Monday, April 27, 2015

Cleveland Browns Fall into the Nike Trap

UNIFORMS
By John Turney
Credit: ABC 5—Cleveland
Last week the Cleveland Browns, in our view, drank the Nike Kool-Aid and "modernized" their uniforms. According to press accounts from the Akron Beacon Journal.com

"The Browns, NFL, and Nike s studied fans’ perception of the team’s image and brand" and the team owners and other brass were the point persons in the task. The press accounts stated that "The feedback they received indicated the majority of fans favored a switch to modern uniforms, provided the new gear would respect the team’s history."

Again, it was reported that "the Browns, the league and Nike aimed to strike a balance between the past and present,  and the team spent about a year reviewing different designs from Nike and they kept the iconic orange helmets. However, drastic changes were made to the jerseys and pants.

We'll say.

Again the uniforms, as they have been in recent years are the Nike Elite 51 uniform design and this time Nike says they "respect the past and embraces the future by paying tribute to the city and the fans".

But not only that "The Browns’ new uniform aesthetic enhances the team’s unique hallmarks, including color, font and stripe pattern. This modernized uniform design draws influence from Cleveland’s architectural evolution. The look captures the city’s industrial strength and celebrates its continued innovation through a bold increase in the size and scale of the uniform design elements."

Wow.

Nike also stated that—
"Key uniform design details include contrast stitching, Nike Chainmaille number application and oversized team branding. The use of contrast stitching is a first for any NFL team, and has been incorporated into the uniform to honor the working-class origins and industrial roots of the city. "
The oversized Nike Chainmaille numbers represent Cleveland pride and are also a NFL first as the Browns’ uniform presents the league’s largest wordmarks — specifically “CLEVELAND” at the front of the jersey and “BROWNS” on the side of the pant."
Contrasting stitching and wordmarks

Carbon fiber in the brown stripes.
Karlos Dansby, a Browns top linebacker said, "They're hot. They're nice, real nice, man. I'm excited to get into them, they're cutting edge."

Browns hard-hitting safety Donte Whitner agreed, "I love them. I'd seen them a few weeks back and when you compare them to the old jerseys kind of look boring so we felt like it was time for a change and I like everything about these".

Some guys say if you look good, you play good. I feel like if I am confident in the way I look I am confident in the way I play, I am a big believer in that" added Chris Kirksey.

There was so much positivity in them, tackle Joe Thomas opined that "Honestly I have not heard anyone that has not liked the new uniforms. And usually, everyone has some beef".

The Akron Beacon Journal stated, based on these players' quotes that "The players don't envision the masses calling for another change in five years".
Well, our view is different that the players. Some teams need modern looks, some teams need to stay with classic looks. The Browns are in the latter category.

These uniforms are yet another Nike abomination. The name on the side of the pants and the front of the jersey is not the NFL, it is a high school or college or semi-pro look.

The only thing that is a good idea, though they failed in the execution is the drop shadow on the numbers. On a throwback, it would have been great. On an every-week uniform? No.

But, we could be wrong. Browns fans may love them and we will see them for a long time. We doubt it, we think they won't last, but hey, time will tell.

P.S. Did we say they stink?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

1930 NFL MVP Retroactive

1930 NFL MVP Retroactive
(Part three of an on-going series)

By Chris Willis

In 1931 the NFL MVP race saw some good performances from Portsmouth Spartans rookie tailback Dutch Clark, Chicago Cardinals fullback Ernie Nevers, and Staten Island Stapletons fullback Ken Strong.  But it was a wild man from Green Bay that had a phenomenal year to take the MVP crown.

Packers wingback-halfback Johnny "Blood" McNally put on a weekly display of Herculean effort, leading the Packers to a 12-2 record and the NFL Championship. In the fourteen games the Packers played in 1931 McNally scored an amazing 14 touchdowns- this despite not scoring in the first three games of the season. He had 11 receiving scores, two rushing, and one by interception return. His 84 points scored was by far tops in the NFL with Nevers coming in a distant second with 66 points. McNally made an easy choice for 1931 MVP.
1931 Pro Football Journal MVP
Johnny Blood McNally. Colorization by John Turney
The previous year in the NFL, 1930, saw a much tighter race for MVP.

