Our NFL Thursday miniseries continues into the 1980s as we take on the strike-shortened season of 1982—strangely, only the first of such seasons in this decade of labor strife for professional football in North America. The regular season was reduced to 9 games total, and the playoffs were increased to 16 teams overall under the circumstances. We always wondered why they didn’t keep that kind of fun …
(And if you’re curious, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context.)
Super Bowl XVII MVP: John Riggins, RB, Washington (original, confirmed)
The Washington Redskins won their first Super Bowl with a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins, that saw the victors outscore the opponent, 17-0, in the second half. In fact, the Redskins scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to cap their come-from-behind win, and Washington running back John Riggins was voted the MVP for his 166 yards rushing—a record at the time—and the huge go-ahead TD run.
Riggins ran for 610 yards in 4 playoffs games, and that steamrolling momentum basically clinched the award for him, after he ran for only 553 yards in 8 games during the regular season. Overall, in the Super Bowl, the Redskins rushed for 276 yards, as quarterback Joe Theismann struggled a bit against the Dolphins stout defense. He tossed two interceptions as Washington managed just 124 passing yards.
Defensively for the ‘Skins, free safety Mark Murphy (6 tackles, 1 INT) was the only standout player for the team, and that stat line is not enough to warrant any sort of mention in the same breath as Riggins when it comes to an MVP discussion. We confirm Riggins’ MVP hardware, readily. This is only the fifth Super Bowl MVP vote winner we’ve agreed with in 17 seasons, by the way.
1982 NFL ROTY: Marcus Allen, RB, Los Angeles & Chip Banks, LB, Cleveland (original); Banks (revised)
The voters were on target this season, as Los Angeles Raiders RB Marcus Allen (1,098 total yards and 14 TDs) and Cleveland Browns linebacker Chip Banks (5.5 sacks, 1 INT) won the votes for the ROTY awards. The latter has more value as the Browns claimed the final AFC playoff spot on a tiebreaker over two other teams, as the Raiders posted the best record in the conference.
No other players really come close to either player on either side of the ball, although Redskins wide receiver Charlie Brown (690 receiving yards and 8 TDs) and New Orleans Saints defensive end Bruce Clark (5.5 sacks) were in the neighborhood. Washington posted the best record in the NFC, while the Saints lost out on the final NFC postseason berth on a tiebreaker.
Therefore, in terms of value and accomplishment, we give this nod to Banks alone, even though we know Allen was a special talent. Circumstances are what they are here, after all. And in 26 seasons of analyzing this award, this is the 18th time we’ve confirmed a winner for the award (or a co-winner). Also, Allen and Banks were teammates on the 1978-1981 USC Trojans—a team that won some stuff, too. Go figure …
Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!