February 27, 2010

List of the Day: Best Passing Yardage Seasons, 1940s NFL

Sammy Baugh

TOP 10
1- Sammy Baugh, 1947 Washington Redskins
2938 yards, 210-354, 59.3 %, 25 TD, 15 INT

2- Sid Luckman, 1947 Chicago Bears
2712 yards, 176-323, 54.5 %, 24 TD, 31 INT

3- Johnny Lujack, 1949 Chicago Bears
2658 yds., 162-312, 51.9 %, 23 TD, 22 INT

4- Sammy Baugh, 1948 Washington Redskins
2599 yds., 185-315, 58.7 %, 22 TD, 23 INT

5- Sid Luckman, 1943 Chicago Bears
2194 yds., 110-202, 54.5 %, 28 TD, 12 INT

6- Paul Christman, 1947 Chicago Cardinals
2191 yds., 138-301, 45.8 %, 17 TD, 22 INT

7- Charlie Conerly, 1948 New York Giants
2175 yds., 162-299, 54.2 %, 22 TD, 13 INT

8- Bob Waterfield, 1949 Los Angeles Rams
2168 yds., 154-296, 52.0 %, 17 TD, 24 INT

9- Charlie Conerly, 1949 New York Giants
2138 yds., 152-305, 49.8 %, 17 TD, 20 INT

10-Cecil Isbell, 1942 Green Bay Packers
2021 yds., 146-268, 54.5 %, 24 TD, 14 INT

Sid Luckman

Johnny Lujack

Paul Christman

Philadelphia Eagles: Tommy Thompson, 1948
1965 yards, 141-246, 57.3 %, 25 TD, 11 INT

New York Bulldogs: Bobby Layne, 1949*
1796 yds., 155-299, 51.8 %, 9 TD, 18 INT

Detroit Lions: Fred Enke, 1948
1328 yds., 100-221, 45.2 %, 11 TD, 17 INT

Boston Yanks: Paul Governali, 1946**
1293 yds., 83-192, 43.2 %, 13 TD, 10 INT

Pittsburgh Steelers: Johnny Clement, 1947
1004 yds., 52-123, 42.3 %, 7 TD, 9 INT

Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers: Ace Parker, 1940***
817 yds., 49-111, 44.1 %, 10 TD, 7 INT

* Bulldogs records for 1949 only
** Yanks played from 1944-48
***Brooklyn folded after 1944 season

Bob Waterfield

Charlie Conerly

Cecil Isbell

February 26, 2010

1984: Jacksonville Bulls Score 53 Points in USFL Debut

The Jacksonville Bulls were one of six new teams in the USFL for the 1984 season. Owned by Fred Bullard (hence the Bulls nickname) and coached by Lindy Infante, they took the field for their first game on February 26 before 49,392 fans at the Gator Bowl. They didn’t disappoint, rolling up 53 points as they obliterated the visiting Washington Federals.

The first points came on a safety as Washington punter Dana Moore fell on a fumble in his end zone. The first touchdown occurred on a 74-yard pass play from QB Matt Robinson to WR Aubrey Matthews. It was 16-0 at the end of the first quarter after RB Larry Mason scored from a yard out.

By the end of the first half, the Bulls had a 29-0 lead as Mason scored a second TD on an eight-yard run (the PAT failed) and Robinson connected on another long pass play, this one covering 54 yards to WR Wyatt Henderson. Washington finally got on the board in the third quarter on a one-yard run by QB Mike Hohensee, but it was Jacksonville accumulating the next 17 points as the Bulls cruised to the 53-14 victory.

Robinson (pictured at right), who had played in the NFL with the Jets, Broncos, and Bills, completed 15 of 25 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns against two interceptions. Rookie WR Gary Clark led the team with 4 pass receptions (for 65 yards), although Matthews had the most receiving yards with 74 on his lone catch, the long TD. Larry Mason led the team’s runners with 36 yards on 11 carries with the two scores.

WR Joey Walters had an outstanding statistical day in a losing effort for the Federals as he gained 205 yards on 8 receptions that included a 51-yard TD on a pass from relief QB Reggie Collier.

It was a great start for the franchise both on the field and in terms of attendance. But while the Bulls would set a USFL single-game attendance record in their next game with 73,227 on hand to witness a heartbreaking loss to the New Jersey Generals, and would go on to lead the league in attendance over the course of the season, they went 6-12 on the way to a last place finish in the Southern Division. The Federals also finished last with a 3-15 record, tied with the Pittsburgh Maulers in the Atlantic Division.

Matt Robinson ended up splitting time at quarterback with Robbie Mahfouz. Gary Clark was the top receiver, with 56 catches for 760 yards. However, the team finished next to last in the USFL in rushing with 1729 yards; Mason’s 495 yards led the club.

Defense was a problem as the team failed to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and ended up surrendering 455 points. They were good at picking off passes, with 28 interceptions (led by safety Don Bessillieu’s seven), but defensive lineman Bob Clasby was the team’s leader with just five sacks.

The franchise’s enduring legacy was the fan support that it generated. Long after the Bulls disappeared with the rest of the USFL, the NFL awarded Jacksonville an expansion franchise for the 1995 season. The enthusiasm generated for the Bulls apparently played a role in that decision.

February 24, 2010

1965: Buffalo Trades Cookie Gilchrist to Denver

The Buffalo Bills had won the AFL championship in 1964 in no small part to the efforts of their 250-pound battering ram fullback Cookie Gilchrist, the league’s leading rusher with 981 yards on 230 carries. But on February 24, 1965 they traded Gilchrist to the Denver Broncos for a lesser fullback, Billy Joe.

