July 31, 2011

Past Venue: Husky Stadium

Seattle, WA

Year opened: 1920
Capacity: 72,500, up from 30,000 at opening

Husky Stadium, 1920 to date

Pro football tenants:
Seattle Seahawks (NFL), 1994, 2000-01

Postseason games hosted:

Other tenants of note:
Univ. of Washington, 1920 to date

Notes: Used by Seahawks for two preseason and three regular season games in 1994 after several ceiling tiles fell at the Kingdome, closing that venue for repairs. Served as temporary home of Seahawks for two full seasons between demolition of Kingdome and construction of Qwest Field. Grass surface was replaced by AstroTurf in 1968 and FieldTurf in 2000. Used for track & field as well as football. First football game was Univ. of Washington vs. Dartmouth on Nov. 27, 1920. Major venue for Goodwill Games, 1990. Stadium is also accessible by boat. During 1987 renovation, a portion of the stands under construction collapsed, fortunately with no fatalities and the stadium was ready for use by football season.

Fate: Still in use, although scheduled to undergo significant renovation.

July 30, 2011

1959: Colts Trade George Shaw to Giants

On July 30, 1959 the Baltimore Colts complied with backup QB George Shaw’s request for a trade, sending him to the New York Giants for that team’s second-round 1960 draft choice (originally reported to be a first-round pick and used to take G Bo Terrell from Mississippi, who opted for the AFL).

It was the end of an association with the Colts that had begun with great promise. Shaw was chosen by Baltimore as the first overall pick (or, at that time, bonus selection) in the 1955 NFL draft out of Oregon, passing up on a baseball contract offer from the New York Yankees.

A versatile player in college (in addition to playing quarterback, he sometimes played as a halfback or receiver on offense, safety on defense, and also handled placekicking and punting), Shaw led the nation in total offense as a senior with 1536 yards. The 6’0”, 185-pound passer showed promise as a rookie, moving right into the starting lineup and completing 50.2 percent of his 237 passes for 1586 yards with 10 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also displayed impressive mobility, rushing for 301 yards on 68 carries.

While there were questions about Shaw’s leadership ability, he went into the ’56 season as the starting quarterback. A broken kneecap suffered in the fifth game prematurely ended his year and, ultimately, his starting career in Baltimore. Unknown backup Johnny Unitas took over and soon established himself as a rising talent. Shaw remained as a second-stringer and saw action in 1958 when Unitas was sidelined by a rib injury, but he was clearly not in the same class with the rapidly-developing all-time great who led the Colts to the NFL Championship.

In the ensuing offseason, Shaw requested a trade when it became apparent that he wouldn’t be getting any further playing time as long as Unitas was healthy and, while the Colts hoped to hold onto him as a backup, they eventually acquiesced. Both the Eagles and Cardinals reportedly showed interest, but in the end it was the Giants who made the preseason deal for the 26-year-old quarterback.

Coming to the Giants, Shaw faced a crowded quarterback situation that included the 38-year-old starter, Charlie Conerly, plus veteran backup Don Heinrich, and the team’s first draft choice, rookie Lee Grosscup. In addition, star HB Frank Gifford was being given a trial at quarterback, although he ended up staying put at running back.

Shaw made the team, but was hindered by an injured thumb on his throwing hand. He started one game in place of Conerly, who had an outstanding season as the Giants won the Eastern Conference for the third time in four years, and was a more effective passer than Heinrich when he did play - he completed 66.7 percent of his throws for 433 yards while Heinrich was successful on just 37.9 percent for 329 yards while tossing 22 more passes than Shaw (58 to 36); he also threw six interceptions to Shaw’s one, and each threw a TD pass. Grosscup was shunted off to the taxi squad.

In 1960, Heinrich was gone to the expansion Dallas Cowboys and Conerly suffered through an injury-plagued season that gave Shaw more of an opportunity to play. While he led the team in pass attempts (155), completions (76), and yards (1263) and had some good performances, he also threw 13 interceptions (a few which came at particularly inopportune times), as opposed to 11 TDs, for the 6-4-2 Giants. Moreover, questions regarding his lack of confidence and inability to command the veteran-filled offense led the team to write him off.

Moving on to the expansion Minnesota Vikings for 1961, it was anticipated that Shaw would have an opportunity to show what he could do as a starting quarterback, particularly under the guidance of Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin. But while he started the opening game, he was quickly replaced by rookie Fran Tarkenton, who was the first-string quarterback for the rest of the year (and beyond). Shaw went next to the AFL, where he played one season as a backup to QB Frank Tripucka in Denver (and completed a team-record 97-yard touchdown pass to WR Jerry Tarr), before retiring.

In the end, Shaw’s career that started with so much promise was ultimately disappointing. After losing the starting job in Baltimore, he was never more than a decent backup. Indeed, at the time of his trade to the Giants, he expressed a concern that he had developed “second-stringitis”. He went so far as to confess in an article in Sports Illustrated: “When you go in, you feel the responsibility so much. A couple of years ago, when Johnny (Unitas) was hurt, I played two games at quarterback. I wasn't relaxed and I wasn't confident because I was afraid of playing poorly. Not afraid of giving a bad performance myself, but afraid of failing the team. Maybe I shouldn't say it, but you know when you're out there that the guys up in the line aren't making as much money as the quarterback. When they are great players on a team which is about to win a championship, they demand a lot from a quarterback. They expect you to be as good as they are, or better. It's a big load.”

An offseason banker, Shaw’s personality lacked fire and, in particular with the Giants, that worked against him. Displaced by two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Unitas and Tarkenton, he became an example of a quarterback drafted in the first round who failed to make the grade at the pro level.

July 29, 2011

MVP Profile: O.J. Simpson, 1973

Running Back, Buffalo Bills

Age: 26
5th season in pro football & with Bills
College: Southern California
Height: 6’1” Weight: 212

Following an outstanding college career capped by winning the 1968 Heisman Trophy, the highly-coveted Simpson was drafted by the Bills with the first overall pick in the combined AFL/NFL draft. His pro career started slowly, as he was used sparingly and missed time due to injury during his first three seasons, never carrying more than 182 times or gaining more than 742 yards. However, the return to Buffalo of Head Coach Lou Saban in 1972 marked a change as Simpson became the centerpiece of the offense and led the NFL in rushing with 1251 yards, earning 1st-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

1973 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 332 [1]
Most attempts, game - 39 (for 157 yds.) vs. Kansas City 10/29
Yards – 2003 [1]
Most yards, game – 250 yards (on 29 carries) at New England 9/16
Average gain – 6.0 [2]
TDs – 12 [1, tied with Floyd Little]
200-yard rushing games – 3
100-yard rushing games – 11

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 6
Most receptions, game – 3 (for 33 yds.) vs. Philadelphia 10/7
Yards – 70
Most yards, game - 33 (on 3 catches) vs. Philadelphia 10/7
Average gain – 11.7
TDs – 0

Attempts – 2
Completions – 1
Yards – -3
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 0

All-purpose yards - 2073 [1]

TDs – 12 [5]
Points – 72

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, NEA, Bert Bell Award
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
AFC Player of the Year: Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-AFC: AP, UPI, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Bills went 9-5 to finish second in the AFC East while leading the NFL in rushing yards (3088). It was their first winning record since 1966.

