May 31, 2016

Highlighted Year: Scott Case, 1988

Cornerback, Atlanta Falcons


Age: 26
5th season in pro football & with Falcons
College: Oklahoma
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 178

Prelude:
Case starred as a free safety at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M, which won a national junior college championship during his freshman year, and transferred to Oklahoma, where he was shifted to cornerback and intercepted eight passes as a senior in 1983. He was chosen by the Falcons in the second round of the ’84 NFL draft and moved into the starting lineup at strong safety in his second year, intercepting four passes and gaining credit for 95 tackles. Case moved to cornerback in 1986 with good results, displaying savvy and toughness if not great speed. After four seasons with the Falcons, he had intercepted nine passes and accumulated over 250 tackles.

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

Interceptions – 10 [1]
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Green Bay 11/6, vs. Tampa Bay 11/27
Int. return yards – 47
Most int. return yards, game – 13 (on 2 int.) vs. Tampa Bay 11/27
Int. TDs – 0
Sacks – 1
Fumble recoveries – 0
Tackles – 65

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Falcons went 5-11 to finish fourth in the NFC West.

Aftermath:
Following a lesser season in 1989 due to nagging injuries, Case moved back to free safety in ’90 and continued to overachieve until diminishing skills, especially speed in pass coverage, cost him his starting job in 1994, his last year with Atlanta when he was used primarily as a nickel back. Case spent one last season with the Dallas Cowboys in ’95, ending his career with a Super Bowl appearance. Overall, he played in 178 games, starting 124 of them, and intercepted 30 passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Case also recovered seven fumbles and was credited with 7.5 sacks as well as over 900 tackles. 1988 remained the only season in which he received postseason honors.

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Highlighted Years features players who were 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

May 30, 2016

Highlighted Year: Bobby Joe Conrad, 1963

Flanker, St. Louis Cardinals


Age: 28 (Nov. 17)
6th season in pro football & with Cardinals
College: Texas A & M
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 195

Prelude:
The versatile Conrad played at quarterback, halfback, and fullback in addition to end in college and was part of the 1956 Texas A & M team that won the Southwest Conference title. He also starred in the 1958 College All-Star Game upset of the Detroit Lions, kicking four field goals and intercepting a pass. Conrad was chosen by the New York Giants in the fifth round of the ’58 NFL draft but was traded to the Cards prior to the season and was used in the defensive backfield as a rookie, intercepting four passes, as well as for returning punts and placekicking. He was shifted to offense in 1959 and backed up at halfback for two seasons, rushing for a career-high 328 yards in ’59, before being moved to flanker in 1961, where he broke out with 30 catches for 499 yards (16.6 avg.) and two touchdowns. Conrad had a bigger year in 1962, hauling in 62 pass receptions for 954 yards (15.4) avg. and four TDs as part of a productive tandem with split end Sonny Randle.

1963 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 73 [1] 
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 112 yds.) vs. Green Bay 10/20
Yards – 967 [6]
Most yards, game – 122 (on 6 catches) vs. Philadelphia 12/8
Average gain – 13.2
TDs – 10 [4, tied with Gail Cogdill & Frank Clarke]
100-yard receiving games – 2

Rushing
Attempts – 1
Yards – 0
TDs – 0

Punt Returns
Returns – 1
Yards – 1
Average per return – 1.0
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 10 [6, tied with four others]
Points – 60 [15, tied with four others]

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

Cardinals went 9-5 to finish third in the NFL Eastern Conference.

Aftermath:
Conrad followed up with 61 catches for 780 yards (12.8 avg.) and six touchdowns in 1964 and achieved Pro Bowl recognition. Consistent if not especially fast or flashy, he remained a capable possession receiver for the Cards through 1968, a total of 11 seasons, before finishing up with the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. Overall, he caught 422 passes for 5902 yards (14.0 avg.) and 38 TDs, with 418 of those catches for 5828 yards and all of the TDs coming with the Cardinals. Conrad also returned 33 kickoffs for a 24.6-yard average and 51 punts for an average of 9.1 yards and two TDs. As a placekicker he booted 14 field goals out of 33 attempts and made good on 95 of 99 extra points which, combined with his 42 touchdowns, accounted for a total of 389 points. Conrad received first-team All-NFL recognition once, second-team honors after one other season, and was selected to one Pro Bowl.