Gilchrist had been a mainstay of the Buffalo backfield since joining the team in 1962 after six years in the Canadian Football League. He had been an outstanding all-around player north of the border, but wore out his welcome with three teams before heading back to the US and the American Football League. With the Bills, he was both a powerful and productive runner, twice leading the league in rushing and setting a single-game record of 243 yards while gaining a well-earned reputation as an outstanding pass blocker. He was also outspoken and assertive in ways that sometimes annoyed teammates and most certainly led to disputes with Head Coach Lou Saban and the front office.

Prior to the ’64 season, Gilchrist had openly requested a trade to New York, where he saw greater potential for off-field business opportunities. He was often late for practice and openly disagreed with QB Jack Kemp, who wanted to throw the ball more. The situation came to a head during a game on November 15 against the Boston Patriots. The Bills were trailing late in the first half and had been passing far more often than running (Gilchrist had five carries for 23 yards, while Kemp had gone to the air 22 times). With the offense driving, Gilchrist suddenly pulled himself out of the game and sent in rookie Willie Ross to replace him.

The team lost for the first time all year, and an angry Coach Saban placed Gilchrist on waivers two days later. Not surprisingly, three teams claimed him, but a group of players interceded with Saban to have him recall the big fullback from waivers. Kemp had played a part – whatever their differences regarding offensive philosophy, the two were friends off the field – and convinced Gilchrist to apologize to the team and request a reinstatement. Whatever annoyances he had caused, his teammates were well aware that he always showed up motivated to play and they needed him if they were to win the division and league titles.

Saban agreed to allow Gilchrist back on the team, but once the season was over and a championship won, he was ready to take action. There were plenty of explanations offered by the club as to why they dealt him – most notably, although he had played in the AFL for just three years, he was 30 years old and, combined with his years in the CFL when he had also played linebacker on defense, his body had taken a beating. But in reality, he had simply become too difficult to handle.

Billy Joe was about the same size as Gilchrist, at 6’2” and 235 pounds and had been the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1963 after arriving as an 11th round draft choice out of Villanova. But his 646 yards in that first season ended up being his career high. He wasn’t the punishing and productive runner that Gilchrist had been, nor nearly as effective a blocker. In ’65, he contributed 377 yards with just a 3.1 average gain per carry (HB Wray Carlton led the team with 592 rushing yards), although he caught a career-high 27 passes. The Bills, with Kemp still at quarterback, an outstanding offensive line, and excellent defense, still had more than enough to win another championship.

Gilchrist gained 954 yards for the lowly Broncos (4-10) in 1965, which ranked second in the AFL, on 230 carries. It was a last hurrah for the big fullback with the big personality, and he refused to report to the club for the ’66 season. Placed on reserve to start the season, he ended up being dealt to the expansion Miami Dolphins midway through the campaign.

Ironically, Gilchrist and Joe were teammates in Miami in 1966 – the Dolphins had selected Joe from Buffalo in the expansion draft. Appearing in eight games, Gilchrist gained 262 yards on 72 carries (30 more yards than Billy Joe gained over the course of the entire season). He went back to Denver, where, in another irony, he was reunited with Lou Saban, but played in just one game before it was apparent that his knees could no longer provide the power needed to continue as an effective power back.

Cookie Gilchrist was certainly one of the most memorable characters in the AFL, and one of its best players. He was a force on the football field and a larger-than-life personality off of it – charming and intelligent, but also brazen and defiant. As a general manager of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts put it, “Put up with him for a season or two, he’ll be great. But then get rid of him before you have a nervous breakdown.”

The Bills got three good years out of him, including a key role in a league championship season.

February 23, 2010

1983: Herschel Walker Signs with USFL

Football fans received stunning news on February 23, 1983 as the new United States Football League (USFL), slated to begin play in just a few weeks, announced the signing of Heisman Trophy-winning RB Herschel Walker to a contract with the New Jersey Generals. There had been something of a false start earlier in the month when Walker, whose agent had been in contact with the league for some two months, signed but then took advantage of a 24-hour escape clause to back away. However, this time it was a done deal and the 6’1”, 220-pound phenom, just short of his 21st birthday, was officially a professional.

The news was both surprising and controversial. Walker, who had been a Heisman candidate since his freshman year at Georgia in 1980 (he finished third in the voting), had won the award as a junior in ’82. It was widely anticipated that he would duplicate Archie Griffin’s feat of twice attaining the Heisman trophy, especially since at the time it wasn’t possible for underclassmen to enter the NFL draft.

The USFL had initially stated that it would follow the NFL’s no-underclassmen rule. It had also been the new league’s policy to take a go-slow approach to challenging the older league. They would be playing in the spring, rather than going directly head-to-head with the NFL in the fall, and payrolls were to be held to $1.6 million per club.

The payroll structure began to unravel even before the Walker signing as several major players coming out of college such as North Carolina’s RB Kelvin Bryant, Grambling WR Trumaine Johnson, and Michigan WR Anthony Carter had inked contracts that stretched their respective team payrolls beyond the limit (the owners used personal services contracts to circumvent the cap). Walker’s deal, which was a personal services contract with Generals owner J. Walter Duncan, came to $3.9 million for three years and included incentives that took the figure over $4.2 million.

Both the NFL and NCAA cried foul at the signing of the underclassman Walker, and several colleges banned the new league’s scouts from their campuses. USFL Commissioner Chet Simmons insisted that no other underclassmen would be signed and that Walker presented a “special case”. The truth was that, in having his agent approach the new league, Walker had already compromised his college eligibility for 1983, and had he pressed a court case, he might well have forced his way into the USFL through judicial decision (a threat of a lawsuit challenging the draft was something the NFL feared and ultimately led to its ending the ban on underclassmen).

There may have been plenty of controversy, but Herschel Walker was the biggest name in college football and a huge prize for the new league. Signing with the team that would play in the New York metropolitan area only enhanced the effect. It also assured that he would receive intense scrutiny, and when he started slowly (he gained just 65 yards on 16 carries in his first game, a nationally-televised 20-15 loss to the Los Angeles Express) the criticism was quick to come. However, maintaining his composure throughout, Walker ended up leading the league in rushing with 1812 yards over the course of the 18-game season, although the Generals were a disappointing 6-12.

