January 30, 2015

Highlighted Year: Jim “King” Corcoran, 1974

Quarterback, Philadelphia Bell

Age: 31
9th season in pro football, 1st in WFL
College: Maryland
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 205

The flamboyant Corcoran had a long and successful career as a minor league pro quarterback, achieving a near-legendary status due to his performance on the field and eccentric behavior off of it. He spent the better part of his first six seasons in the Atlantic Coast Football League. With Wilmington in 1966, he led the ACFL in pass attempts (247) and with Waterbury in 1967 topped the circuit in attempts (309), completions (141), yards (2065), and TD passes (19). Corcoran was cut by the AFL’s Denver Broncos during both the 1966 and ’67 preseasons and was signed to the New York Jets’ taxi squad. He started the 1968 season with Bridgeport, which acted as a minor league team for the Jets, and after he was sold to another AFL club, the Boston Patriots, continued in the ACFL with Lowell, Boston’s minor league affiliate. Corcoran again led the league in pass attempts (333), completions (166), yards (2158), and TD passes (20). He also played in two games for the Patriots, throwing seven passes, two of which were intercepted. In 1969, after failing to catch on with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, Corcoran joined the Pottstown Firebirds for two seasons and led them to an 11-1 record in ’70, a year in which he topped the ACFL in pass attempts (297), completions (164), completion percentage (55.2), yards (2129), and TD passes (24), although an injury caused him to miss the league championship game, which the Firebirds won. He was named to the ACFL All-Star team. After another failed trial with the Eagles in 1971, Corcoran returned to the ACFL and the Norfolk Neptunes, leading the league in completion percentage (52.6) and TD passes (17) as the club won the championship. He joined the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL for 1972 but quit rather than be a third-string quarterback and moved on to Chambersburg of the Seaboard Football League, but was injured midway through the season. He spent the ’73 season with Flint of the Midwest Football League. Corcoran joined the Bell of the new WFL for 1974, reuniting with Head Coach Ron Waller, who had been an assistant with Pottstown and head coach at Norfolk, as well as a number of other players who had been teammates with both of those clubs.        

1974 Season Summary
Appeared in 19 of 20 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 545 [1]
Completions – 280 [1]
Yards – 3631 [2]
Completion percentage – 51.4 [6]
Yards per attempt – 6.7
TD passes – 31 [1]
Interceptions – 30 [1]

Attempts – 23
Yards – 26
Yards per attempt – 1.1
TDs – 3

TDs – 3
Action Points - 1
Points – 22
(Note: Touchdowns counted for 7 points in the WFL)

Postseason: 1 G (WFL First Round playoff at Florida)
Pass attempts – 32
Pass completions – 11
Passing yardage – 127
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 2

Bell went 9-11 to finish third in the WFL Eastern Division. Lost WFL First Round playoff to Florida Blazers (18-3).

Corcoran returned to the Bell in 1975 but lost his starting job to Bob Davis. He completed 45 of 99 passes for 440 yards and three TDs with six intercepted before the WFL folded in October. Corcoran retired, “the minor league Joe Namath” having passed for 14,528 yards and 134 touchdowns over the course of his checkered and colorful career. 


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

January 29, 2015

1979: Staubach Rallies NFC to Pro Bowl Win

The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl returned to Los Angeles for the first time in seven years on January 29, 1979. After regularly being played at the Memorial Coliseum for 22 seasons, the annual all-star contest had been held in six different NFL cities since then.  The contest also marked the first time that players wore their respective team helmets rather than helmets with logos designed for the game.

There were 38,333 fans in attendance at the Coliseum on a chilly 45-degree Monday night. Los Angeles Rams season ticket holders had been required to purchase Pro Bowl tickets, and some 13,310 tickets went unused. The first quarter was scoreless, with the AFC failing to convert a fourth-and-seven play at the NFC 36 and Frank Corral of the Rams missing a 37-yard field goal attempt for the NFC.

In the second quarter, after Miami’s Garo Yepremian was short on a 47-yard try for a field goal, the NFC drove 70 yards in 11 plays. QB Archie Manning of the Saints completed four passes and RB Wilbert Montgomery of the Eagles, who had a 17-yard carry along the way, finished the series off at 7:06 into the period with a two-yard touchdown on a fourth down play. However, Corral missed wide on the extra point attempt.

The AFC came right back with a nine-play, 62-yard possession. With less than four minutes remaining in the first half, QB Bob Griese of the Dolphins threw to Seattle WR Steve Largent for back-to-back gains of 27 and 10 yards, and finished off the series with a throw once more to Largent for an eight-yard touchdown. Yepremian added the extra point and the AFC held a 7-6 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, and following a shanked 16-yard punt by Oakland’s Ray Guy, the NFC was backed up by a holding penalty but then proceeded to advance 55 yards. Dallas QB Roger Staubach (pictured at top), who was ineffective in the first quarter, completed five straight passes in the series. Two were to WR Ahmad Rashad of the Vikings for 15 and 17 yards and, following a six-yard run by Montgomery, Staubach connected with WR Tony Hill, a Dallas teammate, in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:43 remaining in the period. Corral converted this time to give the NFC a six-point advantage, and in the game dominated by defense, that was enough.