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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

May 28, 2016

Highlighted Year: Chuck Clanton, 1985

Safety, Birmingham Stallions


Age: 22
2nd season in pro football & with Stallions
College: Auburn
Height: 5’11” Weight: 193

Prelude:
Clanton displayed talent in Auburn’s defensive backfield but also encountered disciplinary problems. He was chosen by the Stallions in the 1984 USFL territorial draft and had an outstanding rookie year, impressing at free safety with his speed and intercepting 10 passes that he returned for a league-leading 249 yards and three touchdowns.

1985 Season Summary
Appeared in all 18 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 16 [1]
Int. return yards – 275 [1]
Int. TDs – 1 [1, tied with many others]
Sacks – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 2 G
Interceptions – 0
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
USFL Defensive Player of the Year: League, College & Pro Football Newsweekly
1st team All-USFL: League, Sporting News, College & Pro Football Newsweekly

Stallions went 13-5 to finish first in the USFL Eastern Conference. Won USFL Quarterfinal playoff over Houston Gamblers (22-20). Lost USFL Semifinal playoff to Baltimore Stars (28-14).

Aftermath:
Following the demise of the USFL, Clanton joined the Green Bay Packers, who had chosen him in the second round of the 1984 NFL supplemental draft, but due to a failure to come to terms on a contract, it was late in the ’85 season and he appeared in just three games. While there were hopes that he would provide depth in the defensive backfield, Clanton was waived during the 1986 preseason and failed to catch on elsewhere. Overall, he intercepted 26 passes that he returned for 524 yards and four touchdowns over the course of two USFL seasons, but that didn't translate into success in the NFL.

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Highlighted Years features players who were 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

May 27, 2016

2006: Galaxy Run Over Admirals for NFL Europa Title


World Bowl XIV, the championship game of NFL Europa (the re-named NFL Europe) on May 27, 2006, was billed as a showdown between the formidable ground attack of the Frankfurt Galaxy and the pass-oriented offense of the Amsterdam Admirals.

The Admirals, coached by Bart Andrus for the sixth season, were the defending champs of the developmental league and had swept the season series with Frankfurt, but were also without QB Gibran Hamdan, who had a passer rating of 113.4 until suffering a broken ankle with three games to play. The effect of the loss of Hamdan did not bode well; the Admirals were 6-1, averaging 30 points per game, with Hamdan behind center but 1-2, scoring just 17 points per contest, in his absence.

The Galaxy, also 7-3 under Head Coach Mike Jones, had set an NFL Europa record with 1750 rushing yards and featured the circuit’s leading ground gainer in RB Roger “Rabbit” Robinson, who gained 1087 yards of that total.

There were 36,286 fans in attendance at Dusseldorf’s LTU Arena, and they saw a first half that was dominated by the two defenses. Frankfurt scored first with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter when DT Jerome Nichols sacked Amsterdam QB Jared Allen in the end zone for a safety. In the second quarter, the Admirals put together a drive of 55 yards in seven plays that ended with RB Larry Croom running for a 12-yard touchdown and, with Ryan Killeen adding the extra point, Amsterdam took a 7-2 lead into halftime.

On Frankfurt’s first series of the third quarter, RB Butchie Wallace (pictured above), who had carried just once in the first thirty minutes, ran the ball five times, the last for a four-yard touchdown to cap an eight-play, 66-yard possession that set the tone for the second half. David Kimball successfully converted and, shortly thereafter, safety Brandon Haw intercepted an Allen pass and returned it 27 yards to set up a 29-yard Kimball field goal that extended the Galaxy’s lead to 12-7.

Early in the fourth quarter, Frankfurt scored again following a long drive that covered 62 yards in 14 plays and ran 8:42 off the clock. The series featured 10 rushes for 51 yards by Wallace and concluded with another Kimball field goal, this time from 37 yards, to make it a 15-7 contest.

The Galaxy put the game away thanks to a 63-yard run by Wallace with 1:46 left to play that set up a 12-yard touchdown carry by FB J.R. Niklos, who ran the ball just twice during the contest but did a noteworthy job of blocking. Kimball kicked the point after and Frankfurt won by a final score of 22-7.

The Galaxy gained 269 yards on 42 running plays while completing just seven passes for 72 yards. Amsterdam managed only 86 yards through the air and accumulated 109 yards on the ground, giving Frankfurt a big overall yardage lead of 341 to 195. First downs were more evenly divided, with the Galaxy holding a 16 to 15 edge. Frankfurt also accounted for six sacks, to one by the Admirals, and Amsterdam also suffered the game’s only turnover.

