Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Friday, January 23, 2004
Updated: January 26, 1:15 PM ET
The greatest Super Bowl subs ever

By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff

We're not talking special teams. We're not talking Tom Brady or Kurt Warner, who were expected to be subs, but started all, or almost all, season. We're talking true bench guys. Call them the Super Subs -- guys who came and took over a team in the middle or end of the season and led them to a Super Bowl victory. Guys who played little during the regular season who came off the bench during a Super Bowl and made the key plays. There haven't been many, but these were the greatest in Super Bowl history.

10. Jack Squirek, Raiders LB (Super Bowl XVIII: L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9)
Jack Squirek
The Raiders' backup LB even made the cover of SI.
With the Raiders up 14-3, the Redskins had the ball on their own 12-yard line with only 12 seconds left in the first half. Washington QB Joe Theismann, throwing from the end zone, threw to Joe Washington in the flat, but Squirek reached the ball first, picking it off and returning it five yards for a TD. It was a demoralizing moment for the Skins, and a great moment for a Super Bowl sub. "I was surprised when they threw it," said Squirek. "I was even more surprised when I caught it."

9. Dan Bunz, 49ers LB (Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21)
The Bengals trailed 20-7 in the third quarter when they engineered what looked like a touchdown drive. On 3rd-and-goal from the San Francisco 1-yard line, Bunz made a phenomenal play: Ken Anderson threw a short pass to Charles Alexander on the right side. Bunz threw Alexander to the ground just inches from the goal line.

"The man made one great play on me," Alexander said later. "I never saw him coming. He arrived as soon as the ball arrived. I had no chance to get my feet down for some second effort. I don't even know who hit me, to tell you the truth. I just know we didn't get it in, and it would have changed the game around."

On fourth down, Bunz again played a key role in the goal-line stand. The Bengals handed off to fullback Pete Johnson. Middle linebacker Jack Reynolds stopped him, but gave Bunz credit for a huge assist. ''Because as big as he is, once he gets past the line of scrimmage, he's tough to stop," Reynolds said. "I think I hit him with my head mostly, but Dan Bunz had stacked him up."

8. J.R. Redmond, Patriots RB (Super Bowl XXXVI: New England 20, St. Louis 17)
J.R. Redmond
J.R. Redmond made three critical catches, including this one, that propelled the Patriots to a win.
Redmond, a reserve running back, ran only 35 times for 119 yards during the entire 2001 season, and caught 13 passes. The Pats final drive began with 1:21 left and the Pats on their own 17, and culminated in Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard game-winning field goal. Redmond caught three passes for 24 yards on the 53-yard drive. On the first play of the drive, Brady hit him on the 20, and Redmond made it to the 22 for a five-yard gain. On the next play, he caught an eight-yarder for a first down. Then, with only 41 seconds left and the Pats facing 2nd-and-10, he caught a Brady pass in the flat and ran for 11 yards, getting the first down and, most importantly, getting out of bounds with 33 seconds on the clock. It was probably the most important pass play of the game.

7. Earl Morrall, Colts QB (Super Bowl V: Baltimore 16, Dallas 13)
Morrall, who started in the Colts' Super Bowl III loss to the Jets, took over from Super Bowl V starter Johnny Unitas, who was taken out with bruised ribs near the end of the first half. Morrall had been Johnny U's backup throughout the 1970 season, but was a two-time Pro Bowler and such a great reserve that Bob Cohn of the Washington Times recently proposed an "Earl Morrall Award" for excellent play by reserve QBs.

The Colts trailed the Cowboys 13-6 at the intermission. Morrall, helped greatly by two second-half interceptions by Baltimore's defense, led the Colts to a touchdown and, finally, the game-winning field goal by Jim O'Brien as time expired. On the day, Morrall completed 7 of 15 passes for 147 yards.

6. Trent Dilfer, Ravens QB (Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7)
Dilfer took over for Ravens starter Tony Banks midway through the season -- he didn't play a down until Week 8 -- and returned to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for the Super Bowl. The year before, he probably wished he'd never see the stadium again -- he'd been benched by the Bucs, then let go at the end of the season.

Though the Ravens were a defensive team, Dilfer did his job, playing efficiently (no INTs), and executing coach Brian Billick's game plan to perfection by tossing a 38-yard TD pass to Brandon Stokley in the first quarter and a 44-yard bomb to Qadry Ismail in the second quarter to set up a field goal. The Ravens led 10-0 at the half, and Dilfer's day -- 12 of 25 for 153 yards and 1 TD -- was good enough, and sweet redemption on unfriendly turf.

5. Dwight Smith, Buccaneers CB (Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21)
Smith, a third-round draft pick in 2001, started only two games during the 2002 regular season. But he played well as a reserve cornerback and special teams player, boasting four INTs. In the Super Bowl he got a rare start as the Bucs' fifth defensive back (nickelback), and proved he could do the job, running two interceptions back for touchdowns -- a first in Super Bowl history. The returns went for 50 and 44 yards.

