It is time for 1987 on NFL Thursday this week, and this marks the onset of media stupidity in the form we still see it today: cluelessness. Before the Super Bowl, someone allegedly asked Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams the dumbest question ever put forth to an athlete—and it’s not quite true, but it’s still a fun story to remember about the strike-shortened oddity that is the NFL of 1987.
(And if you’re curious, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context.)
Super Bowl XXII MVP: Doug Williams, QB, Washington (original, confirmed)
Williams became the first black QB to start a Super Bowl, and he delivered under the pressure: The Redskins scored 35 points in the second quarter to erase a 10-point deficit to the Denver Broncos, on the way to a 42-10 victory for the franchise’s second NFL title of the decade. Williams himself tossed four touchdown passes in the quarter, while overall completing 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards.
He won the MVP vote, despite throwing an interception. The only other real option here is running back Timmy Smith, who set a SB record by running for 204 yards (while also scoring the other two Washington TDs). The way we see it is that Williams had tossed two TD passes before Smith scored his first one: That softening of the Broncos defense via the pass opened up the avenues for Smith afterward.
It’s hard to choose between record-setting performances, of course, but the media got it right this time. Plus, Smith’s second TD and additional yardage came after halftime, when it was already 35-10, thanks to Williams’ passing prowess of the second quarter. It remains one of the most explosive moments in NFL playoff history, of course, so we confirm Williams’ award, readily.
1987 NFL ROTY: Troy Stradford, RB, Miami & Shane Conlan, LB, Buffalo (original); Cornelius Bennett, LB, Buffalo (revised)
This was a funny year, due to the strike, as most players only appeared in 12 games. Thus the statistics were a little off. As a result, the ROY vote winners were Miami Dolphins RB Troy Stradford (1,076 scrimmage yards and 7 TDs—and 6 fumbles!) and Buffalo Bills linebacker Shane Conlan (114 tackles). Neither team reached the playoffs, so we can look elsewhere to see who else is a viable candidate here.
The only player who really stands out to us, actually, is Bills LB Cornelius Bennett (8.5 sacks, 69 tackles). Since Conlan only managed a half sack, it’s hard to see how he won this award vote over his teammates. Bennett also forced 5 fumbles, compared to just 1 for Conlan. The reality here is that Conlan played in 12 games while Bennett only managed to be on the field for 8 games.
Still, we see that impact of a sack a game with a lot of tackles being more impressive, and there are no legitimate contenders from playoff teams, so in a rare situation like this one, we give the nod to Bennett instead. Both players would be members of the 1990-1992 Buffalo teams that lost three straight Super Bowls, by the way. Conlan was not on the 1993 squad that lost the Super Bowl a fourth time, however.