February 21, 2010

List of the Day: Best Rushing Seasons, 1940s NFL

Steve Van Buren

TOP 10
1- Steve Van Buren, 1949 Philadelphia Eagles
1146 yards, 263 att., 4.4 avg., 11 TD

2- Tony Canadeo, 1949 Green Bay Packers
1052 yds., 208 att., 5.1 avg., 4 TD

3- Steve Van Buren, 1947 Philadelphia Eagles
1008 yds., 217 att., 4.6 avg., 13 TD

4- Steve Van Buren, 1948 Philadelphia Eagles
945 yds., 201 att., 4.7 avg., 10 TD

5- Steve Van Buren, 1945 Philadelphia Eagles
832 yds., 143 att., 5.8 avg., 15 TD

6- Frank Akins, 1945 Washington Redskins
797 yds., 147 att., 5.4 avg., 6 TD

7- Bill Paschal, 1944 New York Giants
737 yds., 196 att., 3.8 avg., 9 TD

8- Bill Dudley, 1942 Pittsburgh Steelers
696 yds., 162 att., 4.3 avg., 5 TD

9- Charlie Trippi, 1948 Chicago Cardinals
690 yds., 128 att., 5.4 avg., 6 TD

10-Elmer Angsman, 1949 Chicago Cardinals
674 yds., 125 att., 5.4 avg., 6 TD

Tony Canadeo

Bill Dudley

Charlie Trippi

Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers: Merl Condit, 1942*
647 yards, 129 att., 5.0 avg., 2 TD

Detroit Lions: Camp Wilson, 1948
612 yds., 157 att., 3.9 avg., 2 TD

Los Angeles Rams: Dick Hoerner, 1949
582 yds., 155 att., 3.8 avg., 6 TD

Chicago Bears: Harry Clarke, 1943
556 yds., 120 att., 4.6 avg., 2 TD

Boston Yanks: John Grigas, 1946**
426 yds., 84 att., 5.1 avg., 2 TD

New York Bulldogs: Joe Osmanski, 1949***
267 yds., 66 att., 4.0 avg., 2 TD

*Brooklyn folded after 1944 season
**Yanks played from 1944-48
***Bulldogs records for 1949 only

Bill Paschal

Elmer Angsman

February 19, 2010

List of the Day: Best Pass Receiving Seasons, 1930s NFL

Don Hutson

1 (tied)- Don Hutson, 1937 Green Bay Packers
41 rec., 552 yds., 13.5 avg., 7 TD

1 (tied)- Gaynell Tinsley, 1938 Chicago Cardinals
41 rec., 516 yds., 12.6 avg., 1 TD

3- Gaynell Tinsley, 1937 Chicago Cardinals
36 rec., 675 yds., 18.8 avg., 5 TD

4 (tied)- Don Hutson, 1936 Green Bay Packers
34 rec., 536 yds., 15.8 avg., 8 TD

4 (tied)- Don Hutson, 1939 Green Bay Packers
34 rec., 846 yds., 24.9 avg., 6 TD

6- Perry Schwartz, 1939 Brooklyn Dodgers
33 rec., 550 yds., 16.7 avg., 3 TD

7 (tied)- Don Hutson, 1938 Green Bay Packers
32 rec., 548 yds., 17.1 avg., 9 TD

7 (tied)- Vic Spadaccini, 1939 Cleveland Rams
32 rec., 292 yds., 9.1 avg., 1 TD

9- Red Ramsey, 1939 Philadelphia Eagles
31 rec., 359 yds., 11.6 avg., 1 TD

10-Charley Malone, 1937 Washington Redskins
28 rec., 419 yds., 15.0 avg., 4 TD

Gaynell Tinsley

Red Ramsey

New York Giants: Tod Goodwin, 1935
26 rec., 432 yds., 16.6 avg., 4 TD

Pittsburgh Pirates: Sam Boyd, 1939
21 rec., 423 yds., 20.1 avg., 2 TD

Chicago Bears: Luke Johnsos, 1932 & 1935
19 rec., 321 yds., 16.9 avg., 2 TD (1932)
19 rec., 298 yds., 15.7 avg., 4 TD (1935)
Dick Plasman, 1939
19 rec., 403 yds., 21.2 avg., 3 TD

Detroit Lions: Ernie Caddel, 1936
19 rec., 150 yds., 7.9 avg., 1 TD

St. Louis Gunners: Paul Moss, 1934**
6 rec., 131 yds., 21.8 avg., 1 TD

Cincinnati Reds: Jim Mooney, 1934***
6 rec., 36 yds., 6.0 avg., 0 TD

Staten Island Stapletons: Ken Strong, 1932****
5 rec., 56 yds., 11.2 avg., 0 TD

*Statistics available from 1932 on
** Gunners played three games in 1934
*** Reds played in 1933-34
**** Stapletons folded after 1932 season