The teams traded punts as the contest entered the fourth quarter and a Manning pass was intercepted by SS Bill Thompson of the Broncos at the AFC 16. But following one more AFC possession, the NFC was able to control the ball for the last 6:20. They had an opportunity to add more points in the last minute, reaching the AFC five yard line, but Manning fell on the ball twice to run out the clock. The NFC won the low-scoring contest by a final score of 13-7.

The AFC led in total yards (320 to 296) and also had the edge in first downs (18 to 17). 169 yards of the AFC’s total came on the ground, against 151 passing yards, while the NFC threw for 199 yards and rushed for 97. The NFC turned the ball over twice, to one turnover suffered by the AFC.

Roger Staubach completed 9 of 15 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown while giving up one interception. Archie Manning, who played the second and fourth quarters, was 8 of 17 for 78 yards and also had a pass picked off. Wilbert Montgomery ran for 53 yards on 9 carries and RB Tony Dorsett of the Cowboys gained 27 yards on 7 rushing attempts. Ahmad Rashad had 5 pass receptions for 89 yards and was named Player of the Game. G Tom Mack of the Rams finished off his Hall of Fame career with an 11th Pro Bowl appearance and received a standing ovation from the Los Angeles fans with a minute remaining in the contest.

For the AFC, Terry Bradshaw was successful on 8 of 17 throws for 54 yards and no interceptions. Bob Griese threw 20 times with 10 completions for 122 yards and a TD and also gave up no interceptions. Houston’s star rookie RB Earl Campbell rushed for 66 yards on 12 carries to lead both teams. Steve Largent, the first Seahawk to appear in a Pro Bowl, caught 5 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, all in the second quarter.

“One of the highlights of my career was just being here,” said Ahmad Rashad (pictured at left) who, along with Steve Largent, set a then-Pro Bowl record for pass receptions. “The Most Valuable Player award was just gravy.”

“I’m not going to go home and stay up all night, but it was disappointing to lose,” said Terry Bradshaw, who had quarterbacked the Steelers to a win over Dallas in the Super Bowl the previous week. “Emotionally, I went into this game drained. I thought I’d be okay but I think I’m still mentally fatigued from the Super Bowl.”

The win gave the NFC a 5-4 lead over the AFC since the restructuring of the Pro Bowl into AFC vs. NFC in 1970. The game moved to Honolulu the following season, leaving the Memorial Coliseum once and for all.

January 27, 2015

1972: Giants Trade Tarkenton Back to Vikings

On January 27, 1972 the Minnesota Vikings swung a deal with the New York Giants that brought QB Fran Tarkenton back to the team he had started his career with, at the cost of three veteran players and two high draft choices. The Vikings received Tarkenton for QB Norm Snead, WR Bob Grim, FB Vince Clements, and the first draft pick for 1972 as well as the second-round choice for ‘73.

Under Head Coach Bud Grant since 1967, the Vikings had won four straight division titles through the ’71 season, advancing to the NFL Championship in 1969 before losing to the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in the last pre-merger Super Bowl. The team had a consistently outstanding defense and gave up the fewest points in the league in 1971. The offense, however, was far less impressive and an upgrade at quarterback was considered to be a significant need.

Joe Kapp,a fiery leader which offset his weaknesses as a passer, enjoyed the most success but was gone due to a contract dispute after the 1969 season. Gary Cuozzo had seen the most action since then, but he could not match Kapp as a team leader and his skills were no better than adequate. Norm Snead was brought in to provide competition but it was Bob Lee, a backup who handled the punting, that started in the Divisional-round playoff loss to the Cowboys. Critics insisted that the stodginess of the offense made it difficult for any quarterback to succeed.

The 6’0”, 190-pound Tarkenton, a resident of Atlanta who starred at Georgia and was just short of his 32nd birthday, spent his first six seasons with the Vikings after they drafted him in the third round in their initial season of 1961. He quickly took over as the team’s starting quarterback and played with a distinctive, scrambling style that was exciting but became a source of conflict with Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin. Tarkenton was twice selected to the Pro Bowl during that period, but after a promising 8-5-1 finish in 1964, the club as a whole moved backward. Both Van Brocklin and Tarkenton were gone after the ’66 season, and the scrambling quarterback was chosen to four consecutive Pro Bowls with the Giants from 1967 through ’70, when the club posted a 9-5 record and nearly won the NFC East title.  

Things soured between Tarkenton and the Giants in 1971. First, he upset team president Wellington Mara when he briefly walked out prior to the first preseason game due to a contract dispute. As the team dropped in the standings in 1971, finishing at 4-10, Tarkenton expressed the desire to play for a contending team. The Giants were 33-37 in five years with Tarkenton starting at quarterback, and his last season with the team was easily his worst as he threw just 11 TD passes against 21 interceptions.

New York’s Head Coach Alex Webster expressed the hope that the trade would help the team in 1972 and beyond, thanks to the package of veterans and draft picks received.

