Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day to the First Football Fan I Ever Knew

By Jeffrey Miller
It’s Father’s Day today, so this Dad had the opportunity to spend a little time relaxing. As many of us who frequent the Pro Football Journal are wont to do, I decided to pass some time watching football film. Today’s choice was the Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers battle played on October 10, 1943 (won 35-14 by the Packers). As I was watching, it struck me that this game actually has some relevance that went beyond the spectacular color in which this early NFL encounter was filmed.

Two of the combatants taking part in this particular tilt were Detroit quarterback Frankie Sinkwich and Green Bay’s all-world end Don Hutson. While having multiple stars participating in an NFL game is certainly not out of the ordinary, their presence makes it relevant for a singular purpose that might be important only to me. My father Joe was fourteen at the time this game was played, and over the course of the early 1940s was spending his time in and out of hospitals receiving treatment for polio, which was an international epidemic devastating hundreds of thousands of children and adults with paralysis and permanent deformities during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Frank Sinkwich, Detroit Lions, 1943

Green Bay Packers, 1943.  Don Hutson (14) occupies
the first seat to the right, front row.  His autograph
can be seen just below his cleats.

To raise spirits and relieve the stress of seemingly cruel treatments and isolation from family and the public, my father began writing letters to various sports organizations asking for autographed photos of the day’s biggest stars. Now, how a fourteen-year-old boy living in rural Western New York, in the grips of a terrible disease and with the country at war, found the energy, the time and resources (not to mention the addresses—remember, there was no internet back then) to write to Notre Dame, the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Club, the College of the Pacific, Great Lakes Naval Academy, the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and many more, still has me scratching my head. But he did!

I still have many of the photos my father received for his efforts, and two of those are autographed pictures from the two men mentioned above—Sinkwich and Hutson. Getting those photos back in the day was even more special since Hutson had been the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1941 and ’42, and Sinkwich would be in 1944.  Those photos hang on the wall in my office this very day, and they will remain there until … well … forever? They are very special to my family and me, and serve as a constant reminder of the man who introduced me to the wonderful game of football when I was a small boy and took me to my first NFL game in 1971 (Dolphins at Bills, War Memorial Stadium). 

So on this Father’s Day, I remember my Dad and the many gifts he gave me, including the love of the game of football. It was a bond we shared, and something that continues to bring me joy as I get older and become more and more of the “the game was so much better in my day” kind of guy he was!  And a belated thank you to Messrs. Sickwich and Hutson, for taking a moment to bring a ray of sunshine into the sometimes dreary life of a young boy suffering through a dreadful disease that has thankfully been eradicated from the North American continent for decades.  You gentlemen may not have realized it at the time, but your gesture meant so much then, and now more than 70 years later continues to bring smiles to that young boy’s family.   

And Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there who gave their children wonderful memories like these!

Here is a sequence of stills from the Detroit-Green Bay game of October 10, 1943.  I chose these stills because they show Hutson catching a pass and being tackled by Frankie Sinkwich, the two men who sent the autographed photos described above. 
Don Hutson (14) catches the Irv Comps' pass over the
middle as Detroit's Frankie Sinkwich (21) closes in.

 Hutson heads upfield as Sinkwich looks for the 
perfect angle.

Sinkwich shows perfect technique in taking down the 
Alabama antelope. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

1976 New Orleans Saints Uniform Oddities

By John Turney
The NFL Films production of  Lost Treasures—Episode 13: Six Days to Sunday revealed some interesting behind the scenes things concerning mid-1970s NFL fashion.

One thing that was quite interesting was the coaches uniforms. We are not sure how many versions of this they had (nine possible if there was a white shirt). So maybe the late 1970s-early 1980s Pittsburgh Pirates were the only team with more.

 In the film we see a gold shirt with black and gold trim and white pants with black and gold trim:

  Here Hank Stram has the black top and gold pants with black and white trim:
  Here are several coaches in the black top and white trouser combination.

This is a distant shot but it's Stram in the gold over black combination:
There was also a black over black with some Pumas that have a gold stripe in the middle.

Additionally, the defensive line had a "Dynomite Defensive Line" trucker hat:

We've mentioned this before but here is kicker Rich Szaro's sawed mask, which is a Dungard 205 with the top bar removed. You can see the remnants of the top bar well in this piece.

Here is a wide Dungard 210 mask, not rare, but not that common either.

The players had nice workout tops with their uniform number in the yoke:

The 1970-72 Broncos Defensive Line

John Turney

Film study shows that from 1969 Rich Jackson is at left defensive end almost all the time. Here you see Paul Smith (#70) at both left defensive tackle and right defensive end. Generally, Dave Costa (#63) is the right defensive tackle and Pete Duranko (#55) is the right defensive end.

Here are some stills to illustrate that:

However, beginning in 1970, though, there was more movement. Players were not 100% committed to one spot. They would move around, playing different techniques. Rich Jackson, the best player on that line and he was probably around 70-80% at left defensive end but he could also be found at right defensive end and at left- or right defensive tackle. Same goes for the rest of the line, especially Paul Smith who also was found at all four defensive line spots on occasion.

The defensive line coach in this era was Stan Jones who is no longer around to ask why these moves were made. It does not appear to be scheme related, in that we mean, that players move to fit into a changeup scheme or defense like say, the 1980s Raiders and Bears. The mid-1980s Bears had a base defense which was a 4-3 and the 46 defense and their nickel. Dan Hampton was, in 1985 and 1986, the left defensive end in the base 4-3. In the 46 he moved to defensive tackle lined up over the center, and in the nickel defense, he was a defensive tackle lined up over the left offensive guard.

