1996 NFL season

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.

1996 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 1 – December 23, 1996
Start dateDecember 28, 1996
AFC ChampionsNew England Patriots
NFC ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
Super Bowl XXXI
DateJanuary 26, 1997
SiteLouisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 2, 1997
SiteAloha Stadium

Notable events

When Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns, wanted to relocate his team to Baltimore in a surprise move first reported on 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 had barely begun. In the belated 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 city of Cleveland would be given another new franchise in the next few years, or a relocated existing franchise. Either way, the beloved Cleveland Browns would continue, while the Baltimore Ravens began their new history when the 1996 season started.

Mile High Stadium during a Broncos game on September 15, 1996
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,[1] which is but a continuation of one-upmanship that has gone on for years between the heated rivals.

Uniform changes

  • New Orleans Saints – New numbers on uniforms. On home uniform old gold numbers with white trim, and road uniforms old gold numbers with black trim, similar to team's original jerseys worn from 1967–69, but with a lighter shade of gold. 30th anniversary patch worn on the left chest.
  • Philadelphia Eagles – New logo. New uniforms, with “midnight green” color.
  • Dallas Cowboys – New color road uniforms.
  • Baltimore Ravens – New team in new city. Formerly the Cleveland Browns. Purple jerseys with white numbers trimmed in black and gold at home; white jerseys with black numbers trimmed in purple and gold on the road. Black pants worn with both jerseys.
  • San Francisco 49ers – New uniforms. Darker red, white pants, and updated team logo. 50th season logo on uniform.
  • Minnesota Vikings – Changes in uniforms. Vikings logo on sleeve ends of home uniforms. Added yellow trim to numbers.
  • Arizona Cardinals – New road jerseys. Black trim removed from numbers, logo removed from sleeves, and Arizona state flag moved above sleeve stripes.

Stadium changes

Coaching changes

Major rule changes

  • In order to reduce injuries, hits with the helmet or to the head will be personal fouls and subject to fines.

Final regular season standings

AFC East
(2) New England Patriots 11 5 0 .688 418 313 W1
(4) Buffalo Bills 10 6 0 .625 319 266 W1
(6) Indianapolis Colts 9 7 0 .563 317 334 L1
Miami Dolphins 8 8 0 .500 339 325 W2
New York Jets 1 15 0 .063 279 454 L7
AFC Central
(3) Pittsburgh Steelers 10 6 0 .625 344 257 L2
(5) Jacksonville Jaguars 9 7 0 .563 325 335 W5
Cincinnati Bengals 8 8 0 .500 372 369 W3
Houston Oilers 8 8 0 .500 345 319 W1
Baltimore Ravens 4 12 0 .250 371 441 L3
AFC West
(1) Denver Broncos 13 3 0 .813 391 275 L1
Kansas City Chiefs 9 7 0 .563 297 300 L3
San Diego Chargers 8 8 0 .500 310 376 W1
Oakland Raiders 7 9 0 .438 340 293 L2
Seattle Seahawks 7 9 0 .438 317 376 W1
NFC East
(3) Dallas Cowboys 10 6 0 .625 286 250 L1
(5) Philadelphia Eagles 10 6 0 .625 363 341 W2
Washington Redskins 9 7 0 .563 364 312 W1
Arizona Cardinals 7 9 0 .438 300 397 L1
New York Giants 6 10 0 .375 242 297 L2
NFC Central
(1) Green Bay Packers 13 3 0 .813 456 210 W5
(6) Minnesota Vikings 9 7 0 .563 298 315 L1
Chicago Bears 7 9 0 .438 283 305 L1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 10 0 .375 221 293 W1
Detroit Lions 5 11 0 .313 302 368 L5
NFC West
(2) Carolina Panthers 12 4 0 .750 367 218 W7
(4) San Francisco 49ers 12 4 0 .750 398 257 W2
St. Louis Rams 6 10 0 .375 303 409 W2
Atlanta Falcons 3 13 0 .188 309 461 L2
New Orleans Saints 3 13 0 .188 229 339 L1


  • Jacksonville was the second AFC Wild Card ahead of Indianapolis and Kansas City based on better conference record (7–5 to Colts’ 6–6 and Chiefs’ 5–7).
  • Indianapolis was the third AFC Wild Card based on head-to-head victory over Kansas City (1–0).
  • Cincinnati finished ahead of Houston in the AFC Central based on better net division points (19 to Oilers’ 11).
  • Oakland finished ahead of Seattle in the AFC West based on better division record (3–5 to Seahawks’ 2–6).
  • Dallas finished ahead of Philadelphia in the NFC East based on better record against common opponents (7–4 to Eagles' 6–5.)
  • Minnesota was the third NFC Wild Card based on better conference record than Washington (8–4 to Redskins' 6–6).
  • Carolina finished ahead of San Francisco in the NFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Atlanta finished ahead of New Orleans in the NFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).


