Guest column by Jeremy Snyder
You can check out the newly released 1983 DVOA ratings and commentary here.
OFFSEASON 1983: SIX CRISES
"I was outside the room and the doors opened and the first 15 guys to come out I had never seen before. They were all lawyers and accountants. At first, I thought I had the wrong room."
—Los Angeles Rams executive Steve Rosenbloom, late arrival to the winter meetings that followed a year of player strikes and lawsuit losses.
SOMETHING OF A PHENOMENON
"You wouldn't believe how much it's going on now. There are only a couple of teams in the NFL that don't have some kind of problem. That's right, a couple. ... Don't say 'a few teams,' don't say 'some teams.' Say 'a couple teams.' A couple, as in 'one-two.'"
—Anonymous league source, one of several who spoke to the New York Daily News for a series of articles that alleged that half of NFL players used cocaine on a recreational basis and more than a fifth on a hardcore basis.
LOOKING FOR ACTION IN THE EVERYDAY WORLD
"He doesn't understand odds at all, and he never took the time to study why horses win. He just wasn't a real good gambler."
—Beulah [Ohio] Race Track official, interviewed about a longtime patron, Baltimore Colts quarterback Art Schlichter. Schlichter, the fourth overall pick just one year before, was in the hole for a reported $389,000 to Baltimore bookies and would soon be suspended for the season.
"He's probably one of the worst blackjack players I've ever seen. ... [But] he was the best payer I ever saw on that kind of money. He was good as gold. He was a sweetheart to deal with. He paid us like he was a man with no worries."
—Anonymous Atlantic City casino employees, amazed at Eagles owner Leonard Tose, who once took $400,000 in 10 separate markers within a three-hour period. Tose, whose trucking company was also struggling, borrowed money from Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse to stay afloat.
TIME WOULDN'T GIVE HIM TIME
"I never gave a damn if it took 20 hours a day. I had a sign in our locker room that said 'The best way to kill time is to work it to death.' … I should have moderated it. I should have kept it to 14. I worked time to death … and it killed me."
—Former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, suddenly improvising during what should have been a motivational speech to Kawasaki dealers. Vermeil had quit after the 1982 season, citing burnout; 49ers coach Bill Walsh had almost quit for the same reason.
EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE
"People do not dance in the streets when Kaiser Aluminum turns in a good quarter. People do not go into the Kaiser Building on alternate Sundays and watch Kaiser employees battle Alcoa employees."
—Oakland attorney David Self, unsuccessfully arguing in court that the city had developed "an intense attachment" to the Raiders and thus should be able to seize the franchise by eminent domain even though team owner Al Davis had moved it to Los Angeles the year before.
"When Al Davis moved, we could have moved. We are not moving. We didn't move. We're not moving. ... The proof of that is I haven't moved. I'm here, aren't I? I wouldn't be here if I was going to move, would I? I'll tell you what I would do—and don't think it hasn't crossed my mind—but I'm not going to do it. I could pull up 30 vans and be out of here Sunday, and you'd never know who was here, but I haven't done it."
—Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay, asked how he would convince fans that the team wasn't leaving.
SHOPPING AT THE HUMAN MALL
"It's like putting in 10 McDonald's. It's easy to do when the time is right. The question is whether they will survive or prosper. I wish them luck. At least it will get our commissioner off the social circuit."
—Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis, giving his opinion of the new United States Football League, which would be starting its first season that March.
"For over 50 years the NFL has had rules pertaining to eligibility and the draft that we believe to be in the best interests of the colleges, players, and professional football. We have no intention of waiving them for Herschel Walker."
—Anonymous NFL spokesman. Reigning Heisman Trophy-winner Walker, a star at Georgia since his freshman year, was only in his third year of college and thus ineligible for the NFL draft.
"He's a millionaire right now. ... Herschel has done more for professional football players than all the unions striking and debating that has ever taken place. His contract will be the guideline for the future."
—Jack Manton, Walker's attorney, bragging on February 23 about Walker's record-setting deal with the USFL's New Jersey Generals.
"We did not go after the young man. We did not recruit him. They came to us."
—USFL commissioner Chet Simmons, sensitive to criticism that his league would be raiding college rosters as it had the NFL's over the previous nine months.
"The players are hoping this thing goes off pretty well because the NFL has such a big monopoly on football. ... Now we have something that brings a little bit of free agency to football. It's a chance to sell our talents to other places. It will make the money rise in the NFL."
—New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who would become one of many NFL players that year to sign a futures contract committing to play for a USFL team once their NFL contracts expired.
SO MANY MEN, SO LITTLE TIME
"If it went two days, there was some feeling players not drafted would be approached [by the USFL] and told they were not going to be drafted, and they might be lost."
—NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, announcing that the 12-round draft would take place over a single marathon session for the first time since 1965. The first pick was announced at 8:03 a.m. on April 26; John Tuggle, Mr. Irrelevant, wouldn't be selected until 2 a.m. the next day.
HAD LEX LUTHOR'S PLAN WORKED, DENVER WOULD STILL BE ABOUT 800 MILES FROM THE PACIFIC OCEAN
"I don't want to be a jerk, but I told [Colts coach Frank] Kush 'you've been offered three ones and a quarterback, and now you have nothing.' And then I hung up."
—Stanford Cardinal quarterback John Elway, who had stated before the draft that he wanted to play in warm weather on the West Coast if he was to play football at all. The Colts refused to trade the first overall pick pre-draft and took Elway anyway; Elway then committed to play baseball for the New York Yankees.
"This is the closest to heaven I'll ever be. To get an athlete like John Elway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
—Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves, after direct negotiations with Robert Irsay a week after the draft and a relatively meager package of backup quarterback Mark Herrmann, recent No. 4 overall offensive lineman Chris Hinton, and a future No. 1 to the Colts led to acquiring Elway's rights. Elway quickly signed a contract with Denver.
