Thirty years ago, when the NFL was two games into its season, the players walked out on strike. But the owners were not going to let the strike stop the game, so they restocked the rosters to continue the schedule with replacement players. It provided an opportunity for players who couldn’t make the summer roster cuts to get back onto the field and display their talents on Sunday afternoons.
Since this is the 30th anniversary week of that strike, our Talk of Fame Network poll asks who was the best replacement player in 1987? We’re restricting this poll to pure “replacement” players — players who never played an NFL game before the strike and never played another after the strike. But when the spotlight was on them during those three weeks in the fall of 1987, they shined:
James Brim, WR, Minnesota. The Wake Forest product caught 18 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He lit up the Green Bay Packers in his NFL debut, catching six passes for 144 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown, and also took an end around 38 yards for a second score in that game. His three TDs were as many as NFL stars Stanley Morgan, Joe Morris and Christian Okoye scored in their 12-game seasons.
Tommy Haynes, S, Dallas. The Southern Cal product collected 23 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and also broke up four passes as the Cowboys went 2-1 in their three strike games. He intercepted as many passes in three games as Pro Bowl safeties Joey Browner, Deron Cherry, Dave Duerson and David Fulcher intercepted in their 12-game seasons.
Sean McInerney, DE, Chicago. The Bears had one of the best pass rushes in football before the strike and McInerney didn’t drop the baton. The Frostburg State product collected 3 ½ sacks in his NFL debut and wound up with 6 ½ in his three-game career — more sacks than Pro Bowl end Ray Childress collected (six) in his 13-game season. McInerney also made 17 tackles.
Mike Prindle, K, Detroit. Prindle kicked six field goals (in seven tries), tops among all replacement kickers. The Western Michigan product also was a perfect 6-of-6 with his conversion kicks, giving him 24 career points in the NFL.
Scott Tinsley, QB, Philadelphia. The Southern Cal product completed 48-of-86 passes for 637 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions in losing all three of his NFL starts. But he had a career day against the Cowboys when he completed 24 of 34 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the best game by a replacement quarterback during the strike.
Lionel Vital, HB, Washington. The Nicholls State product led all strike rushers with 346 yards on 80 carries for the 3-0 Redskins – three victories that helped propel Washington to its second championship season under Joe Gibbs. He also scored two touchdowns and caught a pass. Vital is now the director of college scouting for the Dallas Cowboys.