Gold Jacket Spotlight: Terry Bradshaw's Singular Focus
Forget his touchdown-to-interception ratio. Disregard his few 300-yard games and fewer 3,000-yard seasons.
Throw out all the usual passing statistics used to rate a quarterback in today’s era of fantasy football and video gaming systems.
Terry Bradshaw went from rookie-season bust to Bronzed Bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of the only measuring stick that mattered to him: winning games and winning championships.
“For Terry, only one statistic was important,” CBS broadcast partner Verne Lundquist said in presenting Bradshaw for enshrinement in 1989, Terry’s first year of eligibility. “He would ask at the end of four quarters, ‘Who won?’”
In Terry’s 14-year career in the National Football League, the Steelers won far more than they lost. With him under center, they posted a 107-51 record in the regular season, a 14-5 record in the playoffs and a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowls.
“Winning football games in the only thing that’s important. It’s not me; it’s not statistics. Winning championships is the measure of every player in any sport,” Terry told NFL Films. “And we did that, and we did it together. To me, that’s what I treasure. That’s my memory. That’s what I will take to my grave.”
Pittsburgh held the overall No. 1 draft pick in 1970, and the Steelers turned down a reported 18 trade offers for the opportunity to select Terry after his All-American career at Louisiana Tech.
Coming off a dismal 1-13 season in head coach Chuck Noll’s first season, the team – and its fans and Terry himself – believed his rocket right arm would propel the Steelers into the upper tier of the NFL after decades of futility.
Not so fast.
Appearing in 13 games and sharing the starting role, Bradshaw posted a 3-5 record. He completed only 38% of his passes with six touchdowns and a league-leading 24 interceptions. He was sacked for safeties in each of his first three pro games – all losses. Pressed into emergency punting duty in the season finale, the Eagles blocked Terry’s kick in the end zone and recovered the loose ball for a touchdown in another Pittsburgh loss that capped a frustrating 5-9 season.
“My rookie year was horrible,” Bradshaw said flatly in one interview.
Year 2 through Year 5 of Terry’s career provided a mix of tantalizing success and crushing disappointments – often in the same season or same game.
In 1972, the Steelers won 11 games to claim their first division title. They then beat the Oakland Raiders in their first playoff game in 25 years when Terry kept a fourth-down play alive with his feet and launched a pass downfield that became the “Immaculate Reception” and improbable 13-7 victory.
They returned to the playoffs in 1973, but when the 1974 season opened, Terry found himself on the bench. That situation lasted six weeks.
With Terry back in the starting lineup, the Steelers went 8-2, including postseason wins against the Bills, Raiders and Vikings. Topping Minnesota 16-6 in Super Bowl IX gave Pittsburgh its first NFL championship.
The Steelers would defend their title with a 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X. Terry sealed the win with a perfectly thrown 64-yard bomb to Lynn Swann in the fourth quarter. NFL Films ranked it as “the Greatest Throw of All Time.”
Additional Super Bowl rings followed the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Terry was named MVP of both games, passing for more than 300 yards in each – noteworthy considering he topped that mark only seven times in 187 career games.
“I never lost a Super Bowl. That means a lot to me,” Terry said. “I’m proud of that.”
Vic Carucci, a member of the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, said championships define Terry’s career.
“When you talk about Terry Bradshaw’s success,” he said, “it isn’t about great statistics … it’s about winning those Super Bowl titles.”
“I could play in the big game. I may have my mistakes. I may turn it over, but I would come back somehow, some way,” he said. “I would like to think I was a big-game player. Look how we turned out. Look how I turned out.”