Norm Snead had played eleven seasons in the NFL, coming into the league at the same time as Tarkenton. A 1961 first-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins, he started every game as a rookie. Big  at 6’4” and 215 pounds and a classic drop-back passer with a strong arm and slow release, Snead showed early promise but was traded to the Eagles in a celebrated 1964 deal for QB Sonny Jurgensen. Following seven up-and-down years in Philadelphia, he moved on to the Vikings in ’71 and was used sparingly. 

Bob Grim was coming off of his fifth, and easily best, year with the Vikings. He more than doubled his production of the first four seasons with 45 catches and 691 yards in ’71, and earned selection to the Pro Bowl.

Vince Clements was Minnesota’s fourth-round draft choice in 1971. He missed most of his senior year at Connecticut due to a knee injury and left the Vikings after reinjuring the knee during the preseason. However, he had expressed an interest in returning for ’72.

“We are very happy about going to Minnesota…back home, almost, to where we started,” said Tarkenton in reaction to the trade, adding that he enjoyed the time in New York “very much because it’s a great sports city.”

The expectation that adding Tarkenton would bring a championship to Minnesota was dashed in 1972 when the team finished third in the NFC Central with a 7-7 record. While Tarkenton provided the needed upgrade at quarterback, and had an excellent target in Pro Bowl WR John Gilliam, the running game lacked a back with breakaway ability, and the vaunted defense became vulnerable against the run.

The situation improved greatly in 1973. Rookie FB Chuck Foreman was productive both running and catching the ball and the defense, with key players healthy, was strong again. The team won the NFC Championship before falling to the Dolphins in the Super Bowl. It was the first of three trips to the Super Bowl in four years, although they all ended in defeat. Tarkenton was a consensus MVP selection in 1975 and was chosen to the Pro Bowl three times in his second stint with the Vikings. He led the league in completions on three occasions, completion percentage twice, and passing yards and touchdown passes once. In 1978, his last season, he achieved career highs in pass attempts (572), completions (345), and yards (3468), although also in interceptions (32). Upon his retirement, he was the NFL career leader in rushing yards by a quarterback (3674) as well as pass attempts (6467), completions (3686), passing yards (47,003), and touchdowns (342).

The Giants were 8-6 in 1972 and Norm Snead (pictured at left) had an outstanding year as he led the NFL in completion percentage (60.3) while throwing for 2307 yards and 17 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. He was named to the Pro Bowl. But both Snead and the Giants collapsed in ’73, with the team dropping to 2-11-1 and the quarterback leading the league with 22 interceptions. Snead was traded to the 49ers during the 1974 season and returned to New York as a backup in his final season of 1976.

Bob Grim caught just five passes in 1972 but had a total of 65 for 1059 yards and four touchdowns in 1973 and ’74 before moving on to the Bears and returning to the Vikings in 1976. Vince Clements played for two years with the Giants and rushed for 435 yards and added 24 pass receptions for another 247 yards, but appeared in just 16 games due to nagging injuries that ultimately curtailed his career.

The two draft choices obtained for Tarkenton were used to take DE Larry Jacobson from Nebraska with the 24th pick in the first round in 1972 and Michigan State LB Brad Van Pelt in the second round of the ’73 draft. Jacobson started nine games as a rookie but lasted just three seasons and had little impact. Van Pelt was far more successful – and was the player obtained through the Tarkenton deal that was most useful to the Giants for the longest amount of time – playing 11 seasons with the club and gaining selection to the Pro Bowl five straight times, from 1976 to ’80.

For the Vikings, the acquisition of Tarkenton did help the team and played a significant role in advancing to three NFC Championships. For the Giants, the deal brought only short-term relief in a slump for the franchise that started in 1964 and lasted until 1981.

January 26, 2015

Highlighted Year: Glenn Dobbs, 1948

Tailback/Defensive Back, Los Angeles Dons

Age:  28
3rd season in pro football, 2nd with Dons
College: Tulsa
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 210

A star tailback and punter in college, Dobbs was chosen by the Chicago Cardinals in the first round of the 1943 NFL draft, but went into the military instead. After starring in service football, he joined the Dodgers of the new AAFC in 1946, a club that utilized a single-wing attack. Brooklyn went only 3-10-1, but Dobbs led the circuit in passing yards (1886) as well as punting (47.8 avg.) and was named MVP by the league. In a major trade early in the 1947 season, Dobbs was dealt to the Los Angeles Dons. Playing quarterback in the T-formation, his performance suffered, but in ’48 a new head coach, Jimmy Phelan, created a new offense (the Phelan spread) in order to more fully utilize Dobbs’ talents.

1948 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 369 [1]
Completions – 185 [1]
Yards – 2403 [4]
Completion percentage – 50.1 [5]
Yards per attempt – 6.5 [7]
TD passes – 21 [3]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Chicago 10/8
Interceptions – 20 [2]
Passer rating – 67.4 [5]

Attempts – 91 [14]
Yards – 539 [11]
Yards per attempt – 5.9 [5]
TDs – 4 [13, tied with four others]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 2
Yards – 11
Yards per catch – 5.5
TDs - 0

Punts – 68 [1]
Yards – 3336 [1]
Average – 49.1 [1]
Punts blocked – 3 [1]

Interceptions – 1
Return yards – 32
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 2  
Yards – 38
Average per return – 19.0
TDs – 0

TDs – 4         
Points – 24

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL/AAFC: Sporting News
2nd team All-AAFC: League, UPI, NY Daily News

Dons went 7-7 to finish third in the AAFC Western Division.

