SI Vault
Rick Reilly
November 30, 1987
The late, unlamented strike has made this NFL campaign a forgettable one
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November 30, 1987

Season For No Reason

The late, unlamented strike has made this NFL campaign a forgettable one

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Regularly scheduled programming will not be seen at this time so that we may bring you this special presentation, The NFL 1987. Or, how one sport can be almost as entertaining as a two-hour episode of She's the Sheriff.

(Cue music. Roll tape.)

Denver. Nov. 16. Mile High Stadium. Chicago Bears versus the Broncos. Monday Night Football. Chicago kicker Kevin Butler has missed two extra points. Bears trail by two. Ball on Chicago's 39. Fourth-and-17. Nine seconds left. Bears quarterback Mike Tomczak drops back. Dumps ball to halfback behind the line. Dumps ball to halfback behind the line? Halfback tackled. Tomczak urges his teammates to hurry and line up. Mike, the game is over. That was fourth down. Must have been the altitude.

Miami. Nov. 15. Joe Robbie Stadium. The Indianapolis Colts versus the Dolphins. Third down. Colts driving. The snap. Flags. Miami has 12 men on the field. Indianapolis gets first down anyway.... Colts driving again. Third down. More flags. This time the Dolphins have 13 men on the field. Indianapolis gets the first down anyway. Do we hear 14? Fish lose.

Cincinnati. Sept. 20. Riverfront Stadium. Bengals versus the San Francisco 49ers. Cincinnati leads by six. Six seconds to go. Fourth down. Bengals' ball on their own 30. Why isn't Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche calling for a punt? Why is he running a sweep? Bengal running back is tackled. Two seconds remaining. San Francisco's ball. Joe Montana throws 25-yard touchdown to Jerry Rice. Bengals lose. Lose next non-strike game, at Pittsburgh, when Wyche tries to get his field goal team on the field without stopping the clock. Wyche is to boneheadedness what Nell Carter is to cholesterol.

America. Living rooms. 1987. Fans scratching their haircuts. Eleven weeks into the season and what have they got? A season Rover leaves in his dish, that's what. The AFC is a bomb. The Dolphins are deadly, the Broncos balky, the Seattle Seahawks skittish, the New England Patriots puny, and the Raiders are the biggest dud to come out of L.A. since Ishtar. If the AFC title game were played now, we might get the San Diego Chargers against the Indianapolis Colts. Be still, my beating heart!

The NFC is also mastering mediocrity. Most of the glamour teams are picking AstroTurf out of their teeth. The New York Giants got off to the worst start ever (1-6) by a defending Super Bowl champion. The Los Angeles Rams lost five of their first six games and then traded the best runner in the game. The Cowboys have set a record for back-stabs. The Bears are 8-2 but had to come up with McMahon McMiracles to beat titans Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Kansas City. The only good news is that the NFL has announced it will expand no later than 1990. Reportedly, it's considering putting an NFL team in Atlanta.

In this, the season for no reason, the players are going at it with all the emotion of the ticket taker down at the Bijou. Anybody seen Howie Long? Tony Dorsett? Walter Payton? Mark Bavaro? How about Mark Gastineau? Jay Schroeder? Louis Lipps? Anybody sent out an APB on Randy White yet? Joe Morris? Al Toon?

Stars are down, penalty yardage is up. In the five weeks since the end of the strike, teams have been assessed 645 more yards in penalties than they were during the same span last season. Touchdowns are down and field goals are up. Teams have settled for 31 more field goals than they did during those same five weeks in 1986. Thrills are down. Yawns are up.

Lukewarm reigns supreme. Beige is the hot color. Last year at this time 15 teams still had a chance to make the playoffs, while 13 had been weeded out. This year, being in the playoff picture is an honor exceeded only by getting mail from Ed McMahon. Twenty-one of the league's 28 teams still have a shot at a playoff berth. The wild-card teams this season will probably be 9-6. Two years ago the Broncos were 11-5 and they didn't make the playoffs. What is this, Sale of the Century?

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