We have reached the 1982 NFL season on NFL Thursday, a year where the Associated Press actually voted to give the MVP to a pure kicker. To say the league was in flux and the mediots didn’t know what to do about that is an understatement. See our note at the very bottom of this post!
This edition of our column is notable, too, as we finally have statistical data for sacks, meaning defensive players will get more love in our analyses from here on out. This was also a strike-shortened season where teams played just 9 regular-season games, throwing traditional stats of whack a bit. We adjusted our expectations, obviously, as clarified below.
Lastly, we had a split vote for the MVP awards, too, so leave it to us to unscramble the crazy puzzle of the 1982 NFL season! Read on …
1982 MVP: Mark Moseley (original AP) & Dan Fouts (original PFWA), Ken Anderson (revised)
Let’s start with those defensive guys: Minnesota Vikings defense end Doug Martin (11.5 sacks, 1 interception), Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Dennis Harrison (10.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery), and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton (9 sacks) were the best of the bunch for sacks. Any season with at least a sack a game is good one, of course.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls was the only player with more than 5 INTs, as he recorded 7 in the shortened, nine-game season. None of these defensive efforts stand out from the crowd while screaming “MVP!” in any way. The Vikings won just 5 games, while the Eagles and the Bears missed the playoffs. Dallas won 6 games for second best in the NFC.
On to the quarterbacks then. Our 1981 MVP winner, Cincinnati Bengals star Ken Anderson, once again led the NFL in passer rating (95.3), while also setting an all-time record by completing 70.6 percent of his passes. San Diego Chargers QB Dan Fouts was second in QB rating (93.3), by the way.
No runners topped 1,000 yards in this short season, but 18 different backs topped 62.5 yards-per-game averages, the required number of yards per game to do so, usually. Los Angeles Raiders rookie Marcus Allen may have been the best one: He finished fourth in rushing yards (697), while scoring 11 touchdowns and finishing sixth in yards per game (77.4).
When it comes to receivers, one player stands out impressively: Chargers WR Wes Chandler, who posted 1,032 yards and 9 TDs without fumbling—in just 8 games. Remember, the single-season receiving yardage record at the time was 1,746 yards (put up by our AFL MVP from 1961), and Chandler’s number prorated to 2,064 yards in a full season. Think about that for a sec.
Now, Chandler also finished third in total yards from scrimmage, trailing just Allen (1,098 total yards, 14 TDs total, 5 fumbles) and Atlanta Falcons fullback William Andrews (1,076 with 7 TDs and 1 fumble). Chandler came in with 1,064 yards, the same 9 TDs, and the same zero fumbles. He also played one game less than both Allen and Andrews.
In the end, we see this as a debate between Anderson and Chandler (with Allen in a distant third), in truth, despite all the other numbers above. The former set a serious record that lasted until 2009 when it was tied (and then broken in 2011), and the latter could have if circumstances had been different.
Both teams made the playoffs, so what about the supporting casts? This really matters, as we have explored before repeatedly.
This is where Anderson moves ahead, in our analysis, as the Bengals merely had their “triplets”—fullback Pete Johnson (889 total yards, 7 TDs) and wide receiver Cris Collinsworth (689 yards, 1 TD)—while the Chargers basically had quads: running back Chuck Muncie (776 total yards, 9 TDs), and tight end Kellen Winslow (721 total yards, 6 TDs).
Anderson had fewer serious weapons at his disposal in running the Cincy offense, while Chandler certainly benefitted from a good QB and other targets that the defense had to contend with in addition to himself. We always have really respected Chandler’s 8-game achievement here, but in the end, it wasn’t a “record”—and Anderson’s incredible season was.
Note: Mark Moseley, the Washington kicker, won the AP vote despite missing three extra points and not making a field goal longer than 48 yards the entire season. We never even considered this player, obviously. He did set a record for FG accuracy, making 95.2 percent attempts, but since none were long—and he missed three extra points!—it was a fluke, clearly.