Butchie Wallace, who was cut during training camp and didn’t rejoin the Galaxy until the fifth week, rushed for 143 yards on 18 carries and was chosen as the game’s MVP. Roger Robinson overcame a slow first half performance to gain 96 yards on 19 attempts. As for the passing of Frankfurt’s two quarterbacks, Jeff Otis was five of 12 for 32 yards and Bryson Spinner made good on two of seven throws for 43 yards. WR Aaron Hosack led the club in pass receiving with three catches for 47 yards.

For the Admirals, Jared Allen was successful on 13 of 26 passes for 126 yards with no TDs and one interception. RB Larry Croom gained 82 yards on 14 carries that included a TD and also caught five passes for another 40 yards. WR Skyler Fulton accumulated 41 yards on his four receptions.

“Without a question, we are a running team and we did what we do best,” summed up Frankfurt’s Coach Jones.

“In the second half, they just ran it at us, play after play,” said Amsterdam DE Earl Cochrane.

The World Bowl victory marked the fourth title for Frankfurt, a record for the league. The Galaxy returned to the title game in 2007, but lost to the Hamburg Sea Devils. Amsterdam dropped to 4-6 in what was NFL Europa’s final season.

The 2006 season was the only one for Butchie Wallace, who had been a productive but injury-plagued player in college at Marshall. Undrafted by the NFL, his performance in the World Bowl drew interest and he signed with the Atlanta Falcons but was sidelined by a torn Achilles tendon and released in 2007.

May 24, 2016

Highlighted Year: Grant Guthrie, 1974

Placekicker, Jacksonville Sharks/Birmingham Americans


Age: 26
3rd season in pro football, 1st with WFL
College: Florida State
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 225

Prelude:
Guthrie set or tied seven school records at Florida State and scored a total of 156 points. He was chosen by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 1970 NFL draft and was successful on 10 of 19 field goal attempts, including one from 52 yards that was a club record at the time, and 24 of 25 PATs as a rookie. But after connecting on just three of ten field goal tries in ’71, Guthrie failed to last beyond six games. He unsuccessfully attempted to catch on with the Jets in 1972 and joined the Sharks of the new WFL in ’74. When the franchise folded after 14 games, he moved on to Birmingham.

1974 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 games with Jacksonville, NA with Birmingham
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kicking
Field goals – 18 [1] (Sharks: 16, Americans: 2)
Most field goals, game – 4 vs. Southern California 7/24
Field goal attempts – NA (Sharks: 21, Americans: NA)
Field goal percentage – NA (Sharks: 76.2, Americans: NA)
Longest field goal – 51 yards vs. Birmingham 8/21

Scoring
Field Goals – 18
Points – 54 (Sharks: 48, Americans: 6)

Postseason: 2 G
Field goals – 0
Field goal attempts – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-WFL: League, Sporting News

Sharks went 4-10, failing to last the season, to finish fourth in the WFL Eastern Division.

Americans went 15-5 to finish second in the WFL Central Division and qualified for the postseason. Won Second Round playoff over The Hawaiians (22-19) & WFL Championship, aka World Bowl, over Florida Blazers (22-21).  

Aftermath:
Guthrie was signed by the Los Angeles Rams in 1975 but didn’t make it to the regular season. In his stints in the NFL and WFL, he kicked a total of 31 field goals and 34 extra points (all with the Bills as the WFL’s equivalent, the action point, could not be kicked) for a total of 125 points. Guthrie was inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.

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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

May 22, 2016

Highlighted Year: Chet Mutryn, 1947

Halfback, Buffalo Bills



Age: 26
2nd season in pro football & with Bisons/Bills
College: Xavier (OH)
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 180

Prelude:
Mutryn, who played basketball and baseball as well as football in college, was a two-time Little All-American. Proficient on defense and as a kicker in addition to starring at tailback, he set school records with 12 touchdowns and 96 points scored in 1942. He was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 20th round of the ’43 NFL draft but, following service in the US Navy during World War II, he signed with the Cleveland Browns of the new AAFC in 1946. Mutryn was dealt to the Buffalo Bisons prior to the season where he was reunited with Clem Crowe, his coach at Xavier who was now an assistant with Buffalo. In his first AAFC season, Mutryn rushed for 289 yards, averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry, and caught seven passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. His role increased with the re-named Bills in 1947.

