Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Deacon Jones: The Alpha and the Omega

By John Turney
What is well known about Deacon Jones is his dominance as a pass rusher at left defensive end from the time he was a rookie until the end. Well, he was all that, but technically, he began his career and ended it on different notes.

What is not commonly known is that Jones made his first NFL start as an offensive left tackle. In 1961 he opened the season trying to block the Colts defensive end Ordell Braase. He didn't start at defensive end until later in the season, though he played there.

The Rams settled on Jim Boeke at left tackle for the rest of the season (Boeke started in 1960 at left tackle as well). Boeke is not a household name but had a decent NFL career, being a starter at times for both the Rams and the Cowboys.

More people will remember Boeke from his acting career in which he had a few memorable bit parts. One ironically enough was in 1978's Heaven Can Wait in which he played "Kowalsky" in tandum with Deacon Jones's "Gorman" the two defensive lineman who tormented Warran Beatty when he was trying out (as Leo Farnsworth) as the Rams quarterback.

The memorable line from the Rams coach was "Look at Gorman and Kowalski. That's how they look when they eat".
Deacon Jones as "Gorman"
Jim Boeke as Kowalski

Back from sidebar—here are some shots of Deacon, then known as David Jones, in his first NFL start.


Jones didn't play well and was not in the game on the offensive line in the second half of the Colts-Rams 1961 opener. Perhaps the coaches had seen enough to know that perhaps Jones was better suited for defense.

Jones ended his career in 1974 with the Washington Redskins. He was a designated pass rusher that season, usually filling in for Ron McDole at left end in passing situations, but sometimes at right defensive end, subbing for Verlon Biggs. What is little know, though, is that Deacon's last regular season play was not on the defensive (or offensive) line. It was as a kicker.

Late in a 42-0 blowout of the Chicago Bears, Redskins coach George Allen called on Deacon to kick a PAT because Mark Moseley was injured. Or so the story goes:

Credit: Nate Fine. Getty Images.
Years ago Jones told us that he'd been a backup kicker for much of his career and that at halftime he asked Allen (who'd coached him from 1966-70 in Los Angeles) to let him kick in the game if there was an opportunity. With a blowout of a game the opportunity arose. According to Jones backup quarterback and full-time holder Joe Theismann wouldn't hold for him ("that little prick") but finally relented after a brief "conversation" with Jones.

Jones made the PAT, though it was not pretty. So there you have it. One of the greatest defensive ends in the history of the NFL opened his career as a left offensive tackle and ended it as a kicker.

1978 Leroy Neiman Art for Super Bowl XII CBS Graphics

By John Turney

For Super Bowl XII CBS-TV commissioned artist Leroy Neiman to paint artwork that could be used to introduce the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos offensive groups.

Television then, as it does now, introduces the players to the viewing audience through graphics illustrated by photos (that often look like mugshots). For the Super Bowl XII telecast, these pieces of art were used.

The Dallas Offense
 The Denver Defense
 The Denver Offense
 The Dallas Defense

Monday, May 29, 2017

Strictly Personal: HOF Voting Committee, Would a Little Soviet-style Central Planning Be So Bad?

By John Turney
Bold denotes first ballot
In any given year getting voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a zero-sum game, there are only five slots and there are 15 finalists who are, in the end, voted in at above a 90% rate, so they are worthy of the HOF, but have to wait.
Some folks (and I am one of them) agree with Bob Costas who once told me that there is extra cachet to being a first-ballot Hall of Famer in any sport. So, the challenge for voters is to take extra care to ensure those who truly rose above their peers get that honor. For football, it's the likes of Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Jerry Rice and next year, likely Ray Lewis and many other greats.

There have been some in the media who say "A guy's a Hall of Famer or he's not". They say it as though it's scripture or carved in stone atop the mountain where the football gods reside. It's not. Sometimes players have to wait, as was the case for Terrell Owens. He will get in, but he had enough "dings" to warrant exclusion from being a first-balloter.

For those who say the Hall of Fame should include as many qualified players as there are, and expand the maximum number from five to . . . whatever is suited for the year. Perhaps that could happen for the 100th Anniversary of the NFL, a special circumstance, but Year-in, year-out? No.

