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For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

All-decade team of the 80s: Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 30, 2009

If you're a first time reader, you might want to check out the following links, first:

90% of the '00s All-decade offense
90% of the '00s All-decade defense
My All-decade offense of the '70s
My All-decade defense of the '70s
Doug, JKL and I discussing the All-80s offense on the podcast

A few quick notes about the '80s:

1) A bunch of marquee players -- Eric Dickerson, Wes Chandler, Fred Dean, Dave Casper and Herschel Walker -- were traded in mid-season during the decade. As far as Approximate Value and my position formulas go, I simply combined those numbers into one season.

2) Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982. I used unofficial statistics to record "sacks over 0.5 games played" for as many players as I could find in '80 and '81.

3) There were two strikes in the decade -- '82 and '87. Doug's Approximate Value system and my QB/RB/WR formulas take this into account, but things like games played and games started will be affected. And, as with the '70s post, not all games started data are accurate.

4) Of the 280 teams in the decade (there was no expansion in the '80s -- the NFL was a 28-team league in all ten seasons), 204 of them played a 3-4 defense. With 73% of the teams fielding three defensive linemen and four linebackers, I feel obliged to do the same even if the official team did not. Let's take a quick look at the official All-decade team, as chosen by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

    First Team         Second Team
QB: Joe Montana        Dan Fouts
RB: Eric Dickerson     Roger Craig
RB: Walter Payton      John Riggins
WR: Jerry Rice         James Lofton
WR: Steve Largent      Art Monk
TE: Kellen Winslow     Ozzie Newsome
OT: Anthony Munoz      Gary Zimmerman
OT: Jimbo Covert       Joe Jacoby
OG: John Hannah        Bill Fralic
OG: Russ Grimm         Mike Munchak
OC: Dwight Stephenson  Mike Webster

Let's break this down position by position.

Quarterbacks

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	VALUE	PLAYER
107	6	135	123	9	5	2	2	7433	Joe Montana
90	5	103	101	7	2	3	1	7110	Dan Marino
90	5	101	 98	8	1	1	2	5853	Dan Fouts
69	3	 85	 77	5	1	1	0	4059	Boomer Esiason
57	2	 73	 61	5	2	1	0	2925	Ken Anderson
65	2	 84	 83	6	2	1	0	2560	Joe Theismann
71	2	108	101	7	0	0	0	2381	Neil Lomax
69	1	106	 91	6	0	0	1	1773	Danny White
56	2	 84	 84	6	0	0	0	1680	Warren Moon
62	1	118	 94	7	0	0	0	1624	Ron Jaworski
62	1	102	 93	6	0	0	1	1503	Tommy Kramer
69	3	100	 98	7	1	0	1	1395	John Elway
68	3	103	 94	7	0	0	0	1217	Dave Krieg
71	1	112	110	8	1	0	0	1146	Phil Simms

Montana/Marino debates aside, there's no denying who was the QB of the '80s -- and that's ignoring the post-season. Montana led all QBs in AV, Pro Bowls, games, starts, seasons as a starter, awards and adjusted yards over average (value). Only Marino's three first-team All-Pro selections to Montana's two prevented a clean sweep by Joe Cool.

Montana won an OPOY award, an MVP, and three SB MVPs in the decade. Being born in '56 (compared to Marino, born in '61) gave Montana a nice headstart to dominate the decade. And while Marino achieved the majority of his success in the '80s, he still had seven big years in the '90s. Even those who would argue for Marino over Montana generally should be able to see that there's no touching Montana for the '80s. His four Super Bowls are the icing on the cake.

What about our 2nd team QB? Marino and Fouts have very similar resumes; Marino won the OPOY and MVP awards in '84; Fouts won the OPOY award and arguably should have won the MVP two years earlier. It certainly shouldn't have gone to Mark Moseley, and two newspapers named Fouts their MVP in '82. Marino's huge season in '84 gives him the edge in yards over average, and he's a worthy member of our second team.

