Peyton Manning Declares Early: 1998 Season

Coaching/Management Changes

  • After a legendary head coaching run with the Bills, Marv Levy retired. The Bills looked in house and replaced Levy with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
  • Sustaining the NFL’s worst record in 1997, the Colts completely cleaned house, replacing Bill Tobin and Lindy Infante with Bill Polian and Jim Mora.
  • The Raiders fired the hapless Joe Bugel after a dismal 4-12 season. Seeing the quick turnaround of the Jets last year, Al Davis was very aggressive in trying to pry away leading Parcells acolyte Bill Belichick, formerly head coach of the Browns.  But despite several efforts by Davis, Belichick elected to stay in New York.  Scrambling to find a replacement late in the hiring process, Davis turned to a name from the past: former head coach Art Shell.  Davis was very clear in his press conference that he made a mistake firing Shell, as he compiled a 54-38 with the Raiders in his first stint.

NFL Draft

As in 1997, there was no doubt about who the first overall pick in 1998 would be: Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf was head and shoulders above all other prospects, and was promptly taken first overall by the Colts.  But unlike 1997, the picks after Leaf also went in an orderly, expected manner: the Cardinals took Florida State’s Andre Wadsworth, the Chargers took Michigan’s Charles Woodson, the Raiders took San Diego State’s Kyle Turley, and the Bears took Penn State’s Curtis Enis.  The biggest question—how far Marshall’s Randy Moss would fall—was answered when the Vikings stopped his slide at #21 to pair him with Cris Carter.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the draft came when the Chargers, unable to pry Leaf away from the Colts, selected Michigan’s Brian Griese atop the second round with the 33rd overall pick.  Many analysts considered this selection a reach, but there were also heavy rumors that the Chargers wanted to prevent their division rival, the Super Bowl champion Broncos, from taking Griese as a possible heir apparent to John Elway.  The Broncos ultimately took a local product, Colorado State’s Moses Moreno, with a late round pick.

Regular Season

2 Jets 12 4 3 Cowboys 10 6
4 Dolphins 10 6 6 Cardinals 9 7
5 Bills 10 6 Giants 8 8
6 Patriots 9 7 Redskins 6 10
Colts 3 13 Eagles 3 13
3 Jaguars 11 5 1 Vikings 15 1
Oilers 8 8 5 Packers 11 5
Steelers 7 9 Buccaneers 8 8
Ravens 6 10 Lions 5 11
Bengals 3 13 Bears 4 12
1 Broncos 14 2 2 Falcons 14 2
Seahawks 8 8 4 49ers 12 4
Chargers 7 9 Saints 6 10
Chiefs 7 9 Panthers 4 12
Raiders 6 10 Rams 4 12


Wild Card

  • Cardinals 20, Cowboys 7
  • Jaguars 25, Patriots 10
  • Dolphins 24, Bills 17
  • 49ers 30, Packers 27


  • Falcons 20, 49ers 18
  • Broncos 38, Dolphins 3
  • Vikings 41, Cardinals 21
  • Jets 48, Jaguars 24

Conference Championships

  • Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (OT)
  • Jets 24, Broncos 23

Two big upsets occurred on the weekend before the Super Bowl.  In the NFC, Vikings kicker Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the season, one that would have sealed the game for the Vikings.  Instead, it was Falcons kicker Morten Andersen to kick the game winner, and send the Falcons to their first Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, over in the AFC the Jets’ defense completely stymied MVP Terrell Davis in the first half.  By forcing a fumble out of both him and John Elway, Peyton Manning then used short fields to build an unexpected 24-0 lead.  A late Broncos rally of 23 unanswered points would follow, but just fall short, giving the Jets revenge against the defending champs for stomping them out cold last year.

Super Bowl XXXIII

  • Jets 31, Falcons 12

Peyton Manning became the first quarterback since Dan Marino to play in a Super Bowl in just his second season in the league, but unlike Marino, he decisively won the game, also earning Super Bowl MVP honors.