1988 NFL season

The 1988 NFL season was the 69th regular season of the National Football League. The Cardinals relocated from St. Louis, Missouri to the Phoenix, Arizona area becoming the Phoenix Cardinals but remained in the NFC East division. The playoff races came down to the regular season’s final week, with the Seattle Seahawks winning the AFC West by one game, and the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers winning their respective divisions in a five-way tie, with the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants losing the NFC Wild Card berth to the Los Angeles Rams on tiebreakers.

This season marked the final coaching season for the legendary Tom Landry.

The season ended with Super Bowl XXIII when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20–16 at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Florida.

1988 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 4 – December 19, 1988
Start dateDecember 24, 1988
AFC ChampionsCincinnati Bengals
NFC ChampionsSan Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XXIII
DateJanuary 22, 1989
SiteJoe Robbie Stadium, Miami
ChampionsSan Francisco 49ers
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 29, 1989
SiteAloha Stadium
Warren Moon and Mike Rozier 1987
Quarterback Warren Moon (left) and running back Mike Rozier (right) of the Houston Oilers were among the league’s top passers and rushers, respectively.

Major rule changes

  • A standard system of two time intervals between plays are established (and would be timed using the play clock): For normal plays, the offensive team has 45 seconds to snap the ball after the previous play is signaled dead. After time outs and other administrative stoppages, the time limit is 30 seconds beginning after the Referee signals that the ball is ready to resume play.
  • If a fumble occurs during an extra point attempt, only the fumbling player can recover and/or advance the ball. This change closes a loophole in the "Stabler Fumble Rule" that was enacted during the 1979 NFL season in reaction to the Holy Roller Game.
  • The penalty for "Running into the kicker" is changed from five yards and a first down to just 5 yards.
  • Referees were outfitted with white hats while all other officials wore black hats, which was the standard practice in college and high school football. From 1979 through 1987, referees wore black hats while all other officials wore white hats.

Officiating changes

Johnny Grier became the first African-American in NFL history to be promoted to referee.[1] Grier replaced long time referee Bob Frederic, who retired in the offseason. Grier was the field judge in the previous season's Super Bowl XXII, which was the same game that Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins became the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl.

Final standings

AFC East
Buffalo Bills(2) 12 4 0 .750 7–1 10–2 329 237 L1
Indianapolis Colts 9 7 0 .563 5–3 7–5 354 315 W1
New England Patriots 9 7 0 .563 5–3 7–5 250 284 L1
New York Jets 8 7 1 .531 3–5 6–7–1 372 354 W2
Miami Dolphins 6 10 0 .375 0–8 3–9 319 380 L1
AFC Central
Cincinnati Bengals(1) 12 4 0 .750 4–2 8–4 448 329 W1
Cleveland Browns(4) 10 6 0 .625 4–2 6–6 304 288 W1
Houston Oilers(5) 10 6 0 .625 3–3 7–5 424 365 L1
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 11 0 .313 1–5 4–8 336 421 W1
AFC West
Seattle Seahawks(3) 9 7 0 .563 6–2 8–4 339 329 W2
Denver Broncos 8 8 0 .500 3–5 5–7 327 352 W1
Los Angeles Raiders 7 9 0 .438 6–2 6–6 325 369 L2
San Diego Chargers 6 10 0 .375 3–5 4–8 231 332 W2
Kansas City Chiefs 4 11 1 .281 2–6 4–9–1 254 320 L2
NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles(3) 10 6 0 .625 6–2 8–4 379 319 W2
New York Giants 10 6 0 .625 5–3 9–5 359 304 L1
Washington Redskins 7 9 0 .438 4–4 6–6 345 387 L2
Phoenix Cardinals 7 9 0 .438 3–5 6–6 344 398 L5
Dallas Cowboys 3 13 0 .188 2–6 3–9 265 381 L1
NFC Central
Chicago Bears(1) 12 4 0 .750 6–2 9–3 312 215 L1
Minnesota Vikings(4) 11 5 0 .688 6–2 9–3 406 233 W1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 11 0 .313 4–4 4–8 261 350 W1
Detroit Lions 4 12 0 .250 2–6 3–11 220 315 L2
Green Bay Packers 4 12 0 .250 2–6 3–9 240 313 W2
NFC West
San Francisco 49ers(2) 10 6 0 .625 4–2 8–4 369 294 L1
Los Angeles Rams(5) 10 6 0 .625 4–2 8–4 407 293 W3
New Orleans Saints 10 6 0 .625 3–3 6–6 312 283 W1
Atlanta Falcons 5 11 0 .313 1–5 4–8 244 315 L3


