I believe the story of 1983 when it comes to the NFL is the explosion of the passing age and revolution in the NFL. The NFL was moving away from ball control power football where you run the ball 3-5 times or more even when defenses are looking for that and pass only to keep the defense somewhat honest and give them something else to think about. (And perhaps give your running backs a break) To an era where if teams didn’t throw more than they ran, they were balanced at least and had both a good running game and a passing game. The 1980s was a great decade for the quarterback. It was a time when they weren’t just the most important player on the team, but now they were stars putting up all sorts of great stats.
The 1980s was a decade for the NFL where you saw a lot of great quarterbacks including three that were all drafted in 1983 that are now in the Hall of Fame. Of course Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly. But you had other great quarterbacks that were drafted pre-83 that are also in the Hall of Fame. Dan Fouts and the quarterback of the 1980s Joe Montana. Eric Dickerson, one of the top 3-5 running backs of all-time and I believe the best running back in the 1980s at least far as running the ball was drafted in 1983 by the Anaheim Rams (as I call them). Running back Curt Warner, was also drafted in 1983 and without the injuries he’s probably in the Hall of Fame as well. And great receivers like Mark Clayton, Mark Duper, both from the Miami Dolphins, Art Monk the best receiver other than Jerry Rice in that era, was a big part of the 1980s as well.
The NFL was moving away from power run ball control possession passing with the occasional threat of a deep pass, to an era that threw the ball everywhere. Short, middle and deep and threw the ball a lot. It was a passing decade with at least two different types of passing games that were prominent in that decade. The possession passing game of the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps better known as the West Coast Offense. And what I call at least the Vertical Spread Offense. Where you’re always looking deep on every pass play, but you work the whole field with multiple receivers and force the defense to cover the whole field against you. Which was run by the Los Angeles Raiders that won the Super Bowl in 1983 and the San Diego Chargers.
But this is all before you get to the two great teams of 1983 that played in the Super Bowl. By far the two most consistent teams in 1983 that of course being the Los Angeles Raiders and Washington Redskins. Both teams had great offenses that scored a lot of points both through the air and on the ground. But the Raiders were dominant on defense and simply punished teams on defense with their two press corners Lester Hays and Mike Haines, plus they could get to the quarterback with just their DL. And they could add in outside linebacker Ted Hendricks. (Arguably the best all around OLB of all-time) And the Redskins simply struggled on offense most of that game and had a hard time dealing with the Raiders speed on defense.
Not that defense was non-existent in the NFL in 1983, (Roger Goodell wasn’t Commissioner yet) but the story of the 1983 NFL season was all the new offense in the league. The great passing games, all the points, every good team in the NFL that year every good team seemed to have at least one great running back and a great wide receiver and at least a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback. You had several great offensive minds leading their teams and still leading their teams. Like Don Coryell with the Chargers, Tom Flores with the Raiders, Joe Gibbs with the Redskins, Bill Walsh with the 49ers and several others. I believe 1983 is where we really see the influence of the American Football League on the NFL and it made it a great all around season for the league.
Ian Ward-NFL Films: NFL 1983