Eleven of 21 previous Super Bowl most valuable players have been quarterbacks, so let's take a close look at Sunday's matchup in this critical position.
Unlikely heroes do not emerge in Super Bowls. This is prime time for major stars only. The Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks have been Starr, Namath, Dawson, Staubach, Bradshaw, Plunkett, Montana and Simms. No Walter Mittys here, folks.
This year, we again have two big talents in Washington's Doug Williams and Denver's John Elway. Elway has to be the pregame favorite for the MVP trophy. But if Washington wins, don't be surprised to see the definite underdog here, Williams, accepting the award.
Washington had problems all year getting consistently good play from its quarterbacks. Williams and current backup Jay Schroeder both have very strong arms. Williams, though, has more experience, a vital quality for handling Super Bowl pressure.
Sure, Williams has been inconsistent. He has also led the Redskins to three straight big victories. That has to give Doug and his teammates confidence. And confidence is like experience. In the Super Bowl, you've got to have it.
Williams has the arm to make big plays. He didn't do much against Minnesota in the NFC championship except throw two great touchdown passes, which was all the Redskins needed. He's like a home-run hitter who strikes out three times, then beats you with a home run. And he has the big-play receivers to complement his arm.
It's easy to overlook Williams in this game, especially opposite Elway. But Williams' experience and arm give Redskins fans reasons to be optimistic. And remember this, the last two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, Simms and Montana, were overshadowed in the pregame publicity by bigger-name counterparts Elway and Marino.
Elway, in my opinion, is the top quarterback in the league. What individual ability! Montana is tremendous in the 49ers' system. Bernie Kosar is in a great system, too, and doesn't run well. Marino is a peerless passer but he also lacks mobility.
Elway has it all, including the magic of the great quarterbacks who can win in the last two minutes. He escapes from pressure so well, and he throws accurately when he's completely off-balance, a rare skill. I've seen him complete passes with zip from the strangest positions. His unusually strong arm gives him the uncanny ability to throw diagonally across the field. He can throw it anywhere he wants. That really stretches the defense.
Elway's running ability makes him extra-special. He is most dangerous outside the pocket. Not only can he scramble to set up a throw, he's also fast enough to run upfield and pick up yardage. Plus, the shotgun formation gives him more visibility and lets him move laterally more quickly than when he's under center.
Sunday's quarterback edge clearly goes to Denver's Elway. But I have a feeling Doug Williams will have an outstanding game. He surely has the potential.
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.