Tuesday, February 26, 2019

All-Decade Career Years

By John Turney
We define a "Career year" as a top performance by a player that is above and beyond an All-Pro year, the best of his career, or at least near it.

We've done this with TEAMS and now are extending it to decades, beginning with the 1950s through the 2010s. Of course, after the 2019 season, we will make changes as needed.

Some are obvious, MVP, Player of the Year Awards, big stat seasons, others less so. We may pick a player who was not even All-Pro for that season, but we make those choices from an informed point of view. So, we welcome criticism and challenges, but be aware we know who was All-Pro in any given year, we know who had the big stat seasons for major stats, but we also know many years of grades from Pro Preview and also crib from the writings of Joel Buchsbaum and others.

So, fire away.

Monday, February 25, 2019

1990s NFL All-Decade Team Critique

By John Turney
Like the 1980s, the 1990s team is solid all-around and this time there are no three- or four-year types. All played five or more seasons which we think is the minimum to be considered All-Decade.

So, no one gets thrown out for lack of decadienal longevity.

Here is the official team:
We do have some small quibbles. We'd not have Ronnie Lott as a safety. He was 1980s All-Decade and on our 1985-95 Mid-Decade team, but with so many good safeties in the 1990s and his play in 1993 and 1994 not was it was just a few years earlier we'd go with Eugene Robinson as the top free safety. Robinson was more complete than the others and comes with Proscout, Inc.'s  (PSI) seal of approval for the highest grades of any free safety in the 1990s.

Darren Woodson could make a case to be the Second-team strong safety, though we think Butler and Lake were more versatile in terms of blitzing, Woodson was stellar as a strong-side safety in the 1990s as well.

Junior Seau was always listed as an ILBer for the Chargers, but he wasn't that. He was a weak-side stack backer. But, it's close enough for rock and roll we guess. The Second-team has an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker. There were several good linebackers who would look good on the Second-team, guys who could cover and rush—a Seth Joyner, a William Thomas, or even a Mo Lewis. We'd have arranged them differently, but really, there are no real snubs here.

Sapp played five years and made the Second-team, and was effective for just four of those years. For the 1990s his credentials are a bit light. Henry Thomas would be a good fit next to Randle—a top shade tackle and, like Robinson, comes with scouts endorsement. Chester McGlockton would deserve a good look, too. His 1993-97 work was likely better than Cortez Kennedy's but he tailed off quickly. We also liked Michael Dean Perry because he was so often making tackles for loss. 

The coaches are fine, but you do have to ask why two-time Super Bowl winners Jimmy Johnson and Mike Shanahan were overlooked. We would love to see the voting of the panel like we got to see on the 1970s and 1980s teams but the Hall never released the vote count for the 1990s or 2000s.

John Carney may have had a better decade than Morten Andersen, but Andersen's leg so mesmerized people that he wasn't always looked at that closely. But, we'd have likely made him Second-team, so again, it's a quibble.

Punter is hard for the 1990s. The top net punter for the decade was Matt Turk and was All-Pro twice and Second-team All-Pro once in five seasons. Darren Bennett was second and he also played just five seasons in the decade. Rich Camarillo played seven seasons and his net was slightly behind Bennett's and he had the second-best inside-the-twenty to touchback ratio of anyone in the 1990s (behind Bennett).  Landeta was two yards behind the best, had more blocked and allowed about lots of return yards  (also like Bennett) and nine touchdowns so we'd replace him with someone—Camarillo or Turk. Landeta just wasn't worthy of even Second-team 1990s All-Decade.

We'd add a special teamer and it would be Steve Tasker and behind him Bennie Thompson or Elbert Shelley. We'd also add a fullback—Moose Johnston followed by Sam Gash or Howard Griffith.

We'd also find a place for Dave Szott a third Proscout, Inc. "blue player" who always got overlooked. Tim Grunhard also scored high. We might shuffle a couple of other linemen, but this is a good group. At his peak, Larry Allen was the most dominant and it's hard to see him on the Second-team but the others played at a high level longer.

The backs and receivers look good, though some might have a small beef here or there.

Testimonials and the Hall of Fame—Marvin Harrison

By John Turney
Art by Ron Adair
A few years ago when there was a big brew haha over Terrell Owens regarding the Hall of Fame and to a lesser degree Randy Moss and whether they were First-ballot Hall of Famers or not, Marvin Harrison's name was not brought up much. We remember it as being used a bit, but it was always a name held in lower esteem by the highlight worshiping crowd, at least that's our view.

