has become known for hosting an NFL Team for its first trip to a Super Bowl (Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, and Philadelphia Eagles). So it was no different when the Big Easy welcomed both the NFC Champion Chicago Bears and one of the most unlikely teams – the New England Patriots for Super Bowl XX. Although staffed with some recognizable NFL names (Coach Raymond Berry, Pro Bowlers – John Hannah and Steve Nelson, cornerback Raymond Clayborn, and wideout Stanley Morgan), the Patriots were no match for Mike Singletary’s “Monsters of the Midway” – the Chicago Bears, who “shuffled” their way to a 46-10 lambasting of New England. The 36-point differential was by far the widest to-date in Super Bowl History.
Bears Coach Mike Ditka later confessed that, amidst the assault of Chicago forced turnovers and touchdowns, he should have put Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton into the Game to score one of those several touchdowns. Payton, who was at the end of his career playing in his only Super Bowl, died in 1999 of liver cancer. Ern wore Payton’s famous Kangaroo sneakers (sleak black ones) in First and Second Grade. The sneaks featured a velcro tongue pocket, convenient for storing quarter for lunch. Remember, back in 1986, 75 cents could score you a Super School Lunch!
Super Bowl XXIV: January 1990, Louisiana Superdome
San Francisco 49ers defeated Denver Broncos
Joe Montana, one of the Super Bowl’s all-time Top Performers, had his chance to flourish at the Superdome in Super Bowl XXIV.
Joe Montana put his stamp on Super Bowl XXIV from start to finish, throwing some of the most beautiful passes in Super Bowl History. One memory from this Super Bowl came from my brother Eric in recent years: “I remember John Madden kept saying that John Elway (the Broncos quarterback) was throwing the ball so hard that his receivers couldn’t catch it!”
While Elway thought he was still on the Stanford pitching mound, Joe Montana gracefully floated the ball to his star wideouts – Jerry Rice and John Taylor, who raced up and down the Superdome turf. The 49ers 55-10 thrashing of Denver eclipsed the Bears destruction of the Patriots four years earlier as the biggest wipeout in Super Bowl History; and gave Joe Montana his 4th Vince Lombardi Trophy – tying Terry Bradshaw for the most ever.
Super Bowl XXXI: January 1997, Louisiana Superdome
Green Bay Packers defeated New England Patriots
The First Half of Super Bowl XXXI was one of the most exciting 30 minutes in Super Bowl History. The two young gunslinger QBs (Brett Favre of the Packers and Drew Bledsoe of the Patriots) drove their teams up and down the field on scoring drives. Although Green Bay led 27-14 at Halftime, the Patriots had shown the ability to move the ball quickly and were coached by one of the League’s best Second Half Planners – Bill Parcells. Patriots tailback Curtis Martin electrified the Superdome with a touchdown run, cutting the Packers lead to 27-21 in the Third Quarter. But in the end, the “Minister of Defense” Reggie White proved too much for Drew Bledsoe, continually sacking him en route to a 35-21 Green Bay victory.
Another ESPN standout – Desmond Howard came up big for the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, returning a third quarter kickoff for a key touchdown.
Super Bowl XXXVI: Louisiana Superdome, February 2002
New England Patriots defeated St. Louis Rams
MVP Quarterback Kurt Warner and the 16-2 “Greatest Show on Turf” rolled into the Superdome to face another unexpected Patriots AFC Championship Edition, this version coached by the introverted Bill Belichick. Long under the shadow of Bill Parcells, Belichick (the team’s former Assistant Coach) had a “heart-to-heart” talk with Pats Owner Bob Kraft on the flight home from New Orleans following their Super Bowl XXXI loss to Green Bay – a flight that Parcells elected not to take as he instead headed directly to The Meadowlands to accept the Head Coaching position of the hated Jets.
The Big Story leading up to Super Bowl XXXVI (the Star-Spangled Super Bowl following September 11, 2001) was who would play Starting QB for New England – the team’s Franchise Player – Drew Bledsoe or 24-year-old second-year Tom Brady, who directed the team to the AFC East Title following serious injuries sustained by Bledsoe. When Brady was knocked out of the previous week’s AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, Bledsoe filled in admirably as the Pats defeated the Steelers. But a few days later, Belichick made the decision to hand the ball back over to Brady for the Super Bowl. Bledsoe would never throw another pass for New England, finishing his career in Buffalo and Dallas (to ironically be coached by Parcells again).
In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots applied intense pressure on both Kurt Warner and the Rams receivers, forcing key turnovers – including a memorable interception returned for a touchdown by Ty Law. With the game tied with a minute left, FOX commentator John Madden recommended to the World that Belichick should “run out the clock”. Instead, Brady started throwing screen passes and then hit Troy Brown with a pass play out of the Joe Montana/Jerry Rice Super Bowl XXIII Playbook. Adam Vinatieri kicked a perfect 48-yard field goal as time expired, and the Patriots were Super Bowl Champions for the first time.