First team All-Decade QB: Joe Montana
Second team All-Decade QB: Dan Marino

Running Backs

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	Value	PLAYER
82	6	105	102	7	2	5	0	3671	Eric Dickerson
84	5	117	117	8	0	3	1	2319	Walter Payton
79	5	105	 98	7	4	2	1	1990	Marcus Allen
45	3	 84	 73	5	1	1	0	1676	Earl Campbell
61	4	 72	 57	4	0	0	2	1638	William Andrews
51	3	103	 73	5	0	0	1	1539	Gerald Riggs
61	3	 93	 92	6	0	0	3	1302	Curt Warner
83	4	110	105	7	1	1	1	1291	Roger Craig
66	1	127	 97	7	0	0	1	1280	Ottis Anderson
78	3	129	119	8	0	1	2	1184	Tony Dorsett
58	3	 60	 58	5	1	0	2	1147	Billy Sims
46	2	 92	 78	6	1	1	0	1069	George Rogers
63	1	113	102	7	0	0	1	 893	James Wilder
46	0	 63	 56	5	0	0	0	 695	Wilbert Montgomery
74	3	125	 86	6	0	0	0	 610	James Brooks
46	0	 90	 66	6	0	0	0	 584	Ted Brown
72	3	103	 91	8	0	1	0	 558	Freeman McNeil
49	1	 76	 71	5	0	0	0	 252	Wendell Tyler
54	3	102	 70	6	0	0	0	 251	Joe Cribbs

The way LaDainian Tomlinson dominated the '00s and O.J. Simpson dominated the '70s, Eric Dickerson dominated the '80s. In five of the ten seasons, Dickerson led the league in rushing yards per game, and he was named first-team All-Pro in each of those seasons. He had four of the top ten seasons (and another in the top twenty-five) in the decade according to my running back scoring system. The only on-the-field knock on Dickerson was his penchant for fumbling, but even with 14 fumbles (10 lost) in 1984, that season still ranked as the second best of the decade by any running back.

Number two is a toss-up between two HOFers, Walter Payton and Marcus Allen. Payton has small edges in AV, games, seasons starting, first-team All-Pros and yards added over average. So why is Allen in the race? He's got four awards -- an AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award in '82, a Offensive Player of the Year Award and MVP in '85, and a Super Bowl MVP in '83. The "yards over average" column only focuses on the regular season, but Marcus Allen in '83 had one of the top three post-season performances in running back history. Payton already made the All-decade team of the '70s, and never was able to match Allen in the post-season. If it wasn't for the "Fridge", Payton might have a SB MVP and a better resume. As it stands, I think Allen was ever so slightly more impressive in the '80s than Payton.

So who should our fourth RB be? Earl Campbell had the best season of any RB in the decade, rushing for 1934 yards in just over 14 games in 1980, en route to OPOY and MVP honors. Campbell also leads all remaining RBs in yards over average. John Riggins had an incredible playoff ride in 1982, but he doesn't have much of a regular season resume in the '80s to make the cut. William Andrews and Gerald Riggs had good stretches in the decade, although neither were great nor good for very long. James Wilder had two memorable seasons but not much else. Roger Craig became the first 1000/1000 player in '85 and then won an OPOY award in '88, and leads all remaining backs in approximate value.

I think it comes down to Craig and Campbell -- Campbell made the real second-team for the All-70s (but missed my cut) and was unfortunate to have his peak years span two decades. As is often the case when things are so close, the playoffs serve as a good tiebreaker. Craig had 410 yards from scrimmage in three Super Bowl victories in the decade, and played well for much longer than Campbell.

