Ken Anderson 1981 NFL MVP
For the Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Ken Anderson, 1981 turned out to be one the best seasons in franchise history with the team making its first Super Bowl appearance. However for Anderson, the season had a rather ominous start as he embarked on his MVP season.
In the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Anderson threw three interceptions in the first half to allow the Seahawks to take a 21-0 halftime lead. Bengals head coach Forrest Gregg benched Anderson at halftime in favor of backup Turk Schonert, who led the Bengals to a 27-21 victory.
Gregg contemplated starting Schonert or Jack Thompson the next week, but he decided to give the veteran Anderson another chance. The Augustana College product responded by throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-30 win over the New York Jets.
When the regular season was over, Anderson had completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,754 yards and 29 touchdowns, with only 10 interceptions.
Anderson became the first Bengal to win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. He also earned the league’s Comeback Player of the Year Award en route to helping the Bengals win the AFC Central division.
His remarkable season did not stop there. Anderson guided the Bengals past the Buffalo Bills in the opening round of the playoffs, which also marked the franchise’s first postseason victory. Then a week later, he helped Cincinnati win the legendary Freezer Bowl over the San Diego Chargers to earn a spot in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XVI was a bit of a reunion for Anderson and the Bengals. On the opposing sideline was San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh, who originated the West Coast Offense as the Bengals quarterback coach under Paul Brown from 1968-75.
Anderson threw for 25 of 34 passes for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions, and ran for another touchdown in the Bengals 26-21 loss. At the time, his 25 completions and 73.5 percent completion percentage were both Super Bowl records.
Since his retirement in 1986, Anderson is considered one of the top players not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. In 2008, the NFL Network named him one of the top 10 players not in the hall. He has been nominated for the hall of fame several times, and twice has been one of 15 finalists for enshrinement.
Anderson served as an assistant coach with the Bengals from 1993-2002, including a stint as the offensive coordinator from 1996-2002. He then became an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-06. After being fired in Jacksonville, Anderson was named the quarterbacks coach for the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers under then-new head coach Mike Tomlin.
Anderson earned a Super Bowl ring when the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.