In the NFL's 11th season the Green Bay Packers held off the New York Giants to win their second consecutive championship. Looking at the standings we see that the league fielded 11 teams, although the bottom two teams were two of the worse franchises to ever play in the NFL. The Minneapolis Red Jackets and the Newark Tornadoes were a combined 2-17-2 and were outscored by opponents 78-355. So when we look at the performances of the MVP candidates we must take in consideration the game results against these two bad teams.

1930 NFL Standings        (winning percentage/ pts. scored/ pts. against)
Green Bay Packers                    10-3-1,   .769      (234- 111)
New York Giants                      13-4-0   . 765      (308- 98)
Chicago Bears                           9-4-1      .692      (169- 71)
Brooklyn Dodgers                     7-4-1      .636      (154- 59)
Providence Steam Roller           6-4-1     .600      (90- 125)
Staten Island Stapletons             5-5-2     .500      (95- 112)
Portsmouth Spartans                  5-6-3     .455      (176- 161)
Chicago Cardinals                      5-6-2     .455     (128-132)
Frankford Yellow Jackets          4-13-1    .222     (113-321)
Minneapolis Red Jackets            1-7-1     .125     (27- 165)
Newark Tornadoes                     1-10-1    .091     (51-190)

Most of the NFL teams played at least 12 games during the 1930 season with the New York Gaints leading the NFL in scoring with 308 points (18.1 pts per game) and the Brooklyn Dodgers led the NFL in giving up only 59 points all season (4.9 points per game).

1930 NFL Scoring (Offense/Defense)
Top Five
Offense                                                                 Defense
1) Giants:     308 points                                          1) Dodgers:   59 points
2) Packers:   234 points                                          2) Bears:        71 points
3) Spartans:  176 points                                          3) Giants:       98 points
4) Bears:      169 points                                          4) Packers:     111 points
5) Dodgers:  154 points                                         5) Stapletons: 112 points


Rushing was still the predominate means of moving the ball in the NFL in 1930. Although the NFL didn't officially keep stats until 1932, we can still see who were the better players on the field by looking at the scoring during this season. The game was led by an array of backfield stars who put up a lot of touchdowns during the 1930 season. Throughout 1930 NFL teams scored 1,545 points on 213 offensive touchdowns. Scoring was up from the previous three seasons:

1927 NFL Season = 1075 points scored (12 teams, 72 games)
1928 NFL Season = 1066 points scored (10 teams, 56 games)
1929 NFL Season = 1,344 points scored (12 teams, 70 games)
1930 NFL Season = 1,545 points scored (11 teams, 73 games)

The one thing way down was field goals made, as NFL kickers in 1930 made a measly 6 field goals all year- with Frosty Peters of Providence-Portsmouth leading the NFL with TWO made. Future Hall of Famers Ken Strong, Ernie Nevers, and Benny Friedman each made one, as well as Providence's Butch Meeker, giving the Steam Roller squad a whopping three kicks converted.

As for the touchdowns Brooklyn Dodgers halfback Jack McBride (6th year in NFL) was tied for second in touchdowns scored with eight (all rushing). He also kicked eight extra points giving him 56 total points which was tops in the NFL in 1930. But digging deeper into his output one sees that McBride scored three of his rushing touchdowns, as well as two of his TD passes, came against the rather bad Newark Tornadoes. He did have eight of the Dodgers's twelve touchdowns, but everytime the Dodgers lost or tied (0-4-1) McBride did nothing to help his team as everyone of those games the Brooklyn squad was shutout.

Staten Island fullback Ken Strong, the 2nd year player from NYU, and just 24-years old, had an outstanding season with the Stapes. Although Strong's team finished with a five hundred record at 5-5-2 his play was noticed all season. Strong scored 53 of the Stapletons' 95 total points by scoring seven total touchdowns (2 rushing, 5 receiving, eight extra points and one field goal). But the Stapes struggled against the better teams in the NFL in their twelve games. Their five wins came against Newark (twice), Frankford, Brooklyn and an upset win over the Giants. His 53 points scored did put him 3rd in the NFL.

