SAN DIEGO -- Doug Williams has been to the mountaintop. And the view is good. After all the difficulties he's endured in this wild, chaotic ride of a season -- the back injury, the tearful disappointment upon learning he'd lost the starting job, the prying scrutiny that attaches itself to a quarterback controvery, Saturday's root canal, and Sunday's hyperflexed knee that threatened to deprive him of his opportunity of a lifetime -- after all these, and now after being voted the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXII, the view is very, very good.
Calmly, deftly, with a prophet's eye and a surgeon's touch, Williams guided the Washington Redskins to the most stunning quarter of football in Super Bowl history: Thirty-five points in 15 minutes. Nine completions. Two hundred twenty-eight yards. Four touchdown passes. When you've said "second quarter," you've said it all. What else was there? No Super Bowl quarterback ever had a quarter like that. Not Namath, not Tarkenton, not Staubach, not Bradshaw, and certainly not Elway, whose coronation must once again be deferred.
Williams persevered in the pocket with the patience of Job, coolly waiting until doom was within arm's length before releasing the pass. Shifting his focus from one to another to still another receiver, then locking in and delivering the ball with a steady, guiding hand, Williams was like an engraver working on a commemorative medal. So effortless was his motion, so confident his demeanor, so sound his decisions, you'd have thought he had been given the questions before the exam.
In one brilliant burst Williams vaporized the last on-the-field prejudice remaining in professional football: that a black quarterback couldn't lead a team to a championship; he wasn't intelligent enough. Williams beat Denver short, and he beat Denver long. After being asked all week how it felt being a black quarterback, Doug Williams can finally be asked how it feels simply to be a winning quarterback. Moments like these, with all their moral and sociological consequence, help us all break through the doors of perception and become free at last.
"I didn't come here with the Washington Redskins as a black quarterback," Williams said Sunday night as he said all week. "I came here as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins."
The T-shirt is wrong.
He has more than a touch of class.
What amazing, unexpected thunder from the Redskins. They score 35 points in a quarter when they hadn't scored as many in any non-strike game all season. They outscored the Broncos by 32 points when they hadn't outscored any team by more than 20 in their non-strike games, and when seven of their 10 non-strike victories had been by a total of 30 points! All season long the Redskins had given us breathless, terrifying finishes, and here, in the heat of the cauldron, they give us alchemy -- they turn straw into gold. A few weeks ago, when the Redskins were stumbling toward the playoffs, Mark May said if they'd ever play 60 full minutes of football, the Redskins "might well score 50 points." Who'd have imagined their best game would have come here?
In the first few minutes it looked like Denver would humiliate the Redskins. On his very first offensive play Elway, throwing from the shotgun -- playing cat and mouse with the Redskins' standard defensive patterns -- went 56 yards to Ricky Nattiel for a touchdown, the quickest touchdown in Super Bowl history. On his next possession Elway went 32 yards to Mark Jackson, then came back off a reverse to catch a pass himself for 23 yards. The Broncos got a field goal to lead, 10-0, and the Redskins' defense was so confused, it went back to the bench and (employing the Imelda gambit) changed shoes. At that point, Elway appeared invincible, like he belonged not in Denver's huddle, but at Arthur's Round Table.
When Ricky Sanders fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Broncos leaped around claiming recovery, it appeared a rout was on. Fortunately for the Redskins, such celebration was premature. Ravin Caldwell had recovered the fumble, and though the Redskins sputtered offensively through the rest of the quarter, defensively they held the line on Elway and, concequently, on the scoreboard.
Towards the end of the quarter, on first and 10 at his 35, Williams slipped and twisted his left knee. Would this be yet another hard luck chapter in his life? His writhing indicated severe pain; he left the game for a couple of plays. But he came back at the beginning of the second quarter and -- boom! -- immediately went 80 yards to Sanders for a touchdown. That was the first of five touchdowns on five straight possessions, incomparable in Super Bowl history. "I had some pain," Williams said. "But I just sucked it up."
Orange Crush? Orange Slush is more like it. Sanders set a Super Bowl record for receiving yards by halftime. The Hogs opened up holes as wide as William Perry; Timmy Smith did such a good Walter Payton imitation that people wondered if the Redskins would retire George Rogers' jersey between halves. Suddenly and stunningly, as their fortunes reversed, Elway couldn't do anything right and Williams couldn't do anything wrong.
Although Jay Schroeder filled in for two plays while Williams stretched his knee, isn't it a poetic irony that Williams should have found his stride after replacing Schroeder once again? All season long that was Williams' modus operandi. He rescued the Redskins against Philadelphia in the opener, against Detroit, and against Minnesota -- all in relief of Schroeder. To do it again in the Super Bowl seems strangely fitting. Of course there's no controversy anymore. No sitting Super Bowl champion quarterback has ever had to compete in camp for his job. Doug Williams is the quarterback of the Washington Redskins. Less than two years after landing face down on the scrapheap of forgotten quarterbacks, he stands at the mountaintop, gazing down, master of all he surveys. "I look at myself," Doug Williams said, "and say I'm blessed."