  • Cincinnati was the top AFC playoff seed ahead of Buffalo based on head-to-head victory (1–0).
  • Indianapolis finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on better record against common opponents (7–5 to Patriots’ 6–6).
  • Cleveland finished ahead of Houston in the AFC Central based on better division record (4–2 to Oilers’ 3–3).
  • San Francisco was the second NFC playoff seed ahead of Philadelphia on better record against common opponents (5–3 to Eagles’ 5–4).
  • Philadelphia finished first in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep of the N.Y. Giants (2–0).
  • Washington finished third in the NFC East based on better division record (4–4) than Phoenix (3–5).
  • Detroit finished fourth in the NFC Central based on head-to-head sweep of Green Bay (2–0).
  • San Francisco finished first in the NFC West based on better head-to-head record (3–1) against the L.A. Rams (2–2) and New Orleans (1–3).
  • The L.A. Rams finished second in the NFC West based on better division record (4–2) than New Orleans (3–3), and earned the last NFC Wild Card based on better conference record (8–4) than the N.Y. Giants (9–5) and New Orleans (6–6).


1989 AFC Championship Game - Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals 1989-01-08 (ticket)
A ticket for the AFC Championship Game between the Bengals and the Bills.
Divisional Playoffs
    Jan. 1 – Rich Stadium        
AFC Wild Card Game AFC Championship
 5  Houston  10
Dec. 24 – Cleveland Stadium     Jan. 8 – Riverfront Stadium
 2*  Buffalo  17  
 5  Houston  24  2  Buffalo  10
Dec. 31 – Riverfront Stadium
 4  Cleveland  23      1  Cincinnati  21   Super Bowl XXIII
 3  Seattle  13
    Jan. 22 – Joe Robbie Stadium
 1*  Cincinnati  21  
 A1  Cincinnati  16
Jan. 1 – Candlestick Park
NFC Wild Card Game NFC Championship    N2  San Francisco  20
 4  Minnesota  9
Dec. 26 – Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome     Jan. 8 – Soldier Field
 2*  San Francisco  34  
 5  LA Rams  17  2  San Francisco  28
Dec. 31 – Soldier Field
 4  Minnesota  28      1  Chicago  3  
 3  Philadelphia  12
 1*  Chicago  20  

Statistical leaders


Points scored Cincinnati Bengals (448)
Total yards gained Cincinnati Bengals (6,057)
Yards rushing Cincinnati Bengals (2,710)
Yards passing Miami Dolphins (4,516)
Fewest points allowed Chicago Bears (215)
Fewest total yards allowed Minnesota Vikings (4,091)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Chicago Bears (1,326)
Fewest passing yards allowed Kansas City Chiefs (2,434)


Most Valuable Player Boomer Esiason, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Coach of the Year Mike Ditka, Chicago
Offensive Player of the Year Roger Craig, Running back, San Francisco
Defensive Player of the Year Mike Singletary, Linebacker, Chicago
Offensive Rookie of the Year John Stephens, Running back, New England
Defensive Rookie of the Year Erik McMillan, Safety, NY Jets
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Greg Bell, Running Back, LA Rams
NFL Man of the Year Steve Largent, Wide Receiver, Seattle
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Jerry Rice, Wide Receiver, San Francisco


The 1988 NFL Draft was held from April 24 to 25, 1988 at New York City’s Marriott Marquis. With the first pick, the Atlanta Falcons selected linebacker Aundray Bruce from the University of Auburn.

Coaching changes




  1. ^ "African-Americans in Pro Football". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1981–1990 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
1988 Seattle Seahawks season

The 1988 Seattle Seahawks season was the team's 13th season with the National Football League. The Seahawks won its first Division title in the AFC West for the first time in franchise history. Despite only winning the division with a 9-7 record, and only finishing with a +10 point differential, the Seahawks were still one of the most successful teams in the NFL in 1988. The team never went under .500 during the season, and clinched the AFC West in week 17 with a 43-37 shootout win over the Los Angeles Raiders with some help from their win the previous week against the Broncos, who finished second in the AFC West. The Seahawks were awarded the #3 seed in the AFC Playoffs. In the playoffs, they lost, 21-13 in Cincinnati to the Bengals.

