The Four Best NFL Teams of the 80s Bull Market Era: An Introduction

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIJune 17, 2010

Wall $treet and its denizens set the tone for a short period in United States history during which everything (except Democrats) had nads.

Have you watched AMC's Mad Men ?  Great show.  Well, the 80s as a decade, especially 1982 through 1987, was the perpetually prepared Don Draper on a daily 150 mg dose of Viagra as maintenance meds so he can provide for his numerous pluvial women.

Aside from Mr. Draper, 1980s women weren't left out of The $treet action.  No cajones?  No problem!  Her pink suit had big black buttons and really wide Joan Collins shoulder pads.

Shoulder pads?  Football players' shoulder pads were so huge they were warped.  They looked scarier than any time in the recent past.  LT scary.  Hacksaw Reynolds scary.  ’85 Bears scary.

Even Hollywood had balls in the 1980s.  Read this partial list of alpha male, testosterone-soaked cinematic gems from 1982 through 1987: Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rambo II, A View to a Kill, Terminator, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Risky Business, Top Gun, Platoon, and Out of Africa.

Nah...just kidding about Out of Africa .  But, there are no laughs about the film running the anchor spot.  This movie summed it up and closed out '87 in December with the consummate, quintessential ‘80s story.

That would be Wall Street .

Gordon Gekko (by the way, geckos eat cockroaches).  Braces buttoned to his slacks.  Blue shirt, white collar.  Fit.  Impressed us with a cell phone call from his beach house, even though the phone was as large as a World War II walkie-talkie.

If the Raiders were ‘80s stockbrokers, the mantra would have been, “Greed is good, baby!”

Back to the women of Wall $treet.  The glass ceiling was showing some cracks.  It could be possible, the attorneys and CPAs were saying.  Soon, maybe soon.

However, babes on Wall $treet?  The future is now, honey.  If you looked like a Bond girl and knew your stuff, you went from working for the man in the 1970s Wall $treet back office to having a real opportunity to pull in six figures by getting in the man's face, all without giving up that slit just above the knee.

Smart, hustlingand this is more important than I want it to vivacious knockouts could bring it home big, and that was cool.  It was certainly the best of times, especially when compared to the 1970s worst of times. 

Here's something counter intuitive: the 1980s were so freaking good most not-so-bright men could play golf half the day and also bring it home big.

Lots of low-hanging fruit.

President Ronald Reagan's Secret Service code name was Rawhide.  There's an 80s name for you.  Jimmy Carter's was Deacon, but it should have been Jogger, which he did wearing black socks (I'm not making that up).  Jogging, preferred exercise for the sake of malaise.

No Wall $treeter jogged in the 80s.  We were runners.  It was Runners' World, n ot the moral equivalent of running. 

The true bad asses in the 80s were triathletes. Oh, yeah. Swim, bike with jellyfish hanging from your groin, then run until you puke.  Then you smile.  Then you drink light beer with all the other triathletes until you all pass out.

Trust me as I tell you this.  If the pain of swim/bike/run wasn't enough, some Wall $treeters claimed they walked barefoot on hot coals. 

Incredible!   Like, junior, it’s a lie.

A guy in my office said he did it.  6'3", a corpulent 290, made as much as Reagan, drove a Porsche 928.  He said it changed his life.

No pain, no gain, he said repeatedly.

It certainly changed the bottoms of his feet, but we all ignored that.  John was a hero.  He could do anything, up to and including doubling his production in a quarter.  Our resident manager told us if we didn't double our production in a quarter because John walked on hot coals, we were failures.

He was a constant reminder in the office of how not to fail, hugging the screen of his quote machine, watching his latest stock run up. More cha-ching, more profits, more commissions, while screaming, "Go, Mama, go!"

One year later, John was an inmate in a minimum security facility, a country club prison, convicted of securities fraud.  Still, the hot coals were legendary, the resident manager still had the "Go, Mama, go" attitude, and still, we were failures if we didn't double our production.

What is wrong with that picture?

Nothing, said way too many.

As you probably expected, the National Football League and Wall $treet were symbiotic in the go-go 80s. 

It's like this: pay stubs on The $treet were bloated.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rocketed from 776 in mid-August 1982 to 2,722 five years later in 1987 to the date.  That's almost 35 percent per year.  Big money.  Big, big money, like everything else in the 80s that was big.

The NFL also learned how to run it up in the 80s.  Here are two examples:

The cost of a 30 second television commercial during the Super Bowl increased over the 1982-1987 period by much more than the Consumer Price Index, but lagged the absurd gains of the Dow Jones Industrials.  Hard to believe The Shield left so much on the table. 

