If you’ve been following along in this series on the history of NFL offenses, you’ve probably noticed that, although the overall trend in productivity has been positive, there is much ebb and flow within that upward trend.1 After a league-wide offensive explosion in the eighties, innovative defensive coaches began devising successful strategies to slow down the opposition. After peaking in 1985, offensive output began to slow down; in 1992, the league reached its lowest mark since 1978.2
As usual, the base metric for offensive performance is total adjusted yards, which gives bonuses for touchdowns and first downs and penalizes turnovers:
TAY = Yds + 20*TD + 9*(1d – TD) – 45*Int – 25*Fmb
While the number of plays per game teams run hasn’t actually changed much since the 1940s, the timbre of those plays has changed. With increased focus on ball control, offenses have steadily increased output without getting much better at moving the ball down the field. Yards and touchdowns per play have remained basically the same, while first downs and turnovers have improved dramatically. When you compare the table below to the tables from previous decades, this will be clear.
1990s NFL Offenses
The table below lists the 291 teams seasons in the 1990s and is sorted by marginal adjusted yards. Read it thus: The 1992 San Francisco 49ers scored 431 points and gained 6195 yards on 994 plays. They lost 22 turnovers and gained 344 first downs. They had 8830 total adjusted yards at 8.88 per play. This was 2.57 above average, for 2550 marginal adjusted yards. On a per game basis, they gained 552 TAY.
The 1990s was an interesting decade for the San Francisco 49ers. Statistically, Steve Young and George Seifert produced consistently better offenses than Joe Montana and Bill Walsh ever produced. However, their paucity of championships has left fans forgetting how truly remarkable those teams actually were. The 49ers’ 1992 seasons ranks first, but they also have seasons that rank second, fifth, sixth, and eleventh in the decade. Overall, San Francisco produced 15036 marginal adjusted yards of offense during the nineties – the second highest single-decade mark in history.
After toiling away in Tampa for two years, Young had the good fortune of being traded to San Francisco and learning from Walsh as Montana’s understudy. When age and injuries finally made his predecessor expendable, Young finally got the call to start. He responded with arguably the greatest statistical peak of any quarterback in NFL history.3 He earned two MVP awards and broke Montana’s Super Bowl record with six passing touchdowns in a blowout victory over the Chargers. When his career was cut short from concussions, he was the all time leader in passer rating; currently he ranks fourth in history.4
Young had help stepping out of the large shadow of Montana. Guy McIntyre, Jesse Sapolu, and Harris Barton provided plenty of help up front, while Brent Jones and Ricky Watters were more than capable of bailing him out on dump off passes. By the time they were gone, talented runner Garrison Hearst and future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens stepped up to the plate. However, despite all of the other talent in the Bay Area, no one helped Young step into the light quite as much as the seemingly ageless Jerry Rice.
From 1990-1996, Rice averaged 101 catches for 1430 yards and 13 touchdowns5 He earned a Pro Bowl nod each year and a first team All Pro selection in six of those years. Despite an injury limiting him to just 78 yards in 1997, Rice still gained over 12000 yards in the decade, which was over 1200 yards more than any other player.6 Famous for his training regimen, Rice was able to bounce back from his age 35 injury and play for another seven seasons (averaging 70/920/6).7 The career leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, he has earned the nickname The GOAT.
When fans think of the 90s, they generally think of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty, which celebrated three Super Bowl wins between 1992 and 1995. Those fans might be surprised to learn that the Cowboys never had a remarkable offensive season. Their best season, 1995, ranks twelfth in marginal adjusted yards and thirteenth in MAY/P. Despite fielding four Hall of Famers and several all stars, Dallas’s offense was almost always second to San Fran’s. However, their consistent productivity led to them ranking second in the decade in cumulative MAY (with 6017).