Curtis Burrow

Curtis Burrow is a former placekicker in the National Football League.

Fred Silva

Fred Silva (October 18, 1927 – December 3, 2004) was an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) for 21 seasons from 1968 to 1988. Silva was widely known for his coolness under fire on the football field and clapping his hand together when signaling a first down. The pinnacle of Silva's officiating career in the NFL was being assigned to Super Bowl XIV in 1980. On the field, Silva wore three different uniform numbers. In the 1968 and 1969, seasons, Silva wore uniform number 49, but changed to number 81 in 1970, which he wore until 1978. Finally, from 1979 until the end of his career in 1988, he wore the number 7.

Silva graduated in 1945 from Castlemont High School in Oakland where he played quarterback on the school's football team and earned all-state honors.

After completing high school, Silva joined the United States Marine Corps and was honorably discharged a year later in 1946. Following his service in the military, Silva attended San Jose State University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in education in March 1950. At San Jose State, Silva played football and was a running back and linebacker.

Silva became first athletic director at San Jose City College and he coached football, basketball, baseball, and track teams during his tenure at the school. He led the football team to four championships during the 1950s and coached notable players that eventually played in the NFL such as Oakland Raiders quarterback Chon Gallegos and Chicago Bears offensive lineman Jim Cadile.

Following his coaching career, Silva began a career in officiating. Silva worked football, basketball, and baseball games as an official. He spent several years officiating at the collegiate level in the Pac-8 (now known as the Pac-12). In the Pac-8, Silva officiated basketball games involving Lew Alcindor (better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), who played for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins from 1965 to 1969.

Silva joined the NFL in 1968 as a line judge on legendary referee Jim Tunney's officiating crew and was promoted to referee in 1969. The highlight of Silva's career was being selected as referee for Super Bowl XIV between the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980. He would retire following the 1988 NFL season.

Silva and Jack Fette, another NFL official, sued the league for age discrimination in 1992. They accused the NFL of grading officials over age 60 more strictly than their younger colleagues. He and Fette split a cash settlement with the league. In an ironic situation, Fette finished his career in the NFL with a Super Bowl assignment, his fifth, during the 1987 NFL season after grading out with a perfect season. Fette stayed on for the next four seasons as an instant replay official.

Silva died on December 3, 2004 at the age of 77 in Palo Alto, California. His death was attributed to congestive heart failure.

A lifelong friend of Silva said, "Fred had a great sense of humor and a razor-sharp wit, which occasionally served him well in tense situations during NFL games. He was also a mentor to many younger people interested in athletics as a career choice."

Gary Fencik

John Gary Fencik (born June 11, 1954) is a former professional American-football free safety and an executive with Adams Street Partners. Fencik played 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears and is their all-time leader in interceptions and total tackles. He was the team's defensive captain through the 1980s including the 1985 Super Bowl championship season. He made two Pro Bowl appearances (1980, 1981). He was also awarded a gold record and a platinum video award for the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffle.

Fencik finished his career with 38 interceptions, which he returned for 488 yards and a touchdown. He also recorded 2 sacks and recovered 14 fumbles, returning them for 65 yards.

He played college football at Yale University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1976. In 1985, he received an MBA from Northwestern University. John Madden once said in a broadcast that "Gary Fencik played football at Yale; that is like saying clean dirt".

Fencik was originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the tenth round of the 1976 NFL Draft, with the 281st overall selection.

Fencik along with Doug Plank were dubbed "The Hit Men", a fact referenced by Fencik in The Super Bowl Shuffle.

In September 1986 he was featured on the cover of GQ magazine. His picture also appeared on the reverse side of a Playboy centerfold, showing him and the December 1982 Playmate Charlotte Kemp, shopping at the Old Town Art Fair.

Greg Bell (American football)

Gregory Leon Bell (born August 1, 1962 in Columbus, Ohio) is a retired American football running back who played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Los Angeles Raiders, from 1984 to 1990.

Bell played college football at the University of Notre Dame and was drafted by the Bills in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft. Before going to Notre Dame, he attended South High School in Columbus, Ohio.

