By: Adrian Jarding | @swimjarding
Member of Ball State Sports Link
The biggest sporting event in the history of Western Civilization celebrates its golden anniversary this season Sunday.
It’s astonishing to think 50 years ago, two rival football leagues were able to come together and play the first true world championship in professional football history.
There have been many great storylines throughout Super Bowl history which have been re-tread and highlighted more times than the Great Gatsby.
I’m pretty confident you’ll hear new recounts of Joe Namath’s guarantee, or see Adam Vinatieri drill it down the middle (twice) more times than you can count, or for some unlikely reason watch Marshawn Lynch score the game-winning touchdown.
While all of these stories are fantastic and should be celebrated, history shouldn’t forget some of the other amazing stories to have come from the biggest unofficial American holiday.
This post is dedicated to 10 stories throughout Super Bowl history that are either overlooked, or in many cases forgotten about by the common public.
Over the next four days, I will examine three such stories each day to the lead up of Super Bowl 50, then on Super Bowl Sunday, I will have a full article for my No. 1 overlooked Super Bowl story.
The kickoff to Super Bowl 50 starts now.
#10: Bill Walsh’s coaching tree carried his Super Bowl legacy
Arguably the greatest coach in football history won three Super Bowl titles as the head coach of the San Fransisco 49ers in the 1980’s.
He invented the West Coast offense, coached six Hall of Famers and also has the most successful coaching tree of the modern day game.
Since Bill Walsh walked away from coaching in 1988, 25 Super Bowls have been played. In those 25 Super Bowls, 18 out of 25 featured a head coach who stemmed from the Walsh coaching tree.
Out of those 18, 12 won a Super Bowl.
Six of those games featured two head coaches from Walsh’s tree.
To put this in perspective, the second most successful coaching tree since 1988 is Bill Parcells’, which consists of seven appearances and seven wins.
That’s 11 less appearances than Walsh’s tree, and five less wins.
While Walsh will more than likely always be remembered for grooming Joe Montana and creating the West Coast offense, his coaching tree will continue to carry his legacy in the modern day.
Gary Kubiak’s appearance in Super Bowl 50 will mark yet another tally to this legendary tree.
#9: Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith became the first African American head coaches in Super Bowl history
History was made Feb. 4, 2007.
For the first time in NFL history an African American head coach appeared in the Super Bowl. Scratch that, two African American head coaches appeared in the Super Bowl.
The two main storylines heading into the week were about Peyton Manning and the re-birth of the Chicago Bears’ defense.
Manning had yet to win the Super Bowl and had an opportunity to end that blemish in the stadium his childhood idol, Dan Marino, played in.
The Bears had not won a Super Bowl since the 1985 season, and many believed the Brian Urlacher led defense could change that.
On the side, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith both had a chance to make NFL history. Never before had an African American coach appeared in the Super Bowl and let alone win one.
The struggle for African Americans to coach in the NFL had been a long and hard one.
Fritz Pollard became the first part-time assistant coach in 1921 with the Akron Pros. Lowell Perry was the first full-time assistant coach in 1957 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 1989 the first major breakthrough occurred when Al Davis hired Art Shell to become the head coach of the then Los Angeles Raiders.
This breakthrough set the stage for Super Bowl XLI.
In 1992, the Minnesota Vikings hired Dennis Green to be their next head coach. The next step for Green was to fill out his coaching staff. He hired Tony Dungy to be his defensive coordinator.
He spent the next four seasons building up the smaller, but lightning fast reincarnation of the “Purple People Eaters” led by future Hall of Famer, John Randle.
His success in Minnesota earned Dungy a head coaching job with the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He hired Lovie Smith to coach the linebacking corp that starred the 2002 defensive player of the year, Derrick Brooks.
Smith stayed the next five seasons with Dungy building one of the top defenses in the NFL, and would eventually be the key to Tampa’s Super Bowl victory in 2002.
In 2001, when Tampa got knocked out of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles, Dungy and his staff were fired and had to find work elsewhere.
Dungy bolted to take the head coaching job in Indianapolis, while Smith left a year early and became the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. After three successful years in St. Louis, Smith got his first opportunity to become the head coach for the Chicago Bears.
Fast forward three years later and they are both coaching in the Super Bowl. No matter the outcome of the game for either side, both men made NFL history.
Only one could become the first to win the Super Bowl though, and in the end, Tony Dungy emerged victorious with a 29-17 victory.
It took 87 years, but the outcome had been the crowning achievement for all aspiring African American head coaches in the NFL. Two years later, Mike Tomlin became the second African American head coach to win the Super Bowl and completely erased the notion that only white men can be head coaches in the NFL.
#8: Gale Gilbert set the record for most consecutive Super Bowl appearances
Hold it right there! Before you open a new tab and search the name, Gale Gilbert, let me explain how I came about this obscure stat.
I’m that guy whole loves to know the most random NFL stats and figures very few people know about. At the beginning of this football season, I wanted to know a few new stats so come the 50th Super Bowl I could stump my friends.
I started looking up all-time Super Bowl records, and found Gale Gilbert had made five consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s.
I knew Charles Haley was the only player with five rings, the Bills were the only team to make four consecutive appearances, and the Dolphins were the only team to make more than two in a row and win at least one.
So I started wondering how many people actually knew this amazing statistic. I started asking my friends and family, and most of them guessed Charles Haley since he had five rings.
A lightbulb went off in my head and thus I started looking up other Super Bowl stories that weren’t as well known, and this article was formed.
Gale Gilbert has a very interesting history.
In 1974, his Little League Baseball team from Red Bluff California made the championship and lost in a nationally televised game against Taiwan. He was the catcher for Red Bluff.
People who are familiar with Cal-Berkeley football history might know Gilbert was the starting quarterback for the Golden Bears in the infamous game known as “The Play” in 1982 against Stanford.
In 1985 he went undrafted in the NFL, but eventually signed on with the Seattle Seahawks to be the third string quarterback behind Dave Krieg and Jim Zorn. He only lasted three years in Seattle before getting cut.
In 1989 he signed on with the Buffalo Bills to be the backup quarterback behind Jim Kelly. In his five seasons with Buffalo he only played two games, but he suited up for all four of their Super Bowl appearances from 1990-1993.
Buffalo never won a single game, so he ended up with four AFC championship rings.
Following the 1993 season he was cut by the Bills and entering the 1994 season he signed with the San Diego Chargers to be the backup behind Stan Humphries.
That season the Chargers made their first ever Super Bowl appearance and Gilbert made history by becoming the first player in NFL history to appear in five straight Super Bowls.
Unfortunately for Gilbert and the Chargers, they got routed 49-26 against the San Fransisco 49ers which was much like what Gilbert had experienced in three blowout losses in Buffalo.
Nevertheless, Gilbert had made NFL history.
His career ended in 1995, after a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts and he subsequently retired following his release from the Chargers.
While Gale Gilbert may never have won a Super Bowl, he can proudly claim that he is the only player in NFL history to have appeared in five consecutive Super Bowls.
This story is the reason I love studying NFL history. Every once in a while you will come across a stat or story very few people know about, and when I do, I can study it and share it with the world.
Come back tomorrow for numbers #7-5