Remember the Hall of Fame is a real thing, it's bricks and mortar and not something just on paper or on a website. If all the critics want to take a couple of weeks off (or more) and volunteer in Canton to make sure that nine, ten, or twelve HOF inductees all get the special attention they need for the celebration, then maybe. They can drive people around, make hotel and flight reservations, prepare the parade, the festival, then go ahead, maybe it could work with all of the critics doing those things to help those who already do it for the five current players and the senior and contributors.

The real world, outside the Internet, has budgets, time constraints, limited manpower, limited room accommodations. And if an inductee is from Pittsburgh or Buffalo, look out. It's going to be standing room only at all the events. So those not familiar with the Hall should be a bit more humble when suggesting that they expand the current size a potential current player Hall of Fame class if they don't know what it takes to put on the Hall of Fame week. Maybe, just maybe the Hall of Fame officials have good reasons for having the current player classes capped at five.

So, let's focus. If recently, over 90% of those who make the Final 15 list for induction into the Hall of Fame (and it is higher than that, I've done the math) then why not make sure they all get in while also preserving the extra honor to those who deserve to be first ballot inductees? That means making sure good, qualified candidates who have been on the Final 15 or SHOULD have been do not get overlooked any further and go into the Senior's Pool, often called "Senior Swamp" where it's hard for those candidates to get another look. Sadly, there are many great players in that category. Some of that was because of (and this in my personal opinion) in-fighting and localism and esoteric concerns by less enlightened voting committees of yesteryear. Yes. I said it.
Okay, how does this apply now?  Well, to make sure all of the 10 Finalists who didn't get inducted plus the newcomers and a couple players who are coming to the end of their eligibility in the modern player category it will take four or five years. That means some players and their fans and presenters will have to wait, but in my view, that is no dishonor, getting in is an honor.

So here is the convivial suggestion: The voters can prioritize players less by parochial concerns and on a more open evaluation that includes stats, honors, testimonials, etc. to really give first-ballot to those whose "resumes" are almost flawless and allow other great players to wait and not be offended by it.
So, let's take the wide receivers. Terrell Owens has been dinged for a couple of years. Vote him in in 2018 and he'll be a third ballot guy, same as Marvin Harrison. Then, ding Randy Moss a year. There is enough of his "dogging it" and "I play when I want to play" in his numbers and performance to reasonable say he's not in the same category as Jerry Rice, the last first-ballot wide receiver.

Yes, his fans will scream and rip apart the voting committee like they did for Owens and other wide receivers over the years, but they will get over it when he's elected in 2019. Then the "receiver" space is open for Isaac Bruce, who's qualified but gets lost in the shuffle. Three receivers in the next three years. No more backlog, no one waits too long, qualified greats of the game get into the HOF. That clears the deck for when Megatron and others recently retired receivers become eligible, which always come faster than it seems they should. Five years goes by fast, it seems.

Now, the tackles. Joe Jacoby is considered the best lineman of the three-championship Redskins and he was a starter in all three of those Super Bowl wins. The upcoming vote in 2018 is his last year before being relegated to the "Swamp". Jacoby's resume is not as strong as some recent tackles like Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones, but it is certainly strong enough to warrant election and not put in a place where it could be decades before he's pulled out. Solution: Vote him in.
Then, in 1994, and this is imperative, keep Mike Kenn from going into the Swamp. In 2019 he, if the voters see fit to vote for him, will have his first chance at induction and last chance before becoming a senior. Like Jacoby, he's too great a player to have that fate. He played 17 seasons and started 17 seasons. Jackie Slater, for example, played 20 and was a full-time starter in about 14-15 of those. Kenn was an All-Pro in 1980 and in 1991, eleven years apart (what offensive tackle can make that claim?). He was All-Pro and Pro Bowl player in between those two seasons, too. He also ranked very high during his career by one pro scouting service's grades, was rarely called for penalties, gave up fewer sacks per 16 games that some of the recent tackles (though it was close). Kenn has the goods.

Of course, this will upset the Jaguar fans who have a fine tackle of their own who made it to the Final 10 in 2017. However, his final season was in 2001 so he can wait without being cast into the Swamp. So, with Jacoby, then Kenn, then Boselli the deck is cleared for others like who are waiting.