Head coach Jimmy Johnson took over in 1989 and was still building the team in the early part of the nineties. By 1992, he had drafted Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, ultimately known as the Triplets. Aikman didn’t post gaudy stats during his career, but he was incredibly accurate and generally avoided turnovers. When Dallas needed him to make plays in the postseason, he usually did so, and he earned his reputation as a playoff performer.8
Many modern fans look at Irvin’s 65 career touchdowns (tied for 50th all time) and write him off. However, his role in the Cowboys offense was to move the ball as far downfield as possible; sometimes it resulted in a touchdown for him, but it often resulted in a touchdown for Emmitt. Irvin was a powerful receiver who initiated contact with defenders and manhandled them on his way to winning routes and making contested catches. Dubbed the Playmaker, he earned the moniker by producing big games; his 53 games with over 100 receiving yards still ranks fifth all time.
Smith was arguably the most important piece of the puzzle for Dallas. He remains the NFL’s all time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, and he accomplished those feats through a combination of superb balance, uncommon toughness, and perhaps the greatest vision of any back in history. Critics point out that he benefited from running behind one of the great lines in history. However, none of his backups came close to matching his production behind the same lines. It’s fair to say he made them look just as good as they made him look.
That dominant line, known as the Great Wall of Dallas, comprised undrafted or late-round players who embodied the tough and mean spirit coach Johnson desired. Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, and Mark Stepnoski made up a stout left side of the line, but right tackle Erik Williams was undeniably the star of the group. His power and ferocity were unparalleled, and he is one of the few men in history who can honestly claim to have shut down the great Reggie White. The Cowboys would later pick up Larry Allen, arguably the top interior lineman of the last quarter century. Allen mauled defenders and earned the title of strongest man in the NFL. The Great Wall, in concert with blocking fullback Daryl Johnston and All Pro tight end Jay Novacek, made Dallas a force to be reckoned with up front.
The 1998 Minnesota Vikings are remembered for being the highest scoring team in history up to that point. Randall Cunningham led the way with a career year. Having transformed into a pocket passer in his old age, Cunningham use his powerful arm to put rookie Randy Moss‘s incredible speed to full use. Moss, for his part, produced arguably the greatest rookie season from any receiver since Bob Hayes, with 17 touchdowns, 1317 yards, and more highlights than some players make in their careers. The ’98 season also saw great performances from Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter and habitually underrated running back Robert Smith. That season alone was enough to push the Vikings into the number three spot in cumulative MAY during the decade. While the team was consistently average to good for the majority of the nineties, they took a big step forward in 1997; their three-year MAY of 4325 is responsible for nearly 80% of their total decade output (5462).
In addition to their big-armed quarterback, superstar receivers, and multidimensional halfback, Minnesota also boasted a solid offensive line. The leader of the line was seven time first team All Pro guard Randall McDaniel. The Hall of Fame guard set the tone while center Jeff Christy kept pace.9 The line also featured promising right tackle Korey Stringer. He tragically pass away just after turning 27, but he left a legacy unrivaled by many who played full careers.[10 Stringer’s unexpected death from heat stroke, and the impact it had on NFL, college, and high school policy, is detailed in the linked article.]
After seemingly carrying the offense on his back during the 80s and early 90s, John Elway finally got some much needed help. West Coast Offense and zone-blocking expert Mike Shanahan took over as head coach in 1995 and immediately turned around Denver’s fortunes.10 The Denver offense was good-to-great every year Elway and Shanahan were together. They were so successful that, despite poor output in the beginning of the decade, the Broncos finished with the fourth ranked total offense of the nineties.
Their most productive season came in 1998, their second title year. Elway had one of the most efficient bouts of his storied career, and Hall of Fame caliber running back Terrell Davis eclipsed 2000 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing.11 Alex Gibbs’s stellar offensive line helped Davis become the most productive runner in a league that featured five HOF contemporaries. Tony Jones (who had taken over for HOF tackle Gary Zimmerman) teamed with Mark Schlereth and Tom Nalen to form an imposing left side, and Davis used his remarkable vision and burst to take full advantage of the zone scheme.
When Elway dropped back to pass, he had the privilege of throwing to the often underrated and ultra competitive Rod Smith12 and the unfairly gifted receiving tight end Shannon Sharpe. Sharpe played the position like a wide receiver in a linebacker’s body, and he carried Ozzie Newsome‘s torch of hyper-athletic tight ends into the 21st century and, ultimately, into the Hall of Fame.