Dec. 28 – Rich Stadium   Jan. 4 – Mile High Stadium          
 5  Jacksonville  30
 5  Jacksonville  30
 4  Buffalo  27     Jan. 12 – Foxboro Stadium
 1  Denver  27  
Dec. 29 – Three Rivers Stadium  5  Jacksonville  6
Jan. 5 – Foxboro Stadium
   2  New England  20  
 6  Indianapolis  14 AFC Championship
 3  Pittsburgh  3
 3  Pittsburgh  42   Jan. 26 – Louisiana Superdome
 2  New England  28  
Wild card playoffs  
Divisional playoffs
Dec. 28 – Texas Stadium  A2  New England  21
Jan. 5 – Ericsson Stadium
   N1  Green Bay  35
 6  Minnesota  15 Super Bowl XXXI
 3  Dallas  17
 3  Dallas  40     Jan. 12 – Lambeau Field
 2  Carolina  26  
Dec. 29 – 3Com Park  2  Carolina  13
Jan. 4 – Lambeau Field
   1  Green Bay  30  
 5  Philadelphia  0 NFC Championship
 4  San Francisco  14
 4  San Francisco  14  
 1  Green Bay  35  

Statistical leaders


Points scored Green Bay Packers (456)
Total yards gained Denver Broncos (5,791)
Yards rushing Denver Broncos (2,362)
Yards passing Jacksonville Jaguars (4,110)
Fewest points allowed Green Bay Packers (210)
Fewest total yards allowed Green Bay Packers (4,156)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Denver Broncos (1,331)
Fewest passing yards allowed Green Bay Packers (2,740)


Scoring John Kasay, Carolina (145 points)
Touchdowns Terry Allen, Washington (21 TDs)
Most field goals made John 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 returns Michael Bates, Carolina (30.2 average yards)
Interceptions Tyrone Braxton, Denver and Keith Lyle, St. Louis (9)
Punting John Kidd, Miami (46.3 average yards)
Sacks Kevin Greene, Carolina (14.5)


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


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.


American Football Conference

National Football Conference

External links


  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1991–2000 (Last accessed October 17, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  • Steelers Fever – History of NFL Rules (Last accessed October 17, 2005)


  1. ^ Michael Holly (2004). Patriots Reign (1st ed. HC ed.). HarperCollins. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-06-075795-3.
1994 New York Jets season

The 1994 New York Jets season was the 35th season for the team and the 25th in the National Football League. It began with the team trying to improve upon its 8–8 record from 1993 under new head coach Pete Carroll. The franchise’s largest home crowd at that time, 75,606, watched the Jets battle Miami for a share of first place in the AFC East. The Jets led, 24–6, in the third quarter before Dan Marino led a furious comeback, capped by the “fake spike” touchdown pass to Mark Ingram, for the Dolphins’ 28–24 win. The Jets finished the season with a record of 6–10, losing six of their last seven games to end the season, and Carroll was fired.

1996 Montreal Alouettes season

The 1996 Montreal Alouettes finished in second place in the East Division with a 12–6 record in the franchise's first full season in the Canadian Football League since 1986. Unlike the lean years from 1981-86, the revived Alouettes were going to be competitive, especially since most of them had won the Grey Cup in the previous season as the Baltimore Stallions. They had some nice talented offensive players from that team, such as Tracy Ham, Mike Pringle, kick returner Chris Wright, slotback Chris Armstrong, and two great defensive players in Irvin Smith, and Elfrid Payton. After a slow start they rebounded to finish strong and after defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, they traveled to Toronto, where they were defeated in the East Final by the eventual Grey Cup champions, the Toronto Argonauts.

1996 Seattle Seahawks season

The 1996 Seattle Seahawks season was the franchise's 21st season in the National Football League, the 21st playing their home games at the Kingdome and the second under head coach head coach Dennis Erickson. They were unable to impove on their 8–8 record, finished the season 7–9, and missing the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season. Ken Behring almost move the team to Los Angeles.

