Michael David Smith, writer extraordinaire of FanHouse, ProFootballTalk and Football Outsiders to name just a few was kind enough to write a guest post for TJB this week. In this post, MDS looks back at Richard Todd.
The game is now more than a quarter century old, so there’s a whole generation of Jets fans who didn’t see it. But Richard Todd’s performance in the AFC Championship in January of 1983 was mentioned this week at the Pro Football Reference blog as the second-worst playoff game any quarterback has ever had, and that got me thinking about my own memories of Todd, who was the Jets’ first-round draft pick in 1976 and their starting quarterback for most of the next eight years.
First, there’s that AFC Championship, and yes, he was terrible. Beyond terrible. He finished the game 15-of-37 for 103 yards, with five interceptions, as the Jets lost 14-0. Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe had three interceptions and sealed the game with an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. If you’re a Jets fan and you don’t remember that game, consider yourself lucky.
But there are some extenuating circumstances, most notably that there was a rain storm in Miami and the geniuses running the grounds crew at the Orange Bowl didn’t cover the field before the game, meaning both teams were playing on mud, and both quarterbacks were throwing a wet ball. It’s telling that Dolphins quarterback David Woodley’s performance in that game is also on Pro Football Reference’s list of the worst quarterback games in playoff history.
And putting that game aside, when I look back on the Richard Todd era (which I saw through the eyes of a very young child), I always think that he got something of a bum rap. Yes, he led the league in interceptions in 1980, and yes, he once shoved Steve Serby into a locker. He wasn’t a great player or a saint. But he did start every game in 1981 and 1982 and help get the Jets into the playoffs both seasons, after they hadn’t gotten into the postseason once in the 1970s.
He was also one of the few NFL players who understood the economics of the game in the 1970s and 1980s. Todd had the foresight to vote against the disastrous 1982 players’ strike, which accomplished nothing for the players except costing them seven game checks, and in the early 1980s he negotiated his own contract, without an agent — a contract that made him one of the highest-paid players in the league.
Overall, although Todd was far from a superstar, and although that terrible AFC Championship game was his signature moment, my memories of him are mostly positive. What about yours?