It may come as a surprise to see the 1999 Rams with such a relatively low ranking (ninth in TAY and fourth in MAY), but there is a good reason for the demotion from the lofty heights the Greatest Show on Turf occupies in our collective memory. While they scored the second most points of any team in the decade, 79 of those points came from defense or special teams.13 Of course, 447 points is still great and would rank eleventh in the decade, but it doesn’t put the 1999 Rams in the pantheon of historic offensive seasons.
All that being said, St. Louis was still a force to be reckoned with. Unknown rookie Kurt Warner stepped in for an injured Trent Green and went on to become just the second quarterback ever to throw more than 40 touchdowns in a season. Warner thrived in Don Coryell disciple Mike Martz‘s offensive system, which emphasized intermediate and deep passes and a versatile running back. Future Hall of Fame left tackle Orlando Pace made it possible for Warner to complete seven step drops and allow deeper routes to develop, while talented receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt forced secondaries to pick their poison in coverage.
In an offense full of all stars, the true engine that drove the GSOT train was Marshall Faulk. After leading the NFL in scrimmage yards for a forgettable Colts team, Faulk joined the Rams and broke the season record for YFS. He would ultimately extend his streak of 2000+ YFS seasons to four.14 He was a fluid and shifty runner who held onto the ball better than almost any back in history. He also possessed an incredible ability to read and respond to coverages as a receiver out of the backfield or from the slot.15
In 1990, coach Jack Pardee became the head coach of the Houston Oilers and brought his run and shoot offense with him. The offense eschewed the use of fullbacks and tight ends, opting instead to spread the field with four wide receivers and a single tailback. Pardee found the perfect trigger man in Hall of Famer Warren Moon. In their first two years together, Moon led the league in completions and yards, as the Oilers became the first team in history to pass on more than 66% of their plays.
Moon exploited the lack of depth in opposing secondaries by spreading the ball effectively between talented wideouts Ernest Givins, Haywood Jeffires, and Drew Hill.16 Because four receiver sets, by their very nature, keep extra blockers off the field, there was added pressure on the offensive line to generate movement on running plays. Star linemen Bruce Matthews and Mike Munchak shored up the interior, while the stocky Lorenzo White used his own mass to help negate the lack of added blockers.17
Unfortunately, the offensive design was too reliant on the pass and was sometimes unable to run out the clock late in games. This led to solid regular seasons followed by playoff letdowns. Moon was traded to the Vikings after 1993, and Pardee was fired midway through 1994. New coach Jeff Fisher subsequently redefined the team to win with defense and rushing, relying heavily on college stars Eddie George and Steve McNair to lead the offensive charge.18
The following year, using an uptempo offensive of its own, Marv Levy‘s Buffalo Bills paced the league offensively. Borrowing heavily from Sam Wyche‘s no huddle attack, Levy used his arsenal of all star players to outscore opponents into submission. The Bills rode this explosive offense to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances; although they came up short each time, this remains an astonishing feat. Their offense was called the K-Gun, after versatile tight end Keith McKeller. McKeller’s ability to block and catch allowed the team to run a no huddle offense without substituting specialized players.19 All Pro center Kent Hull also contributed significantly, as he was adept at pass and run blocking.
Quarterback Jim Kelly found great success calling his own plays on the field. Depending on the look of the defense, he could pass to Hall of Fame receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton, or he could hand the ball off to Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas. Regardless of what defenses did, the Bills had a Hall of Famer to attack the weakness. Although Kelly called the plays, Thomas was arguably the key to success in Buffalo. He was a great runner and receiver, topping 1700 YFS every year from 1989 to 1993. In 1991, he produced his first of two seasons over 2000 scrimmage yards and was named the NFL MVP.
The Bad and the Ugly
The Seattle Seahawks are on the verge of becoming the NFL’s next great dynasty, but in 1992 they were abysmal. They scored just 140 points and gained only 3374 yards and 208 first downs, both of which are lows for the decade. With -2.77 MAY/P, they were easily the worst offense on a per play basis. Ultimately, their -2613 marginal adjusted yards are at the deepest bottom of the barrel.