However, in so many ways Harrison was more productive than the bigger, strong, even faster and taller pair. He was All-Pro more often, went to more Pro Bowls, was able to secure a ring, averaged more catches and yards and the same number of touchdowns per 16 games that the highlight duo.

Here is a chart showing those stats and honors.
(Click to enlarge)

Now we think Owens and Moss are Hall of Famers, but we questioned if they deserved the same honor that Jerry Rice did, that of first-ballot inclusion. But Hall of Famers they are and they earned it.

However, we found it interesting that when asked, at least three great cornerbacks named Harrison as their top guy, not Ownes and Moss. The following is what we call "testimonials" or "what they said about . . . ". They are comments from opponents and teammates and even coaches that assess the skills of NFl players. 

This type of reporting was more common in the literature of the 1950s-1990s than it is now. We don't see (at least we don't see them) as many articles that require a reporter to take some time and ask players questions like, "Who is the best you faced?" or "Who gave you the most trouble?" or "Who is the toughest player you had to blocked?"

However, we do find some and here, Charles Tillman, Charles Woodson, and Champ Bailey all comment on Harrison and we found it quite telling.



We would love to see some of these that are as clear and definitive for Owens and Moss as they are with Harrison or Jerry Rice. Maybe Harrison should be complaining about not being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

1980s NFL All-Decade Team Critique

By John Turney
The 1980s Hall of Fame NFL All-Decade Team was full of dominant players, all worthy of selections. In our view, all but five were qualified in terms of a minimum (our opinion of the number of years needed to be considered for any 'all-decade' team). But, in this case, four of the five played four seasons in the 1980s (Gary Zimmerman, Ted HendricksMel Blount, Rick Upchurch). John Taylor played three so it's more of a quibble compared to a Larry Wilson (three seasons in the seventies) or Earl Campbell (two seasons in the seventies).

So, here is the 1980s team:
In this post we won't pick a 1980s team, though we may someday, we will just post some critiques and suggestions of ommissions that may fit. As we said, the HOF selection committee really did well this decade.

Montana dominated, but if we were to pick a Second-team it would be Dan Marino. We might have gone with Marcus Allen (ROY, MVP) over Riggins.

At tackle, Jackie Slater and Mike Kenn would look good here in place of Zimmerman. 

Reggie White, Lee Roy Selmon and Bruce Smith all played the minimum (in our view) of five years but it does leave out a Mark Gastineau or a Jacob Green or others who had a lower peak that that trio but played closer to the entire decade. The same goes for Keith Millard. A nose tackle (the predominant scheme in the 1980s was a 3-4 and all four of the tackles were 4-3 guys) like Fred Smerlas.

We would replace Jack Lambert (he played the five years but 1984 was barely a season) with Harry Carson and we would also love to know who gave John Anderson (good player but All-Decade?) a vote. We'd move Andre Tippett to the First-team and put Clay Matthews (who you'd think deserved the slot here anyway) on the Second-team. 

Mel Blount should be replaced by a Darrell Green or a Hanford Dixon and Hayes moves up. Donnie Shell would likely be a better pick for Second-team strong safety than Joey Browner. Shell was better in coverage, smarter, more instinctive than Browner, who was very good, but Shell better overall.

Nick Lowery was the decade's most accurate kicker, he kicked outdoors on a field with a large rise in the middle, and had good leg on kickoffs. He should be the First-team kicker.

We prefer Roby over Landeta in terms of net punting and in-the-20 to touchback ratio and so on. Ray Guy would be eligible for this team, but Landeta is okay, but he didn't stand out any more than Rich Camarillo. Landeta played only five seasons in the NFL so he was light on longevity.

As for punt and kickoff returners. Lots of picks would work to replace Upchurch and Taylor on the Second-team. Here are the top 20  punt returners in terms of yardage in the1980s.

We like to look at touchdowns first, then yards and averages. The highest combination of the key stats is Henry Ellard so we'd go with him, but there are maybe a half-dozen choices that all would work.

Is another Ram the top guy? Ron Brown had four scores, three in one season but Stump Mitchell or Mike Nelms would work, too. 

The official team didn't pick a core special teams player. We would go with Bill Bates and Mosi Tatupu. Ivory Sully would be a solid pick, too. 

Finally, we'd have gone with Joe Gibbs on the Second-team over Chuck Noll.

