“With 1:23 left on the clock, they look like they can run the game out.”
So said Don Criqui, CBS’s play-by-play man for the Eagles-Giants game on Nov. 19, 1978. Like the rest of the football world, he had no clue he was about to witness one of the most notorious plays in NFL history.
Expecting the game to end without incident, Criqui began reading the credits. He acknowledged the game’s producer and director in the truck. And his spotter and statistician in the broadcast booth …
Yes, that John Mara—the current co-owner of the New York Giants, son of then co-owner Wellington Mara. When the Miracle at the Meadowlands occurred, John Mara was a 23-year-old law student at Fordham and occasional spotter at Giants games.
“Whenever I could use him I did, because the guy was unbelievable,” recalls Criqui. “He saw penalties before the flags were thrown. The only spotter I’ve ever had that could do that. He was really a student of the game and it showed.”
So when Joe Pisarcik botched the handoff to Larry Csonka on third down, Mara undoubtedly saw right away that Herman Edwards was in perfect position to pick up the fumble with a clear path to the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.
Mara, who officially began working for the team as General Counsel in 1991 and became team president when his father died in 2005, doesn’t like to talk about the game. A team spokesman said Mara does not look at the game as the best thing that ever happened to the organization—even though it was arguably the catalyst for change that led to four Super Bowl victories.
“He was the best spotter I ever had,” Criqui said. “I’ve often said to John, you had a chance to be one of the greatest spotters in history, but if you’d rather take over the football team, that’s your decision.”
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