Simpson was a consensus 1st team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection after each of the next three seasons, setting a then-league record with 23 TDs in 1975 while also gaining 1817 yards on the ground. Injuries in 1977 limited him to seven games and he was dealt to the 49ers, where he spent his last two seasons (1978 and ’79). Upon retirement, he had gained 11,236 rushing yards, the second-highest total up to that time. Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1985.


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]

July 27, 2011

Past Venue: Pitt Stadium

Pittsburgh, PA

Year opened: 1925
Capacity: 56,500, down from 69,400 at opening

Pitt Stadium, 1925-99

Pro football tenants:
Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), 1958-69

Postseason games hosted:

Other tenants of note:
University of Pittsburgh, 1925-99

Notes: Steelers split home games between Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium from 1958 to ’63. Grass field was replaced with AstroTurf in 1970, SuperTurf from 1984-89, and then back to AstroTurf in 1990. Temporary lighting was added for a game between Univ. of Pittsburgh and Purdue in 1985. Permanent lights were installed in 1987. Also used for track & field and soccer. Hosted first football game on Sept. 26, 1925 between Univ. of Pittsburgh and Washington & Lee Univ.

Fate: Demolished in 1999, the site is now occupied by the Petersen Events Center and student housing.

July 26, 2011

2007: Curtis Martin Retires from Jets

On July 26, 2007 Curtis Martin, star running back of the New York Jets, confirmed what had first been acknowledged in January, and 19 months after he had last taken the field – that he had played his last game because of a severe right knee injury suffered during the 2005 season. The 34-year-old Martin retired as the fourth-ranked rusher in NFL history.

“I don't have any regrets,” Martin said. “I feel like I'm leaving this game exactly how I would want to. I know that I'm stubborn when it comes to football and I know that it would have to take something like this – and gratefully it's not too bad to where it's going to hinder the rest of my life where I'd need a wheelchair or cane.”

“At the end of the day, things turned out better than what I had even intended from the beginning,” Martin added.

Martin came from a rough part of Pittsburgh but made it to the University of Pittsburgh where he became a star running back. He was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1995 with the Patriots, having gained 1487 rushing yards, and played three seasons in New England before moving on to the Jets in 1998 as a restricted free agent, reuniting with his first pro head coach, Bill Parcells (who was willing to lose two draft choices to obtain him).

The 5’11”, 205-pound running back was a key to New England’s AFC Championship team in 1996 and, in his first year with New York, was a significant factor in the club going 12-4 and advancing to the AFC title game.

A classy yet tough player who was also humble and inclined to shun the spotlight, he was often overlooked over the course of his 11-season career. Team-oriented, hard-working in practice, and liked by coaches and fans, he became one of the most popular players in Jets history. Martin was also durable and regularly played while hurt. In the 2000 season-opening game, with badly damaged ligaments (he said it felt as though the top half of his right leg had separated from the bottom) he wore a brace and rushed for 110 yards and two TDs against the Packers. The durability proved to be something of a surprise considering that injuries during his college career had hurt his draft status (the Patriots took him in the third-round in ‘95).

The lack of flashiness in Martin’s personality carried over to his performance at running back, where his play was better defined by consistency (and consistent excellence) rather than making explosive runs and generating highlight footage. He was the thinking-man’s power runner, rarely making mistakes while playing with great determination. Not particularly fast by NFL standards, Martin had excellent running instincts.

His last healthy season, 2004, was also his best as he led the NFL with 1697 yards rushing and tied Barry Sanders with 10 thousand-yard seasons from the start of his career. That string came to an end with the injury during the ’05 season that held him to twelve games, in which he compiled 735 yards on 220 carries to close out his career.

Martin played 11 seasons and ended up with 14,101 rushing yards on 3518 attempts for a 4.0 average and 90 touchdowns. He also caught 484 passes for 3329 yards and ten more TDs (for a total of 100), with a high of 70 receptions for 508 yards in 2000. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro once, received All-Pro and/or All-AFC consideration following four other seasons, and was selected to the Pro Bowl five times.

July 24, 2011

MVP Profile: Randall Cunningham, 1988

Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles

Age: 25
4th season in pro football & with Eagles
College: Nevada – Las Vegas
Height: 6’4” Weight: 201

Taken by the Eagles in the 2nd round of the 1985 NFL draft, Cunningham saw some action in place of veteran QB Ron Jaworski, and while he completed only 42 % of his passes, he showed off his exciting running ability. In ’86, under new Head Coach Buddy Ryan, he saw more action in place of Jaworski and took over as the starting quarterback during the strike-interrupted 1987 season. Cunningham threw for 2786 yards and 23 TDs in 12 games and also rushed for 505 yards.

1988 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 560 [2]
Most attempts, game – 53 vs. Dallas 10/23
Completions – 301 [3]
Most completions, game – 31 vs. NY Giants 10/10
Yards – 3808 [3]
Most yards, game – 369 vs. NY Giants 10/10
Completion percentage – 53.8
Yards per attempt – 6.8
TD passes – 24 [4]
Most TD passes, game – 3 vs. NY Giants 10/10, vs. LA Rams 11/6
Interceptions – 16 [7, tied with Steve DeBerg]
Most interceptions, game – 2 on five occasions
Passer rating – 77.6 [15]
300-yard passing games – 2
200-yard passing games – 11

Attempts – 93
Most attempts, game - 9 (for 85 yds.) vs. Cincinnati 9/11, (for 64 yds.) at NY Giants 11/20, (for 21 yds.) at Phoenix 12/10
Yards – 624
Most yards, game – 85 yards (on 9 carries) vs. Cincinnati 9/11
Yards per attempt – 6.7 [1]
TDs – 6

Punts – 3
Yards – 167
Average – 55.7
Punts blocked – 0
Longest punt – 58 yards

TDs – 6
Points - 36

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Divisional playoff at Chicago)
Pass attempts – 54
Pass completions – 27
Passing yardage – 407
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 3

Rushing attempts – 3
Rushing yards – 12
Average gain rushing – 4.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Player of the Year: Bert Bell Award
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-NFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Eagles went 10-6 to win NFC East, their first division title since 1980. Lost NFC Divisional playoff to Chicago Bears (20-12).

Cunningham had another Pro Bowl year in 1989, passing for 3400 yards and running for 621, but the Eagles again lost in the first round of the playoffs. He followed up in ‘90 with a second MVP season and was again chosen for the Pro Bowl, passing for 3466 yards and 30 touchdowns with a much-improved passer rating of 91.6. But once more, the club fell quickly in the postseason. An outstanding talent who could often improvise brilliantly, Cunningham was less adept at reading defenses and often irritated teammates with his demeanor. He was lost to a season-ending injury in the first game of 1991 and, while he successfully returned in ’92, injuries became more of an issue as he missed most of 1993 with a broken leg. Benched in favor of Rodney Peete in ’95, he sat out a year in retirement before returning as a backup with the Vikings in 1997. When starting QB Brad Johnson was injured early in ’98, Cunningham put together an outstanding season, leading the league in passing (106.0 rating) while throwing 34 TD passes against just 10 interceptions. However, the team was upset by Atlanta in the NFC Championship game and Cunningham played in just six games in ’99. He finished up his career for good following a year each in Dallas and Baltimore. In the end, he passed for 29,979 yards and 207 TDs, was the career rushing leader for quarterbacks (4928 yards), and had the best rushing average (6.4) of any player in NFL history with over 750 carries (775).


