Monday, December 26, 2022


 By John Turney 
Top row:  Steve Bartkowski, Dan Fouts, Brian Sipe
Bottom Row:  Vince Ferragamo, Danny White, Ron Jaworski
In 1980 the NFL Films creative crew, led by Steve Sabol coined the term "Throwball" which was used in year-end highlight films. It was a wordplay on "football" and was reflective of how the passing game was beginning to take over in the NFL.

That Fall there were lots of passing records and/or notable achievements that were being set or attained. League records were set for passing yards, touchdown passes, league-wide passer rating, lowest sack percentage and more. Much of it was the sixteen-game schedule but much of it was the liberalization of rules that aided the passing game in the NFL.

Among the interesting achievements was the number of quarterbacks who threw 27 or more touchdown passes. We chose that number because no one threw 25 or 26 so there was a natural break in the numbers. 

Steve Bartkowski, Vince Ferragamo, Dan Fouts, and Brian Sipe all three 30 or more, and Danny White and Ron Jaworski threw for 28 and 27 respectively making six who threw for 27 or more touchdowns. 

As a side note, all of them were playoff quarterbacks and averaged 11.5 wins each. Four of the six were division winners and the other two were runner-ups. However, none of them won the ultimate game with Jaworski advancing to the Super Bowl, losing to the Raiders, but Fouts and White advanced to the Championship round of their respective conferences. 

Sipe was the AP MVP and consensus All-Pro. Sipe and Bartkowski were Pro Bowl starters and Fouts and Jowarski were reserves so these players won the lion's share of post-season awards.

As far as the passing touchdown numbers, even when the number of games for previous seasons is factored in (the 16-game schedule began just two years earlier) there was never a year with that would meet the criteria that totaled six. The closest was five in 1960 and all were in the AFL. 

What makes it even more noteworthy is that it wasn't until 2004 that the number was exceeded. In that year nine quarterbacks threw for 27 touchdown passes or more—24 years later. Since then it has happened fourteen times in 17 seasons and will happen this year as well, even before it reaches week 18 and the 17th game.

But in any event, it was a remarkable year and we think it was a watershed moment for "Throwball". 


  1. From Brian wolf ...

    Being 12 years old and drawn in by the new "Throwball" era starting basically in 1978, the 1980 season was thrilling to me with the best postseason games I had ever seen. Many people choose last years games but they werent the same to me. I always wondered how a Cowboy- Charger SB would have looked but the Cowboys were spent playing the extra wild card game because they couldnt maintain their 25 point lead with the division at stake against Philly. The Chargers just had to many turnovers while getting beat at home to the Raiders. I had never believed that a team could win four postseason games in a row but the Champions had the right stuff. Despite the successful season these QBs mentioned had, it was totally different in 1981, as the Falcons, Rams and Browns flopped while the Chargers and Cowboys tried another run to the SB.

  2. Loved the evolution of the passing game in the early 1980s. Yet I think the pendulum has moved too far in todays game, with watered down rules to facilitate passing.