1980 NFL season

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1980 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 7 – December 22, 1980
Start dateDecember 28, 1980
AFC ChampionsOakland Raiders
NFC ChampionsPhiladelphia Eagles
Super Bowl XV
DateJanuary 25, 1981
SiteLouisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
ChampionsOakland Raiders
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 1, 1981
SiteAloha Stadium
1980 NFL season is located in the United States
AFC teams: West, Central, East
1980 NFL season is located in the United States
NFC teams: West, Central, East
Archie Manning attempting a pass for the New Orleans Saints against the L.A. Rams in 1980.

The 1980 NFL season was the 61st regular season of the National Football League.

Prior to the season in March 1980, fellow NFL owners voted against the proposed move by the Raiders from Oakland, California to Los Angeles. Raiders team owner Al Davis along with the Los Angeles Coliseum sued the NFL charging that they had violated antitrust laws. A verdict in the trial would not be decided until before the 1982 NFL season and thus the 1980 and 1981 Raiders would continue to play in Oakland while awaiting a judgement.

Meanwhile, the season ended at Super Bowl XV played on January 25, 1981, in New Orleans, Louisiana, with these same Oakland Raiders defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27–10, making them the first Wild Card team ever to win the Super Bowl.[1]

Oakland Raiders announce future move to Los Angeles in defiance of NFL vote[edit]

In 1979, Raiders owner Al Davis announced his intention to move the Raiders to Los Angeles. Negotiations between Davis and the Oakland Coliseum regarding potential improvements to the facility came to an end in February 1980. At the NFL's annual meeting on March 10, 1980, team owners voted 22–0 against allowing the move, with the Raiders not participating and five teams abstaining. Davis announced he would ignore the vote and move the team anyway.[2]

The Raiders played the entire 1980 season in Oakland. At a Monday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos on December 1, 1980, Raider fans protested by entering the Oakland Coliseum five minutes after the start of the game and holding up signs stating "Save Our Raiders" at each half's 2-minute warning. By some estimates, “almost two-thirds” of the Coliseum's seats had been empty at the game's kickoff.[2]

The announced move was involved in four lawsuits: the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission sued the NFL charging antitrust violations, the NFL sued the Raiders charging breach of contract, Raider season ticket holders filed a class-action lawsuit, and the City of Oakland filed for eminent domain of the team.[2]

In May 1982, a jury ruled that the NFL had violated antitrust law by attempting to prevent the move, clearing the way for Davis to move the Raiders for the 1982 season. In April 1983, after the team's first season in Los Angeles, a separate jury awarded the Raiders $35 million in damages.[2]


The 1980 NFL Draft was held from April 29 to 30, 1980 at New York City's Sheraton Hotel. With the first pick, the Detroit Lions selected running back Billy Sims from the University of Oklahoma.

New referee[edit]

The league added a 15th officiating crew, promoting Bob McElwee to referee. The league previously had 15 crews in 1976 (when the league expanded to 28 teams) and 1977. After referee Bernie Ulman retired after the 1977 season, the league used only 14 crews for the 1978 and 1979 seasons, requiring all 14 of them to be on hand for the weekly workload of 14 games.

Major rule changes[edit]

  • A ten-second runoff will be implemented when a team commits the following actions to conserve time within the last minute of either half or overtime (with the half/game/regulation ending automatically if 10 or less seconds remain on the game clock; this was changed to after the two-minute warning in the 2017 NFL season):
    • Fouls by either team that prevents the snap (e.g. false start, encroachment, etc.)
    • Intentional grounding
    • Illegal forward pass thrown from beyond the line of scrimmage
    • Throwing a backward pass out of bounds
    • Spiking or throwing the ball in the field of play after a down has ended, except after a touchdown
    • Any other intentional foul that causes the clock to stop.
    • Any excess time-out taken for injuries by either team.

Teams can take a time-out (if available) to prevent the runoff.[3]

  • Players are prohibited from striking, swinging, or clubbing to the head, face, or neck. The personal foul could be called whether or not the initial contact was made below the neck.
  • A "Guidelines for Captains" section was added to the rules.


  • The New Orleans Saints lost their first 14 games to start the season that matched a record set by the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Division Races[edit]

From 1978 to 1989, ten teams qualified for the playoffs: the winners of each of the divisions, and two wild-card teams in each conference. These are the leaders for each playoff slot, week by week. Teams listed in week 16 indicate playoff participants.

