July 31, 2016

1974: Houston Scores Early, Holds On to Beat Florida


The Florida Blazers and Houston Texans were off to very different starts in the World Football League’s inaugural season as they met in Houston on July 31, 1974.

The Blazers were undefeated at 3-0. Coached by Jack Pardee, a recently retired star linebacker with the Rams and Redskins, the Blazers featured a veteran NFL backup, Bob Davis, at quarterback. While there was more veteran talent at running back in A.D. Whitfield and Jim Strong, rookie Tommy Reamon had emerged as the leader of the group. The defense was especially able in the backfield, featuring more experienced players in safeties Rickie Harris and W.K. Hicks along with CB Miller Farr.

Houston, on the other hand, was 1-2 and had yet to score an offensive touchdown (the defense had accounted for one in the club’s lone victory). Head Coach Jim Garrett’s team had plenty of experience, which was apparent on defense, but not much scoring punch. QB Mike Taliaferro had already missed time due to injury while the running game was led by FB Jim Nance (pictured above), who twice led the American Football League in rushing. The clubs had met the previous week in Orlando and Florida won handily by a 15-3 score.

16,268 fans showed up for the Wednesday night contest billed as “Nickel Hot Dog Night” at the Astrodome. Less than two minutes into the first quarter, Houston safety John Mallory intercepted a Bob Davis pass and returned it 59 yards to the Florida one yard line. From there, Jim Nance plunged to the left for a touchdown on the next play. While the try for the action point failed, the Texans held the early 7-0 lead (in the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and were followed by an action point, which could not be kicked).

Later in the opening period, the Blazers got on the board following a 42-yard drive with a Les Perry field goal from 26 yards. Along the way, Davis threw to RB Jim Strong for an 18-yard gain that proved to be the longest of the game for either club. Perry connected on another field goal in the second quarter, this time from 21 yards, to climax a 36-yard advance that was helped along by a 17-yard defensive pass interference penalty.

Houston’s Mike Taliaferro left the game due to injury and was relieved by Dave Mays, a rookie out of Texas Southern. It seemed to ignite the Texans, who reached the Florida eight before Charlie Durkee’s 24-yard field goal attempt sailed wide of the mark.

Beyond that, Houston’s defensive line of ends Don Brumm and Joe Robb and tackles Al Dotson and Jim Kanicki kept constant pressure on Bob Davis and the home team held on to the narrow one-point lead for the remainder of the game. The Texans were threatening late in the fourth quarter, but after reaching the Florida three they came up empty when time ran out. Still, they won by a narrow 7-6 verdict.

In the defense-dominated game, the Texans led in total yards (157 to 122) and first downs (14 to 9), with the offense almost perfectly balanced between rushing yardage (79) and passing (78). Houston also turned the ball over three times, to two by the Blazers. However, the Texans recorded six sacks and Florida was penalized 16 times, at a cost of 136 yards, to 7 flags for 81 yards thrown on Houston.

Mike Taliaferro completed one of three passes for 11 yards before exiting the game and Dave Mays was 7 of 17 for 67 yards while giving up an interception. Jim Nance gained just 29 yards on 10 carries, but that included the game’s only touchdown. WR Rick Eber led Houston’s receivers with 5 catches for 46 yards.

For the Blazers, Bob Davis was successful on only 5 of 18 throws for 54 yards and was picked off twice. Tommy Reamon was the leading ground gainer with a lackluster 21 yards on 15 attempts and Jim Strong, who ran for 14 yards on 10 carries, led the club in pass receiving with three catches for 27 yards.

Houston tied Portland the following week before dropping five of their next six games. At that point, the underfinanced franchise moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and was renamed the Steamer, finishing up with a record of 7-12-1 that tied with Portland at the bottom of the WFL’s Western Division. Florida won its next three games on the way to topping the Eastern Division at 14-6. However, the club was also beset by financial problems that included missed payrolls, although the Blazers still made it to the WFL Championship Game (the World Bowl) and lost narrowly to the Birmingham Americans.

Jim Nance’s touchdown against the Blazers was his first of eight over the course of the season. The 31-year-old veteran rushed for 1240 yards on an even 300 carries. John Mallory’s interception that set up the TD was one of five on the year, and at 59 yards was his longest return.