So, there are our critiques. Love 'em? Hate 'em? Let us know.

1970s NFL All-Decade Team Critique

By John Turney
The 1970s All-Decade Team was the first to have First- and Second-teams rather than varying numbers at different positions (for example there were three All-Decade quarterbacks in the 1950s and 1960s iterations of the All-Decade teams). In the 1970s there was one First-team quarterback and then a tie for the Second-team. So, to us, it made more sense.

That said, there were a few issues, not with the selections but by putting some people on the team that really didn't qualify in terms of years of service. In our view, Earl Campbell, who played just two seasons in the 1970s, shouldn't have been on any 1970s All-Decade Team.

The same goes for Dick Butkus (4 seasons), Larry Wilson (3 seasons). Wilson is a "chalk" choice for any 1960s All-Decade team and Butkus fits more in the 1960s and for a mythical 1965-75 All-Decade team but the 1970s? Really?

Here is the official team with the votes:

Now, for our picks. Some of them are quibbles, meaning our picks are not 'better' just more fitting in terms of service. Robert Brazile and Bobby Bell were dominant, but both played five seasons in the decade meeting what we think is a fair threshold in terms on years played, but can we say Brazile and Bell's five seasons were better than nine or so seasons from Isiah Robertson and Chris Hanburger?

We post the question more for discussion than anything else. Brazile fits in a 1975-85 All-Decade team and Bell is perfect for both the 1960s and 1965-75 and Robertson, the de facto 1973 NFC Defensive Player of the Year and Hanburger was the 1972 NFC Defensive Player of the Year and both were multi-time First-team All-Pros and had a slew of Pro Bowls. Neither picks are wrong it's just a question of peak value and longevity value within a decade.

Likewise, we think Mel Blount's 1970s decade was slightly ahead of Wille Brown and Jimmy Johnson and though we like Louis Wright, we think he fits better on a 1975-85 team. Again, the official All-Decade Team selections were good, and justifiable but maybe could use just a bit of scrutiny.

We think Alan Page deserved to be First-team in the 1970s and that Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen were both ideal on the 1960s team and a 1965-75 team. But the 1970s? Lilly was lifted on passing downs in 1973 and 1974 and played just five years of the 1970s. Olsen is a solid pick, playing seven seasons in the seventies, and was a Pro Bowler in six of them. But in an appeal to fairness, we'd have gone with Wally Chambers and Jerry Sherk (or even a Curley Culp).

Chambers tenure was a bit short but from 1973-77 (until knee injury) he was a beast. Sherk was more steady but both were their conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 1976. However, if someone were to insist on Lilly and Olsen as the Second-teamers, fine, but Page and Greene are clear First-teamers.

On the Second-team we replaced Campbell with Chuck Foreman and Larry Wilson with Jake Scott. We put Lemar Parrish in the place of Wright. We also put Claude Humphrey in over Harvey Martin.

Also, we put Cliff Branch and Harold Jackson on the Second-team because we felt they were more productive over the long term than Paul Warfield and Carmichael. Warfield's peak of 1970-74 certainly worthy, but he's another one for the 1965-75 team. Jackson led the NFL in the 1970s in catches, yards, touchdown receptions and was fifth in yards per catch and played well in playoffs. Perhaps playing for three franchises in the decade was some cause to be overlooked when the official team was chosen in 1980.

As for the offensive line, all were fine choices we differ a bit (we put John Hannah on First-team) but the right choices were made. Dan Dierdorf may deserve to be on First-team over Art Shell (the voting was very close) and there is a fifth tackle, George Kunz who is what we would call "All-Decade quality) who gets little notice. In fact, Russ Washington is of that ilk, too. But we, in the end, left the tackles alone. At their peak we might tanke them (1) Dierdorf (2) Wright (3) Yary (4) Shell (5) Kunz and (6) Washington. But again, any order would be defensible.

We moved Butkus out and Jack Lambert up a slot and filled in the Second-team with Willie Lanier. However, Randy Gradishar may be someone we are shorting. Lanier's play dropped off in 1976 and 1977 and then couldn't make the 1978 Colts. Gradishar was not a full-time starter in 1974 (as Lambert was) but was a Pro Bowler in 1975, Second-team All-AFC in 1976, All-Pro in 1977, the 1978 Defensive Player of the Year, and in 1979 was All-Pro again. We reserve the right to rethink this because his peak was likely higher than Lanier. And we did put Lanier on our 1965-75 and Gradishar on the 1975-85 team (along with Lambert) but maybe we are shorting Gradishar because we feel so strongly that he should be in the Hall of Fame we didn't want to appear biased.

