With Sunday’s Super Bowl featuring two of the New York area’s most despised teams, the area can use all the solace they can get. Find hope in the All-Super Bowl team.
Sunday’s Super Bowl has become an utter nightmare for the Tri-State area.
The New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles square off for the right to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy (6:30 p.m. ET, NBC), and it just so happens they’re two of the most hated teams in the New York area. You’d figure Jets and Bills fans would become accustomed to the sight of Tom Brady on the first Sunday in February, but it doesn’t compare to the possibility of Giants fans seeing the Eagles potentially win their first title.
Long story short, the area needs a pick-me-up for when the inevitable trophy ceremony hits and either a blue or green glad glove is holding it. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of the finest New Yorkers to ever partake in the Big Game, a startling lineup to rival anything New England and Philadelphia have to offer.
Quarterback: Eli Manning (Super Bowl 42, 46)
Of all the great quarterbacks that have partaken in the Super Bowl in recent years, it is only Manning who has provided the lone blemish on the impressive resume the Patriots have posted over the past decade-plus.
For the all the jokes about Manning’s status as the youngest brother in his family’s football dynasty, for all the memes shared about the so-called “Manning Face,” the veteran’s many detractors can never can never take away the fact he earned two rings against, arguably, the biggest juggernaut in NFL history. Each win, one of which was against an undefeated team, was capped off by a Manning drive of magnificence, each long remembered for a key pass that later led to a victorious score. First came the epic helmet grab from David Tyree in 2008 to set up Manning’s game-winning throw to Plaxico Burress, before the sideline-stepping catch from Mario Manningham (at Bill Belichick’s request) helped continue the final drive en route to the Giants’ fourth championship.
Honorable Mentions: Quarterback was by far the hardest position to earn on the list. Joe Namath perhaps changed the course of football history by guaranteeing his AFL Jets’ victory over the Colts. Phil Simms‘ 22-for-25 mark in 1987 remains a landmark. Jim Kelly could never pull off a win, but four consecutive Super Bowl appearances are impressive nonetheless. Simms almost had another, but an injury forced him to give way to Jeff Hostetler in 1990.
Running Back: Matt Snell
It was hard to leave 1990’s MVP Ottis Anderson off this list, but, hey, Jets fans need some love too, and Snell provided one of the overlooked performances in the game’s history in 1969.
While Namath steals the headlines for his guarantee, it was Snell’s performance that helped bring that promise to life. Snell picked up 121 yards on the ground, then a Super Bowl record, as well as 40 yards receiving. Snell would score the Jets’ only touchdown in the game, a four-yard rush to put them up 7-0. His 161 all-purpose yards still currently rank 10th in Super Bowl history.
Unfortunately, Snell has cut off all contact with the Jets. When he and fellow rusher Emerson Boozer were inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor in 2015, Snell declared he wanted “nothing to do” with the organization and did not attend.
Honorable Mentions: Ottis Anderson missing from this lineup is tough enough, but his exclusion from the Hall of Fame may be even more egregious. Anderson’s 102-yard day against the Bills capped off a spectacular 1989-90 season that netted him the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. Thurman Thomas and his 204 career rushing yards may be good for sixth in Super Bowl history, but his missing helmet got things off to a rocky start for the Bills in 1991. Ahmad Bradshaw may be responsible for the most reluctant touchdown in Super Bowl history, but it proved to be the game-winning score in the Giants’ second win over the Patriots.
Wide Receiver: David Tyree
Sure, you remember the helmet catch that Giants fans no doubt to comfort themselves while the Patriots and Eagles do battle. But what people forget is that Tyree’s heroics go beyond that grab.
While the Giants were shockingly keeping pace with the undefeated Patriots, it was hard to truly take the upset bid seriously, as New England owned a 7-3 lead from the first play of the second quarter on. That changed when Tyree, he of just four receptions during the 2007 regular season, nabbed a five-yard score from Manning to give the Giants a 10-7 lead, and truly plant the seeds of an upset in the minds of those gathered at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Tyree ended the day with three receptions for 43 yards and the score in the epic win.
Wide Receiver: Andre Reed
The Super Bowl win, alas, is missing from Reed’s impressive resume. But the 2014 Hall of Fame inductee made his mark in the biggest game of the season.
His 323 receiving yards in the Buffalo quartet remains good for third all-time in Super Bowl history, the high mark coming in 1992 when he put up 152 yards against the Cowboys. That mark is currently tied for fifth on the all-time list with Rod Smith‘s 1999 showing. His 27 receptions are second on the list, each trailing the arguable greatest of all-time, Jerry Rice.
