July 3, 2015

1975: Eagles Obtain Stan Walters from Bengals

On July 3, 1975 the Cincinnati Bengals traded OT Stan Walters and QB Wayne Clark to the Philadelphia Eagles for QB John Reaves and an unspecified draft choice (it turned out to be a second-round pick for 1976). The transaction was only noteworthy at the time in that a failed first-round draft choice was being dealt away, but one of the players received in return would achieve stature with his new club.

John Reaves had become a forgotten backup for the Eagles after being drafted in the first round out of Florida in 1972. In college he established himself as an outstanding passer, throwing for what was then an NCAA-record 7549 yards and winning the Sammy Baugh Trophy as a senior in ’71. He was tossed into the lineup as a rookie with a poor team, unused to calling his own plays and unprepared for facing NFL defenses. Reaves completed 48.2 percent of his passes for 1508 yards and seven touchdowns while giving up 12 interceptions and, playing with torn ankle ligaments, being sacked 38 times. The Eagles obtained Roman Gabriel, a well-established veteran, from the Rams the next year and Reaves became a little-used backup. When Gabriel, who began to fade after an outstanding ’73 season, was benched for the last three games in 1974, it was in favor of rookie Mike Boryla, not Reaves.

The 25-year-old Stan Walters was 6’6”, 270 and had spent three seasons with the Bengals after being drafted in the ninth round in 1972 out of Syracuse. He became part of the starting lineup midway through his rookie season but a bout with hepatitis limited him to four games in ’73. Walters was again the starting right tackle in 1974 although it was anticipated that he would have to compete for a starting job in ’75 due to the return of Vern Holland from injury.

Wayne Clark, 28, had been acquired from San Diego in ‘74 for QB Virgil Carter and was a backup to Ken Anderson. He started one game when Anderson was injured and it was an abysmal season-ending loss to Pittsburgh in which he completed three of eight passes for 23 yards and gave up an interception. Clark had seen his most significant action the preceding year with the Chargers, tossing 90 passes, completing 40, and giving up nine interceptions while throwing for no touchdowns.

Clark never played with Philadelphia, but Stan Walters moved into the starting lineup for the Eagles, who dropped from 7-7 in ’74 to 4-10 in 1975. He did not make much of an impression that first year and was judged as lacking the necessary fire to be more successful, but in ‘76 new Head Coach Dick Vermeil challenged him to do better and his performance steadily improved. By the time the club reached the postseason in 1978, he was part of an outstanding tandem with RT Jerry Sisemore, despite playing with an injured ankle. Walters was named to the Pro Bowl for the first of two straight seasons and was in the starting lineup as the Eagles attained the NFC Championship in 1980. He spent a total of nine years with Philadelphia, until 1983, and started 148 regular season games plus another seven in the playoffs. The well-spoken Walters later became a radio color commentator on Eagles game broadcasts for 14 years.

Reaves spent four years as the backup to Anderson in Cincinnati, winning two starts in 1975 and ’77 but losing all four in extended relief in 1978. It was his last year with the club. Overall, he threw for 1546 yards and seven TDs while giving up 17 interceptions. Unfortunately, Reaves became better known for off-field problems with alcohol and drugs and, after moving on to the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Oilers, his pro career came to an apparent end in 1981. He resurfaced in the USFL in ’83 and played well for the Tampa Bay Bandits under the tutelage of another ex-Florida star quarterback, Head Coach Steve Spurrier, showing off the passing ability that had attracted the Eagles in 1972. Reaves ultimately made it back to the NFL in 1987 as a strike replacement player with the Buccaneers but never lived up to his first round draft status.   

As a footnote, the second-round draft choice that the Bengals obtained in the trade was used to take a guard, Glenn Bujnoch, out of Texas A & M. He was with Cincinnati for seven seasons and started a total of 67 games.