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The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
NFL Teams of the '80s
AFC
AFC EAST

Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts
The Colts entered the Eighties at the bottom of the division, but in 1987, thanks in no small part to an historic trade which brought RB Eric Dickerson over from the Los Angeles Rams, the team won the AFC East title. In 1988 Dickerson became the first Colt to lead the league in rushing since 1955. In 1984, Robert Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis.
[AFC East titles: 1987]

Buffalo Bills
A new coach -- Chuck Knox -- had a lot to do with the Bills winning their first divisional title in 1980. But the next six seasons were disappointments. Marv Levy signed on as head coach in 1986, and in 1988, the Bills began their reign as the powerhouse of the AFC East, winning five divisional titles in six years.
[AFC East titles: 1980, 1988, 1989]

Miami Dolphins
Guided by QB Dan Marino, the Dolphins won four divisional titles in the 1980s and two AFC championships, and had only one losing season during the decade (1988). In 1984, Marino threw an all-time record 48 TD passes. In January 1990, founder Joe Robbie passed away.
[AFC East titles: 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985; AFC Champions: 1982, 1984]

New England Patriots
Raymond Barry took over the Patriot coaching duties in 1984, and the following year New England had an 11-5 record to earn a wildcard berth. Winning three playoff games, the Patriots went to Super Bowl XX (which they lost to the Chicago Bears). This was Hall-of-Fame guard John Hannah's final game.
[AFC East titles: 1986; AFC Champions: 1985]

New York Jets
The Jets got into the playoffs as a wildcard team four times in the 1980s, and during the strike-shortened 1982 season progressed as far as the AFC Championship game, which they lost to Miami, 14-0. Running back Don Maynard, the first player to sign with the franchise in 1960, was named to the Hall of Fame in 1987.


AFC CENTRAL

Cincinnati Bengals
In 1981, the year the franchose unveiled its new tiger-stripe uniform, coach Forrest Gregg led his team to an AFC Central title and AFC Championship, only to lose to San Francisco in Super Bowl XVI. Going 4-12 in 1987, the Bengals came back strong in 1988 with QB Boomer Esiason, only to lose Super Bowl XXIII to -- who else? -- the 49ers.
[AFC Central titles: 1981, 1988; AFC Champion: 1981, 1988]

Cleveland Browns
The Browns won the AFC Central not once but five times in the Eighties, and yet they never won a conference championship. QB Brian Sipe was one of the best in the league; when he retired in 1983, after ten seasons in the NFL, he'd compiled 23,713 yards.
[AFC Central titles: 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989]

Houston Oilers
The Oilers had strong but controversial coaching in the Eighties, with Bum Phillips leading the team to the playoffs in 1980 and 1981, while Jerry Glanville did likewise three times between 1986-89. QB Warren Moon teamed with a number of speedy WRs in a dynamic offense that somehow failed to win a division title or conference championship during the decade.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Led by Chuck Noll and QB Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers were, arguably, the team of the '70s, winning their division seven times in the decade. But the '80s weren't as kind to the franchise following the departure of Bradshaw, Franco Harris and other four-time Super Bowl winners.
[AFC Central titles: 1983, 1984]

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos
The Broncos had their first winning season in 1973 -- and continued to improve through the Eighties, winning four division titles and three AFC championships during the decade, helped along by the arm of QB John Elway, who signed on in 1983. Still, a Super Bowl win would elude the Broncos until the late '90s, when they would win two in a row.
[AFC Central titles: 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989; AFC Champions: 1986, 1987, 1989]

Kansas City Chiefs
With the exception of winning a wildcard berth in the playoffs of 1986, the Chiefs did not fare too well in the 1980s, but they assured a better future with the signing of Marty Schottenheimer as head coach in 1989; for most of the Nineties they would be playoff contenders.

Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
In 1982 the Raiders moved from the Oakland Coliseum to the more spacious Los Angeles Coliseum in 1982, and remained there until 1994. During the '80s the team won two Western division titles and two AFC championships, not to mention becoming the only AFC franchise to win a Super Bowl in the Eighties.
[AFC West titles: 1983, 1985; AFC Championships: 1980, 1983; Super Bowls XV, XVIII]

San Diego Chargers
Under Coach Don Coryell, the Chargers captured the AFC West title in 1979, 1980 and 1981 and reached the AFC championship game in the last two seasons (only to lose both times). The vaunted Charger offense was led by Dan Fouts and was called "Air Coryell" due to its reliance on a downfield passing game.
[AFC West titles: 1980, 1981]

Seattle Seahawks
The 1976 expansion franchise hired Chuck Knox as head coach in 1983 and went all the way to the AFC championship game that same year (losing to the LA Raiders). Thanks in part to RB Curt Warner, the Seahawks were back in the playoffs the following year, too. In 1988 the team won its only AFC West title.
[AFC West titles: 1988]

NFC


NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys' reign as "America's Team" lasted into the early Eighties, when the team lost three NFC championship games in a row -- it had been NFC champs five times in the '70s -- and had its first losing season in two decades in 1986. When Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 he replaced Tom Landry with Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, and the rebuilding process began.
[NFC East titles: 1981, 1985]

Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles started the '80s with a club-record 12 wins in the 1980 season, going on to beat the Cowboys in the NFC championship game. The next few years were disappointments for Eagles fans, and in 1985 the rebuilding began, culminating in a division title in 1988. They were contenders for the next four years, as well.
[NFC East titles: 1980, 1988; NFC Champions: 1980]

New York Giants
From 1964 to 1984 the Giants were never playoff contenders. Then Bill Parcells took over as head coach, and the team won the Eastern division twice and the Super Bowl once before the Eighties were out. Its offense was led by wily QB Phil Simms, its defense by LB Lawrence Taylor.
[NFC East titles: 1986, 1989; NFC Champions: 1986; Super Bowl XXI]

St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals
The Cardinals won the NFC east twice in the '70s, but had no such luck in the '80s. In 1988 owner William Bidwell moved the franchise to Phoenix, AZ, where the Cardinals made Sun Devil Stadium their home, but the team still wasn't faring much better as the decade closed.

Washington Redskins
Joe Gibbs, who became the Redskins' head coach in 1981, was the most successful coach in franchise history, with his team winning the NFC East four times in the '80s, the NFC Championship three times, and the Super Bowl twice. Gibbs was NFL Coach of the Year in both 1982 and 1983. In the latter year, workhorse RB John Riggins gained a career-high 1,347 yards (24 TDs).
[NFC East titles: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987; NFC Champions: 1982, 1983, 1987; Super Bowls XVII, XXII]

NFC CENTRAL

Chicago Bears
With the fiery Mike Ditka coaching, the Bears stormed into the playoffs in 1984 on the back of Walter Payton's sensational running, only to lose the NFC championship game. Led by QB Jim McMahon, they came back strong in '85, posting a 15-1 regular season record and winning Super Bowl XX by a score of 46-10. They dominated the division for most of the decade.
[NFC Central titles: 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988; NFC Champions: 1985; Super Bowls: XX]

Detroit Lions
In 1983 the Lions won their division and made their first playoff appearance in a dozen years, only to lose to the Redskins. Despite the presence of stars like RB Billy Sims, the Lions weren't contenders for the rest of the decade. In 1988, Wayne Fontes was made head coach, and in 1989 Barry Sanders joined the roster, and the '90s looked brighter.
[NFC Central titles: 1983]

Green Bay Packers
The Packers got into the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season for the first time in a decade. In 1984, Bart Starr was replaced as head coach by Forrest Gregg (like Starr, a former Packer player). Gregg resigned in the middle of a rebuilding process and, under Lindy Infante, the Pack had a 10-6 record in 1989 -- their best in 17 years.

