Ed Marinaro

With All Due Respect

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy during a victory celebration at Raymond James Stadium Monday night, Jan. 27, 2003, in Tampa, Fla.
Hello again everybody, and as promised here is my report from San Diego on Super Bowl XXXVII!

First of all the mix of the Oakland Raiders in a California-sponsored Super Bowl was heaven for all west coast Raider fans, and they did show up in force! I was down in San Diego for the big weekend to participate in some golf outings and to meet up with old friends. Good thing I had a reservation at a local hotel, otherwise I would have been sleeping in my car in the hotel parking lot with Raider fans! It was so packed with football fans in and around the Gaslamp District, and the San Diego Bay where the NFL Experience was headquartered that it was near impossible to move, much less get into any bars or restaurants without a reservation. It has gotten so out of hand that come gameday I'd rather be home enjoying the game than continue to live in the madness that is Super Sunday. But, before I made it back home I had some catching up to do with some old friends.

Before things got too crazy, I had the chance to play in Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris's golf tournament. Like I stated in the last column, my greatest joy in going to the Super Bowl events is meeting up with old friends...guys I played with or against. Some of the people I got to catch up and spend time with included my old Viking teammates Carl Eller, Wally Hilgenberg, and our NFL Hall of Famer Paul Krause. Other NFL Hall of Famers Hugh McElhenny, Mel Blount and Lem Barney were there and are always fun to see and chat with.

As for the game...

Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan ponders a question during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2003 at Raiders camp in Alameda, Calif.
Well, if you have followed my columns you know I'm not very good at picking any team, any time, and with me stating Rich Gannon was to be the X Factor in the Raiders winning the game...that was as bad a pick as I have ever made. The one thing the media and NFL experts have not really picked up on is the magnitude of the effect Raider center Barrett Robbins's absence had on the team. Now I'm not one to jump on a guy when he is down and there are obviously some medical problems involved, but this is my take on the game situation.

When you are lucky enough as a team to get through the playoffs and to the Super Bowl, you need to operate together as a well oiled machine. Any little difference or problem at the time of the biggest game of anyone's career can adversely affect any team, especially one like the Raiders that focuses on the offense as its main weapon. As you move through the season as a team you create a rhythm and it becomes a very sensitive thing as you approach the playoffs, and if you are lucky, the Super Bowl. Anything that threatens to unbalance that rhythm can shake your team's confidence in the ability to perform at its peak. Most people aren't aware that the center is a very crucial element to the offense. Not only does he and the quarterback develop their own timing, but the center also calls out plays and blocking schemes to the rest of the line. The center really is like a second QB and is truly an unsung hero on the field. Having that piece missing, especially in the manner it occurred, can shake the confidence in any professional team, though players will be the last to admit it. You as fans cringe when your starting QB goes down and the second string guy comes in, don't you? You can almost feel the mishandled snap or dropped exchange will occur. The starting QB and his center have a bond...the QB feels confident putting his hands under his center...it is like a comfortable glove. When that comfortable feeling isn't there, it can give the QB's a slight hesitation, and can shake the offense's confidence in their ability to execute their schemes correctly. Now you give that small edge to a dominant defense like the Tampa Bay D and you will see your league MVP toss 5 interceptions, I guaranteed it. Again, I don't lay this on Robbin's door, as the man obviously has problems beyond his control, but if there was any single reason the game played itself out the way it did, in my opinion that was it.

Okay, that is enough for now. Hope you guys enjoyed my Super Sunday recap and I'll be chatting with you all again soon!

February 6, 2003



Ed Marinaro
In his three seasons as Cornell's tailback, Ed Marinaro was the all-time leading rusher in Ivy League history. He established eight NCAA career records and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. After turning pro he became a running back for the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. Then he turned to acting and played everyone from Joe Coffey on the classic TV show "Hill Street Blues" to Joey Buttafuoco in "Long Island Lolita."

In his off-time he enjoys ranting in his column for SportsHollywood.

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