By T.J. Troup
Many new faces on the Giants roster to open the 1948 season and many would not stay for very long. Film study of the second game of the season against Washington is a fascinating exercise in what is, and what never should be (sounds like lyrics to a song?).
Paul Governali starts at quarterback with Tunnell at left halfback. Some plays are snaps through the quarterback's legs to Tunnell and he can run or hand off to the wingback on a reverse. He catches a screen early in the game for 14 yards (the longest catch of his career). Very late in the game he sweeps right for 12 yards. When Tunnell is taken out of the line-up, he is replaced by Conerly at left halfback. Joe Sulatis had replaced Governali at quarterback and the direct snaps back to Conerly are the beginning of pass plays for the Giants.
Sulatis is in to move to his right and block. Conerly had some success opening day with long completions though he did not pass much. Early in the game today against the Redskins he lofts a long touch pass 43 yards in the air right on target to John Atwood for a gain of 54. Everyone watching can easily see this is a gifted passer in a strange strategic offense.
The Giants offensive line struggles in both pass protection and run blocking; what else is there? Conerly is forced to run around, and actually has a couple of decent runs, while Governali is credited with 5 carries for -58 yards rushing! Yes, that is right....MINUS-58!
I am not sure why the official score keeper did not list these as losses attempting to pass? Score keepers in other games did list yards lost attempting to pass.
Watching this lopsided Washington victory brings to the forefront what no doubt Steve Owen saw; there are players on the field who are just not capable of helping us win games. During the 6th game of the 1952 season Tunnell intercepted the 36 pass of his career to pass former teammate Frank Reagan as the all-time interceptor (his 53rd game).
The beginning of 1948 though Tunnell rarely plays defense, and some of the men in the secondary for New York are not on the roster at the close of the season. Starting on November 14th during a three-game stretch Tunnell intercepts 7 passes for 116 yards in returns from his left corner post. He has also become the Giants main punt returner and returns 6 for 74 yards in those three games.
Paul Governali cannot keep Conerly on the bench for very long, and down the stretch (last four games of the season) Chuckin' Charlie is just that. He completes 94 of 149 for 1,106 yards, with 10 going for touchdowns, and only 2 intercepted. Name a rookie in league history that threw for 1,100 yards in his last four games?
Conerly has sure-handed Ray Poole at right end, and athletic Bill Swiacki at left end. Due to Conerly's precision passes they combine to catch 74 passes for 1,042 yards. The best duo to this point in Giant history. New York finishes 4-8 for the year, but coach Owen knows he has two youngsters to lead this team.
The Giants break even in 1949 with a 6-6 record but halfback Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts has improved dramatically as a receiver out of the backfield to help Conerly. The offensive line is also improved as Tex Coulter is moved from left tackle to center, and the Giants acquire veteran Ed Kolman to play right tackle, and be the offensive line coach.
Chuckin' Charlie is now a blocking back part of the time as Steve Owen has brought back the "A" formation (a variation of the single wing) and the Giants become a ground power. The stats bear this out and film study shows an offensive line that punches holes in the defense as Giant runners explode into the open field.
The 1950 New York Giants are still the ONLY team in league history that has 9 different running plays of at least 50 yards in a season. The key is rookie miniature fullback Eddie Price with his relentless style and quickness. Ed Kolman is one of the best offensive line coaches in the league (he learned his lessons well as a Bear), and his "boys" get the job done. Can Conerly still complete a pass? Yes sir, he just does not throw as often, but the team comes first as New York ties the powerful Browns for the American Conference Crown.
Tunnell and Conerly shared the left halfback position early in the 1948 season and will end their careers together in a championship game in Green Bay Wisconsin on the last day of the 1961 season with Tunnell's Packers taking the title in a big win over Conerly's Giants.