1947 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 140 [7]
Yards – 868 [4]
Yards per attempt – 6.2 [2]
TDs – 9 [2, tied with Mickey Colmer]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 10
Yards – 176
Yards per catch – 17.6
TDs – 2 [16, tied with fourteen others]

Interceptions
Interceptions – 1
Return yards – 11
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 21 [2, tied with Monk Gafford]
Yards – 691 [1]
Average per return – 32.9 [1]
TDs – 1 [1, tied with five others]
Longest return – 87 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 13 [4, tied with Billy Hillenbrand]
Yards – 187 [4]
Average per return – 14.4
TDs – 0

All-Purpose yards – 1933 [2]

Kicking
PATs – 1 [11, tied with five others]
PAT attempts – 2 [11, tied with Chet Adams & Frankie Albert]

Scoring
PATs – 1
TDs – 12 [2]  
Points – 73 [3]

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-AAFC: League, NY Daily News

Bills went 8-4-2 to finish second in the AAFC Eastern Division.

Aftermath:
Mutryn followed up with strong all-around seasons in 1948 and ’49. He rushed for 823 yards and a league-leading 10 TDs in ’48 while catching 39 passes for 794 yards (20.4 avg.) and again led the AAFC by averaging 26.3 yards returning kickoffs. He topped the circuit with 2288 all-purpose yards and 96 points on his 16 touchdowns. Mutryn again led the league in all-purpose yards with 1330 in 1949, which included 696 rushing yards and 333 on pass receptions. With the demise of the AAFC, he joined the Baltimore Colts, who transferred to the NFL, and gained 1187 total yards, primarily with 355 rushing yards and 379 on 36 catches in 1950, after which he retired. Overall, Mutryn gained 3031 yards on 583 rushing attempts (5.2 avg.), 1850 on 121 pass receptions, averaged 26.1 yards on 73 kickoff returns, and 13.1 yards returning 41 punts. He accumulated 7320 all-purpose yards and 42 touchdowns. Of those totals, 2676 rushing yards on 475 attempts, 1471 yards on 85 pass receptions, a 27.7-yard kickoff return average and 14.1 punt return average resulting in 6133 total yards and 38 TDs came in the AAFC with Buffalo. He received first-team All-AAFC honors three times.

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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

May 20, 2016

Highlighted Year: Dan Edwards, 1950

Offensive End, New York Yanks




Age: 24
3rd season in pro football, 1st in NFL & with Yanks
College: Georgia
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 195

Prelude:
Edwards caught 59 passes for 904 yards (15.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns in college, including 44 for 565 yards and four TDs as a senior in 1947. He was chosen by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 1948 NFL draft (ninth overall) but signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers of the AAFC and had a quiet rookie year with a poor team, catching 23 passes for 176 yards. With the dissolution of the Dodgers in the offseason, Edwards joined the Chicago Hornets and was more productive with 42 pass receptions for 573 yards and three TDs in 1949. The AAFC folded after the season and Edwards moved on to the Yanks of the NFL for 1950, where he started at right end in a potent passing offense.

1950 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 52 [2] 
Most receptions, game - 7 (for 165 yds.) at LA Rams 9/22
Yards – 775 [5]
Most yards, game - 165 (on 7 catches at LA Rams 9/22 
Average gain – 14.9 [17]
TDs – 6 [6, tied with five others]

Scoring
TDs – 6 [18, tied with eight others]
Points – 36

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP
Pro Bowl

Yanks went 7-5 to finish third in the NFL National Conference while placing second in the league in passing yards (2653), total yards (4485), TDs (51), and scoring (366 points).

Aftermath:
With the loss of starting QB George Ratterman in 1951, the Yanks dropped to last place and Edwards had a lesser season, catching 39 passes for 509 yards (13.1 avg.) and three touchdowns. The club folded and once again Edwards was forced to move as a result. He joined the replacement franchise, the Dallas Texans, for 1952, but appeared in only one game with the ill-fated club. Edwards spent the next two seasons with the Baltimore Colts and caught a total of 75 passes for 843 yards (11.2 avg.) and four touchdowns. He left for the CFL in 1955 and was with the British Columbia Lions for the last three years of his career, catching a total of 105 passes for 1710 yards (16.3 avg.) and six TDs. He was a first-team All-WIFU selection in 1956. Overall in the AAFC Edwards accounted for 65 pass receptions for 749 yards (11.5 avg.) and three TDs and in the NFL caught 169 passes for 2149 yards (12.7 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. The 1950 season remained the only one in which he received All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. Edwards went into coaching in Canada, including a stint as head coach with British Columbia in 1958.

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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

[Updated 2/21/17]

May 19, 2016

1985: Johnson’s 3 TDs Lead Gold to Win Against Generals


Two 8-4 teams that were in the running for playoff spots in the United States Football League’s third season met in Denver on May 19, 1985. The hosts, the Denver Gold, were in contention with Oakland and Houston in the Western Conference while the visiting New Jersey Generals were trying to keep pace with the Birmingham Stallions, Tampa Bay Bandits, and Memphis Showboats in the Eastern Conference.