The Raiders in that era were a base 3-4 and used a nickel and dime on likely passing downs. Howie Long was a left defensive end in the base 3-4 and was the right defensive tackle in the 40 nickel/dime. Also, when they used their version of the Bear/Eagle/46 defense, Long was also over the center, like Hampton.

With the early 1970s Broncos, it does not look like that is what is happening. It might be one of the rare occasions where there was an attempt to get favorable matchups. Whatever the reason, it worked well. From 1970-72 the Broncos sacked the quarterback more than anyone else with 135 sacks leading the Los Angeles Rams who had 132 sacks. The Cowboys were a distant third with 116 sacks.

Also, the Broncos allowed only 115.5 yards rushing per game with only the Cowboys, Colts, Dolphins, Chiefs and Rams allowing fewer. Had Rich Jackson not blown out a knee at mid-season in 1971 it is likely the Broncos would have even topped these numbers.

Here are some shots to illustrate the places the Broncos lined up:
This is the standard starting lineup with Pete Duranko (55) at RDE, Dave Costa (63) at RDT,
Paul Smith (70) at LDT and Rich Jackson (87) at LDE
Here Duranko and Costa are in usual spots, but Rich Jackson (87) has moved to LDT
and Paul Smith (70) had moved to LDE
This is same as above with Jackson at LDT and Smith at LDE

Here Paul Smith (70) is the RDE, Duranko has moved to RDT, Costa is
at LDT (actually on the nose in an undershifted line) and Jackson is at LDE
Duranko and Costa are in usual spots, Smith is at LDE in tilted stance and Jackson is at LDE

Paul Smith is at LDE, Costa at LDT, Rich Jackson is at RDT in a 3-technique
and Duranko is at usual RDE position

Hard to see right side of line, but Duranko is at usual RDE but
Paul Smith is at RDT, Costa at LDT and Jackson at usual LDE

Jackson is at LDE, Paul Smith at RDE and Costa at LDT
with Duranko at RDT.
 In 1971, the same kinds of things were happening.
This is normal listed starting lineup with Jackson at LDE, Paul Smith at LDT
and Costa at RDT and rookie Lyle Alzado at RDE.

Here Paul Smith and Rich Jackson have swapped spots on left side

Here is a 5-man line with Jackson at LDE, Paul Smith at LDT,
Alzado on the nose, Costa at RDT and Carter Campbell at RDE

This is an overshift with all the usual players in their usual positions.

Here Paul Smith is at RDE and Alzado has slid down to RDT
and Costa side to LDT with Jackson at LDE.

Same as above still

Paul Smith at LDE, Rich Jackson at LDT with Costa at
RDT (nose in overshift line) and Alzado at usual RDE

Here Campbell (79) is at LDT with Paul Smith at LDE.
Alzado and Costa at normal spots.

Here, 1972, Jackson is at LDT and Smith at LDE with
Costa and Alzado at usual RDT and RDE spots.

The normal lineup with Jackson at LDE, Smith at LDT
and Costa at RDT and Alzado at RDE

Here Jackson as at LDE and Costa slid to LDT with
Paul Smith at RDT and Alzado at RDE.

Smith at RDE, jackson at LDE, Alzado is at LDT
and Paul Costa at LDT (nose in overshift)

Standard lineup.

Usual positions except here Dave Washington, the OLBer,
has hand in dirt and Paul Smith is at 1-technique is what is
reasonably similar to a 46 defense, though not exactly.

Paul Smith at LDE, Costa at LDT (nose in overshift),
Alzado at RDT and Carter Campbell at RDE

In 1972 there were changes to the Broncos defensive line. Dave Costa went to the Chargers and Pete Duranko, who missed the 1971 season with injury took his spot at right defensive tackle and at midseason, Rich Jackson was traded to the Browns.
Usual lineup for 1972

Again, the usual linup until Jackson (87 was traded)

Here Alzado has moved to RDT from RDE.

This is an overshift with Alzado at RDE, Paul Smith at RDT, playing on the nose
Rich Jackson is at LDT and Duranko at LDE

This is a 6-1 blitz look, Jackson is the LDE, Smith the LDE, Fred Forsberg
the MLB is head up on the right guard, LBer Bill McKoyis head-up on the LG
Duranko is the RDT over the tackle and Alzado is the RDE over the TE

Duranko is now at LDE, Paul Smith the LDT,
Rich Jackson is the RDT next to RDE Alzado.

Duranko the LDE, Campbell LDT, right side is Duranko and Alzado

LDE is Duranko, Smith is the LDE. RDT is Tom Domres
and Alzado is the RDE.

Alzado is LDE, Smith is the RDT over the center, Lloyd Voss
is the LDT and Duranko is the LDE

Duranko is the RDE, Alzado the RDT, Smith the LDT
and Lloyd Voss is the LDE

Voss at LDE, Smith at LDE, Duranko at RDT and
Alzado at RDE. After Jackson was traded this was often starting/usual lineup

Carter Campbell at LDE and the rest are the usual starters.
Starting in 1973 the Broncos began to mix in 3-4 looks with their base 4-3 defense. That increased each year until 1976 when they committed to a 3-4 defense full time.

We will do a separate post outlining that transition.