"We left the Denver people late at night, and before I had a chance to get back to Frank and Ernie, it was done."
—Irsay, justifying why he discussed the trade with neither his coach nor his general manager before agreeing to the deal.
"Is Denver on the West Coast? If it is, that earthquake out there must've been worse than we thought."
—Jim Crow, patron at Johnny Unitas' Baltimore bar, The Golden Arm.
"Why didn't he tell us the truth? Why didn't he say that he didn't like us because we're low-lifes, we eat crabs, and our owner is nutty as a [expletive] rat? That I could have understood."
—Rocky Thornton, Golden Arm manager.
"I had always had a reverence for the name Billy Ray Smith. 'Billy' alone isn't very violent sounding. It sounds like the kind of guy who might spend all his time discussing Thoreau."
—Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Billy Ray Smith Jr., drafted fifth overall by the San Diego Chargers.
WHEN YOUR DREAMBOAT TURNS OUT TO BE A FOOTNOTE
"Todd is the type of person who provides us a focal point around which we can build our offense of the next several years. His future in that respect allows us some stability at quarterback that we can build with."
—Kansas City Chiefs coach John Mackovic, who surprised many by taking Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge with the seventh overall pick. Blackledge is best remembered in NFL history for being the last quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to win a game for the franchise until Patrick Mahomes came along.
"Ever since Dave Wilson threw the ball for 618 yards in one game, teams have been laying off on us. Tony couldn't throw long because everybody knew we were going to pass and it was the medium passes they were giving us."
—University of Illinois coach Mike White, defending Tony Eason against charges that he lacked a big arm. Eason was selected 15th overall by the Patriots.
YOUNG AND CLEVER
"I'm very pleased that I went in the first round and that I went as early as I did."
—University of Miami quarterback Jim Kelly, pleased to be drafted 14th overall despite missing most of his senior season but not that happy to be drafted by Buffalo.
"I grew up all my life thinking I wanted to play in the NFL. But I believe that the USFL will have the same caliber of play in a few years. A lot of people will question my decision … but you've got to take some gambles in your life. I was comparing apples to apples, but the decision was not that hard."
—Kelly, who a month after the draft signed a five-year, $3.5-million contract with the Houston Gamblers, who wouldn't even start play until the 1984 season. The contract further guaranteed that Kelly would never be less than the third-highest-paid quarterback in the USFL.
WHO AM I TO DISAGREE?
"I throw better than anybody in college, and I can throw with anybody in the pros. ... There, that's what I think … sounds awful, doesn't it?"
—Dan Marino, senior quarterback of No. 1-ranked University of Pittsburgh, midway through what would become a disappointing 1982 season.
"Jets take the first-round selection, quarterback [three-second pause as New York crowd gets excited] Ken O'Brien of California-Davis [various sounds of disapproval]."
—Pete Rozelle, announcing the 24th pick of the draft. California-Davis was a Division II school at the time.
"Everybody said that if Marino was going to be around at that time they would take Marino. Obviously, the Jets know something that the people up here don't."
—Mustachioed Jets fan, interviewed by ESPN from the balcony of the Sheraton Hotel.
"Because he's a better football player. He's got a better arm and he finds ways to beat you."
—Jets director of player personnel Mike Hickey, explaining the inexplicable.
"I had been hoping Marino would be there, but I didn't see any logical way he could. I'd seen him in the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl. All he had done was win the MVP in both. I had him rated right up there with Elway."
—Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, who took Marino three picks later.
GOODBYE, FAREWELL, AMEN
"I can't swim good, but I've got to save those kids. If I don't come up, get somebody."
—Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, 24, who drowned in a Louisiana pond trying to rescue three boys.
"There are very few people who invent a game and see it become national in scope. He, along with a few owners, invented the game and made it work. I don't think there's much more of a tribute to him than every Sunday when 60 million people or so sit down and watch what he achieved."
—Fellow longtime Chicago sports owner Bill Veeck, eulogizing Bears owner George Halas, the last surviving NFL founder.
"He really felt strongly about it being kept quiet. He didn't want it to be another Brian's Song."
—Los Angeles Rams team doctor Toby Freedman, who discovered a malignant tumor in cornerback Kirk Collins' esophagus while treating him for an unrelated injury. Collins, who was leading the NFL in interceptions at the time, died five months later.
"We have the reputation of being a cold, computerized organization. We're going to get even colder."
—Dallas Cowboys president Tex Schramm, crowing about the purchase of a new integrated computer system that could handle everything from scouting reports to accounting.
BO KNOWS BOOKKEEPING
"At the end of the first day, I was out of balance by $8,000. The thought went through my mind that this would be my first day and my last."
—Auburn Tigers sophomore running back Bo Jackson, who spent the summer working as a teller in a Birmingham bank. It turned out that the previous teller had never cleared the totals on the adding machine the day before.
WE HOPE THE SNAKES DIDN'T
"I don't have any poisonous snakes. They're hard to keep, especially with children in the neighborhood."
—San Diego Chargers nose tackle Bill Elko, suburban python- and boa constrictor-owner.
THE PROBLEM WITH CULT AUDIENCES IS THAT THEY AREN'T THAT LARGE
"Four-and-a-half million people there watched the Super Bowl at 2:30 in the morning. I think there is an underground cult there interested in football."
—Minnesota Vikings general manager Mike Lynn, who agreed to move a preseason contest to London for what would be the first-ever NFL game in Europe. 32,847 fans showed up, half-filling Wembley Stadium; the promoter lost at least half a million dollars on the game.
SPAM IN A CAN
"The trip coming over here was like something you do to someone who commits a capital crime."
—St. Louis Cardinals defensive end Bubba Baker, complaining about the trans-Atlantic flight.
