Twenty-one years later, Bill Belichick’s defensive gameplan now rests in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, a tribute to a brilliant evening of coaching.
Twenty-one years later, we’re betting Tom Coughlin’s Super Bowl ring is securely packed away along with some of his other most valued keepsakes, a shiny reminder of what arguably was his most memorable day as an NFL assistant coach.
And, twenty-one years later, my ticket stub is prominently displayed as part of a plaque showcasing my most coveted sports mementos.
Yes, Super Bowl XXV certainly holds special memories for all three of us, not to mention the other 70,000 who were inside Tampa Stadium on that historic Florida evening of Jan. 27, 1991.
Of course, that unforgettable 20-19 victory by the underdog New York Giants over the heavily favoured Buffalo Bills will be the furthest thing from the minds of Belichick and Coughlin on Sunday as they lead their respective teams onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.
By the time Belichick’s Patriots and Coughlin’s Giants have finished doing battle on Sunday night, one of these men will feel like a hero, the other a zero. That was the story four years ago when Coughlin’s Giants upset the Pats 17-14, leaving a disappointed Belichick heading to the locker room before the final gun had even sounded.
Truth be told, however, Coughlin and Belichick might not even be in their current jobs if not for the outcome of Super Bowl XXV. It was a time when these two foes were actually friends working towards a common goal, not trying to find ways to beat each other.
Indeed, back in the 1990 season, both men were assistant coaches with the Giants under Bill Parcells. Coughlin was in charge of receivers at the time while Belichick served as defensive coordinator.
In the end, the Giants’ one-point victory over Buffalo showcased the individual coaching skills of each of these talented men, with a little help from Scott Norwood’s wide right field goal attempt, of course. Both would eventually use the dramatic win to help land head coaching gigs, Belichick with the Cleveland Browns, Coughlin at Boston College.
Being on hand live to see how their gameplans worked against the Bills, it was easy to see why their services subsequently were in demand.
Having been fortunate enough to be in attendance for dramatic events such as Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning home run and Mario Lemieux’s last minute winner over the Soviets at the 1987 Canada Cup, the “Wide Right” game ranks right up there with both of those for me.
Keep in mind that the Gulf War was going on at the time. Patriotism was everywhere. So, too, was the paranoia that the Super Bowl would be the perfect venue for the enemies of the U.S. to make a statement by carrying out an attack. From the extra security at the entrance gates to Whitney Houston’s goosebump-inducing rendition of the national anthem to president George Bush’s halftime address to the crowd at the stadium via the scoreboard, this was no ordinary Super Bowl.
In the area on vacation, yours truly joined Toronto Sun buddies John Fitz-Gerald and Frank Zicarelli in shelling out more than $400 each from scalpers for tickets with a face value of $175. As we shopped for tickets, we heard people about 500 yards away start to roar. We saw the reason — former Cowboys coach Tom Landry, complete with top hat, was walking through the fans en route to the stadium. How cool was that?
Early in the second quarter, Fitz and I noticed a guy sitting in front of us get up and head to the concourse. His intoxicated buddy subsequently looked back at us and said: “That guy who just left — do you know why he has to leave at halftime?”
We (along with our entire section) were then informed that his friend needed to depart at the break to catch a flight home in time for a meeting at a doctor’s office the next morning. Seems he and his wife had been having problems conceiving a child, so the guy had to go to the doctor’s to, ah, fill a specimen bottle.
Not the type of thing you want your buddies broadcasting to the crowd at a Super Bowl. And when the guy returned from the concourse and found out his boozed-up buddy had told everyone of his plans to “(bleep-bleep) in a bottle,” he snapped. And rightly so.
Meanwhile, down on the field, Belichick and Coughlin were causing the Bills fits.
Belichick’s gameplan was to take away Jim Kelly’s air attack and let Thurman Thomas run. He knew Kelly’s bravado would cause him to force things, so Belichick took away the swing passes to Thomas and crossing patterns to Andre Reed that the Bills offence thrived on.
It was such a good blue print, Belichick’s written gameplan ended up in the Hall of Fame.
As for Coughlin, his group of no-name receivers teamed up with backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler and running back Otis Anderson to control the ball for over 40 minutes of the game. Wideouts Stephen Baker and Mark Ingram will never be inducted in Canton, but they were good enough on that day.
Shows you what good coaching can do for you.
Twenty-one years later, Coughlin and Belichick are in the Super Bowl again. And, given their individual successes in the title game dating back to Super Bowl XXV, it’s hard to bet against either.
By the way, wonder if that guy and his wife ever had that child. Hope so. He missed a heck of a second half of action and coaching.
And wide right, of course.