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Burning Questions

Will the ex-Buc QB factor be a positive factor?

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Posted: Thursday January 25, 2001 4:36 PM
Updated: Thursday January 25, 2001 5:17 PM

  Rod Woodson Rod Woodson and the Ravens' defense can provide all the scoring Baltimore may need. AP

By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

TAMPA, Fla. -- We've sympathized with Kerry, been berated by Brian and got the stone-face treatment from Ray. How much drama can one little Super Bowl be expected to produce?

1. Everybody knows about their defense, but what secret weapon gives Baltimore its greatest chance for success against New York?

Answer: It's not foolproof, but the Ravens have a clear advantage in one potentially all-important category in this Super Bowl: The ex-Buc quarterback factor, courtesy of one Trent Farris Dilfer.

You scoff, but more times than not, the EBQBF (as it's known in these parts) has proven to be the difference. And with the added karma of this game being in Tampa, there's no telling how much it's worth. To wit:

  • Super Bowl XXII in San Diego, 1988: Washington's Doug Williams, just five years after ending his five-year Bucs career in an acrimonious contract squabble with then Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse, blows up the Super Bowl with his astounding second-quarter performance.

    It is the single most productive 15 minutes of fame anyone has ever enjoyed in Super Bowl play: four touchdown passes and five touchdown drives overall, all in a span of 18 plays and 5:47 of possession time. Overall, Williams threw for 340 yards and walked away with game MVP honors in the Redskins' 42-10 rout of Denver.

  • Super Bowl XXIX in Miami, 1994: San Francisco's Steve Young, in his only Super Bowl start, throws a record six touchdown passes to lead the 49ers to a fifth Super Bowl championship (another record), thereby surgically removing the gorilla -- his words, not ours -- from his back. Young makes it two ex-Bucs quarterbacks, two Super Bowl MVPs in the NFL's big Roman-numeraled affair.

    For added significance, San Francisco's 49-26 conquest of San Diego takes place in Florida, just a few hours away from where Young struggled valiantly to lift the 1985-86 Leeman Bennett-coached Bucs from the abyss of back-to-back 2-14 seasons.

  • Alas, in Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami, 1999: Atlanta's Chris Chandler couldn't win his own measure of revenge against the former bumbling Bucs front office. Skeptics have pointed out that Chandler just wasn't in Tampa Bay long enough -- all of 1990 and part of 1991 -- for the Buc effect to fully take root. And in truth, Vinny Testaverde, who lost for the Jets in the AFC title game in 1999, was the starter for most of 1990-91 and should have been the guy carrying the ex-Tampa Bay banner in the Super Bowl.

    Chandler's Falcons were no match for the good vibes produced by John Elway's last game with Denver. The Broncos rolled 34-19.

    Still a 2-1 record in the Big Game is pretty good odds in anyone's sports book. That's why the Giants may not have a chance on Sunday. The combination of Dilfer being back on Bucs soil, just months after leaving Tampa Bay in failure, seems to assure a Ravens victory. Besides, Kerry Collins will start for New York, and there is no such thing as an ex-Panther quarterback factor.

    2. The Super Bowl is still three days away, but which NFL executive stole some of the spotlight this week by repeatedly dropping the ball in the hiring game?

    Answer: When Matt Millen was scooped up recently by Detroit and handed millions to run the Lions, it looked like the organization was getting a solid football guy and a man with a plan.

    One out of two ain't bad. Millen finally hired his head coach on Wednesday, tapping San Francisco offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to replace the fired Gary Moeller. But let's face it, with no disrespect to Mornhinweg, Millen might have talked himself into pulling the trigger on the hire in order to save a little face.

    Millen kept losing candidates even before he got to talk to them. Gary Kubiak pulled out and Herman Edwards was hired by the Jets as head coach. If Mornhinweg wasn't his man, Millen would have basically had to crawl back to Moeller and give him back the job that he never officially had taken away from him. And Millen didn't want to do that.

    Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis was Millen's third remaining candidate, but from all indications the Lions were never really considered a threat to land Lewis ahead of Buffalo or Cleveland.

    Aggressive in everything he does, Millen went about the whole hiring process in Detroit like a man who had his shoes tied together. It was clumsy to watch. He kept Moeller twisting in the wind while he conducted his search, and then almost found himself in the awkward position of having to claim he still had total confidence in Moeller's ability to get the job done.

    Right. That would have gotten everything off on the right foot in Motown. For the team's fans, let's hope Millen grows into the job. Because judging from his first few weeks, there's little reason to believe that someday he'll be Lionized in Detroit.

     
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    3. Looking into our crystal ball, who are the three most likely game MVP candidates and why?

    Answer: Here's a trend we bet you haven't picked up on yet. In this most defensive of Super Bowl matchups, forecasting a defensive player to win the game MVP in Super Bowl XXXV seems almost a lock.

    Defensive players have had an MVP day or two in the Super Bowl, as long as the Roman numeral was divisible by five. The last defensive winner was Dallas cornerback Larry Brown, who picked off two Neil O'Donnell passes against Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX. Before that, Bears defensive end Richard Dent took home the hardware against New England in Super Bowl XX.

    And the first time a defender won the award came in Super Bowl V, when Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley earned the distinction. Howley remains the only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team. That said, here are our choices for Super Bowl XXXV MVP, in order of likelihood:

    1. Ray Lewis, Baltimore middle linebacker: How could it be more fitting than for the NFL's defensive player of the year -- and the subject of the biggest off-field story of the year -- to command one more huge stage this season? Bet the folks who shoot those "I'm going to Disney World" spot aren't exactly pulling for Mr. Ray.

    2. Michael Strahan, New York defensive end: The Giants' pass rush is one of their clearest edges in comparison with Baltimore. Strahan engulfed Daunte Culpepper in the NFC title game and could wind up with a six-pack of Trent in his hip pocket if Ravens right tackle Harry Swayne doesn't come up bigger than the Vikings' Korey Stringer did.

    3. Rod Woodson, Baltimore free safety: The Giants aren't going to be running anywhere on Sunday, so they'll have to get there through the air. That's where Woodson could come up big. If the savvy veteran can read Kerry Collins' eyes a few times, a defensive touchdown on an interception return would be a wholly fitting way to lock up this game and the MVP trophy all at once.

    Don Banks covers pro football for CNNSI.com.


     
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