"The Vikings have class. We have Bill Bidwill."
—Anonymous Cardinals player. The Vikings at their own cost chartered a spacious DC-10 that included seats for the players' wives; the Cardinals used a comped cramped 707 with non-functional air conditioning.
"I did it for [my teammates]. Everybody wants to pour something on him or hit him. Everybody feels good about it."
—Baltimore Colts wide receiver Holden Smith, who doused tyrannical head coach Frank Kush with a soda at a training camp dinner following an argument at practice. Smith was cut on the spot; Kush nonchalantly finished his meal.
TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT
"They've been calling that position 'outside linebacker' since football began. This is the Age of the Jedi. I discovered new names for the positions. I didn't invent them, I discovered them. They were laying out there in the universe."
—Philadelphia Eagles external enforcer David Griggs. Other positions he discovered included internal enforcer, pivot, and manipulator.
THE NEWEST DOLPHIN
"That little guy was so dramatic when he just popped out of the water. It was so cute."
—Miami Dolphins nose tackle Bob Baumhower, witness to an unexpected birth after swimming with the soon-to-be-mother at Ocean World.
YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE POSTER HE WANTED TO DO
"We wanted something catchy, but by the same token we didn't want to offend anybody. I thought it was the best thing, artistically, we had done since I've been here."
—Cal State-Long Beach athletic director Corey Van Fleet, who reluctantly ordered a redesign after receiving complaints that promotional posters of quarterback Todd Dillon posing with a pair of models were sexist.
THE TWELFTH THROUGH TWENTY-FIRST MEN
"They've been standing ready a long time. ... Frankly, I have no idea what's going to happen the first time we kick the ball."
—Texas A&M Aggies head coach Jackie Sherrill, who put together a full squad of walk-ons to cover kickoffs in home games.
THE UNION PEOPLE CRAWLED AWAY
"It feels like I’ve spend my adult life trying to get back to Wisconsin, and somehow I always end up on the East Coast.
—Resigning NFLPA executive director Ed Garvey, the new Badger State deputy attorney general.
IF ED GARVEY WILL NOT STAY WITH THE PLAYERS, THE PLAYERS WILL COME TO ED GARVEY
"I really think we should play three games in Green Bay, three in Milwaukee, and three in Madison. We're supposed to be a state team, and Madison is part of the state."
—Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Lofton, building upon a proposal from Wisconsin's capital to host a preseason game.
THE CHIPPENDALES FRANCHISE WOULD NOT EXPAND TO FLORIDA FOR ANOTHER DECADE
"Sweaty topless men are offensive. I resent that women would be arrested for going topless while we have to put up with offensive bare-chested sweaty men."
—Tampa city councilwoman Helen Chavez, who proposed an ordinance requiring all fans at Tampa Stadium to wear shirts. The measure was voted down.
"I have only one reason to put on weight. Eventually, fat people will rule the world. When that time comes, I will be one of them. But not right now."
—236-pound San Francisco 49ers defensive end Fred Dean, lightweight even by then-current standards for the position.
HE DIDN'T DO MUCH LEARNING THAT YEAR
"That was a very humbling game. I've heard a lot of people say you can learn something from losing. I never learn a damn thing."
—New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells, a 16-6 loser in his NFL head coaching debut.
"It was like the officer pulling you over and giving you a speeding ticket."
—Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, caught from behind by Washington Redskins rookie cornerback Darrell Green on what would have been Dorsett's second 80-plus-yard touchdown in two Monday Night Football games.
WANTING THE TRUTH TO BE KNOWN
"For 32 years I have been in public life and my position is well-known and documented. I've often taken stands not popular … frequently involving the black athlete. The greatest influence on my life was Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, one of my closest friends. We worked together in the ghettos of New York. My relationship with Joe Greene, Sugar Ray Leonard, Willie Stargell, and Curt Flood are matters of public notice. ... I used the word to describe Alvin Garrett that I use when playing with my grandchildren."
—Monday Night Football announcer Howard Cosell, who without thinking of the implications had described scampering Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett as "that little monkey."
OFF TO THE WILD BLUE YONDER
"When the academy was looking for a mascot, it wanted something that represented free spirit and independence. The falcon does that. I guess we have to expect that once in a while."
—Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Schaad, not especially bothered when live bird mascots Isis and Fritz flew away during the Wyoming game.
"I thought they'd boo me, but I never thought they'd boo the whole first half."
—Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, playing before a Baltimore crowd for the first (and as it would turn out, only) time in his career. A rattled Elway was replaced by Steve DeBerg after his team scored just three points through three quarters.
"People have really taken that thing out of proportion. It's a non-serious thing."
—University of Virginia sports promotion director Todd Turner, forced to retire unpopular new mascot 'Hoo after just two games. The student paper called 'Hoo "a video game reject who tried out for Ms. Pac-Man and didn't make the cut."
DON'T CRY, YOU'RE STILL GETTING PAID
"I know it sounds bad because I'm on a losing football team, but I've probably enjoyed playing more than I have at any time. It's so nice to sit back and not have to worry about anything along those [monetary] lines, to just be able to concentrate on playing football."
—Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, who had signed a lucrative futures contract with the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits for the 1985 season and beyond.
COUNCILWOMAN CHAVEZ COULDN'T HAVE BEEN HAPPY WITH THE NFLPA HEADSHOTS CBS USED THAT SEASON
"At his present pace, Leonard Thompson of the Lions would catch an astounding 113 passes this year."
—CBS intro to the Week 3 Lions-Falcons game. Thompson finished the season with 41 catches.
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
"He didn't make a show, he just said hello to everybody. But he is still doing something to single himself out which we don't want right now."
—Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry after wide receiver Butch Johnson celebrated a preseason touchdown by slapping hands with photographers and writers at the edge of the end zone. Landry had banned all forms of post-play celebrations, from simple spikes all the way up to Johnson's gunplay-inspired California Quake.
"I never belittle a guy or point at him. When a receiver catches a touchdown pass over a defensive back, he does all sorts of things and throws the ball right down in front of the guy. I don't point at the quarterback or tackle. I just enjoy it."
—New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, known for his sack dance.
"Every tackle in the league is happy about what you did."
—Los Angeles Raiders tackle Bruce Davis, praising fellow L.A. offensive tackle Jackie Slater of the Rams, whose shove of Gastineau mid-dance led to a bench-clearing brawl.
"We're going to make a suggestion to the league that anybody who does something out of line like that [dancing] be given a warning, then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and then be kicked out of the game."
—Los Angeles Rams administrator of football operations Jack Faulkner.
"Mark's got an ego. He's a tough guy. It bothered him. Right after that, a customer happened to bump into him. I don't if it was temporary insanity or what, but Mark went after him."
—Studio 54 manager Mark Fleischman, who four days later witnessed another brawl soon after the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Gastineau lost an arm wrestling match to a 6-foot-0, 170-pound bartender. Gastineau and barmate Ken O'Brien were soon indicted on misdemeanor assault charges.
"Most people hear the name and think they're going to be meeting a prince from the Middle East. But I'm just a soccer-style kicker from Arlington."
—New York Giants rookie Ali Haji-Sheikh, who made an NFL-record 35 field goals on the season.
"This is the worst performance of any team I've ever seen or been associated with. I've never even seen a game like that. Thank you."
—Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay, opening and closing his press conference after his team gave up an NFL-record 49 first-half points to the Green Bay Packers.
"Get the hell away from me before I punch you in the mouth."
—McKay, after a reporter tried to ask a follow-up question. 30-second postgames became the norm during the Bucs' long losing streak.
GO FOR IT WHEN YOU'RE UP
"I hope the people up here don't think we were trying to pour it on or be vindictive. But towards the end our second-stringers were so tuckered out we had to put some first-team players back in to relieve them."
—Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne, limited by Big Eight rules to a 60-man travel roster in an 84-13 romp at Minnesota. Nebraska won each of its 11 regular-season games by an average score of 52-16.
THE BOOK HAD OF COURSE BEEN STOLEN FROM THE PRISON LIBRARY
"Read this, you bum."
—Note accompanying a copy of How to Play Football that was mailed to struggling Buffalo Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson from a pen pal in Attica.
OUT OF CONTROL
"I can't say I enjoy it, because it can be dangerous. You never know who's going to hit you or how you're going to land. I've ended up on my head sometimes."
—Green Bay Packers tight end Gary Lewis, who blocked five kicks in each of 1982 and 1983 by getting a running start, leaping over the offensive line, and extending his 6-foot-5 frame. The technique was banned before the 1984 season.
NORMAL'S JUST A SETTING ON A WASHING MACHINE
"You are only as good as your weakest link, so I'm trying to bring the weakest link of our football team up with everyone else. I realize coats and ties aren't going to win football games, but we looked terrible on our last trip."
—Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves, who tried to break a three-game losing streak by banning afternoon naps in the meeting room, taking away catered midweek lunches, and implementing a dress code on road trips.
"I've seen teams that have dress codes, hair codes, this code, that code, all having nothing to do with winning and losing. They'll get to third down, short yardage, and three guys'll jump offside. I mean those guys come in and they look nice in the lobby, and then they jump offside. Those are undisciplined sons of guns. I'll take a guy that's wearing a T-shirt and a pair of jeans and tennis shoes in the lobby, who when it's third down doesn't budge till the ball's snapped. That's discipline."
—Former Oakland Raiders head coach/current CBS broadcaster John Madden, who claimed that he never had a great player who was "normal."
HOPE COMES IN A NO. 13 UNIFORM
"Our offense is 26th in the league and 28th in passing, and each week we keep hoping that it's going to get better, and it hasn't."
—Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, announcing before Week 6 that Dan Marino would start in place of David Woodley, who had quarterbacked the Dolphins to an AFC Championship Game in 1982.
TECHNICALLY, NO ONE WON THE POOL
"Let's set up a pool [as to when I'll be fired]. But seriously, I can't concern myself with any of that. My job is basically to hold this situation together when it could be falling apart."
—Houston Oilers coach Ed Biles, whose team hadn't won since the players went on strike.
"I don't feel that I failed; I just ran out of time."
—Biles, who resigned after losing the next game.
THE EDUCATION OF MARCUS DUPREE
"When we give a kid an athletic scholarship, it's to represent us in games. Because he doesn't cut it scholastically, how can you hold him out of games?"
—Oklahoma Sooners academic counselor Jin Brown, seemingly OK with sophomore sensation running back Marcus Dupree's poor in-class attendance.
"He has never been a real part of the team. He has never done what we have asked. I have never before seen a player take off like he did after a game and not come back. It seems that he didn't care who won. He didn't want to be a part of it."
—Oklahoma Sooners head coach Barry Switzer after a homesick Dupree quit school and transferred to Southern Mississippi in the middle of the season. The 19-year-old Dupree would eventually sign with the USFL after he learned that he was ineligible to play college football again until 1985.
FROM ONE CORNER TO ANOTHER
"I thought I was going to be in New Jersey. When they blocked the trade, I was upset. No other team had been willing to give what New England was asking for me. No doubt about it, I was headed for the USFL."
—Pro Bowl cornerback Michael Haynes, who held out from the New England Patriots through the first six weeks of the season and was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders 30 minutes after what appeared to be the trading deadline. Pete Rozelle voided the trade and was immediately sued by Haynes.
"Al [Davis] wasn't half an hour late; he was 23 minutes early."
