1977 NFL season

The 1977 NFL season was the 58th regular season of the National Football League. The Seattle Seahawks were placed in the AFC West while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were slotted into the NFC Central.

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving Day game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, the league scheduled a Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Cardinals contest. This would be only the second season since 1966 that the Cowboys did not play on that holiday. It marked the last time that the Cowboys did not play on Thanksgiving.

This was the last NFL regular season with 14 games. The regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978, with the preseason reduced from six games to four. It was also the final season of the eight-team playoff field in the NFL, before going to ten the following season.

The 1977 season is considered the last season of the “Dead Ball Era” of professional football (1970 to 1977). The 17.2 average points scored per team per game was the lowest since 1942. For 1978, the league made significant changes to allow greater offensive production.[1]

The season ended with Super Bowl XII when the Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos.

1977 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 18, 1977 – December 18, 1977
Start dateDecember 24, 1977
AFC ChampionsDenver Broncos
NFC ChampionsDallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XII
DateJanuary 15, 1978
SiteLouisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
ChampionsDallas Cowboys
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 23, 1978
SiteTampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
1986 Jeno's Pizza - 02 - Butch Johnson
The Cowboys playing against the Broncos in Super Bowl XII.

Major rule changes

  • The head slap is outlawed.[2] This change is referred to as the "Deacon Jones Rule"; the Los Angeles Rams' defensive end frequently used this technique.
  • Any shoe worn by a player with an artificial limb must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.[2] Informally referred to as the "Tom Dempsey Rule." Dempsey is a record-breaking placekicker whose modified shoe (having a flattened and enlarged toe area) on his deformed kicking foot generated controversy during his career.
  • Defenders are only permitted to make contact with receivers once.
  • Defenders are not allowed to make contact with an opponent above the shoulders with the palms of their hands, except to ward him off the line.
  • Offensive linemen are not allowed to thrust their hands to a defender’s neck, face, or head.
  • Wide receivers are not allowed to clip defenders.
  • This was the first season when the statistic for time of possession began to be recorded.

New Referees

Tommy Bell retired after the 1976 season. His line judge, Jerry Markbreit, was named his successor. Bell worked two Super Bowls, III and VII. Markbreit would work four Super Bowls.

Division races

Tampa Bay and Seattle continued as "swing" teams that did not participate in regular conference play. Every other NFL team played a home-and-away series against the other members in its division, two or three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14-game schedule against other conference teams. Tampa Bay switched to the NFC and played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the AFC. The teams met in Week Five, with Seattle winning 30–23.

Starting in 1970, and through 2001, except for the strike-shortened 1982 season, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth "wild card" team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 3 teams 1–0 (Chicago, Green Bay) 1–0 Atlanta 1–0 3 teams 1–0
2 Dallas 2–0 4 teams 1–1 Atlanta* 1–1 8 teams 1–1
3 Dallas 3–0 Minnesota 2–1* Atlanta 2–1 3 teams 2–1
4 Dallas 4–0 Minnesota 3–1 Atlanta 3–1 Washington 3–1
5 Dallas 5–0 Minnesota 4–1 Atlanta* 3–2 3 teams 3–2
6 Dallas 6–0 Minnesota 4–2 Atlanta* 4–2 Los Angeles 4–2
7 Dallas 7–0 Minnesota 5–2 Atlanta* 4–3 St. Louis* 4–3
8 Dallas 8–0 Minnesota 5–3 Los Angeles 5–3 St. Louis* 5–3
9 Dallas 8–1 Minnesota 6–3 Los Angeles 6–3 St. Louis* 6–3
10 Dallas 8–2 Minnesota 6–4 Los Angeles 7–3 St. Louis 7–3
11 Dallas 9–2 Minnesota 7–4 Los Angeles 8–3 St. Louis 7–4
12 Dallas 10–2 Minnesota 8–4 Los Angeles 8–4 St. Louis* 7–5
13 Dallas 11–2 Chicago* 8–5 Los Angeles 10–3 Washington* 8–5
14 Dallas 12–2 Minnesota* 9–5 Los Angeles 10–4 Chicago* 9–5