Charley Malone

1- Don Hutson, 1939 Green Bay Packers
846 yds., 34 rec., 24.9 avg., 6 TD

2- Gaynell Tinsley, 1937 Chicago Cardinals
675 yds., 36 rec., 18.8 avg., 5 TD

3- Don Hutson, 1937 Green Bay Packers
552 yds., 41 rec., 13.5 avg., 7 TD

4- Perry Schwartz, 1939 Brooklyn Dodgers
550 yds., 33 rec., 16.7 avg., 3 TD

5- Don Hutson, 1938 Green Bay Packers
548 yds., 32 rec., 17.1 avg., 9 TD

6- Don Hutson, 1936 Green Bay Packers
536 yds., 34 rec., 15.8 avg., 8 TD

7- Gaynell Tinsley, 1938 Chicago Cardinals
516 yds., 41 rec., 12.6 avg., 1 TD

8- Jeff Barrett, 1937 Brooklyn Dodgers
461 yds., 20 rec., 23.1 avg., 3 TD

9- Andy Farkas, 1939 Washington Redskins
437 yds., 16 rec., 27.3 avg., 5 TD

10-Charley Malone, 1935 Boston Redskins
433 yds., 22 rec., 19.7 avg., 2 TD

Andy Farkas

New York Giants: Tod Goodwin, 1935
432 yds., 26 rec., 16.6 avg., 4 TD

Pittsburgh Pirates: Sam Boyd, 1939
423 yds., 21 rec., 20.1 avg., 2 TD

Cleveland Rams: Jim Benton, 1938
418 yds., 21 rec., 19.9 avg., 5 TD

Chicago Bears: Dick Plasman, 1939
403 yds., 19 rec., 21.2 avg., 3 TD

Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Carter, 1938
386 yds., 27 rec., 14.3 avg., 7 TD

Detroit Lions: Harry Ebding, 1934
264 yds., 10 rec., 26.4 avg., 2 TD

St. Louis Gunners: Paul Moss, 1934**
131 yds., 6 rec., 21.8 avg., 1 TD

Cincinnati Reds: Algy Clark, 1933***
82 yds., 5 rec., 16.4 avg., 0 TD

Staten Island Stapletons: Grassy Hinton, 1932****
69 yds., 4 rec., 17.3 avg., 0 TD

*Statistics available from 1932 on
** Gunners played three games in 1934
*** Reds played in 1933-34
**** Stapletons folded after 1932 season

Harry Ebding

February 18, 2010

1970: Don Shula Leaves Colts for Dolphins

After four seasons of existence, the Miami Dolphins had gone a combined 15-39-2 under Head Coach George Wilson. Moreover, they were not drawing well, averaging less than half the capacity of the 75,000-seat Orange Bowl. Managing partner Joe Robbie concluded that radical steps were necessary and on February 18, 1970 he signed Don Shula away from the Baltimore Colts to become the new head coach.

Shula demanded a great deal to leave the Colts – not only a large and long-term contract, but a percentage of the team; he was also made a vice-president. It was determined by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle that Robbie had been guilty of tampering in his pursuit of Shula, and so the Dolphins also had to surrender their first draft pick for 1971 to the Colts as well (Baltimore used the pick to select RB Don McCauley from North Carolina).

Shula came to Miami with a solid reputation. He was hired by the Colts in 1963 at the age of 33 to succeed Weeb Ewbank, who had built the team into a championship club in 1958 and ’59. By his second season, the Colts were champions of the Western Conference, and they won a league title in ’68, although they lost the subsequent Super Bowl to the AFL’s New York Jets. His record after seven seasons in Baltimore was 71-23-4 for a very healthy .755 winning percentage, although the Colts had underachieved in the postseason, going 2-3.

Shula was still young, at 40, and if he had encountered problems in the playoffs, he had certainly built teams that could be counted on to contend regularly.

“I’m not a miracle worker,” said the new coach upon taking the job. “I have no magic formulas. The only way I know is hard work.”

While not a great deal was initially expected, Shula did have talent to work with. On offense, QB Bob Griese had shown poise and promise in his first three pro seasons, although he had certainly taken plenty of lumps. The second most significant offseason acquisition after Shula had been WR Paul Warfield, who was obtained from the Browns and was well established as one of the best deep threats in the NFL. They also picked up TE Marv Fleming from Green Bay, a further asset to the passing game.

FB Larry Csonka had been considered something of an underachiever after coming out of Syracuse in 1968. He was matched in the backfield with overachieving HB Jim Kiick. The aging offensive line had gained unsung guard Larry Little in ’69.

Defensively, the team had strong performers in second-year DE Bill Stanfill and veteran LB Nick Buoniconti, who had been obtained from the Patriots the year before. DT Manny Fernandez was another rising talent on the line. Dick Anderson had a tough second season at safety, while young players like Lloyd Mumphord and Tim Foley were available in the defensive backfield.

There may not have been any miracles or magic formulas, but the Dolphins did far better than expected. After breaking out to a 4-1 start, three mid-season defeats (two of them crushing shutouts) evened Miami’s tally at 4-4. But they won the remaining six contests to end up with a stunning 10-4 record and wild card spot in the postseason.

The running game was the best in the AFC, generating a total of 2082 yards at a healthy 4.2 yards-per-carry clip. Csonka led the way with 874 yards, finally realizing his potential. Kiick contributed 658 yards and was the only running back to make the Top 10 in both rushing yards and pass receptions in the conference (42 catches for 497 yards). An added bonus was HB Eugene “Mercury” Morris, almost exclusively a kick return specialist in his 1969 rookie season but Shula worked him into the offense as an outside running threat and he averaged 6.8 yards-per-attempt on 60 carries for 409 yards.

Griese suffered growing pains at quarterback, but benefited from the improved ground game and the enhanced receiving corps. Warfield caught just 28 passes (he missed three full games due to injury), but they were good for 703 yards and a whopping 25.1 yards-per-reception and six touchdowns. The much-maligned offensive line of 1969 improved markedly under the guidance of assistant coach Monte Clark, especially Little and Bob Kuechenberg at guard and tackles Norm Evans and Doug Crusan.

The bend-but-don’t-break defense gave up yards but surrendered an AFC-lowest 228 points. Rookies Mike Kolen and Doug Swift became starters at linebacker, flanking Buoniconti, with good results, and newcomers Jake Scott at free safety and cornerback Curtis Johnson helped to upgrade the secondary. Another newcomer, Garo Yepremian, also contributed by connecting on 22 of 29 field goal attempts to lead the league with a 75.9 percentage.

