1996 NFL season

Last updated

1996 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 1 – December 23, 1996
Playoffs
Start dateDecember 28, 1996
AFC Champions New England Patriots
NFC Champions Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XXXI
DateJanuary 26, 1997
Site Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Champions Green Bay Packers
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 2, 1997
Site Aloha Stadium

The 1996 NFL season was the 77th regular season of the National Football League and the season was marked by notable controversies from beginning to end. The season ended with Super Bowl XXXI when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots 35–21 at the Louisiana Superdome.

Contents

Player movement

Transactions

Retirements

Draft

The 1996 NFL Draft was held from April 20 to 21, 1996 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the New York Jets selected wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson from the University of Southern California.

Referee changes

Gordon McCarter retired during the 1996 off-season. He joined the NFL in 1967, serving as a line judge and back judge, before being promoted to referee in 1974. Dale Hamer, who had to sit out the 1995 season to recover from open heart surgery, took over McCarter's officiating crew.

Future Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira was hired as a side judge. He left the field after two seasons to join the league office and succeeded Jerry Seeman in 2001.

Major rule changes

Preseason

American Bowl

A series of National Football League pre-season exhibition games that were held at sites outside the United States. Two games were contested in 1996.

DateWinning TeamScoreLosing TeamScoreStadiumCity
July 28, 1996 San Diego Chargers 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 10 Tokyo Dome Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo
August 5, 1996 Kansas City Chiefs 32 Dallas Cowboys 6 Estadio Universitario Flag of Mexico.svg Monterrey

Hall of Fame Game

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, in which the Indianapolis Colts defeated the New Orleans Saints 10–3, was played on July 27, and held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, the same city where the league was founded. The 1996 Hall of Fame Class included Lou Creekmur, Dan Dierdorf, a former offensive lineman with the St. Louis Cardinals and a member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team, Joe Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl winning coach with Washington, Charlie Joiner and Mel Renfro.

Regular season

Scheduling formula

    Inter-conference
AFC East vs NFC East
AFC Central vs NFC West
AFC West vs NFC Central

Highlights of the 1996 season included:

Final standings

Tiebreakers

Playoffs

Dec. 28 – Rich Stadium Jan. 4 – Mile High Stadium
5 Jacksonville 30
5Jacksonville30
4 Buffalo 27Jan. 12 – Foxboro Stadium
1 Denver 27
AFC
Dec. 29 – Three Rivers Stadium 5Jacksonville6
Jan. 5 – Foxboro Stadium
2New England20
6 Indianapolis 14AFC Championship
3Pittsburgh3
3 Pittsburgh 42Jan. 26 – Louisiana Superdome
2 New England 28
Wild Card playoffs
Divisional playoffs
Dec. 28 – Texas Stadium A2New England21
Jan. 5 – Ericsson Stadium
N1Green Bay35
6 Minnesota 15 Super Bowl XXXI
3Dallas17
3 Dallas 40Jan. 12 – Lambeau Field
2 Carolina 26
NFC
Dec. 29 – 3Com Park 2Carolina13
Jan. 4 – Lambeau Field
1Green Bay30
5 Philadelphia 0NFC Championship
4San Francisco14
4 San Francisco 14
1 Green Bay 35

Notable events

When Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns, wanted to relocate his team to Baltimore in a surprise move first reported by the Boston Globe on November 4, 1995, the ensuing press furor and public relations mess forced the league to intercede and make an agreement with him and the cities of Cleveland and Baltimore before the new season began. In the agreement, the name, colors and history of the Browns were to remain in Cleveland, while the relocated club would technically be a new league franchise; the Browns would return to play in Cleveland at a new stadium no later than 1999 by way of an expansion or another franchise relocation. Either way, the Cleveland Browns would continue, officially suspended for the 1996 through 1998 seasons, while the Baltimore Ravens' history begins with the 1996 season.

