Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Few Notes on Al Wistert, An Eagle Great

By John Turney
Al Wistert (L), Steve Van Buren (C), Alex Wojciechowicz (R)
The research organization I belong to, Pro Football Researchers Association (PFRA), has long had a plethora of members who are champions of Al Wistert's cause to be in Pro Football's Hall of Fame.

The founder of that organization, Bob Carroll (along with co-authors Pete Palmer and John Thorn) wrote in his excellent book The Hidden Game of Football that Wistert was the most deserving player not yet in the Hall of Fame.

Yesterday, Ray Didinger wrote eloquently about Wistert and his career. There is no use for me to try top that. I would encourage everyone to read that article. You can do so by clicking HERE.

Additionally, PFRA president Ken Crippen has spent a lot of time researching Wistert's career, not only on paper, but from the available film of Eagle's games from the 1940s. I would encourage everyone to go HERE to read his historical scouting report on Wistert.

Wistert (#70), Colorization by John Turney
Also Crippen penned a Fact Sheet on Wistert, which can be seen below:

Wistert (70). Colorization by John Turney
Here are a couple other data points: In the NFL for the years Wistert played only the mighty Chicago Bears rushed for more yards and more touchdowns and only the Bears won more games and had a higher winning percentage (68.8% for Bears, 64.4% for Eagles). See chart below:
Chart Credit: Pro Football Journal
And since Wistert was a two-way player (offensive tackle and defensive tackle), and according to the George Allen quotes was a fine defender and in Wistert's era, it is worth noting the Eagles were the best run-stopping team in the NFL. See the above chart.

Additionally, the Eagles were first in fewest passing yards allowed, although the Brooklyn Tigers allowed one yard per game less, they only played 20 games in that 1943-51 era, going defunct in 1945. It may be harder to determine Wistert's impact on the passing game in terms of yards, but again, Allen testifies that Wistert was "among the good early pass rushers". 

In the mid-1940s he played at least some of what can only be described as a standup defensive tackle/linebacker position - a hybrid position, really. From there he'd occasionally take a motioning T-running back out of the backfield in man-to-man coverage. It was a wrinkle in how the Eagles coaches would coverages in the mid-1940s. That is a tough assignment for a defensive tackle.

In that same era he could be seen playing stand-up defensive end as well, which looking at it today would be considered an outside linebacker/edge position and he got good pressure when going after the passer from that spot.

I've been privileged to see quite a lot of the Wistert films, including full games, but not as much as Crippen and Coach T.J. Troup, and Wistert stood out. In a common term used today he "flashed". Wistert, in my view, would be an excellent choice for the Hall of Fame, he's what I term a "super senior" candidate, one of the early greats that played pre-1950.  R.I.P. Mr. Wistert
Wistert. Colorization by John Turney

1 comment:

  1. Al Wistert belongs in the Hall of Fame for sure. 8x All-NFL. Plus, he made one of the greatest blocks in NFL history, taking out two guys on Steve Van Buren's TD in the 1948 championship. I thankfully got to know Mr. Wistert a little bit when writing The Game Before the Money. Always a gracious guy and I'm really grateful for the time he spent on the phone with me.