It’s time to start the 1980s on this NFL Thursday miniseries, as we move to a new era in the NFL’s game style. More passing would creep into the game incrementally throughout the decade, starting the process that we see at its fruition today with the aerial attacks in the modern game. The “West Coast Offense” would enter the sport’s lexicon soon, and that would change everything.
(And if you’re wanting to, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context.)
Super Bowl XV MVP: Jim Plunkett, QB, Oakland (original, confirmed)
This is interesting as we just stripped Jim Plunkett of his 1970 Heisman Trophy this week, but he was voted the MVP of the Oakland Raiders’ 27-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw just 21 passes, but Plunkett gained 261 yards in doing so and connected for three touchdowns, too. The Raiders only gained 3.4 yards per carry on the ground, so the damage was done through the air.
However, we also want to point out the defensive efforts of linebacker Rod Martin: He intercepted 3 passes and recorded 5 total tackles, so he ended up being a one-man wrecking crew for the Oakland defense, which did not record a sack. One of the interceptions came on the first Philly pass of the game, actually, and it set up the Raiders’ first TD. Plunkett’s second TD pass was a deep screen that went long.
Martin’s other INTs came in the second half as the Eagles tried to play catch up, but the third one came late in the game with the score already 27-10 and the outcome no longer in question. So, we will confirm Plunkett’s award in this case, as he did enough on his own to win this game, even though Martin would be our distinct second choice for the award.
1980 NFL ROTY: Billy Sims, RB, Detroit & Buddy Curry, LB, Atlanta (original); Joe Cribbs, RB, Buffalo (revised)
Detroit Lions running back Billy Sims (1,924 scrimmage yards and 16 TDs) had a great year, but his team lost out on a tiebreak for the NFC Central Division title with its 9-7 mark. Meanwhile, Atlanta Falcons LB Buddy Curry (3 INTs, 1.5 sacks) helped his team with the NFC West with a 12-4 record. They shared the ROTY vote, but we do have some other candidates as well—including one from the Falcons’ LB corps.
Al Richardson, arguably, was better than his teammate Curry, since he posted 7 INTs and 3 sacks. Either way, they cancel each other out, and the best defensive rookie was probably Denver Broncos defensive end Rulon Jones (11.5 sacks). But with an 8-8 finish for this team, he won’t be getting our vote for this award. However, Buffalo Bills RB Joe Cribbs—1,600 scrimmage yards and 12 TDs—might.
The Bills posted an 11-5 record to win the AFC East, and the overall team quality and strength of schedule was better for Buffalo than Detroit. Both Cribbs and Sims were the centerpieces of their offensive units, but Buffalo did better against a better schedule. So even though Sims’ statistics look better, we feel Cribbs’ contributions had more value.