Monday, February 29, 2016

Mike Mamula: Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith Nails It

By John Turney
We were thinking of doing a post on this very subject, but Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith already nailed it in his recent post on the subject. You can read it  HERE. We remember when Smith wrote THIS a few years back and appreciated it as well. Additionally, The Big Lead posted a story last year on the same subject and it was well done.

To Smith's post we would add the following:

While it is true Mamula was drafted higher than he would have been if he had not turned in a stunning combine performance, but he was likely going to be a first-round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft anyway, albeit a late first-round pick, if he had turned in a good, solid, but not spectacular, performance. At least that is my view.

Mamula says he'd heard rumors that he'd be a third-round pick prior to the combine, but from the literature we have scanned that seems low.The literature of the day suggests he was certainly on the late-first round radar earlier than that famous combine performance.  But, the combine boosted his stock tremendously, no doubt. 

The final draft pre-draft publications (post-combine) by two of the "draftniks" of the day, Joel Buchsbaum and Ourlad's had him in their Mock drafts in the middle-of-the-first-round range. I do not have access to Mel Kiper's mock for that year, but I suspect Mamula was a first-round projection in that publication as well.

Insightfully, Buchsbaum stated that Mamula needed to be used like Charles Haley or Kevin Greene to be productive, noting his lack of ideal size for a defensive end in the NFL. Ourlad's said he projected as a possible outside linebacker as well.

Mamula was also a victim of circumstance in that he entered the NFL when it was a 4-3 league after a decade (the 1980s) was was a 3-4 base league. Mamula was only about 255 pounds, give or take, and was asked to play every-down defensive end. Had it been a 3-4 league in 1995, he would have played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and played defensive end in passing downs, like other great rushbackers of the day, Andre Tippett, Pat Swilling, Ricky Jackson and many others. 

If he were to enter NFL today, he'd be like a Conner Barwin, Ryan Kerrigan, or a Terrell Suggs-type hybrid backer-end. As the NFL was in 1995, Mamula had a small chance of going to one of the few 3-4 teams left. Buchsbaum seems to have been pretty accurate in his projection.

Smith details Mamula's career very well. We'd add in a 1995 nugget: five of his 5.5 sacks came against Jumbo Elliott (3 in two games) and Willie Roaf (2 in one game) showing he was not out of his depth in the NFL as a smaller, blind-side rusher. Can we be sure all those sacks came against Elliot or Roaf? No, only film study would show that, but it's fair to think that Mamula had some success versus those two All-Pros. 

The following season, 1996, Mamula had 8 sacks and 9.5 run stuffs, a good number for a total of 17.5 plays behind the line of scrimmage, three forced fumbles, three recovered, one for a touchdown—the numbers of a Pro Bowl-type season. 

Also, we've posted his career stats, adding in run/pass stuffs and hurries. As the chart shows, Mamula was especially effective in 1996. In addition to the sacks and stuffs, Mamula, according to the coach's defensive statistics, led the Eagles in hurries in 1996, 1997, and 1999 and was tied for third in that category in 2000.
PFT's Smith rightly points out that injuries got the better of Mamula and forced an early career, not some kind of lack of talent or lack of production.

As for the combine, yes, it was reported to be jaw-dropper. At 6-4½ and 248 pounds Mamula ran a  4.58 forty-yard dash and a 4.03 short shuttle. His vertical leap was 38½ inches and his broad jump was 10 feet 5 inches. He also did 28 reps of 225 pounds in the bench drill and for good measure scored a 49 on the Wonderlic. Mamula was one of the first athletes to train specifically for the combine, doing the exact drills that were to be done, so he was very familiar with the process and had worked those movements into his muscle memory. 

It was simply that he and his Boston College strength and conditioning coach  Jerry Palmieri, who was recently let go by the New York Giants as their S&C Coach, knew what was to be expected and had his star athlete train to do well.  As Mamula once said, "What was I supposed to to, not do well at the combine?". As it turns out, Mamula and Palmieri were simply ahead of their time and trend-setters as all college players "train to the drills" since then.

It can be argued successfully that Mamula was over-drafted, that he was not a talent that warranted being taken that high, but it really cannot be argued that he was not a mid-to-late-first round talent. Thus, if not performing like a seventh overall pick constitutes a "bust" in someone's mind, fine, but to call him one of the "Workout warrior All-time busts" is errant in my view. We have others, such as Vernon Gholston (zero career sacks, 2.5 career stuffs), for that.