Brian Dawkins didn't get in last year, but he's (in my view) one of the best two free safeties of the last three decades. Ed Reed, in my view, is the best free safety ever, though clearly, others will disagree, in either case, he;s worthy of being one of those rare players who have no flaws on their resume to speak of and being voted into the HOF right away. So, any delay on Dawkins only gums up the works for him. Then, in 2019, Reed gets in. In 2020 in this proposed "defensive back spot" Ty Law could get his due. Law was a key to the early 2000s Patriots defenses and was a tremendous cover corner. Surely those Patriots were more than just Tom Brady.

As mentioned, Ray Lewis should get a first-ballot spot in 2018 (meaning Brian Urlacher will have to wait), then in 2019 Tony Gonzales should get that honor as well, and in 2010 I think Troy Polamalu should also get the same treatment, though debatable.

Now for the interior line. It comes down to if Steve Hutchinson is a first-ballot guy or not. To me, it's close, but there have been great guards who had to wait. Maybe the interior linemen get undervalued in the HOF process and perhaps other factors. To me, he's the top left guard of the new century, but if he had to wait like some of the wide receivers it would be as big an injustice as some other players.

So, perhaps Alan Faneca in 2018, skip a year for interior linemen and put in Urlacher in 2019, then Hutch in 2020 and then Kevin Mawae in 2021.

That could make a potential awesome class for 2021. Peyton Manning is a first-ballot lock and Charles Woodson may (should) be, then Mawae, Champ Bailey (with all the other DBs having already included) and leaves a spot for the one of the best but on of the most overlooked defensive tackles ever—Bryant Young.
No offense to Warren Sapp, but Bryant Young was a, more complete tackle. Sapp played 3-technqiue, Young had to play both the shade tackle and the three-tackle. Sapp had 96.5 sacks, Young 89.5. Hardly a difference. Young played the run better, just solid in every way. Obviously, voters disagree, but in any case, it seems clear Young deserves a shot in the "room".

In 2022 John Lynch can get his due, getting all the players from the 2017 Final 15 into the Hall of Fame. Nothing against him, but compared to Dawkins, Reed, and Polamalu, Lynch would rank fourth and with great corners available and space limited someone has to wait. And that opens up things for Ronde Barber and Edgerrin James, Richard Seymour, Antonio Gates and others.

Now, of course, I am going to get slammed for this post. But look at the bright side, I am just a blogger, nothing more. The "who does this guy think he is" and "he's planning a conspiracy" or other things I may hear are going to be well-deserved. What I've done is try and take concerns of cities, teams, and fans out of it and focus on the resumes of each player as I see them.

Resumes, in my view, consist of honors like All-Pro, Pro Bowl, All-Decade, Player of the Year, etc., testimonials such as "Moss dogged it" or "I could never cover that guy" or "No on was tough to block than", team success, intangibles (toughness, courage, intelligence), and statistics (both standard and advanced) and other factors and try and come up with fair classes that won't create new backlogs and will keep great players from going into the Swamp and honors the truly great with first-ballot accolades.
If this is offensive to fans of Moss or Urlacher or others my post "snubs" then, well, blast me in the comments section. Your views are every bit as valid as mine. And there is some tongue-in-cheek here (see title of this post).

Additionally, this is not, I repeat NOT any kind of indictment to the HOF Voting Committee like so many bloggers level. My view is they do a tough, thankless job and 99% of the time get it right. Sure, there have been a couple of first-ballot players that didn't meet the criteria of what I thought was a first balloter, but that's simply my opinion. It matters little. My guess is they will take this polemic in the spirit intended, one of suggestion or idea and not a criticism of their work.

In my interactions of the voters, they do want to get the best players in but they also have a duty to present cases for players from the teams they cover and that is when, sometimes, the parochial concerns can set in and cause a logjam here and there and that's all that we're addressing by suggesting this one thing:  Don't fill the swamp with more good players.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Part IX: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part IX of this nine-part series, we look at the possible secondary picks after discussing defensive line, running backslinebackersquarterbackstackles and tight endscenters, guardswide receivers, and special teamers who were on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and who may end up on the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team.
This is the toughest to gauge which is why we left it for last. All of these are solid picks but there are some excellent players who would now be eligible who were not at the times.

Night Train Lane should keep his spot as one of the cornerbacks. Mike Haynes and Rod Woodson are as worthy to be on the 100th Anniversary Team as they were for the 75th Anniversary Team, though Woodson's selection raised some eyebrows in 1994 since he'd not been in the NFL very long in comparison to others on the team. But, Deion Sanders lays claim as the best cover corner ever, though his run support was not the equal of say, Night Train. 