Ken Strong. Colorization by John Turney
1930 NFL Scoring
1) Jack McBride, Brooklyn                56 points (8 TDS, 8 XPs)
2) Verne Lewellen, Green Bay          54 points (9 TDs)
3) Ken Strong, Staten Island              53 points (7 TDs, 8 XPs, 1 FG)
4) Red Grange, Chi Bears                   49 points (8 TDs, 1 XP)
4) Benny Friedman, New York         49 points (6 TDs, 10 XPs, 1 FG)
                  
But the race for the 1930 MVP comes down to three players. First is the "Galloping Ghost" Red Grange. After suffering a knee injury in 1927, Grange sat out the 1928 season. Looking for a drawing card to put more people in the stands George Halas asked Grange to come back to the Chicago Bears. He finally said yes in 1929, when he played in fourteen games. Still getting over his knee injury Red scored just two touchdowns that season as Halas's team finished with a losing record of 4-9-2. But in 1930 Halas gave the coaching reins to Ralph Jones and he signed the NFL's best rookie to a contract- Minnesota All-American fullback Bronko Nagurski. The Bears played much better on the field as they finished in 3rd place with a 9-4-1 record.

Just like the Bears Red Grange also played better in 1930. Looking more like the Galloping Ghost, Grange had one of his better professional years. Grange's season helped the Bears change their fortunes on the field and in the win column. In his team's first six games Red scored just two touchdowns as the Bears struggled out of the gate to a 2-3-1 record. But over the last eight games of the season Grange scored five touchdowns (4 running, 1 receiving), threw three TD passes, helped the Bears defense by allowing just ten TDs all season (just 3 TD passes allowed all year)- as the Bears went 7-1 over those eight games.

Grange, 27 years-old, showed off his break-away skills in a Nov. 22nd game (Saturday afternoon) against the Frankford Yellow Jackets, as the Galloping Ghost scored on long runs of 51 yards and 78 yards as the Bears defeated the Jackets 13-6. Grange's candidacy is hurt a little because three of his scores came against Minneapolis, but the rest of his scoring was against some of the better teams in the league. Late in the season he threw two touchdown passes against league champ Green Bay as the Bears upset the Packers 21-0. It wasn't enough as the Bears would finish just behind the Bears and Giants in the standings.

Red Grange. Colorization by John Turney
As for the Packers and Giants they were the two best teams in the NFL in 1930 and had two of the other finalists for MVP. Giants tailback-quarterback Benny Friedman was playing in his 4th NFL year (25 years old) and was at the peak of his passing powers. The former Michigan All-American came into the NFL throwing passes, in 1930, he got off to a slow start. In the Giants' first five games Friedman threw just three TD passes. But he also rushed for three during that time period as the Gotham squad got off to a 4-1 start. The next three games Old Benny fired nine touchdown passes, including a stunning 5 (one was a lateral play) against the Frankford Yellow Jackets in a 53-0 slaughter. In the Giants' ninth game (on Nov. 2nd) Friedman's one field goal made was the difference in a 9-7 victory over the Staten Island Stapletons. At this time the NFL Standings saw a two horse race:

Green Bay Packers:  8-0
New York Giants:    10-1

Benny Friedman. Colorization by John Turney

On November 23rd the Giants defeated the Packers, 13-6, in front of 37,000 fans at the Polo Grounds. It looked like the G-Men would win the title. But they would come up short, by not being able to kick extra points. They lost to the Stapletons 7-6 on Thanksgiving (missing an extra point), and lost the following week against Brooklyn, once again 7-6, by missing an extra point. The Giants would finish the season with a 13-4 record just a few percentage points behind the Packers, who went 10-3-1.

Green Bay Packers     10-3-1,  .769 (234- 111)
New York Giants        13-4-0,  .765 (308- 98)

Unlike most of the teams in the NFL, but just like the Giants, the Packers used the passing game as the main weapon to move the ball. Packers coach Curly Lambeau had the studs to do it. In 1930 the Packers scored 35 offensive touchdowns, with nearly a 50-50 split, 18 rushing scores and 17 passing scores. The main benefactor in Lambeau's offense in 1930 was halfback Verne Lewellen. The former Nebraska star was an old pro at 29 years-old and playing his 7th year in the NFL. Lewellen was a scoring machine. From 1924-1929 he scored 40 total touchdowns. 1930 was no different.