—John Slusher, Haynes' agent, who argued that the trading deadline had been pushed back by a day because the Monday Night Football game had ended a few minutes after midnight. One month later, the case was settled as a free-agent signing with Haynes going to the Raiders and compensation going back to the Patriots.
"Being clairvoyant, I envisioned it myself: Mike Haynes, No. 22, in a silver and black uniform. Factually speaking, there is only one 'N' of difference in our last names. I told Mike during the 1982 Pro Bowl that he would play for the Raiders, and he said, 'There is no way possible.' But Michael Haynes came to us. It was the steal of the decade, per se. It was a blessing from God. So be it."
—Loquacious Los Angeles Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes.
A DIFFERENT EXCUSE FOR THE CHARGERS SPECIAL TEAMS
"I think about 65% of our revenues come from TV, so I think they should be in some position of power."
—San Diego Chargers special teams coach Marv Braden. A Chargers kickoff was negated mid-play because NBC had not yet returned from commercial; the Jets returned the re-kick for 64 yards.
KIND AND ADORING
"They take no prisoners up here. When you lose, they just line you up against the wall and shoot you."
—New England Patriots coach Ron Meyer, no fan of the Boston media.
AN ACTUAL WEST COAST FOOTBALL TEAM
"We need to starting teaching geography a few years earlier."
—Camas [Wash.] High School assistant coach Al Antak, whose team lost 2-0 when his punt returner got turned around and ran 60 yards back to his own end zone.
ALL NIGHT LONG (WIDE RIGHT)
"It's not the end of the world because [I] missed three field goals. Well, maybe it is here in the locker room."
—St. Louis Cardinals kicker Neil O'Donoghue, errant in overtime from 44, 19, and 42 yards away. The 20-20 tie with the Giants was widely considered to be the worst game in Monday Night Football history.
ODE TO A YOUNG WIDEOUT
"They're just beautiful. Real soft, real quiet. Always right on time. He doesn't need to use his body to catch the ball. They're just a gift."
—Mississippi Valley State receiving coach Gloster Richardson, waxing poetic about the hands of record-setting junior Jerry Rice.
WLW IN CINCINNATI
"He did a very, very good job to keep the line open. He did a top-notch job for someone not trained in this. In a spontaneous situation like this, your feelings of concern have to be genuine."
—Cincinnati police captain Stephen Vollnar, praising NBC announcer/former Bengals player/radio host Bob Trumpy for keeping a suicidal caller on the phone for two and a half hours until help could arrive.
APE THE APE
"Theoretically, a baboon at the Dallas Zoo can look at a schedule of 14 NFL games, point to one team for each game and come up with at least seven winners."
—Dallas Morning News columnist David Casstevens, bewildered after going 1-12-1 picking games against the spread in Week 9. Local lowland gorilla Kanda the Great, who picked between two pieces of paper in his handler's hands, outperformed the News' panel of six humans in each of the next three weeks, leading to copycat experiments by other newspapers.
"Maybe she has a strong feeling about this one."
—Dave Wood, senior elephant handler at the Philadelphia Zoo, as Petal the pachyderm selected the "Eagles" paper with her trunk and swallowed it in one gulp. The Eagles lost 23-0.
"They're calling it gorilla burnout."
—Dave Smith, executive sports editor of the Dallas Morning News, relaying the Dallas Zoo's decision to retire Kanda the Great after being besieged with media requests and calls from bettors.
"The predictions are fun, and what the heck, you do something for 25 years you ought to know something about it. I still spend a lot of time studying college football even though I'm not an active part of it anymore."
—Former Indiana Hoosiers head coach Lee Corso, 57-9 picking games straight-up for an Indianapolis TV station.
MAN IS THE ARCHITECT OF HIS OWN DESTINY
"Luck means a lot—and it's very bad luck not to have a good quarterback."
—Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, riding Dan Marino to a fourth straight win.
TIRED OF PLAYING ON THE TEAM
"The Houston Oilers treated me bad today. They treated me like a dog today."
—Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell, benched after just one quarter with the team down 24-0. The loss dropped the Oilers to 0-10.
GO SLOW, FALL BEHIND
"The Bucs run out of their I-formation to avoid mistakes on offense. I don't know if you can do that game after game and consistently win in this league."
—Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, skeptical about 1-9 Tampa Bay's positive turnover differential.
"On occasions in 1983, we appeared to be trying not to lose instead of aggressively trying to win."
—LSU Tigers athletic director Bob Brodhead, explaining why he fired head coach Jerry Stovall.
"There's a place for conservative football, but not here. We have been known as a big-play team. We're not afraid to swing for the fences. A lot of teams play not to lose; we play to win. There's a big difference."
—Los Angeles Raiders assistant coach Ray Willsey
"Everyone uses the expression 'we take what the defense gives us.' On the Raiders, we take what we want."
—Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis, who didn't need the newfangled one-back offense or any other leaguethink.
BIG BEN II: NO REPLAY REVIEW
"I still don't know how it happened. I didn't see the ball until the last minute. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. God designated me to be there and pushed me into the end zone."
—Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, who caught a Hail Mary on the 5 and somehow wormed his way to the winning touchdown.
"His knees hit the ground a yard before he got to the goal line. And then he reached in. I thought it was just a terrible call. I've never seen anything like that. The referee was standing right there. He put his foot down [to mark the ball. I don't know how he could let the [other official] make the call. I think the referee just said, 'He made the catch, we might as well give it to him.'"
—San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ronnie Lott on the Johnson touchdown.
"If it's there, why not use it? We can make use of the technology that exists in television to assist the officiating."
— USFL commissioner Chet Simmons, speculating that his league might be using replay review in the 1984 season.
"I was mad, man. I feel we're a better team than they are. We ran the ball the way we're supposed to. … There's no way we should have lost."
