SUPER POLL 50 | 1: Terry Bradshaw left foes dumbfounded and smarting from four Super Bowl wins

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 20: Terry Bradshaw quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams at the Rose Bowl on January 20, 1980 in Pasadena, California. The Steelers defeated the Rams 31-19. (Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
Our series on ASN’s 50 greatest NFL championship competitors of the past 50 years concludes with No. 1 Terry Bradshaw, originally published on Feb. 7.

After winning two Super Bowls, it must have seemed to Terry Bradshaw that gaining respect was nearly impossible. After all, how many quarterbacks win back-to-back Super Bowls and are publicly referred to as dumb?

“He (Bradshaw) is so dumb, he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him a C and an A,” said linebacker Thomas Henderson, before his Dallas Cowboys met the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII, a rematch of Super Bowl X (1976), when Pittsburgh beat Dallas, 21-17.

Bradshaw responded before the game: “It was like, ‘What do I have to do to prove myself? We had a great season (14-2), I played better than I had played my whole life, and it was like ‘So what?’ (Henderson) makes a comment and all of a sudden people are writing ‘Terry’s a dummy’ again.”

1-Terry-BradshawDummy or not, Bradshaw led the Steelers to a 35-31 victory in Super Bowl XIII and followed that up with a 31-19 win against the Los Angeles Rams the following year. The Steelers also won Super Bowl IX, 16-6 against the Minnesota Vikings.

It might have been dumb luck that Bradshaw ended up in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won a coin flip with the Chicago Bears, who also finished 1-13 in 1969, for the right to select Bradshaw No. 1 in the 1970 NFL Draft. Bradshaw was the consensus top pick out of Louisiana Tech, which then competed in the Gulf States Conference.

Bradshaw, who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot, is one of only three quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. For 25 years, Bradshaw and Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers shared that distinction. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joined the club last year.

With Super Bowl 50 approaching, Bradshaw declined media requests to talk about his Super Bowl experiences according to his personal assistant. But over the years, Bradshaw hasn’t been shy about pointing out the importance of playing in the NFL’s annual marquee moment.

An NFL MVP (1978) and NFL Quarterback of the Year (1978), a two-time Super Bowl MVP (1978, 1979), and three-time Pro Bowl selection (1975, 1978, 1979), Bradshaw, like most players, has said personal accomplishments pale in comparison to the Super Bowl.

“As a player, it says everything about you if you made the Hall of Fame. But, then again, boy… there’s something about winning a Super Bowl,” Bradshaw said in a quote included in 2015 Latin Times story of best Super Bowl quotes.

Of the four Super Bowls in which Bradshaw played, Super Bowl XIII is widely acknowledged as his best. During the regular season, the Steelers won a franchise-record 14 games. And during the Super Bowl, though Bradshaw threw three interceptions, he countered those errors to become the first quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards (318) and four touchdowns in a Super Bowl. The game itself is considered one of the best Super Bowls in history.

While those Super Bowls may well have been the pinnacle of Bradshaw’s career, he never once mentioned those games in his Hall of Fame induction speech. Winning might be a lot of fun, Bradshaw said, but what makes the journey is your fellow travelers.

“We, the Steelers, all my boys, all of ’em, loved to win. God, we loved to win!” he said on induction day in 1989. “But it takes, it takes people. All our careers, we were blessed with great people around me. I’m a fortunate quarterback to have so much beautiful talent. So many wonderful athletes to go out and get the job done.

“But folks, when it’s all said and done, and the, and the crowd finally goes home, and we’re left with our thoughts, we sit back and we say … it’s people.”

 


Above: Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 20, 1980 in Pasadena, Calif. The Steelers defeated the Rams, 31-19. (Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
Middle: As a junior at Louisiana Tech, Terry Bradshaw emerged as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. He amassed 2,890 total yards, ranking No. 1 in the NCAA, and led the Bulldogs to a 9–2 record and a 33–13 win over Akron in the Rice Bowl. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech University)

Jill R. Dorson

Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.