By Dr. Ken 


With Super Bowl LI, the fifty-first edition fast approaching, it is of course "the" topic of conversation among football fans. The 2016 college football national championship playoff series, if a lengthy polling period and two-game playoff format can be termed a series, was a bit pedestrian for many fans. Alabama forged a solid, never-in-doubt victory over Washington while Clemson blew out Ohio State in the semi-finals. The National Championship game had potential with the jettisoning of the Alabama offensive coordinator only a week prior to the big contest. Those behind the scenes might have predicted an even earlier departure for Lane Kiffin and the directive to "concentrate on your new position of head football coach at Florida Atlantic University," although it took the media and public fandom somewhat by surprise. The Alabama - Clemson game was a very nice finish to the collegiate season, perhaps a better game than expected. The change in coordinators did not provide the intrigue that Clemson's "Tale of Two Halves" play did, plodding along on offense in the first two periods while demonstrating lots of firepower to close. Alabama took the heavy blows, delivered their own, and the punch/counter punch contest was for most, very satisfying. However, some fans just prefer the pro game and were happy to move on to Wild Card Weekend and the NFL playoffs.




For Alabama fans, three seasons of what at times appeared to be sideline friction became standard


For many fans this left the Super Bowl as the major anticipated football event of the season and for those many, this one game is the most important no matter what else occurs in any specific season. Even die-hard college football fans with minimal interest in professional football will be swept up in the "can't be avoided" hype and excitement that surrounds the Super Bowl. For players, it is the "ultimate goal" because it is the ultimate reward at the end of each season. Players play and coaches coach in order to prove they are the best and the Super Bowl's Lombardi Trophy indicates for any particular season, that a team was in fact, the best. Players also know that if they are to enhance their "brand" and/or general awareness among fans, it is the one game where "everyone is watching" because of the world-wide cultural phenomenon the game and its accompanying activities have become. Success or even one stand-out play can immediately increase a player's marketability or perceived value as a contributing team member. Past rosters are littered with the names of Super Bowl standouts rewarded with significant salary increases, improved free agent status, and/or a number of commercial opportunities whose shining moment in the Super Bowl proved to be the one and only notable moment of success in an otherwise brief, mediocre or poor professional career.
Unfortunately, some of the games have been seen as "lesser Super Bowls." What was determined by the media or public to be sloppy play, as perceived in Super Bowl V for example, has doomed that game among all of the other Super Bowl games as a "Blooper Bowl." Few would defend an eleven turnover contest as "played with precision" but more than poor play were the consistent comments by the players from both the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Colts, that it was one of the most hard-hitting and roughest games they ever played in and perhaps the one Super Bowl contest where the ferocity of contact was never truly considered as significant by the sporting public. Some of the media statements included:

     "So it became the Stupor Bowl, with the new world champions giving up the football on seven turnovers-four lost fumbles and three interceptions-which should have meant a rout. And the losing Cowboys, obviously superior in personnel except in the vital offensive spot, turning over the ball four times themselves, getting nicked for 120 yards in penalties and even ticking the ball into the hands of alert John Mackey for one of the two Baltimore touchdowns."


Quoting Dallas quarterback Craig Morton responding to a query regarding the health of his arm:

"My arm was the same as it has been the last few weeks." This in turn led an Ohio writer to note, "That would be something between inadequate and terrible."


The Baltimore Colts had a lot of big hitters like Bubba Smith and Mike Curtis


"Blunder Bowl" and "Stupor Bowl" have been other monikers this game has been forced to wear but very little attention has been given to the comments of the players themselves that indicated the level of physical violence that led to the many turnovers. Colts quarterback Earl Morrall stated, "It really was a physical game. I mean, people were flying into one another out there." This observation was echoed by receiver Jim O'Brien who kicked the game winning field goal. "It was really a hard-hitting game, it wasn't just guys dropping the ball. They fumbled because they got the snot knocked out of them." Venerated Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, a former Giants defensive back summed it up by stating, "I haven't been around many games where the players hit harder. Sometimes people watch a game and see turnovers and they talk about how sloppy the play was. The mistakes in that game weren't invented, at least not by the people who made them. Most were forced."