July 30, 2016

Highlighted Year: Derrick Burgess, 2005

Defensive End, Oakland Raiders


Age: 27
5th season in pro football (4th active), 1st with Raiders
College: Mississippi
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 260

Prelude:
Burgess was credited with 17.5 sacks and 166 tackles in college and was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior in 2000. He was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft and started four games as a rookie, accumulating 6 sacks. However, injuries hit hard as he suffered a foot injury in the opening game of the ’02 season that cost him the remainder of the year and then was on injured reserve for all of 2003 due to an Achilles tendon injury suffered during a preseason practice. Having appeared in just one game in two years, Burgess appeared in 12 in ’04 and had just 2.5 sacks although he was credited with three in the postseason, including two in the NFC Championship win over Atlanta. He signed with Oakland as a free agent for 2005, with the anticipation that he would provide depth on the defensive line. Undersized against the run, he was a tenacious pass rusher.

2005 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 16 [1]
Most sacks, game – 2 on six occasions
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Forced fumbles – 3
Tackles – 51
Assists – 6

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-AFC: Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Raiders went 4-12 to finish fourth in the AFC West.

Aftermath:
Burgess followed up with 11 sacks in 2006 and was again chosen to the Pro Bowl. He spent two more seasons with the Raiders with lesser returns as injuries again became a factor. Burgess was traded to New England during the 2009 preseason, had five sacks, and was released in 2010. He returned to the Eagles briefly late in the season and appeared in one game, the last of his career. Overall, Burgess accumulated 52 sacks in 102 games, with 38.5 coming with the Raiders. He was selected 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 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

July 28, 2016

1972: Cowboys Handily Defeat College All-Stars


The 39th College All-Star Game on July 28, 1972 featured the Dallas Cowboys, NFL Champions of the previous season, against an All-Star squad coached by Nebraska’s Bob Devaney.

The Cowboys, under Head Coach Tom Landry, were a formidable team on both sides of the ball. QB Roger Staubach had emerged from competition with Craig Morton (pictured at right) to lead the league in passing in ’71 and the offense also featured a good group of running backs playing behind an excellent line. The defense was strong across the board and contained such stalwarts as DT Bob Lilly, linebackers Lee Roy Jordan and Chuck Howley, cornerbacks Mel Renfro and Herb Adderley, and SS Cornell Green.

The All-Stars had a roster containing future pro stars such as Penn State FB Franco Harris, WR Glenn Doughty of Michigan, and TE Riley Odoms from Houston on offense while the defense featured DT John Mendenhall from Grambling, LSU safety Tommy Casanova, CB Willie Buchanon of San Diego State and safety Thom Darden from Michigan. It was anticipated that Coach Devaney would use QB Jerry Tagge, who led Nebraska to two national titles, on options to take advantage of his mobility and would try to power the ball down the middle.

There were 54,162 fans in attendance on a Friday night at Soldier Field in Chicago. The All-Stars caused some excitement on their first series as Jerry Tagge took off on a 17-yard run and they were at midfield after three plays. However, Nebraska FB Jeff Kinney’s carry for an apparent first down on a third-and-one play was nullified by a holding penalty to blunt the advance. The collegians got a break on the resulting Dallas possession when Willie Buchanon tipped a pass by Roger Staubach and Thom Darden intercepted to once more put the All-Stars in possession at midfield. But two plays later, Tagge fumbled under a heavy rush and DE Larry Cole recovered for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys began the scoring late in the opening period following an interception of a Tagge pass by Mel Renfro at the All-Star 30. Dallas cashed in with a 31-yard Mike Clark field goal.

Midway through the second quarter, Staubach was shaken up after running six yards for a first down. Craig Morton came in to replace him and, two plays later, he threw to WR Ron Sellers, recently acquired from the Patriots, for an 18-yard touchdown that concluded an 11-play, 66-yard possession.  Clark booted the extra point to make the score 10-0.

The All-Stars were unable to generate meaningful offense as Tagge came under constant pressure and the running game was kept in check as well. On the last play of the first half, Chester Marcol of Hillsdale tried for a 68-yard field goal on a free kick that fell far short of the mark. The NFL champs took their ten-point lead into halftime.

Six minutes into the third quarter, the Cowboys extended their margin to 17-0 when Morton connected with WR Bob Hayes for a 24-yard TD. It came five plays after DT Bob Lilly recovered a fumble by Tagge, who lost his grip on the ball as he was rolling out, at the All-Star 41. Toni Fritsch added the point after.

