April 22, 2014

1975: Rams Obtain Tom Dempsey from Eagles

April 22, 1975 was a busy day for transactions by the Philadelphia Eagles. Guard Mark Nordquist was traded to the Bears and CB Charley Ford to Houston, both for draft choices. The most noteworthy deal sent PK Tom Dempsey to the Los Angeles Rams for an undisclosed 1976 draft choice (it turned out to be a fourth-round pick, which was later traded to Green Bay).

Dempsey, who was 28, had gained notoriety with the New Orleans Saints in 1970 when he kicked a 63-yard field goal that not only gave the Saints an upset victory over the Detroit Lions but broke the existing NFL record for longest field goal by seven yards. Born with only two fingers on his right hand and half of a right foot, Dempsey overcame disabilities to play offensive tackle in high school and defensive end at Palomar Junior College. He also took up placekicking, and when the Chargers of the AFL signed him to their taxi squad in 1968, a special shoe was designed for him with a flat surface like a mallet. A placekicker with the size of a lineman (6’1”, 260 pounds), he had considerable leg strength.

The Chargers released Dempsey after a year and he joined the Saints in ’69, gaining Pro Bowl recognition as he booted 22 field goals. He kicked another 18 in 1970, but while he could kick for distance, he had problems with accuracy. Three of his attempts of over 50 yards were good, as well as four of seven from 40 to 49 yards, but he was successful on only one of five tries from 30 to 39 yards. He was beaten out in the 1971 preseason by Skip Butler (who failed to last past the second game) and was activated by the Eagles midway through the schedule.

Dempsey’s half season with Philadelphia in ’71 was outstanding as he succeeded on 12 of 17 field goal attempts for a league-leading 70.6 percent. Among those kicks was a 54-yarder at home against the Cardinals that set a new team record (eclipsed by Tony Franklin in 1979).

Dempsey kicked for another three years with the Eagles, but was never again as consistent. While his field goal total rose to 20 in 1972, he had 35 attempts for a percentage of 57.1. His most notable performance was six field goals in an 18-17 win over the Oilers, another team record, and in a game in which the opposing kicker was, ironically enough, Skip Butler (who missed a potential game-winning kick). He set a then-club standard with 24 field goals in ’73, out of 40 tries, but had a noteworthy 26-yard field goal miss in a one-point loss at Buffalo and was still less-than-dependable on midrange kicks.

In 1974, the NFL made two rules changes that had a notable effect on placekickers, including Dempsey. The goal posts were moved from the goal line to the rear of the end zone and failed field goal attempts beyond the 20 yard line were returned to the line of scrimmage rather than the 20. Dempsey had just 16 field goal attempts for the year and was good on 10 of them.

There had been acrimony between Dempsey, who was the team’s player representative, and Eagles owner Leonard Tose during the players’ strike prior to the ’74 season, and there were rumors throughout the year that the placekicker’s job might be in jeopardy. Eagles Head Coach Mike McCormack indicated that the deciding factor in dealing Dempsey was the rule change regarding long missed field goal tries.

“The new kicking rule has reduced the need for long field goals,” explained McCormack. “Dempsey tried only 16 field goals for us last year. We tried only three or four from 40 yards or more (the actual number was seven). We feel we can get by with a short-range kicker, the 20- to 30-yard percentage type, someone whose leg maybe isn’t as strong as Dempsey’s.”

The Eagles filled their placekicking vacancy by obtaining Horst Muhlmann from Cincinnati, and he was successful on 20 of 29 field goal attempts (69 %). Only one attempt, which was good, came from over 50 yards although many were in the 40 to 49-yard range, with a success rate of 7 in 13 tries.

Dempsey, meanwhile, made good on 21 of 26 field goal tries for a career-best 80.8 percentage in his first year with the Rams. His longest covered 51 yards, he was four of five from 40 to 49 yards, and was perfect (7 of 7) between 20 and 29 yards for the first time in his career. However, he paradoxically missed five of his 36 points after touchdown.