History of the Arizona Cardinals

This article details the history of the Arizona Cardinals American football club, which can be traced to the 1898 formation of the amateur Morgan Athletic Club in Chicago. The Cardinals are the oldest extant professional football club in the United States, and along with the Chicago Bears, are one of two charter members of the National Football League still in existence. The franchise relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960 and to Phoenix, Arizona in 1988.

History of the St. Louis Cardinals (NFL)

The professional American football team now known as the Arizona Cardinals previously played in St. Louis, Missouri as the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960 to 1987 before relocating to Tempe, Arizona in 1988. The Cardinals franchise relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960. Their first home game in St. Louis was at Sportsman's Park against the New York Giants on October 2, 1960. Their last game played at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis was against the Giants on December 13, 1987. Their last game as a St. Louis-based club was on December 27, 1987 at the Dallas Cowboys.

During the Cardinals' 28-year stay in St. Louis, they advanced to the playoffs just three times (1974, 1975, and 1982), never hosting or winning in any appearance. In spite of what was considered lackluster performance in St. Louis, their overall record there (winning 187 games, losing 202, and 13 ties) (a winning percentage of .481) is easily the highest winning percentage for any of the three locations that the Cardinals have been associated with.

Jim Quirk

Jim Quirk Sr. (born ca. 1940) was an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) from the 1988 NFL season to the 2008 NFL season. Quirk, who wore uniform number 5, was notable for his hustle between plays on the football field, resulting in the length of games being shortened. He is known for being involved in a game that later became known as "The Instant Replay Game".

Joe Collier

Joel D. Collier (born June 7, 1932) is an American former football coach who was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL) from 1966 through part of 1968, compiling a 13–16–1 record.

John Settle

John R. Settle (born June 2, 1965 in Reidsville, North Carolina), is currently the running backs coach for the Wisconsin Badgers. He is also a former professional American football player. A 5'9", 207-lb. undrafted running back from Appalachian State University, Settle attended Rockingham County High School where he still holds both the single game, single season, and career rushing records. He played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1987 to 1990. During the 1988 NFL season, he was selected as a first team All-Pro and to the 1988 Pro Bowl after rushing for a career-high 1,024 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was the first undrafted running back in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.

John Stephens (American football)

John Milton Stephens (February 23, 1966 – September 1, 2009) was a professional American football player who was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round (17th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft. At 6 feet 1 inch and 215 pounds, he was a running back from Northwestern State University in Louisiana. Stephens played in six NFL seasons from 1988 to 1993 for the Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs. As a rookie for the Patriots during the 1988 NFL season, Stephens rushed for 1,168 yards and was selected to his one and only Pro Bowl.

Stephens was married to All-American college swimmer Sybil Smith. Their daughter, Sloane Stephens, born in 1993, is an American professional tennis player who won the 2017 US Open women's singles title. His son, John Stephens Jr, is currently playing football at TCU.Stephens died in Keithville, Louisiana, on September 1, 2009 in a car accident.

Johnny Grier

Johnny Grier (born c. 1947) is a former American football official for 23 years in the National Football League (NFL) from 1981 to 2004. He began in the NFL as a field judge before becoming the first African-American referee in the history of the NFL with the start of the 1988 NFL season. Grier has officiated in one Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXII in 1988, which was his last game as a field judge and the same game in which Doug Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl. On the field, he wore uniform number 23, which is now worn by Jerome Boger, another African-American referee.

Grier attended college at the University of the District of Columbia.Grier began officiating football at age 18 and started as a high school football official in 1965, later moved on to college football in 1972, and eventually the NFL in 1981. His career ended abruptly during the 2004 NFL season when he was forced to retire due to a leg injury suffered during a series of games. He was replaced by the back judge on his crew, Scott Green, who had previous experience as a referee in NFL Europe.

Grier now serves as an officiating supervisor for the NFL and previously served as Supervisor of Football Officials for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).

Len Berman

Leonard Berman (born June 14, 1947) is an American television sportscaster and journalist who is based in New York City. He is currently hosting the morning show on WOR-AM along with Michael Riedel.Berman is widely known for his television career with NBC, specifically his work for the network's flagship station WNBC-TV. Berman spent 27 years as the lead sports anchor for WNBC and also worked for NBC Sports covering Major League Baseball and the National Football League. He was employed by WNBC until 2009, and prior to that he worked for WCBS-TV in New York City from April 1979 through August 1982 and WBZ-TV in Boston.