The All-Stars fought back on their next series, moving from their 20 to the Dallas 30 primarily thanks to short Tagge passes. But on a third-and-two play, Oregon HB Bobby Moore lost 12 yards when fumbling out of bounds on an option play and the resulting 49-yard field goal attempt by Marcol was blocked by DE Pat Toomay. Dallas responded with a scoring drive that featured a Morton completion to Sellers for 26 yards to the All-Star 34. Fritsch kicked a 33-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

QB Pat Sullivan, the Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn, entered the game on the next possession and the All-Stars advanced 80 yards in 16 plays. Sullivan connected on five of eight passes, including one of 13 yards to Villanova WR Mike Siani in a fourth down situation that put the ball at the Dallas one. FB Robert Newhouse of Houston, who had a 30-yard run during the drive, dove into the end zone from there for a touchdown with 7:25 remaining on the clock and Marcol converted.

That was the high point for the All-Stars, who didn’t threaten again, and the Cowboys, who were sluggish but effective when they needed to be, won comfortably by a final score of 20-7.

Dallas outgained the All-Stars (262 to 233) while first downs were even at 16 to 16. The All-Stars suffered three turnovers, to one by the Cowboys. Craig Morton hit on 6 of 14 passes for 97 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. FB Walt Garrison led the Cowboys with 72 yards on 13 rushing attempts.



Jerry Tagge had a rough performance, turning the ball over three times on two fumbles and an interception. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 92 yards with an interception. Pat Sullivan (pictured at left), who was named All-Star MVP, was successful on 8 of 15 throws for 64 yards. Robert Newhouse topped the runners with 48 yards on seven carries that included the only All-Star touchdown.  

The Dallas win put the pro champs ahead in the series by 28 to 9, with two ties. The Cowboys went on to compile a 10-4 record during the regular season, finishing second in the NFC East and making it to the postseason as a Wild Card. They reached the NFC Championship game before falling to Washington.

Neither Jerry Tagge nor Pat Sullivan enjoyed success in the NFL. Tagge, the first round pick of the Green Bay Packers, lasted three seasons and started a total of 12 games. He passed for 1583 yards and three touchdowns while giving up 17 interceptions before moving on to the WFL and CFL, where he was more productive (he was a CFL All-Star in 1977). Sullivan spent four years with the Atlanta Falcons and had similar results, throwing for 1155 yards and five TDs against 16 interceptions. Robert Newhouse, however, joined the Cowboys, who picked him in the second round, and developed into an effective back over the course of 12 years who ran for 4784 yards and 31 touchdowns, with another 651 rushing yards and three TDs in the postseason.

July 25, 2016

Highlighted Year: Mark Gastineau, 1982

Defensive End, New York Jets


Age: 26 (Nov. 20)
4th season in pro football & with Jets
College: East Central Oklahoma State
Height: 6’5”   Weight: 269

Prelude:
Gastineau transferred from Arizona State to East Central Oklahoma State and was credited with 27 sacks and 200 tackles in two seasons, garnering NAIA All-American honors in 1978. He was chosen by the Jets in the second round of the ’79 NFL draft and, a raw talent, was primarily a reserve member of a young defensive line as a rookie. Gastineau moved into the starting lineup in 1980 and was unofficially credited with 11.5 sacks. The unofficial sack total rose to 20 in ’81. His teammate, DE Joe Klecko, had 20.5 and overall the Jets recorded 66 sacks in easily leading the NFL. The defensive line, which also included tackles Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam, was christened “the New York Sack Exchange” and Gastineau was selected to the Pro Bowl as well as receiving first-team All-AFC honors. Individual sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

1982 Season Summary
Appeared in all 9 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 6 [16, tied with five others]
Most sacks, game – 2.5 at Miami 12/18
Multi-sack games – 1
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0

Postseason: 3 G
Sacks – 4
Most sacks, game – 2 at Miami, AFC Championship
Interceptions – 0
TDs – 0

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

Jets went 6-3 in the strike-shortened season and were sixth seed in the AFC playoff tournament that replaced the usual postseason format. Won First Round playoff over Cincinnati Bengals (44-17) & Second Round playoff over Los Angeles Raiders (17-14). Lost AFC Championship to Miami Dolphins (14-0).

Aftermath:
Known for his flamboyant sack celebrations, Gastineau followed up by leading the NFL in each of the next two seasons, with 19 sacks in 1983 and 22 in ’84, a record that stood until 2001. He again received first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition in each of those seasons. Hobbled by injuries in 1985, Gastineau still accumulated 13.5 sacks and was chosen to a fifth straight Pro Bowl. He missed six games due to injuries in 1986, accumulated only 4.5 sacks in ’87, and after getting off to a strong start in 1988, abruptly retired halfway through the year. An abortive comeback with the British Columbia Lions of the CFL ended after four games of the 1990 season. Overall in the NFL, Gastineau officially accumulated 74 sacks. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL choice twice, received at least some first- or second-team honors after three other seasons, and was selected to five 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 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

