||Tuesday, January 30|
Norwood returns to site of Super miss
By Greg Garber
TAMPA, Fla. -- The moment is framed, literally, at the Tampa Bay History Center. It's an enlarged front page of the Tampa Tribune, circa Jan. 28, 1991, and this is the picture worth thousands of words:
Buffalo Bills placekicker Scott Norwood, head down, shoulders slumped, turns away from the kick he is still trying to put behind him. He reaches for his chin strap in the unconscious manner that athletes do when the play is over. This play, in so many ways, was the end of Scott Norwood.
When Norwood's 47-yard field goal spun tantalizingly wide right with seconds left in Super Bowl XXV, the New York Giants escaped with a 20-19 victory at Tampa Stadium. Though no one knew it at the time, it was the end of the Bills' chances to win a Super Bowl. They would reach the next three championship games, but never again to come this close. Norwood's final game with the Bills -- or any NFL team -- was Super Bowl XXVI.
"If I had a second chance, maybe I'd concentrate more on form and follow-through, maybe not try to hit it so strongly," Norwood said after the game.
And then he paused. Even in the aftermath of the game, he sensed the ramifications.
"I'll never get that second chance," he said. "I might never get to the point where I'll totally forget about this."
Fast forward to the present, to Saturday in Tampa's historic Ybor City. This is where Scott Norwood finds himself on the 10th anniversary -- to the day -- of that fateful kick. He is in Tampa, courtesy of ESPN Classic, and he has agreed to sit down with ESPN's NFL Countdown.
Norwood has done only a handful of in-depth interviews about Super Bowl XXV since retiring from football in 1992. This is his fourth official sit-down interview.
"Ten years to the day, ..." Norwood says, his voice trailing off. "That's just an arbitrary time period.
"As I look back, it took a few months for things to emotionally shake out, to deal with things."
Norwood insists he has distanced himself from the game and the criticism -- some from his own teammates -- that came with it. He did not become suicidal or paralyzed by fear and self-loathing.
"You get on the field of battle and you don't get to do things over," Norwood said. "You get one try at everything. You just go with it and do the best you can.
"It was a tough situation going into it. I think no kicker's probably felt the pressure of a kick of that magnitude. Primarily the situation, as well as the distance -- the two factors combined -- made it a tough one. But certainly makable."
Norwood's life today is remarkably ordinary. He lives in Centreville, Va, just outside the Washington, D.C., beltway and 10 miles west of his native Annandale. He works for Virginia Asset Management. He and his wife Kim have three children: 5-year-old twins Carly and Connor and 4-year-old Corey.
|Bills kicker Scott Norwood pushed this 47-yard field goal wide right as time ran out in Super Bowl XXV.|
Like Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, who let a World Series slip through his legs, or Dallas Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith, who dropped a certain Super Bowl touchdown in the end zone, Norwood's 15 minutes of fame became a sentence of infamy.
"I knew at the time, and I know now, it was one kick in a career that was very, very good," Norwood says. "I realize the magnitude of that particular kick, that it was going to kind of overwhelm the good things that I did.
"But that's just the way it is."
By the time Norwood reached Super Bowl XXV, his career already was in decline. He led the NFL in scoring in 1988, his fourth season, with 129 points and converted a league-high 32 field goals in 37 attempts. His percentage of 86.5, however, declined every season afterward, to 76.7 in 1989, 69.0 in 1990 and 62.1 in that final year of 1991. Norwood made only 18 of 29 field goals that final season, prompting the Bills to release him.
If the Bills' offense had done a better job, Norwood would never have been placed in that excruciating situation against the Giants. Buffalo got the ball back one final time at its 10-yard-line, trailing by a point with 2:16 left in the game. Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas moved the ball to the Giants' 30-yard line before turning things over to Norwood. Another 5 yards, given the grass field and the chilly breezes of the late hour, might have made a difference. As Norwood himself said, he might have focused more on accuracy than distance.
While it was written at the time that the snap from Adam Lingner and the hold by backup quarterback Frank Reich were both perfect, this is not technically accurate.
"Look at the ball," New Orleans placekicker Doug Brien said in a recent phone conversation. "The laces are to the right. Of course the ball tails off to the right."
The question was put to Norwood: Were the laces right?
"That's not something I even delve into," he said, his posture suggesting otherwise. "The ball, wherever it's sitting down, that's what I take. In this instance, however, the laces were. I didn't feel it was a contributing factor. It's all a part of it. It's definitely a team situation."
In other words, Reich didn't get the laces front and center.
Watching Norwood answer questions from Charlie Steiner and Will McDonough it is difficult not to respect Norwood's stiff upper lip. When the multitude of Giants fans present in Ybor City cheered his introduction, he had the good grace to force a smile. When the bubbly ESPN Classic lady asked him to hand out foam fingers, he did so without complaint. When he declined to blame Reich for the biggest miss in Super Bowl history, respect for him grew even greater.
Bill Parcells, the Giants' coach in Super Bowl XXV, has said he knew that the prevailing circumstances would not permit Norwood to make the kick. Norwood isn't so sure.
"Parcells may disagree," Norwood said in a steady voice. "I can tell you one thing: He wouldn't want to give me another crack at it."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
||"It was a tough situation going into it. I think no kicker's probably felt the pressure of a kick of that magnitude. Primarily the situation, as well as the distance -- the two factors combined -- made it a tough one. But certainly makeable." ”
||— Scott Norwood on his Super Bowl XXV miss