—Detroit Lions running back Billy Sims, who ran for 105 yards and kicked two defenders in the face in a loss to the previously winless Oilers.
TOWER OF ERROR
"We did win the game, but the other team self-destructed."
—Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg, whose team scraped by the New York Giants thanks to five turnovers and a touchdown-negating holding penalty.
"You're in the penthouse and, all of a sudden, you feel like the elevator has been dropped from under and you're on the first floor again."
—New York Giants quarterback Jeff Rutledge, who threw the putative winning touchdown with 25 seconds left.
"If anyone wants to test my speed, they can put me up against Franco any time. I may be 47, but I can still beat him. Franco has made a great contribution to the game, he's a great back … but at this point in his career, he's running out of bounds, just going for yards, for records. I don't take him seriously any more."
—Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, retired since 1965 but seriously considering a comeback if old-by-NFL-standards Franco Harris edged past his career rushing yards record.
"It's a good feeling, but I don't know if Gary is going to come out and say what Jim Brown has been saying."
—Cleveland Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome after breaking Gary Collins' franchise career receptions record.
AT QUARTERBACK, NO. 17, RICHARD McMURRIN
"You could put Dick, who's our janitor here, in and it wouldn't make any difference."
—Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, asked about the team's quarterback situation.
"Got to keep 'em loose, keep 'em relaxed."
—Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who had the 49-year-old janitor dress in full uniform and participate in practice two days later.
SOONER OR LATER YOUR LEGS GIVE WAY
"Ninety-five percent of me is very sad. But my knees are very, very happy."
—St. Louis Cardinals tackle Dan Dierdorf, announcing that he would be retiring at the end of the season.
PRESS BOX, BUSCH STADIUM, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, NORTH AMERICA, WESTERN HEMISPHERE, EARTH, SOLAR SYSTEM, MILKY WAY, UNIVERSE
"St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Chargers
St. Louis Football Cardinals
San Diego Chargers
Saint Louis Football Cardinals
San Diego California Football Chargers
Saint Louis, Missouri Football Cardinals
San Diego, California Football Chargers."
—Increasingly elaborate possession listings by a bored scorer, Week 12.
THE SADDEST VICTORY
"This is the most important game of the season. We don't want to be labeled as the worst team in pro football. That thought is nauseating to me."
—Houston Oilers interim coach Chuck Studley, hyping the "Repus Bowl" between the 1-11 Oilers and 1-11 Buccaneers.
TWO WEEKS' NOTICE
"I understand that he went to them. I'm sorry to hear that. I think there's a right and a wrong way to do things and there's a right time and a wrong time."
—Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka, who cut 12-year veteran punter Bob Parsons after Week 14 because Parsons had contacted the USFL's Chicago Blitz looking for a job for the next season.
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
"I guess if you judge by the record, I should be fired."
—Oregon State Beavers head coach Joe Avezzano, who kept his job for 1984 despite a 4-38-2 record over four seasons and an athletic board vote against his retention.
"Tom Rafferty, their center, yelled to [quarterback Danny] White, 'Don't run that play!' White told him, 'Be quiet, we'll run it anyway.' You feel pretty good when you hear that."
—Washington Redskins tackle Dave Butz, whose defense stuffed a Cowboys sweep on a crucial fourth-and-1 in the third quarter of their Week 15 matchup.
"From there on we made a lot of errors. Dallas is human. Don't think they're not human out there."
—Tom Landry, whose Cowboys were now one game behind the 13-2 Redskins in the NFC East.
EAST CAPITOL JOE
"He was a brash, cocky kid who felt he should play ahead of two overweight veterans."
—Sonny Jurgensen, who along with Billy Kilmer quarterbacked the Washington Redskins when Joe Theismann joined the team in 1974.
"I came in here and bucked both of them. To this day people in Washington don't want to accept me. People still have feelings towards Sonny and Billy. I was fortunate to work under both but there's no love lost, especially with Billy. ... The greatest thing about last year was winning the Super Bowl, something Billy hadn't done. It was like I closed the closet. If I had lost, the closet would still be open and I would have been the same as Billy again."
—Theismann, the 1983 Most Valuable Player, who had been given the silent treatment by Kilmer when unseating him as starter five years earlier.
"I … consider it regrettable that you are not personally familiar with the physical and operational problems at Shea during games so that you could familiarize [the city's lawyer] with the subject, since during your five years in office you attended only one Jets game, in the company of [the governor], and then only stayed for a brief period."
—Letter from New York Jets owner Leon Hess to New York City mayor Ed Koch, declining Koch's offer to have the city's lawyer tour Shea Stadium in spring 1983 to assess Hess' demands for upgrades.
"I cannot simply wait around for you to announce your decision at the end of January. The issue of where a sports team plays is a matter of concern to the public. Cities should not be abandoned for suburbia. Given the profits that you made in the city and the even greater profits you can make in the future, I do not believe that you should analyze the issue with a green eyeshade. ... Please give me a call. As you know, many of my calls have gone unanswered…"
—Koch , writing to Hess in September after months of non-meetings. A single in-person negotiation finally happened but was an utter disaster; Koch soon announced that the Jets would be joining the Giants in New Jersey.
"The city is the landlord and the Jets are the tenants and the tenants and the tenants' guest tore up the place. … Not even the performance of the Jets is sufficient cause to destroy public property."
—New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, after fans angry at the team's departure caused a quarter of a million dollars in damage in the final game at Shea. The Jets, preseason favorites to win the conference, finished 7-9, last in the AFC East; Ken O'Brien did not play a down all season.
CRAZY, BUT IT'S TRUE
"What kind of nonsense is that? Why do you want a comment on that stuff for? I think the moon is made of green cheese."
—New York Giants general manager George Young, denying The NFL Today's well-sourced report that his 3-11-1 team would be offering Bill Parcells' job to the University of Miami's Howard Schellenberger.
