On This Date December 20, 1980: No Announcers

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com


NBC experiments with broadcasting an NFL game without announcers. The game is a Saturday afternoon game in the final week of the season with the Miami Dolphins hosting the New York Jets at the Orange Bowl. There is nothing at stake as both teams did not make the playoffs. The Jets who finished with a 4-12 record beat the Dolphins 24-17. The Dolphins would finish at 8-8.


It was a year of transition for the Miami Dolphins coached by Don Shula. Early in the season, longtime quarterback Bob Griese suffered a shoulder injury that would end his career. After Don Strock struggled, Miami turned to David Woodley, combined the quarterbacks were nicknamed Wood-Strock.   The Dolphins season began with a 17-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. It ended a 20-game winning streak Miami had against Buffalo, running the decade of the 1970s. The Dolphins went into the final game sitting at 8-7.


After winning Super Bowl III, the New York Jets went into the wilderness during the 1970s, as they were one of three non-expansion teams along with the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants to not make the playoffs during the decade. The Jets struggled from the start of the season, losing their first five games for coach Walt Michaels. Heading into the final week of the season, the final game, the Jets were 3-12. They had just lost to the New Orleans Saints 31-30 on a frigid day at Shea Stadium. It was the only win on the season for the 1-15 Saints.


One of the Jets' three wins was against the Dolphins, who they had a five-game winning streak against, dating back to 1977. Don Ohlmeyer came up with the idea and used this meaningless game as his Guinea pig. Knowing the game would not garner high ratings without playoff implications the decision was for this nationally televised game to be played with just the ambient noise of the game and stadium coming over the speakers. 


Broadcasters were unhappy with Ohlmeyer’s experiment and openly hoped it would fail. Don Ohlmeyer used more graphics to allow home viewers to know the score and down and distance. However, plans to use more sensitive microphones for game sounds proved unsuccessful.  


The Dolphins opened the scoring with a 21-yard field goal by Uwe von Schamann. The Jets got the first touchdown of the game on a one-yard run by Scott Dierking. The Dolphins answered with David Woodley connecting with Duriel Harris on a 16-yard touchdown pass. Dierking scored again in the second quarter as New York led at halftime 14-10. The Jets extended the lead to 21-10 on a 71-yard pick-six by Darrol Ray in the third quarter. Woodley scored on a sneak in the fourth quarter, but the Jets closed the scoring on a 35-yard field goal by Pat Leahy. 


The win cost the Jets a chance to pick Lawrence Taylor as they dropped from the second pick to the third, with the New York Giants choosing LT with the second pick. Reaction to the announcer less game was mixed at best. Ratings were higher than normal, but most viewers disapproved and the experiment was never tried again.