Thursday, June 22, 2017

NEMESIS: Pilfering the Pigskin

By T.J. Troup
Though there have never been any Greek Goddess's patrolling an NFL secondary trying to intercept passes, there have been men who victimized certain teams at an impressive level of interceptions.

The following is the list of men who intercepted at least 10 passes against a specific opponent. Emlen Tunnell tops our list, and since his last interception against Washington came in 1959 no doubt he will remain there forever. A strong statement?

The percentage of interceptions league wide has dropped dramatically in the last fifty-seven years; thus Tunnell will probably stand alone forever. There are men on the list who are Hall of Famers, and men who just happened to play their best against a specific team.

Bobby Dan Dillon of the Packers is the only man on the list who proved to be a "nemesis" against three different teams. Championship teammates are also on the list; such as Yale Lary & Jack Christiansen of the Lions. For many teams though there is just one man who"Pilfered the pigskin" to make the list.

I have been honored/fortunate to have received letters over the years by former defensive backs who answered my many questions concerning coverages, opposing receivers, and teams they played against. The best remains the long letter from former Jet Billy Baird. He detailed playing against the Patriots and his success against them.

A perusal of the list definitely shows that only two recently retired players made the list twice. Rod Woodson is a deserving member of the Hall of Fame, and will be joined (possibly on the first ballot) by safety Ed Reed very soon. Reed not only intercepted against Cleveland and Cincinnati he returned the ball over 300 yards against both—no one will ever achieve that kind of return yardage again. There are men on the list that should be considered for the Hall of Fame, and not just because they were a "nemesis" to a particular team, yet if some of you take the time to respond; would enjoy hearing about men on the list you feel have been overlooked.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

1919 Rock Island Independents Football Ads

By Chris Willis, NFL Films

In 1919 the Rock Island Independents fielded one of the best pro football teams in the country. That season they finished with a 9-1-1 record.

1919 Rock Island Independents Results

Date/Opponent/Result/Attendance Figure 
Sept. 28th vs Rockford A.C., Won, 20-0 (2,000)
Oct. 5th vs Chicago Cornell-Hamburgs, Won, 21-0 (2,000)
Oct. 12th vs Hammond All-Stars, Lost, 7-12 (7,000)
Oct. 19th vs Davenport A.C., Won, 33-0 (6,000)
Oct. 26th vs Cincinnati Celts, Won, 33-0 (3,000)
Nov. 2nd vs Pine Village A.C., Tie, 0-0 (4,000)
Nov. 9th vs Moline Fans Association, Won, 57-0 (2,000)
Nov. 16th vs Hammond Clabbys, Won, 55-0 (1,300)
Nov. 23rd vs Columbus Panhandles, Won, 40-0 (4,500)
Nov. 27th vs Davenport A.C., Won 26-0 (1,500)
Nov. 30th vs Akron Indians, Won, 17-0 (1,700)

Walter Flanigan, owner-team manager, Rock Island Independents, circa 1916-1919

Owner and team manager Walter Flanigan, a former Rock Island player, built a very competitive team. Led by quarterback and coach Reuben “Rube” Ursella, end Oke Smith and halfback Fred Chicken the Independents played and beat some of the better pro teams in 1919. They outscored their opponents 309-12- with TEN shutouts. Only a 12-7 loss to the Hammond All-Stars (who had Paddy Driscoll and George Halas) marred a nearly perfect season. The 12 points was the only points they surrender.

They also played their entire schedule at home at Douglas Park averaging over 3,100 fans per game. The Hammond game attracted a season high of 7,000 fans. Because of their home schedule advertising became a key component for Flanigan to get fans out to the game. One of his biggest tools for promoting his team was taking newspaper ads out. Flanigan took out ads in the Rock Island Argus. Tickets were usually $1.00 for "Gents" and fifty cents for "Ladies."

Ad # 1
Oct. 12, 1919
vs Hammond All-Stars, Douglas Park (7,000)
RII Lost 12-7


Ad # 2
Oct. 19, 1919
vs Davenport A.C., Douglas Park (6,000)
RII Won 33-0


Ad # 3
Oct. 26, 1919
vs Cincinnati Celts, Douglas Park (3,000)
RII Won 33-0

Ad # 4
Nov. 2, 1919
vs Pine Village A.C., Douglas Park (4,000)
Tie, 0-0


Ad # 5
Nov. 23, 1919
vs Columbus Panhandles, Douglas Park (4,500)
RII Won 40-0

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Finally—Herb Adderley: Cementing the Dallas Secondary.