Injuries significantly diminished Dobbs’ performance in 1949, and with the demise of the AAFC following that season, he retired from pro football. After an absence of a year, in which he was a sportscaster in Tulsa, Dobbs joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Canada, playing three more seasons (and winning MVP honors in the Western league, the WIFU, in ’51) before further injuries set in, and serving as a player/coach. Overall, in the AAFC he passed for 5876 yards and 45 TDs, rushed for 1039 yards and 12 TDs, and had a 46.4 punting average. In Canada, Dobbs passed for 5196 yards and 51 TDs, rushed for 241 yards and 7 TDs, and had a 44.7 punting average. He returned to his alma mater, Tulsa, where he was athletic director and head football coach. 


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

January 24, 2015

1971: Renfro TDs Lift NFC to Big Win in Pro Bowl

The 21st Pro Bowl on January 24, 1971 was played under a new format. The annual all-star game that came into being following the 1950 NFL season (an earlier version of the game, called the Pro All-Star Game, was played following the 1938 to ‘42 seasons) had featured a pairing of Eastern vs. Western players. With the merger between the AFL and NFL having come to full fruition for the 1970 season, expanding the league from 16 to 26 teams, the participants now represented the new American and National conferences.  Coaches for the two squads were from the losing teams in the conference championship games, which were John Madden of the Oakland Raiders for the AFC and San Francisco’s Dick Nolan for the NFC.

There was a disappointing crowd of 48,222 fans in attendance at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. They saw the defenses dominate the first half. Following a scoreless first quarter, the AFC got on the board first on a 37-yard field goal by Kansas City’s Jan Stenerud. The NFC responded with a 13-yard field goal by Fred Cox of the Vikings and the score remained tied at 3-3 at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, with San Francisco’s John Brodie at quarterback, the NFC put together a six-play, 84-yard drive. Brodie completed a pass to WR Gene Washington of the Vikings for 31 yards and then connected with his 49er teammate, also a wide receiver named Gene Washington, for 24 yards. That set up a throw to Minnesota HB Dave Osborn, who was open for a 23-yard touchdown. Cox added the extra point.

The NFC got a break on defense when CB Mel Renfro of the Cowboys tipped a Lamonica pass that Green Bay LB Fred Carr intercepted, and that led to a 35-yard field goal by Cox to extend the NFC lead to 13-3. Later in the period, a fumble by Chicago WR Cecil Turner on a punt return gave the AFC favorable field position, and they nearly cashed in when Lamonica threw to Oakland WR Fred Biletnikoff, who caught the ball in the end zone but was ruled to have come down out of bounds.  They were forced to settle for a field goal by Stenerud from 16 yards.

Prior to Turner’s fumble, he and Renfro stood side by side on punt returns, but afterward Coach Nolan told Renfro to handle deep kicks and Turner to move forward. It paid off significantly when, a minute into the fourth quarter, Renfro (pictured at top) returned a punt by Kansas City’s Jerrel Wilson 82 yards for a TD. Forced to hurry his kick due to the rush, Wilson booted a line drive that bounced before Renfro grabbed it and headed down the field, cutting to his left and getting a good block by Chicago LB Dick Butkus on CB Zeke Moore of the Oilers. With Cox adding the extra point, the sensational return opened up a 20-6 lead for the NFC.

That was it until, with five minutes remaining, Renfro fielded another punt by Wilson and ran 56 yards for a touchdown. Again Cox converted and that provided the final tally in a 27-6 win for the NFC.

The NFC had more total yards (337 to 146) and first downs (17 to 11) in what was largely a defensive show. There were a total of seven turnovers, four by the AFC.

John Brodie completed 10 of 26 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown and Fran Tarkenton was 8 of 13 for 69 yards, giving up an interception. Dave Osborn (pictured at left) led in rushing with 45 yards on 10 carries and in receiving yards with 58 on four catches that included a TD. Gene Washington of the 49ers was right behind with 57 yards on two receptions while TE Charlie Sanders of Detroit pulled in five passes for 44 yards. Mel Renfro, with his two punt return touchdowns as well as good play on defense, was named the outstanding back of the game and Fred Carr the game’s outstanding lineman.

Daryle Lamonica, who was harassed heavily by the tough NFC defensive line, had an especially rough passing day, successful on just four of 21 throws for 50 yards, and he was picked off twice. Bob Griese was better with 9 completions in 14 passes for 86 yards, but he was also sacked five times for losses totaling 56 yards. Larry Csonka topped the AFC with 44 rushing yards on six attempts. Marlin Briscoe had three catches for 35 yards and Miami WR Paul Warfield was right behind with 32 yards on his two receptions.

“Actually, it was a pretty even game,” said Coach Nolan of the NFC. “Renfro’s great punt returns were obviously the key things, but I thought Brodie and Fran Tarkenton both called a good game.”