The stage was thus set for Shula to lead the Dolphins to three consecutive conference championships and two Super Bowl victories (finally removing the stigma of failing in big games). Over the course of 26 seasons in Miami, through 1995, his teams accumulated 257 wins against 133 losses with two ties for a winning percentage of .659. The Dolphins went to the playoffs in 16 of those campaigns, going 17-14 while reaching the Super Bowl five times and winning two of them.

Including the years in Baltimore, Shula ended up as the winningest coach in NFL history with 328 victories. He certainly proved to be worth the price Joe Robbie and the Dolphins paid to get him, steep as it might have appeared at the time.

February 15, 2010

List of the Day: Best Passing Yardage Seasons, 1930s NFL

Davey O'Brien

TOP 10*
1- Davey O’Brien, 1939 Philadelphia Eagles
1324 yards, 99-201, 49.3 %, 6 TD, 17 INT

2- Arnie Herber, 1936 Green Bay Packers
1239 yards, 77-173, 44.5 %, 11 TD, 13 INT

3- Parker Hall, 1939 Cleveland Rams
1227 yards, 106-208, 51.0 %, 9 TD, 13 INT

4- Sammy Baugh, 1937 Washington Redskins
1127 yards, 81-171, 47.4 %, 8 TD, 14 INT

5- Arnie Herber, 1939 Green Bay Packers
1107 yards, 57-139, 41.0 %, 8 TD, 9 INT

6- Frank Filchock, 1939 Washington Redskins
1094 yards, 55-89, 61.8 %, 11 TD, 7 INT

7- Ace Parker, 1939 Brooklyn Dodgers
977 yards, 72-157, 45.9 %, 4 TD, 13 INT

8- Harry Newman, 1933 New York Giants
973 yards, 53-136, 39.0 %, 11 TD, 17 INT

9- Bernie Masterson, 1939 Chicago Bears
914 yards, 44-113, 38.9 %, 8 TD, 9 INT

10-Ace Parker, 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers
865 yards, 63-148, 42.6 %, 5 TD, 7 INT

Arnie Herber

Sammy Baugh

Frank Filchock

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ed Matesic, 1936
850 yards, 64-138, 46.4 %, 4 TD, 16 INT

Chicago Cardinals: Pat Coffee, 1937
824 yards, 52-119, 43.7 %, 4 TD, 11 INT

Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions: Glenn Presnell, 1933
774 yards, 50-125, 40.0 %, 6 TD, 12 INT

St. Louis Gunners: Manny Rapp, 1934**
175 yards, 6-16, 37.5 %, 1 TD, 6 INT

Staten Island Stapletons: Doug Wycoff, 1932***
140 yards, 10-31, 32.3 %, 0 TD, 2 INT

Cincinnati Reds: Lew Pope, 1933 & 1934****
115 yards, 5-21, 23.8 %, 0 TD, 2 INT (1933),
115 yards, 10-42, 23.8 %, 0 TD, 10 INT (1934)

*Statistics available from 1932 on
** Gunners played three games in 1934
*** Stapletons folded after 1932 season
**** Reds played in 1933-34

Ace Parker

Glenn Presnell

February 13, 2010

List of the Day: Best Rushing Seasons, 1930s NFL

TOP 10*
1- Beattie Feathers, 1934 Chicago Bears
1004 yards, 119 att., 8.4 avg., 8 TD

2- Cliff Battles, 1937 Washington Redskins
874 yards, 216 att., 4.0 avg., 5 TD

3- Tuffy Leemans, 1936 New York Giants
830 yards, 206 att., 4.0 avg., 2 TD

4- Ace Gutowsky, 1936 Detroit Lions
827 yards, 191 att., 4.3 avg., 6 TD

5- Jim Musick, 1933 Boston Redskins
809 yards, 173 att., 4.7 avg., 5 TD

6- Swede Hanson, 1934 Philadelphia Eagles
805 yards, 146 att., 5.5 avg., 7 TD

7- Dutch Clark, 1934 Detroit Lions
763 yards, 123 att., 6.2 avg., 8 TD

8- Cliff Battles, 1933 Boston Redskins
737 yards, 136 att., 5.4 avg., 3 TD

9- Bill Osmanski, 1939 Chicago Bears
699 yards, 121 att., 5.8 avg., 7 TD

10-Dutch Clark, 1936 Detroit Lions
628 yards, 123 att., 5.1 avg., 7 TD

Cliff Battles

Tuffy Leemans

Ace Gutowsky

Chicago Cardinals: George Grosvenor, 1936
609 yards, 169 att., 3.6 avg., 4 TD

Pittsburgh Pirates: Whizzer White, 1938
567 yards, 152 att., 3.7 avg., 4 TD

Green Bay Packers: Clarke Hinkle, 1937
552 yards, 129 att., 4.3 avg., 5 TD

Brooklyn Dodgers: Bobby Wilson, 1936
505 yards, 104 att., 4.9 avg., 3 TD

Cleveland Rams: Parker Hall, 1939
458 yards, 120 att., 3.8 avg., 2 TD

Staten Island Stapletons: Doug Wycoff, 1932**
454 yards, 135 att., 3.4 avg., 1 TD

Cincinnati Reds: Red Corzine, 1933***
239 yards, 100 att., 2.4 avg., 1 TD

St. Louis Gunners: Swede Johnston, 1934****
84 yards, 35 att., 2.4 avg., 1 TD

*Statistics available from 1932 on
** Stapletons folded after 1932 season
*** Reds played in 1933-34
****Gunners played three games in 1934

Dutch Clark

Whizzer White

Clarke Hinkle

February 11, 2010

1997: Bill Parcells Becomes Head Coach of New York Jets

On February 11, 1997 the New York Jets finally were able to sign the head coach they wanted, Bill Parcells. It was not an easily done deal for the franchise that had gone 4-28 in two seasons under Rich Kotite and had not been over .500 in any of the previous eight years.