Dempsey’s performance slipped in 1976, as he went 17-of-26 on field goal attempts and was unsuccessful on eight of 44 extra points. In the NFC Championship game, his blocked chip-shot field goal attempt in the first quarter was returned 90 yards by the Vikings, who went on to win the game – the last for Dempsey with LA. He was waived the following preseason.

Dempsey saw action with the Oilers and Bills over the next three years. Overall, he kicked 159 field goals out of 258 attempts (61.6 percent) and 89.4 percent of his extra point tries (252 of 282). Most of his field goals came with the Eagles (66) and he had a total of 38 with the Rams, but it would be the 63-yard kick for New Orleans for which he would be best remembered. 

April 20, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Curtis Martin, 1995

Running Back, New England Patriots

Age:  22
College: Pittsburgh
Height: 5’11” Weight: 197

Martin suffered through an injury-plagued college career, rushing for 1045 yards in ten games as a junior and then, after a 251-yard performance against Texas in the first game of his senior year, he went down with a severe ankle sprain. He chose to enter the 1995 NFL draft and was taken by the Patriots in the third round. While there were concerns regarding his injury history, Martin quickly allayed them by rushing for 102 yards in his NFL debut.

1995 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 368 [2]
Most attempts, game - 36 (for 127 yds.) vs. Buffalo 10/23
Yards – 1487 [3, 1st in AFC]
Most yards, game – 166 yards (on 35 carries) at NY Jets 11/5
Average gain – 4.0 [15]
TDs – 14 [3]
100-yard rushing games – 9

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 30      
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 62 yds.) at Pittsburgh 12/16
Yards – 261
Most yards, game – 62 (on 8 catches) at Pittsburgh 12/16
Average gain – 8.7
TDs – 1

TDs – 15 [6]
2-pt PAT – 1
Points – 92

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: Sporting News
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
1st-team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Patriots went 6-10 to finish fourth in the AFC East.

Martin followed up with another Pro Bowl year in 1996, rushing for 1152 yards and catching 46 passes as the Patriots won the AFC title. It was the second of ten straight seasons in which he rushed for over a thousand yards. An elusive runner who caught the ball well out of the backfield, he exhibited impressive stamina and durability, although he missed three games in ’97 due to an abdominal injury that required surgery. After rushing for 3799 yards and 32 TDs with New England, Martin was signed as a restricted free agent by the New York Jets in 1998, reuniting with Bill Parcells, his first coach with the Patriots, and played a key role in that team’s quick turnaround. Despite maintaining a heavy workload, he carried on through a string of 119 consecutive starts before a major knee injury finally ended his career 12 games into the 2005 season. Along the way, his quiet consistency was often overlooked, but he twice gained over 1500 yards in a season, including a league-leading 1697 at age 31 in 2004. Overall, he received consensus first-team All-NFL honors once, gained at least some first- or second-team recognition after three other years, and was selected to the Pro Bowl five times while rushing for 14,101 yards, which ranked fourth all-time at his retirement, on 3518 carries (4.0 avg.) and catching 484 passes for another 3329 yards, giving him 17,430 yards from scrimmage. He scored an even 100 touchdowns (90 rushing, 10 receiving). The Jets retired Martin’s #28 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2012.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

April 18, 2014

1983: Bandits Lose Game to Express & Reaves to Injury

The Los Angeles Express had a 3-3 record, as did all three other teams in the Pacific Division of the United States Football League, as they met the Tampa Bay Bandits on April 18, 1983. Coached by Hugh Campbell, winner of five straight Grey Cups with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, the Express had difficulty scoring points with the quarterback tandem of veteran NFL backup Mike Rae, who started games, and rookie Tom Ramsey, who typically finished them. The defense was tough, however, especially the line that was anchored by rookie NT Eddie “Meat Cleaver” Weaver.