The Gold were coached by Darrell “Mouse” Davis and utilized his run-and-shoot offense. After starting slowly, Bob Gagliano replaced nine-year veteran Vince Evans at quarterback and the club had won four of five games. WR Leonard Harris was the favored target on pass plays and RB Bill Johnson (pictured above) was productive carrying the ball.

As had been the case since the Generals came into being, RB Herschel Walker was the key to the offense, and he had a string of six straight hundred-yard rushing games on the line coming into Denver. Prize rookie QB Doug Flutie was suffering growing pains but brought mobility and a strong arm to the offense.

There were 29,139 fans in attendance at Mile High Stadium. The Generals struck quickly on their first play from scrimmage as Herschel Walker looped out of the backfield and sped past the coverage to pull in a pass by Doug Flutie for a 68-yard touchdown. Roger Ruzek added the extra point for the early 7-0 lead.

Following an exchange of punts, the Gold put together a quick three-play, 63-yard drive that featured a carry by Bill Johnson and a personal foul on the Generals that set up a 30-yard scoring pass from Bob Gagliano to Leonard Harris. Jim Asmus tied the game with the point after.

Neither team threatened again until late in the opening period when the Gold, deep in their own territory, turned the ball over when Johnson fumbled while fighting for extra yardage on a running play and New Jersey recovered at the 12. A sack of Flutie moved the Generals back but they regained the lead by three points on a Ruzek field goal from 35 yards.

The score remained unchanged during the second quarter as the defenses dominated and a rain shower passed through. With 1:23 remaining in the first half, DE Calvin Turner of the Gold recovered a fumble by FB Maurice Carthon at the New Jersey 15 and, shortly thereafter, Johnson took a pitchout and ran three unmolested yards for a TD. Asmus converted and Denver took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

The Generals started the third quarter by advancing methodically on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that featured ten carries for 31 yards by Walker and a fine pass from Flutie to WR Walter Broughton. Walker crashed over for a touchdown from five yards out, Ruzek added the extra point, and the visitors were back in front by 17-14.

The Gold responded by going to the air and Gagliano connected with WR Vincent White for a 48-yard gain to the New Jersey 15. A pass to Johnson out of the backfield picked up 12 yards and Johnson powered over for a three-yard TD. Asmus kicked the point after and Denver was in the lead by 21-17.

The Generals were driving as the game headed into the fourth quarter and Walker started the final period off by hurdling for a yard to convert a fourth down at the Denver 16. Flutie bootlegged to the six and, with Walker pounding into the line play after play, the visitors again faced a fourth-and-goal situation at the one that resulted in a Walker touchdown dive. Ruzek’s kick had New Jersey ahead in the back-and-forth contest by 24-21.

Denver again responded with a 69-yard scoring drive in which Gagliano completed passes to four different receivers and concluded with Johnson blasting into the end zone for the final yard and a TD. Asmus converted to put the Gold up by four points with 6:02 remaining to play.

The offenses had taken command in the second half with every possession ending in a touchdown and it appeared that the Generals might continue the trend on the next series but, after reaching the Denver 43, Flutie was sacked for a five-yard loss on second down by LB Craig Walls and, while a throw to Walker gained seven yards, a fourth-and-four pass was tipped and fell incomplete. A clutch completion to Johnson that converted a third down allowed Denver to run the clock down to 22 seconds remaining before the Generals were able to regain possession and the Gold won by a final score of 28-24.

Denver had the edge in total yards (310 to 301) and first downs (17 to 15) although the Generals led in time of possession (32:42 to 27:18). New Jersey also accounted for four sacks, to two by the Gold, but the Generals turned the ball over twice, one of which led to a Denver touchdown, to one by the home team.

Bob Gagliano completed 17 of 31 passes for 242 yards (167 of which came in the second half) and a touchdown while giving up no interceptions. Bill Johnson rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries that included three TDs and caught four passes for another 46 yards. Leonard Harris also had a team-leading four pass receptions, for 62 yards and a score.

For the Generals, Herschel Walker was productive despite Denver’s efforts to stack the line of scrimmage, gaining 142 yards on 36 rushing attempts with two touchdowns and pulling in three passes for 106 yards that included the one long TD. Doug Flutie was successful on just 5 of 15 throws for 141 yards and a touchdown while being intercepted once.

