Thursday, December 22, 2011

1976 Kansas City Chiefs: What Was Going On With Their Defensive Ends?

by John Turney

Reading through some of the excellent football books of the 1970s,  The Football Playbook and Thinking Man's Guide to Professional Football and others, it was often mentioned how coaches in that time period liked to structure their defensive lines. The bigger, more all-around defensive end would play the left end and the better pure pass rusher would play right defensive end. Later, Jack Youngblood's echoed the same thoughts.

The prevailing theory was that most teams were "right-handed" and usually had the tight end on the right side of the offensive formation and therefore was able to help with right tackle block a particularly nasty defensive end. As such, the left defensive end needed more heft and strength than his counterpart on the other end of the line.

It was not a set-in-stone thing, for various reasons it didn't work out like that. The Steelers Steel Curtain had 6-6, 245, LC Greenwood on the left and 6-4, 260, Dwight White on the right. But usually it broke down in that fashion with Ed Jones (left) and Harvey Martin (right) and Claude Humphrey (left) and John Zook (right) and Youngblood (left) and Fred Dryer (right).

As with the Greenwood/White exception, there were others, but one is still puzzling. The 1976 Kansas City Chiefs had one disparity between right and left for the ages.

First a short background. In 1974 the Chiefs traded Curly Culp to the Houston Oilers for John Matuszak. The Tooz was a monster of a man at 6-8, 280, and in 1975 he was the left defensive end and the right defensive end was another monster of a man, Wilbur Young who was 6-6, 300 pounds. 

In a preseason game against the Rams in Kansas City, rookie Ram lineman Dennis Harrah said to fellow rookie lineman Doug France, "Look at number 99s shoes, he must have a million cleats on them", referring to the turf shoes worn by players in that era. France would have to face Young in that game as the Rams were grooming France to replace 15-year vet Charlie Cowan.

So, in 1975 with a 280-pound left end and a 300-pound right end the Chiefs had a good outside pass rush with Young totalling 12-½ sacks and Matuszak 5-½. So, that takes the story to 1976. Matuszak goes to Washington for a stint, but ends the season with the Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders. His replacement was 6-2, 220-pund Whitney Paul who was probably the smallest defensive end in the NFL in 1976 and 1977. And he stayed on the left side the next year, too. 

Of course, always know that the listed weights were not always accurate, especially for linemen. Paul, but by the time he took over the left end position he was around 230-pounds. Young, listed at 285, was around 300, though. Still, 230 pounds was still small, even by 1970s standards.

Perhaps Head Coach Paul Wiggin didn't want to move Young since he had a very productive 1975 season. Maybe each player preferred the side they were assigned. But it sure looked odd when you had the supposed rush end being bigger than most tackles he faces and the closed end being smaller than most linebackers in the NFL.

Whatever the reason, the production fell off, in 1976 Paul totaled 3-½ sacks and Young 1-½. The following year Paul had 3-½ and Young had 5-½. In 1978 the Chiefs spent the number two overall pick on Art Still to play the left end for their new 3-4 defense. Then, in 1979 they spent the number two overall pick Mike Bell two man the right side. That speaks pretty loudly as to the production the Chiefs got from their ends post-1975.

Tang's 1962 Set of NFL Team Photos

By John Turney

In 1962 Tang, the drink the Astronauts took to the Moon sponsored a give-away that allowed fans to collect all 14 of the NFL team photos, complete with team logo in lower right-hand corner.

If you are a fan of the great defensive linemen of that era, it's a feat for the eyes. Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen, Doug Atkins, Paul Wiggin, Bill Glass, Leo Nomellini, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Gino Marchetti, Bob Lilly, Jim Katcavage, Andy Robustelli, Alex Karras, Roger Brown, Jim Marshall are all featured. What a great era for rushers it was.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Combined All-Decade Teams - 1970s

Things You Can Never Lay Your Hands On
by John Turney
In 1970 the Pro Football Hall of Fame tasked their voters to choose All-Decade teams from the 1920s through the 1960s and they added teams at the end of each decade ever since. However, the Hall of Fame is not the only organization that chose All-Decade Teams. Research has yielded quite a few more, including Football Digest, College & Pro Football Newsweekly, Pro Football Monthly all released their selections at the time, while other publications or books took a shot at selecting their own players. Pro Football ChronicleSunday Mayhem, and even a website selected teams long after the fact to broaden the field of players who excelled during each decade.

Below is the combined choices for the 1970s of those publications, and more, references and key is below the chart.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

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