Part of the Super Bowl hoopla each year is the usual debate about which is the greatest ever team. Herein we offer some possible contenders, one of which may surprise more than a few fans.
Until losses in XLII and XLVI, many would have said the New England Patriots, with wins in XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX, should rank pretty high. Only the Dallas Cowboys, in XXVII, XXVIII and XXX, were also victorious three times in a stretch of four straight Super Bowls.
A better candidate than either for many more might be the Pittsburgh Steelers who reeled off four triumphs in six seasons (IX, X, XIII, XIV). The Steelers also hold the record for most Super Bowl wins with six, one more than the Cowboys’ and San Francisco 49ers’ five each.
Another dominating winner was the Miami Dolphins in VII and VIII. After losing VI 24-3, a record yet for fewest points by a losing team, the 1972 Fish ran the table, going undefeated all the way through the regular and postseason, something no other Super Bowler accomplished before or since. If not for a botched field goal returned for a Washington Redskin touchdown with 2:07 left in the game, Miami likely would have shut out the ’Skins by at least a 14-0 score. Miami came close the next year to another whitewash when its “No Names Defense” kept the Minnesota Vikings scoreless for the first 46 and a half minutes before they won 24-7.
Not to be forgotten in this discourse ought to be the Green Bay Packers under coach Vince Lombardi. They won the first two Super Bowls by 35-10 and 33-14 scores. Although later teams surpassed their 25 and 19-point victory margins, no repeat winners since have won both games by more than 17 points as the Pack did in I and II.
Looking back at all 47 Super Bowls, a case can be made for each of these winners mentioned above. However, one more team deserves a look as well. Going back to the pre-merger years, only two teams ever won back-to-back AFL titles, the Houston Oilers (now known as the Tennessee Titans) and the Buffalo Bills.
Had Buffalo beaten the Kansas City Chiefs in its try for the AFL’s first three-peat champion, the Bills would have earned the right to become Green Bay’s likely victim in the very first Super Bowl. Fast forward 24 years and Buffalo reached XXV. With 8 seconds to go, Buffalo would have won if Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal hadn’t been a little wide right. (The 20-19 final is still the closest game.)
But the Bills weren’t done. They went on to Super Bowl XXVI, then XXVII, and finally XXVIII, but came away with four consecutive losses. It was a record achievement, because only the Dolphins in VI, VII and VIII ever reached more than two straight Super Bowls.
It’s worth noting that the Bills are one of only 10 franchises in the four major sports that appeared in four or more consecutive World Series and the other sports’ league championships. No other major league team, on the other hand, ever lost more than three straight title matches as Buffalo did.
Now you may be justified in calling Buffalo the big game’s biggest losers, but remember Minnesota, Denver and New England have also lost four games. When it comes to intangibles like heart and iron will, the Buffalo Bills call to mind the old John Cameron Swayze commercials for the Timex watch that “takes a licking but keeps on ticking.”
Until another team is good enough to reach four straight Super Bowls, with the kind of guts to come back after losses year after year after year, a case can be made for the Bills as the greatest ever, no matter what four Super Bowl scoreboards state to the contrary.