Chris Warren was the only ray of light, producing the first of six straight seasons with more than 1000 yards per season. However, the rest of the team was dismal. Seattle’s leading receiver was a fullback, an their number one receiver gained only 369 yards.
While the 1992 Seahawks had the worst single season offense, the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals had the worst overall offense of the nineties. The only year their production was above average (and only slightly so) was 1993. Those nine below average seasons add up to -8434 marginal adjusted yards at a decade-worst -0.84 MAY/P. On top of that, the team had no real stars to speak of.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fielded the second worst cumulative offense of the decade. When Tony Dungy arrived in 1996, he reformed the Tampa defense, but he couldn’t help the moribund offense. With only one positive season in the 90s, the Bucs ended the decade with -7747 marginal adjusted yards. Interestingly, from 1997 to 2001, the team rostered arguably both the most underrated and overrated rushers in the NFL.20
The New England Patriots started the nineties in shambles and didn’t get much better as the decade progressed. The arrival of Bill Parcells in 1993 and Drew Bledsoe in 1994 helped turn the offense into a slightly above average production, and Ray Perkins‘s scheme allowed All Pro tight end Ben Coates to thrive. However, the team didn’t find any consistent offensive success until the following decade, when a genius head coach and an unheralded quarterback fro Michigan would lead the team to unprecedented heights.
Other Notable Figures
Montana was unceremoniously traded to the Chiefs before the 1993 season. Although his physical skills were diminished, he maintained some of the magic that endeared him to San Francisco fans. He led Kansas City to an upset victory over his former team – and eventual Super Bowl champion – in 1994. The previous year, he led them to the AFC Championship game as a wild card team. The two playoff victories in 1993 are the last two in franchise history.
Marino played until 1999, retiring as the all time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He experienced limited individual and team success after turning 30, although he still possessed one of the quickest releases in the league. In his final season, at the age of 38, Marino led the league in sack rate for the tenth time in his Hall of Fame career.
Brett Favre began his career as an afterthought on the Atlanta Falcons. However, after being traded to the Packers, he quickly became one of the best and most exciting players in the NFL. From 1995 to 1997, he led the league in touchdown passes and picked up a then-record three MVP awards. Favre also helped bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown, defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl 31. He would go on to start a record 321 consecutive games and take the throne from Marino as the career leader in yards and touchdowns.
Undeniably the most thrilling runner of his generation Barry Sanders, embarrassed defenses for a decade before abruptly retiring at the age of 30. Despite being the only serious threat on his offense and, consequently, facing defenses designed to stop him, he led the league in rushing yards four times and was the runner-up thrice. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 1527 yards per season, highlighted by his incredible 2053 yard, 6.1 YPC outing in 1997. He was the second ranked rusher in history at the time of his retirement.21
Martin was a dependable runner whose best characteristics were probably vision and ball control. His 0.72% fumble rate is among the greatest of all time. Only Emmitt Smith has more thousand yard rushing seasons, and no one has more 1400 YFS seasons. Martin produced equally well for the Patriots and the Jets and led the league in rushing as a 31 year old. He currently ranks fourth on the all time rushing list.
Before Bettis was a plodding bruiser who moved the chains in short yardage situations or scored touchdowns in goal line packages, he was a premier NFL running back. He began his career with two consecutive thousand yard seasons for the Rams before a coaching change saw him thrust into a role for which he was ill-suited. He was traded to Pittsburgh, where his tough running style meshed with the gritty persona of the team and city itself, and immediately endeared himself to fans. He posted six straight thousand yard seasons and retired as the sixth leading rusher in history.
Tim Brown is an interesting case. An undeniable talent and Heisman Trophy winner in college, he was hamstrung with poor quarterback play and curious personnel management for a good part of his career. During his first half decade in the NFL, he was the best receiver on the Raiders but was relegated primarily to special teams and third down packages. Once put in a full time role, he posted 80 or more catches and 1000 or more yards in nine of the next ten years. His 100 career receiving touchdowns are tied with Steve Largent for seventh all time.