First team All-Decade RBs: Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen
Second team All-Decade RBs: Walter Payton and Roger Craig

Wide Receivers

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	Value	PLAYER
78	5	141	139	10	0	1	2	4348	Steve Largent
77	6	144	134	 9	0	1	3	4096	James Lofton
63	4	 76	 63	 4	2	4	0	3848	Jerry Rice
73	3	141	126	10	0	1	1	3550	Art Monk
64	3	134	128	10	0	0	2	3370	Stanley Morgan
62	2	136	111	 8	0	2	0	2991	Roy Green
65	3	107	 90	 7	0	0	3	2972	Cris Collinsworth
45      5        97      86      6      0       2       0       2791    Mike Quick
53	3	 95	 79	 6	0	2	0	2743	Henry Ellard
55	1	131	 90	 6	0	0	0	2611	Drew Hill
68	3	118	110	 8	0	1	0	2512	Wes Chandler
62	4	103	 88	 6	0	0	1	2424	Mark Clayton
53	1	 95	 81	 7	0	0	0	2420	Tony Hill
49	3	 87	 83	 7	0	0	0	2391	John Stallworth
60	2	118	 95	 7	0	1	0	2383	Dwight Clark
53	2	131	 93	 5	0	1	1	2279	J.T. Smith
58	3	 98	 89	 7	0	0	0	1920	Mark Duper
51	1	126	 92	 7	0	0	0	1899	Carlos Carson
52	1	115	 90	 8	0	0	0	1843	Wesley Walker
55	1	104	 96	 7	0	1	0	1146	Charlie Joiner

When I saw that Rice was a first-team choice despite only starting for four seasons, my first thought was "what a mistake." But Rice had two of the top three seasons in the decade, another in the top ten, and led all WRs in first-team All-Pros and awards. ESPN and the Associated Press act like the AP MVP award is the only one that matters (and I'm guilty of that sometimes, too), but Rice won three of the four major MVP awards in 1987, in addition to the AP OPOY award that season and was named MVP of SB XXIII.

Steve Largent dominated the '80s, leading all receivers with six Pro Bowl berths and tying Rice with four combined All-Pro nods. Largent was consistently good, with six of the top 60 seasons of the decade by a receiver. While Largent wasn't as dominant as Rice (three times he led all WRs in adjusted yards over average), he has him beat on longevity -- seven times he ranked among the seven best receivers according to my formula.

James Lofton ranked in the top ten in seven seasons, and was dominant in the early part of the decade for the Packers. Lofton led the league in yards per reception twice during the '80s, and with QB Lynn Dickey, helped give Green Bay one of the best deep ball attacks in the league. In a playoff loss to the Cowboys, Lofton caught five passes for 109 yards and a score, but his most memorable play was a 71-yard touchdown run that helped narrow the deficit to four points.

Not to be outdone, Art Monk was consistently good in the '80s and occasionally great. In 1984 he set the single-season record with 106 receptions, and produced 1054 adjusted yards over average. The next season he ranked as the top receiver in the NFL. Monk was a terrific blocker, which helped Joe Gibbs create one of the dominant offenses of the decade. The Redskins would appear in three Super Bowls in the '80s, winning two, and Monk was a big part of those great teams.

Before figuring out how to rank those four greats, a quick note on some of other star receivers of the 1980s. Wes Chandler's 1982 ranked as the best season of the decade, and one of the best wide receiver seasons of all-time. His 129.0 receiving yards per game is still the NFL record, and it may not be broken for a long time. And however you want to measure it, Stanley Morgan was one of the all-time greats at getting downfield. Cris Collinsworth was a very good receiver for a bunch of seasons before becoming a pretty good NFL analyst. Roy Green was the answer to a good trivia question for awhile -- he was the last player to have a TD reception and interception in the same game -- but Keyshawn Johnson did it in a playoff game for the Jets and now Brian Dawkins is the current record holder after becoming the first player to score a receiving touchdown, interception and record an official sack in the same game. The Marks Brothers -- Mark Clayton and Mark Duper -- were Dan Marino's targets for most of the decade. While Duper had more good years, Clayton's 1984 was the best season in Dolphins history, with over 1000 adjusted yards added over average.

