Determining the best Super Bowl game ever with a unique grading system

Was Super Bowl XXXII the greatest Super Bowl ever?
(Photo by Lutz Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Last night’s Super Bowl game wasn’t all that exciting. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers grabbed the lead early and its defense suffocated the Kansas City Chiefs. And with that, the 55th Super Bowl game ended with a 31-9 blowout.

While watching the game last night I started to think about all the previous Super Bowl games and which one is the best game ever. If you ask based on the qualifier of the actual gameplay, then you will get a ton of answers and all are debatable. We could look back at the New York Jets’ major upset in Super Bowl III. Or maybe Joe Montana’s late drive to seal the win in Super Bowl XXIII. Or maybe the New York Giants taking down the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII?

These are just a few examples of some games worth considering. But I feel that there should be some other qualifiers. The gameplay is important, but the visuals to me are a very important factor into the decision. For a long while, the Super Bowl was played under sunny skies. Now, depending on the location of the game and the game start time, that option may not exist. Even games played indoors eliminate the sun from being a factor.

Another thing that matters is the field itself. This is a personal preference, but games played on grass are visually more appealing than games played on any other surface. And with the rolling out of astroturf and field turf, it seems like every other year we lose that element.

And as you know, I am a big uniform guy so finding a good contrast in both teams’ uniforms is important to me. I love it where both teams don’t share any of the same colors and that there is a good balance of colors on each uniform. For example, the Seattle Seahawks wearing a blue helmet, with blue jerseys and pants isn’t visually that strong. And on the other hand, despite the Pittsburgh Steelers having a very classic uniform, I am not a fan of a black helmet on a white jersey with yellow pants. It’s too many different dominant colors on one uniform.

This may seem like a lot of qualifiers but to me, this will be a great way of determining what a good game would be from the gameplay to the visuals.

So I looked through all 55 Super Bowl games and narrowed it down to these games that met these requirements:

  • Must be a close game, with the final score being separated by one score.
  • Game must be played under a clear sunny sky.
  • Game must be played on grass.
  • Game must feature two teams who do not share any of the same colors.
  • A team uniform cannot have three different dominant uniform elements (helmet, jersey, pants).

With all those qualifiers, these are the games that qualify.

  • Super Bowl VII: Miami Dolphins vs Washington Redskins (LA Memorial Coliseum)
  • Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Dallas Cowboys (Miami Orange Bowl)
  • Super Bowl XXIII: Cincinnati Bengals vs San Francisco 49ers (Joe Robbie Stadium)
  • Super Bowl XXXII: Green Bay Packers vs Denver Broncos (Qualcomm Stadium)

Out of all 55 games in the Super Bowl era, only four games meet these requirements. What comes next to determine the best game is now completely subjective. These games will now be measured upon what I determine as competitive action, great story lines and possible great finishes.

*Click the links to see the best visual photo from the game

Super Bowl VII comes in with a great uniform matchup with the Dolphins sporting their all white and the Redskins in their classic maroon helmet and jersey with the perfect yellow pants. Visually, this game was beautiful as the entire game was played under the sunny skies of Los Angeles. The story line is equally interesting as the Dolphins complete the journey of their undefeated season. However, the game wasn’t as exciting (with a low 14-7 score) and Washington’s only score came on a silly special teams mistake by Garo Yepremain. It’s a great story but not that great of a game.

Super Bowl XIII features two iconic uniforms in NFL history playing the game while the sun had yet to fully set over Miami. It’s an intriguing matchup between the top two teams (with a load of Hall of Famers) of that 1970s. Visually, it’s a top-notch game and this very well could be the best game ever. But what puts it down just a notch is that the Steelers had an 18-point lead in the 4th quarter and Dallas’ comeback fell short. Furious finish by Dallas but not enough for the win.

Super Bowl XXIII started in the sun but by the end of the game, the lights took effect over the dark skies. Both teams are wearing their classic uniforms and San Francisco’s game-winning drive is one of the greatest moments in the league’s history. The game didn’t really pick up steam until late into the third quarter. If you want dramatics and a big finish (along with the story line of the retiring Bill Walsh going up against his friend and former Niners coach Sam Wyche), this game is it. The orange and red isn’t a significant contrast when it comes to both teams so that might factor into the decision.

Super Bowl XXXII to me is the winner here. The game starts off under a bright California sky and finishes with the Broncos taking the lead late for the win in the fourth quarter. The story line is also tremendous as the big underdog Broncos (along with John Elway finally winning the big one) up against league MVP Brett Favre and the defending champions. This game had everything and to me, is the best Super Bowl game all time when measured up with these qualifiers. One thing I have to say is that the uniform matchup actually became a major factor into it. The Packers have a classic uniform and it worked perfectly in this scenario. The Broncos, however, were in their first season in their new uniform. It was a completely new look that no other team has ever come close to wearing up to that point. But the big orange side panels worked favorably for Denver. That orange popped so well off the navy and white and it contrasted perfectly against the Packers’ uniforms. Old school versus new school for the uniforms. That game, visually and aesthetically was great. And of course, the story line and game itself was tremendous too.

And there you have it: Super Bowl XXXII is the greatest Super Bowl game of all time. We salute you!

Will we ever have any other possible games that could enter this conversation? Unfortunately there are a lot of factors that will make it difficult. To have a game played in the sun, it will have to be a game played on the West Coast. With the game start time set to 6:30PM ET/3:30PM PT, any game not on the West Coast will suffer from it being too dark. Games that would have any chance of playing in the sun on a grass field will only be the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area. The Rams and Chargers (Los Angeles), Cardinals (Glendale) and Raiders (Las Vegas) play their games with a roof. The only other possibility would be the Seahawks (Seattle) but the NFL tends to not have the game played in areas where weather could play a major factor. The same can be said for the Broncos (Denver) and Chiefs (Kansas City) in their potential of hosting a game affected by weather. The two Texas teams play indoors so that wouldn’t work either.

So here’s to hoping that the next time Levi’s Stadium hosts a Super Bowl, we will get a good game with two teams who have contrasting uniforms.

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