The Cradle of Super Bowl Quarterbacks; Pac-12 Exits Levi’s; Hall of Fame Musings

This Sunday’s Super Bowl matches two quarterbacks from the Bay Area—the Patriots’ Tom Brady, from San Mateo and Serra High School, and the Rams’ Jared Goff, from Novato, Marin Catholic, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Brady will be starting his ninth Super Bowl, Goff his first. They will continue a longstanding tradition of great signal-callers from the Bay Area who led their teams to the Super Bowl.

Goff is one of five former Cal quarterbacks to start in the Super Bowl, something no other college can claim. The others:

Joe Kapp (Vikings) lost to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. Craig Morton, who also attended high school in Campbell, started two Super Bowls. His Cowboys lost to the Colts in V and his Broncos were beaten by the Cowboys in XII. Vince Ferragamo, who played at Cal before transferring to Nebraska, started for the Rams in a losing effort against the Steelers in XIV. Aaron Rodgers, originally from Chico, led the Packers to victory over the Steelers in XLV.

It’s interesting to note the three schools that rank behind Cal with three Super Bowl quarterbacks: Alabama (Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler), Purdue (Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Drew Brees) and Notre Dame (Daryl Lamonica, Joe Theisman, Joe Montana).

Stanford has had two Super Bowl starters, both of whom went home with some hardware. Jim Plunkett won twice with the Raiders, defeating Philadelphia in XV and Washington in XVIII. John Elway started in five Super Bowls, beating the Packers in XXXII and the Falcons in XXXIII. Both Plunkett and Elway claimed Super Bowl MVP awards.

Two other Stanford quarterbacks have gone to the game as non-starters. Guy Benjamin earned a Super Bowl ring as Joe Montana’s backup when the 49ers beat Cincinnati in XVI. Turk Schonert, who passed away earlier this month, played on two Super Bowl teams with Cincinnati, losing to the 49ers in XVI and XXIII.

Another quarterback with Northern California roots, Lowell H.S. and UOP star Bob Lee, was a backup QB on three Super Bowl teams. He was with the Vikings in IV and XI, and the Rams in XIV. Lee saw game action as a punter in IV and threw a TD pass in XI.

Some Great Trivia: And finally, speaking of quarterbacks, my old friend Don Gray reminded me of the great trivia question—what school produced three quarterbacks who made All-Pro in the NFL the same year?

The answer? Stanford—1970: John Brodie (49ers), first team All-Pro QB; Gene Washington (49ers), first team All-Pro wide receiver; and Dave Lewis (Bengals), first team All-Pro punter. Eat your heart out, Cal fans…

Pass Interference Review? In the wake of last weekend’s egregious no call that cost the New Orleans Saints the NFC Championship, the NFL is considering making pass interference plays reviewable. While I hesitate to recommend anything that might make games longer than they already are because of interminable replay reviews, this needs to be done.

Bye-bye Levi's: The Pac-12 has opted out of playing its conference championship game at Levi's Stadium for 2020 and beyond, meaning that the 2019 game on Dec. 6 will be the last to be played in Santa Clara. Early speculation has the game moving to one of the new stadiums being built in Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

This writer humbly suggested to Pac-12 officials six years ago that playing the conference title game at Levi's was a bad idea.

Why?

1) The Bay Area is not a great college football market (this ain't the SEC, folks);

2) Levi’s is not within easy driving distance of most conference schools, and;

3) Many fans would be unwilling to make last-minute arrangements for expensive travel and lodging.

We were right. For the past five years, the game has been played before tens of thousands of empty seats, and the host 49ers have sustained millions of dollars in losses.

We felt then and still feel now that the best place for the Pac-12 title game is in the home stadium of the highest-ranked divisional champ. It guarantees that 30,000 or so rabid fans from the home team will show up, and it provides the type of big-game atmosphere you want for a championship, as opposed to the more sterile corporate environment you typically get at a neutral site.

The Pac-12 championship game was played on-campus the first three years, and two of those games (at Oregon and Arizona State) were virtual sellouts. The only one that didn’t do well was a Stanford-UCLA matchup at Stanford Stadium. But there were mitigating circumstances for that one: the game was played in a downpour and it was a rematch of a game played one week earlier.

Call me a dinosaur, but I believe the college game belongs on campus, not in Sin City.

Mussina Makes Hall: Kudos to former Stanford great Mike Mussina, who last week was elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame. Mussina was the model of consistency while pitching in the offense-oriented American League, winning 270 games over 18 seasons with the Orioles and Yankees.

“Moose” won more games than Jim Palmer (268 wins, 19 years), Bob Feller (266-18), Bob Gibson (251-17), Juan Marichal (243-16), and Whitey Ford (236-16). He won seven Golden Gloves, was an All-Star five times and won 11 or more games 17 straight seasons, an American League record.

Mussina is the first Stanford player in the Hall. But given the enduring quality of Mark Marquess's program and its continued success under new coach Dave Esquer, I doubt that he will be the last.

Bonds Falls Short: SF Giants great Barry Bonds, tainted by his reported use of steroids, again fell short of the 75% vote threshold needed to get into the Hall. For many years I was on the fence on Bonds, leaning toward a “yes” vote because I felt he was a Hall of Fame caliber player before he started taking steroids.

Now I feel more definite about electing the Giants’ slugger. For me, baseball lost its moral high ground when it inducted Bud Selig. How can you put the clueless commissioner who oversaw the steroid era in the Hall of Fame and then refuse to induct the best player of that era?

You can’t.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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