Following the NFC’s win in the first AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, the AFC won the next three. The AFC vs. NFC format for the game remained until the 2013 season, when it was altered again to have the selected players divided up by appointed team captains rather than play for their conferences.

January 23, 2015

Highlighted Year: Charlie Berry, 1925

End, Pottsville Maroons

Age: 23 (Oct. 18)
1st season in pro football
College: Lafayette
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 185

A college star in baseball as well as football, where he was particularly noted for his pass receiving ability, Berry was named to Walter Camp’s 1924 All-American team. He signed a baseball contract with the Philadelphia Athletics after graduation and played in 10 major league games and, in the Fall, joined the Maroons. He was an effective receiver and also placekicked.

1925 Season Summary
Appeared in 10 of 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 31 (unofficial)         
Yards – 349 (unofficial)
Average gain – 11.3 (unofficial)
TDs – 4 [1, tied with Hal Erickson & Marty Norton]

Rushing TDs – 0
Receiving TDs – 4 [1, tied with Hal Erickson & Marty Norton]
Other TDs – 2 [1]
Total TDs – 6 [5, tied with four others]
Field Goals – 3 [4, tied with eight others]
Extra Points – 29 [1]
Points – 74 [1]

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: Collyers Eye, Green Bay Press-Gazette

Maroons went 10-2 to finish second in the NFL while leading the league in scoring (270 points), touchdowns (38), and rushing TDs (23). There was controversy as the league penalized the club for playing a prohibited game against a team of former Notre Dame players, thus forfeiting a chance for the league title.

Berry played one more season of pro football, scoring three touchdowns, and was again a first-team All-NFL selection of Collyers Eye and the Green Bay Press-Gazette. After two years of minor league baseball, he returned to the major leagues in 1928 with the Boston Red Sox and became the club’s starting catcher for the next four seasons. He moved on to the White Sox in 1932 and later returned to the A’s, making his last two plate appearances in 1938 and becoming a coach under owner/manager Connie Mack after his retirement. In addition, he coached football at Grove City College and went on to become both a major league umpire for many years and a NFL official.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

January 22, 2015

1983: Redskins Defeat Cowboys for NFC Championship

Two fierce NFC East rivals, the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, met for the conference championship on January 22, 1983. With divisions set aside due to a 57-day strike by the players that limited the schedule to nine games, Washington topped the NFC with an 8-1 record and the Cowboys ranked second at 6-3. The usual playoff format was set aside for a tournament of the top eight teams in each conference. Washington easily defeated Detroit and Minnesota in the first two rounds to advance to the NFC title game, and the Cowboys got past the Buccaneers and Packers.

Washington had last been in the postseason in 1976 and was appearing for the first time under second-year Head Coach Joe Gibbs. Little had been expected of the Redskins coming into the ’82 season, but things fell into place on both sides of the ball. On offense, the line, known as “the Hogs”, coalesced into the league’s best unit. QB Joe Theismann had a Pro Bowl year and, while WR Art Monk was missing in the postseason with a broken foot, WR Charlie Brown was coming off of a fine year in which he was also selected to the Pro Bowl. Workhorse 33-year-old RB John Riggins (pictured above) was stepping up in the playoffs with hundred-yard performances in the two wins. The defense had improved dramatically since the preceding year and led the league in fewest points allowed in the short season. Mark Moseley received rare MVP plaudits for a placekicker with his 20 field goals in just 21 attempts.

The Cowboys, coached for the 23rd season by Tom Landry, were back in the NFC Championship game for the third consecutive year, and had lost the last two. QB Danny White was capable but had taken criticism for failing to win big games. Still, he was a Pro Bowl performer, as was star RB Tony Dorsett, who led the NFC in the abbreviated season with 745 rushing yards. The receiving corps was a good one that featured WRs Drew Pearson and Tony Hill. The aging defensive line was still formidable, as was the defensive backfield.    

There were 55,045 enthusiastic fans in attendance for the Saturday game at RFK Stadium. The Cowboys had the first possession and drove 75 yards in 10 plays, with Tony Dorsett running effectively and Danny White completing three passes. But after reaching the Washington 15 yard line, the Redskins stiffened on defense. On third down, CB Jeris White knocked a pass out of Drew Pearson’s hands that would have been a touchdown and Dallas settled for a 27-yard Rafael Septien field goal.

The Redskins responded by driving 84 yards, starting off with two carries by John Riggins for 12 yards. Theismann had completions to TE Rick Walker for nine yards, 15 yards to TE Don Warren, and 11 yards to WR Alvin Garrett, and Riggins contributed a 17-yard run. The possession was capped by a pass from Theismann to Charlie Brown for a 19-yard touchdown. Mark Moseley added the extra point and Washington was in front by 7-3.

On their next series, the Redskins converted a fourth-and-one play at the Dallas 40 with a carry by Riggins, but they ultimately came up empty when the drive stalled and Moseley’s 27-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright and was unsuccessful.