July 21, 2016

Highlighted Year: Kerry Collins, 2002

Quarterback, New York Giants


Age: 30 (Dec. 30)
8th season in pro football, 4th with Giants
College: Penn State
Height: 6’5”   Weight: 245

Prelude:
Collins won the Maxwell Trophy and finished fourth in Heisman voting as a college senior in 1994 when he threw for 2679 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging 10.1 yards per attempt. He was chosen by the expansion Carolina Panthers in the first round of the ’95 NFL draft (fifth overall) and moved into the starting lineup during his rookie season, and while the statistics were mediocre, the overall result was promising. Collins followed up with a big year in 1996 in which he passed for 2454 yards and 14 TDs and was named to the Pro Bowl while the team reached the postseason and advanced to the NFC title game. However, both Collins and the club came down to earth in a 1997 season in which the quarterback led the NFL by giving up 21 interceptions. His leadership came into question and when he asked Head Coach Dom Capers to be benched during the ’98 season, he was released. Collins finished out the year with the New Orleans Saints with unimpressive results. Signed by the Giants as a backup in 1999, and having dealt with off-field issues, he took over the starting job during the second half of the season and performed well enough to hold the job through all of 2000. Collins passed for 3610 yards and 22 touchdowns and the Giants reached the Super Bowl, although he gave up four interceptions in a thrashing at the hands of the Ravens. The club had a lesser year in 2001 and while Collins threw for 3764 yards and 19 TDs, he fumbled a league-record 23 times and tossed 16 interceptions. Big, durable, and with a strong arm, he also lacked mobility and was prone to turnovers and inconsistency.

2002 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 545 [7]
Most attempts, game – 46 vs. Washington 11/17
Completions – 335 [6]
Most completions, game – 28 vs. San Francisco 9/5
Yards – 4073 [4, 1st in NFC]
Most yards, game – 366 at Indianapolis 12/22
Completion percentage – 61.5 [18]
Yards per attempt – 7.5 [5]
TD passes – 19 [13]
Most TD passes, game – 4 at Indianapolis 12/22
Interceptions – 14 [15, tied with Rodney Peete & Tom Brady]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. San Francisco 9/5
Passer rating – 85.4 [15]
300-yard passing games – 4
200-yard passing games – 14

Rushing
Attempts – 44
Most attempts, game – 7 (for 3 yds.) at St. Louis 9/15
Yards – -3
Most yards, game – 11 yards (on 2 carries) vs. Jacksonville 11/3
Average gain – -0.1
TDs – 0

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Wild Card playoff at San Francisco)
Pass attempts – 43
Pass completions – 29
Passing yardage – 342
TD passes – 4
Interceptions – 1

Giants went 10-6 to finish second in the NFC East and qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card. Lost NFC Wild Card playoff to San Francisco 49ers (39-38).

Aftermath:
Collins suffered through a losing season in 2003, tossing more interceptions (16) than TDs (13), and departed to the Oakland Raiders as a free agent. In two years with the Raiders, he passed for over 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each but led the NFL with 20 interceptions in 2004 and the team went a combined 7-21 in his starts. He became a quality backup and sometime starter for Tennessee over the next five years, playing well enough in 2008 to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl. Collins finished his long career with the Colts in 2011. Overall, he passed for 40,922 yards and 208 TDs, with 196 interceptions. His most productive years were with the Giants, where he completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 16,875 yards and 81 TDs with 70 interceptions, achieving career highs with his 61.5 completion percentage, 7.5 yards per attempt, and 4073 passing yards in ’02 and 22 TD passes in 2000. Collins was selected 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 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

July 18, 2016

Highlighted Year: Julian Fagan, 1970

Punter, New Orleans Saints


Age: 22
1st season in pro football
College: Mississippi
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 205

Prelude:
Fagan averaged 41.5 yards on 199 punts in college and was chosen by the Houston Oilers in the 17th round of the 1970 NFL draft. Failing to make the club, he was picked up by the Saints.

1970 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Punting
Punts – 77 [9]
Most punts, game – 8 at Minnesota 9/27, vs. Chicago 12/20
Yards – 3269 [9]
Average – 42.5 [8, 1st in NFC]
Best average, game – 49.6 (on 5 punts) at Miami 11/15
Punts blocked – 2
Longest punt – 64 yards

Rushing
Attempts – 1
Yards – -6
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFC: AP, Sporting News

Saints went 2-11-1 to finish fourth in the NFC West.