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]

July 22, 2011

Past Venue: JFK Stadium

Philadelphia, PA
aka Municipal Stadium

Year opened: 1926
Capacity: 102,000

Sesquicentennial Stadium, 1926
Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, 1926-64
John F. Kennedy Stadium, 1964-92

Pro football tenants:
Philadelphia Quakers (AFL), 1926
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL), 1936-39
Philadelphia Bell (WFL), 1974

Postseason games hosted:

Other tenants of note:

Notes: Hosted annual Liberty Bowl, 1959-63. Hosted Army vs. Navy football game, 1936-41, 1945-79. In addition to dates noted, hosted selected Eagles home games in 1941, 1947, 1950, and 1954. Was also occasionally used as a practice facility by the Eagles during the 1970s. Hosted one home game of NFL Frankford Yellow Jackets, 1931. Built as part of 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition and was so named until the closing of the exposition. Site of boxing world heavyweight title fight on Sept. 23, 1926 in which Gene Tunney defeated Jack Dempsey and also hosted another such fight in 1952 in which a reigning champion, Joe Walcott, lost to Rocky Marciano. Also used for track & field events.

Fate: Demolished in 1992, the site is now occupied by the Wells Fargo Center.

(View showing, from bottom to top, JFK Stadium, The Spectrum, and Veterans Stadium)

July 20, 2011

1995: Morten Andersen Leaves Saints for Falcons

Kickers typically come and go without much fanfare, but in the case of Morten Andersen and his leaving the New Orleans Saints for the Atlanta Falcons, it was a move of some significance.

The Danish-born Andersen had come to the US as a youth and first began kicking footballs in high school. From there it was on to Michigan State, where he once booted a 63-yard field goal against Ohio State, and then to the Saints in 1982, who drafted him in the fourth round. While things got off to a less than promising start when Andersen missed much of his rookie season due to injury, he rebounded to become one of the NFL’s most accurate and accomplished placekickers.

Through 13 years in New Orleans, he kicked 302 field goals in 389 attempts, a healthy 77.6 percentage (sixth best at the time), and 412 of 418 extra point attempts. While he benefited from his team’s playing home games in a domed stadium, the left-footed kicker was good from long distances and already held the NFL record with 22 field goals from 50 yards or longer (of 53 attempts). He was also the league’s second-leading active career scorer with 1318 points, had been a consensus first-team All-Pro twice, and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times (four times consecutively from 1985 to ’88).

However, in 1994 Andersen’s field goal percentage dipped to 71.8 (28 of a league-leading 39 attempts), his lowest since 1989. He was released by the Saints in a salary cap move, although the team had expected to re-sign him with a restructured contract (Andersen’s salary, which included bonuses earned in 1994, would have counted for $1.2 million against the cap).

Instead, on July 20, 1995, the day following the release, Andersen signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Not only had the star placekicker left the Saints, but he signed with their archrivals.

“We were shocked that a kicker of Morten's caliber was available, so I decided we should make the move now,” Atlanta Head Coach June Jones said. The Falcons waived their own veteran placekicker, Norm Johnson, who moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Andersen overcame any concerns about slippage by again receiving first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors while tying his career-high with 31 field goals, in 37 attempts, for an 83.8 success rate – including a league-record eight of nine from 50 yards or more. By contrast, the Saints went through two placekickers: ex-Washington veteran Chip Lohmiller, who was good on just 57.1 % of his field goal attempts (8 for 14) and missed two extra points, and Doug Brien, who was more successful (12 of 17, 70.6 %).

Andersen stayed with the Falcons for six seasons before moving on to the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, and Minnesota Vikings. He finished up back in Atlanta for two years, and in his last season was successful on 89.3 % of his field goal attempts (25 of 28) at the age of 47. While his leg strength diminished (he wasn’t successful from 50 yards or longer after 2002 with the Chiefs), his accuracy never fell below 80 % in any of his last seven seasons.

Overall, over the course of 25 NFL seasons (second most all-time), Andersen ended up with career records in games played (382), points scored (2544), and field goals (565). He eventually surrendered the all-time record for three-pointers from 50 yards or longer to Jason Hanson, but his total of 40 still ranks second, as do his 859 extra points. And finally, he holds the distinction of being the only player that is the career scoring leader for two NFL teams – the Saints (1318) and, perhaps the unkindest cut of all for New Orleans fans, the Falcons (806).

July 19, 2011

MVP Profile: Frank Sinkwich, 1944

Tailback, Detroit Lions

Age: 24 (Oct. 10)
2nd season in pro football & with Lions
College: Georgia
Height: 5’11” Weight: 195

Winner of the 1942 Heisman Trophy after setting a NCAA season record for total offense (2187 yards), Sinkwich was chosen by the Lions with the first overall pick in the 1943 NFL draft. Directing the single-wing attack under new Head Coach Gus Dorais, he displayed his all-around skills as a runner, passer, and punter.

1944 Season Summary
Appeared in all 10 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 148 [2]
Completions – 58 [5]
Yards – 1060 [3]
Completion percentage – 39.2 [6]
Yards per attempt – 7.2 [3]
TD passes – 12 [2, tied with Irv Comp]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Chicago Bears 11/19
Interceptions – 20 [3]
Passer rating – 52.0 [5]

Attempts – 150 [3]
Yards – 563 [3]
Yards per attempt – 3.8 [12]
TDs – 6 [2]

Field goals – 2 [5, tied with Augie Lio]
Field goal attempts – 8 [2, tied with Roy Zimmerman, Joe Aguirre & Augie Lio]
Percentage – 25.0
PATs – 24 [4]
PAT attempts – 30 [4]
Longest field goal – 23 yards vs. Boston Yanks 12/3

Punts – 45 [2]
Yards – 1845
Average – 41.0 [2]
Punts blocked – 0
Longest punt – 73 yards

Interceptions – 3 [19, tied with fifteen others]
Return yards – 28
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 6
Yards – 144 [16]
Average per return – 24.0
TDs – 0
Longest return – 31 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 11 [4, tied with Al Grygo, Ernie Steele & Ward Cuff]
Yards – 148 [4]
Average per return – 13.5 [3]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 25 yards

TDs – 6 [8, tied with four others]
Field goals – 2
PATs - 24
Points – 66 [2]

All-purpose yards – 855 [7]

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: Joe F. Carr Trophy
1st team All-NFL: AP, UPI, INS, Pro Football Illustrated, NY Daily News

Lions went 6-3-1 to finish in a tie for second in the NFL Western Division with the Chicago Bears – the club’s first winning record since 1939.

Sinkwich went into the military and missed the 1945 season (he had originally been exempted due to flat feet), and when he returned to pro football it was with the New York Yankees of the AAFC. Having suffered a knee injury while playing football in the service, he saw little action behind tailbacks Ace Parker and Spec Sanders in ’46 and was dealt to the Baltimore Colts during the 1947 season. Ill-suited to playing T-formation quarterback, and unable to return to form from the knee injury, he finished out the year as a halfback and retired.