Playing in 14 games Lewellen was the most consistent player throughout the 1930 season. In the Packers first ten games he scored eight touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving) and throw three touchdowns. Accouting for 11 total touchdowns he helped led the Packers to a 9-1 record.

In the nine games that Lewellen scored a touchdown the Packers were 8-1 in those games. It seems that every touchdown he had in 1930 impacted the outcome of the game.

On September 28th Lewellen's one-yard touchdown run was the difference in an early season 7-0 victory over their big rivals the Chicago Bears. On Nov. 2nd the Packers MVP candidate scored two touchdowns and threw another score in a big 47-13 victory over the Portsmouth Spartans. The follwoing week in the rematch with the Bears Lewellen's 21-yard touchdown catch from Red Dunn in the 4th quarter broke a tie game and would give the Packers a 13-12 victory.

Lewellen would finished the season with nine touchdowns, tops in the NFL, and his 54 points was second to Jack McBride of the Dodgers. In the end Verne Lewellen is the 1930 NFL MVP!

1930 Pro Football Journal MVP
Verne Lewellen. Colorization by John Turney

1930 NFL MVP
Top Five

1) Verne Lewellen, Green Bay Packers, Halfback
2) Benny Friedman, New York Giants, Tailback
3) Red Grange, Chicago Bears, Halfback
4) Jack McBride, Brooklyn Dodgers, Fullback
5) Ken Strong, Staten Island Stapletons, Fullback

Excerpt from: The Birth of Football's Modern 4-3 Defense: The Seven Seasons That Changed the NFL

LOOKING BACK
by TJ Troup

http://www.amazon.com/The-Birth-Footballs-Modern-Defense/dp/1442237953



TAKING FLIGHT: The 1952 Pittsburgh Steelers
Since Pittsburgh won their final game in 1951 with defensive back Jim Finks in at tailback (in a spread passing formation), change was going to happen in the Steel City. Joe Bach returns to pro football as head coach, and on his staff are coaches Cherundolo, Kiesling, Molesworth; and most importantly backfield coach Gus Dorais. Dorais ability to teach the passing game, and his understanding of how to attack a defense translated into a new dimension for a franchise that heretofore was known only for smash mouth football in the single-wing.

Since the quarterback, and both halfbacks earned a berth in the pro bowl his only season with the Steelers (health issues ended his time in Pittsburgh) would be considered a success. Defensively the Steelers aligned in a 5-3-3, with man coverage. Out of necessity Pittsburgh would go to a 5-2-4 with a lead late in the game. Offensively the Steelers align in the standard double-closed end set with a full house backfield, yet also wing, slot, and flanker sets with motion. They will keep a closed end in to pass block (max protection), and at times go to a spread formation with multiple receiver combinations.

PERSONNEL: Thirty five men take the field in 1952 (15 rookies make the team), with only one player at the age of 30 (Captain Elbie Nickel). Jack Butler is a strong run defender at right corner (also plays end on offense), and an improving pass defender who just needs experience. Ed Kissell is a hustling safety until injury ends his season. Rookie Claude Hipps begins the campaign at left corner, then moves to safety for a baptism by fire. Veteran Howard Hartley is the nominal starter in his final season at left corner for most of the year. Making the Pro Bowl for the first time is right defensive end Bill McPeak. He demonstrates all the traits you would want in a pass rusher, and had a very bright future. Joining McPeak in the Pro Bowl is right defensive tackle Ernie Stautner. Strong at the point of attack, and relentless in pursuit he is on his way to a legendary career.

Ernie Stautner. Colorization by John Turney
Middle guard is lean, long legged Dale Dodrill who earns some All-pro recognition. Though he struggles at defeating the drive and double team block due to his lack of heft, he also shines in pursuit. Dodrill has an outstanding year on special teams; especially in returning blocked field goal attempts. Lou Ferry is a rock at left defensive tackle, and gives a consistent performance each and every week. Left defensive end is shared by veteran George Hays (final season), and rookie George Tarasovic (also plays both outside linebacker positions). Right linebacker is the province of veteran Frank Sinkovitz in his final campaign. Frank is adequate on the red dog, tackling in the open field, and in man coverage.

