Todd Lisenbee: Many youngsters saw Peyton Manning dominate in the early 2000s, but we old men watched him struggle through the 1998 season, while occasionally giving us a glimpse into the future.
Last week, Ben Hutchens came on The Todd Pod to talk about the dire football situation in Payne County. During the discussion, we talked about just how young Ben and his twin brother Sam are. Unfortunately, they aren’t old enough to have enjoyed the 1998 NFL season, which we celebrate the 25-year anniversary of this year.
I was 16. I was becoming a man (I turned 40 last March, so I definitely am one now). I was at the peak of my sports fandom. It was a whale of a time to be a Packers fan in the midst of Cowboys fans (still is, coincidentally). This is the point in my life that I felt the coolest. I wasn’t, but I felt it.
Here are 10 memories from that 1998 NFL season.
10. Mike Alstott: The epitome of the old-school bruising fullback, Alstott was never afraid to do the dirty work. Whether he was blocking for tailback Warrick Dunn, catching passes in the flat or getting three yards in a cloud of dust, the A-Train was going to bring a ton of force to whatever he did. My high school football coach always told me that basketball was a contact sport, but football was a collision sport. Mike Alstott embodied that.
I don’t know where Alstott would fit on a football field in 2023, but 25 years ago he mastered a position that literally ceases to exist in the NFL now.
9. These Seahawks uniforms: Long before Seattle’s football team lost its way, these beauties were quite a sight to behold. The current Seahawks employ a shade of green that looks like someone swallowed a glow light and then vomited. They also switched the silver to gray, and I’m a staunch believer that silver in a football uniform is elite.
8. The Tennessee Oilers: Many remember that the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans, but most forget that they had two gap years where they weren’t sure what to identify as. The team eventually moved into their new stadium in 1999, but for two glorious years, the Tennessee Oilers played home games at the Liberty Bowl (‘97) and Vanderbilt Stadium (‘98).
And yes, Jeff Fisher was the coach in 1998.
And yes, they went 8-8.
7. Reggie White’s last great year: The Minister of Defense was well past his prime in his final season in Green Bay in 1998, but he still finished second in the NFL in sacks with 16. White would go on to play one ill-fated season in Carolina in 2000 after coming out of retirement, but the last we truly saw Reggie’s greatness was in 1998.
6. The other Broncos quarterback: The 1998 NFL season is best known for John Elway and the Broncos winning their second straight Super Bowl and Elway fading off into the sunset, retiring after the season. What gets lost is the importance of backup quarterback Bubby Brister, who not only had one of the best names in the league, but guided the Broncos to a 4-0 record as a starter during two different stints where Elway was out with injuries.
Bubby went on to play two more years as a backup, but never started another game in the NFL.
5. This rookie quarterback: Peyton Manning set five rookie records in 1998, including passing touchdowns (26) and interceptions (28!). He also got sacked about a thousand times (unofficial), which was a record that was broken when David Carr was sacked two thousand times (also unofficial) a few years later.
Many youngsters saw Peyton dominate in the early 2000’s, but us old men watched him struggle through the 1998 season, while occasionally giving us a glimpse into the future that was to come.
And if watching Peyton wasn’t enough, the Colts were coached by Jim Mora, who would give us this gem three years later.
4. This rookie wide receiver: While Peyton’s Colts languished in 1998, Randy Moss made an immediate and incredible impact on the Vikings. Moss caught his first career touchdown from Brad Johnson, but after Johnson went down in Week 2 with a broken thumb, veteran quarterback Randall Cunningham came out of the bullpen and Moss’s numbers skyrocketed. It’s not often that a guy becomes the best at his position in his rookie season, but Moss did, finishing first team All-Pro and third in the Offensive MVP vote.
3. The Dirty Bird: A seventh round pick out of Utah in ‘94, Falcons running back Jamal Anderson had, by far, his best season in 1998. Anderson ran for over 1800 yards that year, nearly 800 yards more than his second best season. What made Anderson most popular with 16-year old me was his touchdown dance, known as The Dirty Bird. Those a few years older than me might’ve Icky Shuffled, but in 1998, we all did The Dirty Bird.
2. The Vikings choke: The Vikings were 15-1 and had blown through the competition. They hosted the aforementioned Jamal Anderson and his Falcons in the Metrodome. With the Vikes up 27-20, Minnesota kicker Gary Anderson, who had not missed a field goal all season, shanked a 38-yarder. The Falcons then scored to send the game to overtime. Minnesota won the toss and promptly went three-and-out. Atlanta’s kicker Morten Andersen kicked a 38-yarder of his own to send the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Was it as big of a choke as Brett Favre’s interception in the 2009 playoffs? That can be argued. What can’t be argued is that both times the Vikings missed golden opportunities to win Super Bowls.
1. The coin toss snafu: The world watched in amazement on Thanksgiving as Jerome Bettis clearly called “tails” in the overtime coin toss, only for referee Phil Luckett to claim he heard him say “heads.” The coin toss mess up was costly, as the Lions took the kickoff downfield and scored a field goal to win.
If you pay attention nowadays, the visiting team player must call the toss before it is thrown in the air to avoid the same thing happening again. That rule came about because of this snafu.
Next week, I’ll be ranking my favorite non-football moments in OU/Texas history. Send in your suggestions via Twitter/X, Instagram or via email at [email protected].