As Hank Stram puts it: "This is the era of fast-break football. The quarterbacks came off the bus throwing this weekend."
Nine quaterbacks passed for 300 or more yards in the most recent series of NFL games, including Steve Grogan's 374 as his New England Patriots lost Monday night to Houston, 38-34. It has happened 32 times in 10 weeks this season, with 19 passers involved.
In those 32 productions of 300 yards, 19 quarterbacks were losers, 12 were winners and the other passer figured in a tie game. After 10 weeks in 1977, there were 264 touchdown passes thrown. Rules were liberalized in 1978 to encourage more offense -- for entertainment purposes -- and, after 10 weeks this season, 326 touchdown passes have been thrown.
Yet, the National Football League notes, 46 percent of the games this year have been decided by seven points or fewer and 24 percent by three points or fewer.
George Allen was quoted by a Boston sportswriter as saying, "It is cheapening the game, and it is only starting. Pro football scores are getting to be like high school basketball."
An NFL spokesperson suggested the fans are in favor of the trend, judging by record attendance averaging 57,492 a game. Television ratings are up for all three networks.
"The cycle has changed," said Stram, who was 10 years ahead of the times in 1970 when his Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl against Minnesota with what he predicted would be the "offense of the '70s." His contemporaries scoffed.
In 1977, the combined score for a game averaged 33.9 points. At the moment, the combined score for 10 weeks is an average of 42.2 In 1979, the average for 16 games was 40.1 A surprise turned up by research was that the average was 46.4 in 1948.
There were a record 732 points scored last weekend, eclipsing 676 on Sept. 21-22, the previous league record.
Dan Fouts of San Diego has thrown for 300 yards or more five times this season and Archie Manning of New Orleans four times. Twelve receivers accounted for 100 yards or more last weekend, and there have been 53 such performances this season.
Wide receiver John Jefferson of San Diego needs 87 yards in receptions to become the first ever to reach 1,000 yards in his first three seasons.
Stram, now a sportscaster, recalls, "Coaches used to say it would be perfect balance to run the ball 40 times and pass it 20 times a game. Now it actually is more like 50-50, and the passes will increase.
The NFL talked about wanting parity and wanting more entertainment. It has been accomplished. What we have is more excitement . . . big-play, fast-break football. Football goes in cycles. You had an accent on offense, the defense caught up with it, and the rules were changed favoring the offense."
What would he try now if he were a defensive coach?
"More praying. You can't worry about statistics anymore. They don't matter; just your won-lost record."