As much as I’d love to partake in a journey of words about the present state of the NFL and the many story lines it has presented, I have discovered that my addicted appetite to football is better satiated in looking back at previous NFL seasons. I know I’m weird and not typically what you would call a normal person, but hopefully the majority of people who love football will feel the same way.
Instead of bitching and complaining about how there’s X amount of days until football starts, let us go on a journey of the past. I guarantee you’ve forgotten a lot of the stuff that is to be covered here and that’s okay. But to better understand the present, we must look into the past. And in this case, the past is facking awesome.
First up: The random year of 1995.
The year was 1995 and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were prepping for their inaugural seasons in the NFL. A new creation, the DVD was announced. And a little website called eBay was just founded. Suffice it to say, many things happened in the magical year of 1995. But since we’re here to talk about football, we’ll try and just focus on that.
In addition to the two new expansion teams, the two Los Angeles teams moved to other cities. The Rams were now based out of St. Louis and the Raiders out of Oakland. Things were a changing in the NFL and it wasn’t just in regards to the teams. A few major rule changes also occurred before the 1995 season. One was that the quarterback was now able to utilize a small device in his helmet to communicate with his sideline. Overweight, slow quarterbacks everywhere rejoiced.
The league was coming off a 1994 Super Bowl in which the San Francisco 49ers easily handled the Cinderella San Diego Chargers 49-26. The 49ers win further solidified the belief that the AFC was inferior to the NFC. The NFC now had eleven straight wins in as many Super Bowls and proved year after year to have the superior teams. Going into 1995, the AFC had yet to win a Super Bowl in the 90’s decade. Jim Kelly may or may not have been partially to blame.The reigning award winners of the 1994 season looked like a Hall of Fame induction list when looked at now. Steve Young the reigning MVP, Barry Sanders the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Deion Sanders the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. And a promising, young running back named Marshall Faulk was coming off a respectable year in which he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Wow, this is making me feel old.
The road to Super Bowl 30 was not surprising for some teams while there were others, like the Detroit Lions who exceeded expectations and scrapped their way into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Lions fans, it would be the last hurrah for the next.. Well, they still haven’t had a similar season and the present year is 2008. So, it was the last great year for Lions fans. The year 1995. Thirteen years ago. Sorry Lions fans.
While the Jacksonville Jaguars had a typical expansion season, finishing 4-12 and last place in the AFC Central, the Carolina Panthers were a different story. Playing in an equally tough NFC West the Panthers finished a respectable 7-9 and finished tied for third place in the division.
The struggling New York Jets would go on to have the worst record in the league at 3-13, earning them the first pick in the 1996 NFL Draft (which turned out to be superstar/future pre-game show All Star Keyshawn Johnson). The Kansas City Chiefs would go on to have the league’s best record, finishing 13-3. They’re record did not translate into postseason success however and they lost their first divisional playoff game to the Indianapolis Colts, 10-7.
The 1995 season also turned out to be the year that Art Moddell decided to move the Browns to Baltimore in what started a firestorm of debate across the world of the NFL. Many were all for it, while others were passionately against it. It was eventually of no matter, the Browns would again return to the NFL fold some years later. Luckily for us!Like every year, 1995 held host to some thrilling divisional and wild card races. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, perennial losers year after year made a strong run for a playoff bid, led by the strong play of running back Eric Rhett. They would fall short however and finish the season 7-9.
The AFC West also saw heated competition, with no one in the division going under .500. The AFC East on the other hand saw three of it’s teams make the post-season, and the AFC Central saw just one team (the Pittsburgh Steelers) gaining a bid to the playoffs.
The NFC saw a bit more parity, with two teams from each division making the playoffs. This was due to the fact that although the NFC was the stronger of the two conferences, there was a severe drop off from the elite NFC teams and everyone else who was competing. The six teams that made the playoffs in the NFC, save for the Detroit Lions, were perennial contenders year in and year out.
The 1995 Wild Card round failed to feature even one competitive game. The Bills defeated their division rival Dolphins 37-22 and the Colts defeated the reigning Super Bowl runners-up Chargers 35-20 to round off the AFC. The Eagles beat the Cinderella Lions 58-37 in what was one of the highest scoring playoff games of all time. The Packers easily handled the Falcons 37-20 and were the last team to sneak into the divisional playoff round.
The divisional round had similar blowouts but managed to produce some close contests. The best of which being the Colts-Chiefs game, which was a defensive struggle and ended with the Colts advancing to the conference championships with a 10-7 victory. Unfortunately, the Chiefs best regular season record did not translate to postseason success. Weird. In another close game, the Packers defeated the defending Super Bowl Champion 49ers 27-17. The Cowboys spanked the Eagles 30-11 and the Steelers easily handled the Bills 40-21.
The conference championship games, unlike many of the other playoff games, would not fail to disappoint. The Steelers barely handled the Colts in a thrilling 20-16 win whereas the Cowboys pulled away late 38-27 to defeat the Packers. Brett Favre was still a year away from being a champion.
Super Bowl XXX would prove to be an uncompetitive game, completely opposite of what the final score would indicate. The Cowboys were the victors 27-17 in what would be the first of many 1990’s Super Bowl wins for the franchise.
If you didn’t know, than now you know. Stay tuned for other random NFL seasons!
Some 1995 Snippets:
MVP: Brett Favre
Coach of the Year: Ray Rhodes
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Curtis Martin
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Hugh Douglas