Jerrel Wilson had too many punts blocked, so we went with John James was the decade's second-best punter.

We also put Chuck Noll as the first team and Don Shula as the Second-team though Tom Landry should likely be tied with Shula on the Second-team. We put Roger Staubach as First-team and Terry Bradshaw Second-team because of consistency. Yes, Bradshaw won four rings, but Staubach won two and it's a multifactorial process with rings, stats, testimonials, etc. to make these picks.

Here is the complete team:
There you have it, food good or ill, our critique of the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

1960s NFL All-Decade Team Critique

By John Turney
Like the 1950s All-Decade Team, the Official Hall of Fame 1960s NFL All-Decade Team had a unique makeup:
Again, like the 1950s it had three quarterbacks, not distinguishing who (if any) were the First- and Secon-teams. It had two fullbacks and four halfbacks. We suspect there may have been some ties in the voting that account for the oddities but the votes have never been made available so that is just speculation. There are five linebackers three of them are middle linebackers, but three ends, tackles, corners, and safeties. Again, Zim would say, "They don't line up that way fellas". 

So, we've taken the resources available and made some selections on our own. Feel free to criticize. We chose five years of service as the minimum to qualify for the All-Decade team so Nobis is out right away. 
No one had a full decade of dominance at outside receivers, Del Shofner started out that way but faded due to injuries. Bob Hayes gets credit for "changing the game" by how zone defenses reacted to him but it was Shofner who first consistently drew zone coverage to the weak (1 receiver) side, and it continued with Hayes. Shofner was our Second-team split end behind Raymond Berry on the 1955-65 All-Decade Team

Here is a chart, courtesy Pro Football Reference.com. As can be seen, there are a lot of ways to go, stats, honors. We combined both mixed with the ole' "eye test". Really, lots of picks for receiver would work.

Now, back to Mackey. Mackey was on the official team (and the Combined AFL-NFL 1960s All-Decade Team which should be the official 1960s All-Decade Team in our view.) Here is a look at that team:
However, Mike Ditka was shut out. We put him on the PFJ Second-team. Jim Parker also got snubbed but the panel picked Shaw and Kramer; we put him on our NFL First-team.

Back to our team—outside linebacker was difficult on the final slot. We went with Joe Fortunato over Dave Wilcox (who came into his own on the 1965-75 Second-team), Matt Hazeltine, Wayne Walker, Jack Pardee, Larry Morris (who made the official team), and Lee Roy Caffey

The official team got the kicker right, but we feel that Tommy Davis and Bobby Joe Green were better punters than Chandler, but Chandler could kick well. Davis could kick, but punting was his forte. We reserve the right to change this as we do more research into the punting of the 1960s. We have partial data now and if it holds, we may bump Green ahead of Davis.

Agree or disagree? Let us know.

1950s NFL All-Decade Team Critique

By John Turney
When the Hall of Fame released the 1950s All-Decade team the format was odd. They listed three quarterbacks but only one center. There was not a First- and Second-team as there has been since the 1970s All-Decade Team. So, we don't know which of the three were the "top" quarterback.

There were two tackles and three guards. Two defensive ends and tackles yet four linebackers, two corners (halfbacks) and three safeties. As Paul Zimmerman once wrote, "They don't line up that way".

Here is the official team:
We've gone back and chosen a First- and Second-team and attempted to use our film study, stat research and other means to determine who might be the top players in a format that is similar to the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s All-Decade Teams.

Now, here are our selections:
Gone are Raymond Berry (on our 1955-65 team), Tom Fears (on our 1945-55 team), and Bobby Walston. Jim Parker (only 3 seasons in the 1950s) is on the 1955-65 team and our 1960s team as a guard. It was hard leaving out Doug Atkins but Brito was better during this decade and Atkins dominance was the mid-1950s to the end of his career.

We went with a 4-3 defense but could have added middle guards for the first-half, but the best ones didn't get a lot of time in during the decade and fit with other teams.

Agree or disagree? Let us know.

Hall of Fame All-Time AFL Team

By John Turney

On January 14, 1970, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released the list of the All-Time AFL Team. The teams were compiled as a result of a vote of the AFL members of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors.