So how do we separate out Largent/Lofton/Rice/Monk? Largent has the yards over average, Lofton has the combined All-Pros and the Pro Bowls and Rice has the awards and the first-team All-Pros. Monk isn't far behind in the receiving numbers and awards, and was the best blocker of the bunch (and helped his team win a couple of rings). Rice's three huge seasons -- '86, '87 and '89 -- in addition to his SB MVP to conclude the '88 season -- single him out as the most dominant receiver of the decade. Deciding between Largent and Lofton is almost impossible, but I'm inclined to leave things exactly the way the were decided two decades ago.

First team All-Decade WRs: Jerry Rice and Steve Largent
Second team All-Decade WRs: James Lofton and Art Monk

Tight End

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
78	5	102	 93	 7	0	3	1	Kellen Winslow
69	3	150	144	10	0	1	3	Ozzie Newsome
64	5	124	 90	 6	0	2	2	Todd Christensen
52	2	128	 95	 7	0	0	1	Mickey Shuler
50	4	112	 92	 6	0	0	0	Steve Jordan
46	4	142	101	 7	0	0	0	Jimmie Giles
46	3	128	 88	 6	0	0	0	Doug Cosbie
45	3	122	 87	 6	0	0	0	Paul Coffman
42	2	117	 77	 5	0	0	1	Rodney Holman
41	1	 88	 71	 5	0	0	1	Dan Ross
41	0	103	 87	 6	0	0	0	Russ Francis
41	1	118	103	 8	0	0	0	Hoby Brenner
41	2	 67	 65	 4	0	2	0	Mark Bavaro

Two HOF TEs played the majority of their careers during the ’80s, and they top our list in Approximate Value. In addition, Todd Christensen matches both Winslow and Newsome with four combined All-Pro honors and is tied with Winslow for the most Pro Bowls (five). Interestingly, all three tight ends came into the league at the end of the ’70s and played all of their games in the ’80s for AFC teams. Otherwise, they mave have each made more Pro Bowls in their careers.

It might appear that the tough battle is between Winslow and Newsome, the two HOFers. But on further review, it’s not whether Newsome is better than Winslow — it’s whether he’s better than Christensen.

If we look at adjusted catch yards (that’s 5*rec + ryd + 20*td) for the three players (and pro-rate for the two strike seasons), Christensen and Winslow each have three seasons better than Newsome's best season. If we pick an arbitrary cut-off such as “adjusted catch yards over 800″, Winslow (4372) and Christensen (4111) come out on top, with Newsome (3080) far behind. Newsome was a very good player for a decade, while Christensen topped 200 receiving yards in only six seasons. But he was a much more dominant receiver than Newsome. Winslow is arguably the best receiving tight end of all-time, but he was the worst blocker of the three stars of the '80s. Christensen entered the league as a fullback (and wore #46 with the Raiders) but by 1983 he had become the best tight end in the league and the main offensive weapon on the Super Bowl Champion Raiders (at least in the regular season).

Let's take a second to examine some of the other tight ends. Mickey Shuler's career took flight when the Jets drafted Ken O'Brien, and he was one of the best tight ends in the NFL from '84 to '88. After Joe Senser had 1,004 receiving yards for the Vikings in 1981, Minnesota surely thought they'd be set at tight end for the rest of the decade. They were, but only because the Vikings drafted Steve Jordan in the seventh round the next April. Jordan would go on to have three 750+ yards seasons for Minnesota, with his 1985 season being the most anamlous: his 795 receiving yards are the most by any tight end in a season in which he failed to score a touchdown.

The other TE worth mentioning is Giants great Mark Bavaro. To some, he's the epitome of what a tight end should be: a devastating blocker, a powerful runner and a sure-handed receiver. Bavaro's legendary for his toughness and physical style of play, exemplified in a Monday night game against the 49ers. Outside of perhaps Lawrence Taylor, I'm not sure if another player epitomizes Bill Parcells football better than Bavaro. While he has the two first-team All-Pros, he was not enough of a receiving threat to beat out Winslow, Christensen or Newsome.

