The Buffalo Bills of 1990 were a great team, one that should have won the Super Bowl. Instead, they fell victim to a gutting last-second field goal miss with :08 to play to suffer one of the greatest tragedies in sports history: Wide Right.
To casual fans, it was just an awful missed field goal that resulted in a loss. But that might be the tip of the iceberg. What really were the eventual consequences of Wide Right?
Bill Parcells doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame
Bill Parcells was a great coach, don’t get me wrong. He rebuilt the Giants from a 3-12-1 team in 1983 to a 9-7 playoff team in 1984, before eventually taking them to the Super Bowl in 1986, beating the Denver Broncos 39-22. After several strong seasons from 1987-1989, Parcells again led his team to a Super Bowl, winning due to Wide Right. After winning the Super Bowl, he was let go in favor of Ray Handley. If Parcells had been let go after winning the Super Bowl, he surely would have been if he had lost it as well.
After his stint in New York, Parcells went to New England, as he rebuilt a franchise that had been about as low as a franchise could go, and after guiding them to a 10-6 turnaround from their 5-11 record in 1993. Although they suffered an unsuccessful 1995 season, the Patriots reached the Super Bowl in 1996, where they lost to a historically great Packers team. After the loss, Parcells was let go in favor of Pete Carroll.
Bill then took his talents back to New York, where he took over a Jets team that had gone 1-15 in 1996, guiding them to a strong 9-7 finish in 1997. In 1998, he took them to the AFC Championship game, thanks to a strong defense and an offense featuring a reborn Vinny Testaverde, Curtis Martin and Keyshawn Johnson. He lost in the AFC Championship game, however, to the Broncos. After an 8-8 finish in 1999, Parcells resigned.
After a 3 year hiatus, Parcells returned to football and coached the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-2006, reaching the playoffs only twice, both Wild Card losses to the Panthers and Seattle. After his tenure in Big D, the Tuna never coached again.
Although his career record of 183-138-1 is good, it’s certainly not Hall of Fame worthy, definitely not considering he only won 1 title, losing two if Scott Norwood makes the field goal in Super Bowl XXV.
The Bills don’t go to four straight Super Bowls
Although the Bills of the early 1990s were a powerhouse, there’s no way that they would have made it to four straight Super Bowls without the extra motivation of losing in such a heartbreaking way in 1990. I think they would have made it again in 1991, and won, with added confidence making those dozens of missed opportunities that happened in the game vanish. However, in 1992 and 1993, the Bills were not Super Bowl worthy teams, and the world would have much rather seen Miami vs. Dallas in 1992 and Joe Montana’s Chiefs vs. Dallas in 1993. This results in…
“The Comeback” doesn’t happen
Even though the Bills were a playoff team in 1992, they weren’t a team that should have come back and beaten Houston. Without that added chip on their shoulder, the Bills would have folded up like a three-piece suit in a rainstorm after the Oilers stormed ahead with a 35-3 lead. Houston and Miami would have played in the AFC title game, and the Super Bowl in 1992 would have been very interesting.
According to Football Outsiders, Houston was the best AFC’s team in 1992. Although the Steelers were easily defeated by Buffalo, they would be by Houston as well, and if Miami didn’t choke the game away by making mistakes and letting Dan Marino get sacked 73 times, Buffalo wouldn’t have gotten thwacked 52-17 by the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.
The Oilers go to/win the Super Bowl OR The Dolphins go to/win the Super Bowl
So, as I mentioned before, Miami and Houston would have played in the AFC title game. If Miami had won, they would have played in what would have likely been Dan Marino’s second and final Super Bowl. While it’s a slim chance they would have won against a great Dallas team, I’m pretty sure the Dolphins wouldn’t have turned the ball over 9 times. If Marino’s squad had won the Super Bowl, Dan the Man would have been remembered as the greatest quarterback ever.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Warren Moon’s Oilers. Houston was an extremely talented team in the early 1990s, and Buddy Ryan commented on it, saying “They had the most talented team I’d ever been a part of, and I’d been on three super Bowl teams.” Ryan had been a part of the 1968 Jets, the 1976 Vikings, and the 1985 Bears. The Oilers had players like Warren Moon, Lorenzo White, Mike Munchak, Bruce Matthews, a brick wall of a run defense, and a plethora of talented receivers (Haywood Jeffires, Drew Hill, Curtis Duncan and Earnest Givins). Houston had a tendency to struggle in clutch situations, giving up a 21-6 lead in the 1991 playoffs to Denver, a game they lost 26-24. The Comeback took place in 1992, and without a fiery spirit in the Bills, Houston would have rolled past them and been paired with the Dolphins in a great AFC title game. If Houston had won that game, they would have played Dallas and admittedly have a better chance of beating them than Miami. With a Super Bowl appearance or win, on comes our next point…
If Houston had won/reached the 1992 Super Bowl, there would be no awesome comeback 1993 season or relocation to Tennessee
Yep. If Houston had at least reached the Super Bowl in 1992, they never would have moved. Bud Adams wanted a new stadium, and if Houston had enjoyed such success, the people of Houston would have gladly funded it. Instead, Adams was denied his new stadium after the team’s numerous collapses, and he threatened to disband the team at the end of 1993 if they didn’t win the big one. Houston started 1-4 before rebounding to finish 11-0, hosting the first ever divisional playoff game in the Astrodome. If the collapse hadn’t have happened, the Oilers would have been a great team, full of confidence, and they would have probably finished with the same record, minus all the drama that took place. The Oilers once again choked a playoff lead to the Chiefs, and the team’s stars were jettisoned at the end of the season. The team finished 2-14 in 1994, before Bud Adams finalized the move to Tennessee.
If Houston had had success in 1992, they would have had a better season in 1993, possibly reaching the Super Bowl, and the Oilers would likely be around today. Instead, we have to suffer through years and years of crappy Titans play, along with boring-as-all-hell Texans games.
Thanks, Scott Norwood.
Would the Music City Miracle still have happened?
I would say yes. The Oilers would have had the same roster, I expect, so Kevin Dyson and Frank Wycheck would still be there, meaning the lateral would have happened and Houston would have reached the Super Bowl.