Denver went on to place second in the Western Conference with an 11-7 record and qualified for the postseason where the club took a thrashing in the Quarterfinal playoff round at the hands of the Memphis Showboats. As for the Generals, the loss dropped them to 8-5 and they also finished at 11-7 and second in the Eastern Conference. They lost a close Quarterfinal round game to the Baltimore Stars.

Bill Johnson rushed for a total of 1261 yards on 212 carries (5.9 avg.) with 15 touchdowns. His yardage ranked third in the league and he received All-USFL recognition from College & Pro Football Newsweekly. At the top of the rushing rankings was Herschel Walker, who gained a gargantuan 2411 yards on 438 attempts (5.5 avg.) and also led the circuit in scoring with 22 touchdowns for 132 points. He received consensus Player of the Year as well as All-USFL honors.

May 16, 2016

Highlighted Year: Sammy Baugh, 1937

Tailback/Defensive Back, Washington Redskins


Age: 23
1st season in pro football
College: Texas Christian
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 185

Prelude:
The multi-talented Baugh was a two-time All-American at TCU, where he passed for 3439 yards and 39 touchdowns and was also an outstanding punter. While a baseball prospect as well, “Slingin’ Sammy” signed with the Redskins, newly relocated from Boston to Washington, who chose him in the first round of the 1937 NFL draft (sixth overall). A passing tailback in the single-wing offense, he improved as the season progressed and impressed with his poise as well as precision throwing ability.

1937 Season Summary
Appeared in all 11 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 171 [1]
Completions – 81 [1]
Yards – 1127 [1]
Completion percentage – 47.4 [2]
Yards per attempt – 6.6 [2]
TD passes – 8 [2, tied with Bob Monnett & Ed Danowski]
Most TD passes, game – 2 vs. Chi. Cardinals 9/24
Interceptions – 14 [1, tied with Dave Smukler]
Passer rating – 50.5 [2]

Rushing
Attempts – 86 [19]
Yards – 240
Yards per attempt – 2.8
TDs – 1 [17, tied with many others]

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship at Chicago Bears)
Pass attempts – 33
Pass completions – 18
Passing yardage – 335
TD passes – 3
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 4
Rushing yards – 6
Average gain rushing – 1.5
Rushing TDs – 0

Punts – 5
Punting yards – 132
Punting average – 26.4
Longest punt – 43 yards

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: League, INS, UPI, NY Daily News

Redskins went 8-3 to finish first in the NFL Eastern Division. Won NFL Championship over Chicago Bears (28-21).

Aftermath:
Baugh went on to play 16 seasons in the NFL, all with the Redskins. Along the way, utilizing his sidearm passing motion to excellent effect he led the league in numerous statistical categories, including passing yards four times, touchdown passes twice, and overall passing on six occasions. Baugh also excelled on defense and as a punter and in 1943 led the NFL in passing, punting (45.9 avg.), and interceptions (11). The Redskins benefited from his wide-open style and won five Eastern Division titles and two league championships in Baugh’s first nine seasons. After a difficult year of transition to the T-formation in 1944, Baugh came back to set a completion percentage record of 70.3 (that lasted until 1982) as the Redskins topped the Eastern Division, and he continued to excel even as the team went into decline thereafter, up until his retirement in 1952. Overall, he passed for 21,886 yards and 187 TDs with a 56.5 percent completion percentage on 1693 completions in 2995 attempts, all of which were NFL records at the time. Baugh, masterful at the art of the quick-kick, also set league records with a 51.4-yard average in 1940 and a career average of 45.1 yards, leading the league five times. On defense, he intercepted 31 passes. Baugh received first-team All-NFL recognition after seven seasons and second-team honors following two other years. His #33 was retired by the Redskins (the only retired number thus far in franchise history) and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Charter Member in 1963. He went on to become a head coach in the AFL with the New York Titans and Houston Oilers.

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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

May 14, 2016

1973: Falcons Deal Bob Berry to Minnesota for Bob Lee


On May 14, 1973 the Atlanta Falcons traded starting QB Bob Berry along with their 1974 first draft choice to the Minnesota Vikings for QB Bob Lee and LB Lonnie Warwick, two players who had played out their options.  

Berry was surprised at learning of the trade that sent him back to the Vikings, the club he had started out with in 1965. Collegiately, he had starred at Oregon, where he led the Ducks to three straight winning seasons (something they hadn’t done in 30 years) and passed for 4148 yards and 37 touchdowns.  Minnesota obtained his rights from the Philadelphia Eagles, who chose him as a future selection in the eleventh round of the ’64 NFL draft. He saw little action in his first three seasons in Minnesota but became the starting quarterback for the Falcons in 1968, where he was reunited with Norm Van Brocklin, the head coach when he joined the Vikings in ’65 who was now in Atlanta. Lacking ideal size (5’11”, 185) and with a weak arm, Berry compensated with mobility, passing accuracy, and good leadership qualities.