First team All-Decade TE: Kellen Winslow
Second team All-Decade TE: Todd Christensen

Offensive Tackles:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
123	9	148	147	10	0	8	1	Anthony Munoz
 75	6	134	134	 8	0	0	4	Jackie Slater
 73	4	120	116	 9	0	2	0	Joe Jacoby
 73	5	141	141	10	0	1	3	Mike Kenn
 65	0	149	148	10	0	0	0	Mike W. Wilson
 62	1	107	107	 7	0	1	0	Keith Fahnhorst
 61	2	130	130	 9	0	0	0	Cody Risien
 59	4	 92	 90	 6	0	2	1	Marvin Powell
 56	3	115	115	 8	0	0	1	Luis Sharpe
 54	0	148	115	 8	0	0	0	Bruce E. Davis
 54	2	 96	 95	 6	0	2	0	Jimbo Covert
 54	6	 94	 92	 6	0	0	2	Chris Hinton
 53	0	110	105	 9	0	0	0	Jon Giesler
 52	0	124	117	 8	0	0	0	Tim Irwin
 52	0	138	134	10	0	0	0	Stan Brock

One of the three players in the running for Player of the Decade, Anthony Munoz led all offensive tackles in AV, Pro Bowls, first-team All-Pros and combined All-Pros. And most of those categories weren't very close. Munoz isn't just the best tackle of the decade -- he's arguably the best player of the decade, as his 123 points of AV lead all players. After Munoz there are six tackles who stand out, all of whom have pretty similar credentials; counting first-team All-Pro selections twice, and including Pro Bowls and second-team All-Pros selections, the following six tackles all have between six and ten of such honors. I have listed their four-year peak AV in parentheses:

  • Jackie Slater (47) leads the group in AV and is in the HOF. The former Rams great was probably at his best from '87 to '89 -- he was a first-team All-Pro by at least one of the five major sources (AP, Pro Football Writers, Pro Football Weekly, NEA and Sporting News) in each season.
  • Mike Kenn (51) started 251 games at left tackle for the Falcons. In '80 he was a unanimous first-team All-Pro, and was a second-team All-Pro each of the next three years. The Falcons offense was ugly for most of the mid- and late-'80s, but Kenn would make another first-team All-Pro roster in '91, indicating that his play didn't drop off as he aged. It probably isn't a coincidence that Kenn was making a bunch of Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams when William Andrews at his peak, and stopped being honored after Andrews suffered a serious injury in the 1984 pre-season.
  • Marvin Powell (48) peaked from '78 to '83, and helped Freeman McNeil win the rushing title in 1982. Powell was a unanimous first-team All-Pro in '81 and a near unanimous one in '82 (only the Sporting News did not select him). Powell had a two more good seasons with the Jets before flaming out in Tampa Bay.
  • Chris Hinton (41) is more famous for who he isn't than who he is: he was the biggest part of the package Denver sent to Baltimore to obtain John Elway. Hinton was drafted by the Broncos with the 4th pick in the '83 draft, and was then sent to Baltimore along with QB Mark Herrmann and a first round pick the following season (OG Ron Solt). Hinton made the Pro Bowl at guard as a rookie in Baltimore, and would make five straight Pro Bowls as a left tackle after the move to Indianapolis. At 32, he would be a first-team All-Pro with the Falcons in 1993, and his 83 points of AV prove that he was a very good NFL player. But that provides no comfort to the citizens of Baltimore, who lost Elway and eventually, their team. More on point for this post, Hinton's six Pro Bowls tie him with Slater, although he received just one first-team All-Pro nod from any source and only two second-team All-Pros from the Associated Press.
  • Joe Jacoby (52). Much like Matt Light did in 2007, Jacoby received a bunch of AV for being the LT for one of the best offenses of all-time when he manned that position for the '83 Skins. Jacoby is often touted as a HOF snub, a great tackle for three Super Bowl champions. What's curious is that while many players on the great dynasties were well-decorated (or later, well-remembreed), tackles from those teams have not received many individual honors. On the '60s Packers, Bob Skoronski was the LT and made just one Pro Bowl, although RT Forrest Gregg is a HOFer. On the '70s Steelers, neither LT Jon Kolb nor RTs Gordon Gravelle and Larry Brown received any notable recognition. The '80s 49ers? Harris Barton, Bubba Paris and Keith Fahnhorst were tackles for part of that run, and none received significant honors. Mark Tuinei and Erik Williams made some Pro Bowls for the Cowboys, but neither will make the HOF. The Patriots had a different starting RT in each of their four Super Bowl seasons, while Matt Light has been the consistent force at LT -- still, he has just made two Pro Bowls. The QBs, unsurprisingly, are much more decorated than the tackles. Jacoby was the best member of the Hogs, and was a better tackle than everyone in this paragraph besides Gregg. His HOF case is an interesting one to debate. And while he was a unanimous All-Pro choice in '83, he received first-team selections in only two other seasons.
  • Jimbo Covert (45) was the actual selection by the All-decade team, but he doesn't have a very strong case. The former Bears' LT helped pave the way for some great seasons by Walter Payton later in his career, and of course was the starter on the '85 squad. But he only received first-team recognition from any source (or Pro Bowl honors) in two seasons -- the two seasons Chicago won 15 and 14 games. While Covert was a very solid player, his resume is a tad weaker than those of the other five tackles.