Bill Parcells had established himself as a winning NFL coach with New York’s other team, the Giants, where he led the club to two championships and five postseason berths from 1983 through ’90. After retreating to the broadcast booth for two years, he had turned around a New England Patriots team that had been in a prolonged slump and reached the playoffs twice more, including a Super Bowl appearance following the 1996 season.

However, before the Patriots faced Green Bay in the Super Bowl there was already speculation that Parcells wanted to leave. He clashed with owner Robert Kraft and was dissatisfied with his level of input into player personnel decisions. Following the 35-21 loss to the Packers, Parcells left the Patriots.

Parcells wasn’t ready to step away from the sideline and sought to fill the Jets opening. Kraft made clear that Parcells had to abide by the terms of his contract, which meant he couldn’t coach any team but the Patriots in 1997. The Jets therefore announced that they would hire Parcells as a consultant to the team, and his chief assistant coach, Bill Belichick, would become head coach.

Kraft was not about to accept such an arrangement, and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was forced to intervene. The commissioner agreed with Kraft that the consulting arrangement was unacceptable, and brokered an agreement between the teams that freed Parcells to become coach of the Jets at the expense of four draft picks, including a first round choice in 1999.

The Jets finally had Parcells as head coach; Belichick settled for assistant head coach (he would, of course, eventually make his way back to the Patriots with significant results). The new coach set about changing the makeup and attitude of the team. Following the 1-15 record of 1996, the ’97 Jets went 9-7 and nearly made the postseason. RB Adrian Murrell had a second straight thousand-yard rushing season (1086). The youthful receiving corps made progress, led by brash second-year WR Keyshawn Johnson (70 catches for 963 yards). The linebacking corps that included Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis, as well as aging ex-Giant Pepper Johnson, and CB Aaron Glenn highlighted the defense.

Quarterback was a problem area, where veteran Neil O’Donnell ran afoul of Parcells and was replaced by the gunslinging Glenn Foley until Foley fell to a knee injury. The offensive and defensive lines were ordinary at best, and the same could be said of the secondary aside from Glenn. Still, the club gave up far fewer points in ’97 (287) as opposed to the disastrous 1996 season (454)

The Jets took a major plunge into the free agent market for 1998 and it paid off with key acquisitions in QB Vinny Testaverde, RB Curtis Martin (who had played for Parcells in New England), C Kevin Mawae, and LB Bryan Cox. All excelled – in particular Testaverde – and the team surged to 12-4, making it all the way to the AFC Championship game before falling to the Denver Broncos.

The Jets dropped to 8-8 in 1999, the last season with Parcells at the helm. While he failed to make the Super Bowl with the Jets, as he had with the Giants and Patriots, his overall record was 29-19 in the regular season, 1-1 in the playoffs. It was a significant turnaround for the franchise, and the team put together winning records in the next three seasons following Parcells’ departure. The price for landing the coach known as “the Big Tuna” had been high, but he had brought much-needed respectability.

February 10, 2010

1961: AFL Approves Move of Chargers From LA to San Diego

The Los Angeles Chargers of the new American Football League had a very solid first season on the field. Owned by hotel executive Barron Hilton, the Chargers entered the AFL’s first year with the best known of the new league’s head coaches, Sid Gillman, who had been in charge of the Rams from 1955-59. He also served as general manager after Frank Leahy, the former Notre Dame head coach who originally served in the position, resigned due to bad health. Unlike many of the franchises in the fledgling league, there was ample money to spend on the organization and Hilton was willing to do so.

Gillman was an innovative thinker when it came to offense in general and the passing game in particular. The Chargers had the top-ranked passer in the league in 1960 with QB Jack Kemp (pictured with Gillman below), a native Southern Californian who had played college football at Occidental and been rejected by the NFL. HB Paul Lowe was the AFL’s second-ranked rusher with 855 yards for a league-high 6.3 yards-per-carry. They were both All-AFL selections, as were rookie OT Ron Mix and CB Dick Harris. Other standouts were offensive end Howard Clark, OT Ernie Wright, DE Ron Nery, DT Volney Peters, and linebacker/punter Paul Maguire. The team easily won the Western Division with a 10-4 record and lost an exciting league championship contest to the Houston Oilers (see Jan. 1).

However, the problem was that in Los Angeles, few seemed to notice and turnout was low. Average attendance for the seven home games was 15,768, which didn’t compare badly to some of the other teams but was far too low for Los Angeles, particularly when playing in the cavernous Memorial Coliseum (capacity for football at that time was over 101,000). A low turnout of 9928 as the Chargers hosted Denver was particularly embarrassing, and just 11,457 were present for the final home game against the New York Titans.

Hilton had lost some $900,000 over the course of the season and decided before it was concluded that he would move the franchise. Jack Murphy, a respected sportswriter for the San Diego Union, became aware of the situation with the Chargers and spearheaded a drive by civic leaders in San Diego to persuade Hilton to move the club down the coast.

It was agreed that the local football field, Balboa Stadium (pictured above in 1964), would be double-decked to increase the seating capacity from 15,000 to 34,000 and that the Chargers would be rent-free tenants. On February 10, 1961 the American Football League granted approval to Hilton to move the team to San Diego. It was the league’s first franchise shift, and the only one following the ’60 season.

San Diego proved more welcoming to the Chargers, where they didn’t have to compete directly against an NFL team – or, for that matter, a major league club in any other sport - and were immediately embraced by the community. 20,216 fans attended the home opener in ’61 against the weak Oakland Raiders, and the crowds steadily grew with each game to a high of 33,788 when the Dallas Texans came to town. The overall average was 27,859 as the team again won the division title. They hosted the championship game, and lost again to the Oilers before a somewhat disappointing Christmas Eve crowd of 29,556. But the league showed its commitment to San Diego as Balboa Stadium hosted the first AFL All-Star game on January 7, 1962.