Tampa Bay, coached by the offensive-minded Steve Spurrier, featured an exciting aerial attack directed by veteran QB John Reaves, a former college star at Florida who had floundered in the NFL. The Bandits had won their first four games before being thrashed by the Chicago Blitz, but were 5-1 and playing at home as they faced the Express.

It was a rainy Monday night with 32,223 fans in attendance at Tampa Stadium. The quality of play was sloppy, and the first half was filled with penalties. Tampa Bay took the early lead midway through the first quarter when Zenon Andrusyshyn booted a 40-yard field goal. The Express responded on the ensuing series by going 56 yards in 12 plays that culminated in Vince Abbott kicking a 35-yard field goal with 2:25 left in the opening period. Four plays later and now into the second quarter, it was Andrusyshyn’s turn again to put the Bandits back in front with a 29-yard field goal. The series was helped along by a roughing-the-passer call on DE Dennis Edwards.

LA was helped on its next drive by two penalties on the Bandits to move into field goal position, with Abbott connecting from 36 yards. Late in the second quarter, and with the score tied at 6-6, Eddie Weaver of the Express put pressure on Reaves that caused a poorly thrown pass which was intercepted by SS Mike Fox. But with the ball at the Tampa Bay 10, the visitors couldn’t reach the end zone. NT Fred Nordgren made a shoestring tackle on RB John Barnett to save a possible score, and then Tom Ramsey dropped the snap on third down. LA came away with a 24-yard Abbott field goal as the clock ticked down to 42 seconds and took a 9-6 lead into halftime.

Down by three points in the third quarter, the Bandits stopped the Express at their own 15 and forced a punt that gave them good starting field position at their own 48. However, after advancing to the LA 42, a false start backed them up five yards and then Reaves was again picked off by Fox.

Heading into the fourth quarter, and with 12:31 to go, the Express went ahead to stay on a one-yard touchdown carry by RB John Barnett – the first LA touchdown in over ten quarters. It followed a Reaves fumble that was recovered at the Tampa Bay 17 by Dennis Edwards. The turnover was compounded by the loss of Reaves, who left the game with a broken wrist suffered while being tackled, thus forcing the fumble.

Backup QB Jimmy Jordan helped narrow the margin with a 23-yard touchdown pass to WR Danny Buggs midway through the final period, but the Bandits never threatened again for the remainder of the game. They reached the LA 40 on their final possession before giving the ball up on downs, and a roughing-the-kicker penalty kept the Express from having to give up the ball again until there were just 27 seconds left. LA added two points by dropping Jordan for a safety shortly thereafter and won by a final score of 18-13.

The offensive statistics reflected the closeness of the score. The Bandits held the edge in total yards (260 to 258) and first downs (17 to 16). The big difference was in turnovers, with Tampa Bay giving up five (four interceptions, one fumble) to none suffered by LA, even though the visitors fumbled four times. The Express defensive line put heavy pressure on the Tampa Bay quarterbacks throughout the contest and recorded five sacks, while the Bandits had two.

Mike Rae completed 13 of 25 passes for 140 yards with no touchdowns, but also no interceptions. RB Tony Boddie rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries and John Barnett was right behind with 55 yards and a TD on 19 attempts. TE Ricky Ellis led the receivers with 6 catches for 65 yards. On defense, Eddie Weaver had two sacks and Mike Fox accumulated three interceptions.

For the Bandits, John Reaves had a miserable day before leaving due to injury, completing just 7 of his 27 throws for 81 yards while giving up four interceptions. In relief, Jimmy Jordan went 8 of 10 for 97 yards and a TD with none picked off. RB Sam Platt ran for 107 yards on 21 carries and caught four passes for another 16 yards. Danny Buggs led the team with 62 yards on three pass receptions that included a TD.

