Skip to main content

Twelve things we loved about the NFL in the '90s

The 1990s were a great decade to come of age as an NFL fan. On the occassion of '90s Week on NFL Network, I'd like to share what I loved about a fun and endearingly goofy era for the game.

There will be no poetic waxing about Barry Sanders, Troy Aikman, Terrell Davis or other well-known entities of the decade. The focus here is the more unsung pleasures of the time. Please keep your arms and legs inside the time machine.


NFL poster game was strong in the '90s. Creatives started thinking outside the box, waving goodbye to standard action shots to go in a more, shall we say, artistic direction.

Why have a shot of Packers quarterback Don Majkowski following through on a pass when you could dress him up in a sleeveless tuxedo, put a magic wand in his hand and have him levitate a football?

Why use a sideline shot of John Elway when you can turn him into The Rifleman, a renegade cowboy who uses regulation NFL footballs as ammunition?

Why use a stock image of Warren Moon, his arms raised triumphantly after a score, when you can put the Oilers quarterback in front of a literal moon with lipstick script beneath that reads -- wait for it -- Moonlighting?

Seriously, this all happened.


For the record, I was not in the room when the NFL opted to go with a more uniform Super Bowl logo design starting with the 2010 season. It's a shame, too, because some of the '90s designswerequiteenjoyable.

While we're here, a shout-out to the Super Bowl programs of the '90s, the covers of which wereoftenstrange, trippy and sublime.


Before celebrities drank wine out of plastic cups in luxury suites, stars were often found on the field during the game.

Hammer took things a step further in 1991 by being an active member of the Falcons' sideline. That '91 team -- named the "2 Legit 2 Quit" Falcons in honor of the Hammer hit that wasn't "U Can't Touch This" -- rallied around the Oakland rapper as a pop culture mascot. ($2 if you can remember the hand gesture used unironically by Deion, Rison and others).

Sadly, the partnership was as fleeting as the career of Hammer, who stumbled into gangsta rap and, ultimately, bankruptcy. The good times never last.


Bad actors fail to effectively convey emotion or deliver dialogue in a convincing manner. A truly wretched actor, however, can't even walk convincingly. As evidence, I point you to Brett Favre's cameo in 1998's There's Something About Mary. Watch the then 28-year-old Packers star approach Cameron Diaz at the :04 to :06 mark in this video. Pump those arms for momentum, Brett!

Dan Marino's performance in 1993's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was moderately better, and we won't dock him points for his floral vest or the film's climax, which has aged regrettably. Of course, the best Marino line isn't even delivered by the Hall of Famer.


Speaking of Marino, you just know Dan The Man wore his teal and white Zubaz over 300 times in the calendar year of 1991. Hewashardlyalone. Zubaz became the go-to leg apparel for NFL players and gym meatheads during the end of the first Bush administration.

From the (impressively detailed) Zubaz Wikipedia entry: "Regardless of the specific design, Zubaz are almost always bright, flashy, and often ostentatious."


Let's keep it real: If you didn't have a Starter pullover winter jacket, you were post-human. There were no limits to what you could store in that front pouch. It was a socially acceptable fanny pack for teen boys.


Sometimes it's fun to imagine what it would be like if seminal moments of the '90s had occured in the social media age. For instance, what would Twitter be like during the O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase? Or Bill Clinton's impeachment? Or Scott Norwood going wide right in Super Bowl XXV?

Here's another: How would Twitter react if an NFL defensive coordinator punched his offensive coordinator on the sideline on Sunday Night Football? Would Cris Collinsworth's head explode? I believe it would. I believe there's a 74 percent chance Al Michaels would be covered in brain matter.


The only game that mattered. The original Tecmo Bowl and this sequel are The Godfather and The Godfather Part II of the era. The people who kneel at the altar of the Madden franchise are the same people who would say Chip Kelly is a better coach than Vince Lombardi. They are enemies of culture and should be treated as such.

That said, if you were playing a buddy and you picked the Raiders as your team, you had questionable ethics. Bo Jackson was an 8-bit cheat code.


While we're here, Vermeil -- along with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk -- provided commentary on the 1999 St. Louis Rams on Friday on NFL Network. Check your local listings for repeat showings! (Shadowy League Figure pats Dan on head, slips pittance into breast pocket).


The movie that made half the country's male population briefly flirt with the idea of becoming an earnest, successful, Tom Petty-relating sports agent. Maguire features over a dozen cameos from NFL players and coaches, including Wayne Fontes. I could write an entire separate column on Wayne Fontes. Wayne Fontes was a G.


This was a real debate. Peyton Manning was generally believed to be the safer bet, but plenty of people fell in love with Ryan Leaf, who failed in the NFL on every conceivable level. "Don't talk to me, alright! Knock it off!"


Back in the old days, before the Internet, DirecTV, NFL Network and everything else, fans had limited options on football Sundays. That made ESPN's NFL Primetime appointment viewing. The best part of Primetime, of course, was the music that accompanied the highlights. The composer chained up in a Bristol panic room deserves all the Grammys.

Here are my power rankings. Song titles are educated guesses based on source material:

If I squint my eyes, I can almost see the back-breaking Browning Nagle interception.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.