Berry was a Pro Bowl selection in 1969 and led the NFL by averaging 8.9 yards per attempt in 1971, when he also completed a NFC-high 60.2 percent of his passes. Overall in Atlanta, he threw for 8489 yards and 57 TDs, giving up 56 interceptions, with a completion percentage of 56.4. But typically his throws were short, often to his backs and TE Jim Mitchell, and Berry took many sacks. After achieving a 7-6-1 record in ‘71, the first over .500 in franchise history, the Falcons essentially held steady at 7-7 in 1972 and Van Brocklin became disenchanted.  

“His won-lost record was the yardstick,” explained Van Brocklin of the decision to deal Berry. “We need an improvement in our passing game other than in completion percentages. We needed more than a short yardage quarterback.”

The quarterback the Falcons got in return, Bob Lee (pictured above), was a 17th round draft pick out of the College of the Pacific in 1969 and had been Minnesota’s punter as a rookie. He saw some action at quarterback in 1970 and ‘71, even starting a playoff game, but in 1972 Lee was stuck behind Fran Tarkenton, who was back in Minnesota following five years with the Giants, and threw just six passes.

The Falcons were intending to use QB Pat Sullivan, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn who was drafted the previous year, but it was journeyman backup Dick Shiner starting the season with Lee, who was set back by an injury in training camp, in reserve. However, when Shiner went down with an injury in the fourth week, and with the team at 1-3, Lee took over the starting job and the Falcons responded with seven straight wins on the way to a 9-5 record, barely missing the postseason.

Lee wasn’t required to go to the air often, averaging 12 completions per game as he threw for 1786 yards and 10 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. He was helped by a sound running game led by HB Dave Hampton and a good offensive line, plus a defense that could keep games close. Placekicker Nick Mike-Mayer also had a career year, kicking 26 field goals.

The bubble burst in 1974, however, as Lee completed just 45.3 percent of his passes for 852 yards and three touchdowns while giving up 14 interceptions. Sullivan and Kim McQuilken took over the starting quarterback duties with equally disastrous results as the Falcons dropped to 3-11. Coach Van Brocklin was gone after eight games, replaced by Marion Campbell, and in the 1975 NFL draft Atlanta traded up to get California QB Steve Bartkowski in the first round. Lee, the subject of adulation the previous year, was released.

     

As for Bob Berry (pictured at right), he spent the remaining three years of his career backing up the durable Tarkenton in Minnesota. He threw all of 78 passes, completing 47 for 450 yards and six TDs. Ironically enough, Lee returned to the Vikings in 1975 and ended up replacing Berry as Tarkenton’s backup, spending four seasons with the club in his second stint before moving on to the Rams in 1979 and ’80. He went to two Super Bowls, one with each club, but only as a backup quarterback.  

With regard to other players involved in the 1973 deal, Lonnie Warwick had been with the Vikings for eight years and was the starting middle linebacker for most of them. He was 31 at the time of the trade and had struggled with injuries the previous two seasons. Warwick spent two years with Atlanta as a backup in a strong unit that included MLB Tommy Nobis and OLBs Greg Brezina and Don Hansen.

The first draft choice that the Vikings obtained from the Falcons was used to take LB Fred McNeill from UCLA with the seventeenth overall pick in 1974. McNeill spent twelve seasons with Minnesota, moving into the starting lineup at right outside linebacker in his fourth year and staying there until 1985.   

May 12, 2016

Highlighted Year: Ken Burrough, 1975

Wide Receiver, Houston Oilers


Age: 27
6th season in pro football, 5th with Oilers
College: Texas Southern
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 210

Prelude:
A high school quarterback, Burrough shifted to wide receiver in college and received some All-American consideration as a senior in 1969. He was chosen by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 1970 NFL draft (tenth overall) but after a quiet rookie season was traded to the Oilers in ’71. Talented and with great speed, Burrough also was inconsistent on a poor club. In his first four years with Houston, he caught 130 passes for 1960 yards (15.1 avg.) and nine touchdowns.

1975 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 53 [7, tied with Charley Taylor]    
Most receptions, game – 7 (for 177 yds.) at Kansas City 11/2, (for 85 yds.) at San Francisco 12/7
Yards – 1063 [1]
Most yards, game – 177 (on 7 catches) at Kansas City 11/2
Average gain – 20.1 [4]
TDs – 8 [6, tied with Frank Grant & Drew Pearson]
100-yard receiving games – 4

Scoring
TDs – 8 [18, tied with four others]
Points – 48

Awards & Honors:
Pro Bowl

Oilers went 10-4 to finish third in the AFC Central.