Minnesota Vikings
Having won the NFC Central an amazing eight times in the '70s, the Vikings, under Head Coach Bud Grant, took the title again in 1980. But many of its star players had retired in '79, and it would be 1989 before they again won the Central. The team did get to the NFC championship game in 1987, only to lose. In 1982 the Vikes moved into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
[NFC Central titles: 1980, 1989]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Doug Williams and DE Roy Selman led the Bucs to their second division title in 1981. During the strike-shortened 1982 season, the team won five out of its last six games and qualified for the playoffs again. The team's first coach, John McKay, retired after the 1984 season, and Tampa Bay did not fare well for the rest of the decade.
[NFC Central titles: 1981]

NFC WEST

Atlanta Falcons
Coach Leeman Bennett led the Falcons to the playoffs three times between 1978 and 1982, with the team setting a team-record with 12 wins in the 1980 season. The explosive Falcon offense included QB Steve Bartowski, RB Gerald Riggs and WR Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.
[NFC West titles: 1980]

Los Angeles Rams
In 1981 the Rams missed the playoffs for the first time since 1972, but in 1983, with a new coach (John Robinson) and RB (Eric Dickerson), the Rams were back as contenders. The team lost to the Bears in the NFC championship game in 1985 and again in 1989 to the 49ers, but were in the hunt every year except '87, usually as a wildcard team.
[NFC West titles: 1985]

New Orleans Saints
in 1987 the Saints had their first winning season since the franchise was awarded in 1966, and under Coach Jim Mora reached the playoffs three more times in the next five seasons. Still, it wasn't until 1991 that the Saints won their first NFC West title.

San Francisco 49ers
When he became owner of the franchise in 1977, Ed DeBartolo, Jr. was determined to have a winning team. Hiring Bill Walsh as coach was a big step in the right direction. Thanks to players like QB Joe Montana, WR Jerry Rice and DB Ronnie Lott, Walsh and team earned six NFC West titles and won three Super Bowls, making the 49ers the team of the '80s.
[NFC West titles: 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989; NFC Champions: 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989; Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII], XXIV]


Composite NFL Standings for the 1980s
TEAM
RECORD
PCT.
AV.
PF/GAME
AV.
 PA/GAME
DIV. TITLES
WILD
CARDS
CONF. TITLES
(W-L)
SUPER BOWLS (W-L)
1. 49ers
117-51-1
.695
25.5
17.8
7
1
4-1
4-0
2. Redskins
108-58-0
.651
23.4
19.3
4
1
3-1
2-1
3. Dolphins
100-62-1
.617
23.7
20.4
5
0
2-1
0-2
4. Broncos
99-63-1
.610
21.5
19.9
4
1
3-0
0-3
5. Bears
97-64-0
.602
20.7
16.8
5
0
1-2
1-0
6. Raiders
97-66-0
.595
22.1
19.8
2
3
2-0
2-0
7. Rams
90-73-0
.552
21.9
20.4
1
6
0-2
--
8. Giants
87-74-1
.540
20.0
18.7
2
3
1-0
1-0
9. Bengals
85-74-0
.535
23.4
21.3
2
0
2-0
0-2
10. Browns
86-75-1
.534
20.5
19.4
5
1
0-3
--
11. Cowboys
84-78-0
.519
22.1
21.0
3
2
0-3
--
12. Patriots
81-77-0
.513
20.9
20.3
1
1
1-0
0-1
13. Seahawks
81-78-0
.509
21.1
20.9
1
3
0-1
--
14. Vikings
81-80-0
.503
21.4
21.1
2
3
0-1
--
15. Eagles
78-78-2
.500
20.0
18.9
2
2
1-0
0-1
16. Steelers
79-79-0
.500
21.3
20.8
2
1
0-1
--
17. Jets
76-81-2
.484
21.5
21.7
1
3
0-1
--
18. Chargers
75-83-0
.475
23.0
23.8
2
1
0-2
--
19. Bills
71-87-0
.449
18.6
20.4
3
1
0-1
--
20. Packers
66-85-3
.438
20.2
22.4
0
1
--
--
21. Chiefs
66-85-2
.438
20.1
21.0
0
1
--
--
22. Saints
67-86-0
.438
19.3
21.7
0
1
--
--
23. Cardinals
62-89-2
.412
19.8
23.9
0
0
--
--
24. Oilers
64-94-0
.405
19.2
23.8
0
4
--
--
25. Lions
61-92-1
.399
19.2
21.3
1
0
--
--
26. Colts
54-98-1
.356
18.0
23.5
1
0
--
--
26. Buccaneers
45-108-1
.295
17.8
23.8
1
0
--
--