The Dallas Cowboys also had an arsenal of big hitters led by linebacker Leroy Jordan and the great tackle Bob Lilly. Here, Colts fullback Norm Bulaich takes the blow

The Colts of course were but two seasons removed from what was considered one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Losing Super Bowl III to the American Football League's New York Jets destroyed the legacy of what to the start of that game, was "the greatest team ever" in the opinion of many. The loss had a devastating effect on Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom and his relationship with highly successful head coach Don Shula. It was believed that Rosenbloom could not get over the embarrassment of losing to an AFL team, became highly critical of Shula, and both saw the benefit in parting ways. Shula of course became a Hall of Fame coach with an undefeated Dolphins team, six Super Bowl appearances and two victories, but despite on-the-field and financial success, Rosenbloom tired of media criticism which pushed him to essentially trade franchises with the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 1972 season. That rumors of gambling losses and possible fixes related to that Super Bowl loss continue to this day further muddied the reputation of the '68 Colts. Thus, the motivation of the 1970 Colts squad that completed an 11 - 2 - 1 regular season slate with further playoff wins against the Bengals and Raiders in the newly aligned NFL was exceptionally high. 

Under new head coach Don McCafferty, the Colts, even with an injured and aging thirty-seven year old John Unitas, still resembled the Colts of '68. Despite a career low completion percentage of 51.7 percent, he remained, in the words of his coach, "A great chess master" on the field. Morrall, seen by many as the goat of Super Bowl III, was still a skilled and dangerous back-up quarterback, capable of starting for most teams. The Cowboys too had been forced to overcome the difficulty of losing running back Calvin Hill, inconsistent play from top receiver Bob Hayes, and an ongoing quarterback controversy that culminated in a most humiliating 38 - 0 shutout by the Cardinals in full view of a stacked Monday Night Football audience on November 16th. With Craig Morton and Roger Staubach alternating game to game and at times, series to series, offensive continuity was lacking, punctuated by the Cowboys' 5 - 0 playoff victory against the Detroit Lions. Despite the loss of Hill, rookie Duane Thomas and fullback Walt Garrison sparked a solid run game that carried the team to the Super Bowl. 

The low back injury that forced Unitas out of the final regular season game against the Jets in the first quarter, and his ongoing elbow problems, were offset by the play of back-up Morrall who proved to be as reliable in 1970 as he had been during the terrific '68 season, up to the fateful Super Bowl. Most of the Colts players had as much confidence in Morrall as they did in Unitas by this time in the latter's great career. Though Johnny U began as the game's starter, his three-for-nine performance that included two interceptions made it clear how limited he was. He did exit with a seventy-five yard touchdown throw to tight end John Mackey, a pass that first bounced off of Colts receiver Eddie Hinton and Dallas defensive back Mel Renfro before arriving in the rumbling Mackey's hands. From that point forward, the mistakes, with an emphasis on the exceptional level of hitting that produced those mistakes, piled up. 

Many fans have forgotten that both teams were fueled by tough, skilled, and hard-hitting defenses. The Colts featured heralded Bubba Smith and Mike "The Animal" Curtis, and safety Jerry Logan, all Pro Bowl nominees, but lesser known Rick Volk and Ted Hendricks and wily veterans Fred Miller and Billy Ray Smith were quite formidable. The Cowboys offered up a defense with Hall of Famers Lilly, Renfro, and Herb Adderley, but Chuck Howley, Charlie Waters, Jethro Pugh, and Jordan of course, have remained team icons because they played exceptionally well on a consistent basis. Both defenses in a forgotten manner, provided heavyweight boxing worthy blows throughout the game, leading to what so many viewed as "sloppy football."






