The Big Red Zone continues its series looking back on each of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1980 Draft, which was held April 29-30 in New York.
Was that the sound of “Hail to the Victors” coming from the Cardinals’ draft room on April 29, 1980? It could have been the University of Michigan fight song, given that the Big Red took a pair of Michigan players with their first two selections in the NFL Draft.
With their first-round pick (sixth overall), they chose defensive end Curtis Greer, who had 48 tackles for 234 yards in losses during his college career. In the second round, St. Louis took tight end Doug Marsh, who caught 57 passes for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Wolverines.
After the Cardinals recorded 28 sacks in 1979 (25th among the 28 NFL teams), their need for a pass rusher opposite Bob Pollard was obvious. And after struggling to find a dominant, pass-catching tight during the previous two seasons, Marsh seemed like he could fill the bill.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way it went,” first-year head coach Jim Hanifan told reporters. “We filled our needs immediately with Greer and Marsh, two young guys who are blue-chippers and class young men who are going to be around St. Louis for a long time.”
In the NFL, three years is a long time. Greer would play for the Cardinals for eight seasons, Marsh for seven.
As you can see, the Cardinals focused on defense in this draft. Nine of their 13 picks were defensive players, including five linemen.
1980 St. Louis Cardinals Draft
|3-81||Charles Baker||LB||New Mexico|
|4-89||Rusty Lisch||QB||Notre Dame|
|7-171||Ben Apuna||LB||Arizona St.|
|8-198||Dupree Branch||DB||Colorado St.|
|10-255||Rush Brown||DT||Ball St.|
|12-309||Tyrone Gray||WR||Washington St.|
Although a concussion and a broken thumb slowed Curtis Greer during his rookie season, he still had 6.5 sacks. He started the 1981 season as a designated pass rusher, then became the starter at right end for the final 11 games and finished with 12.5 sacks. Between 1980 and 1985, Greer led or shared the team lead in sacks every year. His 16 sacks in 1983 were tied for the third most by an NFL player, and his 37 sacks from 1983-85 were fifth among NFC players. After undergoing surgery on his right knee, Greer missed the entire 1986 season. Still, he played 94 games (78 starts) during his career and finished with 69.5 sacks—second behind Chandler Jones (71.5) on the franchise’s all-time list. (Greer is credited with only 50.5 sacks in the Cardinals media guide, but sacks didn’t become an official NFL stat until 1982, so he isn’t given credit for the 19 sacks he had in his first two seasons.)
Doug Marsh started all 16 games as a rookie, catching 22 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. A knee injury and a dislocated hip in 1981 and the players’ strike in 1982 limited him to only 11 games in those two seasons. He then started every game for the next four seasons. From 1983-85, Marsh averaged 36 receptions and 461 yards, and he scored 14 touchdowns. After three consecutive seasons in which he touched the ball 32, 39 and 37 times, Marsh’s production fell off in 1986, when he had only 25 touches. Marsh eventually fell out of favor with coach Gene Stallings and, after attending only two days of an eight-day passing game school for quarterbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers in June 1987, he was released by the Cardinals. Marsh’s career stats: 92 games (90 starts), 167 receptions, 2,140 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Charles Baker, whose third-round pick was the compensation the Cardinals received from San Diego for the signing of former Big Red coach Don Coryell, played in 109 games (63 starts) during his career with St. Louis (1980-87). Because Baker only rushed the passer and did not play pass coverage in college, it took him some time to adjust to the NFL. Primarily a backup and a solid special teams player, he did start every game in 1982, ’83 and ’86. For his career, he had 9.5 sacks (five in ’81) and four fumble recoveries.
Rusty Lisch, who backed up Joe Montana at Notre Dame, never developed as an NFL quarterback. The Belleville, IL, product played in 23 games but made just one start at quarterback for the Cardinals. In four seasons in St. Louis, Lisch completed 12 of 30 passes for 547 yards and one touchdown, with five interceptions. Because of injuries to other players, he was pressed into service at free safety for the final three games of the 1981 season.
Stafford Mays played in 104 of a possible 105 games for St. Louis (1980-86), starting in just eight. He played both defensive end and defensive tackle, recording 11.5 sacks and recovering four fumbles.
Rush “The Crush” Brown became a starter at nose tackle midway through his rookie season and earned selection to the 1980 NFL All-Rookie Team. He started 32 of his first 41 games with the Cardinals. In four seasons with the team, he had 8.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception.