Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"The Little General"

By T.J. Troup

Eddie LeBaron began his NFL career in 1952 after a productive career in college, and serving our country with honor in Korea. LeBaron attempted a couple of passes opening day in 1952 against the Cardinals as he patiently watched the master; Sammy Baugh, lead Washington to victory.
Baugh and LeBaron. Colorization by John Turney
The Steelers led the Redskins 24-21 in the 4th quarter the fourth week of the season until Eddie threw his first game-winning touchdown (43 yards to Bones Taylor). LeBaron threw 9 touchdown passes the last three weeks of the year to finish a strong rookie campaign. He shared the quarterback position with Jack Scarbath in 1953 before heading north to Canada for one year.

Head Coach Joe Kuharich believed in a power running game, and with the defense now entrenched in the 4-3 the Redskins became contenders for the Eastern Division crown in 1955. LeBaron's ball handling skills and his ability to pass after precision fakes led to an upset opening day in 1955 against the defending league champion Browns. His 13-yard scoring canter after traversing the entire field was the final score in the upset. Eddie kept defenses off balance with his roll outs, fakes, and thew continued use of Kuharich's unbalanced offensive alignments for the next three seasons. Though Washington was capable of beating anyone, wins just did not come often enough for Kuharich to keep his job. LeBaron had a highly efficient season passing in 1958 as he completed 37 of 64 for 686 yards with 9 going for touchdowns, and only 3 interceptions in the four Washington wins. The season highlight came on November 9th when the "Little General" threw 5 touchdown passes in the victory over the Chicago Cardinals. A double run fake; a beautiful touch pass down the right sideline to halfback Jim Podoley for 66 yards set up his 5 yard pitch to Joe Walton. Second quarter and Eddie flips over the middle to Podoley for 20 yards and a score. A mix-up in the backfield would have stymied many a signal caller, but LeBaron had the wherewithal to roll left and find Podoley open for a 10 yard scoring toss. Before the half, Eddie throws to Walton in the right flat for 18 yards and his fourth touchdown after a sterling play action fake reminiscent of Frankie Albert.

LeBaron has the Redskins in an unbalanced left formation, with right end Joe Walton running a seam streak down the middle of field. Eddie is on the money again (38 yards)and his fifth and final touchdown toss of the game. The close of the 1959 season under new coach Mike Nixon has LeBaron hanging up his cleats. He earned three Pro Bowl berths in his time in Washington as he completed 221 of 435 passes for 3,549 yards (16 yards a completion) with 36 going for touchdowns and 36 interceptions in the games the Redkins won. His 71.5 passer rating is an indicator of his value to the team (47.3 in games the 'Skins lost or tied). 
LeBaron and Lipscomb. Colorization by John Turney
Expansion in Texas and head coach Tom Landry wants a veteran signal caller to take the reins in Dallas in '60. Though the maiden voyage of the Cowboys is a winless struggle; there is a player heading to Los Angeles for the pro bowl. End Jim Doran latched on to enough of LeBaron's accurate passes to earn that distinction. Talented Don Meredith has a fine future in football as he shares the position with Eddie during an improved 1961 season. 

October 14, 1962, stands out in passing annuals as LeBaron achieves a PERFECT passer rating of 158.3 (completes 7 of 7 for 128 yards and a touchdown) in the win over Philadelphia. Next up; a strong hard-bitten gang of Steelers are destroyed by "The Little General's" passing acumen 42-27. First quarter and LeBaron fires to Howton for 16 yards and a score. In the second quarter and speedy Frank Clarke (caught more LeBaron touchdown passes than any other player) grabs a pass and strides 45 yards to score. Third quarter; and Clarke catches two touchdown passes from Eddie (3 and 13 yards) as Dallas takes command of the game. His fifth and final is a 26 yard toss to Lee Folkins. Many fine passers have played for multiple teams, but how many have thrown 5 touchdown passes for two teams in their career? Six weeks into the campaign and LeBaron leads the league in passing as he has completed 60 of 92 for a whopping 945 yards with 11 scores and just 4 intercepted and Dallas has a winning record (3-2-1). Though the Cowboys fell from contention; LeBaron was honored with another Pro Bowl selection. Landry many times during the year rotated quarterbacks with the play. Eddie comes back for one final season in 1963 as Meredith's back-up. The Dallas Cowboys won 11 games during LeBaron's time in Texas. His passing was the key element as his passer rating was 107.7! May the "Little General" rest in peace.

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