WINNING FORMULA RESEARCH REVEALS THE TACTICS--AND THE TEAM--THAT WILL END THE AFC'S SUPER BOWL SLUMP

July 15, 1997

What has happened to the Super Bowl? Why has the NFC won every
game since the last year of Ronald Reagan's first term? Why is
it that the only dramatic Super Sunday play I can remember from
the past rout-filled decade is Team Budweiser's fumblerooski to
beat Bud Light in Bud Bowl II? Searching for answers, I
sequestered myself in my statistical laboratory to study what
separates the winners from the losers (or, more accurately, the
NFC from the AFC), wherein I scientifically determined that the
AFC's winning the Super Bowl depends on the following:

Traveling many miles. Teams that have trekked across three time
zones to play in the Super Bowl are 10-5.

Tossing the coin. The team that wins the Super Bowl coin flip is
17-14.

Winning the name game. Eight Super Bowl participants have had a
player named Larry Brown, and seven have won. And while his
first name brought no luck to Bills coach Marv Levy, eight Super
Bowl teams have had a player named Marv or Marvin (including
Mickey Marvin of the Raiders), and their record is 7-1. Two
names to avoid: Bud and Reed. Bud Abell, Bud Brown, Ed Budde,
Bill Budness and coach Bud Grant are a combined 1-8, and Reeds
are 0-7.

Being a team of people persons. Teams with animal mascots are
4-16 in the Super Bowl, while teams with people as mascots have
won 26 titles (the other was won by an aircraft).

Getting fresh air. AFC teams are 1-7 in dome Super Bowls.

Beating the right team in the playoffs. The Oakland (not L.A.)
Raiders have been eliminated from the postseason nine times;
seven of those bouncings came courtesy of the eventual Super
Bowl winners.

Having the right quarterback. When an AFC QB with an odd number
of letters in his last name starts a Super Bowl, his team is a
woeful 1-12. Another trait for an AFC team to avoid in a
signal-caller is excessive toothiness. The two most abominable
AFC Super Bowl teams, the Bills and the Broncos, have precious
little in common except that their field generals, Jim Kelly and
John Elway, both have chompers of a Nancy Kerriganesque magnitude.

Having the right coach. Coaches who lined up at an offensive
skill position in their playing days have gone a pitiful 10-18
in the Super Bowl. Former defensive players and linemen are 21-13.

So what does this accumulated data tell us, you ask? Well, after
feeding countless bits of it into my Commodore 64, I'm pleased
to report that, for the first time since parachute pants were
hip, an AFC team is going to win the Super Bowl. And that team
is... the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It's elementary. The Jaguars are an East Coast team and thus
will travel cross-country to Super Bowl XXXII at San Diego's
Qualcomm Stadium, which, I might add, is not a dome. The Jags
showed a penchant for winning critical coin tosses last year
(they won all three in the postseason), and a check of their
roster reveals nary a Bud nor a Reed. There is no guarantee, of
course, that the Jaguars will play the Raiders in the playoffs,
but given all the other inarguable indicators, you can be
certain they will.

Similarly, do not be misled by a few signs that might seem to
portend doom for the Jags. For instance, their quarterback, Mark
Brunell, who does have nice teeth, also has an odd number of
letters in his last name. However, one AFC quarterback did beat
the surname jinx: Ken Stabler, who, just like Brunell, is a
seven-lettered lefthanded passer. The animal-nickname quandary,
on the other hand, must be dealt with. Because the most
successful Super Bowl nicknames tend to reflect the local
commerce (Steelers, Packers, etc.), the data suggest that in
honor of the sizable presence of the insurance industry in
Jacksonville, the Jaguars should become the Actuaries.

If anything held Jacksonville back, it would be their coach's
background: Tom Coughlin is a former wingback. A look at the
seven coaches who were able to win Super Bowls in spite of being
former skill-position types reveals that they have very little
in common, except that two of them, Mike Ditka and Mike
Holmgren, have mustaches.

So, Tom, in the name of science, allow me to offer you a few
pieces of advice: Change that nickname, and trade for Oakland's
Larry Brown and Indy's Marvin Harrison. And whatever you do,
don't shave.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: JACK MORTENSBAK [Drawing of man pointing at blackboard which illustrates do's and don'ts of AFC strategy]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)