Sterling Sharpe is one of the biggest “what-ifs” in modern NFL history. After producing at a high level with mediocre quarterback play, his output exploded once Favre became his quarterback. He led the NFL in receptions or touchdowns in two of the three years he spent with Favre before suffering a career ending injury in his prime. One could argue, without hyperbole, that Sharpe was briefly the top receiver in a league that also contained Rice, Irvin, Carter, and Brown.
Perhaps no Detroit player benefited more from sharing the field with Barry Sanders than did Herman Moore. With defenses geared to stop the run, Moore posted three consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions, leading the league twice. His run of statistical superiority was short-lived, but it was nearly unparalleled in sheer volume of catches.
After being dumped by Dallas, Jimmy Smith, got a fresh start under Tom Coughlin and the expansion Jaguars. Once Mark Brunell became the full time starting quarterback in 1996, Smith produced seven straight thousand yard campaigns (he also had two more after Brunell’s departure). His career numbers are even more impressive when you consider how rarely his teams actually passed the ball.
After toiling in obscurity in San Francisco and New Orelans, Wesley Walls landed on a young Carolina team at the age of 30. He then made the Pro Bowl in five or the next six seasons. Over that span, he ranked first among all tight ends, with 40 receiving touchdowns. He also ranked fourth at his position in both receptions and yards. Not bad for a guy who didn’t find a home until the twilight of his career.
Between 1993 and 1997, four of the premier tackles in history joined the league. Willie Roaf (1993), Tony Boselli (1995), Jonathan Ogden (1996), and Walter Jones (1997) were once-a-decade linemen who happened to enter the NFL on a wave of talent infusion.
Roaf earned seven Pro Bowl nods and two first team All Pro selections with the Saints before finishing his career in Kansas City. With the Chiefs, he made the Pro Bowl all four years and helped anchor one of the most dominant offensive lines in NFL history.
Boselli was arguably the best of the bunch – a mean mauler who played with uncommon power and drive – but had his Canton-worthy career abbreviated by lingering injuries. During his six years as a starter, he made five Pro Bowls and earned three AP1 selections. He protected Brunell’s left side and paved the way for a young Fred Taylor.
At 6’9″ and 340 pounds, Ogden is the largest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As the first ever draft pick of the Ravens, he made his presence known right away, anchoring a strong offensive line that help Jamal Lewis rush for the third most yards ever in a single season.
Jones may have been the most technically skilled of any tackle ever to play. Coach Mike Holmgren said he was the greatest player he ever coached. Holmgren, of course, also coached Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Brett Farve. That’s high praise.
Richmond Webb and Lomas Brown are a pair of left tackles who made seven Pro Bowls apiece while playing for generally forgettable teams. Webb made his mark protecting Marino’s blind side, while Brown protected a revolving door of nondescript passers in Detroit and Arizona.22
Will Shields played his entire 14 year career in Kansas City, earning twelve Pro Bowl selections and a pair of first team All Pro nods. Shields started the second game of his rookie season and didn’t miss another start in his final 223 games. Early in his career, he blocked for Joe Montana; and by the end of his career, he joined forces with Roaf, Brian Waters, and Casey Wiegman to compose a formidable front.
Steve Wisniewski was a talented guard who made it to eight Pro Bowls and two All Pro first teams, despite spending his career playing for a middling Raiders franchise. A member of the 1990s All Decade Team, Wisniewski would likely have a bust in Canton if he played on the other side of San Francisco Bay.
Ruben Brown has the distinction of having been named to the most Pro Bowls (9) of any player never to earn a first team All Pro selection. Entering the league with Buffalo on the wrong side of the K-Gun revolution, Brown only got to spend two seasons blocking for Kelly and Thomas. The talented blocker is yet another example of “wrong place, wrong time.”