The short summary: Slater, Kenn and Jacoby look to be a half-step more deserving than the other three. Slater has the highest AV, but the lowest peak AV. Kenn's a drastically underrated player, and it's surprising he didn't make any Pro Bowls from '85 to '87 when RB Gerald Riggs was earning those invitations. The explanation? Probably because he had to fight Slater and Jacoby to make them. I'll give Slater the nod here, because of his edge in All-Pros from all sources. But any of Slater, Kenn or Jacoby would make a fine selection. Gary Zimmerman made the actual second team, on the basis of his three Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro nods; but with only four seasons as a starter, there were several more deserving choices.

First team All-Decade OTs: Anthony Munoz and Jackie Slater
Second team All-Decade OTs: Mike Kenn and Joe Jacoby

Guards

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
65	3	132	131	 9	0	0	3	Randy Cross
62	3	146	143	10	0	0	1	Max Montoya
61	6	 85	 85	 6	0	4	2	John Hannah
59	4	109	102	 8	0	3	1	Russ Grimm
54	5	102	101	 7	0	1	3	Mike Munchak
51	5	116	105	 7	0	0	2	Kent Hill
50	0	146	143	10	0	0	0	Dan Alexander
49	4	 72	 72	 5	0	1	3	Ed Newman
49	3	116	107	 7	0	1	0	R.C. Thielemann
49	4	104	 95	 7	0	1	0	Dennis Harrah
48	2	116	 92	 6	0	0	0	Roy Foster
48	2	104	100	 7	0	2	0	Bruce Matthews
47	1	123	115	 8	0	0	0	Mark May
46	3	 69	 69 	 5	0	1	0	Doug Wilkerson
44	0	111	107 	 7	0	0	0	John Ayers
41	4	 72	 71	 5	0	2	1	Bill Fralic

Cross was the right guard for the '81 and '84 49ers, and was the center for the '88 team. He retired, along with coach Bill Walsh, after winning the Super Bowl that season, but the team was even better the next year without them. Still, three rings, three Pro Bowls, and three second-team All-Pro selections is a pretty solid resume.

I mentioned last time that Hannah reminds me of Nnamdi Asomugha -- both players did themselves no favors for making an All-decade roster by being born in a year ending in the number "1". Hannah made 9 Pro Bowls and 7 first-team All-Pros in his career, but split up his work pretty evenly between the '70s and '80s. He didn't make my All-'70s first or second roster, and while he only played in the '80s for six seasons, he leads all guards in Pro Bowls, first-team All-Pros and second-team All-Pros (he made the Pro Bowl and one of the two All-Pro teams in each season he played in the decade).