Aftermath:
Fagan spent two more seasons with the Saints, averaging 41.4 yards on 77 punts in 1971 and 40.8 yards on 71 punts in ’72. Traded to the New York Jets as part of a four-player deal that involved another punter, Steve O’Neal, in 1973, Fagan had a poor year, averaging just 37.1 yards in his last pro season. Overall, over the course of four years he punted 299 times for an average of 40.5 yards, with 225 of those punts for a 41.6-yard average coming with the Saints. Fagan went on to practice law in his native Mississippi.

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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

July 15, 2016

Highlighted Year: Carl Garrett, 1971

Halfback, New England Patriots


Age: 24
3rd season in pro football & with Patriots
College: New Mexico Highlands
Height: 5’11” Weight: 210

Prelude:
In college, Garrett set school career records with 3862 rushing yards (averaging 7.4 yards-per-carry), 69 touchdowns, and 418 points scored. He received first-team NAIA All-American honors in 1966 and was a second-team choice in ’67. Garrett was chosen by the Patriots in the third round of the 1969 AFL/NFL draft and, with his great speed, had an immediate impact, rushing for 691 yards, catching 29 passes for another 267 yards, averaging 28.3 yards on 28 kickoff returns and 13.3 yards returning 12 punts, for a total of 1909 combined yards, second-best in the league. He was a second-team All-AFL selection by the NEA and was named to the AFL All-Star Game. Garrett missed time during training camp due to military service and then suffered through an injury-plagued season in 1970, rushing for only 272 yards and accumulating an all-purpose total of 1167.

1971 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 181 [15, tied with Marv Hubbard]
Most attempts, game – 21 (for 127 yds.) at Buffalo 11/28
Yards – 784 [12]
Most yards, game – 127 yards (on 21 carries) at Buffalo 11/28
Average gain – 4.3 [16]
TDs – 1
100-yard rushing games – 2

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 22
Most receptions, game – 4 (for 13 yds.) vs. Baltimore 10/3
Yards – 265
Most yards, game – 97 (on 2 catches) vs. Buffalo 11/14
Average gain – 12.0
TDs – 1

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 24 [15, tied with Jerry LeVias & Charlie West]
Yards – 538 [17]
Most yards, game – 172 (on 6 ret.) at Dallas 10/24
Average per return – 22.4
TDs – 0
Longest return – 37 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 8
Yards – 124 [16]
Average per return – 15.5
TDs – 0
Longest return – 50 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1711 [2, 1st in AFC]

Scoring
TDs – 2
Points – 12

Patriots went 6-8 to finish third in the AFC East.

Aftermath:
Garrett had a lesser rushing year in 1972, although he achieved career highs with 30 pass receptions for 410 yards. Traded to the Chicago Bears in ’73, he led the club in rushing with 655 yards and also averaged a league-leading 30.4 yards on 16 kickoff returns. On the downside, he also fumbled 13 times. Following an injury-interrupted year in 1974 in which he appeared in just seven games, he moved on to the New York Jets in ’75, rushed for 566 yards, but had disciplinary issues and spent 1976 and ’77, his last two seasons, as a reserve with the Raiders. Overall, Garrett rushed for 4197 yards on 1031 attempts (4.1 avg.), caught 182 passes for 1931 yards (10.6 avg.), returned 154 kickoffs for a 24.1-yard average and 43 punts at an 11.3-yard clip, gaining 10,319 total yards and scoring 35 touchdowns. Of those totals, 2235 rushing yards, 1158 yards on 107 pass receptions, 92 punt returns for a 24.5 average, all of the punt returns, and 18 TDs came with the Patriots.  

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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

July 12, 2016

Highlighted Year: Fred Cox, 1965

Placekicker, Minnesota Vikings


Age: 27 (Dec. 11)
3rd season in pro football & with Vikings
College: Pittsburgh
Height: 5’10” Weight: 200

Prelude:
Cox was a running back in college who gained 1298 yards from scrimmage in three varsity seasons and scored five touchdowns. He was a future draft choice of both the Cleveland Browns of the NFL (eighth round) and New York Titans of the AFL (28th round) in 1961. Signing with the Browns in ’62, he suffered a back injury during his first training camp and concentrated on placekicking, learning technique from veteran PK Lou Groza. The Browns traded him to Minnesota during the preseason, but he was waived in favor of Mike Mercer, who could both punt and placekick. Cox sat out the year but was invited back in 1963 and made 12 of 24 field goals and all 39 extra point attempts as a placekicker and also handled the punting, averaging 38.7 yards. He was relieved of the punting in ’64 and had a better year placekicking, hitting on 21 of 33 of his field goal tries and 40 of 42 PATs.