Dermontti Dawson remains the last great center the NFL has seen. He had big shoes to fill, taking over for the legendary Mike Webster, and he filled them comfortably. At just 6’2″ he possessed great leverage and was able to use that to generate tremendous functional strength. Dawson also had rare quickness for his size, and has been described as the best athlete ever to play the position.23
1990s NFL Offenses on Average
This table should give you some context for the first table, as well as for the graphic below. Read it thus: In 1990, the average NFL team scored 322.0 points and gained 4937.9 yards on 965.2 plays. They had 31.8 turnovers and picked up 284.2 first downs. These numbers combined to 6381 total adjusted yards at 6.61 per play and 399 per game.
As you can see in the chart below, the offensive explosion of the 80s began to level off around 1986 before declining steadily from 1989-92. After an outlier season in 1995, offensive production once again stabilized for roughly a decade (you can’t see past 2000 here, but the numbers don’t begin an upward trend until 2005).
Unlike in previous decades, there weren’t many rules created to open up offenses. In fact, most major rule changes were aimed at promoting player safety and making the game more watchable for television viewers.
- In 1991, the league voted to adopt the unabated to the quarterback rule, which declared a play dead if any offside defender had a clear path to the quarterback. This helped preserve the welfare of the most important players on the field.
- In 1992, in order to increase player safety, offensive players lined up in the backfield at the beginning of a play were prohibited from chop blocking a defender already engaged with another blocker. This primarily kept defensive linemen from receiving career-threatening leg injuries.
- In 1992, owners voted to eschew instant replay. They would reintroduce it in 1999, under a revamped system similar to the one implemented by the defunct USFL.24
- In 1993, in an effort to speed up the game, the play clock was reduced from 45 to 40 seconds. This had a negligible impact, as the average plays per game remained in line with the historical trend.
- In 1993 intentional grounding rules were modified to allow quarterbacks to throw away a pass so long as they are outside the pocket and the ball reaches the original line of scrimmage. This change prevented quarterbacks from forcing unsafe passes and provided an outlet for self-preservation that didn’t result in a penalty.
- Also in 1993, the league agreed that spiking the ball was now permitted for anyone taking the snap from the center, so long as the spike occurred immediately upon receiving the snap. If the spike is not immediate, it is intentional grounding. This rule was implemented to increase excitement associated with comebacks.
- In 1994, 24 years after merging with the progressive AFL, the NFL finally adopted the two point conversion. Now, 21 years later, teams still don’t use it enough.
- In 1994, the NFL moved kickoffs back to the 30 yard line to encourage more return plays and, thus, further increase excitement.
- Also in, 1994 the league mandated that missed field goals would be spotted at the spot of the kick rather than the previous line of scrimmage. This, in effect, penalized teams about 7 yards for a missed kick. The rule also stipulated that, if the result of the possession is inside the 20, the ball would be spotted on the 20 yard line. This could result in a “penalty” of up to 13 yards for the kicking team.
- The final piece in the 1994 offensive improvement policy bundle was the roughing the passer rule, which penalized defenders for late hits on the quarterback.
- The following year, league brass determined quarterbacks were permitted to receive radio communications from the sidelines, enabling offenses to have a strategic advantage over defenses.
- In 1998, it became illegal for defensive players to flinch or otherwise move in a manner aimed at tricking offensive linemen to false start. This had modest results, but it did remove a cheap strategic element from the defensive repertoire.
Two important, non-regulatory events took place in the nineties: the creation of the World League of American Football (later named NFL Europe) and the collective bargaining agreement of 1993.
While NFL Europe wasn’t a success from a pure business standpoint, it did give the NFL an avenue to try out new ideas before implementing them.25 Moreover, the new league allowed the NFL to expand its reach further into international markets, thereby increasing its overseas appeal and augmenting future television viewership.
In 1993, in response to Freeman McNeil‘s successful lawsuit (and the subsequent NFLPA class action lawsuit in Reggie White‘s name), the league and players signed a seven-year collective bargaining agreement. The agreement was the first one ratified since the 1982 CBA expired in 1987. The new CBA was the most comprehensive in the history of American sports and guaranteed over $1 billion in benefits for active and former players. The agreement also guaranteed players with four years experience in the NFL the right to unrestricted free agency (with the notable exception of the oft-abused franchise tag).