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]

July 17, 2011

1974: Birmingham Comes from 26 Points Behind to Beat NY Stars

The World Football League’s debut in New York City occurred on July 17, 1974 as the New York Stars hosted the Birmingham Americans. There were 17,943 fans in attendance at small and poorly-lit Downing Stadium for the Wednesday night contest (1200 with complimentary tickets).

The Stars, coached by former pro quarterback Babe Parilli, had lost their opening game by a 14-7 score at Jacksonville in the WFL’s inaugural week. The roster contained several ex-Jets, including WR George Sauer, DE Gerry Philbin, DT John Elliott, and CB John Dockery. The starting quarterback was Tom Sherman, who had seen action with the Boston Patriots and Buffalo Bills in the AFL but more recently had played for the Hartford Knights of the Atlantic Coast Football League.

Birmingham had narrowly defeated the Southern California Sun by a score of 11-7 in its opening game at home the previous week. Jack Gotta, a seasoned coach from the CFL, was both head coach and GM of the Americans. The club had George Mira at quarterback (pictured above), a former University of Miami star who was primarily a backup in the NFL for seven years before moving on to Canada for two. Dennis Homan, an ex-star at Alabama who saw some NFL action, was one of the wide receivers, while there were veterans with pro experience at running back in HB Paul Robinson and FB Charlie Harraway.

The crowd was enthusiastic, especially during a dominating first half by the home team, although the poor stadium lighting made the contest difficult to watch. In the first quarter, Birmingham got a break by recovering Sherman’s fumble on the third play of the game. The turnover gave the Americans the ball at the New York 19 yard line, but, setting the tone for the first half, the offense wasn’t able to score and Earl Sark kicked a 35-yard field goal.

It was all New York the rest of the way in the first two quarters. A six-play, 60-yard drive that featured a 25-yard gain on a pass to Sauer to the Birmingham one was capped when Sherman ran for the final yard and a TD.

Following the ensuing kickoff, another of the ex-Jets, Philbin, recovered a fumble by WR Denny Duron at the Birmingham 33. Five plays later, RB Bob Gladieux ran for a two-yard score. Both action point attempts were successful, and the Americans held a 16-3 lead after the opening period (touchdowns were worth seven points in the WFL).

In the second quarter, FB Andy Huff ran for a nine-yard TD to complete a drive of 80 yards that took 14 plays, although the action point attempt failed. Pete Rajecki kicked field goals of 20 and 38 yards, and the Stars carried a comfortable 29-3 lead into halftime.

The domination in the first half was complete as New York ran up 315 total yards (188 on the ground) and 18 first downs. By contrast, Birmingham failed to gain a single first down, rushing for just 12 yards and being held to -2 net yards in the air.

Birmingham’s comeback began in the third quarter following a 33-yard punt return by WR Alfred Jenkins to set up Mira’s 20-yard scoring pass to TE Ted Powell with just over nine minutes to go in the period, although the Americans failed to add the action point.

Still in the third quarter, Mira threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Jenkins. This time the action point attempt, another Mira-to-Jenkins toss, was successful. New York’s lead had been narrowed to 29-18 after three periods of play.

In the fourth quarter, the Stars’ lead was narrowed even further as Mira scored on a one-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive in 10 plays. Again the action point attempt failed, but the Americans were now just four points behind.

Birmingham went in front thanks to the biggest play of the game, a 73-yard touchdown pass from Mira to Homan with 2:15 remaining. Once more, the action point attempt failed and the Americans were left clinging to a three-point margin. It seemed as though that might not be enough as the Stars still had a chance to tie the game with 36 seconds on the clock, but Rejecki missed a 35-yard field goal attempt. Birmingham came away with a 32-29 win, having scored 29 unanswered points in the second half.

The Stars had more first downs (22 to 9) and rushed for 283 yards while passing for 171. Birmingham gained just 48 yards on 24 rushes and threw for 213. The Stars suffered three turnovers, to two by Birmingham and there were just five penalties in all.

George Mira was successful on 14 of 28 passes for 218 yards with three TDs and none intercepted. Dennis Homan caught three passes for 94 yards and a TD. RB Art Cantrelle was the leading rusher for the Americans with 15 yards on six carries, although he had three receptions for 50 yards.

For the Stars, Andy Huff ran for 105 yards on 21 attempts, RB Jim Ford gained 71 yards on 11 carries, and Bob Gladieux contributed 51 yards on 13 runs. Tom Sherman completed 10 of 21 passes for 171 yards with an interception. George Sauer caught four passes for 69 yards.

“It was really a matter of my receivers getting used to the poor lighting,” said Mira.

The poor lighting – and poor facility – became something that the Stars could not overcome. The team generally played well, but attendance dwindled. In September, the club was purchased by Upton Bell, son of former NFL commissioner Bert Bell, and moved to Charlotte, NC. While they were embraced by the fans in North Carolina far more enthusiastically than had ever been the case in New York City, paradoxically the team’s record suffered. 8-5 as the New York Stars, the franchise that was renamed the Charlotte Hornets ended up with a 10-10 record, putting them in second place in the Eastern Division and out of the playoffs (as with so much about the WFL, an oddity, since the Philadelphia Bell made it at 9-11).

Birmingham had good support at home and won its first ten games on the way to finishing second in the Central Division with a 15-5 tally. The Americans went on to win the WFL’s only championship, defeating the Florida Blazers in the World Bowl.

July 16, 2011

Past Venue: Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, NJ

Year opened: 1976
Capacity: 80,200

Giants Stadium, 1976-2010

Pro football tenants:
New York Giants (NFL), 1976-2009
New York Jets (NFL), 1984-2009
New Jersey Generals (USFL), 1983-85
New York/New Jersey Knights (WLAF), 1991-92
New York/New Jersey Hitmen (XFL), 2001

Postseason games hosted:
USFL Quarterfinal playoff, Stars 20 Generals 17, July 1, 1985
USFL Championship, Stars 28 Invaders 24, July 14, 1985
AFC Wild Card playoff, Patriots 26 Jets 14, Dec. 28, 1985
NFC Wild Card playoff, Giants 17 49ers 3, Dec. 29, 1985
AFC Wild Card playoff, Jets 35 Chiefs 15, Dec. 28, 1986
NFC Divisional playoff, Giants 49 49ers 3, Jan. 4, 1987
NFC Championship, Giants 17 Redskins 0, Jan. 11, 1987
NFC Divisional playoff, Rams 19 Giants 13, Jan. 7, 1990
NFC Divisional playoff, Giants 31 Bears 3, Jan. 13, 1991
WLAF Playoff, Monarchs 42 Knights 26, June 2, 1991
NFC Wild Card playoff, Giants 17 Vikings 10, Jan. 9, 1994
NFC Wild Card playoff, Vikings 23 Giants 22, Dec. 27, 1997
AFC Divisional playoff, Jets 34 Jaguars 24, Jan. 10, 1999
NFC Divisional playoff, Giants 20 Eagles 10, Jan. 7, 2001
NFC Championship, Giants 41 Vikings 0, Jan. 14, 2001
AFC Wild Card playoff, Jets 41 Colts 0, Jan. 4, 2003
NFC Wild Card playoff, Panthers 23 Giants 0, Jan. 8, 2006
NFC Divisional playoff, Eagles 23 Giants 11, Jan. 11, 2009