McKAY SHOULD HAVE STUCK TO HIS ORIGINAL PLAN
"We will not kick a field goal next week if we are on the 2-yard line, the 1-yard line, none. There will be no more field goals kicked by the Bucs this year, no matter what the game is. It's over. I'm tired of being crucified. God bless you and Merry Christmas."
—Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay, following a Week 15 loss to the Green Bay Packers in which Tampa Bay missed a 35-yard field goal and an extra point.
"They sign a new kicker and I'm still here. I can't believe it. But maybe that tells me something. Maybe they don't think it's all my fault."
—Bucs kicker Bill Capece, who largely blamed his troubles on inconsistent holds and snaps. Capece was replaced for the last game by Dave Warnke, who had cold-called the team looking a job after watching Capece's struggles on TV.
"Warnke, with Tyler holding, had his 29-yard field goal try partially blocked by Cofer and it sailed left and short. Correction: Cofer didn't block it at all—it was simply missed."
—Gamebook description of Warnke's lone field goal attempt. Warnke also missed an extra point.
"It just proves what Bill Capece and others say. We have a professional holder and a professional snapper. It just took a professional kicker to do it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a lineman."
—McKay, who let USFL-bound guard George Yarno attempt the final extra point of the season.
TAKE SOME TIME TO DO THE THINGS YOU NEVER HAVE
—Postseason safari led by San Diego Chargers kicker/1983 NFL Man of the Year Rolf Benirschke, the son of a San Diego Zoo pathologist.
NO TEAM FORCED AS MANY AS 30 TURNOVERS IN 2020
"It feels good to be part of this offense. It'll be nice when we get older to see our record in the books. The biggest factor in scoring that many points has been our turnover differential, not just the ones we force, but the few we make."
—Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk, whose team scored a then-record 541 points on the season thanks in large part to an absurd +43 turnover differential, 13 better than any other team in NFL history before or since.
"We think we can win all our games. That's human nature. If you don't think you can win them all, you'll be hard-pressed to win any of them."
—New Orleans Saints head coach Bum Phillips, optimistic in the preseason despite heading a franchise that had never made the playoffs in its first 16 years of existence.
"I thought we were destined to go [to the playoffs] then. I thought when something like this happens to me, it's got to be good."
—New Orleans Saints guard Steve Konte, who in the final game of the season recovered a teammate's fumble in the end zone to put the Saints up 24-23 with 3:47 to play. A win would have given the Saints a wild-card berth.
"It would have been a long kick and you have to worry about getting it blocked. ... We wanted to make them beat us and not take the chance of beating ourselves. Maybe I should have went for it, but there was no reason to think they can go 80 yards. Why take a chance?"
—Phillips, who a minute later still up by one eschewed a Morten Andersen field goal attempt or going for it on fourth-and-2 from the Rams 32 and instead had his backup punter punt the ball through the end zone. The Rams then drove for the winning field goal at the gun, claiming the playoff spot for themselves.
"I'm down, I'm really down. I'm having a hard time thinking about anything today. I'm really not in a good mood. I'm disappointed. Usually I get over it real quick. But yesterday was the last ballgame. There's nothing else to pick you back up."
—Phillips, in an otherwise-empty office the next day.
AN ANTHROPOLOGIST LOOKS AT FOOTBALL
"The players from both teams were swarmed on by youthful mobs and the goalposts on both ends were toppled in some kind of odd celebration of this championship."
—Play-by-play from the gamebook from Detroit's 23-20 win over Tampa Bay in Week 16, which clinched the Lions' first division title in 26 years.
TRYING SOME REARRANGING
"Well, obviously if we were in the playoffs I don't think we would have made this decision … today."
—Green Bay Packers president Robert Parins, who fired head coach Bart Starr on Black Monday, one day after a last-second Bears field goal cost them a playoff berth.
7-9 AND THE RAGGED BENGAL
"I'm so happy this football season is over with. I have never been so happy that a football season is over in my life."
—Cincinnati Bengals head coach Forrest Gregg, who resigned a week later to take the Green Bay job.
"It has really been a frustrating previous seven years. I feel good right now but I feel a little funny, too, because I don't know how you're supposed to feel."
—Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent, one of four players remaining on the roster from the expansion season of 1976 to celebrate the franchise's first playoff berth.
LIVE AND BREATHE AND SEE THE SUN IN WINTERTIME
"I want to get out while I can still walk through the woods, still wade a trout stream, still climb a mountain, while I can still go out in those breakers. I'm going to do nothing specific, not going to get in a sailboat and go around the world."
—Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant, stunning the team by retiring at age 56.
A VISIT FROM ST. ELWAY
"'Twas the night before Christmas
And down at the Dome
The rafters were trembling
The Seahawks were home"
—Proclamation from Seattle mayor Charles Royer before the Broncos-Seahawks wild-card game in the Kingdome. Seattle fans were gifted a 31-7 win.
"[The Washington game] was just too big a game for us to lose, emotionally. We just didn't recover from that game."
—Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, whose once-12-2 Cowboys lost each of their final three games, the last as a double-digit wild-card favorite against the Rams.
"Coach [John] Robinson said there would be 55 million people watching, and 54 million of them didn't think we had a chance."
—Los Angeles Rams cornerback LeRoy Irvin.
SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?
"Hey, if these kids can break into the computers at NASA and NORAD, they can do anything. How can we keep them out of the scoreboard?"
—Tournament of Roses spokesman Robert Cheney after Cal Tech students Ted Williams and Dan Kegel rigged the Rose Bowl scoreboard so that they could remotely control it mid-game. The scoreboard was shut off for the final 4:48 when no local fix could be found; Kegel and Williams were fined $330 but did receive course credit.