“I’m very disappointed in the offense,” said Tampa Bay’s Coach Spurrier in summing up the defeat. “We didn’t play well until Jimmy (Jordan) came in. It hurts when you beat yourself. Even with doing things so poorly, we still had a chance to win.”

The Express went on to an 8-10 tally that placed them second in the mediocre Pacific Division. Eddie Weaver received All-USFL recognition from The Sporting News for his play with the league’s fifth-ranked defense, but even with upgrades to the receiving corps, the offense continued to have difficulty scoring points.

As for the Bandits, the loss that dropped them to 5-2 was all too reminiscent of the one two weeks earlier against the Blitz and a harbinger of harder times to come. Still, with Jordan at quarterback, they managed to remain competitive, even after he, in turn, went down with an injury. Tampa Bay stayed in the playoff hunt until the last week, ending up with an 11-7 record that meant a third place finish in the tough Central Division and just outside the postseason. 

April 16, 2014

MVP Profile: Craig Morton, 1977

Quarterback, Denver Broncos

Age:  34
13th season in pro football, 1st with Broncos
College: California
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 214

Chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1965 NFL draft (he was chosen by the Raiders in the AFL), Morton saw limited action as backup to Don Meredith for four seasons before taking over as the starting quarterback in 1969. A classic dropback passer with a good arm and limited mobility, he threw for 2619 yards and 21 TDs while averaging a healthy 8.7 yards per attempt in ’69 and in 1970 the Cowboys won the NFC Championship as Morton led the league with 8.8 yards per attempt. However, he had a rough outing in the Super Bowl loss to the Colts and then lost the starting job to Roger Staubach during the ’71 season. He stepped in when Staubach went down with an injury in 1972 but went back to the bench until he was traded to the New York Giants during the ’74 season. While expectations were high, the Giants were mediocre and Morton took a beating, tossing far more interceptions (49) than touchdowns (29) over the course of 34 games, only 8 of which were wins. Following the 1976 season, he was traded to the up-and-coming Broncos.

1977 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 254 [16]
Most attempts, game – 32 vs. Oakland 10/30, at San Diego 11/13
Completions – 131 [17]
Most completions, game – 19 vs. Oakland 10/30
Yards – 1929 [13]
Most yards, game – 242 vs. Oakland 10/30
Completion percentage – 51.6 [16]
Yards per attempt – 7.6 [2]
TD passes – 14 [9]
Most TD passes, game – 2 at San Diego 11/13, vs. Baltimore 11/27, at Houston 12/4
Interceptions – 8
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Kansas City 11/20
Passer rating – 82.0 [4]
200-yard passing games – 1

Attempts – 31
Most attempts, game – 6 (for 15 yds.) vs. St. Louis 9/18
Yards – 125
Most yards, game – 35 yards (on 5 carries) at Seattle 10/2
Yards per attempt – 4.0
TDs – 4

TDs – 4
Points - 24

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 58
Most attempts, game - 23 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Pass completions – 25
Most completions, game - 11 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Passing yardage – 427
Most yards, game - 224 vs. Oakland, AFC Championship
TD passes – 4
Most TD passes, game - 2 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff; vs. Oakland, AFC Championship
Interceptions – 5
Most interceptions, game – 4 vs. Dallas, Super Bowl

Rushing attempts – 7
Most rushing attempts, game – 5 (for 0 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – -4
Most rushing yards, game – 0 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – -0.6
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
AFC Player of the Year: Sporting News
NFL Comeback Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-AFC: Sporting News

Broncos went 12-2 to finish first in the AFC West with the conference’s best record, achieving the first postseason appearance in franchise history. Won AFC Divisional playoff over Pittsburgh Steelers (34-21) and AFC Championship over Oakland Raiders (20-17). Lost Super Bowl to Dallas Cowboys (27-10).