This is the team they selected (graphic by Wikipedia)—

All great players, but did all of them deserve to be on it? Or are people on the Second-team more worthy to be First-teamers?

This is not a criticism of the voters at the time. They, in good faith, voted for who they thought should be on the team. But we do get to ask if Joe Namath over Len Dawson was the best choice for an honor that is supposed to span the length of a decade. The vote was taken the day before the Chiefs beat the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.  Had the vote been taken after that game would the vote have been different?

Namath was a legend for his Super Bowl III win over the Colts and was a terrific talent and his "eye test" is likely superior to Dawson. But, Dawson won three AFL titles and one Super Bowl. His stats were superior to Namath's. Namath, however, was an AFL MVP in 1968 and 1969 and Dawson didn't win any such awards.

In short, if you look at peak Namath wins. If you look at the length of accomplishments, the "decade" part of the equation Dawson wins.

So, with that in mind, we've reviewed the First-team of the Official AFL All-Time team to who we think had slightly stronger cases than some of those chosen. Most selections were on the money. But a few deserve some scrutiny.

The highlighted selections are the ones we think there should be a change—
In addition to Dawson, we think Abner Haynes and Cookie Gilchrist has slightly better AFL careers than Paul Lowe and Clem Daniels. Haynes and Gilchrist were AFL MVP/POY winners and part of AFL championships and had superior stats, though close, than the others.

On defense, Earl Faison played long enough and was superior to MaysRich Jackson was our original choice but after careful consideration decided he didn't play long enough so we've updated the teams. Jackson was All-AFL twice and was good in 1967 but in 1966 he was a backup in Oakland really, had just three full seasons and that does not make a decade. We also think that Chiefs DT Buck Buchanan should have been First-team over Antwine.

We also think George Webster's three seasons was not enough to qualify for an All-Decade team. At his peak, he rivals Bobby Bell as the best OLBer in AFL history, but in our view, Mike Stratton's longevity and also pretty high peak deserved the honor.

As for the Coach, Stram, when you included Super Bowl IV, deserved the top slot.

We also had a few disagreements on the Second-team, but film review and research of gamebooks give us some insights that help separate top-notch players.

With that qualification here is our AFL All-Decade picks:
Here is an update. These are the top talents of the AFL, the best players who played in the AFL but some of them only played 3-4 years and are not really qualified to be on an All-Decade team. The hardest choice might have been halfback where lots of talented guys played like Paul Lowe and Abner Haynes but we went with Daniels. But we fully admit several others fit there.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Year of the Defensive Lineman: The 1951 Defensive Players of the Week

By TJ Troup

Today is Len Ford's birthday, and as such the appropriate time to list the Defensive Player of the Week for all twelve weeks of that fascinating season.
Len Ford

September 30th: Pete Wismann is the starter at right linebacker for the 49ers as they take on the defending league champion Browns at Kezar. Twice in the game, Pete intercepted future Hall of Famer Otto Graham. First time on a curl pattern out of a pro left formation by Cleveland where Wismann expertly drops into the right area in coverage and he returns the theft 10 yards.

His second late in the game comes with Cleveland in a full house t-formation as Graham attempts to toss to his back out of the backfield. Pete returns this pilfered pass 2 yards to the seven-yard line. The 49ers believe they are now contenders in the National Conference with the 24-10 victory.


October 7th: Two men standout with such dominating performances that they are co-players of the week. Mike Jarmoluk is a rock at defensive right tackle for the Eagles. The 49ers have success early running to the right (away from big Mike), but as the game progresses the San Francisco ground attack is stymied and Philadelphia takes the lead. Jarmoluk records an interception and a fumble recovery; a rarity for any defensive lineman as the Eagles win 21-14.

Arnie Weinmeister is listed as a defensive tackle in many football encyclopedia's and websites, and while he is a d-tackle when the Giants are in a 5-2—he is the defensive left end for NYG when they are in the 4-3. His versatility, strength, and pursuit are so legendary he earned his way into the Hall of Fame in a very short NFL career. For most of this game, he is at defensive end.

This is as good a time and place to pay tribute to Nate Fine; the finest cameraman of his era. The eye-popping color film of this game between the Redskins and Giants is a true joy to watch. Arnie is so dominant in this game that the Washington coaching staff twice replace the man who is suppose to block him.