1965 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kicking
Field goals – 23 [1]
Most field goals, game – 4 at Green Bay 12/5
Field goal attempts – 35 [1]
Most field goal attempts, game – 5 at Green Bay 12/5
Field goal percentage – 65.7 [2]
PATs – 44 [5]
PAT attempts – 44 [5]
Longest field goal – 53 yards at Green Bay 12/5

Scoring
Field Goals – 23
PATs – 44
Points – 113 [3]

Vikings went 7-7 to finish fifth in the NFL Western Conference.

Aftermath:
Cox continued on for a total of 15 seasons, all with the Vikings. After two lesser years in 1966 and ’67, his field goal percentage improved to 65.5 in 1968. He topped the NFL in field goals (26), field goal percentage (70.3), and scoring (121 points) in 1969, when he also received All-NFL honors from the Associated Press and Sporting News, and again in field goals (30) and scoring (125 points) in ’70, when he received consensus All-NFC recognition. His field goal totals dropped with the moving of the goal posts to the back of the end zone in 1974, although he succeeded on 13 of 17 attempts in ’75 for a career-high 76.5 percentage, and he became less reliable on extra points in his last few seasons. Overall, Cox was successful on 282 of 455 field goal tries (62 %) and added 519 extra points out of 539 attempts for a total of 1365 points, all franchise best totals. In 18 postseason games, he was successful on 11 of 18 field goal attempts and 38 of 40 PATs for another 71 points. Cox was a first-team All-NFL selection once and was named to one Pro Bowl. He also gained some notoriety as the inventor of the Nerf football.

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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

July 10, 2016

Highlighted Year: Ron Davenport, 1985

Fullback, Miami Dolphins


Age: 23 (Dec. 22)
1st season in pro football
College: Louisville
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 225

Prelude:
In college, Davenport rushed for 1477 yards on 369 carries (4.0 avg.) and caught 55 passes for another 532 and scored a total of 18 touchdowns. He was chosen by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL draft and proved to be an outstanding short-yardage runner near the goal line and in third down situations.

1985 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 98
Most attempts, game – 12 (for 49 yds.) vs. Indianapolis 9/15, (for 55 yds.) vs. Kansas City 9/22
Yards – 370
Most yards, game – 57 yards (on 6 carries) vs. Buffalo 12/22
Average gain – 3.8
TDs – 11 [3, tied with Marcus Allen, 1st in AFC]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 13      
Most receptions, game – 4 (for 23 yds.) at Buffalo 11/24
Yards – 74
Most yards, game – 23 (on 4 catches) at Buffalo 11/24
Average gain – 5.7
TDs – 2

Scoring
TDs – 13 [5, tied with Daryl Turner]
Points – 78

Postseason: 2 G
Rushing attempts – 9
Most rushing attempts, game – 6 vs. Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 54
Most rushing yards, game – 48 vs. Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – 6.0
Rushing TDs – 2

Pass receptions – 3
Most pass receptions, game – 3 vs. New England, AFC Championship
Pass receiving yards – 23
Most pass receiving yards, game – 23 vs. New England, AFC Championship
Average yards per reception – 7.7
Pass Receiving TDs – 0

Dolphins went 12-4 to finish first in the AFC East. Won AFC Divisional playoff over Cleveland Browns (24-21). Lost AFC Championship to New England Patriots (31-14).

Aftermath:
Davenport spent another four seasons with the Dolphins, but his first remained his most productive. He ran for 314 yards in 1986 but with no rushing TDs and scored just two more in the remainder of his time with the club. He was utilized more as a receiver out of the backfield and achieved career highs with 30 receptions for 282 yards in 1988. Competing with FB Woody Bennett, a better pass blocker, and effective in spurts, Davenport was also inconsistent. Overall, he rushed for 1127 yards on 374 attempts (4.1 avg.), caught 93 passes for 801 yards, and scored 17 touchdowns.

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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

July 8, 2016

1963: Giants Trade Rosey Grier to Rams


On July 8, 1963 the New York Giants traded away one of the stalwart members of their defensive line by dealing DT Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier to the Los Angeles Rams for DT John LoVetere and a future draft pick.

The 6’5”, 290-pound Grier had been chosen by the Giants in the third round of the 1955 NFL draft out of Penn State. Except for the 1957 season, which he missed due to military service, Grier was part of an outstanding unit that included DT Dick Modzelewski and ends Andy Robustelli and Jim Katcavage. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, received consensus first-team All-NFL honors in 1956, and gained at least some first- or second-team recognition after four other seasons. In 1962 Grier was an All-Eastern Conference choice by The Sporting News. Over the same course of time, the Giants consistently contended and won a NFL Championship while topping the Eastern Conference on five occasions. The tough and cohesive defense played a significant role in the club’s success.