Honorable Mention: Another hard-luck Bill who performed well in defeat was Don Beebe, who tallied 171 receiving yards and the most infamous forced fumble in Super Bowl history. George Sauer of the Jets and Hakeem Nicks of the Giants each tallied 100-yard games in their teams respective Super Bowl victories. Plaxico Burress tallied the game-winning score in the epic takedown of the undefeated Patriots.
Tight End: Mark Bavaro
Starter for the Giants’ first two Super Bowl titles, Bavaro was a fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame. He enjoyed a tremendous breakout year in his sophomore season of 1986, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. That season concluded against the Denver Broncos, where Bavaro truly went down in history. Receiver of four catches for 51 yards and a score, Bavaro changed the course of the game with his 13-yard touchdown grab from Simms, giving the Giants a 16-10 lead, one they would never relinquish en route to the 39-20 final. The image of the devout Catholic Bavaro genuflecting in the end zone became one of the endearing images of the Giants’ historic 1986-87 season.
Bavaro added five more receptions for 50 yards in the Giants’ second championship win in 1990.
Honorable Mentions: On the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter of 2008’s Super Bowl, Kevin Boss‘s 45-yard reception set up Tyree’s score. Pete Metzellars took part in each of the Bills’ four appearances and scored a two-yard touchdown against the Redskins.
Center: Bart Oates
Oates got his start in Philadelphia …not with the Eagles, but with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars… but became beloved to legions of Giants fans for his durability and toughness.
The center made 125 consecutive starts as a member of the Giants, and held the talented defenses of Buffalo and Denver in check to earn two rings. Oates, who also appeared in five Pro Bowls during his Giants career, would earn one more Super Bowl ring in 1995, helping the San Francisco 49ers blow out the Chargers in Miami.
Guard: Chris Snee
Talk about earning your spot at the family dinner table! Coughlin’s son-in-law and a former All-Pro, Snee earned two rings with the Giants, but also goes down as one of the most overlooked heroes in Super Bowl history.
In 2012, with the Giants down 17-15 early in the fourth quarter, it was Snee who recovered a Bradshaw fumble at the Giants 11. That drive ended in a punt, but Snee’s recovery prevented New England from earning prime field position deep in Giants territory, and preserved New England’s final tally. The Giants, of course, would win the game 21-17.
Guard: Dave Herman
To pull of his famous guarantee, Namath got some special help from two of his protectors, the next two names on our list.
Herman enjoyed a strong 1968 season, earning AFL All-Star honors as a guard as the Jets topped the Raiders in the league title game. However, leading into Super Bowl week, head coach Webb Ewbank moved Herman to tackle, hoping to neutralize the fearsome Baltimore pass rush headlined by Bubba Smith.
The strategy worked, as Herman not only protected Namath but opened up running lanes for Snell, as the Jets completed their monumental upset.
Tackle: Winston Hill
Hill began his NFL career in 1963, as the Texas Southern alum was taken in the 11th round by the Baltimore Colts. A tough training camp, however, where he was forced to face Pro Bowl defensive end Ordell Braase, led to his release, and he caught on with the Jets.
Hill, who passed away in 2016, built a solid career with the Jets, making 174 consecutive starts, and his crowning achievement came in stopping Braase in 1969. The aforementioned Snell credited Hill for his big day, remarking in the 1997 book Super Bowl: The Game of Their Lives that “Braase pretty much faded out”.
Hill was inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor in 2010.
Tackle: David Diehl
Diehl was around for both Giant victories over the Patriots, drafted by Big Blue as a fifth rounder in 2003. In that rookie year, Diehl became the first Giants rookie since Bavaro to start all 16 games in his debut.
Dealing with injuries throughout his career, Diehl developed versatility and strength, starting at both tackle and guard. It was left tackle, however, that Diehl finished off his finest masterpieces, shoving off the might Patriots line en route to victory.
Defensive End: Justin Tuck
Brady’s reign of glory may have begun with the Tuck Rule, but “Tuck” took on a whole new meaning in 2008 and 2012. Though Manning goes down as 2008’s MVP, Tuck was widely credited for leading the defensive charge that shut down Brady’s record-setting offense, sacking the possibly greatest of all-time twice and forcing a fumble. He duplicated the double sacks four years later, giving him four in his Super Bowl career, becoming one of just five defenders to earn at least four sacks in the Big Game.
Defensive End: Michael Strahan
Strahan is now headed to the Super Bowl once every three years, as he’s part of FOX’s broadcast team. But Giants fans will no doubt appreciate his contributions that got the team to the Super Bowl twice in his career.
Strahan’s first trip to the Big Game in 2001 was memorable on a personal level, picking up a sack and a half, but the accomplishment was lost in the Giants’ no-show against the Ravens. When the team returned to the championship seven years later, Strahan became the face behind the upset trek, as they embarked on their improbable showdown with undefeated Patriots, picking up yet another sack.