The Chargers remained an exciting and competitive team throughout the decade of the AFL’s existence prior to the merger in 1970, winning a championship along the way. Barron Hilton sold his controlling interest in the team in 1966. Sid Gillman remained with the organization beyond the merger until 1971, taking a hiatus from coaching during the ’69 season due to health issues; he returned for ten games in ‘71 before leaving the front office as well as the sideline. Overall, he accounted for an 86-53-6 regular season record, although the Chargers were just 1-4 in the postseason.

February 9, 2010

List of the Day: 1000-Yard Receivers, Other Leagues

(All-America Football Conference, 1946-49)

Mac Speedie (pictured above)
Cleveland Browns, 1947-49
(1947-67 rec., 1146 yds., 17.1 avg., 6 TD)
(1949-62 rec., 1028 yds., 16.6 avg., 7 TD)

(World Football League, 1974-75)

Tim Delaney (pictured above)
The Hawaiians, 1974
(89 rec., 1232 yds., 13.8 avg., 8 TD)

Alfred Jenkins
Birmingham Americans, 1974
(60 rec., 1326 yds., 22.1 avg., 12 TD)

Ed Marshall
Memphis Southmen, 1974
(60 rec., 1159 yds., 19.3 avg., 19 TD)

(United States Football League, 1983-85)

Alton Alexis
Jacksonville Bulls, 1985
(83 rec., 1118 yds., 13.5 avg., 5 TD)

Gordon Banks
Oakland Invaders, 1985
(62 rec., 1115 yds., 18.0 avg., 5 TD)

Larry Brodsky
Tampa Bay Bandits, 1985
(69 rec., 1071 yds., 15.5 avg., 7 TD)

Danny Buggs
Tampa Bay Bandits, 1983
(76 rec., 1146 yds., 15.1 avg., 5 TD)

Anthony Carter (pictured below)
Michigan Panthers, 1983
(60 rec., 1181 yds., 19.7 avg., 9 TD)
Oakland Invaders, 1985
(70 rec., 1323 yds., 18.9 avg., 14 TD)

Derrick Crawford
Memphis Showboats, 1985
(70 rec., 1057 yds., 15.1 avg., 9 TD)

Lonnie Harris
Denver Gold, 1985
(101 rec., 1432 yds., 14.2 avg., 8 TD)

Derek Holloway
Michigan Panthers, 1984
(62 rec., 1219 yds., 19.7 avg., 9 TD)

Richard Johnson (pictured at bottom)
Houston Gamblers, 1984-85
(1984-115 rec., 1455 yds., 12.7 avg., 15 TD)
(1985-103 rec., 1384 yds., 13.4 avg., 14 TD)

Trumaine Johnson (pictured below)
Chicago Blitz, 1983
(81 rec., 1322 yds., 16.3 avg., 10 TD)
Arizona Wranglers, 1984
(90 rec., 1268 yds., 14.1 avg., 13 TD)

Marc Lewis
Denver Gold, 1985
(75 rec., 1207 yds., 16.1 avg., 6 TD)

Frank Lockett
New Orleans Breakers, 1984
(56 rec., 1199 yds., 21.4 avg., 8 TD)

Gerald McNeil
Houston Gamblers, 1985
(58 rec., 1017 yds., 17.5 avg., 6 TD)

Greg Moser
Memphis Showboats, 1985
(57 rec., 1145 yds., 20.1 avg., 6 TD)

Ricky Sanders (pictured below)
Houston Gamblers, 1984
(101 rec., 1378 yds., 13.6 avg., 11 TD)

Charlie Smith
Boston Breakers, 1983
(54 rec., 1009 yds., 18.7 avg., 5 TD)

Jim Smith
Birmingham Stallions, 1984-85
(1984-89 rec., 1481 yds., 16.6 avg., 8 TD)
(1985-87 rec., 1322 yds., 15.2 avg., 20 TD)

Eric Truvillion (pictured below)
Tampa Bay Bandits, 1983
(66 rec., 1080 yds., 16.4 avg., 15 TD)

Clarence Verdin
Houston Gamblers, 1985
(84 rec., 1004 yds., 12.0 avg., 9 TD)

Joey Walters
Washington Federals, 1984
(98 rec., 1410 yds., 14.4 avg., 13 TD)

Alphonso Williams
Oklahoma Outlaws, 1984
(50 rec., 1087 yds., 21.7 avg., 7 TD)

February 8, 2010

1976: Dick Vermeil Hired as Head Coach by Philadelphia Eagles

Since winning the NFL Championship in 1960 under Head Coach Buck Shaw, who promptly retired, the Philadelphia Eagles had gone through a long period of successive coaching failures. Through the 1975 season the Eagles had five coaches, who combined for a won-lost record of 74-127-9 with just two winning years along the way. The last of those, Mike McCormack, went 16-25-1 from 1973 to ’75 and was let go.

Owner Leonard Tose had hired three of those coaches since taking over the team in 1969, and interviewed several candidates for the latest vacancy, including those with pro head coaching experience such as Hank Stram and Allie Sherman, as well as Norm Van Brocklin, the quarterback of the 1960 championship team who had gone on to coach the Vikings and Falcons. On February 8, 1976 he signed 39-year-old Dick Vermeil, who had drawn national attention after coaching UCLA to an upset of top-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Vermeil had been an assistant coach at the pro level, having served as the first designated special teams coach in NFL history under George Allen with the Los Angeles Rams. He had led UCLA to an overall record of 15-5-3 over two seasons. Initially reluctant to accept the job, he was taking on the task of trying to turn around an organization that had been mired in losing and had mortgaged its future, primarily in deals for QB Roman Gabriel before the 1973 season and LB Bill Bergey in ’74. They did not have a draft choice until the fourth round in ’76 and the fifth round in ’77, and would not choose again in either the first or second round until 1979.