The Cowboys were having difficulty on offense, with three straight possessions in which they were unable to get a first down. As the first half wound down, a punt by the Redskins was muffed by Dallas DB Rod Hill and, while LB Monte Coleman recovered in the end zone for Washington, the ball had to come back to the 11. It was a formality as Riggins carried twice for eight yards and, after RB Joe Washington gave the Redskins a first down at the one, Riggins carried again for a touchdown with 3:41 remaining in the first half. Moseley again added the PAT and Washington took a 14-3 lead into halftime.

In the last minute of the half, White was hit hard by DE Dexter Manley and suffered a concussion, knocking him out of the game. He was replaced by third-year backup QB Gary Hogeboom (pictured at left), who had thrown only eight passes all season.

A fumble by Washington DB Mike Nelms returning the second half kickoff gave Dallas the first possession in the third quarter, and Hogeboom directed the Cowboys to a score, finishing the series off with a six-yard touchdown pass to Pearson. Septien’s point after narrowed the Washington lead to 14-10, but Nelms returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the Dallas 20. Five plays later, Riggins ran for a four-yard TD, Moseley converted, and the home team was up by eleven points at 21-10.

The Cowboys blitzed linebackers and defensive backs on first down in an effort to shut down Riggins and the relentless Washington running attack. Later in the period, Hogeboom threw to WR Butch Johnson for a 23-yard TD and, with Septien adding the extra point, Dallas was behind by only 21-17.

The tide turned in the fourth quarter. First, LB Mel Kaufman intercepted a low pass by Hogeboom that was intended for WR Tony Hill. That set up a Moseley field goal from 29 yards to make the score 24-17. Then, on the next play from scrimmage, DT Darryl Grant (pictured at right) grabbed a pass tipped by Manley and ran 10 yards for a touchdown. Moseley converted and, with two scores in a span of 17 seconds, Washington was ahead by two touchdowns with 6:55 remaining in the contest. The Redskins got the ball back with 4:26 to play and Riggins ran nine straight times for 43 yards to finish off the Cowboys by a final score of 31-17.

The game had an odd ending when Theismann took a knee on fourth down with 12 seconds left, forgetting that the clock would stop for the change of possession. The Cowboys left the field and had to be called back, returning after five minutes to run the last play with Pearson taking the snap and not attempting to advance. In the meantime, happy Washington fans had already flooded the field and torn down the goal posts.

Dallas led in total yards (340 to 260) and first downs (21 to 18). Only 65 of those yards came on the ground, as opposed to 137 for the Redskins, and the Cowboys also turned the ball over three times, to none by Washington.

John Riggins set a NFL postseason record with his third straight hundred-yard rushing performance (he made it four straight in the Super Bowl) as he gained 140 yards on 36 carries that included two touchdowns. Joe Theismann completed 12 of 20 passes for 150 yards and a TD with no interceptions. Alvin Garrett, performing well in the playoffs as the replacement for Art Monk, had four catches for 46 yards and Charlie Brown gained 54 yards on his three receptions that included a TD.

For the Cowboys, Gary Hogeboom was successful on 14 of 29 throws for 162 yards in relief, but after tossing two TDs he gave up the two interceptions. Prior to leaving the contest, Danny White was 9-of-15 for 113 yards and no TDs, although also with none picked off. Tony Dorsett was held to 57 yards on 15 rushing attempts and he gained 29 yards on two catches. Three Dallas receivers caught five passes apiece, with Butch Johnson gaining the most yards with 73 that included a touchdown, Tony Hill contributing 59 yards, and Drew Pearson accounting for 55 yards and a TD.

“If we are a fluke, you can just put NFC Champion behind it,” exclaimed Joe Theismann. “They say we are lucky, they say we don’t have enough talent, but we did it.”

“It was just a pleasure to be in a game like this,” said John Riggins. “This is the first championship game I’ve been in. To tell you the truth, after the strike, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue the season. I was ready to pack my bags and head for Kansas. Boy, what a mistake that would have been.”

The pleasure continued for the Redskins, who defeated Miami in the Super Bowl. Riggins was again the star as he rushed for 166 yards. They repeated as NFC Champions in 1983. Dallas returned to the playoffs in ‘83, finishing second to Washington in the NFC East, but lost in the Wild Card round. The Cowboys would not appear in another NFC Championship game until the 1992 season.

Gary Hogeboom came up short in his relief performance against the Redskins, but it set the stage for a quarterback controversy that culminated with his getting the starting job ahead of Danny White in 1984. His performance was lackluster, White took back the reigns, and Hogeboom was traded to the Colts in ‘86. 

January 20, 2015

Highlighted Year: Joe Aguirre, 1944

End/Placekicker, Washington Redskins

Age:  26 (Oct. 17)
3rd season in pro football & with Redskins
College: St. Mary’s (CA)
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 234

A pioneering Hispanic pro football player, Aguirre was chosen by the Redskins in the 11th round of the 1941 NFL draft. He caught 10 passes and kicked two field goals and eight extra points as a rookie. After missing the ’42 season, Aguirre came back to catch 37 passes, which ranked second in the league, for 420 yards (11.4 avg.) and 7 TDs in 1943. He received first-team All-NFL recognition from the New York Daily News.