Al Conway

Alfred Joseph Conway (March 16, 1930 – August 3, 2012) was an American football official for 28 seasons. He worked in the American Football League (AFL) in its last year, 1969, and in the National Football League (NFL) from 1970 to 1996. Over the course of his career in professional football, Conway officiated 31 playoff games, including four Super Bowls—Super Bowl IX in 1975, Super Bowl XIV in 1980, Super Bowl XVI in 1982, and Super Bowl XXII in 1988. On the field, he wore uniform number 27.

As a student at North Kansas City High School, Conway excelled in football, track and field, basketball, and baseball. Upon graduating, Conway was considered by many to be the best running back in football in the Kansas City metropolitan area and perhaps in the entire state as a senior and one of the best athletes of all time to hail from Missouri. After high school, Conway was recruited to play football for coach Earl Blaik at the United States Military Academy. He participated in track and field as well, but finished his final year of college at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

After finishing college, Conway was a number one selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1953 NFL Draft, but had his career ended early due to a string of injuries. Staying close to the sport he enjoyed the most, Conway took up officiating and joined the AFL in 1969 as an umpire. Later, where he worked several seasons in the NFL on the crew of highly regarded referee Pat Haggerty. After retiring as an official following the 1996 NFL season, Conway became involved in training newly hired umpires and also serves as an observer for the NFL.

Conway and his wife, Bev, resided in Branson, Missouri . Conway had five children with his first wife Sue, who preceded him in death, Mike, Susie, Jim, Patty, and David.

Corey Dowden

Corey Dowden is a former defensive back in the National Football League.

Dale Hamer

Dale Hamer is a former American football official in the National Football League (NFL) who served from 1978 to 2001, with a break taken for health reasons during the 1995 season. During his 23 seasons in the NFL, Hamer was assigned to officiate in two Super Bowls, as a head linesman in Super Bowl XVII and in Super Bowl XXII. Additionally, he was an alternate referee for Super Bowl XXVII.

Hamer's career in the NFL started in 1978 as a head linesman. He was later promoted to referee in 1989 upon the retirement of long-time referee Fred Silva. In 1995, Hamer was forced to take a leave from officiating when doctors discovered that he had a heart murmur. Further tests revealed that Hamer had stenosis and calcification of his aortic heart valve, and it would need to be replaced. In July 1995, Dale received a pericardial tissue heart valve. As a result, he missed the entire 1995 NFL season, but returned at the start of the 1996 NFL season after Gordon McCarter announced his retirement. He returned to the head linesman position in 1998 and worked on the crews of Larry Nemmers and Bernie Kukar. After retiring as an on-field official following the 2001 NFL season, Hamer assumed new duties as an instant replay official for the NFL, a position he continues to serve in today.

Hamer, who wore uniform number 104, is a past president of the National Football League Referees Association.

Hamer is a 1960 graduate of California State College in Western Pennsylvania (now California University of Pennsylvania), and in the early 1960s taught algebra at Clairton High School in Clairton, Pennsylvania.

John Lynch (American football)

John Terrence Lynch Jr. (born September 25, 1971) is a former American football strong safety and the current general manager of the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Stanford University, and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft.

A nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Lynch earned a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. He also spent four seasons with the Denver Broncos before retiring in 2008. After the end of his playing career, Lynch worked in the broadcasting booth as a color commentator for NFL on Fox games, and remained doing so until his hiring as the general manager of the 49ers in 2017.

Keith Lyle

Keith Allen Lyle (born April 17, 1972) is a former American football safety in the National Football League. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 1994 NFL Draft. He played college football at Virginia.

Lyle also played for the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.

Kevin Smith (tight end)

Kevin Smith (born July 25, 1969) is a former tight end in the National Football League. Smith spent three seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders. After a year away from the NFL, he joined the Green Bay Packers for the 1996 NFL season. As such, he was a member of the Super Bowl XXXI Champion Packers.

He played at the collegiate level at the University of California, Los Angeles and attended Skyline High School in Oakland, California.

Leroy Hoard

Leroy J. Hoard (born May 15, 1968) is a former American football player.

Hoard played professional football as a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for 10 seasons for the Cleveland Browns from 1990 to 1995 and the Minnesota Vikings from 1996 to 1999. He also played briefly for the Carolina Panthers (three games) and Baltimore Ravens (two games) during the 1996 NFL season. In a 10-year NFL career, Hoard appeared in 144 games, totaled 3,964 rushing yards and 2,430 receiving yards and scored 51 touchdowns.

Hoard also played college football as a fullback and tailback for the University of Michigan from 1987 to 1989. After rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns against USC, he was selected as the most valuable player in the 1989 Rose Bowl. Hoard gained 1,706 rushing yards on 314 carries (5.4 yards per carry), caught 30 passes for 199 yards, and scored 19 touchdowns at Michigan.

