Yesterday, I started a fanciful trip around the league over the last 32 years to see what would happen if you were the fan of each team exactly once over that span, and got one of each franchise’s best regular season years over that time.
It started with 1980 and covered that decade, and you probably want to read back to see what franchises were already used. We pick up today with 1990, a year that has fond memories for me as the golden age of Zubaz and tight rolled jeans.
Buffalo Bills (1990): You draw the Bills with Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and the K-Gun Offense. Oh, and Scott Norwood. Sorry. This makes at least four gut-punch losses in the postseason.
Detroit Lions (1991): The Magic Football kicks out Detroit. You shrug, look at Rodney Peete, but then immediately invest in “Wayne Fontes is a football genius” stock. You never know. Opening week, though, and Barry Sanders is out. The Lions lose 45-0 to the Redskins. After that, though, the Lions go on an improbable run to finish at 12-4 and the #2 seed. They beat the Cowboys in the postseason, the last team to do that until 1994. Sure, they get outclassed by Washington again in the title game, but you’ll come to thank the Magic Football. It could have been a lot worse with Detroit.
New Orleans Saints (1992) : The Dome Patrol had been one of the league’s best units for six seasons, and you draw them for what would be their last together, as Pat Swilling signed with the Lions a year later. They did not disappoint in the regular season, leading the league in fewest points allowed. The difference between hosting a wildcard game and potentially being the #1 seed was two close losses to the 49ers. The Saints continued their winless playoff streak, though, when they held a 20-7 lead early in the 3rd quarter, but the Eagles scored 29 straight, capped by Bobby Hebert’s third interception of the game.
Houston Oilers (1993): You’ve officially been in the Dome portion of the schedule. Well, at least you didn’t draw the team that blew the 35-3 lead at Buffalo. Instead, you get your second team with Buddy Ryan as defensive coordinator, and it would not disappoint. Who can forget Buddy taking a swing at Kevin Gilbride? The Oilers got off to a 1-4 start and things looked bad, but then they reeled off 11 straight. They met the Kansas City Chiefs and Magic Football nemesis Joe Montana in the playoffs, having beaten them 30-0 in the regular season. Proving that momentum means nothing, Houston lost and Keith Cash provided one of my favorite memories.
Arizona Cardinals (1994): The Magic Football loves Buddy Ryan. In 1994, the Cardinals changed their name from Phoenix to Arizona, and brought in Ryan as coach. You anticipate greatness. In the end, you just realize that the Bidwells have been bad for a long time. Arizona did win 6 of 8 to get to 8-7 with an outside shot of the playoffs, but a final game loss sealed their fate. For the first time, you have missed the postseason.
Kansas City Chiefs (1995): The second, but not the last time, that Marty Schottenheimer appears on the list. Steve Bono at QB? Yuck. But the Chiefs ride their defense to a #1 seed and a 13-3 record, where they draw heavy underdog Indianapolis on a cold day in January. In a dreadful game, the Colts had 4 fumbles but recovered all, the Chiefs turned it over 4 times, and Lin Elliott missed all three field goals, including a tying attempt.
Carolina Panthers (1996): You are still shell-shocked from the Arizona experience when the Magic Football kicks out a second year expansion team. Still, you plop down some money on the Panthers to make the playoffs at some pretty long odds. The veteran group of cast offs goes on a binge with Kerry Collins at QB, de-throning the 49ers in the West in improbable fashion. A conference championship game appearance is more than you could have hoped.
Denver Broncos (1997): Seven straight years in the 1990’s with no title, and the last Super Bowl appearance for one of your teams was the Scott Norwood game. The Broncos change that when they advance as a wildcard, but they are large underdogs because, well, the AFC hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the Raiders knocked off your Redskins in 1983. You aren’t hopeful, but John Elway gets his ring.
Minnesota Vikings (1998): When you drew the Vikings and Randy Moss fell to them in the first round, you had an inkling he might be good. The Vikings offense broke the scoring record previously set by the 1983 Redskins, and rolled to a 15-1 record. The Cardinals were no match in the Divisional Round. The Falcons were heavy underdogs in the Championship Game. Gary Anderson was 35 for 35 in the regular season on field goals. You now officially hate field goal kickers if there was any doubt after Scott Norwood and Lin Elliott.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1999): You draw the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999, a team consistently in the playoffs the previous three years. Jacksonville manages to go undefeated against everyone but the Tennessee Titans. Unfortunately, they go 0-3 against them including a loss in the AFC title game.
The decade of the 1990’s closes out with only one Super Bowl title, two appearances, and three famous kicker misses at the end of games. Through 20 years, you only have 4 Super Bowl titles despite getting one of the best seasons from every franchise on the list. This Magic Football thing may not be such a good idea, and there’s still 12 years remaining.
[photo via US Presswire]