* other teams with same W-L record

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 (Baltimore, Miami) 1–0 3 teams 1–0 (Denver, Oakland) 1–0 5 teams 1–0
2 (Baltimore, Miami) 2–0 (Cleveland, Houston) 2–0 (Denver, Oakland) 2–0 3 teams 2–0–0
3 (Baltimore, Miami) 3–0 Cleveland* 2–1 (Denver, Oakland) 3–0 2 teams 3–0
4 Baltimore 4–0 Houston 3–1 (Denver, Oakland) 4–0 2 teams 4–0
5 Baltimore 5–0 Pittsburgh* 3–2 Denver 5–0 Oakland* 4–1
6 Baltimore* 5–1 Pittsburgh* 3–2 Denver 6–0 Oakland* 5–1
7 Baltimore 6–1 Cleveland 5–2 Oakland* 6–1 Denver 6–1
8 Baltimore 7–1 Cleveland 5–3 Oakland* 7–1 Denver 7–1
9 Baltimore 8–1 Pittsburgh* 5–4 Oakland* 8–1 Denver 8–1
10 Baltimore 9–1 Pittsburgh* 6–4 Denver 9–1 Oakland 8–2
11 Baltimore* 9–2 Pittsburgh 7–4 Denver 10–1 Oakland 9–2
12 Baltimore* 9–3 Pittsburgh 8–4 Denver 11–1 Oakland 9–3
13 Baltimore* 9–4 Pittsburgh* 8–5 Denver 12–1 Oakland 10–3
14 Baltimore* 10–4 Pittsburgh 9–5 Denver 12–2 Oakland 11–3

* other teams with same W-L record

Final standings

AFC East
Baltimore Colts(2) 10 4 0 .714 6–2 9–3 295 221 W1
Miami Dolphins 10 4 0 .714 6–2 8–4 313 197 W1
New England Patriots 9 5 0 .643 4–4 7–5 278 217 L1
New York Jets 3 11 0 .214 2–6 2–10 191 300 L2
Buffalo Bills 3 11 0 .214 2–6 2–10 160 313 L1
AFC Central
Pittsburgh Steelers(3) 9 5 0 .643 4–2 7–5 276 243 W1
Houston Oilers 8 6 0 .571 3–3 6–6 299 230 W2
Cincinnati Bengals 8 6 0 .571 3–3 6–5 238 235 L1
Cleveland Browns 6 8 0 .429 2–4 5–7 269 267 L4
AFC West
Denver Broncos(1) 12 2 0 .857 6–1 11–1 274 148 L1
Oakland Raiders(4) 11 3 0 .786 5–2 10–2 351 230 W2
San Diego Chargers 7 7 0 .500 3–4 6–6 222 205 L2
Seattle Seahawks 5 9 0 .357 1–3 4–9 282 373 W2
Kansas City Chiefs 2 12 0 .143 1–6 1–11 225 349 L6
NFC East
Dallas Cowboys(1) 12 2 0 .857 7–1 11–1 345 212 W4
Washington Redskins 9 5 0 .643 4–4 8–4 196 189 W3
St. Louis Cardinals 7 7 0 .500 4–4 7–5 272 287 L4
Philadelphia Eagles 5 9 0 .357 2–6 4–8 220 207 W2
New York Giants 5 9 0 .357 3–5 5–7 181 265 L2
NFC Central
Minnesota Vikings(3) 9 5 0 .643 6–1 8–4 231 227 W1
Chicago Bears(4) 9 5 0 .643 6–1 8–4 255 253 W6
Detroit Lions 6 8 0 .429 2–5 4–8 183 252 L1
Green Bay Packers 4 10 0 .286 2–5 4–7 134 219 W1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 12 0 .143 0–4 2–11 103 223 W2
NFC West
Los Angeles Rams(2) 10 4 0 .714 4–2 8–4 302 146 L1
Atlanta Falcons 7 7 0 .500 3–3 7–5 179 129 W1
San Francisco 49ers 5 9 0 .357 3–3 5–7 220 260 L3
New Orleans Saints 3 11 0 .214 2–4 3–9 232 336 L4


  • Baltimore finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better conference record (9–3 to Dolphins’ 8–4).
  • N.Y. Jets finished ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (1 point).
  • Houston finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (2 points).
  • Minnesota finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (3 points).
  • Chicago won the NFC Wild Card over Washington based on better net points in conference games (48 to Redskins’ 4).
  • Philadelphia finished ahead of N.Y. Giants in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).


Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl XII
* December 26 – L.A. Memorial Coliseum
3) Minnesota14
January 1 – Texas Stadium
2) Los Angeles7
3) Minnesota6
December 26 – Texas Stadium
1) Dallas23
4) Chicago7
January 15 – Louisiana Superdome
1) Dallas37
N1) Dallas27
December 24 – Memorial Stadium
A1) Denver10
4) Oakland (2OT) 37
January 1 – Mile High Stadium
2)* Baltimore31
4) Oakland17
December 24 – Mile High Stadium
1) Denver20
3) Pittsburgh21
1)* Denver34

*The Denver Broncos (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.