2008 Combine results for defensive ends

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Convivial Suggestion for Jerry Jones: Re-serif the Cowboys Uniform Numerals

By John Turney

The Dallas Cowboys have one of the NFL's iconic uniforms, especially the home version, which is white. It has been essentially the same since 1964. There was a change in the sleeve stripes in 1967 when the number of stripes was reduced from three to two.

However, one change that was not in keeping with the tradition was done prior to Jerry Jones's ownership of the club. It was in 1982 that the serifs, the small lines or marks at the end of letters or numbers, were removed. See below:

The post-1981 numerals were also thinner in addition to being sans serif. See below:

Later, in 1986, the numbers were made much thicker and they were the ones many became familiar with during the 1990s. See below:
1985 Ed Jones, versus Rams in Anaheim
1986 Ed Jones versus Broncos in Dencer

Circa 1990s

Circa 1990s
Those same sizes remain today, though now the numerals are sewn-on tackle twill, whereas in the 1990s they were iron-on plastic. See below:

Circa 2000s

Circa 2010s
Here are some examples of the serif numbers from the 1960s and 1970s, it is our view that they looked great because they were unique and distinct in the NFL gallery of jerseys. See below:

We certainly realize that Mr. Jones rightly more concerned about returning to the Super Bowl that a relatively minor issue of uniforms, but it is our sincere hope that Mr. Jones hears our humble, yet clarion call and seriously consider going back to the serif numbers in the navy, tackle twill fabric.

After all, doesn't this just look awesome? And besides, we are not asking that Jason Garrett wear a fedora, after all.
Inside the

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fran Tarkenton, Still All-time Leader in Being Sacked.

By John Turney
Minnesota Viking Quarterback Fran Tarkington by Thomas A. Needham (18 x 12 inches) acrylic on illustration board. Source: Pinterest
On page 553 of the 2015 NFL Record and Fact Book it shows the following:

As a team statistic, sacks were created by Seymour Siwoff of Elias Sports Bureau in 1963. In 1969, Elias and the NFL began publishing the times any given individual quarterback was sacked. So, finding those numbers is relatively easy since they were found in the NFL Record and Fact Books and are now reproduced on Pro Football Reference.

However, by going through the play-by-plays (gamebooks) one could easily find who was sacked prior to 1969 (and 1963, even). That data was continuously recorded, unlike the player who did the sacking who was usually recorded but not in every single instance. 

Thus, by going through the method described above, and thankfully the Minnesota Vikings have kept their documents safe and in good order, we find the following:
Chart credit: PFR and Minnesota Vikings

Four Men Who Broke Pro Football's Color Barrier: Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, Bill Willis and Marion Motley

By John Turney
Bill Willis
Bill Willis was an Ohio State lineman from 1942-44. While there he was a three-year starter - including two seasons for coach Paul Brown - playing both offense and defense. Willis earned All-America honors in 1943 and 1944 (Ohio State's first-such African American honoree) and was a key part of the Buckeyes' 1942 national championship squad.  Willis went on to a great career with the Cleveland Browns (1946-53). 

A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame. Willis played eight seasons in professional football and was First-team All-league (AAFC or NFL) seven times and Second-team All-League once.
Marion Motley
Motley enrolled in 1939 at South Carolina State College but transferred before his sophomore year to the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was a stellar player from 1941-43. In 1046 he joined the Cleveland Browns and led them to many league titles

Motley played nine professional football seasons and was First-team All-League five times and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sports Illustrated's famed writer Paul Zimmerman said Motley was the best football player he ever saw in the pro ranks. 
Woody Strode
Woody Strode, Kenny Washington, and Jackie Robinson starred on the 1939 UCLA Bruins football team. Strode only played one year in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and then played two years in the Canadian Football League. He went on to a wrestling career and a Hollywood acting career.
Kenny Washington
Washington was a single-wing tailback at UCLA from 1937 through 1939. In 1939, Washington led the nation in total offense and became the first UCLA player to be named All-American. 

Solely because of his race, Washington was passed over by the NFL (which had not had an African American player since 1933) Instead, he became the biggest star in two minor professional leagues on the West Coast. First, by playing for the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast Pro Football League in 1940-41.  Later, in 1945 for the San Francisco Clippers of the American Football League in 1944.

In 1946 the Los Angeles Rams signed Washington, ending the 12-year ban on black players in the NFL. After three seasons with the Rams, he retired in 1948. 

However, it was not pure virtue (far from it) that allowed Washington to be signed. Pressure on the Rams from the city of Los Angeles, trying to convince the Los Angeles Colesium Public Commission forced the hand of the Rams. That and public pressure from media in the Los Angeles area moved the process along as well. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Chris Long, More Effective than Basic Numbers Show

By John Turney
Chris Long. Art Credit: John Turney
Chris Long, the Rams left defensive end was released today after eight years with the club. He was the #2 overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft. When fans will search for his career stats on the Internet at major NFL sites they will see some version of the following:

However, that is just the basics, and we will cover what is not seen in that basic stats. 

