THREE Classic Pro Football Seasons on Their Way
By Glenn Guzzo
Two classic seasons featuring legendary National Football League teams and a new offering from the United States Football League will be available from Strat-O-Matic this summer.
The lineup: 1971 and 1988 NFL and the 1983 USFL. Each will feature six carded teams and the complete league for the Windows pro football game.
1971: Cowboys’ winning ride; Dolphins swim upstream
The 1971 NFL season showcases the Dallas Cowboys’ first Super Bowl winner, Miami’s first Super Bowl team (leading to consecutive Super Bowl champions in 1972 and 1973) and an 11-3 team from Minnesota’s strong run of Bud Grant-coached teams from 1969-76.
Others in the 1971 “six-pack” of carded teams will be AFC Western Division champ Kansas City (10-3-1), NFC Western Division champ San Francisco (9-5) and defending Super Bowl champ Baltimore (10-4).
Dallas (11-3) began 4-3 until Roger Staubach became the full-time starter. He ended as the NFC’s No. 1 passer with a league-best 8.9 yards per pass and averaged 8.4 yards on 41 runs. Duane Thomas also became the No. 1 back in the second half and led the NFL with 11 touchdowns. His 4.5 yards per carry and Calvin Hill’s 4.4 combined with Staubach and WR Bob Hayes (24 ypc) to make the Cowboys the most explosive offense in the NFL with 406 points, topping 40 five times. The D in Big D was No. 1 in yards per rush, fumbles and sacks.
Miami (10-3-1) also had the conference’s No. 1 passer (Bob Griese who had only 10 INTs), a versatile running attack (FB Larry Csonka and HBs Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris combined for more than 2,000 yards with strong averages) and a deep-threat WR (Paul Warfield: 23 ypc, 11 tds). The Dolphins also had the AFC’s second-best defense, limiting 12 foes to 14 or fewer points.
Minnesota (11-3) and its Purple People Eaters led by Alan Page and Carl Eller had by far the most suffocating defense in the NFC (139 points allowed), strangling passing games for a mere 9.8 yards per pass and creating 45 turnovers. The offense will have to rely on field position.
Kansas City (10-3-1) had star LBs Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier and Jim Lynch to anchor a sturdy defense, second-ranked passer Len Dawson throwing to dynamic veteran Otis Taylor (1,110 yards, 19 ypc) and rookie Elmo Wright (20 ypc and the initiator of end-zone dances), and a steady running game featuring durable and versatile Ed Podolak.
Baltimore (10-4) A defense as impressive as Minnesota’s allowed only 140 points while leading the AFC in run defense (3.2 ypc) and pass defense (fewest yards, yards per attempt and yards per completion while leading the AFC with 28 interceptions). DE Bubba Smith and LBs Ted Hendricks and Mike Curtis starred. The offense relied on HB Norm Bulaich’s 4.9 ypc while QB Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall split the playing time with sub-standard results. Still, the Colts topped 30 points four times.
San Francisco (9-5) had the second-best scoring defense in the NFC, thanks to allowing a meager 44.5 percent pass-completion rate. The offensive line yielded the fewest sacks (11) while creating room enough for FB Ken Willard and HB Vic Washington each top 800 yards with at least 4.0 averages.
1988 NFL: 49ers Secure Status as Team of the ‘80s
Despite a potent offense and two punt return touchdowns, San Francisco was only 10-6 in the regular season. But in the post-season, the 49ers crushed 11-5 Minnesota, 34-9 and 12-4 Chicago, 28-3. That set up one of the most dramatic Super Bowl finishes ever, when Joe Montana drove the trailing 49ers 92 yards to the winning touchdown in the final minute over 12-4 Cincinnati. That was San Francisco’s third Super Bowl victory and a fourth the following year – all in the 1980s – made it one of the NFL’s iconic franchises.
San Francisco (10-6) topped 30 points six times with HB Roger Craig gaining 2,036 yards from scrimmage (4.8 rush average, 76 receptions), QB Joe Montana completing nearly 60 percent of his passes, and WRs Jerry Rice (1,306 yards) and John Taylor both topping 20 yards per catch. Taylor also took two punts to the house. Safety Ronnie Lott and DL Michael Carter and Charles Haley starred for a defense that was especially strong against the run (3.6 average).
Cincinnati (12-4) went from worst (4-11 in 1987) to first in 1988 with one of those dream offenses (448 points) where you cannot call a bad play. QB Boomer Esiason was the AFC’s No. 1 passer with a conference-best 28 TDs and 9.21 yards per pass. FB Icky Woods (1,066 yards, 15 TDs) and HB James Brooks (931 yards) each topped 5 yards per carry. WR Eddie Brown had 1,273 receiving yards at 24 per catch. WRs Tony McGee (19.1) and Cris Collinsworth (17.5) and TE Rodney Holman (13.5) all are attractive targets, too.