  • -The Mud Bowl


Most Valuable Player Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago
Coach of the Year Red Miller, Denver
Offensive Player of the Year Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago
Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin, Defensive End, Dallas
Offensive Rookie of the Year Tony Dorsett, Running Back, Dallas
Defensive Rookie of the Year A. J. Duhe, Defensive End, Miami
Man of the Year Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago
Comeback Player of the Year Craig Morton, Quarterback, Denver
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Randy White, Defensive Tackle, Dallas and Harvey Martin, Defensive End, Dallas


The 1977 NFL Draft was held from May 3 to 4, 1977 at New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel. With the first pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected running back Ricky Bell from the University of Southern California.


American Football Conference

National Football Conference


  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1971–1980 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  1. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com: NFL Season By Season Scoring Summary
  2. ^ a b "NFL restricts line blocks, outlaws defensive head slap". Chicago Tribune. wire services. June 16, 1977. p. 3, sec. 4.
1977 Dallas Cowboys season

The 1977 Dallas Cowboys season was their 18th in the NFL. The club appeared twice on Monday Night Football. Tony Dorsett rushed for 1,007 yards and became the second member of the Cowboys (first since 1973) to have a 1,000-yard rushing season. During the season, the club scored 345 points, which ranked first in the NFC, while the defense only gave up 212 points. The Cowboys made it to their fourth Super Bowl and beat the Denver Broncos to capture their second Super Bowl Championship. They were the first team from the NFC East Division to win two Super Bowls. Their 15-2 record (.882, including the postseason) remains the highest single season winning percentage in team history.

1977 Seattle Seahawks season

The 1977 Seattle Seahawks season was the team's second campaign in the National Football League. The 1977 season was the team's first in the AFC West. The Seahawks lost five of their first six games. On October 30, the Seahawks earned their second win of the season when quarterback Jim Zorn returned from an injury and threw four touchdown passes in a 56-17 win over the Buffalo Bills at the Kingdome. Two weeks later, the team recorded its first shutout, beating the Jets 17-0 in New York. The Seahawks would go on to finish with a 5-9 record, winning their final two games in the process.

Al Darby

Alvis Russell Darby (born September 14, 1954) is an American former college and professional football player who was a tight end for two seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Darby played college football for the University of Florida, and was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks in the sixth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. He also played professionally for the NFL's Houston Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Andy Dorris

Andy Dorris (born August 11, 1951) is a retired American professional football player. He was born in Bellaire, Ohio and attended college at New Mexico State University. Dorris played in the National Football League for 10 seasons. He spent most of his professional career with the New Orleans Saints and the Houston Oilers. Dorris is currently a sales representative for Forterra in Houston, Texas.

Greg Morton

Gregory Alan Morton (born October 8, 1953) is a former American football player. He played professional football as a defensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills during the 1977 NFL season. He also played college football at the University of Michigan from 1973 to 1976. He was a starting defensive tackle for the Michigan Wolverines football team in 34 of 35 games from 1974 to 1976. He was honored by the ABC television network as college football's defensive player of the year for 1976. At the end of his collegiate career, Morton ranked third in Michigan's all-time record book in both career tackles and career tackles for loss.

Jeb Blount

John Eugene Blount (born July 12, 1954) is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1976 NFL Draft. He played college football at Tulsa, where he completed 320 of 588 passes for 4,372 yards and 35 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter. He was an honorable mention All-American, and American Bowl MVP following his senior season. He claimed to have developed his passing accuracy while herding cattle on his parents' ranch. He would spook the lead bull by hitting him in the head with a football, at which point the entire herd would follow.Blount spent the 1976 season on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He was waived prior to the 1977 NFL season. He was claimed by several teams, but the NFL awarded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers his rights. The Bucs were short at quarterback, having suffered a string of quarterback injuries during the preseason. This resulted in a starting opportunity for Blount, who beat Parnell Dickinson for the third quarterback spot and rotated at starting quarterback with Gary Huff and Randy Hedberg throughout the 1977 season.

Jim Marsalis

James Marsalis (born October 10, 1945) is an American former college and Professional Football player. He played nine professional seasons as a cornerback for Tennessee State, from the 1969 American Football League season through the 1977 NFL season. He helped the American Football League's Kansas City Chiefs beat the defending World Champion New York Jets in the first game of the 1969 AFL playoffs, making two interceptions off the Jets' Joe Namath. Following that, he started in the Fourth AFL-NFL World Championship Game for the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, defeating the Minnesota Vikings in the last World Championship game played between the AFL Champions and those of the National Football League. Marsalis was selected by Pro Football Weekly as the 1969 AFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Leon Gray

Leon Gray (November 15, 1951 – November 11, 2001) was an American football tackle in the National Football League for the New England Patriots, Houston Oilers, and the New Orleans Saints. Gray played college football at Jackson State University.

