Wednesday, December 31, 2014

PFJ's 2014 All-Pro Team

Selected by the staff of PFJ.

Here are the All-AFC and All-NFC selections:
Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rogers, GB
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rogers, GB
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Hou
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG
Defensive Rookie of the Year:  Khalil Mack, Oak
Coach of the Year:   Bruce Arians, Ari
Comeback—Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
Exec—John Schneider, GM, Seattle

Position Awards:
Offensive Lineman of the Year—Joe Thomas, T, Cleveland
Defensive Lineman of the Year—J.J. Watt, Houston
Linebacker of the Year—Justin Houston, Kansas City
Defensive Back of the Year—Richard Sherman, Seattle
Running Back of the Year—DeMarco Murray, Dallas
Receiver of the Year—Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
Returner of the Year—Jacoby Jones, Baltimore
Special Teams Player of the Year—Matthew Slater, New England
Kicker/Punter of the Year—Pat McAfee, Indianapolis

PFJ's 2014 All-Rookie Team

Pro Football Journal
2014 All-Rookie Team

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dandy Don and the Single Back Offense

by T.J. Troup

As a 15-year old reading Street & Smith's pro football in late summer of '66 reading about the improvement of the Dallas Cowboy offense in '65. 

Statements that Dallas had Meredith roll out more as the key element are only partially true. Watching film of Dallas in the second half of '65 (2-5 in the first half) saw that Tom had the Dallas offense in a single-back wing alignment much of the time.

Yes, Dandy Don did roll out, but much more important with Hayes's speed, and three other receivers quickly into their patterns. The Cowpokes go 5-2 and "earn" a Playoff Bowl berth. Mel Renfro was moved to offense in '66 to further this alignment and with his speed and athletic ability no doubt he would have contributed. Injury allowed free agent Dan Reeves to get playing time; which he took advantage of—especially as a receiver).

Using 16 games as an evaluation of Dandy Don (last seven of '65, and first nine of '66) he completed 230 of 436 for 4,265 yards, with 37 going for touchdowns, and 21 intercepted. The most impressive part of his passing stats you ask? 9.78 yards per pass, which is Otto-esque!
Ok, guys your thoughts?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Warren Sapp's Lost Sack Title

by John Turney

The 2000 NFL season was a good one for 3-techniques, well, at least two if them. The previous season Warren Sapp was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the AP and PFWA. In 2000 La'Roi Glover of the New Orleans Saints was voted the NFC Defensive Player of the Year by the KC Committee of 101. Sapp followed up is award-filled 1999 season with 16.5 sacks, tied with Trace Armstrong of the Miami Dolphins for second in the NFL. Glover led the NFL with 17. Or did he?

 On Sunday, November 26, 2000, the Saints played the Rams in St. Louis, and in that game Glover recorded 3 sacks on Trent Green. Here is the first as listed in the Gamebook
It shows Glover sacked Green, forced a fumble, which was recovered by Joe Johnson. However, in looking at the clip from YouTube, it shows that Glover hit Green low, but it was Joe Johnson, who stripped the ball from Green and then, in a bang-bang fashion, Glover took and empty-handed Green to the turf. It took Pat Summeral and John Madden, the Fox commentators calling the game, three replays to get the call right.

Since 1987 Elias Sports Bureau had a policy to review sacks if there was a question as to who should get credit, but usually the review was at the request of a team that had an interest in the scoring. If there was no beef, it stood as scored at the time. However, were it reviewed it may have led to Glover finishing with 16 sacks and Joe Johnson with 13, leaving Sapp and Armstrong as the sack champions for the year.

It is easy to see this was the type of play that needed further review, but it somehow slipped through the cracks. I contacted Elias that week to suggest they look at it, but I never heard a word back. At the Super Bowl in Tampa I ran into Seymour Siwoff at the media center and asked why his crew never got back, but he didn't know, but did tell me he wished I had pushed a little harder because they wanted to "get it right".

A review, at any rate, might have concluded the scorer in St. Louis was right anyway, or perhaps a split sack could have been considered. But, in a season like this, with a resurgence of several young and exciting 3-techniques, one of whom may be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year it brought to mind this play.

So, 15 years later, congratulations are in order for Warren Sapp and Trace Armstrong, the unofficial sack leaders of the 2000 NFL Season.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Merlin Olsen: The Best I Ever Saw

By John Turney
In September 2008, I had a chance to interview Merlin Olsen near his home in Park City, Utah. We'd talked in the mid-1990s and in the early 2000s and then sometimes via email after that if I had a question.

