Monday, August 19, 2019

Johnny Blood and Mike Michalske Pick Greatest Players

By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Packers vs Giants
With the NFL's 100th season about to start PFJ looks back at some of the league's greatest players and coaches picking their All-Time Teams or greatest players. This post will look at two former Packers Hall of Famers and their picks.
First up is Johnny "Blood" McNally, who in 1971 (interviewed by Tom Butler of the Wisconsin State Journal) chose his best all-around, best offensive and best defensive players. He selected Bronko Nagurski (all-around), Sammy Baugh (offenss) and Cal Hubbard (best defense), one of his former Packers teammate.
1971 Johnny "Blood" McNally, names best players of his era

As for Mike Michalske, in 1982 he was asked by the Green Bay Press-Gazette to select his Top 5 Greatest Players of All-Time. He went with Ernie Nevers (1), Clarke Hinkle (2), Dutch Clark (3), Bronko Nagurski (4) and Mel Hein (5).
Mike Michalske, Top 5 Greatest Players of His Era, (1982, GB Press-Gazette)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

AFL All-Decade Team Critique

By John Turney
Recently we've posted our critiques about the NFL's All-Decade Teams. We've completed the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Today we tackle the 1960s AFL selections.
These posts are dedicated to the proposition that humans are fallible, especially in collectives, so while the HOF/NFL All-Decade teams are great they are not necessarily the be-all and end-all. Mistakes were made, players who had two seasons of service in a given decade have been on All-Decade teams. Some players were actually better in a different decade than they were in the one in which they were selected. And there were some ommissions as well.

To be fair, much more information is available now in some areas than existed at the time so there are reasons for the oddities. Our posts are done not to criticize but to illuminate—picking these kinds of teams presents real intellectual challenges so no one should be too hard one someone else's picks.

That said, here is the Official AFL All-Time Team:
Going from bottom up, we'd say Hank Stram deserved the top coaching spot over Ewbank. Stram won three AFL titles and one Super Bowl. To us, Ewbank and Gillman would be a tossup for Second-team.

Jerrell Wilson is an okay pick, in the NFL, after the merger he got a lot of punts blocked. Paul Maguire would be a better choice for Second-team. he was a good directional punter with a high net average.
It's odd that Jan Stenerud was omitted. We can only guess that it was because he only played three years in the decade. In our book that is not really enough to qualify, but if that was the reason then why was George Webster First-team? He only played three years in the 1960s/history of the AFL.

So by their rules, Stenerud should have been the top pick. 

The secondary looks good. We'd leave that as is. There are a few other names that could be mentioned it it's a quibble. 
We mentioned Webster's peak was worthy but were his three years of service more valuable than, say, Grantham's ten or Stratton's eight seasons?
Dan Conners only started for 3½ seasons in the 1960s. Again, couldn't a better, longer-tenured player have been found? Perhaps Archie Matsos or Sherrill Headrick? We think either of those two deserved the All-1960s more than Conners and when we picked our team we went with Headrick.
Jerry Mays and Gerry Philbin are the official ends and there is nothing wrong with those picks. As a peak performer though we'd have chosen Earl Faison. As a peak player, the best in league history was Rich Jackson but he has the "years of service issue" as well. he was a starter for only three seasons in the 1960s. Jackson does make the Second-team, so years of service wasn't an issue for the voters at the time, just too few of them, apparently, didn't think Jackson was one of the top two defensive ends in the league's history. 

If we go by the "three seasons is enough" rule of thumb, out top two ends would be Faison and Jackson and the Second-team would be Philbin and McDole with Ike Lassiter tied with McDole. As far is pure production few AFL ends were as solid as Lassiter. If we follow out philosophy Jackson would not be eligible so Philbin and Faison would tops Mays and McDole next.
Sestak would be one of our tackles. Ernie Ladd would be the other based on peak and Buck Buchanan would remain Second-team. But, if we went by consistency we'd put Buchanan on the First-team. Neither pick would be wrong. Then Houston Antwine would be dropped to Second-team. Bud McFadin and Keating could be honorable mentions. 

