May 5, 2012

1964: Packers Deal Jim Ringo to Eagles in Multiplayer Swap

On May 5, 1964 the Green Bay Packers took a step toward revamping their defense by trading C Jim Ringo and FB Earl Gros to the Philadelphia Eagles for LB Lee Roy Caffey and a first round draft pick for 1965.

The trade of the 32-year-old Ringo (pictured at right) was considered a shocking move at the time. Already an established star when Vince Lombardi arrived as head coach/GM in 1959, he had been chosen to seven straight Pro Bowls and was coming off his sixth year (fifth straight) as a consensus first-team All-Pro. Undersized at 6’1” and 235 pounds, Ringo made up for it with outstanding mobility and was recognized for his downfield blocking ability as well as pass protection. He was the savvy veteran that Lombardi built his offensive line around and played a major role in bringing two championships to Green Bay. Ringo was also durable, having not missed a game in ten years.

While it was rumored in later years that Lombardi dealt the star center because he showed up for contract negotiations with an agent (a story that Ringo denied and that also didn’t account for the fact that Lombardi had an assistant GM who handled contract negotiations), the trade was motivated by a perceived need to retool on defense, in particular at linebacker. RLB Bill Forester had retired and LLB Dan Currie was becoming more brittle with age.

“We fell down a little bit on defense last year and we had to help it,” explained Lombardi. “Caffey has great speed and he was good enough to play regular in his first year.”

The 6’3”, 230-pound Lee Roy Caffey was drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles in ‘63, having played as a fullback and linebacker at Texas A&M, and became a starter as a rookie at left LB. A promising player, the highlight of his first season was returning a pass interception 87 yards for a touchdown. It was anticipated that, along with Dave Robinson, another second-year linebacker, he would help augment the position.

The deal left Green Bay without an experienced center, and OT Bob Skoronski, who occasionally backed up at the position, was shifted there. However, Ken Bowman had been drafted in the eighth round out of Wisconsin and took over the starting job in 1965. He withstood a challenge from Bill Curry (who was dispatched to the Colts) and a shoulder injury to hold down the starting job until 1973.

As for the Eagles, it was the fourth major trade in two months by the new head coach/GM, Joe Kuharich. The center for the previous two years, Jim Schrader, had once been a Pro Bowl-level player (three times with the Redskins), but was now playing on bad knees. Combined with the drafting of OT Bob Brown out of Nebraska in the first round, the move promised to make the offensive line much better.

The other player acquired from the Packers, Earl Gros (pictured at left), was a highly-regarded young fullback who had been drafted in the first round out of LSU in 1962 but was stuck behind star FB Jim Taylor in Green Bay. Fast for his size (6’3”, 230), he rushed for 358 yards in 77 carries (4.6 avg.) in his rare appearances, but was also considered to be fumble-prone.

The trade ultimately worked out well for both clubs. The aging Ringo still had plenty of talent and lasted four seasons in Philadelphia. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three more times in 1964, ’65, and in his final year, 1967, when he also broke the record for consecutive games played with 182 (the record lasted until 1970, when it was surpassed by Green Bay teammate Forrest Gregg). He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

Gros stepped into the starting lineup and led the Eagles in rushing in 1964 with 748 yards. While injuries diminished his performances thereafter, he gained 1623 yards on the ground over three seasons and proved to be an able receiver out of the backfield, catching 76 passes for 719 yards. He was dealt to Pittsburgh following the 1966 season and put in another three years before finishing up in 1970 with a short stint in New Orleans (a homecoming of sorts for the Louisiana Cajun).

As for Lee Roy Caffey in Green Bay (pictured below), he immediately moved into Forester’s spot at right linebacker and played there for six seasons, becoming a part of three consecutive NFL titles from 1965 through ’67. He was selected to the Pro Bowl once, in ’65, and was also a first-team All-Pro in 1966.

The first round draft pick obtained from the Eagles was used to select HB Donny Anderson out of Texas Tech in 1965 (as a future choice for ’66), who played six years for the Packers as a multi-talented back and punter and went to one Pro Bowl.