The Broncos topped the AFC West again in 1978, but Morton had a lesser season and split time with backups Norris Weese and Craig Penrose. The team had trouble putting points on the board in ’79, with Morton again seeing most of the action behind center, and while his passing yards (2626) and touchdowns (16) went up, so did his interceptions (19). Matt Robinson was obtained from the Jets to challenge him in 1980, but Morton regained the starting job and, with the arrival of ex-Dallas teammate Dan Reeves as head coach in ’81, he enjoyed a revival as he achieved a career-high 3195 passing yards and tied his previous best with 21 TD passes while averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. But it was a last hurrah as he finished out his career in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Overall, Morton passed for 27,908 yards and 183 TDs, with 187 interceptions, over the course of 18 years in the NFL. 11,895 of the yards and 74 TDs came with the Broncos, where he enjoyed his greatest success and became part of that team’s Ring of Fame in 1988.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). 

April 14, 2014

1984: Late Williams TD Pass Gives Outlaws Win Over Federals

The Oklahoma Outlaws were coming off of two straight closely-fought wins as they took on the Washington Federals in a United States Football League game on April 14, 1984. One of six expansion franchises for the USFL’s second season, the Outlaws were 5-2 and a game behind the defending-champion Michigan Panthers in the Central Division. Coached by Woody Widenhofer, the offense was directed by QB Doug Williams (pictured at right), formerly of the NFL Buccaneers, and had capable receivers in WR Alphonso Williams and TE Ron Wheeler, but the running game was lacking.

Washington, just as had been in the case in 1983, was a poor team and poorly supported. The Federals were a miserable 0-7 and had undergone a coaching change from Ray Jauch to Dick Bielski after a first-week blowout. There was talent in WR Joey Walters and RB Curtis Bledsoe, and second-year QB Mike Hohensee showed potential, but overall the team had little going for it.

There were just 6075 fans in attendance at RFK Stadium. The Federals scored on their first possession, with Jeff Brockhaus kicking a 40-yard field goal that was set up by Mike Hohensee throwing to WR Greg Taylor for 12 yards on a third-and-17 play that moved the home team into range. It was the first successful field goal of the year for the Federals, with the newly-acquired Brockhaus the team’s third placekicker.

Brockhaus got another field goal before the opening period was over, this time from 25 yards that was set up by a Hohensee pass to WR Mike Fisher that picked up 54 yards to the Oklahoma 11. At just under five minutes into the second quarter, the Outlaws finally got on the board when Efren Herrera booted a 24-yard field goal and the score of 6-3 held up until halftime.

Washington put together another scoring drive in the third quarter as Hohensee completed passes to Joey Walters and RB Eric Robinson, and Curtis Bledsoe had an 18-yard carry. The series culminated in a third straight Brockhaus field goal, from 43 yards.

The Outlaws took advantage of a turnover midway through the period when Hohensee fumbled after being blindsided by blitzing DB Kelvin Middleton. The ensuing possession resulted in another Herrera field goal of 28 yards that cut Washington’s lead to 9-6.

Hohensee left the game due to a head injury and Reggie Collier came in at quarterback. The Federals extended their lead to 16-6 near the end of the third quarter when Collier ran for a two-yard touchdown and Brockhaus added the extra point.

The Outlaws came back with the help of an interception by Middleton, who returned it seven yards to give Oklahoma possession at the Washington 43. Two plays later, Doug Williams threw long to Alphonso Williams for a 43-yard touchdown. Herrera kicked the extra point to make it a three-point game.

Oklahoma had a chance to tie the score with seven minutes remaining on the clock, but a bad snap doomed a 38-yard field goal try by Herrera.

Getting the ball back with four minutes to go, the Outlaws drove 93 yards in 10 plays. Doug Williams completed six of nine passes for 71 yards along the way and, with 57 seconds to play, he connected with Ron Wheeler, who was open in the corner of the end zone, for an eight-yard touchdown. It was Oklahoma’s first lead of the game, and proved decisive as the Outlaws won by a final score of 20-16.