This time he generously gave me a list of the best players he saw during his playing and broadcasting career in the NFL which spanned from the early 1960s through the early 1990s.

The following is his list and his comments:
"Stephenson was the quickest I saw and had great strength, too. It was a pleasure watching him in the games I covered for NBC."

"Jim Parker played on the opposite side but I had to be prepared for him on traps, he gave the hardest blows of anyone. He moved incredibly well for a guy who was 300 pounds."

"Back when preseason games meant something, even personal pride, I'd have tough battles with Walt (Sweeney). He had great strength for his size. He was the toughest I faced, though Jerry Kramer was very good, too."

"Deacon would tell you that Forrest was the best he had to deal with. We'd play Green Bay twice a year and Gregg always played Deac well".

"Like Dwight (Stephenson) Anthony (Munoz) was something to watch. I saw him plenty in the eighties and he always was prepared and always played well."

Tight End
"Because of Deacon, teams didn't throw to the tight end against us (Rams defense). But the Colts were the exception because Mackey had the skills to chip Deacon and still get into the pass pattern. And he could block well, I had to have my head on a swivel because he'd down-block you sometimes and could deliver a shot on you."

"My quarterback is John Unitas. You could not intimidate him, everyone else you could."

"Jim Brown was far ahead of everyone."

The one guy who made our defense look silly was Gale. He had quick moves that would leave us flat-footed."

Split end
"Raymond Berry had the best hands I saw and had the best moves and was the best end at running his routes to perfection."

"Watching what Jerry Rice did was special. You wouldn't think one guy could be that much better than everyone else at his position in the league."

"I cannot leave Deacon out. I think he had more speed and quickness than anyone at his position and that goes to this day. Maybe people will think I am biased but it would be wrong to not name him as the best—because he was.

Gino was an idol to me when I came into the league. Even though he played outside I watched many canisters of film on him and how he'd grab players and toss them aside fascinated me. Doug (Atkins) could do that, too but he was not as consistent as Gino.

"In games, I covered Reggie White and Howie Long were the best I saw but I cannot honestly say they were better than Deac and Gino."

"Joe Greene would be my left tackle and Bob Lilly would be on the right. They would work well together. Joe and I were kind of similar and Bob and Alan Page were similar. I could have played with Bob and Alan, but not with Joe.

And Joe could have worked well as a tandem with Bob and Alan. But Joe and I and Bob and Alan, had we been paired would not have worked.

We'd have messed each other up, getting in each other's way."

Middle Linebacker
"Dick Butkus was the best in the middle. It would have been wonderful if he'd had a chance to play with a better team. He'd have been better than he was, and he was pretty good (smile)."

Inside Linebacker
For a 3-4 linebacker, Randy Gradishar was the best I saw. I never saw a linebacker who made so many initial stops. It seemed like he was always first to the ball and was a solid hitter, too. Some linebackers would sometimes fall on the piles and get their number called but in the games, Dick (Enberg) and I did it was always "Randy Gradishar on the tackle" and they'd get up and he'd be the last one getting up."

Outside linebacker
"I didn't cover many games of the Giants but we did enough to know that Lawrence Taylor was the best at his job. If he came up in the 1960s or 1970s he would have been put at defensive end. But in the 1980s with the 3-4 defenses that were popping up, the ideal athlete met with the ideal scheme. I sometimes wonder what he might have done as an end, that he may have been a Deacon Jones on the right side.

"The 4-3 outside linebacker I liked the most was Dave Wilcox. He had great size for that era but could still run. Right behind him would be Dave Robinson who also was big, but could run and cover.

I was always jealous of the 49ers and Packers linebacking squads because of their athleticism and size and strength. Our linebackers weren't very good and as a front four, we have to cover for them at times. They just were smaller, slower guys who got by on their brains and George (Allen) if we'd had a Wilcox or someone like that we'd have been that much better. Out linebackers just didn't make the kind of plays you'd expect, you know, game-changing plays."

"By the time I came to the NFL Night Train was slowing down some, but he still was an intimidator and a gambler our quarterbacks were told to stay away from.

Herb Adderly is the next best I ever saw. He was somewhat smaller than Lane but was a big hitter. He was also a gambler who was a cornerback who could be deadly to an offense."

"There were some good ones when I played but to me, Ronnie Lott was the best I saw. He could play cornerback but was a hard-hitting safety and smart player. He was like a Night Train Lane who was playing safety.