Deciding between Cross and Grimm is difficult. While both played on good offenses (it's hard to play with Joe Montana and argue that AV is hurting you), Grimm's (14/12/11/10) best four seasons beat Cross' best four (13/11/10/9). With one more Pro Bowl, three more first-team All-Pros and one more combined All-Pros, Grimm has a narrow but clear edge over Cross.

The fourth choice? Mike Munchak was a unanimous first-team All-Pro guard in '87, and then was named a first-team All-Pro by four publications the next two seasons, as teammate Bruce Matthews was a first-teamer according to the Associated Press both years. Munchak received a first- or second-team honor by one of the five sources in six of the seven seasons he was a starter in the decade. I wouldn't fault anyone that wanted to put him ahead of Grimm for this team.

First team All-Decade OGs: John Hannah and Russ Grimm
Second team All-Decade OGs: Randy Cross and Mike Munchak

Center

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
76	7	148	148	10	0	3	1	Mike Webster
71	5	114	 87	 6	0	4	1	Dwight Stephenson
57	6	136	133	10	0	0	0	Doug C. Smith
55	5	133	100	 6	0	2	1	Jay Hilgenberg
53	2	113	 99	 8	0	1	2	Joe Fields
52	4	149	133	 9	0	0	1	Ray Donaldson
49	2	113	106	 7	0	0	0	Fred Quillan
48	0	144	136	10	0	0	0	Tom Rafferty
47	0	138	130	10	0	0	0	Blair Bush
43	0	110	108	 8	0	0	0	Don Macek
43	1	132	103	 7	0	0	0	Jeff Bostic
42	0	123	123	 8	0	0	0	Bill Bryan
40	3	105	 86	 6	0	0	1	Jeff Van Note

Webster just missed out on making my All-70s team, and like Hannah, his terrific career was split across the '70s and '80s. In reality, Webster was a second-teamer on both the All-70s and All-80s team; but was it Webster or Stephenson who deserves to be the center of the '80s? AV seems a little unfair to Webster, as Stephenson was certainly helped by playing with Dan Marino, especially relative to Mark Malone.

While Webster's down one first-team All-Pro, he's up two Pro Bowls and started for four more seasons. Let's look year-by-year through the decade:

  • In 1980 and '81, Webster was a unanimous first-team All-Pro.
  • In '82, Joe Fields received two first-team honors (including the AP); Webster received the other two (the Sporting News did not award any honors during the strike season).
  • In '83, Stephenson's first year as starter, Webster was the AP and Sporting News first-team choice; Stephenson received the other three first-team selections.
  • In '84, '85 and '86, Stephenson was a unanimous first-team All-Pro. Webster was the AP second-team choice in 1984.
  • In '87, playing in nine games, Stephenson received three first-team All-Pros (including the AP); Webster played fifteen games (crossing the picket line) and received one first-team All-Pro.
  • In '88 and '89, Jay Hilgenberg received nine of the ten first-team All-Pro selections.

Going head to head, Webster wins in '80, '81 and '82; '83 was a push. Stephenson won in '84, '85 and '86, and arguably '87. Stephenson didn't play in '88 or '89, while Webster was on his last legs. Stephenson was probably better at his peak, while Webster had the edge in quantity. It's tough to know how many of Webster's honors came by his reputation, especially later in his career. Despite what I said about the Marino edge earlier, it's tough to ignore that Stephenson's third best season in AV still tops Webster's best season.

One other piece to consider: from '84 to '87, the Dolphins led the league in sack rate, with Stephenson under center. And in Stephenson's first year, Miami ranked third in sack rate. But after his retirement, Miami still led the league in sack rate in '88, '89 and '90. So how much of that was Stephenson and how much the rest of the line and more importantly, Marino? I'd guess quite a bit.

First team All-Decade C: Mike Webster
Second team All-Decade C: Dwight Stephenson

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009 at 7:34 am and is filed under Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.