Long's time in St. Louis will be marked with "worker", "motor", "high-effort" and other such adjectives. However, he didn't always get the post-season honors of some of the others strong side edge rushers in Rams history, like Deacon Jones (HOF), Jack Youngblood (HOF), Kevin Greene (HOF), even Kevin Carter (1999 All-Pro)  and Leonard Little (2003 All-Pro). However, if that is his legacy, it will be shorting Long's true affect on the Rams defense.

Long moved to left defensive end in 2010 and was the starter there, full-time, through 2013. In 2014 he suffered a severe high-ankle sprain that required surgery and in 2015 he damaged his knee. From 2010-2013 he averaged double-digits in sacks and was a Pro Bowl Alternate (not voted to the team, but would play if someone who was on squad was injured) all four years. In addition, he was the NFL Alumni Lineman of the Year in 2001, as voted on by former NFL players. These are honors one won't find in the St. Louis Rams Media Guide. 

However, what is also hard to find, is the fine analysis of two metrics website sites, Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. Both of those sites view film and report statistics that are not found elsewhere, to speak of. Among their metrics are quarterback hits, hurries, pressures. They go by several names, and at some point we will analyze how different organizations track them, but in this case it's clear. PFF and FO, though their scoring protocols differ, have Chris Long as leading the NFL in their "total QB disruptions-a combination of QB hits and pressures, (PFF) and "combined hits and Hurries (FO). PFF has him with 216 such "disruptions" and FO has him with 166 hits/hurries for that four-year period. And that puts him at the head of the line for all defensive linemen from 2010-2013. 

For good measure, in reviewing the Rams coach's statistics, they credit Long with 211 "hits and hurries" for that same four-year period. As can be seen, each source has a different way of scoring a "hurry" or pressure, as it is subjective, but in all cases the numbers are high.

It is unknown, at this point, if the Los Angeles Rams will re-sign him for a more cap-friendly salary, or if he will go somewhere else, but via Twitter, Long has indicated he has more to prove in the NFL:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Trump and the USFL

By John Turney

Uniform Oddities: 1970-1975 Los Angeles Rams Uniforms

By John Turney
As folks who followed uniforms quite closely and as someone who is a fan of Gridiron Uniform Database and UniWatch a little new information was found that piqued my interest. Here is the background:

In 1972 Baltimore Colt owner Carroll Rosenbloom and Los Angeles Rams owners Robert Irsay (who recently purchased the team from the estate of HOF owner Dan Reeves) swapped franchises with Rosenbloom taking ownership of the Rams and Irsay took control the Colts, plus some of Rosenbloom's cash.

That season, as a new owner, not knowing the ins and outs of his team yet, Rosenbloom and new Rams General Manager Don Klosterman simply observed the team, not making changes, learning more about their new asset. However, 1973 was to be different, the Rams were going in a new direction with a new coach, new quarterback, new running back, new star receiver, etc. a number of trades were made. In addition, they were to don new uniforms.

Rosenbloom and Klosterman incorporated the Rams past history by adding gold to the uniform and making several changes. At the end of the 1972 Los Angeles Rams highlight film, prototypes, I suppose they would be called, were shown and that is what caught my eye.

Here are screenshots from that film:

The uniform the Rams ended up wearing in 1973 was very similar, in fact exact, except that the trim around the numbers was removed from both versions. Around that time NFL rules on uniforms stated that white numerals could have color trim, but any other color could not unless there was a dark break in the trim, which the San Diego Chargers employed in 1974:
There is a blue outline around the gold, then white trim, which Rams uniform lacked, make this one okay. 
In the 1973 Rams preseason, in games played in Los Angeles, the Rams used the uniforms with the white trim around the yellow numbers but were told by the NFL that the white trim had to be removed, per league rules according to equipment manager Todd Hewitt, who was the son of the Rams equipment manager Don Hewitt. Also, as per Hewitt, the numbers were difficult to see from the stands and press box. Here is an example of those uniforms with the trim:
1973 Rams versus Cleveland, white trim is around numbers.
We do wonder if the rule about the outline didn't come about a year later, with the Chargers the following season. It is a subject we will continue to research.