Strahan retired after the game, but returned when the Giants opened up their ensuing season, leading the team onto the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Defensive Tackle: Jay Alford
Contrary to popular belief, the Giants’ first win over the Patriots did not end with the helmet catch, nor did the subsequent score to Burress. It technically ended with a sack not by Strahan, Tuck, Osi Umenyiora or Antonio Pierce.
Instead, it was Alford, he of 18 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his NFL career, that put Brady to the University of Phoenix Stadium turf for the final time, setting up New England in an irredeemable third-and-20 situation that shut them down for good.
Linebacker: Chase Blackburn
Blackburn was the definition of NFL grit, a special teams standout that built a solid career. In 2012, Blackburn did what few others ever could …stop Rob Gronkowski.
With the Patriots up 17-15 in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Brady went for the dagger, throwing a deep ball to Gronkowski in the red zone. Blackburn, however, got in front of it, making the key interception that gave the Giants the momentum they’d need to pull off the 21-17 upset.
Cornerback: Randy Beverly
One of the more unsung heroes of the Jets’ lone Super Bowl, Beverly became the first defender in the game’s history to earn multiple interceptions, a feat only 11 others have since obtained.
Now a regular at Jets home games, Beverly, undrafted in the 1967 draft, had earned the Jets’ starting cornerback job by the time the Jets pulled off their epic upset. Both of Beverly’s picks, taking one each from Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas, came in the end zone, keeping the mighty Colts offense off the scoreboard for as long as possible in the 16-7 victory.
Cornerback: Nate Odomes
Part of the strong Buffalo defense that led to their AFC championship quartet, Odomes capped off a strong 1993-94 season with a strong performance in the rematch with the Cowboys.
Leading the league with nine interceptions during the regular season, Odomes, who was integral in Buffalo’s historic comeback against Houston in the wild-card playoff the year before gave Buffalo perhaps the brightest sign of hope in their Super Bowl glory, intercepting a Troy Aikman pass just before halftime to set up a 13-6 Buffalo lead. Victory was not to be, but Odomes’s performances should not be quickly forgotten.
Safety: Jim Hudson
The Jets intercepted four Colts passes in 1968, but Hudson’s was the only that picked up yardage, a clutch interception that preserved a 7-0 halftime lead for the Jets as the Colts were driving to tie the game. Hudson’s strong play in the AFL Championship game, with a pair of pass deflections with the Oakland Raiders inside the Jets six-yard-line, might’ve gotten the Jets to the monumental game in the first place. The Raiders were only going for the score in the first place after Hudson made a touchdown-saving tackle just before the sequence.
Kicker: Jim Turner
Turner indirectly created the winning margin in 1969, as his three field goals created the 16-7 final. Responsible for 10 points in the game (adding one more after the extra point after Snell’s run), Turner famously declared “Welcome to the AFL!” on NBC’s postgame telecast after the win. He returned to the Super Bowl in 1978 with the Broncos, kicking a 47-yard field goal as Denver fell to the Cowboys 27-10.
Punter: Steve Weatherford
Weatherford’s kicking cleat is perhaps responsible for one of the most meaningful punts in Super Bowl history. In 2012, the Giants’ first drive ended with a punt, but his 36-yarder situated New England on their own 6-yard line. On the first play of the drive, an intentional grounding penalty by Brady led to a safety, and a 2-0 Giants lead, setting up the team’s second title.
Long Snapper: Zak DeOssie
It literally runs in the family for the DeOssie’s, as Zak and his father Steve have snapped the Giants to three Super Bowl titles. Zak gets the nod as he partook in two Giants Super Bowls, and remains, along with Manning, one of the two active players on this list.
Returner: Ron Dixon
You thought we were going to leave the Giants’ forgotten appearance in the 2001 Super Bowl? Think again!
Dixon was responsible for the Giants’ lone score in their 34-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, a 97-yard kickoff return that gave the Giants a brief semblance hope, narrowing the gap to to 17-7. On the ensuing Giants kickoff, however, Jermaine Lewis duplicated the feat, going 84 yards for the score to keep the game out of reach.
With his score sandwiched by two Baltimore scores, Dixon did go down in history, partaking in the three fastest scores in Super Bowl history, with only 46 seconds of game time elapsing.
Head Coach: Tom Coughlin
Certainly, we’d put Bill Belichick on this list, but, then again, we can’t honor the man’s contributions to a New England-based franchise. So, with all due respect to fellow two-time champion Bill Parcells, why not honor the only man to master him…twice?
Coughlin performed his best when his job was on the line, his seat warming up the coldest New York winter night. He put the fire out immediately, however, with his two Super Bowl titles, one of them coming against Belichick’s undefeated squad.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490