Strike-shortened season a year to forget

The 1982 season remains the biggest anomaly in NFL history.

The players’ strike tore the season asunder after two games, and lasted eight weeks and lingered into November. An additional week of games was added to the regular season, creating a nine-game sprint to the playoffs that lent itself to odd results — including San Francisco’s 3-6 season and Denver’s 2-7 finish.

By winning percentage, the 1982 season remains the Broncos’ worst since 1967. Future successful seasons would show that the year was a blip exacerbated by the strike.

An early sign of the ambivalence some Broncos felt about the strike came in the opening week of the preseason. Throughout the league, entire teams met at midfield before games to shake hands, intending to show solidarity. The Broncos were the only team that did not want to do so.

“A few players got together and basically, it was, ‘No,'” Barney Chavous, the defensive lineman who was the Broncos’ representative to the NFL Players’ Association, said at the time. A few other scattered players around the league also did not participate, but the Broncos were the sole group to do so en masse.

The tumultuous season also saw transition on the field. On the cusp of his 40th birthday, quarterback Craig Morton was demoted to the third team as head coach Dan Reeves sought to get more playing time for Steve DeBerg, acquired in a 1981 trade from the San Francisco 49ers. Morton was less than three months away from his 40th birthday when he made his final career start, a 17-10 loss to the Seahawks on November 21, 1982. DeBerg, and later Mark Herrmann, started the rest of the frustrating season.

Morton was honored before his final home game and eventually inducted into the Ring of Fame. At the time of his last game, he defined jersey No. 7 in the orange and blue. That would change in the most resounding fashion possible months later.

1982 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/12 san diego chargers 3-23
9/19 san francisco 49ers 24-21
11/21 seattle seahawks 10-17
11/28 at san diego chargers 20-30
12/5 atlanta falcons 27-34
12/12 at los angeles rams 27-24
12/19 kansas city chiefs 16-37
12/26 at los angeles raiders 10-27
1/2 at seattle seahawks 11-13

1982 offense

Pos Player Starts
qb steve deberg 5
qb mark herrmann 1
qb craig morton 3
rb rick parros 9
rb dave preston 5
rb gerald willhite 2
rb sammy winder 2
wr rick upchurch 8
wr steve watson 9
te ron egloff 1
te riley odoms 6
te jim wright 3
c billy bryan 9
t ken lanier 9
t claudie minor 7
t keith uecker 2
g tom glassic 9
g dave studdard 9

Feb. 6, 1983: The Broncos are represented in the Pro Bowl game by Randy Gradishar, Luke Prestridge and Rick Upchurch.

1982 defense

Pos Player Starts
de barney chavous 9
de rulon jones 9
nt rubin carter 6
nt don latimer 3
lb larry evans 9
lb randy grandishar 9
lb tom jackson 9
lb jim ryan 9
cb aaron kyle 9
cb steve wilson 3
cb louis wright 9
s steve foley 1
s mike harden 4
s dennis smith 9
s steve trimble 1

Record: 2-7

12th in conference