Revis Island might want to argue he is tops, over Deion. Charles Woodson was someone who could cover outside, cover in the slot, tackle, hit, blitz (over 20 sacks) and could lay claim to being one of the best all-around corners in league history. 

As for safeties, Lott should keep his spot. Our view is that Ed Reed has to be on the 100th Anniversary Team and we will see if the panel/committee agrees in 2020(1). Could he replace Larry Wilson who took the safety blitz to a new level (though he was not the first to do it, he took it to a higher level). Ken Houston, a great strong safety. In our view Brian Dawkins was great in all phases of the game, coverage in both man and zone, hitting, and was a very effective safety blitzer. We don't however, think he will quite rise to the 100th Anniversary Team level, but loved watching him play.

Emlen Tunnell was bounced in 1994 after being the safety on the 50th Anniversary Team in 1970. He was a left safety, something akin to what became the strong safety and he was, in our view, a more consistent and effective safety than Houston, so we hope he gets another look.

In our view, in reviewing these kinds of "All-Time Teams" the votes for safety are the most widely distributed so anything is possible. No one asked us but our three would be Tunnell, Lott and Reed.

Agree or disagree with this or any of the nine posts on this subject, fell free to tell us how we are wrong.

Part VIII: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part VIII of this nine-part series, we look at the defensive line picks after discussing the running backslinebackersquarterbackstackles and tight endscenters, guardswide receivers, and special teamers who were on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and who may end up on the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team.
If the powers that be stay with three defensive ends and three defensive tackles this group could remain the same. Like with other position groups it seems there are too many good players and too few slots.

Ideally, there will be four ends and four tackles. If that is the case then a quartet of Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, and Bruce Smith would be perfect. If there could be four tackles then the foursome of Bob Lilly, Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen, and Alan Page would also be perfect.

In 1994 Page and Smith were left out. We don't know what the voting was but we suspect (but cannot prove) that they were both fourth in the voting.

There have been some great ends and some noted tackles in the history of the game, but these eight, in our view, stand out. The recent tackles such as Warren Sapp and John Randle just don't seem to measure up as complete players that were consistent over 13, 14 or 15 seasons as the above set of four did. 

Now, one wildcard is J.J. Watt who already has a near-lock Hall of Fame career. His three Defensive Player of the Year awards would see to that. All he lacks to bust into this group of eight is longevity and if he has three healthy seasons and is close to what he was from 2012-2015 he would be hard to leave off an All-Century Team. 

Again, time will tell.

Part VII: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part VII of this series, we discuss the running backs after previous looking at the linebackers,  quarterbackstackles and tight endscenters, guardswide receivers, and special teamers who were on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and who may end up on the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team.

Jim Brown was the top fullback in 1994 and was the top fullback in 1970. He will be again in 2020(1) whenever the vote is held. In 1970 Gale Sayers was the top halfback. In 1994 there were three "half backs" or running backs. 

Looking ahead, we wonder if they will keep the same fullback-running back format. They may choose fewer fullbacks since the fullbacks of the past 25 years are the blocking backs, the "guard in the backfield" type fullback and none of them will emerge in our view.

So, Motley and Nagurski may have to be on a two-way type team, but again, this is just our best guess.

O.J. Simpson will not survive the cut, and Steve Van Buren may not, either. Walter Payton is a lock. The top contenders for whatever spots there are would be Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and maybe LaDainian Tomlinson since his skills were so diverse and under the same umbrella would be 

Marshall Faulk who was an all-around back like Tomlinson but was even better at running wide receiver routes. Of note is while watching a telecast in 2000 or 2001 the play-by-play announcer asked color commentator Jack Ham who Faulk reminded him of. Ham replied "Earl Campbell". That was a surprise. Ham explained that Faulk's lower body was tremendously powerful and his goal-line running was extremely effective. Faulk was susceptible to some injuries in his career and Tomlinson was healthier so that may be a factor.

But, over the past quarter century, it seems Emmitt and Barry would be the best bets to be locks, along with Brown and Payton. The roster is deep and great runners like Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson will likely be left out. They didn't do it all (or most of it) in terms of running AND receiving and blocking and short yardage and all the little things that go into a running back evaluation.