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

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 34 [3] 
Yards – 410 [6]
Average gain – 12.1 [14]
TDs – 4 [7, tied with four others]

Field goals – 4 [2, tied with Roy Zimmerman]
Most field goals, game – 2 at NY Giants 12/3
Field goal attempts – 8 [2, tied with Roy Zimmerman, Frank Sinkwich & Augie Lio]
Field goal percentage – 50.0 [1, tied with Ken Strong, Roy Zimmerman & Lou Zontini]
PATs – 15 [6]
PAT attempts – 18 [6]
Longest field goal – 43 yards at NY Giants 12/3

Punts – 2
Yards – 87
Average – 43.5
Punts blocked – 0

TDs – 4 [20, tied with seven others]
Field Goals – 4
PATs – 15
Points – 51 [5]

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL:  AP, UPI, INS, NY Daily News, Pro Football Illustrated

Redskins went 6-3-1 to finish third in the NFL Eastern Division while leading the league in passing yards (2021).

Aguirre followed up in 1945 with fewer catches (16) but led the NFL in field goals (7). He received first-team All-NFL honors from the INS and Chicago Herald American and was a second-team selection of the New York Daily News. Aguirre jumped to the new All-America Football Conference in 1946, following Washington’s coach, Dudley DeGroot, to the Los Angeles Dons. He was a first-team All-AAFC choice of the New York Daily News and second-team pick by UPI in ’46 and had his most productive pass receiving season in 1948 with 38 catches for 599 yards (15.8 avg.) and 9 touchdowns. After being limited to four games and three catches in ’49, and with the demise of the AAFC, Aguirre moved on to Canada in 1950. He led the West (WIFU) in scoring with 57 points for Winnipeg and was named to the WIFU All-Star team. After a second season with the Blue Bombers in ’51, he moved on to Edmonton for 1952 and caught 38 passes for 549 yards (14.4 avg.) with five TDs and was a second-team All-WIFU selection. Spending his last three seasons with Saskatchewan from 1953 to ’55, he became used more as a placekicker and kicked 19 field goals and 25 extra points while leading the WIFU with 85 points. Overall, in the NFL, Aguirre caught 97 passes for 1122 yards (11.6 avg.) and 13 TDs, kicked 13 field goals and 53 PATs, and scored 169 points. In the AAFC, he caught 63 passes for 1040 yards (16.5 avg.) and 16 TDs, kicked four field goals and 33 PATs, and scored 141 points. In Canada, he had 62 catches for 928 yards (15.0 avg.) and 7 TDs, kicked 40 field goals and 119 PATs, and scored 296 points. He received at least some all-league recognition in the NFL, AAFC, and WIFU.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders (NFC/AFC since 1970) in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

January 18, 2015

1973: Cards Hire Don Coryell as Head Coach

On January 18, 1973 the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL dipped into the college ranks to hire Don Coryell as the new head coach. The 48-year-old Coryell of San Diego State replaced Bob Hollway, who was fired directly following a second straight 4-9-1 record in 1972 with one year remaining on his three-year contract. The Cardinals had not reached the postseason since 1948, although they were contenders several times under Wally Lemm and Charley Winner during the 1960s.

Coryell’s record at San Diego State was 104-19-2 over twelve seasons, including 10-1 in 1972. Prior to that, the former college defensive back spent one year as coach at Wenatchee Junior College in Washington in 1955 and then coached a service team at Fort Ord in California that went undefeated in ’56. Moving on to Whittier College, his teams had a 23-5-1 record and won three conference championships.

Prior to his arrival in 1961, the Aztecs had gone through lean years and hit rock bottom with back-to-back 1-6-1 records in the two seasons immediately preceding. Coryell recruited junior college players and his teams were known for their pass-oriented offense. He had success with future pro quarterbacks Don Horn, Dennis Shaw, and Brian Sipe, and notable wide receivers included Gary Garrison, Isaac Curtis, and Haven Moses. John Madden and Joe Gibbs were assistant coaches, and Gibbs rejoined Coryell in St. Louis along with two of his current assistants, Rod Dowhower and Jim Hanifan, who all went on to head coaching jobs in the NFL.

Asked about his decision to move to a pro team, Coryell explained that “I was as far as I could go in the situation I was in.” He had a written a letter to owner Bill Bidwill expressing his interest in the job.

“I’m not a disciplinarian in the way I try to get people to do things,” said the soft-spoken Coryell of his manner of handling players. “They do it or they don’t play.”

“I believe in a wide-open style of play,” said Coryell with regard to his offensive strategy, which ran counter to the prevailing wisdom in the NFL at the time. “I like to throw the ball. I believe in attacking the defense.”

The quarterback Coryell inherited was Jim Hart (pictured at left), a 29-year-old veteran who had been unheralded coming out of Southern Illinois in 1966, showed great promise when forced into the starting job in ’67, but had endured challenges from Pete Beathard, Gary Cuozzo, and Tim Van Galder in recent years.  A classic drop-back passer who was at his best throwing long, Hart prospered in Coryell’s offense.

