There are many factors that make the Super Bowl an intriguing matchup. But there's no doubt who the main character is in this drama. He's the guy who will be talked about most, the guy Joe Gibbs can't get out of his mind.
John Elway can single-handedly ruin an opponent. He is the dominant figure in Super Bowl XXII. The first thing I will look at Sunday is the Redskins' great pass rush versus John Elway. That's the key to this Super Bowl. But there are lots of interesting subplots.
First, you have two seasoned Super Bowl teams. You have Washington's power rushing attack against Denver's quick, gambling, ball-hawking defense. There are big-play performers all over the field in Elway and his Three Amigos, plus Washington's Doug Williams, Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders, Art Monk, Kelvin Bryant and Darrell Green. And two superb veteran coaching staffs will have their teams well-prepared.
So I don't think we'll have another Super Bowl blowout this year. Neither of this year's Super Bowl teams is on the kind of roll that produced one-sided victories for the Giants, Bears and 49ers in the past three Super Bowls.
Don't get me wrong. The Redskins and Broncos are capable of scoring big and wiping out anybody. But I see a close game this year, a 24-21 type of game, which would be nice. I'll be there and I'd like to see a Super Bowl with a fantastic finish.
The Broncos are favored and they should be. They have more scoring potential than Washington because of Elway. If Denver gets out ahead, watch out. I don't think the Redskins can come back against Denver like Cleveland did last week.
But the Redskins have been underrated all year. They have excellent experience throughout their team. They are very well coached. They are consistent and they play at the same level emotionally, which I've always believed is the key to being a Super Bowl team. If you reach emotional peaks, like the Vikings did against the 49ers, it's hard to reach that level again the next week. The Redskins are just solid in so many areas.
The Broncos offer a different picture. They struggled defensively this year, mainly due to injuries. But their whole success is based on Elway. He motivates the entire team and gives it confidence. And like everybody else, the Redskins will have trouble handling Elway. He's just so unpredictable.
The Redskins must try to keep him in the pocket. That means Dexter Manley and Charles Mann can't just tee off like they can against an immobile quarterback. And if they can't contain Elway, and no one has so far, the Redskins could have problems because they are very vulnerable when a quarterback gets outside the pocket.
The Redskins have a few advantages of their own. Their power rushing attack could give Denver trouble, and they get back their top receiver, Art Monk, who gives them another dimension. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos' running game won't exactly scare the Redskins.
Either team could get hot, especially Denver with Elway, but I expect a game like the ones we saw for the conference championships. Look for a Super Bowl that keeps your attention until the final gun.
Tom Landry has coached the Dallas Cowboys since their entry into the NFL in 1960. Denver Coach Dan Reeves played and coached for Landry. And of course, Landry has been preparing game plans to play against Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs for seven seasons.