Barry Sanders was not effective on the goal line for most of his career (his style was too conducive to losing a yard or two too frequently—but that style allowed him to break one for 70 yards as well) and was simply average in receiving and less than that in blocking. Emmitt Smith was a good receiver, and a great pass blocker, to us one of the top handful along with Marion Motley, Walter Payton, Marshall Faulk and John Henry Johnson (Edgerrin James and Tomlinson were very effective as well—so maybe it's a top seven).

Stay tuned for the final two parts: Defensive line and secondary.

Part VI: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part VI of this series, we discuss the linebackers after previous looking at the quarterbacks, tackles and tight endscenters, guardswide receivers, and special teamers who were on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and who may end up on the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team.
With the 1994 iteration of the anniversary team the select committee chose four middle linebackers and three outside linebackers. Assuming the same format we suspect there will be changes to this part of the roster.

Dick Butkus will stay and we think Jack Lambert will, too. Ray Nitschke and Willie Lanier will be looked at closely, of course, but upon reflection, we think they may not make the cut. Nitschke was on the 50th Anniversary Team and also the 75th Anniversary Team and it was built on his key part of the 1960s championships of the Packers. 

Nitschke played 15 seasons but was a full-time starter in 10 of those. The competition was stiff for post-season honors in the NFL Western Conference and Nitschke only emerged with one Pro Bowl selection and three First-team All-Pro selections and one Second-team selection. Film study shows he was excellent and especially good in run support but it's a bit disconcerting to see Joe Schmidt forgotten so quickly. True, he didn't get five championship rings, but he was the most complete 4-3 linebacker (in our view) of the 4-3 era. He was solid in run game and one of the top 3-4 in pass coverage. He was also one of the top 2-3 in goal line defense and had a goodly number of sacks as a blitzer/dogger.

Schmidt was a 10-time First-team All-Pro (eight consensus) and was voted by his peers to 10 Pro Bowls. If any of the voters want to see a detailed film analysis, they can travel to T.J. Troup's home and he can put on the fil,—the eye in the sky does not lie.

Ray Lewis seems like a lock on the upcoming team and suspect he will supplant Lanier. Lewis was voted to 13 Pro Bowls and was a 7-time Consensus All-Pro. He was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ended with 31 interceptions, 41.5 sacks and two Super Bowl rings. It's quite a resume.

Obviously, Lawrence Taylor will keep one outside linebacker slot and it would be fine by us if Ted Hendricks and Jack Ham did as well, but it may not happen.  Derrick Brooks needs to be considered and Von Miller, who will have completed 10 seasons by the time the vote is taken may need to be as well, if he keeps up his current pace. Bobby Bell might deserve another look. His speed was really special and shows up on film, but he also played just 11 seasons, but as a left linebacker we think he was just a bit better than "Kick 'em in the head Ted" Hendricks. Bell could blitz, cover, play the run and hit very hard. 

It will come down to how sacks, as a statistic, are valued as part of a linebacker's resume. If rushbackers rule the day then Miller and others would have a better chance. If a more complete type of outside linebacker is preferred, then Hendricks and Ham will possibly keep their slots.

Again and again, we shall see.

Part V: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part V of this series, we will get to the weenie and discuss the quarterbacks after previous looking at the tackles and tight endscenters, guardswide receivers, and special teamers who were on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and who may end up on the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team.
Will there only be four quarterbacks on the Century Team? Will recentism prevail or will Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham keep their spots? 

We suspect that Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana will rightly keep two of the slots. Unitas beat out Baugh and Norm Van Brocklin when the Half Century team was voted on in 1970. 

We ask this because Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are waiting in the wings. We suppose, there is an outside shot, if Aaron Rodgers wins a couple of Super Bowls in the next few years he could enter into the conversation, Statistically, he's remarkable even in a world that includes Brady and Manning and Drew Brees. Rodgers currently has a 4 to 1 touchdown pass to interception ratio and if he keeps that up by the time this team is voted on he could have thrown his 400th touchdown pass before throwing his 100th interception. His touchdown percentage is 6.4% just a hair below Graham's 6.4 mark and well ahead of Brady and Manning in that department. His interception percentage is 1.55% the lowest in NFL History among qualifiers. His passer rating is well ahead of all the others. All he lacks is multiple Super Bowl rings. So, that will leave him out unless that fact changes in the next few seasons.

