In an era with Super Bowl teams that have shoddy defenses, inconsistent ground attacks, and mediocre records, it’s easy to forget that decades ago, many Super Bowl teams not only had outstanding individual units but were balanced in every area. In fact, five of the greatest Super Bowl teams of all time played in the 20 years from 1972 to 1991.
The somewhat subjective rankings are:
- 1991 Washington Redskins
- 1985 Chicago Bears
- 1972 Miami Dolphins
- 1989 San Francisco 49ers
- 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
Twenty years ago, the greatest team of the Super Bowl era, the 1991 Washington Redskins, dominated the league from start to finish. The 1985 Chicago Bears had the most stifling defense, while the 1989 San Francisco 49ers possessed an unstoppable offense. The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers were balanced on both sides of the ball as were the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins, but the Redskins faced a tougher schedule than all of them.
The Redskins of 20 years ago aren’t usually regarded as the best team of the Super Bowl era, and part of that is because of the quarterback, Mark Rypien. Though Rypien had a mostly pedestrian career, he did have a truly great season in 1991, and the numbers prove that. Rypien, an excellent deep passer, threw for 28 touchdowns, second in the NFL.
Rypien was second in passer rating, and he threw 14 TDs of 25 yards or more, most in the NFL. Rypien led the NFL in yards per pass completion, ahead of Hall of Famers Steve Young, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Warren Moon. Plus, Rypien’s 28 TDs were nearly twice as many as Bears quarterback Jim McMahon’s greatest single-season output of 15.
Washington had a strong running attack with Earnest Byner, Ricky Ervins, and Gerald Riggs combining for nearly 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. Byner was the workhorse, Ervins provided elusiveness, and Riggs served as the short yardage back. Incredibly, the posse, Hall of Famer Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders, combined for more than 3,000 yards receiving.
Most impressively, the 1991 version of the Hogs allowed Rypien to be sacked only nine times all season. The feat is even more remarkable because Rypien was anything but a mobile quarterback. The Hogs’ only Hall of Famer, left guard Russ Grimm, was a backup to Raleigh McKenzie that season. The two best linemen on the team were tackles Jim Lachey and Joe Jacoby. Brian Mitchell ran back two punts for touchdowns to lead Washington’s excellent special teams, and kicker Chip Lohmiller made the Pro Bowl.
To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.