In any event, by the time the first Rams regular-season games rolled around, the white trim was removed as seen here:
1973 regular season, all yellow numbers.
The white jerseys were actually made and the yellow trim was removed before they were worn in a preseason game in Berkely, CA, versus the Oakland Raiders and the numbers on the uniforms were sans the yellow trim. They altered the same time as the blue jerseys? This was confirmed by Todd Hewitt who still owns one of the original 1973 white jerseys.

Recently, we found this jersey online, which at first glance looks authentic, though not game-used authentic. It suggests that the jersey was at least manufactured in the proper era.

Figure 1
Figure 2
The nameplate is interesting because beginning in 1973 Jack Youngblood's full name appeared on his jersey, as did Jim Youngblood. But, when this was made, if authentic, it would not have been a certainty that Jim Youngblood, a second-round pick would make the team, so it's possible that this predated the time when the Youngbloods were wearing a full name nameplate.

Jack Youngblood told me that when it was apparent that Jim Youngblood was going on make the roster, GM Don Klosterman came up to him and asked, "How'd you like the have your full name on the back of the jersey?". Youngblood told Klosterman he was "fine with it" and told me that his thoughts were that it was cool, but he was not sure why Klosterman would ask him such a thing as if he would have had any control one way or the other. Regardless, if this were authentic the missing first name would not be a deal-breaker.

So, the above jersey has the correct tag, properly sized numbers that match regular-season numbers, minus the yellow trim, but has the wrong style numbers. see the "5"?
Our opinion is that the #85 jersey in Figure 1 and Figure 2 was the "plan" for 1973 but when the white trim from the home jersey was removed, it is possible that the yellow trim from the road jersey was removed and therefore, never worn in an NFL game. But it is also our view that the #85 jersey in Figure 1 and Figure 2 is not from 1973 since the style of the "5" is not the same as the 5s used on the Rams jerseys that season and is therefore not an authentic Rams jersey.
Two other dubious 1973 "authentics"

This is not authentic in our view. Harris wore #11 in 1973 and the numbers are not the proper size. There are better uniform experts than myself, however. Long sleeves are interesting, however.

Unfortunately, it came with a letter of authenticity. We have covered the name of the evaluator but we strongly disagree with his opinion on the authenticity of this jersey.

This, too, in our opinion, is not authentic. Numbers too big and all jerseys had white trim removed. Also, the nameplate has a yellow letter. Rams name-on-back was white.

This one, too, came with a letter of authenticity, which was attached to the auction. Their view greatly differs from ours 

The lesson? Caveat emptor, I suppose. I hope the winning bidder for the above two didn't pay too much. Even with a COA, the buyer does have to beware.

Now, Two 1973 Authentic Jerseys for Comparison:  

The first game-used is a #58 Isiah Robertson road jersey.
This #58 jersey has proper typeface for numerals, size, and is a 1973 authentic, in my opinion.

The second authentic game-used is a Bill Nelson #67 home jersey

This, too, is an authentic 1973 LA Rams home jersey. Numbers proper, as is the nameplate and tags.

One other Rams jersey oddity. From 1970-75 The Rams wore a different white jersey every season. From 1970-72 the design was the same, but the fabric changed each year.

From 1973-75 the fabric and design was the same, but the numbers changed every year.

1970: Sand-Knit brand Durene cotton with Sewn-on tackle twill numerals. First-year jersey with name on back

1971: Rawlings Brand double knit jersey, iron-on Vinflex numerals, Ram players hated these as they absorbed too much sweat and go heavy.

1972 Medalist Sand-Knit mesh jersey, iron-on numerals. A one-year style as Rams changed uniforms in 1973.

1973: Medalist-Sand Knit, mesh jersey Sewn-on tackle twill numerals
 1973 front

1974: Medalist Sand-Knit, mesh with enlarged sewn-on tackle twill numerals.

1975: Medalist Sand-Knit. Mesh with Iron-on synthetic/plastic numbers. Could also be 1976 as they were the same as they were in 1975. They remained the same through, essentially, 1999, though manufacturers changed in the 1990s.

For Completeness Sake, here are the Blue Jerseys the Rams wore from 1970-75 to compare.

1970-1971: Durene (with cotton and polyester blended into them.) with tackle twill numerals. Rams rarely wore this, so in 1971 when the team went to Rawlings for white jerseys, they wore the old Durene from previous years. 
These were Russell Southern, who Rams used often in the 1960s

1972 Medalist Sand-Knit mesh jersey, iron-on synthetic numerals. First year for Rams to wear mesh jerseys.

1973: Medalist Sand-Knit thin, sewn-on tackle-twill numbers

We have not found an authentic 1974 Home jersey for the Rams

1975: Medalist Sand-Knit with Iron-on synthetic numbers