Since there will be great pressure to vote for the right ones we think whoever the voters are (the HOF selection committee or a select committee) they will do in-depth research to arrive at their votes (we think). One knock against Graham is that his first 4 championships (of a total of seven) were with the All-American Football Conference. Not that we necessarily agree, but there was never a merger with the AAFC and the NFL like there was with the AFL-NFL merger and therefore the AAFC records are not considered official, at least to the NFL. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has always accepted them which is why when you read different publications Otto Graham's career statistics were different. However, we are referring to NFL manuals and books published quite a long time ago and the distinction these days is much less.

Baugh was the first great T-formation passer and he was credited with six passing titles under the systems used when he was playing and he won two NFL Championships in his career. In some ways, his career parallels Peyton Manning's, i.e. lots of awesome stats (though they don't look like it by today's standards) and a couple of titles. 

Graham's career is somewhat similar to Brady's stats were plenty good, but the key thing is the championships. 

Clearly, we think, Brady will be on the 100th Anniversary Team, but we are not so sure about Manning though we think it is likely. If someone could be knocked out it would be Baugh. (Also there could be a two-way type team that Baugh could be on as a QB, punter, and defensive back, but that would be kind of a copout in our view.)

So, buckle up and prepare for another round of Brady versus Manning debates. Wins versus Stats. It's been around a long time and will continue for a long while.

Part IV: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part IV of this series, we will take a look at the tackles and tight ends after previous looking at the centers, guards, wide receivers and special teamers who were on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.
Since the last team approximately 25 years ago what tackles and tight ends have left enough of a mark to be considered for the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

Four tackles have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace and Willie Roaf. The former two were first-ballot inductees, the other two were second-ballot selections. 

Again, if there are three choices for tackles on the upcoming team as there were on the previous one, who will they be? Munoz is a lock. There is no reason for Roosevelt Brown to be lost in a potential trend to recentism but it could happen, as it could with Forrest Gregg.

Recentism is a term used to describe the tendency of selectors or historians to favor current or more recent players to those of generations further past.We hope it is a word, it is on Wikipedia anyway. Of the four recent tackles, Ogden seems like he has the best shot at making the leap.

Stats, LLC., has been tracking offensive line stats since 1992 and we've compiled their data on this chart. Ogden was a Consensus All-Pro five times and a First-team selection an additional time and was a Second-team All-Pro in three additional seasons, for a total of nine First- or Second-team All-Pro Selections. (He was an 11-time Pro Bowler). He also was excellent at avoiding penalties and sacks (though all are in same ballpark in that metric).

Walter Jones was a six-time All-Pro (Four of them consensus) and was the virtually same as Ogden in avoiding penalties and allowing sacks.

The following chart shows the key stats on a per 16 game basis.
Roaf got called for a couple more holding penalties per 16 games and Pace was the best at avoiding holding but had an issue with false starts.

So, if Gregg or Brown get bounced we'd expect Odgen to be the guy, followed by Walter Jones (and for what it's worth we think a slightly more consistent left tackle than Ogden and the best outside of Munoz). 

As far as tight ends, John Mackey was the 50th Anniversary tight end and Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow were the 75th Anniversary picks. In recent years Tony Gonzales has smashed all the records and has a good shot at being one of the tight ends. Winslow was really the first of a new generation of "receiving tight ends" that is to say, guys not asked to block like the tight ends of the previous generations. Ozzie Newsome and Shannon Sharpe are also in that category, though both would give good effort in run blocking, they were not going to remind anyone of a Ditka or a Mark Bavaro in that department.

But Gonzales is the king of that type tight end and was injury-free (relatively) in his career and amassed near-Ruthian numbers for a tight end (7-times All-Pro, 14 Pro Bowls, 1325 catches for 15127 yards and 111 touchdowns. Winslow had a knee injury in 1984 and he came back from it but he didn't get to have a 12- or 15-year career, so he didn't compile the numbers he might have had he played as long as a Gonzales or Sharpe.

A wild card is current All-Pro Rob Gronkowski who has been First-team All-Pro four times (three consensus) in seven seasons. About the only time he's not All-Pro is when he's injured, which happens fairly often. If he can string together a few more seasons sans injuries and keeps up his current production he would be hard to ignore especially if he's challenging Gonzales's 11 touchdowns at the time. 

In a few years, we will see.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Part III: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In Part II of this series we looked at wide receivers and in Part III we take a look at Centers and Guards.
The top center, according to the 1970 Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee was Chuck Bednarik and the top guard was Jerry Kramer. Neither was on the 75th Anniversary Team as Bednarik was supplanted by Mel Hein (who was a runner-up in 1970) and Mike Webster and Kramer lost out to John Hannah, Jim Parker and Gene Upshaw.