Middle linebacker is handled by stumpy Darrell Hogan. A willing run defender, yet he is overpowered too many times during the year. He is at times deployed to the wide side of the field in a walk-off alignment leaving Dodrill isolated against three blockers. Though he is attacked in the passing game due to his height, he can make a key interception since he takes excellent angles to the ball. Hogan is also sent on the red dog in a twist movement with Dodrill to create pressure. Tom Calvin will sometimes enter the game in an obvious passing situation as the middle linebacker(also plays halfback on offense, and some defensive halfback). The left linebacker and first team all-pro is Jerry Shipkey. Strong in all facets of linebacker play, he earns his third and final trip to Los Angeles for the Pro Bowl. Rookies George Sulima and Dick Hensley share the left end position on offense for Pittsburgh. Until he is injured Sulima proves to be an adequate receiver, and pass blocker in max protection schemes. Hensley has an outstanding game against the Giants in late November, otherwise he does not catch many passes (also plays left defensive end). John "Bull" Schweder begins the year as the starting left tackle and moves to left guard when undersized Rudy Andabaker goes into the military, thus the final six weeks of the campaign Earl Murray is the starting left offensive tackle(also plays defensive right tackle opening day).

Bill Walsh receives some All-pro recognition for his fine work at center, while Pete Ladygo starts at right guard. George Hughes is the starting right tackle. The undersized offensive line struggles in blocking for the inside run, and gives up 36 sacks (24 in the seven losses) during the year. Whether is aligned in close, flexed, or in the slot Elbie Nickel is one of the most sure handed receivers in the league. His pro bowl season is capped with a team record setting performance of 10 catches for 202 yards against the Rams. Nickel is the leader of the team, and a true professional. Expectations are mighty for first round draft pick Ed Modzelewski, and though he runs hard, he just does not break tackles in a disappointing rookie performance. Fran Rogel plugs away, yet he also is not nifty in the open field, though early in the year he is a definite threat in the passing game. Lynn Chandnois is the best in the league at returning a kick-off, excellent at running a sweep or off tackle play, and a definite threat in the passing game due to his speed and cutting ability. He is selected for his first pro bowl. Ray Mathews ranks with the best in the league at returning a punt, can break a tackle in the open field as an outside running threat, and is dead accurate as a passer on option plays either left or right. He is a game-breaker in the passing game with a knack for finding the end zone, thus he is also chosen for the Pro Bowl. Jim Finks leads the league in touchdown passes thrown from his quarterback position(also plays defensive back in obvious passing situations). Excellent touch on the deep ball, mobile enough to roll out and buy time to find the open receiver-his outstanding performance earns him a trip to Los Angeles.

WHAT THE STATS TELL US: From 1945 through 1951 only one out of every 34 passes thrown is a touchdown for Pittsburgh, while in 1952 one out of every 17 passes thrown is a touchdown. The Steeler ground game averages 123 yards a game rushing in the five wins, but just 83 in the seven losses. The Pittsburgh run defense allows 127 yards a game rushing in their five wins, but a chain moving 158 in the seven losses. The Steelers rank 10th in the key defensive passer rating with a mark of 62.2 (league average is 57.7), but more importantly; the Pittsburgh secondary allows a league worst 16.5 a completion. Pittsburgh recorded 15 sacks in their five victories, but only 9 in the seven losses.

GAME OF SIGNIFICANCE: Beginning the year with four losses, the black & gold clad Steelers have won five of their last seven; including impressive victories over the Giants and 49ers. The defending league champion Los Angeles Rams are the hottest team in the league with seven straight wins, and need a win today to tie the Lions for the conference title. The largest crowd to ever see Pittsburgh play (71,310) are on hand in the Coliseum. The table is set; now for the main course. Bob Waterfield is retiring and the home crowd responds boisterously for him as he meets captain Elbie Nickel for the coin toss.