Highlighting the "politics" that go into choosing members of The Pro Football Hall of Fame and other such awards, it remains a mystery to many that Cowboys' linebacker Charles "Chuck" Howley has neither been selected nor nominated for this honor. With selectors whose "sense of history" dates to perhaps 1980 and the belief that statistics only are the driving power for Hall entry, there has been an influx of many "big stat" offensive players and "flashy" defensive players who have been voted to Canton in recent years. This has left numerous, more deserving players like Howley far from enshrinement. Yet his accomplishments cry out for consideration: named First Team All Pro five times; a six time Pro Bowl participant; an often overlooked, if being a five time First Team All Pro can be considered overlooked, member of a great Dallas Cowboys defense; a Super Bowl MVP with many experts believing he should have won it a second time and still the only member of a losing team to win that award. Tom Landry, himself a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a man who coached the great N.Y. Giants defenses of the 1950s as well as the Doomsday Defense of the Cowboys, called Howley "the greatest linebacker I ever had." Howley was an All State standout in football but also starred in baseball, basketball, track and field, diving, and gymnastics at Wheeling, West Virginia's Warwood High School and continued his athletic dominance at West Virginia University as a three time All Conference center, guard, and linebacker while named the Southern Conference Player of the Year in '57. He is also the only WVU athlete to letter in five sports, having starred in football, track and field, wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming. His high school and collegiate accomplishments earned entry into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the West Virginia University Athletics Hall of Fame, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, and the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni. [see HELMETHUT ]
Howley was the Chicago Bears first round draft choice in 1958, after playing in the Senior Bowl, East West Shrine Game, and College All Star Game, and played on the Monsters of The Midway defense until incurring a severe knee injury during 1959's training camp and playing but three games during the regular season. He sat out 1960, healing and contemplating retirement, felt well enough to play an outstanding game in West Virginia University's Alumni - Varsity Game during the spring of '61, and Landry traded second and ninth round draft choices for him, bringing him to the Cowboys franchise in 1961. He proved to be tough, tenacious, and fast enough to cover both backs and receivers deep into the secondary when necessary. He proved to be a perfect fit for Landry's defensive schemes and became and integral component of the Doomsday Defense, athletic enough to be given consideration as a running back or receiver himself. He played the middle linebacker position but the switch to outside backer in 1963 highlighted his best attributes. Lilly, Jordan, Renfro, and Adderley may have been the more familiar names but Howley made the great defense cohesive. His MVP Award for Super Bowl V is a singular achievement as a member of the losing squad an he was the first defensive player to merit the honor. His Super Bowl VI performance was very much the equal of V with the MVP Award going to teammate Staubach. On December 9, 1972, in the next to last regular season game against the hated Redskins, Howley suffered an injury to his left knee that required extensive time to heal, leaving him absent for the playoffs. His '73 comeback was brief, making it through but one contest which led to his retirement. For thirteen seasons he was a rock for the Cowboys, and though inducted to their Ring of Honor and The Texas Sports Hall of Fame, he has yet to take his rightful place as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.






Interpretation is left to those who viewed the game when it was played, live or on television, and within the context of the times. I recall it as I have described it, a brutal slugfest that certainly led to numerous miscues, but fumbles and interceptions that were earned. It also ranks high on the scale of excitement, as the Colts were forced to come from behind mid-way in the fourth quarter with a Tom Nowatzke touchdown plunge that answered the Cowboys scoring reception by Thomas only seconds earlier. A fortuitous interception by Colts middle linebacker Curtis allowed former University of Cincinnati star Jim O'Brien to close the affair with his game winning thirty-two yard field goal with only five seconds on the clock, a heart-stopping moment that averted an overtime period. Having had the opportunity and privilege of sitting in National Football Leauge staff meeting rooms and exchanging "general football conversation" prior to the business of game planning and at times doing no more than "hanging out" and talking history with many older coaches who either played or coached during the time of the 1970 season Super Bowl, there were numerous comments about the public's jaundiced view of the game and the media's disparaging comments. Many saw the game as I did, a hard-hitting, hard-played, hard-edged affair, the type of game that is very much lost in the modern version of Super Bowl Football.