THE OAKLAND RAIDERS play the Philadelphia Eagles in the 15th Super Bowl today in New Orleans. In the 20 years since the Eagles' last appearance in a National Football League championship game, the league has undergone major rule changes, and paid attendance, television ratings, revenue and the number of franchises have soared.
So what will the next 20 years bring? Recently, we gazed into our crystal ball -- an oblong ball, of course -- for a look into the future. 1985
The NFL announces a $900 million three-year contract with the ESPN sports cable network to carry NFL games ever Tuesday and Thursday night from 1986 through the 1988 season, in addition to the networks' usual Sunday and Monday night package, which will earn the league a record $1.5 billion over the next three years.
With the two contracts, the price of an NFL franchise soars to an average of $45 million . . . The league awards franchises to interests in Birmingham, Phoenix, Toronto and Montreal, jumping to 32 teams, and the divisions are realigned geographically, putting the Redskins in the East with the Giants, Jets and Eagles in the new eight-division setup . . . Owners at their winter meetings hear a preliminary report from former Charger coach Don Coryell on the benefits of a field 10 yards wider and 20 yards longer. They also agree to an 18-game regular season . . . George Allen, now 67, is named head coach of the New Orleans Saints . . . Pete Rozelle announces his retirement as NFL commissioner and discloses plans to take over as president of the Chrysler Corporation . . . The NFL Players Association, after a disastrous three-game strike in 1983, announces that it will be seeking $60,000-a-year-minimum salaries for rookies and $100,000 a year for four-year veterans . . . Herschel Walker, now a second-year running back, gains 2,543 yards for a new NFL record and leads the N.Y. Jets to a Super Bowl confrontation with Allen's Saints. Billy Kilmer is the Saints' offensive coordinator, Diron Talbert the defensive line coach and Kenny Houston the starting strong safety. Saints win, 31-7, and Houston intercepts three passes, one for a 34-yard touchdown. 1990 The NFL, noting that 94 percent of America's households are now hooked into a cable television system, ends its affiliation with network television and signs a $3.2 billion contract with four separate cable outlets . . . A Johns Hopkins University orthopedist implants the first artificial knee designed for football into the right leg of Colt veteran Curtis Dickey . . . Howard Cosell announces his retirement and accepts a position as professor emeritus of linguistics at Yale University for his contributions to the English language . . . The league announces its first expansion away from the United States and Canada, with franchises awarded to Mexico City, Tokyo, London and Rome . . . The schedule is increased to 20 games, with the Super Bowl scheduled for Feb. 15 . . . The average NFL salary has skyrocketed to $180,000 per player, though the average career is still less than four years . . . Joe Theismann announces his retirement to become a broadcaster and is teamed with Warner Wolf on NFL games of the week, insisting there will be scads of air time for both . . . Tom Landry celebrates his 30th year as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys by guiding his team to the Super Bowl for an unprecedented 11th time . . . His opponent: the Phoenix Sands, coached by Billy Kilmer and the first expansion team to make the Super Bowl in its first five years . . . The Cowboys prevail, 40-38, when veteran tackle Randy White, playing his final game, tackles quarterback Kurt Beathard, son of Redskin general manager Bobby Beathard, in the end zone. 1995
Jack Kemp, after an unsuccessful run at the presidency in 1992, is named NFL commissioner, replacing Vince Lombardi Jr., and promptly announces a 3 percent NFL tax on all tickets . . . The average price of a Redskin seat climbs to $43 at their four-year-old 90,000-seat domed facility in Laurel . . . Noting a 30 percent rise in the number of career-ending injuries per year, the NFL votes to expand roster limits from 52 to 70 players. "It's not enough," says Saints coach George Allen. "To get through a 22-game schedule, we need 100 men" . . . The league also votes to add a 12th player on the field as a receiver and says defensive linemen can no longer use their hands . . . Balloon helmets that expand on contact are used during the exhibition season for the frist time, cutting concussions by 93 percent over the eight-game exhibition season . . . The players' union signs a contract with the league that calls for revenue sharing of gate receipts for the players, bringing the average player salary to $225,000 a year, with a $100,000 minimum for rookies . . . Tokyo advances to the Super Bowl to face the N. Y. Giants. NF Productions, the television arm of the league, anounces that it will cost cable subscribers $5 per household to watch the games. There are 80 million homes hooked up for the game, with Tokyo prevailing, 65-46, on a 110-yard screen pass out of the Shogun offense to Samurai Sam Oh. 2000
A scientist in Carlsbad, Calif., says he has been experimenting since 1983 with cloning of football players, using cells contributed by Terry Bradshaw, Earl Campbell, Dave Casper, Gene Upshaw and John Jefferson. Carlsbad High School wins its 27th consecutive game, with an offensive line averaging 6 foot 5 and 285 pounds and a running back, Campy Earl, with a particular fondness for smokeless tobacco . . . After expanding to Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich and Caracas, the NFL declines a request from Moscow until Soviet troops are withdrawn from Iran and Costa Rica . . . Advances in artificial joints and limbs stretches the average career from four years to 12.5 years over the last three seasons . . . Thirty-five of the NFL's 36 teams are now playing in climate-controlled domed stadiums. The only exception is Green Bay; team owner Willie Wood says, "Vince would roll over in his grave if he knew we were playing indoors" . . . The Soviets announce they are withdrawing their troops from Iran and Costa Rica and are immediately awarded an NFL franchise . . . Jack Pardee is named coach of the year after leading the Dallas Cowboys into the Super Bowl. His opponent: the Washington Redskins, who stunned the football world by naming 82-year-old George Allen head coach in 1998. "The future is now," Allen said on the eve of Super Bowl XXXV, denying reports that he was planning to start 60-year-old Billy Kilmer, the recipient of the league's first arm and double knee transplant, at quarterback. Instead, Kilmer comes off the bench to lead a fourth-quarter rally that earns the Redskins a 93-87 victory in the last game of the best-of-seven series.