1996 AFC West champion Denver hosts Tampa Bay at Mile High Stadium, September 15, 1996 Mile High Stadium during a Broncos game on September 15, 1996.jpg
1996 AFC West champion Denver hosts Tampa Bay at Mile High Stadium, September 15, 1996

The season was also the final season for the Houston Oilers before leaving Texas for Memphis for the following season, and then to Nashville in 1998. This move left Houston with no professional football team until the 2002 debut of the Texans.

One of the most memorable aspects of the 1996 season was that the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, each in just their second year of existence, both advanced to their respective conference championship games. 1996 marked the third year the NFL salary cap was in force and also marked the end of multiple “dynasties” in the NFL as it was the first season since 1991 (and only the second since 1987) in which neither the Dallas Cowboys nor the San Francisco 49ers played in the NFC Championship Game. It was also the first NFC Championship Game ever that did not feature either the Cowboys, 49ers, Washington Redskins, or Los Angeles Rams.

The season ended with Super Bowl XXXI when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots in a game ultimately decided when a third-quarter kick-off was returned 99 yards for a touchdown by Packers’ kick returner, Desmond Howard. For that, and his excellent performance on kick-off and punt returns throughout the game, Howard was named Super Bowl MVP, the first and only time that a special teams player has earned that award.

All that was nearly overshadowed by the press feeding frenzy reporting and commenting on the rumor, between the AFC championship game up to and into the broadcast coverage of Super Bowl XXXI itself, that iconic coach Bill Parcells was planning on breaking his contract with the New England Patriots because he did not get along well with owner Robert Kraft, who had helped turn around New England's image after years of ownership that was either dismal or absent. In the event, Parcells did not even return with the players, and telephone records showed he was talking to the Jets in the days before and the day of the Super Bowl itself. This documentary evidence led to the league awarding the Patriots multiple draft picks in compensation for the "tampering" by the Jets, [2] which is but a continuation of one-upmanship that has gone on for years between the heated rivals.

Statistical leaders

Team

Points scoredGreen Bay Packers (456)
Total yards gainedDenver Broncos (5,791)
Yards rushingDenver Broncos (2,362)
Yards passingJacksonville Jaguars (4,110)
Fewest points allowedGreen Bay Packers (210)
Fewest total yards allowedGreen Bay Packers (4,156)
Fewest rushing yards allowedDenver Broncos (1,331)
Fewest passing yards allowedGreen Bay Packers (2,740)

Individual

Scoring John Kasay, Carolina (145 points)
Touchdowns Terry Allen, Washington (21 TDs)
Most field goals madeJohn Kasay, Carolina (37 FGs)
Rushing Barry Sanders, Detroit (1,553 yards)
Passing Steve Young, San Francisco (97.2 rating)
Passing touchdowns Brett Favre, Green Bay (39 TDs)
Pass receiving Jerry Rice, San Francisco (108 catches)
Pass receiving yards Isaac Bruce, St. Louis (1,338)
Punt returns Desmond Howard, Green Bay (15.1 average yards)
Kickoff returnsMichael Bates, Carolina (30.2 average yards)
InterceptionsTyrone Braxton, Denver and Keith Lyle, St. Louis (9)
PuntingJohn Kidd, Miami (46.3 average yards)
Sacks Kevin Greene, Carolina (14.5)

Awards

Most Valuable Player Brett Favre, Quarterback, Green Bay
Coach of the Year Dom Capers, Carolina
Offensive Player of the Year Terrell Davis, Running Back, Denver
Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Smith, Defensive End, Buffalo
Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie George, Running Back, Houston
Defensive Rookie of the Year Simeon Rice, Defensive End, Arizona
Comeback Player of the Year Jerome Bettis, Running Back, Pittsburgh
NFL Man of the Year Award Darrell Green, Cornerback, Washington
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Desmond Howard, Return Specialist, Green Bay

Coaching changes

Stadium changes

Uniform changes

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References

Footnotes

  1. "PRO FOOTBALL / DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE NFL : Rams' Slater, 41, Says He's Retiring – By Associated Press". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  2. Michael Holly (2004). Patriots Reign (1st ed. HC ed.). HarperCollins. p. 240. ISBN   978-0-06-075795-3.