TE Jackie Smith was a talented veteran receiver and WR Mel Gray was up-and-coming. HB Donny Anderson was still effective at age 30, but was joined by speedy rookie Terry Metcalf out of Long Beach State. There were also good young linemen in OT Dan Dierdorf, G Conrad Dobler, and C Tom Banks, in addition to savvy veteran OT Ernie McMillan. The defense included a good group of linebackers in Larry Stallings, Pete Barnes, and Mark Arneson. CB Roger Wehrli was the best of the defensive backs and DT Dave Butz was a promising rookie. To top things off, Jim Bakken was an accomplished placekicker who had been with the club since 1962.

The Cardinals duplicated their 4-9-1 record in 1973. Hart performed capably but played with injuries during the second half of the season and missed two games altogether (rookie Gary Keithley, also the punter, filled in). Moreover, the team ranked 12th in the league in offensive production but 26th in defense.

St. Louis broke out with a 10-4 record in 1974, making it into the postseason for the first time in 26 years. Hart had a Pro Bowl year as he threw for 2411 yards and led the NFC in touchdown passes (20) and completions (200), while giving up just eight interceptions. He was sacked only 16 times, a tribute to the improvement on the offensive line. Metcalf also gained Pro Bowl recognition for his outstanding all-around performance, gaining a total of 2058 yards (718 on 152 rushing attempts, 377 on 50 catches, 623 on 20 kickoff returns and 340 on 26 punt returns). FB Jim Otis provided inside power and Mel Gray also reached the Pro Bowl. The dependable Jackie Smith had a new backup and heir apparent in rookie J.V. Cain.  The defense, under the direction of coordinator Ray Willsey, was significantly better, allowing 147 fewer points and almost a thousand less yards than in ’73. Wehrli was chosen to the Pro Bowl and CB Norm Thompson intercepted six passes, while DT Bob Rowe was outstanding on the line that lost Butz for the year in the season’s opening week. After getting off to a 7-0 start, the Cards had a rougher time during the second half of the season but still topped the NFC East. They lost to Minnesota in the Divisional playoff round.

The Cardinals repeated as division champs in 1975 with an 11-3 record. The offense was even more productive. Hart threw more interceptions (19) but also 19 touchdowns and 2507 yards and again was chosen to the Pro Bowl. Metcalf outdid himself by setting a NFL record with 2462 all-purpose yards, scoring 13 touchdowns with at least one apiece via rushing, pass receiving, returning a punt, and returning a kickoff, and Otis led the NFC in rushing with 1076 yards. Both joined Hart as Pro Bowl choices, and so did Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler on the line that allowed just eight sacks.  Gray was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection as well (48 catches, 926 yards, 11 TDs). On defense, the pass rush was still unexceptional, but Wehrli and Thompson intercepted 13 passes between them, and the former was also a consensus first-team All-Pro. But once more the Cards couldn’t win in the postseason, losing to the Rams.

The record in 1976 was still strong at 10-4, although in the highly-competitive NFC East that was only good for third place (thanks to being swept by the Redskins, who managed the same record) and the Cards missed the playoffs. Hart had a third straight Pro Bowl year, tossing 18 touchdown passes while his yardage increased (2946) and his interceptions dropped (13). Metcalf and Otis had lesser, if still good, seasons. WR Ike Harris emerged with 52 catches for 782 yards across from Gray, still a dangerous deep threat and Pro Bowler. Bakken was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection for the second straight year with perhaps his greatest season in his 15th year, connecting on 20 of 27 field goal attempts, several of which were pivotal in victories. But the pass rush continued to be disappointing and injuries were a problem at middle linebacker.

The Cards dropped down to 7-7 in 1977. Hart, Metcalf, Gray, Dierdorf, Dobler, Banks, and Wehrli were still Pro Bowl performers, but after breaking out to a 7-3 start, the club lost its last four games. Friction developed with the front office, where Bidwill insisted on cutting costs and salary disputes with several veterans affected team morale. Coryell also chafed at not having a voice in personnel decisions, the team had not drafted well, and he became increasingly outspoken about the situation. 

Coryell resigned as head coach following the season, having compiled a 42-27-1 record that included two division titles. In just five years, he had become the winningest coach in the team’s long history (he was eventually surpassed by Ken Whisenhunt). At a time when zone defenses ruled and teams tended toward ground-oriented offenses, Coryell proved that an aggressive passing offense could still be successful.

Coryell did not remain out of work long, returning to San Diego as head coach of the Chargers during the 1978 season and remaining there until 1986, enjoying even more success (if still never achieving a championship).  With outstanding personnel and rules changes that went into effect in ’78 to benefit the passing game, Coryell was able to further innovate and develop an even more explosive offensive attack.

Bidwill and the Cardinals again went with a successful college coach to replace Coryell, although in this instance it was 62-year-old Bud Wilkinson, who had last manned the sidelines at Oklahoma 15 years earlier before moving to the broadcast booth. With the loss of key personnel, including Metcalf, who jumped to the CFL, and Harris and Dobler, dealt to New Orleans, the result was a drop to 6-10 in ’78. It was the first of four straight losing seasons until the team went 5-4 in the strike-shortened 1982 season under Jim Hanifan, the former Coryell assistant.