1st Quarter: Though both teams moved the ball, neither could find the end zone.

2nd Quarter: Fran Rogel's fumble is recovered by left defensive end Larry Brink to end a promising drive on the Ram five yard line. Norm Van Brocklin engineers a 95 yard drive to pay dirt in 10 plays. The highlights of the drive are completions in the right flat to Vitamin Smith for 22 yards, and Skeets Quinlan for 19 yards in the left flat as the Dutchman exploits the Steelers pass defense alignment. Fears catches Van Brocklin's pass and scores after sidestepping Jack Butler on the 10 yard touchdown toss. Left linebacker Tank Younger intercepts Finks first down pass, and the Rams advance to the Steeler six yard line. George Tarasovic blocks Waterfield's field goal attempt and Dale Dodrill with a wall of blockers returns the ball to the Ram nine yard line before a hustling Dan Towler takes him to the turf with a face mask grabbing tackle(Dodrill's helmet is ripped off). The Los Angeles defense has played outstanding football the last seven weeks, and continues today with a goal line stand. Late in the quarter Finks on a second and ten-play from his own forty yard line throws towards Ray Mathews on an out pattern and rookie Richard "Night Train" Lane knifes in front of the receiver and gallops 42 yards for a touchdown with just 28 seconds left in the half! Los Angeles 14 Pittsburgh 0.

3rd Quarter: Bob Waterfield misfires deep in Los Angeles territory as middle linebacker Darrell Hogan scores on a 15 yard interception return. The Rams punt to Pittsburgh, and here comes the black & gold down the field. First and ten on the Los Angeles twenty-one Finks again throws to his left and again the Night Train makes him pay as he intercepts on the eight yard-line. Lane has now set a new league record with his 14th interception (all in the last nine games). Los Angeles gained 245 yards in the first half; can they continue their offensive dynamics? 2nd and eight on their own thirty-five yard line; Van Brocklin avoids Tarasovic's pass rush, and fires over the middle to Hirsch. Hirsch crazy legs his way 65 yards to score as he pulls away from from Hipps and Butler. Rams 21 Steelers 7. The Rams start on their own twenty-five yard line and as the quarter comes to a close they are on the Steeler five yard line.

Night Train Lane and Andy Robustelli of the LA Rams. Colorization by JMT
4th Quarter: 3rd and goal on the five as Tom Fears runs an out pattern in the end zone and grabs Van Brocklin's well thrown pass to up the lead to 28-7. Finks will drive the Steelers 80 yards as he completes passes for 45 & 13 yards to Elbie Nickel, the later he is flexed right and is open on a curl route to score. Los Angeles 28 Pittsburgh 14. Late in the game Van Brocklin is still trying to put points on the board as Fears has now caught 10 passes for 122 yards. The Dutchman goes to the well once too often as right linebacker Frank Sinkovitz intercepts on the goal line. Gary Kerkorian is in at quarterback and completes a 21 yard pass to Nickel. He has now caught 10 for 202 yards, thus for the FIRST time in league history a receiver for both teams has had a 10 catch game for over 100 yards receiving. The game ends on the Ram forty-three with Kerkorian being snowed under for a 14 yard loss by the Los Angeles pass rush. Los Angeles will play Detroit in the tie breaking conference play-off game.
SUMMATION: Joe Bach will return in 1953 with a young team on the rise on offense as for the first time in team history they have scored 300 points.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Road Back—The 1966 Los Angeles Rams

LOOKING BACK
by TJ Troup

When George Allen finally got his chance to be a head coach in 1966 with the Rams, he faced a daunting task. Poorly coached (though there was talent on the roster), and having been the player personnel director of the Bears (later was an assistant and then defensive coordinator of the 1963 champions) he upgraded the roster with a series of astute trades.