JOHN RIGGINS WAS TOO EXHAUSTED FROM HIS JOB DOWN AT THE DOCKS TO CELEBRATE
"Sometimes there are hot dogs jumping around and saying things, but they didn't rub it in."
—Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson, whose team was mauled 51-7 in a divisional loss to the Washington Redskins.
"I'm like your favorite fishing pole—when you want to get the big one, I'll always be there."
—Washington Redskins running back John Riggins, who had run for an NFL-record 24 touchdowns in the regular season.
DOES THIS MEAN THAT TERRY BRADSHAW HAS WON 11 SUPER BOWLS?
"Many times, we have to admit people under an assumed name or under no name to keep the press and the fans away."
—Charles Boyd, administrator of the Shreveport hospital where Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback "Thomas Brady" (Terry Bradshaw under a fake name) underwent offseason elbow surgery.
'TOM BRADY' RETIRES
"There was no question from the start who would be at quarterback. [Cliff] Stoudt practiced at that position all week. Bradshaw can't throw the ball. What am I supposed to do, put him in there so he can direct a running game?"
—Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, unwilling to make excuses for a 38-10 divisional loss to the Raiders.
"I was disappointed that I didn't get to play but I was most disappointed in the way we played. ... Some of [the younger Steelesr players] were talking a lot of garbage all this week. Things they were going to do to the Raiders. Well, if you talk that garbage you can't play like dogs."
—Terry Bradshaw, sidelined by injury for all but one game in what would be his final NFL season.
WORDS NO ONE WOULD EVER SAY AGAIN
"If everything goes all right [with the surgery], I still should be able to play in the Pro Bowl."
—AFC starter-elect Dan Marino, about to undergo surgery on the injured left knee that had kept him out of the last two games of the regular season. Marino had returned for the divisional round against the Seahawks but was not up to his usual standards in the 27-20 loss.
GO FOR IT WHEN YOU'RE DOWN
"I suppose if it was fourth-and-20 and no time left, and it was a question of doing nothing more than a Hail Mary pass, you might kick [a field goal]. But, if it came down to a two-pointer, or if you are inside their 10-yard line, you've got to go for it. It's a one-in-a-hundred question, I hope it doesn't arise, because if it does, I'm going to be crucified one way or the other."
—Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Tom Osborne at a press conference the day before the Orange Bowl. True to his word, Osborne went for two trailing Miami 31-30 with 48 seconds left when an extra point and a tie would likely have given Nebraska the national championship; the pass was incomplete.
SEPPUKU FOR ALL KICKERS
"I led it to the right. If I had a harakiri knife, I would have committed it right there. Everything we've been working for as a team went down the drain."
—Detroit Lions kicker Eddie Murray, who missed a 43-yard field goal attempt that would have beaten the 49ers in the divisional round.
"When you miss four field goals and you know you're better than that, you can't feel like a hero."
—Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley, who missed four field goals in the NFC Championship Game before connecting on his fifth attempt to give seal a 24-21 win. Moseley, the NFL's MVP in 1982, struggled through the 1983 season, missing potential game-winning field goals in both of Washington's regular-season losses.
"The officials come to training camp and tell us they won't call interference when the ball is uncatchable. Then they throw a penalty flag on a pass that lands out of bounds and never could have been caught."
—San Francisco 49ers cornerback Eric Wright, flagged for pass interference on the Redskins' game-winning drive.
"It's devastating to a player because you play your heart out and if the referees had any heart, they wouldn't make questionable calls like that. You've got to be certain, and those calls at the end weren't certain at all."
—San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ronnie Lott, flagged for defensive holding later on the same drive.
"Those were silly calls made my men who saw an opportunity to have an impact on an historical event. Unbelievable. It's a shame."
—Losing head coach Bill Walsh, whose 49ers trailed by 21 going into the fourth quarter before tying the game on three Joe Montana touchdown passes.
COWS: TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION
—Special Far Side-like cartoon for the Seattle Times, drawn by request by local resident Gary Larson a few days before the AFC Championship Game against the Raiders.
6-FOOT-3 AND FULL OF CHEMICALLY-ENHANCED MUSCLE
"Yeah, I said [expletive] the Seahawks. I mean, what the [expletive] do you think this game is? A [expletive] love match?"
—Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Lyle Alzado, psyching himself up for the game.
"Rumble. I like that. Rumble. That's what we wanted to do. Get up into their faces. Get into their heads. I think it worked. ... By the middle of the second quarter, we had them thinking about fighting instead of football."
—Alzado after a dominant 30-14 victory.
"I bought a Super Bowl ticket for my pet pig. Can I get him in?"
—Caller to NFL league headquarters. The request was denied.
ACING THE MATH TEST
"Let's see—it was six points out of 38. So it was 3/19ths, I guess."
—Los Angeles Raiders special teamer Derrick Jensen, asked what the impact of his first-quarter blocked punt and touchdown recovery was.
PASS THE FOOTBALL ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE
"I was kind of surprised. I thought they'd run the ball to run out the clock. But [defensive coach Charlie Sumner] specifically told me to watch Joe [Washington] on the screen."
—Los Angeles Raiders linebacker Jack Squirek, whose 5-yard pick-six late in the second quarter of Super Bowl XVIII sent the Raiders to the locker room with a 21-3 lead.
"There were  seconds left. I thought we could set something up. The same play worked last time."
—Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. The same rocket screen had gained 67 yards in the Raiders-Redskins regular season matchup.
MAKING THE STADIUM ROCK
"It was kind of my fault at the start. I should have been inside instead of trying it to take it to the outside. They were all waiting for me there so I turned around and tried to make something out of nothing."
—Super Bowl MVP Marcus Allen, who circled in the backfield before breaking through for a 74-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders a commanding 35-9 lead.
EVERYTHING OK, MR. COMMISSIONER?