By DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001
TAMPA -- It would have made for a nice little story. The pretty boy quarterback who battled addiction and personal criticism finds the ultimate redemption at the Super Bowl.
Yep, it would have.
Instead, we have the story of a quarterback who resurrected himself, but buried his team.
Kerry Collins surely was the least of the Giants' worries going into Sunday's Super Bowl. On an offense that had been a bit suspect this season, Collins had been the constant. With the game in his hands, New York liked its chances.
But Sunday, when his team needed him most, Collins fell asleep at the switch. How else would you describe his four-interception performance, tying a Super Bowl record for passes thrown to the wrong team? "This is the most disappointing loss I've ever been involved with," he said. "I'm disappointed in the way I played. It wasn't a lack of effort or a lack of preparation. I (just) didn't play the way I wanted to."
It was all there for him. The chance at glory. The chance at redemption. The chance at proving once and for all that all those nasty things people said were unfounded.
But he gave the Giants -- and himself -- no chance.
Let's be real about this. Kerry Collins should be commended for turning his life around, not to mention his football career. Men have given up in the face of far less, yet Collins didn't let his problems define him or defile him.
But he also should get the bulk of the heat for the 34-7 spanking the Giants took from the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV at Raymond James Stadium. I mean, if your quarterback throws four interceptions, you don't have to be a bio-nuclear physicist to figure out you're not going to be holding anybody's Lombardi Trophy.
If New York was going to have any chance of beating Baltimore and its vaunted defense, the Giants were going to have to treat the football as if it were the Hope diamond. Turnovers simply couldn't occur. Certainly not five of them (the four interceptions plus a fumble by Ron Dixon).
Everything was going to have to be more in synch than, well, 'N Sync. Ray Lewis had to be contained. Tiki Barber had to get the ball in the open field. The Ravens' pass rushers had to be kept out of the backfield.
And Collins had to make plays.
What he absolutely couldn't afford to do was turn the screws on his own team. What he couldn't do was what he did Sunday. Allow his team's biggest wounds to result from friendly fire.
His four interceptions took the Giants out of the game. They weren't innocuous picks that came with little consequence. No, they were killers. Momentum killers. Drive killers. Opportunity killers. And, ultimately, game killers.
Oh, the first one was innocent enough, a short pass tipped by Lewis early in the second quarter that fell into the hands of Ravens linebacker Jamie Sharper but cost the Giants no points. But the next three gutted the Giants. An ill-advised throw toward the end zone 54 seconds before the half decimated New York's best chance at scoring.
Ike Hilliard was double-covered on the play and Barber looked open underneath, yet Collins tried to force the ball to Hilliard. Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister snared it, crumpling what little offensive momentum the Giants had mustered. Collins' third pick came on a pass intended for Hilliard as well, and again Collins didn't make a good throw. And the last one brought the Giants to their collective knees, a bullet intended for Amani Toomer that Duane Starks stepped in front of and took 49 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 Ravens lead.
"I think (Starks) read me the whole way," Collins said.
Trust me, it wasn't the only time.
No, this simply wasn't Collins' day. Yes, the Ravens' tenacious defense had something to do with that, but the fact of the matter is, Collins looked like the game was simply bigger than he was. Like the game was being played on HDTV and he was seeing it in black and white.
He was nearly intercepted twice on the openingseries while pressed against his end zone. Two series later, he was almost picked again, this time by Lewis, from the Giants 1-yard line.
Everything he tried after that turned out all wrong. It was all he could do to go 15 of 39 for 112 yards.
"It was bad reads on my part. Bad reading of the defensive coverage," Collins said. "I missed some guys when I had them open. In a game like this against a defense like this, you can't do those kinds of things. There wasn't a whole lot of good about what I did today."
That was the surprising part. I mean, no one imagined Collins would win this game by himself. But who imagined he would lose it that way?