Weinmeister sheds attempted blocks and makes tackles on inside running plays, pursues across the field to help on tackles, records 3 sacks in the game (one in the first quarter when NYG is in the 4-3, and two in the fourth quarter when they are in the 5-2). He even recovers a fumble that is taken away because a Giant was offsides.

Norb Hecker
October 14th: Detroit enters this game with a 2-0 record, while the Rams are smarting from the beating they took from Cleveland the week before. Left safety Norb Hecker intercepts twice for the Rams in their 27-21 win over the Lions. His first early in the game which he returns 25 yards, and his second late in the game when a Doak Walker fake punt and run for a first down had given Detroit momentum. Hecker intercepts on the Ram twelve-yard line and returns 13 yards to help seal the victory.

October 21st: Cleveland takes on the Steelers single wing attack at home and shut-outs Pittsburgh 17-0. Right linebacker Tommy Thompson recovers a Steeler fumble (he returns 3 yards), intercepts down near the Cleveland goal line (he returns 6 yards), makes open field tackles when called upon, helps stop single wing sweeps his side, and finally on a red dog records a sack for an 11-yard loss.

October 28th: Los Angeles is 3-1 and having beaten the 2-2 49ers twice in 1950 anticipate another victory. Defensive coach Phil Bengston uses seven defensive backs in the 44-17 win over the Rams. Van Brocklin is just 13 of 30 with 5 interceptions (passer rating of 32.9) and his main tormentor is our defensive player of the week in safety Jimmy Cason (he returns his two thefts 42 yards). The San Francisco victory scrambles the National Conference race as four teams are now in contention(Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Detroit).


November 4th: Bill Wightkin sometimes played offensive end in 1950, but this season he is the best left defensive end in the National Conference. Using a stand-up stance very similar to Len Ford's he helps his nasty grizzly teammates shut-out Washington 27-0. Bill nails Sammy Baugh for a sack, drops into coverage to tackle Dudley on a circle route, defeats a Redskin trap block to stop Dudley in his tracks on an inside running play, and forces errant passes with the pressure he provides on his pass rush.

November 11th: When a defensive back intercepts 10 passes in a twelve game season he usually is invited to the Pro Bowl in Los Angeles. Left corner Howard Hartley of the Steelers does in fact record 10 interceptions in 1951 but is not selected to go to LA. Hartley leads the black & gold to a 28-7 victory over the Packers at Forbes Field. The Steelers 5-3 defensive front pressures, Thomason & Rote, all game (6 sacks for 55 yards), and when they did get off their passes Hartley was ready and waiting. He intercepts on a 3rd and 3 play and later in the game on a 2nd and 15 (he returns the interceptions 16 yards).

November 18th: Floyd Jaszewski is starting left defensive tackle of the Detroit Lions. Though not known by many through out the league; those offensive guards that tried to block this stud would tell you he came to play. Detroit needs a victory to stay in the National Conference race and defeats the Eagles 28-10 at Shibe Park. Floyd is a stone wall against the run (Philadelphia gains 102 yards on 44 attempts) and recovers two fumbles to highlight the best afternoon of his career.


November 25th: The Giants are coming off a loss to Cleveland and can ill afford another as they take on the Cardinals on a day of freezing rain and hail. Arnie Weinmeister spearheads the NYG defense all day as he and his 'mates record 7 sacks for 59 yards, and limit Chicago to just 65 yards rushing on 36 attempts. The New York victory keeps them in the American Conference race.

December 2nd: Tom Landry returns a Steeler fumble 9 yards for a touchdown to give New York a lead, yet he is not the Defensive Player of the Week. That honor goes to his teammate in the secondary—the league interception champion Otto Schnellbacher. The Black & Gold single wing can gain only 79 yards rushing, and as such must go to the air, and Otto is ready, willing, and waiting. He cements the NYG 14-0 win at the Polo Grounds by returning an interception 46 yards for a touchdown.

Len Ford
December 9th: He just cannot be blocked. Who is the "he" I am referring to? Why none other than Len Ford. Pittsburgh tries guards, tackles, backs, and even tight ends, and they all fail. No player has ever had a better defensive season than this big stud. From his stand-up stance at right defensive end he is easy to see, but just CANNOT be blocked in 1951. Do I have data to back up such a statement? You betcha! Ford recorded a sack in 9 consecutive games, and in this 28-0 whitewash of Pittsburgh, he gets FOUR! Watching him on film it is amazing to me he has not been mentioned more often as one of the All-Time greats.