Oklahoma led in total yards (393 to 336) and first downs (19 to 18) while the Federals had the edge in time of possession (32:56 to 27:04) in the closely-fought contest. As usual, and especially since they were playing from behind for most of the game, the Outlaws gained far more yards through the air (333) than on the ground (60). Meanwhile, the Federals turned the ball over three times, to two by the Outlaws, and also hurt themselves with nine penalties, to six flags thrown on the visitors.

Doug Williams completed 24 of 45 passes for 333 yards and the two big fourth quarter touchdowns, as opposed to one interception. Ron Wheeler had 6 catches for 87 yards and the game-winning TD while Alphonso Williams gained 105 yards on his five receptions that also included a score. RB Sidney Thornton also caught 6 passes, for 54 yards, to go along with his 7 rushing attempts for 14 yards. RB Ted Sample led the Outlaws with 33 rushing yards on five carries.

For the Federals, Mike Hohensee was successful on 7 of 19 throws for 134 yards with no TDs and one interception before giving way to Reggie Collier, who completed 12 of 23 for 117 yards and also tossed an interception. WR Ricky Simmons pulled in 6 pass receptions for 68 yards and Mike Fisher gained 89 yards on his four catches. RB Billy Taylor led the club with 44 rushing yards on 16 carries and Curtis Bledsoe was right behind with 42 yards on 10 attempts. Jeff Brockhaus (pictured at left) was successful on all three of his field goal attempts, the first of the year for Washington.

The win for the Outlaws put them in a first-place tie with Michigan at 6-2, but it proved to be the high water mark of their season. The bottom fell out as they lost their remaining games, with the defense collapsing and Doug Williams eventually going out with an injury. They ended up with a 6-12 record and placed fourth in the Central Division. Washington eventually did break into the win column, but only three times as the Federals finished up tied with Pittsburgh in the basement of the Atlantic Division at 3-15.

April 13, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Louis Lipps, 1984

Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

Age: 22
College: Southern Mississippi
Height: 5’10” Weight: 190

Lipps excelled as a pass receiver and punt returner in college, catching 91 passes for 1477 yards and averaging 10.6 yards on 78 punt returns. He was chosen by the Steelers in the first round (23rd overall) of the 1984 NFL draft. With his great speed and a solid work ethic, he proved to be a good fit on a young and overachieving team.

1984 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 45      
Most receptions, game – 7 (for 118 yds.) vs. San Diego 11/25
Yards – 860
Most yards, game – 183 (on 6 catches) vs. Kansas City 9/2
Average gain – 19.1 [5]
TDs – 9 [7, tied with Paul Coffman & Mike Quick]
100-yard receiving games – 2

Attempts – 3
Yards – 71
Average gain – 23.7
TDs – 1

Punt Returns
Returns – 53 [3, tied with Greg Pruitt]
Yards – 656 [1]
Most yards, game – 128 (on 4 ret.) at New Orleans 11/19
Average per return – 12.4 [3]
TDs – 1
Longest return – 76 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1587 [10]

TDs – 11 [10, tied with four others]
Points – 66

Postseason: 2 G
Pass receptions – 8
Most pass receptions, game - 5 at Denver, AFC Divisional playoff
Pass receiving yards – 131
Most pass receiving yards, game – 86 at Denver, AFC Divisional playoff
Average yards per reception – 16.4
Pass Receiving TDs – 1

Rushing attempts – 1
Rushing yards – 0
Rushing TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns – 3
Yards – 73
Average per return – 24.3
TDs – 0

Punt Returns – 4
Yards – 16
Average per return – 4.0
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: NEA, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
1st team All-NFL: PFWA, Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-AFC: Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Steelers went 9-7 to finish first in the AFC Central while leading the NFL in punt return yards (696). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Denver Broncos (24-17). Lost AFC Championship to Miami Dolphins (45-28).