Other tenants of note:
New York Cosmos (NASL), 1977-84
Rutgers Univ. (college football), 1993
MetroStars/New York Red Bulls (MLS), 1996-2009

Notes: Hosted annual college football Garden State Bowl, 1978-81 and Kickoff Classic, 1983-2002. Used as venue for FIFA World Cup, 1994. Used as venue for Women’s World Cup, 1999. Hosted one home game of NFL New Orleans Saints, 2005. Hosted one home game of UFL New York Sentinels, 2009. Hosted Army vs. Navy football game, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2002. In addition to 1993, hosted several Rutgers Univ. home games and was also used as a home venue by other college teams on occasion, including Army, Navy, Princeton Univ., Syracuse Univ., and Temple Univ. Owned by New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Field surface was originally AstroTurf, converted to grass in 2000 and FieldTurf in 2003. A temporary grass surface was placed over the AstroTurf surface in 1994 in order to accommodate the FIFA World Cup. In 1984, the stadium surpassed Chicago’s Wrigley Field as having hosted the most regular season NFL games. Often simply referred to as “The Meadowlands”, especially when being used during Jets home games. First football game was an NFL contest between the Giants and Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 10, 1976.

Fate: Demolished in 2010

(Giants Stadium, on the right, shown during construction of the new Meadowlands Stadium)

July 14, 2011

MVP Profile: Roger Craig, 1988

Running Back, San Francisco 49ers

Age: 28
6th season in pro football & with 49ers
College: Nebraska
Height: 6’0” Weight: 224

Chosen by the 49ers in the second round of the 1983 NFL draft to address the unsettled situation at running back, and better known in college for his blocking ability, Craig teamed at fullback with veteran acquisition RB Wendell Tyler and gained 1152 yards from scrimmage (725 rushing, 427 receiving). After a second such year in ’84, he had his first Pro Bowl season in 1985, becoming the first back to gain a thousand yards both rushing (1050) and receiving (1016 on a NFL-leading 92 catches). Craig split time with HB Joe Cribbs in ’86 but had a second Pro Bowl year in 1987 as he gained 1307 total yards in the strike-abbreviated season (815 rushing, 492 receiving).

1988 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 310 [3]
Most attempts, game - 26 (for 143 yds.) vs. Denver 10/9, (for 162 yds.) at Phoenix 11/6
Yards – 1502 [3]
Most yards, game – 190 yards (on 22 carries) at LA Rams 10/16
Average gain – 4.8 [6]
TDs – 9 [9, tied with Lorenzo Hampton]
100-yard rushing games - 7

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 76 [7]
Most receptions, game – 10 (for 61 yds.) vs. Atlanta 9/18
Yards – 534
Most yards, game - 73 (on 7 catches) at Atlanta 12/4
Average gain – 7.0
TDs – 1

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 2
Yards – 32
Average per return – 16.0
TDs – 0
Longest return – 17 yards

Total Yards – 2068 [2, 1st in NFC]

TDs – 10 [12, tied with five others]
Points – 60

Postseason: 3 G
Rushing attempts – 56
Most rushing attempts, game - 21 vs. Minnesota, NFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 274
Most rushing yards, game - 135 vs. Minnesota, NFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – 4.9
Rushing TDs – 2
100-yard rushing games - 1

Pass receptions – 13
Most pass receptions, game - 8 vs. Cincinnati, Super Bowl
Pass receiving yards - 160
Most pass receiving yards, game - 101 vs. Cincinnati, Super Bowl
Average yards per reception – 12.3
Pass Receiving TDs – 0

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

49ers went 10-6 to finish first in the NFC West while leading the league in total offense (5987 yards), rushing yards (2237), scoring (459 points), and TDs (59); they led the NFC in passing yards (3750). Won NFC Divisional playoff over Minnesota Vikings (34-9), NFC Championship over Chicago Bears (28-3), and Super Bowl over Cincinnati Bengals (20-16).

Craig had a fourth Pro Bowl year in 1989, gaining 1054 yards on the ground and 473 through catching passes as the 49ers won another championship, but, after absorbing seven years of punishment as a versatile all-purpose back, his productivity began to drop off thereafter. After one last year with the 49ers in ’90, he moved on to the Raiders and then two final years in Minnesota, never gaining more than 590 yards rushing in any of his last four seasons or catching more than 25 passes. He retired with totals of 8189 rushing yards and 4911 receiving yards on 566 receptions, a total of 13,100 yards from scrimmage.


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]

July 12, 2011

Past Venue: Yankee Stadium

New York, NY (Bronx)

Year opened: 1923
Capacity: 67,000

Yankee Stadium, 1923-2010

Pro football tenants:
New York Yankees (AFL/NFL), 1926-28
New York Yankees (AFL), 1936-37
New York Yankees/Americans (AFL), 1940-41
New York Yankees (AAFC), 1946-49
New York Yanks (NFL), 1950-51
New York Giants (NFL), 1956-73

Postseason games hosted:
AAFC Championship, Browns 14 Yankees 3, Dec. 14, 1947
NFL Championship, Giants 47 Bears 7, Dec. 30, 1956
NFL Eastern Conf. playoff, Giants 10 Browns 0, Dec. 21, 1958
NFL Championship, Colts 23 Giants 17, Dec. 28, 1958
NFL Championship, Packers 16 Giants 7, Dec. 30, 1962

Other tenants of note:
New York Yankees (MLB – AL), 1923-73, 1976-2008
New York Generals (NPSL/NASL), 1967-68
New York Cosmos (NASL), 1971, 76

Notes: Both the Yankees and Yankees/Americans of the second and third AFL split their home games between Yankee Stadium and the then-Randall’s Island Stadium (aka Downing Stadium). Also hosted one home game of NFL Boston Yanks in 1945. NFL Giants played one home game at the stadium in 1973 before it was closed for major renovations. Underwent significant renovation between 1973 and ’76. Built and originally owned by baseball’s Yankees after they were evicted from the Polo Grounds by the Giants. Hosted many college football games, most notably Army vs. Notre Dame in 1946, and including NYU, Army, Notre Dame, and Fordham Univ. First football game played at the stadium was a college contest between Syracuse and Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, 1923. Last was also a college game involving Central State of Ohio and Grambling on Sept. 12, 1987.

Fate: Demolished in 2010, the site is to be used as a park.

July 10, 2011

MVP Profile: Brian Sipe, 1980

Quarterback, Cleveland Browns

Age: 31
9th season in pro football (7th active) & with Browns
College: San Diego State
Height: 6’1” Weight: 195

Unheralded coming out of college, Sipe was taken by the Browns in the 13th round of the 1972 NFL draft and was a member of the practice squad for two seasons before moving up to backup behind Mike Phipps in ’74, when he saw his first regular season pro action. Beating out Phipps for the starting job in 1976, he developed into a clutch performer and in ’79 led the “Kardiac Kids” to seven game-winning drives in the 4th quarter while leading the NFL in both TD passes (28) and, reflecting his gambling style of play, interceptions (26).