List of Monday Night Football results (1990–2009)

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 1970–2005, 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 1990 to 2009.

Mike Pringle (Canadian football)

Michael A. Pringle (born October 1, 1967) is an American former professional gridiron football player. A running back, he had a successful career in the Canadian Football League (CFL), during which he set or tied almost every significant league records for the position. He played college football for the California State University, Fullerton Titans and was twice signed by National Football League (NFL) teams, though he never played a game in the NFL.

Along with George Reed and Johnny Bright, Pringle is one of the players most often mentioned as being the greatest running back in CFL history. In November 2006, Pringle was voted one of the CFL's Top 50 players (#4) of the league's modern era by Canadian sports network TSN. In April 2008, Pringle was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Ravens–Steelers rivalry

The Ravens–Steelers rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most intense rivalries in the NFL. Both teams are members of the American Football Conference North division (formerly the AFC Central). Since the Ravens' inception in 1996, they have played at least twice a year, often for divisional supremacy. Both teams are known for fielding tough, hard-hitting defensive squads, giving their games an extra element of physical intensity.

The two teams have met in the postseason four times, with the Steelers owning a 3–1 advantage. They are the only two teams in the AFC North to have won the Super Bowl, and possess a combined 8–2 record in the game, with the Ravens being 2–0 and the Steelers being 6–2. Both teams have won two Super Bowls since the rivalry began.

Raymont Harris

Raymont LaShawn Harris (born December 23, 1970) is a former American football running back. He played college football at Ohio State University. Harris played professionally for six seasons in the National Football League (NFL) between 1994 and 2000 with the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers, the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. He was nicknamed the "Ultraback" because of his versatility.

Reggie Brooks

Reginald Arthur Brooks (born January 19, 1971) is a former American football running back in the National Football League. He attended Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He is the uncle to Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr.

Shelley Smith (sports reporter)

Shelley Smith (born 1958) is an American sports correspondent, currently Correspondent for ESPN SportsCenter. Smith joined ESPN in January 1997 after working part-time as a reporter for the network since 1993.

A journalist and author of two books, Smith won a Sports Emmy in 1997 for her segment on Magic Johnson as part of an ESPN production on AIDS and Athletes.

Previously, she was a writer/reporter for Sports Illustrated (1989–1997), Pacific Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, Japan (1982–84) and The San Francisco Examiner (1984-1987) where she won a William Randolph Hearst Award in 1986 for her series on Title IX in the Bay Area. Smith has also worked for the Associated Press.

Smith is the author of two books: "Just Give Me the Damn Ball!" written with then New York Jets wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson following the 1996 NFL season and "Games Girls Play: Lessons to Guiding and Understanding Young Female Athletes," written with sports psychologist Caroline Silby, was released 2000.

Smith is the co-founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation newsletter, serves on various committees for The Boys and Girls Club of San Pedro and is a volunteer writer for many charity organizations, including the Serra Project, which provides homes for AIDS victims.

She attended the University of Nebraska from 1976-1981, majoring in journalism and political science. Smith has one child, a daughter who attended the University of Oregon and captained the women's soccer team, earning second team all-PAC-10 in 2007.

Smith announced via Twitter that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014.

After extensive chemotherapy, she announced that she was "basically cancer free" and returned to ESPN in April 2015. On May 14, 2017, she suffered a stroke in the Warriors' locker room after Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. She subsequently reported on her progress via her Twitter account.

Terry Ray (gridiron football)

Terry Ray (born October 12, 1969 in Belgium) is a retired American football safety and linebacker.

Ty Law

Tajuan E. "Ty" Law (born February 10, 1974) is a former American football cornerback who played fifteen seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at the University of Michigan. He was drafted by the New England Patriots 23rd overall in the 1995 NFL Draft. Law is a two-time All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, a Pro Bowl MVP, and has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots. His 53 career interceptions rank 24th all-time in NFL history; he is widely regarded as one of the best defensive backs of all time. Law was added to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame as its 20th member and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2019.

Walt Anderson (American football)

Walt Anderson (born c. 1952) is an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) since the 1996 NFL season. Anderson spent his first seven seasons in the NFL as a line judge before being promoted to referee for the start of the 2003 NFL season after Dick Hantak and Bob McElwee announced their retirements. He is notable for officiating Super Bowl XXXV. Anderson was also named as referee for Super Bowl XLV which was played on February 6, 2011, in Arlington, Texas, at Cowboys Stadium. He wears uniform number 66.

1996 NFL season
Early era
Modern era

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