By T.J. Troup
Today is Herb Adderley's birthday and an it is an appropriate time to herald his career. Joining Green Bay in 1961 he contributed as a special teams player, and substituted late in blowout victories as a flank however, he did not start 14 games at left corner (hopefully the Packer organization will correct this error in the literature). The win over the Lions on Thanksgiving was his only extended time as a left corner, and his interception in the game was sure a value contribution. Hank Gremminger was the starter all 14 games that season.

Without doubt Adderley was by far the best left corner in the NFL from 62-69; though there were other men who played the position well. For his efforts he was voted second-best behind Dick"Night Train" Lane for the NFL 50th anniversary team voted on in 1969. Stories about why Adderley left Green Bay vary, yet he was traded to Dallas right before the season of 1970. Playing in the Super Bowl was nothing new for Herb, but losing an error-plagued game was.

Tom Landry had coached the Cowboys for eleven years entering the 1971 season, and he himself had played left corner during his NFL career. The early years in Cowboy history were not filled with airtight pass defense and the only reliable player was right cornerback Don Bishop.

Mel Renfro joined the Cowboys in 1964 and earned a Pro Bowl berth at right safety (free), and with help from left corner Cornell Green team pass defense improved. Dallas was winning and making the playoffs, yet the Silver Trophy eluded them.

Landry has shifted personnel in the secondary when  Adderley joined the team. Green moved to left safety (strong), and Renfro (who led the league in interceptions in 1969) moved to right corner. The right safety post is shared by two rookies in 1970—Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris. Though both men demonstrated they were "legitimate" but both would likely agree they had much to learn.

Tom Landry not only believed in a gap control defense,  with what he calls the "Flex" for the defensive line. The complexities of the defense for the front seven has been discussed many times, but what coverages does Tom want to align in?  He prefered man coverage over zone, he had the personnel to return to the Super Bowl entering 1971.

Seven weeks into the season the Cowboys were 4-3, and just might be the best 4-3 team in league history. Talent abounds; how can they possibly lose three times?

Film evaluation shows that starting right safety Charlie Waters is out of position or takes the wrong angle in both pursuit and pass coverage. The pathetic Buffalo Bills score 37 points Opening day, and Charlie Harraway has the longest run of the season against Dallas in the home loss to the rival Redskins. Cliff Harris replaces Waters as the starter, and though he does not have a strong season; he at least is not out of position.

Renfro and Green are proven durable starters, yet the key figure is Adderley. He plays well the first half of the season though he Cowboys defensive passer rating is a lackluster 60.5. The defensive passer rating is only a tool to evaluate team pass defense, yet does help explain the improvement the second half of the campaign. Adderley's savvy, combined with his physical gifts limits opposing passers from throwing in his territory. The Cowboys finished the regular season strong with seven straight victories, and the defensive passer rating is an improved 52.4. Overall the defense allows just seven offensive touchdowns during the win streak. Film study shows an occasional blown coverage, and one of the defensive backs getting "beat", but those seven wins have the Cowboys confident entering the playoffs. Cowboys records reported that Adderly didn't allow a touchdown pass in 1971.

Beating the Vikings in Minnesota in December during the first few years of the Bud Grant era was a real challenge, yet the 20-12 win set up a home NFC title game clash with a new rival; the San Francisco 49ers. The impressive 14-3 win takes Dallas back to the Super Bowl. Adderley played extremely well in both games, he now has the opportunity to add to his ring collection.

The Miami Dolphins may have captured the imagination of fans across America, and Dallas had never won a Super Bowl, yet this team is by far the best in Cowboy history. The dominant and decisive victory caps a season in which everyone wondered what is wrong with the Cowboys?

Adderley and his cohorts allowed just 45 completions out of 91 attempts for just 528 yards (only one completion over 40 yards) in the playoffs. Just one touchdown pass was thrown against them, and they pilfered 8 passes. An air-tight defensive passer rating of 34.5.

Eleven years and six championships for Herb. Though Adderley will lose his job during the 1972 season, and his career end in the preseason of 1973 when he was trying to catch on with the Rams. For today let us celebrate this gifted tough left corner and his Hall of Fame career.