1980 Season Summary
Appeared in and started all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 554 [2]
Most attempts, game – 46 vs. Pittsburgh 10/26
Completions – 337 [2]
Most completions, game – 30 vs. NY Jets 12/7
Yards – 4132 [2]
Most yards, game – 391 vs. Green Bay 10/19
Completion percentage – 60.8 [3]
Yards per attempt – 7.5 [8]
TD passes – 30 [2, tied with Dan Fouts & Vince Ferragamo, 1st in AFC]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Pittsburgh 10/26, vs. Cincinnati 11/23
Interceptions – 14
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Chicago 11/3, at Cincinnati 12/21
Passer rating – 91.4 [1]
300-yard passing games – 6
200-yard passing games – 13

Attempts – 20
Most attempts, game - 5 (for 0 yds.) vs. NY Jets 12/7
Yards – 55
Most yards, game – 33 yards (on 2 carries) vs. Green Bay 10/19
Yards per attempt – 2.8
TDs – 1

TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 1 G (AFC Divisional playoff vs. Oakland)
Pass attempts – 40
Pass completions – 13
Passing yardage – 183
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 3

Rushing attempts – 6
Rushing yards – 13
Average gain rushing – 2.2
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Browns went 11-5 to win the AFC Central, were the conference’s second-seeded team in the playoffs, and ranked second in the NFL in passing offense (3915 yards). Lost to Oakland Raiders in AFC Divisional playoff (14-12).

Both Sipe and the team collapsed in 1981, the quarterback throwing for 3876 yards, but with only 17 TD passes against a league-leading 25 interceptions. Another off-year in ’82 was followed by a good season in 1983 in which Sipe passed for 3566 yards with a 58.7 completion percentage, 26 TDs, and 23 INTs. He moved on to the USFL, signing with the New Jersey Generals for the ’84 spring season. With the arrival of heralded rookie QB Doug Flutie in 1985, Sipe was dealt to the Jacksonville Bulls where he was injured and ended up backing up Ed Luther in his final pro season. Overall, for his career he threw for 26,938 yards (23,713 in the NFL, 3225 USFL) with 175 TDs (154 NFL, 21 USFL) against 166 interceptions (149 NFL, 17 USFL).


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]

July 9, 2011

1983: Stars Stage 4th Quarter Rally, Beat Blitz in Overtime

The inaugural season of the United States Football League having yielded four playoff teams, the first of the Semifinal playoff games was held on Saturday, July 9, 1983 at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium.

The Philadelphia Stars had won the Atlantic Division with a league-best 15-3 record. Head Coach Jim Mora’s team featured an efficient, ground-oriented offense that ranked second in the league in rushing and a tough, opportunistic defense. Their turnover ratio was a USFL-best +35 as they suffered the fewest turnovers (27) and had the most takeaways (62). QB Chuck Fusina was an efficient game manager and rookie RB Kelvin Bryant the league’s second-leading rusher (1442 yards) and MVP. Defensive stars included Sam Mills, an undersized inside linebacker (5’9”, 225 pounds) out of a small college (Montclair State) who rose to All-League status, DE Don Fielder, and safeties Scott Woerner and Mike Lush. Even the specialists, PK David Trout and punter Sean Landeta, were among the USFL’s best.

The visiting Chicago Blitz finished second in the Central Division (due to tiebreakers) at 12-6, which was a disappointing result for the team that was the most highly-touted coming into the season. Head Coach George Allen was easily the best-known and most experienced of the USFL coaches. As was typical of Allen’s NFL teams, the Blitz was loaded with veteran talent, from QB Greg Landry to RB Kevin Long, defensive ends Karl Lorch and Junior Ah You, DT Joe Ehrmann, and LB Stan White. There were also talented rookies in WR Trumaine Johnson and RB Tim Spencer. However, the offense was very conservative and the team sometimes had trouble holding leads – as when they blew a 14-point margin in the fourth quarter against the Stars a few weeks earlier.

Landry went down for the year with a broken leg in the 12th game and the Blitz obtained another, lesser veteran quarterback, Bobby Scott from the New Jersey Generals. With backup Tim Koegel also injured, Scott had taken over the starting role.

There was a small but enthusiastic crowd of 15,684 in attendance at Veterans Stadium. For the first three quarters, they had little cause for enthusiasm as the home team played uncharacteristically sloppy football and struggled with turnovers. The Blitz scored first after CB Virgil Livers intercepted a Fusina pass at the Chicago 19 yard line six minutes into the game. They drove 81 yards in 15 plays that ended in a one-yard touchdown carry by Long. The 7-0 lead held up through the first quarter.

On the first play of the second quarter safety Luther Bradley, the USFL’s interception leader who had suffered a shoulder separation and was only playing in nickel situations, picked off a Fusina pass deep in Philadelphia territory. It took just three plays for Chicago to go 19 yards and score on a three-yard touchdown with Scott running it in himself.

The Stars responded by going 54 yards in nine plays to finally get on the board, with Bryant running for a 10-yard TD to cut the Blitz lead to 14-7. Philadelphia then got a break on the ensuing kickoff when WR Lenny Willis fumbled the return, but Fusina promptly fumbled the ball back on the next play as LB Jim Fahnhorst recovered at the Philadelphia 41. Eight plays later, Scott threw to the rookie Johnson for a 12-yard touchdown and the Blitz were once again 14 points ahead.

With just under two minutes remaining in the half, the Stars took over and played more like the team that had dominated in the regular season. Bryant ran for 40 yards, Fusina passed for six and ran for 18, and Philadelphia got to the Chicago 12 yard line with 48 seconds still on the clock. Operating out of the shotgun formation, they used a trick play as Fusina handed off to RB Allen Harvin and then, in turn, caught Harvin’s option pass at the four and ran over DE John Lee for a TD that made the halftime score 21-14.

Early in the third quarter, Harvin fumbled and LB Ed Smith recovered for the Blitz, who went on to score on a 12-yard pass from Scott to RB Mack Boatner. Frank Corral kicked a 32-yard field goal to extend Chicago’s lead to 31-14 before the period was over.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, David Trout booted a 49-yard field goal to make it 31-17. However, a fourth Blitz interception set up a seven-yard touchdown pass down the middle from Scott to Tim Spencer, and now with a 38-17 lead, it appeared that Chicago had the game well in hand.

The Blitz had capitalized on Philadelphia turnovers in the first three quarters, intercepting four passes and recovering three fumbles. But the momentum was now about to shift decisively. On their next possession, the Stars took over at their own 20 and it took them just six plays to travel 80 yards. Fusina threw to WR Scott Fitzkee, who made a sensational catch for a 37-yard gain, and the two combined again for an 18-yard touchdown with 9:29 to go.

On Chicago’s next possession, the Blitz ran twice and then Scott, intending a pass for Johnson, was intercepted by CB Jonathan Sutton at the Philadelphia 32. Fusina completed passes for 31 yards and ran for 21 in a seven-play drive that culminated in his tossing a two-yard TD pass to FB Jeff Rodenberger. With the successful conversion, the Stars were now just a touchdown away with a tick under five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Blitz went three-and-out, all running plays by Long, and punted. With 2:46 left and the small but boisterous crowd rooting them on, the Stars took over on their 29. Fusina moved the team down the field, completing five of eight passes for 51 yards and again contributing with his feet, scrambling for 17 more. The tenth play of the possession was a short pass to WR Tom Donovan, who caught it at the five and broke two tackles on his way to the end zone. Trout’s extra point attempt was good and the score was tied at 38-38.