National Football Conference[edit]

Week NFC East NFC Central NFC West Wild Card Wild Card
1 3 teams 1–0 4 teams 1–0 San Francisco 1–0
2 Philadelphia 2–0 Detroit, Tampa Bay 2–0 San Francisco 2–0
3 Philadelphia 3–0 Detroit 3–0 San Francisco 3–0 Dallas, Tampa Bay, Minnesota 2–1
4 Philadelphia, Dallas 3–1 Detroit 4–0 San Francisco 3–1 Philadelphia, Dallas 3–1 4 teams 2–2
5 Philadelphia, Dallas 4–1 Detroit 4–1 S.F., L.A., Atlanta 3–2 Philadelphia, Dallas 4–1 S.F., L.A., Atlanta 3–2
6 Philadelphia, Dallas 5–1 Detroit 5–1 Los Angeles 4–2 Philadelphia, Dallas 5–1 Minnesota, S.F., Atlanta 3–3
7 Philadelphia 6–1 Detroit 5–2 Los Angeles 5–2 Dallas 5–2 Atlanta 4–3
8 Philadelphia 7–1 Detroit 5–3 L.A., Atlanta 5–3 Dallas 6–2 L.A., Atlanta 5–3
9 Philadelphia 8–1 Detroit 6–3 L.A., Atlanta 6–3 Dallas 7–2 L.A., Atlanta 6–3
10 Philadelphia 9–1 Detroit 6–4 Atlanta 7–3 Dallas 7–3 Los Angeles 6–4
11 Philadelphia 10–1 Detroit, Minnesota 6–5 Atlanta 8–3 Dallas 8–3 Los Angeles 7–4
12 Philadelphia 11–1 Detroit 7–5 Atlanta 9–3 Dallas 9–3 Los Angeles 8–4
13 Philadelphia 11–2 Detroit, Minnesota 7–6 Atlanta 10–3 Dallas 10–3 Los Angeles 9–4
14 Philadelphia, Dallas 11–3 Minnesota 8–6 Atlanta 11–3 Philadelphia, Dallas 11–3 Los Angeles 9–5
15 Philadelphia 12–3 Minnesota 9–6 Atlanta 12–3 Dallas 11–4 Los Angeles 10–5
16 Philadelphia 12–4 Minnesota 9–7 Atlanta 12–4 Dallas 12–4 Los Angeles 11–5

American Football Conference[edit]

Week AFC East AFC Central AFC West Wild Card Wild Card
1 3 teams 1–0 Pittsburgh 1–0 S.D., Oakland 1–0
2 Buffalo 2–0 Pittsburgh 2–0 San Diego 2–0
3 Buffalo 3–0 Pittsburgh, Houston 2–1 San Diego 3–0 Pitt., Hou., Miami, N.E., Oak. 2–1
4 Buffalo 4–0 Pittsburgh, Houston 3–1 San Diego 4–0 4 teams 3–1 Baltimore, Cleveland, Oak., Seattle 2–2
5 Buffalo 5–0 Pittsburgh 4–1 San Diego 4–1 New England 4–1 Miami, Baltimore, Houston, Seattle 3–2
6 New England 5–1 Pittsburgh 4–2 San Diego 4–2 Buffalo 5–1 Baltimore 4–2
7 New England 6–1 Pittsburgh, Cle., Hou. 4–3 San Diego 5–2 Buffalo 5–2 6 teams 4–3
8 Buffalo 6–2 Cleveland, Houston 5–3 S.D., Oakland 5–3 New England 6–2 4 teams 5–3
9 New England 7–2 Cleveland, Houston 6–3 S.D., Oakland 6–3 5 teams 6–3 5 teams 6-3
10 Buffalo 7–3 Houston 7–3 Oakland 7–3 Cleveland, N.E. 7–3 Cleveland, N.E. 7-3
11 Buffalo 8–3 Houston 8–3 Oakland 8–3 4 teams 7–4 Miami, Baltimore, Denver 6–5
12 Buffalo 9–3 Houston 8–4 S.D., Oakland 8–4 4 teams 8–4 4 teams 8-4
13 Buffalo 9–4 Cleveland 9–4 S.D., Oakland 9–4 S.D., Oakland 9–4 New England, Pittsburgh, Houston 8–5
14 Buffalo 10–4 Cleveland 10–4 S.D., Oakland 9–5 S.D., Oak., Hou. 9–5 S.D., Oak., Hou. 9-5
15 Buffalo 10–5 Cleveland, Houston 10–5 S.D., Oakland 10–5 Cle., Hou., S.D., Oak. 10–5 Cle., Hou., S.D., Oak. 10-5
16 Buffalo 11–5 Cleveland 11–5 San Diego 11–5 Oakland 11–5 Houston 11–5

Regular season[edit]

Scheduling formula[edit]

AFC East vs NFC West
AFC Central vs NFC Central
AFC West vs NFC East

Highlights of the 1980 season included:

  • Thanksgiving: Two games were played on Thursday, November 27, featuring Chicago at Detroit and Seattle at Dallas. Chicago would prevail in overtime, while Dallas, emerged victorious in a 51–7 rout.

Final standings[edit]


  • Cleveland finished ahead of Houston in the AFC Central based on better conference record (8–4 to Oilers’ 7–5).
  • San Diego finished ahead of Oakland in the AFC West based on better net points in division games (plus 60 net points to Raiders’ plus 37).
  • San Diego was the top AFC playoff seed based on better conference record than Cleveland and Buffalo (9–3 to Browns’ 8–4 and Bills’ 8–4).
  • Cleveland was the second AFC playoff seed based on better record against common opponents (5–2 to Bills’ 5–3).
  • Oakland was the first AFC Wild Card based on better conference record than Houston (9–3 to Oilers’ 7–5).
  • Kansas City finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Philadelphia finished ahead of Dallas in the NFC East based on better net points in division games (plus 84 net points to Cowboys’ plus 50).
  • Atlanta was the top NFC playoff seed based on head-to-head victory over Philadelphia (1–0).
  • Minnesota finished ahead of Detroit in the NFC Central based on better conference record (8–4 to Lions' 9–5).
  • Tampa Bay finished ahead of Green Bay in the NFC Central based on better head-to-head record (1–0–1 to Packers' 0–1–1).


Note: The San Diego Chargers (the AFC 1 seed) did not play the Oakland Raiders (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.
Jan 4 – Cleveland Stadium
4 Oakland 14
Dec 28 – Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Jan 11 – Jack Murphy Stadium
2* Cleveland 12
5 Houston 7 4 Oakland 34
Jan 3 – Jack Murphy Stadium
4 Oakland 27 1 San Diego 27
AFC Championship
3 Buffalo 14
Jan 25 – Louisiana Superdome
1* San Diego 20
Divisional playoffs
Wild Card playoffs A4 Oakland 27
Jan 4 – Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium
N2 Philadelphia 10
Super Bowl XV
4 Dallas 30
Dec 28 – Texas Stadium Jan 11 – Veterans Stadium
1 Atlanta 27
5 Los Angeles 13 4 Dallas 7
Jan 3 – Veterans Stadium
4 Dallas 34 2 Philadelphia 20
NFC Championship
3 Minnesota 16
2 Philadelphia 31

Statistical leaders[edit]


Points scored Dallas Cowboys (454)
Total yards gained San Diego Chargers (6,410)
Yards rushing Los Angeles Rams (2,799)
Yards passing San Diego Chargers (4,531)
Fewest points allowed Philadelphia Eagles (222)
Fewest total yards allowed Buffalo Bills (4,101)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Detroit Lions (1,599)
Fewest passing yards allowed Washington Redskins (2,171)


Most Valuable Player Brian Sipe, quarterback, Cleveland
Coach of the Year Chuck Knox, Buffalo
Offensive Player of the Year Earl Campbell, running back, Houston Oilers
Defensive Player of the Year Lester Hayes, cornerback, Oakland
Offensive Rookie of the Year Billy Sims, running back, Detroit
Defensive Rookie of the Year Buddy Curry & Al Richardson, linebackers, Atlanta
Man of the Year Harold Carmichael, wide receiver, Philadelphia
Comeback Player of the Year Jim Plunkett, quarterback, Oakland
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Jim Plunkett, quarterback, Oakland

Coaching changes[edit]



Stadium changes[edit]

The Los Angeles Rams moved from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to Anaheim Stadium

Uniform changes[edit]

  • The Cincinnati Bengals switched from gray to black face masks. The Bengals also added TV numbers to the sleeves of their jerseys, becoming the last NFL team to do so.
  • The Denver Broncos discontinued wearing orange pants with their white jerseys.
  • The Houston Oilers dropped the blue pants worn with their white jerseys for this season only.
  • The Green Bay Packers switched from gray to forest green face masks.
  • The Miami Dolphins switched from gray to aqua face masks.
  • The Minnesota Vikings switched from gray to white face masks.
  • The New York Giants reverted to the narrow stripping patterns used prior to 1975 while also removing the white stripes on their helmets, leaving the red stripe in the center as the only stripe on the helmet.


This was the third year under the league's four-year broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC to televise Monday Night Football, the NFC package, and the AFC package, respectively. Phyllis George returned to The NFL Today, replacing Jayne Kennedy (who had previously replaced George in 1978).[4]

NBC made history with an announcerless telecast of the December 20, nationally televised Saturday game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. With both teams out of playoff contention during the last week of the regular season, NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer used this as a one-shot experiment in an attempt to boost ratings.[5]

Late in the 4th Quarter of a Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins on December 8, ABC Monday Night Football announcers Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell broke the shocking news of the passing of former Beatle, John Lennon, who was shot twice outside of his New York, Dakota apartment.





  1. ^ "NFL.com: Super Bowl XV Recap". Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Raiders fans reliving the Los Angeles nightmare, The Press Democrat, Phil Barber, Dec. 14, 2015.
  3. ^ Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (First ed.). 1997. p. 1585. ISBN 0-06-270170-3.
  4. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 3" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
  5. ^ Garber, Greg (December 12, 2010). "In this NFL game, silence was golden". ESPN.