The NFLPA also agreed to terms that players would be paid based on a percentage of league revenues. Given the rapidly increasing popularity of the league, in concert with large television network contracts, the deal paid immediate dividends for players. Playing in the NFL was already a lucrative option for elite athletes, but the 1993 CBA made it even more attractive, as salaries increased nearly 40 percent. This once again increased the likelihood of talented athletes aspiring to a future in the NFL rather than the NBA or MLB.
- If you haven’t been following along, you can read articles on the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, as well as the AAFC and AFL. ↩
- League-wide offensive production would never come close to this afterwards. Offensive output sprung rose rapidly until 1995 before leveling off again and remaining stable until 2004. ↩
- From 1991-1998, Young led the NFL in completion rate five times, touchdowns four times, interception rate twice, yards per attempts five times, passer rating six times, and ANY/A four times. ↩
- If you include only his time with the 49ers, he jumps to number two. Of course, it is important to note that Young spent several years learning to be a good passer before finally starting, and his career ended early enough to prevent him from experiencing a likely decline. ↩
- This includes a 100/1502/13 line with Montana in 1990. ↩
- This ranks second only to Torry Holt‘s 12594 yards from 2000-2009. ↩
- Incredibly, if you only count his production from his age 30 season on, Rice ranks 7th all time in receptions, 10th in receiving yards, and 6th in receiving touchdowns. ↩
- His stats back this up: Aikman’s cmp%, Y/A, TD%, passer rating, ANY/A, and TAY/P all increased in the postseason. The only area of decline was interception rate, which is to be expected when quarterbacks focus more on making big plays. ↩
- Interestingly, when McDaniel left for Tampa in 2000, Christy followed him; they both made the Pro Bowl together with their new team. ↩
- Shanahan is an interesting figure: he has received derision based on his recent coaching stint with Washington, but he has also received undue praise as an offensive innovator. He was a great coach who got the best out of quarterbacks and running backs, but he wouldn’t have achieved such success without the help of zone-blocking guru Alex Gibbs. Gibbs, for his part, is often given too much credit for being the “godfather” of a blocking scheme detailed in a posthumous book by Vince Lombardi. ↩
- And he did so while only fumbling twice, which is remarkable. ↩
- Smith once lamented the fact that they track wins for quarterbacks and not for wide receivers ↩
- That’s 7 interception touchdowns, 1 fumble return, 2 kickoff returns, 1 punt return, and a safety. ↩
- In addition to Faulk, only Walter Payton and Eric Dickerson have hit the mark four times. ↩
- Many of posited that Faulk could have made the Hall of Fame as a wide receiver had he decided to play that position. ↩
- Curtis Duncan was the other starting receiver, but he wasn’t on the level of the other three. ↩
- It was fairly common for run and shoot backs to be heavy, with the thought being that they could act as their own fullbacks, as it were. This was not universal, of course. Just the following year, Houston’s leading rusher was the 190 pound Allen Pinkett. ↩
- Results were mixed. The team moved to Tennessee and rebranded as the Titans, and they came within one play of possibly forcing the first ever overtime in a Super Bowl. However, they were inconsistent and experienced little postseason success outside of their loss in the 1999 title game. ↩
- In this way, McKeller is a schematic ancestor to players like Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, and Vernon Davis. ↩
- That’s Warrick Dunn, a versatile receiving back, and Mike Alstott, a fullback who couldn’t block, for those interested. ↩
- If he would have produced one more season at his average of 1527 yards, he would have retired as the all time leader in rushing yards (he would have ultimately been passed by Emmitt, however). ↩
- Webb earned two first team All Pro nods in Miami, while Brown picked up one with the Lions. ↩
- Granted, this was from Bill Cowher, his former coach. However, Cowher isn’t prone to hyperbole, and simply watching footage will convince the skeptical. ↩
- The NFL is always on the cutting edge. ↩
- For instance, the two point conversion and quarterback helmet radios were used in NFL Europe prior to adoption by the NFL proper. The experimental league’s overtime rules were also remarkably similar to the ones the NFL adopted in 2010. ↩