"Nolan (Cromwell) got hurt but looking back on my career I cannot think of anyone who could do more things as a safety. He had more range than Lott and had great leaping ability. He was a good hitter but not as rough as Lott but he'd hit, but more importantly, he'd not miss tackles. And he couldn't be fooled too often. I saw him play cornerback some and also linebacker in some of the Rams schemes. But yeah, outside of Lott there is no safety I'd want on my team more than him".

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dave Parks, Early Career Greatness

by TJ Troup

Credit: Philadelphia Cards
There have been many receivers who have attained greatness at some point in their career. Since it will be his birthday tomorrow on Christmas day; a chance for me to pay tribute to a receiver I saw play in person in the mid-sixties who was on his way to a Hall of Fame career:  Dave Parks. The criteria is as follows: only 7 men who pre-Super Bowl caught at least 160 passes, for at least 2,750 yards, and at least 20 touchdowns over the course of 36 games.

They are as follows;
1. The immortal Don Hutson from the beginning of the 1942 season through the first 5 games of 1945. He caught 208 for 3,486 yards, and 45 touchdowns.
Don Hutson, Colorization by John Turney
2. Tom Fears during the first three years of his career caught 212 passes, for 2,827 yards, and 20 touchdowns.
Tom Fears. Colorization by John Turney
3. Pete Pihos last three years of his career (led the league in catches all three) caught 185 passes for 2,785 yards, and 27 touchdowns.
Pete Pihos. Colorization by John Turney
4. Raymond Berry, beginning with the last two games of 1957 through the first 10 games of 1960 caught 203 passes for 3,190 yards, and 33 touchdowns.
Raymond Berry. Colorization by John Turney
5. Del Shofner from the second game of '61 through the 10th game of 1963 caught 163 passes, for 3,038 yards, and 30 touchdowns.
Del Shofner. Colorization by John Turney
6. Bobby Mitchell converted from running back for the 1962 campaign through the first 8 games of '64 caught 176 passes, for 3,433 yards, and 24 touchdowns.
Bobby Mitchell. Credit
7. Dave Parks from the last 9 games of his pro bowl rookie season in 1964 through the 1966 season caught 172 passes, for 2,880 yards, and 24 touchdowns.

Leg injuries and leaving the 49ers contributed to Parks lack of production for the remainder of his career. Watching him run his patterns, his all out effort, and athleticism in catching the ball, and finally his determined running ability after the catch were sure impressive to watch.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rookie Aaron Donald Draws a Triple Team Block

By John Turney

We are only looking back a couple of days, but we wanted to share the fact that Aaron Donald, the rookie defensive tackle for the Rams at least once, drew three blockers.

We don't know if this will be a common thing for him, but it does show a lot of respect. Yes, it is also a function of how many rushers were sent, but it's still a lot of attention for a rookie who is not yet a starter. Donald spelled the regular tackles, and also played in passing situations, both over the center and over the guard and did well.

Here is a shot of the play (clink to enlarge):

We are intrigued with Donald, he looked very quick and will keep you posted—Defensive Rookie of the Year, perhaps?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Random Testimonials and the Hall of Fame

 By John Turney 

On one of my first trips to the Hall of Fame, I was able to interview a few players who were, themselves, Hall of Fame inductees. As was my habit then I'd ask them who they thought was missing from Canton and some of the answers were interesting, excellent players who were not on my list as "missing".

When I asked Dan Fouts he blurted out "Ed White". He and White were teammates and good friends but after several years of research that White was one of those whose career was better than his traditional "honors" (All-Pros, Pro Bowls, etc.) suggested. 

Years later Ron Yary told me that yes, Ed White was indeed a great lineman, again a teammate, but Yary was honest in his evaluations. Yary also mentioned George Kunz as being every but as good as he, Dierdorf, Rayfield Wright, or Art Shell. 

Bob Lilly told me "Roman Gabriel, his numbers are as good as anyone in here". That made some sense because for years Gabriel gave Dallas fits, when he was with the Rams and with the Eagles, even upsetting Dallas a couple of times in 1973 and 1974 and usually doing very well, sometimes whipping the Cowboys when he was with the Rams.
Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure has always maintained Bob Keuchenberg was the "prototype" guard of his era and he, John Hannah, and others used Keuch as the template for how to play guard in the NFL. Additionally, Joe D. thought Dave Butz was a Hall of Famer in terms of how difficult the big man was to move. He's mentioned others as well, like Joe Jacoby and Randy Gradishar as well. DeLamielleure is also high on Joe Klecko as well (Joe D. is a "big Hall" guy).

