The Worst Teams of All Time, Part 12: The 1982 AFC Stinkers

This is a post in an ongoing series, where we examine and poke fun at some of the most ghastly teams ever to take the field.

Right off the bat, I’d like to apologize for the day-and-three-quarters absence of mine where there’s been nothing written, I’ve been sick with a nasty cold.

This was a post that I actually came up with in bed, and originally was going to be separated into “12A” and “12B” sections, but I finally just decided to wing it and bunch the two together.

In the 1982 season, due to a player’s strike, teams only played 9 games. This basically screwed up all the record databases, as teams who only play 9 games will put up horrible stats compared to teams that played 16. Although there were some bad teams, like the 2-7 Bears, two AFC dumpster fires caught my attention, the Oilers and the Colts.

The Oilers are up first on the list of shame, and they were a total mess on both sides. Led by the quarterback tandem of Gifford Nielsen (?) and Archie Manning, Houston stumbled to a 1-8 record. After losing their opener and barely beating the Seattle Seahawks 23-21, the season was frozen until November. After that, the Oilers didn’t win again.

Houston set a handful of records in 1982, and none of them were good. The two most notable are as follows: Fewest interceptions, defense (3), and fewest total yards of any team from 1965-2013 (2,373). Not records you want to be a part of.

Archie Manning totaled 877 yards, 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 5 starts.  He went 0-5 as a starter, getting sacked 27 times. The lesser known Gifford Nielsen started 4 games, guiding the team to their only win in the process with 1,005 yards, 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The two finished with ratings of 64.8 and 71.3.

1982 Gifford Nielsen

Nielsen about to take another sack.

Earl Campbell officially hit the wall in 1982, as defenses easily keyed on him due to the low-flying, no octane passing attack. He gained 538 yards on 157 attempts for a measly 2 touchdowns and a 3.4 yards-per-carry average. The next highest rusher on the team, Donnie Craft, only had 42 yards on 18 carries. In all, they scored 5 touchdowns as a unit.

The defense was horrible, however, surrendering 245 points. They would be on pace to give up 435 during a 16 game season. They were cut up by opposing quarterbacks for 2,453 yards, 18 touchdowns and, like I said before, only 3 interceptions. This equated to an opposing quarterback rating of 107.3. They allowed 136.1 rushing yards per game, while giving up 245.9 passing.

That’s about it for Houston. No offense, no defense, no coaching. They lost their average game 15-27, and were blown out 27-6, 37-7 and 35-14 by Cincinnati, Dallas and Philadelphia. A minuscule crowd of 26,522 showed up to watch their final game of the season, as they fell to the Bengals 35-27 at home. The ’82 squad does deserve credit for drafting Mike Munchak and uh…Andrew Luck’s Dad.

Despite Houston’s best effort to raise the noise in the Astrodome to that of a funeral, the Colts stole the last place cushion from them. Baltimore was coming off a 2-14 disaster in which they finished with the worst defense in league history, and the fans in 1982 weren’t expecting much either. The average home attendance for their 4 home games was a minute 26,911. A sparse crowd of 19,073 came to watch their season finale against Miami. Although they occasionally played close games (losing 20-17 to defending AFC champion Cincinnati), Baltimore was shut out twice, and in their fourth game against Buffalo, Baltimore failed to cross the 50 yard line the entire game. The Colts didn’t win all season, and their only tie came against the Packers, 20-20.

Baltimore’s biggest problem was that they couldn’t move the ball. Quarterback Mike Pagel started all 9 games, and he faltered to the tune of 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, throwing for 1,281 yards. Fellow rookie Art Schlicter didn’t fair much better, appearing in 3 games but throwing 2 interceptions to no touchdowns on 37 pass attempts.

Mike Pagel

Mike Pagel getting walloped by the Dolphins.

Randy McMillan finished as the leading rusher, but he could never get anything going behind a pitiful offensive line. McMillan finished 1982 with 305 yards on 101 carries for a touchdown.

The defense also seemed to be struggling from its previous 1981 drunken stupor, giving up 26.2 points per game, 26th/28th in the league. This means they were on pace to give up 425 points in a standard 16 game season.

After the 0-8-1 finish, the Colts were awarded the No.1 overall pick of the 1983 draft, which they promptly wasted on John Elway, who wanted no part of the Baltimore misery, demanding a trade that was later initiated with Denver.

It took the Oilers 5 years to get back into contention, with a 9-6 finish in 1987 following a span from 1982-1986 in which they never won more than 5 games in a season, simultaneously setting a then-NFL record for most consecutive road games lost.

The Colts also recovered in 1987, achieving an identical 9-6 record behind the cape of Eric Dickerson. Unlike the Oilers, however, their success was limited, going 9-7, 8-8, 7-9 and then 1-15 in the years following, not returning to postseason play until 1995, and not returning to relevance until Peyton Manning got there.

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