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.

Ron Botchan

Ronald Leslie Botchan (born February 15, 1935) is a retired American football official from the National Football League (NFL). Prior to that he was an American football linebacker in the American Football League from 1960 to 1962. As an official, Botchan worked as an umpire for nearly his entire NFL career and wore the number 110. Regarded as the "NFL's best umpire" by the media, Botchan was assigned to a record-number five Super Bowls: XX in 1986, XXVII in 1993, XXIX in 1995, XXXI in 1997, and XXXIV in 2000. He was also an alternate in Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, and Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. He rapidly ascended to the NFL ranks after nine years of officiating high school and college games and attributes his success to being "coachable".

Ron Simpkins

Ronald Bernard "Ron" Simpkins (born April 2, 1958) is a former American football player. He played college football at the University of Michigan as an inside linebacker from 1976 to 1979. He became Michigan's all-time career tackle leader in 1979 and was a consensus first-team selection for the 1979 College Football All-America Team. He later played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for the Cincinnati Bengals (1980, 1982-1986) and Green Bay Packers (1988).

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are a professional American football team located in the San Francisco Bay Area. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) West division. The team currently plays its home games at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, located 45 miles (72 km) southeast of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley. Since 1988, the 49ers have been headquartered in Santa Clara.

The team was founded in 1946 as a charter member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and joined the NFL in 1949 when the leagues merged. The 49ers were the first major league professional sports franchise based in San Francisco. The name "49ers" comes from the prospectors who arrived in Northern California in the 1849 Gold Rush. The team is legally and corporately registered as the San Francisco Forty Niners. The team began play at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco before moving across town to Candlestick Park in 1970 and then to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara in 2014.

The 49ers won five Super Bowl championships between 1981 and 1994, led by Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, and coach Bill Walsh. As of 2017, the team has won 12 conference championships, with the first in 1981 and the last in 2018. They have been division champions 29 times between 1970 and 2019, making them one of the most successful teams in NFL history. The 49ers have been in the league playoffs 50 times: 49 times in the NFL and one time in the AAFC.

The team has set numerous notable NFL records, including most consecutive road games won (18), most consecutive seasons leading league scoring (1992–95), most consecutive games scored (1979–2004), most field goals in a season (44), fewest turn-overs in a season (10), and most touchdowns in a Super Bowl. According to Forbes Magazine, the team is the 4th most-valuable team in the NFL, valued at $3 billion in July 2016. In 2016, the 49ers were ranked the 10th most valuable sports team in the world, behind basketball's Los Angeles Lakers and above soccer's Bayern Munich.

Tecmo Bowl

Tecmo Bowl (Japanese: テクモボウル, Hepburn: Tekumo Bōru) is an American football video game developed and released by Tecmo. Originally released as an arcade game in 1987, the game featured a large dual screen cabinet and allowed up to four players to compete in a match between two fictitious teams. A port for the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1989 and was the first console game to include real NFL players, via a license from the NFLPA. A Game Boy version developed by Sculptured Software followed in 1991. The NES version of the game was extremely popular, spawning various sequels, starting with 1991's Tecmo Super Bowl. The NES game has also been cited by various media outlets as one of the best sports video games ever made. Both the NES and arcade versions have also been re-released for various platforms, including mobile phones, the Virtual Console, the NES Classic Edition and Nintendo Switch.

Tom Sifferman

Tom Sifferman (born September 27, 1943) is an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) from the 1986 NFL season to the 2008 NFL season. Sifferman is notable for being the only official in NFL history assigned to three consecutive Super Bowls, which include Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, and Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. He served as a field judge and wore uniform number 118. Sifferman is now a Replay Official, a duty he performed at Super Bowl LI.

Sifferman is a native of Seattle, Washington and is a 1961 graduate of Seattle Preparatory School. He is a retired manufacturer representative for a steel and aluminum products company. Sifferman resides in Bend, Oregon.

Sifferman was the field judge during a 1988 NFL season game on December 31 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field played under heavy fog. This game would become known in NFL lore as the "Fog Bowl".During the 2006 NFL season, Sifferman was a field judge on the officiating crew headed by referee Ed Hochuli.

Sifferman goes by the nickname "Jungle Boy" as replay official, a nickname discovered when Hochuli accidentally turned on his microphone to the crowd during a game.

1988 NFL season
Early era
Modern era

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