However, there were concerns about age and the need for retooling. “At 31, Grier is about four years older than LoVetere,” explained New York’s Head Coach Allie Sherman. Sherman also expressed the desire to use the draft choice obtained from the Rams in dealing for a veteran running back, which failed to materialize (it ended up being a fourth-round choice in 1964 that was used to take Ohio State FB Matt Snell, who chose to sign with New York’s AFL club, the Jets).

In Los Angeles, Grier was reunited with a former Giants teammate, Harland Svare, who was now commencing his first full season as head coach of the Rams. He moved directly into the starting lineup alongside second-year DT Merlin Olsen and flanked by ends Dave “Deacon” Jones, in his third season, and Lamar Lundy, a 28-year-old veteran, putting Grier as the senior member in the midst of another formidable unit. But the remainder of the defense, while containing some good young players, was not so impressive, nor was the offense, and the team as a whole was coming off of a miserable 1-12-1 record in 1962, its fourth straight under .500. Svare had been promoted to head coach during the season.

The club improved to 5-9 in ’63 and the line, now containing Grier, remained the best part of the defense and led the NFL in allowing the fewest rushing yards in 1964, although the Rams finished once more with a losing record. Yet another disappointing year in ’65, in which Grier was beginning to show his age at 33 but was also still tough against the run, led to the dismissal of Svare and the hiring of George Allen, who had been an outstanding defensive coach with the Bears.

Under Allen’s guidance, the Rams improved to 8-6 in 1966 and were poised for further improvement. However, Grier went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the preseason that cost him the entire year and DT Roger Brown was obtained from Detroit to fill his place. LA went on to reach the postseason for the first time since 1955 with a gaudy 11-1-2 mark in ’67, and the “Fearsome Foursome” of Jones, Olsen, Brown, and Lundy played a key role in the success.

While it was anticipated that Grier would return to the Rams in 1968, he announced his retirement in July, moving on to a full-time entertainment career. Over the course of 11 seasons in the NFL, four with the Rams, he appeared in 141 regular season games and was a solid contributor to excellent defensive lines with two clubs. While sacks were not yet an officially-compiled statistic, Grier has been unofficially credited with 21 during his four active years with the Rams, with a high of seven in 1966.



As for the player the Giants obtained for Grier, the 27-year-old LoVetere (pictured at left), who was 6’4” and weighed 285 pounds, attended Compton Junior College but didn’t play football collegiately although he did play with distinction in the service for two years and was signed by the Rams in 1959. An early proponent of weight training, he was both strong and fast. LoVetere performed well, and in 1960 blocked five kicks, but ran afoul of Svare’s predecessor, Bob Waterfield, and lost his starting job.

LoVetere settled into Grier’s spot in the defensive line (he even wore the same number 76) and was named to the Pro Bowl as the Giants won a third consecutive Eastern Conference title in 1963. However, time finally caught up with the club and the bottom dropped out in ’64. It caught up to LoVetere as well, who appeared in just 12 games combined in 1964 and ’65 due to, first, a broken leg and then a knee injury that required surgery and proved to be career-ending.

July 7, 2016

Highlighted Year: Len Dawson, 1963

Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs


Age:  28
7th season in pro football, 2nd in AFL & with Texans/Chiefs
College: Purdue
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 190

Prelude:
Highly regarded coming out of college, Dawson was taken in the first round of the 1957 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After sitting on the bench and throwing just 17 passes in three years, he was dealt to Cleveland, where he backed up Milt Plum for two seasons. He requested his release from the Browns in 1962 and joined his former backfield coach at Purdue, Hank Stram, who had gone on to become the head coach of the AFL’s Dallas Texans. Stram worked intensively with Dawson, rusty from his years as a reserve, and he took over as the team’s starting quarterback with outstanding results. Dawson was the AFL’s top passer (as well as Player of the Year) in ’62, leading the league in touchdown passes (29), completion percentage (61.0), and yards per attempt (8.9), and the Texans won the AFL Championship. The franchise moved to Kansas City and was rechristened the Chiefs in 1963, and suffered through a lesser year.

