September 4, 2015

Highlighted Year: Steve Bartkowski, 1980

Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons


Age:  28 (Nov. 12)
6th season in pro football & with Falcons
College: California
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 213

Prelude:
The Falcons traded star OT George Kunz to the Colts to obtain the first overall pick in the 1975 NFL draft in order to select Bartkowski, who passed for 2580 yards as a senior and was already acclaimed for having a strong throwing arm, although he was also immobile and strictly a pocket passer. He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup and received NFC Rookie of the Year honors after passing for 1662 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bartkowski followed up his promising rookie year with two poor seasons in 1976 and ’77, missing much time to injury and playing badly when healthy, and seemed on his way to becoming a major first-round bust. However, he regained his starting job four weeks into the 1978 season and led the Falcons to the first postseason appearance in franchise history. He also played well in the Wild Card playoff win over the Eagles and a near-upset of the Cowboys in the Divisional round. While the team dipped in ’79, Bartkowski continued to improve, throwing for 2505 yards and 17 TDs, although giving up 20 interceptions.

1980 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 463 [9]
Most attempts, game – 47 at St. Louis 11/9
Completions – 257 [11, tied with Ron Jaworski]
Most completions, game – 31 at St. Louis 11/9
Yards – 3544 [5]
Most yards, game – 378 at St. Louis 11/9
Completion percentage – 55.5
Yards per attempt – 7.7 [6]
TD passes – 31 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 at New Orleans 10/19
Interceptions – 16 [18, tied with four others]
Most interceptions, game – 3 at Buffalo 11/2
Passer rating – 88.2 [4]
300-yard passing games – 2
200-yard passing games – 10

Rushing
Attempts – 25
Most attempts, game – 4 (for 4 yds.) at Buffalo 11/2
Yards – 35
Most yards, game – 11 yards (on 2 carries) vs. Detroit 10/5
Yards per attempt – 1.4
TDs – 2

Scoring
TDs – 2
Points – 12

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Divisional playoff vs. Dallas)
Pass attempts – 33
Pass completions – 18
Passing yardage – 320
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 1

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Falcons went 12-4 to finish first in the NFC West. Lost NFC Divisional playoff to Dallas Cowboys (30-27).

Aftermath:
Bartkowski had another Pro Bowl year in 1981, throwing for a career-high 3829 yards and tossing another 30 touchdowns, although the Falcons dropped back to 7-9. He led the NFL in passing in 1983 (97.6 rating) as he threw for 3167 yards with 22 TDs and just 5 interceptions and led the league in completion percentage (67.3) in ’84. However, the team’s performance was dropping off and the effect of taking many sacks (356 in all) was causing shoulder and knee injuries. After appearing in just five games in 1985, Bartkowski was dealt to the Rams where he was 4-2 as a starter in ’86 before knee problems finally finished his career. Overall, he played 11 years for the Falcons, as well as the one abbreviated season in LA, and completed 55.9 % of his passes for 24,124 yards with 156 TDs and 144 interceptions. His 23,470 yards and 154 TDs with Atlanta were franchise career records that were eventually exceeded by Matt Ryan.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

1 comment:

  1. Bartkowski was only one of the keys to the Falcons teams of this period. William Andrews was the other. Bartkowski's game markedly improved when he had a running game and a back (Andrews) who could catch and block as well as he could run. His lack of mobility eventually was the end of him, as his line aged and lost the ability to protect him other teams would just blitz in obvious passing situations and Bart would go down. This wasn't as much an issue with Andrews in the lineup as he made a great dump-off receiver in such situations and occasionally broke off long gains (like his 86 yd catch and run against Denver in 1982). Once Andrews got hurt and forced to retire, Bart's fortunes declined dramatically without the extra safety-valve receiver that Andrews was (Gerald Riggs was an accomplished runner, but he wasn't the multidimensional threat that Andrews did).

    Bart's greatest season was no doubt 1980, winning many games in the clutch with his passing, greatly helped by an offensive lineup stocked with young talent. He might have beaten Dallas in the 1980 playoff game had he been able to utilize a West Coast-type passing game in the fourth quarter, where they tried to go conservative and run down the clock with the running game, but Dallas kept stuffing them.

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