Thursday, June 13, 2019

Players of the Decade—1975-85

By John Turney
This is number thirteen in a series of picking players of the decades. We began with 1915-25, the 1920s, the 1925-35 period, the 1930s, 1935-45, the 1940s, 1945-55 the 1950s, 1955-65, the 1960s, 1965-75, the 1970s and now 1975-85.

Here are the picks for the time period of 1975-85—

1975-85 Player of the Decade
Walter Payton
Clearly the best player of this 'decade'. Sweetness was a consensus MVP (AP, PFWA, NEA) in 1977 and the NEA MVP in 1985. He did it all, ran, blocked, caught, was a leader, was tough, always in shape, part of a championship. All with great talent, but not with as much talent as others who played his position. He is on the short list of the best football player of all-time.

1975-85 Defensive Player of the Decade
Jack Lambert
Lambert was a Defensive MVP in 1976 (AP) and 1983 (NEA) and an AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1976 and 1979 as well. He was on a slew of All-Pro teams and part of the great Steeler championships teams of this era. His 'decade' is 1974-83, his 'era of dominance'.

1975-85 Player of the Decade Runner-Up
John Hannah
Hannah transcends the position, he was not only the best offensive lineman of this period he was the second-best player in our view. Hannah won Offensive Linemen of the Year Awards every season from 1977-81 (and also 1984) from five different organizations and was First- or Second-team All-Pro almost every year in this time frame, most of them were the consensus selections.

We also are going to give an honorable mention to Earl Campbell who had three MVP-type seasons (1978-80) then three Pro Bowl-type seasons (1981-83) in this time frame before running out of gas. One more honorable mention is Dan Fouts who from 1976-85 was on the leading edge of the passing revolution that was brought about but the late-1970s rule changes.

1975-85 Defensive Player of the Decade Runner-Up
Lee Roy Selmon and Randy Gradishar

Selmon and Randy Gradishar tied for the runner-up spot behind Lambert. Selmon (1976-84) was All-Pro three times and Second-team All-Pro twice and was the NFLPA Defensive Lineman of the Year four times in this time frame and was the consensus Defensive Player of the Year in 1979.

Gradishar (1974-83) was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1978 and received votes in three other seasons in this time period. He was All-Pro five times (three consensus) and went to seven Pro Bowls.

Both Selmon and Gradishar nose out Mike Haynes who is our honorable mention. Haynes had his own Defensive Player of the year, but he also had a couple of injury/holdout seasons and therefore fell a bit short of Lambert, Selmon, and Gradishar. Nonetheless, he was a great, great player.

Next up: the 1980s


  1. Suprised that Randy White & Jack Youngblood don't appear here.

    1. Randy didn't get a major defensive player of the year awards and Youngblood's era of dominance was the 1970s, though he was good from the 1980s he was more of an "All-NFC" kind of player rather than an All-Pro or Player of the Year type player.

      Youngblood was honorable mention for the 1970s behind Joe Greene and Bob Lilly

  2. I believe Gradishar was incredibly consistent. Buchsbaum said his last year in 83 was one of his best.