4. Jeff Hostetler, Giants QB (Super Bowl XXV: N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19)
During the regular season Hostetler backed up Phil Simms, and, as had been the usual during his previous five seasons, rarely left the sidelines. But when Simms severely sprained his right foot late in the season, Hostetler took over and the Giants didn't miss a beat. He led them to their final two regular-season victories, then led the Giants to wins over the Bears and 49ers in the playoffs.

Jeff Hostetler
Jeff Hostetler took over the Giants and led them all the way to a Super Bowl win.

Hostetler, who had less playing time than any previous starting Super Bowl QB, was nearly flawless in leading the Giants' ball-control offense against the Bills (New York had the ball for more than 40 minutes). Despite being sacked, bruised, and battered by the Bills' defense, he was 20-for-32 for 222 yards and a TD, without being picked off.

Hostetler finished second in the MVP voting, and many thought he deserved the trophy. "The Super Bowl was his game," said Giants tight end Mark Bavaro. "I'm not taking anything away from Phil, but Hoss is a great quarterback."

3. Max McGee, Packers WR (Super Bowl I: Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10)
McGee, who'd caught only four passes all season, was so sure he'd see little or no playing time in the first Super Bowl that he spent most of the night before the game partying. But he turned out wrong. Nursing a heavy hangover, McGee got the call when Boyd Dowler was injured on the sixth play of the game.

McGee, 34, scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history, a very nice one-handed grab of a Bart Starr pass that went for 37 yards. He also scored on a 13-yard pass. William N. Wallace of the New York Times described that second TD catch: "He casually bobbled the ball, then caught it for six points, performing as if he were back in Green Bay during a routine practice on a Wednesday afternoon."

At the end of the day, McGee had seven catches for 138 yards and two TDs. The former Pro Bowler played his 12th and final season the following year, catching only three more passes.

2. Timmy Smith, Redskins RB (Super Bowl XXII: Washington 42, Denver 10)
Smith, a rookie, ran for just 126 yards on 29 carries during the regular season, and played in only seven games. But he didn't exactly come out of nowhere. In the Redskins' first two playoff games, wins over Chicago and then Minnesota for the NFC title, Smith rushed a total of 29 times for 138 yards -- in other words, he could play.

But his Super Bowl was truly extraordinary. On only 22 carries, he set the Super Bowl rushing record of 204 yards and scored two TDs. In the second quarter alone, he ran for 122 yards on five carries, including a 58-yard TD run, and probably would have been named MVP -- if not for our No. 1 Super Sub.

Smith would play only 15 more NFL games after the Super Bowl, rushing for 470 yards on 155 carries during the 1988 season.

1. Doug Williams, Redskins QB (Super Bowl XXII: Washington 42, Denver 10)
Williams, a first-round draft pick in 1978, had been a starter for Tampa Bay from 1979 through half of 1982, and had playoff experience -- his "best" postseason performance before 1987 had been a 10-for-29 outing in a 38-0 loss against Dallas in 1981 (he also threw four INTs in that game).

Doug Williams
Doug Williams' arm was right on target against the Broncos.

Tampa Bay's QB coach then was Joe Gibbs. Williams had a great arm, but was erratic -- when Iran took hostages and the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, the joke circulated that the only person capable of overthrowing the Ayatollah was Williams.

Williams became a free agent in 1983, the same year his wife died of a brain tumor, and he played a couple of years in the USFL. When the league folded, he was unemployed until he got a call from Gibbs -- then the head coach of the Redskins -- offering Williams a job backing up Jay Schroeder. He took it.

Williams spent most of 1986 on the sidelines, throwing only one pass -- but in 1987, with Schroeder battling an injury, Williams played in five games, completing 81 of 143 passes for 11 TDs. He got the nod as the playoff starter.

Sound Off, SportsNation
ESPNEWS wants you!

Tell us what you think of our list of the greatest Super Subs, and then watch ESPNEWS at 4 p.m. ET to see Page 2's Listmaker, Jeff Merron, and to hear your emails broadcast.

Do you disagree with Jeff's list? Did we forget someone?

To sound off, just click here.

In the Super Bowl, Willaims completed 18 of 29 attempts for 340 yards and four TDs and was named MVP.

And we can't fail to mention the second quarter: 9 of 11 for 228 yards and four TDs, leading the Redskins to 35 second-quarter points. Only one person wasn't completely surprised by Williams' performance: his former coach at Grambling, Eddie Robinson. "I've seen him do what he did today all the time at Grambling," Robinson said. "The only difference is, today he had a much bigger audience, that's all."

Also receiving votes:

Vince Ferragamo, Rams QB (Super Bowl XIV: Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19)
Ferragamo, Pat Haden's backup, completed 15 of 25 passes for 212 yards in a losing effort.

Percy Howard, Cowboys WR (Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17)
Dallas trailed 21-10 late in the game. Howard caught a 34-yard TD pass from Roger Staubach. The next season, Howard didn't make the team -- and the Super Bowl catch would be his only career reception.

Thanks to ESPN studio production, ESPN Radio, and ESPN HR for nominations.