Aftermath:
The lanky, long-striding Burrough followed up with 51 catches for 932 yards (18.3 avg.) and seven touchdowns in 1976. He returned to the Pro Bowl in ’77, pulling in 43 passes for an AFC-leading 816 yards (19.0 avg.) and 8 TDs and remained a productive receiver until knee and wrist injuries in 1980 that limited him to two games and four catches. He came back to catch 40 passes for 668 yards (16.7 avg.) and seven TDs in 1981, but missed all of ’82 due to injury and never returned. Overall, Burrough caught 421 passes for 7102 yards (16.9 avg.) and 49 touchdowns. Of that, 408 pass receptions for 6906 yards and 47 TDs came with the Oilers. He received second-team All-NFL honors once and was chosen to two Pro Bowls.  

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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 Percentage, 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

May 10, 2016

Highlighted Year: Martin Gramatica, 1999

Placekicker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Age: 24 (Nov. 27)
1st season in pro football
College: Kansas State
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 170

Prelude:
The Argentina-born Gramatica started out playing soccer and had just one year of high school football prior to college, but proved to have a strong and accurate leg. While he missed a season due to injury, he was an AP first-team All-American in 1997, when he kicked a 65-yard field goal, the longest in NCAA history without use of a tee. Overall, he booted 54 field goals in 70 attempts (77.1 %), 187 of 192 tried for extra points, for a total of 349 points. Gramatica was chosen by the Buccaneers in the third round of the 1999 NFL draft and made an immediate impression as a rookie with his reliable field goal kicking, followed by enthusiastic celebrations, although there were concerns about the length of his kickoffs.

1999 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kicking
Field goals – 27 [8, tied with John Hall, 1st in NFC]
Most field goals, game – 4 vs. Atlanta 11/21
Field goal attempts – 32 [11, tied with Jason Hanson & Brett Conway]
Most field goal attempts, game – 4 vs. Chicago 10/24, vs. Atlanta 11/21
Field goal percentage – 84.4 [10]
PATs – 25
PAT attempts – 25
Longest field goal – 53 yards vs. Atlanta 11/21

Scoring
Field Goals – 27
PATs – 25
Points – 106 [15, tied with Al Del Greco & Jason Hanson]

Postseason: 2 G
Field goals – 2
Most field goals, game – 2 at St. Louis, NFC Championship
Field goal attempts – 2
Most field goal attempts, game – 2 at St. Louis, NFC Championship
PATs – 2
Most PATs, game – 2 vs. Washington, NFC Divisional playoff
PAT attempts – 2
Longest field goal – 25 yards at St. Louis, NFC Championship

Buccaneers went 11-5 to finish first in the NFC Central. Won NFC Divisional playoff over Washington Redskins (14-13). Lost NFC Championship to St. Louis Rams (11-6).  

Aftermath:
Gramatica followed up in 2000 by making good on 28 of 34 field goal attempts (82.4 %), five of seven coming from 50 yards or more, and all 42 of his PAT attempts for a total of 126 points. He received first-team All-NFC honors from Pro Football Weekly in addition to being an AP second-team All-NFL selection and was named to the Pro Bowl. While hampered by leg injuries over the next two seasons, he continued to be reliable on field goals inside of 50 yards and led the NFL with a team-record 32 in 2002 while not missing any extra points for the fourth consecutive year. However, his performance dropped off significantly in 2003 and he was let go during the ’04 season, finishing up as a kickoff specialist for the Colts. Injuries that required surgery cost him the entire 2005 season. Signed by the Patriots in ’06, he lost out to Stephen Gostkowski in the preseason and was waived, briefly rejoining Indianapolis and then replacing Mike Vanderjagt in Dallas. He hit on 6 of 8 field goal tries and all 14 PAT attempts but injuries caused the Cowboys to let him go and he spent parts of the 2007 and ‘08 seasons, his last, with the New Orleans Saints. Overall, he was successful on 155 of 203 field goals (76.4 %), with a team-record 137 on 179 attempts coming with the Bucs, and he made good on 228 of 230 PATs for a total of 693 points.  592 of those points were compiled with Tampa Bay, another franchise high. Gramatica was chosen to one Pro Bowl. His younger brother Bill also kicked in the NFL, with the Cardinals and Dolphins.

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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