Chicago got the ball back with 50 seconds remaining, but an incomplete pass and two running plays ran out the clock and sent the game into overtime.

With the momentum all in their favor, the Stars won the toss for the OT period and never relinquished the ball, methodically driving 73 yards in 14 plays. Harvin’s ten-yard run gave Philadelphia first-and-goal at the Chicago two. Bryant bulled to the one and then, on the next play, dove into the end zone for the winning score (pictured at top). Having scored 27 unanswered points, the Stars came away as 44-38 winners and advanced to the USFL Championship game.

Philadelphia dominated the statistics, outgaining the Blitz (556 yards to 218) and compiling the most first downs by far (33 to 13). Only the seven turnovers, which led to six Chicago scores, allowed the Blitz to nearly put the game away.

Chuck Fusina (pictured at right) completed 22 of 33 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns. While he was intercepted four times, he rose to the occasion during the fourth quarter comeback and at one time was successful on 10 straight throws. He also ran for 66 yards on 7 carries, placing him third on the team behind Kelvin Bryant (142 yards on 24 attempts with two TDs, including the game-winner) and Allen Harvin (87 yards on 20 carries) and had the one scoring reception. Scott Fitzkee caught 6 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.

For Chicago, Bobby Scott went to the air just 14 times, completing 8 for 96 yards with two TDs and an interception. Kevin Long ran for 76 yards on 21 attempts that included one score. TE Paul Ricker led the receivers with 5 catches for 57 yards.

“We didn't forget the way the Blitz folded in that game here in May,” Coach Jim Mora said. “Even when we were down 21 points in the fourth quarter, we knew we still had a shot.”

“It would have been easy to get down on myself,” added Chuck Fusina. “But nobody on the team got down on me and we all just kept saying that we had come from behind against Chicago before and we could do it again.”

“This was one of the greatest games in the history of football,” commented the losing coach, George Allen. “It's the first time in my coaching career that we took the ball away seven times and lost.”

The Stars came up short in the USFL Championship game against the Michigan Panthers, losing by a close score of 24-22. The Blitz, meanwhile, shifted to Arizona for 1984 and exchanged places with the ’83 Arizona Wranglers, with mostly the same personnel and Allen still coaching.

July 8, 2011

Past Venue: Braves Field

Boston, MA

Year opened: 1915
Capacity: 40,000

Braves Field, 1915-36, 42-53
National League Park, 1936-41
Boston University Field, 1953-55

Pro football tenants:
Boston Bulldogs (AFL), 1926
Boston Bulldogs (NFL), 1929
Boston Braves (NFL), 1932
Boston Shamrocks (AFL), 1936-37

Postseason games hosted:

Other tenants of note:
Boston Braves/Bees (MLB – NL), 1915-52
Boston University, 1953-55

Notes: Both the AFL Boston Bulldogs and Boston Shamrocks split their home games between Fenway Park and Braves Field. Hosted one home game of NFL Providence Steam Roller, 1925. Stadium was constructed on what had previously been part of a golf course. Was referred to as “The Bee Hive” during the period when major league baseball’s Boston Braves were renamed the Bees. Stadium was sold to Boston University upon departure of Braves to Milwaukee.

Fate: Largely demolished in 1955 and rebuilt by the university into Nickerson Field with portions of the old stadium utilized. Part of grandstand is still in use, as well as portions of outer wall and the ticket office. Remaining area where structure stood is now occupied by campus housing and the Case Physical Education Center.

July 6, 2011

MVP Profile: Charlie Conerly, 1959

Quarterback, New York Giants

Age: 38 (Sept. 18)
12th season in pro football & with Giants
College: Mississippi
Height: 6’1” Weight: 185

Originally drafted by Washington in the 13th round in 1945 to be a single-wing tailback, Conerly was serving in the military at the time. After returning and using up his college eligibility, he joined the Giants in ’48, who had traded for his rights. In his first season, he threw for 2175 yards and set a record for TD passes by a rookie (22) that lasted for 50 years. While Conerly was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1950, he had difficulty as a quarterback operating in Head Coach Steve Owen’s conservative offense. With the change to Jim Lee Howell as head coach in 1954, and more significantly, the arrival of Vince Lombardi as an assistant coach to run the offense, Conerly’s career was reinvigorated. The attack remained ground-oriented, but he passed effectively and the team had greater success, winning the NFL title in 1956 (another Pro Bowl year for Conerly). By the end of the ’58 season, the Giants had won the Eastern Conference twice in three years and the quiet quarterback with solid leadership skills and accurate passing ability gained in stature.

1959 Season Summary
Appeared in 10 of 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 194 [8]
Most attempts, game - 31 at LARams 9/26
Completions – 113 [7]
Most completions, game - 21 at LARams 9/26
Yards – 1706 [7]
Most yards, game - 321 at LARams 9/26
Completion percentage – 58.2 [3]
Yards per attempt – 8.8 [1]
TD passes – 14 [4, tied with Milt Plum]
Most TD passes, game – 3 vs. Washington 11/29, vs. Cleveland 12/6
Interceptions – 4 [18, tied with Frank Ryan & John Roach]
Passer rating – 102.7 [1]
300-yard passing games - 1
200-yard passing games - 3

Attempts – 15
Yards – 38
Yards per attempt – 2.5
TDs – 1

TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship at Baltimore)
Pass attempts – 37
Pass completions – 17
Passing yardage – 226
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 2

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: Sporting News
2nd team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News

Giants went 10-2 to win the Eastern Conference. Lost NFL Championship to Baltimore Colts (31-16).

Conerly suffered injuries in 1960 that had him sharing time with QB George Shaw, and a preseason trade that brought QB Y.A. Tittle from the 49ers put him on the bench in ’61, his final season, although he performed well in a relief role. For his career, he passed for 19,488 yards and 173 TDs. The Giants retired his #42.


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 2/22/17]

July 5, 2011

Past Venue: Rice Stadium

Houston, TX

Year opened: 1950
Capacity: 47,000, down from original capacity of 70,000

Houston Stadium
Rice Stadium

Pro football tenants:
Houston Oilers (AFL), 1965-67

Postseason games hosted:
Super Bowl VIII, Dolphins 24 Vikings 7, Jan. 13, 1974

Other tenants of note:
Rice University, 1950 to date
Univ. of Houston, 1951-64

Notes: Hosted AFL All-Star game, Jan. 15, 1966. Hosted annual Bluebonnet Bowl, 1959-67, 85-86. Unlike many college stadiums, this venue was built for football only – there is no track ringing the playing field. Grass field was replaced with Astroturf in 1970 and FieldTurf in 2006. Stadium capacity reduced by covering end zone seats with tarps, allowing for reversion to original capacity if necessary.

Fate: Still in use.