Lipps followed up with another Pro Bowl year in 1985, catching 59 passes for 1134 yards (19.2 avg.) and 12 touchdowns while averaging 12.1 yards on 36 punt returns that included two more TDs. Injuries hindered his performance the next two years, and he had just 49 receptions for 754 yards in a total of 17 games over that span. Lipps came back to catch an even 50 passes in each of the next three seasons, from 1988 to ’90, although his high for yards (973) came in ’88. While his speed began to diminish, making him more of a possession receiver than the deep threat he had been originally, he was still reliable and a good runner after the catch, regularly drawing double coverage. In 1991 he had 55 catches, but for just 671 yards (12.2 avg.). He departed for the New Orleans Saints, but appeared in only two games due to injury in what was his last year. Overall, Lipps caught 359 passes for 6019 yards (all but one catch and one yard coming with Pittsburgh) and returned 112 punts for an 11.0 average, scoring a total of 46 touchdowns.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

April 11, 2014

MVP Profile: Archie Manning, 1978

Quarterback, New Orleans Saints

Age:  29
7th season in pro football & with Saints
College: Mississippi
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 200

Following an outstanding college career that culminated in his finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1970, Manning was taken by the Saints in the first round (second overall) of the ’71 NFL draft. With a strong arm and excellent mobility, he was moved directly into the starting lineup and led the Saints to an upset win over the Rams in his first game, but the team was mediocre and he suffered through far more defeats than victories. He was sacked a league-leading 40 times and missed two games due to assorted injuries. Manning led the NFL in pass attempts (448) and completions (230) in 1972, but again in being sacked (43). Over the next few years, there were more low than high points and injuries were factors again in ensuing seasons. Manning missed all of 1976 due to a shoulder injury that required surgery and put his career in jeopardy. He came back in ’77 to tie for fourth in the NFC in passing, although an ankle injury again cut his season short.

1978 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 471 [3]
Most attempts, game – 53 at Green Bay 9/10
Completions – 291 [2]
Most completions, game – 33 at Green Bay 9/10
Yards – 3416 [2]
Most yards, game – 344 at Pittsburgh 11/5
Completion percentage – 61.8 [2]
Yards per attempt – 7.3 [8, tied with Ken Stabler & Brian Sipe]
TD passes – 17 [7]
Most TD passes, game – 3 vs. LA Rams 10/1
Interceptions – 16 [18, tied with four others]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Philadelphia 9/17, at Dallas 11/19
Passer rating – 81.7 [5]
300-yard passing games – 2
200-yard passing games – 10

Attempts – 38
Most attempts, game - 5 (for 48 yds.) vs. LA Rams 10/1
Yards – 202
Most yards, game – 48 yards (on 5 carries) vs. LA Rams 10/1
Yards per attempt – 5.3
TDs – 1

Awards & Honors:
NFC Player of the Year: UPI, Sporting News
1st team All-NFC: UPI, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Saints went 7-9 to finish third in the NFC West, the franchise’s best record at the time.

Manning followed up with another Pro Bowl year in 1979, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3169 yards and 15 touchdowns, although also 20 interceptions, as the Saints reached .500 for the first time in franchise history at 8-8. However, greater expectations for 1980 were dashed as the club dropped to a dismal 1-15, although Manning achieved career highs with 3716 passing yards, 23 TDs, and an 81.8 passer rating. His performance dropped off significantly in an injury-filled ’81 season and, losing his starting job to Ken Stabler, he was dealt to the Houston Oilers early in the 1982 season. He was traded again during the following year, to Minnesota, where he finished his career as a backup in 1984. Overall, Manning threw for 23,911 yards (21,734 with the Saints) with 125 touchdowns (all but ten with New Orleans) and 173 interceptions. He also rushed for 2197 yards and 18 TDs, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. While Manning played for losing teams and never fully met expectations as a pro, his sons Peyton and Eli went on to become noteworthy pro quarterbacks.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.