The best teams were the ones that assembled their talent solid and reeled off win after win after win, trampling the bodies wearing the other team’s colors.  Is the symbiosis familiar?  You bet: sounds like brokers and their clients.

It was awesome.  The 1985 Bears and 1984 49ers each had 15-1 seasons, and the 1983 Redskins, 1984 Dolphins, and 1986 Giants each went 14-2. 

While in the 70s the Steelers and Cowboys dominated and the Raiders snuck one in there, five teams in 1982 through 1987 five-year period knew how to go-go large.

Wall $treet in the 80s also emulated the NFL.  It was a man-up thing.

Football metaphors and similes were used and abused.  Stockbrokers of those bull market years blitzed their clients to sell an initial public offering.  They drove 90 yards down the field to score like Joe Montana, hitting the month’s production goal the firm had set for them.  And, when it was the last day of the month and six hours ‘til failure, the broker put up the Hail Mary.        

Stockbrokers did just about everything with the swagger of an overly arrogant wideout.  Yet, of the ten brokers in our office only three of them played organized sports in high school. 

Don't laugh...ah, go ahead and laugh.  It was pathetic, but that was as good as it was in most places on the 80s $treet.  And, it gets even more humorous as I tell you that, in addition to my number 64, lame-ass, almost college football experience, we also had a college tennis player and a college pitcher who were also revered.


Oddly, my permanently potential football career was actually currency among my colleagues.  It was amusing to me that the brokers respected that I was an all-wherever defensive whatever and I could have played at Potomac State College and West Virginia Tech if I so chose.

Why is that amusing?  Well, at one of our desks in our Richmond, Virginia, office sat Willie Lanier. 

Willie Lanier.  I am not making that up.  Pro Football Hall of Fame, enshrined at Canton.  Kansas City Chief and Super Bowl IV middle linebacker.

Yeah, that’s the one, the one who hit you with such brutality he had to have padding on the outside of his headgear. 

Number 63.  One of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and his forearms are as big as my calves.  Imagine those tree limbs punitively rattling your chin.

After Wi...Mr. Lanier, I mean, West Virginia Tech isn't that big of a deal.

Interestingly, 63 and 64 share a common trait: we, along with many Wall $treeters have much more credence than bare broker feet on hot coals.

Time to begin the countdown.  I'll present one team in each article.  There are four of them.  Today, however, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the honorable mention.

The Washington Redskins  

Honorable Mention - The Best NFL Teams of the Bull Market Era: 1982 - 1987

In 1982, the Washington Redskins finished 8-1, withstanding the 59-day players strike that cost them, the coaches, the owners, and most importantly the fans, seven games.  Result?  Super Bowl XVII victory, down to Miami 17-13 in the fourth, only to storm back and win 27-17.

The 1983 Redskins that went 14-2 lost each of its games by just one point, and went to Tampa Stadium to defend its 1982 Super Bowl XVII title.  A curious three-point (only) favorite, Washington was annihilated by an embarrassing 38-9 margin by a typically vicious Los Angeles Raider team. The 29-point margin of mortification was the record at the time.

The 1987 season brought a new concept to the NFL: Replacement Ball.  Replacements, from the ranks of police, firefighters, bouncers, insurance agents, stockbrokers, and teachers played three games in October that counted in the end of year standings as the players the replacements were replacing worked out yet another strike.  Winner of that Super Bowl XXII?

The Washington Redskins.

Even at 16-3, I cannot put 1983 Washington in the top four.  The Super Bowl XVIII dismantling was too shocking to Redskin fans and players alike.   I do have to acknowledge the ‘Skins and the team's acumen for one major aspect of the game that always keeps you in the game: Washington had an exceptional organization.

That’s organization, from the executives to the directors of player personnel and football operations to the head coach on the sidelines and the quarterback in the huddle. 

Two strikes were a reality in the bull market 80s, a supreme pain-in-the-ass distraction in a league that curls up under the desk in the fetal position when it experiences a distraction.

It is not a coincidence that the Redskins finished out each season with a Lombardi in each of the two years the players walked.  It is testament to how well the ownership and head coach Joe Gibbs stayed together, providing leadership to everyone employed by the Washington Redskins as they all realized the most important goal of an NFL franchise: winning.

Next: 1983 Los Angeles Raiders – The Fourth-Best NFL Team of the Bull Market Era:  1982-1987


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