Vermeil was signed to a five-year contract and took the first season to evaluate the talent on hand. Gabriel was still with the team, but clearly on the downside of his career at age 36 and primarily utilized as a backup to the mediocre Mike Boryla. There was quality at tight end, where Charle Young was considered one of the league’s best (and was prone to being outspoken about that fact) and wide receiver, with 6’8” Harold Carmichael providing a big, if sometimes inconsistent, target.

Rookie FB Mike Hogan played well prior to an injury that ended his season after eight games, while veteran HB Tom Sullivan suffered through an injury-plagued campaign. The offensive line needed work, but had some promising players in tackles Jerry Sisemore and Stan Walters.

With a lack of quality defensive linemen and a better group of linebackers led by the All-Pro Bergey, Vermeil chose to use a 3-4 alignment. Strong safety Randy Logan was a rising star in the defensive backfield.

The biggest change Vermeil brought to the club from the beginning was intensity and a solid work ethic. He personified it by working long hours and often spending the night on a cot in his office at Veterans Stadium. It took time for the results to show, but when they did, the change was dramatic.

“I always had a sense that we were moving in the right direction,” Bergey said later. “Even in the early years when the wins were few and far between, we could see the intensity of the play picking up. Dick’s personality rubbed off on us.”

The wins were most definitely few and far between initially. The club duplicated the 1975 record of 4-10 in ’76, and was 5-9 in 1977. Young, who had become involved in a contract dispute, was traded to the Rams after the first year for QB Ron Jaworski (pictured with Vermeil below); “The Polish Rifle” took over the starting job and improved along with the team. Carmichael showed a greater maturity and became an even better receiver and team leader. At the end of the 1977 season, rookie Wilbert Montgomery emerged as a quality running back. Moreover, six of the nine losses were by six points or less, pointing to the increasing competitiveness of the team.

The hard work was rewarded in 1978, as the Eagles went 9-7 and earned a wild card playoff spot while Montgomery set a new team single-season rushing record with 1220 yards. The record improved to 11-5 and another wild card berth in ’79, and in 1980 Philadelphia won the NFC Championship with a 12-4 tally, although they faltered badly in the Super Bowl. Some fans and commentators blamed Vermeil for allowing the team to become too tight going into the Super Bowl, and the loss seemed to be a negative turning point for both the coach and team.

While the club got off to a 6-0 start in 1981, it faltered in the second half and just made it into the postseason as a wild card entry with a 10-6 tally; they lost to the Giants in the first round. It was the first time that the team had failed to improve on the previous year’s showing since Vermeil had arrived.

The Eagles went 3-6 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, and Vermeil resigned, citing burnout. The emotional Vermeil’s intensity had ultimately proved to be his undoing in Philadelphia. He left with an overall record of 57-51.

Vermeil moved to the broadcast booth and did not return to coaching until he signed on with the Rams fifteen years later in 1997 (after flirting with the idea of coming back to the Eagles in 1995). But from 1976 through ’80, he turned a perennially losing team into a contender and was twice selected as NFC Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America for his efforts.

February 6, 2010

List of the Day: First 1000-Yard Receiver for Each Current AFC Franchise

(In chronological order)

Browns: Mac Speedie, 1947
(67 rec., 1146 yds., 17.1 avg., 6 TD)

Broncos: Lionel Taylor, 1960 (pictured above)
(92 rec., 1235 yds., 13.4 avg., 12 TD)

Colts: Raymond Berry, 1960 (pictured below #82)
(74 rec., 1298 yds., 17.5 avg., 10 TD)

Jets/Titans: Don Maynard & Art Powell, 1960
(Maynard – 72 rec., 1265 yds., 17.6 avg., 6 TD)
(Powell – 69 rec., 1167 yds., 16.9 avg., 14 TD) (pictured above #84)

Titans/Oilers: Bill Groman, 1960
(72 rec., 1473 yds., 20.5 avg., 12 TD)

Chargers: Dave Kocurek, 1961
(55 rec., 1055 yds., 19.2 avg., 4 TD)

Steelers: Buddy Dial, 1961 (pictured below)
(53 rec., 1047 yds., 19.8 avg., 12 TD)

Raiders: Art Powell, 1963 (pictured above)
(73 rec., 1304 yds., 17.9 avg., 16 TD)

Bills: Elbert Dubenion, 1964 (pictured at bottom #44)
(42 rec., 1139 yds., 27.1 avg., 10 TD)

Chiefs: Otis Taylor, 1966 (pictured below)
(58 rec., 1297 yds., 22.4 avg., 8 TD)

Patriots: Harold Jackson & Stanley Morgan, 1979
(Jackson – 45 rec., 1013 yds., 22.5 avg., 7 TD)
(Morgan – 44 rec., 1002 yds., 22.8 avg., 12 TD)

Bengals: Cris Collinsworth, 1981
(67 rec., 1009 yds., 15.1 avg., 8 TD)

Dolphins: Mark Duper, 1983 (pictured below)
(51 rec., 1003 yds., 19.7 avg., 10 TD)

Jaguars: Jimmy Smith & Keenan McCardell, 1996
(Smith – 83 rec., 1244 yds., 15.0 avg., 7 TD)
(McCardell – 85 rec., 1129 yds., 13.3 avg., 3 TD)

Ravens: Michael Jackson & Derrick Alexander, 1996
(Jackson – 76 rec., 1201 yds., 15.8 avg., 14 TD)
(Alexander – 62 rec., 1099 yds., 17.7 avg., 9 TD)

Texans: Andre Johnson, 2004 (pictured below #80)
(79 rec., 1142 yds., 14.5 avg., 6 TD)