Buffalo (12-4) had DE Bruce Smith (11 sacks in 9 games), Pro Bowl LBs Cornelius Bennett and Shane Conlan, and the AFC’s No. 1 defense. Jim Kelly completed 59.5 percent of his passes, WR Andre Reed (71-968-6) was his No. 1 target and RBs Thurman Thomas and Robb Riddick provided a fine 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Chicago (12-4) still had the NFL’s best defense (215 points), with MLB Mike Singletary, DE Richard Dent and others from the unit that was a dominant Super Bowl winner three years ago. RB Neal Anderson’s breakout season (1,106 yards, 4.4 average, 12 TDs and 39 receptions) kept the offense churning as the Bears won their fifth straight NFC Central Division title.
Minnesota (11-5) somehow lost five games and finished second to Chicago in the Central Division despite scoring 406 points and yielding only 233. Wade Wilson was the NFC’s No. 1 passer (61.4 percent completions, 8.27 ypp) and the Vikings had the No. 1 pass defense, including 36 interceptions. DL Chris Doleman and Keith Millard and DB Joey Browner helped hold six opponents to seven or fewer points.
Los Angeles Rams (10-6) had a 31-TD passer (Jim Everett, 59.5 percent completions), a 16-TD runner (Greg Bell, 1,212 yards) and a 10-TD receiver (Henry Ellard, 1,414 yards) in the NFC’s top-scoring offense (407 points). A schizophrenic defense held seven foes to 10 points or fewer, but surrendered 30 or more five times.
1983 USFL: Panthers win an upstart league’s first title
Strat-O-Matic’s second offering from the United States Football League is the short-lived league’s first season. The league had famous coaches, such as Chicago’s George Allen, Tampa Bay’s Steve Spurrier and Philadelphia’s Jim Mora. It had familiar players such as New Jersey RB Herschel Walker, Michigan QB Bobby Hebert and Philadelphia LB Sam Mills, each an All-USFL selection in 1983.
Here are the six carded teams from the 12-team league:
Michigan (12-6) was the surprise 24-22 winner in the title game against 15-3 Philadelphia. But the Central Division champ Panthers had 451 points, QB Hebert (27 TD passes), WR Anthony Carter (60-1,181-19.7 avg-9 TDs), RB Ken Lacy (1,180 yards, 5.1 average), two All-USFL offensive linemen (T Ray Pinney, G Thom Dornbrook) and All-USFL LB John Corker.
Philadelphia (15-3) had to wait till 1984 to win the USFL championship. For now, the Stars had by far the best record, the best defense (204 points allowed, 67 fewer than next-best Chicago) and such recognizable All-USFL players as RB Kelvin Bryant (1,442 rushing yards, 16 TDs, 53 receptions), OT Irv Eatman and LB Mills. Former Penn State QB Chuck Fusina was solid and safety Scott Woerner was All-USFL.
Chicago (12-6), the league’s top-scoring team with 456 points, lost an explosive playoff semi-final to Philadelphia, 44-38 in overtime. The Blitz had a pair of 1,000-yard RBs in Tim Spencer and Kevin Long, former Detroit Lions QB Greg Landry and dynamite WR Trumaine Johnson (81-1,322-10tds). The league’s second-best defense had All-USFL players at each level: DE Kit Lathrop, LB Stan White and S Luther Bradley.
Boston (11-7) finished second to Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division and the Breakers had the league’s third-best offense (399 points). QB Johnnie Walton threw 20 TD passes, HB Richard Crump ran for 990 yards on a 5.2 average and WR Charles Smith had 1,009 yards receiving at 18.7 per catch. PK Tim Mazzetti was All-USFL with 119 points on 27-for-35 field-goal kicking and perfect extra-point performance.
Tampa Bay (11-7) had the pass-happy offense characteristic of Steve Spurrier-coached teams. Jimmy Jordan (60.9 percent completions) was the best of three quarterbacks who combined to throw 27 touchdown passes – 15 to all-USFL WR Eric Travillion. Travillion and WR Danny Buggs each eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving. Still, the Bandits were outscored for the year, despite two All-USFL defenders, NT Fred Nordgren and CB Jeff George.
Oakland (9-9) won the Pacific Division despite outscoring their foes only 319-317. QB Fred Besana (62.7 percent completions, 21 TDs, 2.9 percent INTs) was among the most reliable QBs. HB Arthur Whititngton (1,157 yards rushing, 66 receptions) was among the most steady runners and TE Raymond Chester nabbed 68 catches for 951 yards and All-USL honors.