In the NFL, it's a long season, and on the aggregate, over the long haul, the great players certainly steer the tone of the season and put their teams in position to win a Super Bowl. However, football can be an awfully random game, and on a play-to-play basis, ultimately the precise point in time that decides who wins and who loses isn't determined at all by the great ones, but instead by the random, oftentimes unknown guy who happens to be in the right place at the right time.
We call those people "one-hit wonders," a term often reserved for fleeting, here-today-gone-tomorrow musicians like Dexy's Midnight Runners ("Come on, Eileen"!) or Musical Youth ("Pass the Dutchie"!). It's a term that fits Super Bowl heroics as well. Let's go back and look at ten of the most prominent Super Bowl one-hit wonders...
10. Mark Rypien, Super Bowl XXVI
The storyline of this Super Bowl was the Buffalo Bills' shot at redemption after losing in excruciating fashion the season before to the Giants on a Scott Norwood missed field goal as time expired. Instead of redemption, the Bills found another way to lose, allowing the previously nondescript Rypien to have a career day with 292 yards passing. Rypien would never start more than ten games in a season after this Super Bowl win...
9. Mike Jones, Super Bowl XXXIV
Football is a game of inches. In this case, it was about 12 inches that separated Kevin Dyson from pay dirt, and without Mike Jones's tackle at the one yard line, so many legacies are changed. Kurt Warner would have no Super Bowl wins, and Steve McNair would have one....
8. Mario Manningham, Super Bowl XLVI
Eli Manning has two Super Bowl wins, and he would likely have zero if it weren't for two miraculous throws and catches. There was this Mario Manningham catch in Super Bowl XLVI...
7. David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII
...and then, of course, the Helmet Catch by David Tyree, who went on to have more books written about the Helmet Catch (one) than receptions (zero) the rest of his career. How important was this play? Well, the Giants signed Tyree to a one-day contract in 2010 so he could retire as a Giant, a move usually reserved for franchise icons.
6. Jacoby Jones, Super Bowl XLVII
This was the high point of Jacoby Jones's miraculous 15 minutes of fame the season after the Texans released him, a record-breaking kickoff return to open the second half of the Super Bowl, which led to a legendary appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's show and a season on Dancing With The Stars... sadly, it all ended the next year when Jones was clocked with a champagne bottle by a stripper....
5. Desmond Howard, Super Bowl XXXI
Before Jones's return, Howard's was the gold standard for game-changing special teams play. The Heisman winner had a pretty disappointing 11-year NFL career, but managed to put it all together on this day...
4. Dexter Jackson, Super Bowl XXXVII
Dexter Jackson's MVP performance in the Super Bowl is so obscure, there aren't even any YouTube highlights of it. This vote was actually swayed by a bunch of Internet pollsters shooting Jackson past Simeon Rice. I would say that Jackson's is the most random one-day performance by a defensive back, except...
3. Larry Brown, Super Bowl XXX
2. Jack Squirek, Super Bowl XVIII
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about going back and watching old NFL games is the complete disregard for game strategy or probability. How else do you explain Joe Gibbs allowing Joe Theismann to throw a meaningless screen pass backed up to his own end zone with 12 seconds to go in the half?
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1. Timmy Smith, Super Bowl XXII
An incredible day that devolved into a really sad story. Smith got a surprise start against the Broncos in 1988, and ran for a record 204 yards. Three years later, he was out of the league, and his career after that would be marked most ominously by a cocaine-related arrest...
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