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

Passing
Attempts – 352 [3, tied with Dick Wood]
Most attempts, game – 46 vs. Buffalo 10/13
Completions – 190 [3]
Most completions, game – 25 at Buffalo 9/22
Yards – 2389 [4]
Most yards, game – 278 at Denver 9/7
Completion percentage – 54.0 [2]
Yards per attempt – 6.8 [7]
TD passes – 26 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 at Denver 9/7, vs. Houston 10/6, vs. NY Jets 12/22
Interceptions – 19 [4, tied with Dick Wood]
Most interceptions, game – 4 at Houston 10/27
Passer rating – 77.5 [3]
200-yard passing games – 7

Rushing
Attempts – 37
Most attempts, game – 7 (for 69 yds.) at Houston 10/27
Yards – 272 [12]
Most yards, game – 69 yards (on 7 carries) at Houston 10/27
Yards per attempt – 7.4
TDs – 2 [19, tied with five others]

Points
TDs – 2
Points – 12

Chiefs went 5-7-2 to finish third in the AFL Western Division.

Aftermath:
Fortunes improved for Dawson and the Chiefs in the ensuing seasons. By the rating system then in use, he led the league in passing three times over the next five years (by the modern system, he led it in all five). Dawson also led in completion percentage five straight times, TD passes twice (although not when he had his career high of 30 in 1964), yards per attempt twice, and, further testimony to his efficiency as a passer, four times in percentage of TD passes. The team won AFL championships in 1966 and ’69, losing in the inaugural Super Bowl following the former and winning Super Bowl IV (the last prior to the merger of the two leagues) after the latter. Dawson missed time to injury in that 1969 season but was behind center in the postseason and was named Super Bowl MVP. He remained with the Chiefs through 1975, at age 40, and retired with 28,711 passing yards, 239 TD passes, and an 82.6 passer rating. Dawson was a consensus first-team All-AFL selection twice, received second-team honors after two other seasons, and was selected to six AFL All-Star Games and, following the AFL/NFL merger, one Pro Bowl. The Chiefs retired his #16 and Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 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

July 5, 2016

Highlighted Year: Jimmy Smith, 1996

Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars


Age: 27
4th season in pro football (3rd active), 2nd with Jaguars
College: Jackson State
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 207

Prelude:
Smith caught a total of 85 passes for 1695 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two college seasons and was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft. He broke his leg in training camp but saw action on special teams during his rookie season, catching no passes, and complications from appendicitis caused him to be de-activated for ’93. Smith was waived in 1994, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was cut during the preseason. He joined the expansion Jaguars in 1995 and returned kickoffs, averaging 22.5 yards and scoring a touchdown, while backing up at wide receiver, where he impressed with his speed and caught 22 passes for 288 yards (13.1 avg.) and scored three TDs. Smith became more of a factor in ‘96 and moved into the starting lineup across from WR Keenan McCardell, creating an effective tandem.

1996 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 83 [14]          
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 131 yds.) at Baltimore 11/24, (for 124 yds.) vs. Seattle 12/15
Yards – 1244 [5, 1st in AFC]
Most yards, game – 162 (on 7 catches) vs. Cincinnati 12/1
Average gain – 15.0 [20]
TDs – 7 [19, tied with seven others]
100-yard receiving games – 4

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 2
Yards – 49
Average per return – 24.5
TDs – 0
Longest return – 29 yards

Scoring
TDs – 7
Points – 42

Postseason: 3 G
Pass receptions – 11
Most pass receptions, game – 5 at Buffalo, AFC Wild Card playoff
Pass receiving yards – 174
Most pass receiving yards, game – 71 at Denver, AFC Divisional playoff
Average yards per reception – 15.8
Pass Receiving TDs – 2

Jaguars went 9-7 to finish second in the AFC Central and qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card entry while leading the NFL in passing yards (4110). Won AFC Wild Card playoff over Buffalo Bills (30-27) and AFC Divisional playoff over Denver Broncos (30-27). Lost AFC Championship to New England Patriots (20-6).

Aftermath:
The breakout 1996 season was the first of seven consecutive in which Smith reached the thousand-yard pass receiving threshold (and nine overall) and six of seven in which his receptions totaled 80 or more. He had 82 catches for 1324 yards (16.1 avg.) in 1997, his first of five consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, and led the NFL with 116 receptions in 1999. McCardell departed after 2001 and a drug suspension decreased his production in 2003 but he bounced back in ’04 with 74 catches for 1172 yards (15.8 avg.) and six TDs while being heavily double-teamed. He retired following a 70-catch, 1023-yard year in 2005. Overall, he caught 862 passes for 12,287 yards (14.3 avg.) and 67 touchdowns, all with Jacksonville, making him the franchise leader in all three categories. In addition to being named to five Pro Bowls, he was a first-team All-AFC selection once and received second-team All-NFL recognition after two seasons.

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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