List of Monday Night Football results (1970–89)

Beginning in the 1970 NFL season, the National Football League began scheduling a weekly regular season game on Monday night before a national television audience. From 1970 to 2005, the ABC television network carried these games, with the ESPN cable television network taking over beginning in September 2006. Listed below are games played from 1970 to 1989.

Manfred Moore

Manfred Moore (born December 22, 1950) is a former professional American football running back and, briefly, rugby league footballer of the 1970s.

Mike Phipps

Michael Elston Phipps (born January 19, 1947) is a former American college and professional football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for twelve seasons during the 1970s and 1980s. Phipps played college football for Purdue University, and was recognized as an All-American. He was the third overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears of the NFL.

Monte Clark

Monte Dale Clark (January 24, 1937 – September 16, 2009) was an American football player who served as head coach for two National Football League teams: the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. He played college football at the University of Southern California.

Ray Malavasi

Ray Malavasi (November 8, 1930 – December 15, 1987) was a football coach who served as head coach of two National Football League teams: the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams.

Rick Nuzum

Rick Nuzum is a former center in the National Football League. He first played with the Los Angeles Rams during the 1977 NFL season. The following season, he played with the Green Bay Packers.

He graduated from Marietta High School, Marietta Ohio in 1971. He is currently the lead pastor at Grace Church in Powell, Ohio.

Rick Volk

Richard Robert Volk (born March 15, 1945) is a former American football player who played for the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, and Miami Dolphins. He retired with 38 career interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries, and totaled 574 yards on interception returns and 548 yards on punt returns.

Volk played college football for the University of Michigan from 1964 to 1966 and was a member of the 1964 team that won the Big Ten Conference championship and defeated Oregon State in the 1965 Rose Bowl. He played as a defensive back for Michigan's defensive unit and as a halfback and quarterback for the offensive unit. Volk was also selected by the Sporting News as a first-team All-American in 1967. In 1989, he was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor; Volk and Ron Johnson were the first two football players from the 1960s to be so honored.

Volk went on to a successful 12-year career as a safety in the National Football League. He played nine years with the Baltimore Colts from 1967 to 1975. He was a member of the Colts' teams that lost Super Bowl III to the New York Jets and won Super Bowl V against the Dallas Cowboys. Volk was selected as an NFL All-Pro four times (1968–1971) and played in three Pro Bowls (1967, 1969, 1971). After being released by the Colts in April 1976, Volk concluded his playing career with the New York Giants in 1976 and the Miami Dolphins from 1977 to 1978. In 1977, Volk was selected by Baltimore fans as a starter for the Colts' 25th anniversary team.

The Waverly Wonders

The Waverly Wonders is an American sitcom starring Joe Namath that aired Fridays at 8:00 pm on NBC from September 7 to October 6, 1978.

Tim Mazzetti

Timothy Alan Mazzetti (born February 1, 1956 in Old Greenwich, Connecticut) is a former National Football League placekicker from 1978–1980) for the Atlanta Falcons. He later played with the Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers of the United States Football League.

Walter Payton

Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954 – November 1, 1999) was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons. Payton was known around the NFL as "Sweetness". A nine-time Pro Bowl selectee, Payton is remembered as a prolific rusher, once holding records for career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, and many other categories. He was also versatile, and retired with the most receptions by a non-receiver, and had eight career touchdown passes. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Hall of Fame NFL player and coach Mike Ditka described Payton as the greatest football player he had ever seen—but even greater as a human being.Payton began his football career in Mississippi, and went on to have an outstanding collegiate football career at Jackson State University where he was an All-American. He started his professional career with the Chicago Bears in 1975, who selected him with the 1975 Draft's fourth overall pick. Payton proceeded to win the 1977 AP NFL Most Valuable Player Award and won Super Bowl XX with the 1985 Chicago Bears. He retired from football at the end of the 1987 season having rushed for at least 1,200 yards in 10 of his 13 seasons in the NFL.

After struggling with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis for several months, Payton died on November 1, 1999, aged 45, from cholangiocarcinoma. His legacy includes the Walter Payton Award, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and a heightened awareness of the need for organ donations.

World Football League

The World Football League (WFL) was a short-lived American football league that played in 1974 and part of 1975. Although the league's proclaimed ambition was to bring American football onto a worldwide stage, the farthest the WFL reached was placing a team – the Hawaiians – in Honolulu, Hawaii. The league folded midway through its second season, in 1975. A new minor football league began play as the World Football League in 2008 after acquiring the rights to its trademarks and intellectual property.

1977 NFL season
Early era
Modern era

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