July 3, 2011

1983: Panthers Defeat Wranglers to Wrap Up Division Title

Coming into the season finale on July 3, 1983 at the Pontiac Silverdome, the host Michigan Panthers were running as hot as the visiting Arizona Wranglers were cold. Coached by Jim Stanley, it had been a remarkable first year for the Panthers, who stumbled out of the gate at 1-4 before winning six straight games to pull into contention. They had won 10 of the previous 12 contests coming into the last game, with the United States Football League’s Central Division title on the line.

Meanwhile, Arizona was going in the opposite direction. Head Coach Doug Shively’s team got off to a 4-4 start, good enough to be in contention in the weak Pacific Division, but then lost nine straight games.

Michigan’s balanced offense was led by rookie QB Bobby Hebert and contained key performers in wide receivers Anthony Carter and Derek Holloway, TE Mike Cobb, and running backs Ken Lacy and John Williams. On defense, OLB John Corker was having an outstanding season, along with NT Dave Tipton, ILB Ray Bentley, CB Clarence Chapman, and S David Greenwood.

There was a crowd of 31,905 in attendance, Michigan’s second largest of the season. The fans didn’t have long to wait for the home team to take control of the game. Less than three minutes into the contest, Lacy took a pitchout from Hebert and, rolling to his right, tossed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Holloway. On Michigan’s next possession, Lacy capped a five-play, 57-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run. It was 14-0 after the first quarter, and there was no turning back.

Novo Bojovic added a 42-yard field goal for the Panthers in the second quarter, and shortly before halftime they scored another touchdown when Hebert tossed a screen pass to Carter who turned it into a 68-yard scoring play. Bojovic added a 27-yard field goal in the third quarter and Williams topped off Michigan’s scoring in the final period with an 11-yard touchdown run (the extra point attempt failed, not that it mattered).

Arizona finally got on the board in the fourth quarter when QB Dan Manucci connected with WR Wally Henry for a 48-yard TD, but it only averted a shutout as the Panthers breezed to a 33-7 win.

Michigan’s domination was complete, as the Panthers gained 487 yards to Arizona’s 234 and accumulated 23 first downs to 16 by the Wranglers. Michigan’s defense sacked Manucci four times (three by Corker, pictured at left, to top off his league-leading total of 28) while the Wranglers didn’t record any.

Before being relieved by backup QB Whit Taylor, Bobby Hebert completed 11 of 15 passes for 141 yards with a TD and none intercepted. In addition to throwing for a score, Ken Lacy rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries that included a touchdown; John Williams added another 85 yards and a TD on 16 attempts. Anthony Carter caught four passes for 112 yards and a score and Mike Cobb also had four receptions, for 32 yards.

For the Wranglers, Dan Manucci was successful on 18 of 43 pass attempts for 226 yards with a TD and an interception. TE Mark Keel led the receivers with 5 catches for 72 yards. The feeble running attack was topped by RB Harold Blue, who gained 37 yards on 13 carries.

The Panthers, at 12-6, ended up with the same record as the Chicago Blitz but won the division title thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker (they won both of their games against the highly-touted Blitz). With a full head of steam heading into the playoffs, they easily defeated the Oakland Invaders, Pacific Division champs despite a 9-9 record, in the first round and went on to win the USFL’s first Championship game over the Philadelphia Stars.

Arizona finished at a dismal 4-14, at the bottom of the Pacific Division and tied with the Washington Federals for the league’s worst record. When the Wranglers took the field in the spring of 1984, they would essentially be the team that had played as the Chicago Blitz in ’83 – in an odd turn of events, what was left of the 1983 Arizona club (minus Coach Shively, among others) became, in turn, the Chicago Blitz, under new ownership - but with no greater success.

July 2, 2011

MVP Profile: Emmitt Smith, 1992

Running Back, Dallas Cowboys

Age: 23
3rd season in pro football & with Cowboys
College: Florida
Height: 5’9” Weight: 203

Taken by the Cowboys in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft, Smith had an immediate impact for the rebuilding club as he ran for 937 yards as a rookie and was selected for the Pro Bowl as well as Offensive Rookie of the Year (AP). In ’91, he led the league with 365 carries for 1563 yards and earned a second trip to the Pro Bowl.

1992 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 373 [2]
Most attempts, game - 30 (for 163 yds.) vs. Philadelphia 11/1
Yards – 1713 [1]
Most yards, game – 174 yards (on 24 carries) at Atlanta 12/21
Average gain – 4.6 [7]
TDs – 18 [1]
100-yard rushing games - 7

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 59
Most receptions, game – 12 (for 67 yds.) at Phoenix 11/22
Yards – 335
Most yards, game - 67 (on 12 catches) at Phoenix 11/22
Average gain – 5.7
TDs – 1

TDs – 19 [1]
Points – 114 [6]

Postseason: 3 G
Rushing attempts – 71
Most rushing attempts, game - 25 vs. Philadelphia, NFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 336
Most rushing yards, game - 114 vs. Philadelphia, NFC Divisional playoff; at San Francisco, NFC Championship
Average gain rushing – 4.7
Rushing TDs – 3
100-yard rushing games - 3

Pass receptions – 13
Most pass receptions, game – 7 at San Francisco, NFC Championship
Pass receiving yards - 86
Most pass receiving yards, game - 59 at San Francisco, NFC Championship
Average yards per reception – 6.6
Pass Receiving TDs - 1

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Cowboys went 13-3 to top the NFC East while placing second to the 49ers in points (409) and touchdowns (48). Won NFC Divisional playoff over Philadelphia Eagles (34-10), NFC Championship over San Francisco 49ers (30-20), and Super Bowl over Buffalo Bills (52-17).

Smith led the NFL in rushing for a third straight year in 1993 (1486 yards) as the Cowboys repeated as league champions, and he again received MVP recognition. He led the NFL once more in rushing (1773 yards in 1995) in the process of gaining over a thousand yards in 11 straight seasons. Smith also led the league in touchdowns scored on three occasions, including a then-record 25 in 1995. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro four times and was selected to eight Pro Bowls. Smith became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher while still with Dallas before finishing up with two seasons in Arizona. He ended up with 18,355 yards on the ground (17,162 of them with the Cowboys) and scored a total of 175 TDs. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2010.


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).

[Updated 2/15/14]

July 1, 2011

Past Venue: City Stadium

Green Bay, WI
aka East Stadium

Year opened: 1925
Capacity: 25,000, up from 6000 at opening

City Stadium, 1925 to date

Pro football tenants:
Green Bay Packers (NFL), 1925-56

Postseason games hosted:

Other tenants of note:
Green Bay East High School, 1925 to date
Preble High School, 1960-2004

Notes: Often referred to as East Stadium or Old City Stadium and not to be confused with Lambeau Field, which was originally named City Stadium from 1957-64 and was often referred to as the New City Stadium during that time. Owned by Green Bay East High School. Also used for high school soccer matches and track & field. Initially, the stadium lacked both rest rooms and locker rooms - the Packers used the high school for locker room facilities – although these were eventually added (but there was never a visitors’ locker room – visiting teams either used the high school or suited up at the hotel before coming to the stadium). Beginning in 1933, Packers played some home games each year in Milwaukee (the practice continued through 1994).

Fate: While the structure was demolished in 1966, the field is still in use by the high school. An ornamental fence and monuments pertaining to the field’s pro football history have since been added.