December 16th: Philadelphia Eagle quarterbacks will drop back 34 times in this game. They complete 9 of the 24 passes they actually can get out of their hand; 'cause the other 10 times they are sacked. The regular season ends with Co-Defensive Players of the Week. Len Ford again has another monster game with three sacks to give him a record of 21 for the year, yet his teammate—the undersized but lightning quick Bill Willis gets 4 sacks. How many times in league history has a nose or middle guard ever gotten four sacks in a game? Never, or better yet send me the film of the game where someone had five.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Symmetry, Sort Of

By John Turney

In 1965 Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner of the Colts retired Colts left defensive end  Gino Marchetti's number and presented him with the jersey. In 1985 Rosenbloom's widow Georgia Frontiere did the same for longtime Ram left defensive end Jack Youngblood. Marchetti, at the request of Rosenbloom, came back in 1966 when injuries depleted the Colts defensive line. Marchetti felt he owed it to Rosenbloom after all that was done for him by Rosenbloom.

Interestingly the two players, Marchetti and Youngblood, were admirers of each other. When Youngblood came into the NFL he was given game films of the great left ends to learn from and study. Youngblood thought Marchetti was a joy to watch and took much of his style from Marchetti (and teammate Deacon Jones).

Marchetti told us years ago, “I liked Youngblood. I liked the way he rushed the passer and how created havoc in the backfield. In the games I saw, he was great."

Marchetti's coach Weeb Ewbank in the book "Football Greats" said, "The way he played in against the Minnesota Vikings in the 1976 playoffs was the closest I’ve ever seen a defensive end approximate Gino Marchetti. Ron Yary simply couldn’t stop Youngblood, always a menace to the opposing offense, an annual All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. A guaranteed Hall of Famer.”

Marchetti and Youngblood, two cut from the same cloth in our view.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Rob Gronkowski Thoughts

By John Turney

The Boston Herald published an article that has been picked up by Bleacher Report and others posing the question if Rob Gronkowski is a first-ballot lock or not. It seems the consensus of the Hall of Famer voters they spoke to stated they think Gronk is a Hall of Famer but not a lock for first-ballot.

The negative factor is if he's played long enough to warrant that extra cachet of being a first-ballot selection. In our view, they have been a few players who got in recently on the first ballot who lowered the bar of that elite status so we're not sure it matters as much as it used to.

Regardless, short career guys do get in. Gale Sayers got in on the first try, deservedly so, even though he only played 7 seasons and 68 games. In the researcher world that became known as the "Gale Sayers exception" meaning that in general, voters liked sustained and prolonged greatness—longevity. In the past couple of decades Dwight Stephenson, Ken Easley, Terrell Davis all were enshrined, though Easley had to wait and get in via the seniors committee.

Thus, shorter careers have been honored and in out study of the subject, longevity is nowhere near as important as it was in the 1980s or 1990s when the voters would talk about it as a key factor in their decisions.

So, in the Paul Zimmerman coined line (for the Lynn Swann HOF debate) "What do you want quality or quantity"? Well, most people would say both, but if you have to choose, what would it be?

When Dwight Stephenson was making the Final 15 Mike Webster was, too. They essentially went head-to-head in 1996 when Zimmerman used that talking point for Stephenson, who he thought was the best center in NFL history. When the voters came to the press conference after the vote we briefly spoke to Will McDonough who, when asked why Webster was omitted, jsut shook his head and muttered "Seventeen years". Yes, 17 years.

So, to Gronk.
Here are his career honors compared with the HOF tight ends and some other HOF hopefuls. We are assuming Gronk will be an All-Decade pick for the 2010s:
Now, here are the statistics:
As you can see, Gronk is number one in yards per 16 games and TDs per sixteen games, the two most important of the four major receiving categories. Yes, he missed a lot of games, but when it's done on a per 16-game bases he's at the top of the "numbers".

That leaves the eye test and every Hall of Fame voters has his or her own. We think Gronk passes the ole' eye test in wonderful fashion. The way he was used as a receiver, his ability to make tough catches,  his blocking. The whole package. The only thing we would do is use him as a safety on Hail Mary passes.

We don't know if Gronk will be first-ballot or not if he retires and does not play another down in the NFL but we also think nine years is enough to determine if someone is a G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) or not.

However, our prediction is he will not be first-ballot if it's a strong class . . . the voters likely will hold the longevity thing against him. But no matter, he's going to get in early. If not first, then second.

That's our take.