We suspect Hein and Webster will keep their slots (assuming there are only two). Though Dwight Stephenson could be looked at closely. Having seen both, a lot, we think Stephenson at his peak was superior. However, he was felled by a knee injury that ended his career. Webster was able to play 17 years and at his peak was a dominant player, just not quite as dominant (again our opinion) as Stephenson. Consider this:  The NFLPA used to have AFC and NFC Lineman of the Year Awards that were given annually and were result of polls of the defensive linemen of each conference. Anthony Munoz won it three times, but it was Stephenson who won it five consecutive seasons (1983-87) was was the height of Munoz's career. That's fairly impressive to us. 

Hein is still the only offensive lineman to be an NFL MVP (1938) and his longevity and career honors should keep him in good stead with the voters.

Over the last 25 years, there have been excellent centers but none seem to have had the kind of dominant career that these others had so we don't expect any newbies here.

Larry Allen, we think, will take Upshaw's slot and rightly so.  He was just too big, too fast, too strong and had too many honors to not be considered one of the top three guards of All-Time. Steve Hutchinson stand out as the best guard in recent years but cannot see him cracking the top three.

Zack Martin is off to a great start in his career 3 First-team All-Pros in 3 years but he won't have enough seasons under his belt by 2020 in our view, to be one of the top three, but we could be wrong (see Rod Woodson's selection in 1994 which raised some eyebrows, not in quality but in longevity).

Part II: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

Yesterday we looked at special teams players who could possibly be named to the upcoming  NFL 100th Anniversary Team.

This post is about the wide receivers.
Twenty-five years ago these were the four players who made the 75th Anniversary team. On the 50th Anniversary team, Don Hutson and Elroy Hirsch were the split end and flanker, respectively on the team.

In a few years, Hutson and Jerry Rice are locks in our view. Raymond Berry and Lance Alworth are the two who could possibly be challenged. But by whom? Calvin Johnson was dominant for several years but he hung 'em up and didn't have the "compiling stage" of his career. That is the stage where wide receivers sometimes move from team to be, being productive but not stellar and compiling numbers to their career totals. 

Randy Moss is, in our view, the most talented receiver ever in terms of physical ability:  size, speed, leaping ability, hands, smarts. He had it all. And Jerry Rice agrees.  However, he has a well-earned reputation of someone who was capable of loafing and his "I play when I want to play." solidified that sentiment. When things went poorly in Oakland he "dogged it". That is hardly the stuff of the best of the best, worthy of being on the 100th Anniversary Team.

This will be interesting because a second wave of the post-merger passing game began in about 1994 (the first was in 1978) where receivers and quarterbacks increased productivity in terms of passing and receiving numbers. Thus, players like Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens put up stellar numbers in an era where they could run routes that were patrolled in the past by players like Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott. So their numbers have to be looked at in context.

One player, who is now in his compiling phase is Larry Fitzgerald and he could garner some notice. He's a great hands player, who is a tough blocker and is an all-around receiver but he wasn't All-Pro very often and didn't lead the league Year-in and year-out in receiving categories like some of the above players did. So we will see.

Clearly, we don't know the voting results in 1994 when the 75th Anniversary Team was released but we wonder aloud how close Paul Warfield was, who was a first-ballot HOF inductee like Rice, Hutson, Berry, and Alworth. His numbers are not special but he played quite a few years in the "dead ball era" of Pro Football,— the 1970s. But anyone who saw him play knows he was a major key in the Dolphins championships of the early 1970s. Perhaps he will get a second look.

In a few years we will know. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Part I: Who Will Be On NFL's 100th Anniversary Team?

By John Turney

In 1969 the Pro Football Hall of Fame had the voting committee choose a 50th Anniversary NFL Team. For the 75th Anniversary, in 1994, the NFL had a select committee pick a team for the Diamond Anniversary:

Ina few years there with be a 100th Anniversary Team and we wonder what players from the past 25 seasons may crack the list.

The 50th Anniversary Team had 15 players and 30 runners-up a total of 45 players. The 75th Anniversary Team had 48 players. We don't know if there will be a team with, say, 45 or 48 players or if they will expand the number. We suppose they will, and hope they will. For the purposes of this excercise, we will assume it will be more.