 Allen also assembled an excellent staff, especially offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda. The Rams highlight film for 1966 was called "The Road Back", and is very appropriate for the third and final segment of this series of the best teams ever to not win a playoff game though compiling an outstanding won/lost record over 52 games.
Tom Moore. Colorization by John Turney
The Rams, in 1966, stood at 4-5 as their impressive 52-game won/lost record began with an offensive chain-moving record being established in the Coliseum against the lowly Giants. So, let's take a long, hard look at this 40-9-3 team. Marchibroda's offense was designed to be as mistake-proof as possible. Ray Prochaska's offensive line worked well as a unit, and as individuals received plenty of recognition. Rookie Tom Mack excelled at guard in leading a ground game that averaged 138 yards per game in victory (Los Angeles averaged 105 in loss or ties).
Tom Mack and Ken Iman. Colorization by John Turney
The backfield had their moments, yet no one back was the key man from 1966-70. Early in 1966, the offensive line struggled in pass protection, but beginning with the aforementioned win over New York they gave Roman Gabriel a pass pocket to launch his rockets from. The passing game was an efficient 77.9 passer rating in victory (69.2 in loss or ties).
Roman Gabriel. Colorization by John Turney
The one constant in the receiving corps was the redoubtable Jack Snow, who could turn a game with a circus catch or escape coverage and get open deep for Gabriel. Gabriel grew into the position of master field general during this time as the Rams went from a one-win team in Roman's rookie year of 1962 to winning eleven straight to begin the 1969 campaign. Allen learned from scheme-oriented coach Clark Shaughnessy in his time in Chicago what worked, and what does not when coaching defense.

The Los Angeles secondary was a cohesive, ball-hawking group led by all-time Ram interceptor Eddie Meador. From his post at free safety, he helped disguise coverages that stymied opposing passers to the tune of a 42.6 defensive passer rating in the 40 wins! In the 12 losses and ties, opposing passers were a much more efficient 77.8.

Though the secondary was sound, the linebacking corps was a key element in the success of the Rams. Whether dropping into coverage, or on the blitz Pardee (his birthday is April 19th) at left linebacker, and Maxie Baughn at right linebacker were savvy veterans who made many a key play.
Allen brought with him from Chicago a man who could teach all the Ram defenders the defense from the huddle and make the necessary adjustments. Bill George when healthy enough to play in his 15th and final campaign gave Los Angeles a blueprint for leadership (he was nicknamed "the general" in Tom Bennett's book) and set the standards for former Steeler pro bowl middle linebacker Myron Pottios to learn from.
Jack Pardee. Colorization by John Turney
The Shaughnessy defense calls the defensive line "rush men" and in their classic blue & white uniforms Los Angeles had a group known far and wide as the "Fearsome Foursome".  In the 40 victories, opponent ball carriers averaged just 76 yards a game rushing, and a microscopic 2.99 a carry (in the 12 losses and ties 111 yards a game). The one stat that far outweighs the rest though is the pass rush(sacks). Led by the immortal David "Deacon" Jones the Rams garnered 182 sacks in the 40 wins (the Ram o-line allowed just 18). Los Angeles on defense recorded 51 sacks in the 12 losses and ties (the o-line allowed 35). Thus, the sack differential was the key ingredient for the Allen led Rams.
Deacon Jones. Colorization by John Turney

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The NFL's First All-Time Team (1942)

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney

In December of 1942, the Sporting News polled some of the NFL's All-Time greats in order to compose an All-Time team, which was purported to be the NFL's first (of many) sich teams.

Here is the team and the (votes) each received:
Ends—Don Hutson, Green Bay (7), and Bill Hewitt, Chicago Bears & Eagles (6).
Tackles—Cal Hubbard, Green Bay & New York (6), and Turk Edwards, Boston and Washington (3).
Guards—Danny Fortmann, Bears (5), and Mike Michalske, Green Bay (5).
Center—Mel Hein, New York (6).
Quarterback—Earl (Dutch) Clark, Detroit & Portsmouth (3).
Halfbacks—Sammy Baugh, Washington (6), and Cliff Battles, Boston and Washington (4).
Fullback—Bronko Nagurski, Bears (6).

At the time Baugh was as much known for his single-wing work as his T-formation quarterbacking and he was chosen as a halfback. Clark was a single-wing player who ran, passed and kicked. He was chosen as the quarterback.

Mel Hein declined to vote for himself, thus preventing him from being a unanimous selection.