Another Hall of Famer, Art Shell, puts Gradishar in his top five "not in the Hall of Fame" along with his fellow Raiders Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch, Tom Flores and Roger Brown, the Lions and Rams defensive tackle who attended the same college as Shell. Shell's word is highly respected among voters, I am told.

Merlin Olsen is also one who endorsed Randy Gradishar calling him one of the best linebackers he'd ever seen when playing or covering the NFL.

Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood thinks that Nolan Cromwell and Larry Brooks are two rare players who were dominant who don't get any ink whatsoever and thinks both are HOF-level players. He also says that Russ Washington, the Chargers right tackle gave him more problems than anyone, even Rayfield Wright, Dierdrof, and Yary. He also agrees with Yary that Kunz is in the same class as all of them.

Who knows what the future brings, but it is interesting the names you hear when you ask great players who they think are Hall of Famers because it does not always match with the media narrative. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

George Allen's 1976 Rankings of Linebackers

 By John Turney

In the least of a series, we present George Allen's ranking of linebackers. He lists middle linebackers and outside linebackers and then lists the best backups.

For Allen "Stub" is a strong-side backer, or some coaches call this a "SAM".  His "Buck" is the same as a "Will" or weakside linebacker. Mac is his term for middle linebacker, which is often called the "Mike".

George Allen's Offensive Line Ratings for 1976

 By John Turney

We've posted the defensive backs and the defensive linemen. Here are Allen's rating for the offensive linemen, again, like the defensive linemen this is not a complete list but perhaps who they scouted for the 1977 season. 


Left Guards

Right Guards

Thursday, August 21, 2014

George Allen's 1976 Rankings of 'Rushmen'

 By John Turney

We've posted George Allen's rankings of defensive backs recently and today we are posting his rakings for the "rushmen" or defensive linemen. His term is "rushmen" since he used to say "If a defensive lineman can't rush the passer he is stealing"

This does not appear to be a complete list, however. Missing is his own team and also the Pittsburgh Steelers, the  Baltimore Colts, and several others. We don't have an explanation for that since his defensive back ratings were complete. 

But, we thought we'd share it anyway.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

George Allen's Grades on NFL "Dekes" From 1973

 By John Turney

Dick Anderson and Jake Scott by Bart Forbes

Yesterday we posted George Allen's grades for "Dekes" or defensive backs for the 1976 season. Today we are posting his 1973 grades.

The 1973 grades are the opposite of 1976 when the higher the number the better the grade. Allen changed his system, apparently, between 1974-76. In 1973 the lower the number the better the grade. The explanations are at the top of each page.


Here are his grades for safeties—
Here are his grades for left and right cornerbacks
By position—

Saturday, August 16, 2014

George Allen's Grades on NFL "Dekes" From 1976

 By John Turney

Art Credit: E. Keith

In the mid-1990s we got to visit, as a guest of Jennifer Allen, the home of her mother and father George to go through Allen's library and glean some facts and figures and whatever else we could from his volumes.

One of those things we found were the grades of NFL players (other than his own club). We thought our readers might like to see some of them.

Allen called defensive backs "Dekes" and his names for the specific players were "Lou" for left corner, "Rose" for right corner, "Jill" for weak safety, and "Sam" for strong safety.

Here is his scoring system and explanations—

Here is a chart of the 1976 starters with grades—
Here are the units graded as a whole—
Here are the top strong safeties—
Here are the top free safeties—
Here are the backups—
Here are the right cornerbacks with grades—
Here are the left cornerbacks (Lous) with grades—
Here are the backups ar corner, both left and right—

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red Grange's All-Time NFL Team

By John Turney

In November 1959, Red Grange picked his personal All-Time team:
E—Bill Hewitt
E—Don Hutson
C—Bulldog Turner
G—Dan Fortmann
G—Mike Michalski
T—Link Lyman
T—Steve Owen
T—Duke Slater
T—Cal Hubbard
QB—Sammy Baugh
FB—Bronko Nagurski
HB—George McAfee
HB—Cliff Battles
For some reason, he picked four offensive tackles. The reasoning was not explained in the 1959 article.

Monday, July 21, 2014

George Allen's Evaluations of Three Hall of Fame Tackles

 By John Turney

Today we will post the evaluations for Dan Dierdorf, and George Kunz and Rayfield Wright. We didn't find the Ron Yary or Art Shell evaluations wile in Pacific Palisades doing research on the Late-George Allen's library. In coming days we will post more of Allen's work, but we found the tackles quite interesting.