Let's start with the special teams. In 1970 the kicker was Lou Groza and no punter or returner was chosen though there were players who could have filled those roles.

In 1994 Ray Guy and Jan Stenerud were the punter and kicker, respectively and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson was the return specialist.

 We think Devin Hester will likely supplant Johnson as the punt returner. His 14 punt return touchdowns and 5 kick returns for scores are simply too great to ignore. Josh Cribbs has 8 kickoff returns for touchdowns, which is the record, but Hester's 19 total are far and away the most. Cribbs was also a good core special teams player, covering kicks and punts but Hester was the most productive returner. 

Cribbs could challenge Gale Sayers as the kick returner, though, but Sayers did a lot in a shorter time. The "eye test" would favor Sayers in our view. Dante Hall was a great returner with 6 punts and 6 kicks returned for touchdowns but Sayer's 6 returns in 91 chances is a 6.6%, the highest of all time among qualifiers, so we think he will retain the KR spot, he'd get our vote.

It may be that the NFL will add a special teams player and our best guess if they do, would be that Steve Tasker would get that nod. Would agree but would hope that some of the others core STers would at least be in the discussion. Hank Bauer, Bill Bates, Reyna Thomspson, Kassim OsgoodBrendon Ayanbadejo, Ivory Sully, and many, many others were also stellar in coverage, blocking and blocking kicks. However, Tasker did it at a high level for a long time and was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler more often than the others.

Jan Stenrud and Morten Anderson are the two Hall of Fame kickers, along with Lou Groza who was a starting tackle for the first two-thirds of his career. In terms of stats, Groza was far ahead of his peers in terms of his averages. Pro Football Research Association member Rupert Patrick has an upcoming book that with show his metric of "Points above League Average". He calculates how many points a particular kicker scores in relation to his peers. Groza, Anderson, and Stenerud all rank very high, but none are at the top. We won't give away who his top kicker is, we will let him reveal that in his book. However, one current kicker is doing very well versus his peers and that is Justin Tucker.

Our view is that if Tucker keeps it up he could challenge the "Big Three". Apart from that, it will likely be Anderson (a two-time All-Decade performer) or Stenerud.

Ray Guy is the only punter in the Hall of Fame. He will likely get the nod again. However, keep and eye out for Johnny Hekker. Playing for a mediocre-to-poor team in his five years Hekker owns almost every record in the book, both in terms of gross stats and in terms of "metrics".

Guy was All-Pro six times, Hekker three times in five seasons. Guy's Inside-the-20 to touchback ratio was 1.5 to one. Hekker's is currently 8.3 to 1. Almost double the next best (Dustin Colquitt's 4.6 to one—though when Sam Martin qualifies he will be around the same). But 8.3 to 1? It's unheard of.

Guy only had 3 punts blocked, which is excellent (0.3%). Hekker has had one blocked and his block percentage is 0.2%. For comparison, Jerrel Wilson, the Chief's great has 12 blocked for 1.1%.

Hekker had, so far, had 38.2% of his punts end up inside the twenty yard-line. Only Dustin Colquitt has a higher percentage (40.5%). Guy's percentage is 24.6% in that metric. 

Hekker's net punting average is 43.3 as of the end of the 2016 season. The next closest is Thomas Morstead of the Saints with a 41.2 net average, nearly two yards fewer than Hekker and in this kind of statistic that is a lot since most of the best net yardage punters are all bunched around 40.0. Guy's career net punting average was 35.2, which is good, but not great, either, even for his time.

Certainly, Hekker will have to keep up this kind of performance for the next few years to catch they eye of whoever is on the voting committee but if he does, he cannot be ignored, even if the Rams don't improve because as of now, he's the best punter ever.

It will be interesting to follow these players and see if the up-and-comers like Hekker and Tucker can sustain their greatness.

Stay tuned for the next parts of this new series.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

1988 Joe Gibbs/Washington Redskins Fine Schedule

By John Turney
Credit: Goalline Art/Gary Thomas
Seemingly from time immemorial NFL clubs had rules for the players and enforced those rules by fines. Here is the fine schedule for the 1988 Washington Redskins.

The second sentence says it all "YOU FINE  YOURSELF". Three of the most expensive infractions on this list are concerning firearms, illegal drugs and women in hotel rooms.