by Keith Avallone, PLAAY Games LLC
It's amazing how much you forget in 20 years!
The 1999 Pro Season was the first "current" season I ever made for SECOND SEASON Pro Football Game, I worked on it in the spring of 2000 and released it that summer. We continued to offer the '99 season in its original team sheet format up until about a year ago, and all that time I never really looked much at it. I guess, over time, I began to forget the many intriguing story lines of the '99 season. I'm excited to say that our special 20th Anniversary re-release of the 1999 Pro Season is NOW AVAILABLE, but before we get to the ordering information I'd like to provide some back-story...
As we mapped out our plans for the 20th anniversary of PLAAY Games, I thought it would be nice to re-cast the '99 season with all the more recently-developed bells and whistles, mainly to commemorate the significance of the release, not the season. In the spring, I began to re-think that idea. Wouldn't it be better to commemorate the anniversary by producing a NEW vintage season, I reasoned, one that I hadn't previously rated for the game? That's where I switched gears to the '69 season—a season I had long wanted to create for the game. Ultimately, I decided to get back on track with the original plan—and I am SO glad I did! I think fans of the game will be glad, too. (PS to fans of the '69 season: we ARE going to release that season, too, soon!) In short, the '99 season was an epic season, populated with a special generation of hall-of-fame players, filled with memorable moments.
I'm proud of the way the first version of the '99 season turned out, especially considering that the resources available to me THEN are nowhere NEAR what we have available NOW. In re-doing the '99 teams, I was able to clean up a number of honest roster errors I'd made, tweaked some of the ratings a little bit (it's always easier to rate players in hindsight, after their career is over rather than just their rookie or sophomore season!) and added some of the ratings nuances we've fined tuned over the last decade. The result is a new '99 Pro Season for SS that's visually and textually more exciting, and is dialed-in to the actual historical '99 season to a greater degree than was possible 20 years ago.
When people remember the '99 season, it's usually one of two moments that's brought to mind. First is the ending of "The Big Game," truly a fantastic finish, with St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones making a Herculean tackle on the final play of the game to stop Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson mere inches short of the tying touchdown. The other, interestingly enough, also involved Dyson. It was the play that helped get Tennessee to the game in the first place, "The Music City Miracle." Seemingly beaten by a Buffalo field goal in the final 20 seconds, Tennessee mustered the gadget play to end all gadget plays on the ensuing kickoff, a razor-sharp reverse-field, barely-legal lateral pass that Dyson gathered in, racing 75 yards downfield for the winning touchdown.
There were other great stories. As the '99 season began, the Big Tuna Bill Parcells had the New York Jets primed for a deep playoff run, but lost QB Vinny Testaverde to a season-ending injury on opening day. That set the stage for one of the most unlikely heroes ever, with punter Tom Tupa taking over as emergency quarterback. It wasn't enough to win the game, but it was memorable, for sure! And Parcells wound up delivering one of the best coaching efforts of his epic career, nearly getting the Jets into the playoffs with a rotating gaggle of unproven passers.
Dan Marino played his final season, overcoming injuries to lead the Dolphins to a playoff berth. Tampa Bay's attack featured pro football's last great running fullback, Mike Alstott.
And then there was the '99 rookie class. The '99 draft saw quarterbacks taken with the first three picks: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith. All three saw playing time in '99. The biggest rookie splashes, though, were made in New Orleans and Indianapolis. Saints coach Mike Ditka traded his entire allotment of draft picks for the right to choose Texas RB Ricky Williams, a move that ultimately cost Ditka his job. It worked out much better in Indy, as Colts first-rounder RB Edgerrin James joined sophomore QB Peyton Manning to trigger a "worst to first" season, going from 3-13 in '98, to 13-3 and division champions in '99. Other '99 rookies who had notable pro careers included Green Bay WR Donald Driver, Pittsburgh LB Joey Porter and a class of defensive backs that was spearheaded by Champ Bailey, Antoine Winfield and Dre Bly. Technically a rookie, although he had played a number of seasons in Canada, was San Francisco's Jeff Garcia, who stepped in when Steve Young was injured and earned pro bowl recognition the following seasons.
All in all, 1999 was a remarkably competitive season—making it a perfect staging ground for tabletop football replay adventures! Two 8-8 teams made the playoffs (Dallas and Detroit), with several others nipping at their heels. Only eleven of the league's 31 teams posted a losing record, and collectively they represented probably the best array of losing teams in league history! Consider...
Meanwhile, the '99 powerhouse teams were perhaps just as unlikely...
But easily the MOST unlikely '99 powerhouse was St. Louis, a team which had re-located to the Gateway City in the middle of a miserable string of ten consecutive losing seasons and was coming off a 4-12 campaign in 1998. Not only that, but they had spent millions in the off-season to sign free agent QB Trent Green, only to see Green suffer a pre-season knee-injury that knocked him out for the entire year. Enter unheralded Kurt Warner, former grocery store shelf-stocker and minor league passer, who became one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in pro football history, throwing for 41 touchdowns and over 4000 yards.
The '99 season featured some well-known coaches in their playing days in QBs Jason Garrett (Dallas), Doug Peterson (Philadelphia) and Jim Harbaugh (San Diego). Pete Carroll was roaming the sideline in '99—for New England! (Bill Belichick was still an assistant in '99, under Parcells in New York; that would soon change!).
The 1999 Pro Season for SECOND SEASON Pro Football board game will include all 31 teams, over 1000 players individually-rated. You'll get the usual assortment of bells and whistles, including fringe player roster, injury exemption list, instant results chart and a 1999 season summary. Because this is a special 20th Anniversary release, we're going to offer the printed team cards presented in team colors on gloss-coated cover stock with a special commemorative design/look, $44 postage-paid. (We're also offering the '99 season as a PDF version, $21 delivered to your e-mail box.) Questions? Let us know, we're always happy to help. NOW AVAILABLE!