We think the selection committee nailed the offensive line, both First- and Second-team. There could be a quibble or two but really, it's a job well done there.

The tight ends are solid as well. Alworth and Maynard great picks for the receivers, Art Powell is worthy, too as is Charlie Hennigan. Lionel Taylor would nose out Hennigan on our Second-team but as we mention, Hennigan was worthy.

The running backs are hard. The AFL had a lot of good backs with short careers or limited years of peak production. So, while the official picks are not wrong we just think there could have been better picks.

For the First-team We'd have gone with Cookie Gilchrist for his rushing titles and ring. Also on the First-team, we think Abner Haynes edges Clem Daniels. We'd drop Daniels to the Second-team.
To back up Gilchrist we'd pick Jim Nance.

We realize we short Paul Lowe but we think he's the third-best halfback in AFL history, not the first. And Keith Lincoln is our third-best fullback, edging Matt Snell.
That leaves quarterback. And it's easy. No offense to Jets fans but Dawson has more championships, better stats, and more "honors". Namath had more pure passing talent, but Dawson did it longer and should have been the First-team quarterback. Namath, we'd put Second-team and we'd make Jack Kemp an honorable mention. 
So, we'd as fans to always use All-Decade teams as a good benchmark or measuring stick for a player, but don't just rubber-stamp the official teams, do your own research and make sure the picks were right, or as right as they can be. Look for errors and ommissions because as long as humans pick them, there will be some errant picks and we think we've illustrated that in this series. 

edited 8/15

Monday, August 12, 2019

Bobbie Cahn 1943 All-Time NFL Team

By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Bobbie Cahn, NFL Official, photo from 1935

For over two decades the diminutive Bobbie Cahn (who stood about 5-feet tall) was an official (mainly a Referee) in the NFL. He officiated tons of games including the NFL's first post-season game played indoors against the Portsmouth Spartans-Chicago Bears in 1932, as well as the first couple of NFL Championship Games. Cahn was such a character in the early days of the NFL that sometimes he would get his name featured in the ads for games he was working. Here's an example of one that was featured in the Moline Dispatch in 1923 advertising the Rock Island Independents game agains the Milwaukee Badgers in Rock Island.
Ad for game between Rock Island vs Milwaukee, published, Nov. 3, 1923
In 1943 Cahn announced his retirement from the NFL. In turn he selected an All-Time NFL Team and the greatest game he ever worked- the 1934 NFL Championship Game between the Bears and Giants- mostly known as the "Sneakers Game." "That was the most exicting game I ever worked. What a licking the Bears gave the Giants in the first half and how helpless they were in the final half when the Giants came on the field and played in tennis shoes," said Cahn to the United Press after his retirement.

In selecting his All-Time NFL Team, Cahn had some of the normal names of the stars of the 1920's and 1930's. But in naming his No. 1 player he went with a lineman- George Trafton. "Trafton had everything, including a lot of lip for the officials," Cahn commented. "He could diagnose a play quicker than any man who ever played football, and he knew what to do about it."

Here is Cahn's All-Time Team:
Ends- Bill Hewitt, Don Hutson
Tackles- Link Lyman, Ed Healey
Guards- Dan Fortmann, Duke Osborn
Center- George Trafton
Quarterback - Dutch Clark
Halfbacks- Cliff Battles, Clarke Hinkle
Fullback - Bronko Nagurski

Cahn's choices included Osborn over Mike Michalske and selecting fullback Hinkle over all the other halfbacks who played in the first two decades. "Most observers have a hard time deciding whether they should put Nagurski or Hinkle at fullback," said Cahn. "But not me. I always wanted to see Hinkle play halfback. I think he could have been the greatest of all-time. Of course, I only saw Jim Thorpe in his declining years."

In naming his team Cahn also mentions coaches, George Halas, Jimmy Conzelman, and Potsy Clark who gave him some grief while making penalties. "But in all my years in the league I never found a coach who held any malice after a game," said Cahn.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Dexter Manley's Masks

By John Turney

Like we did with Archie Manning, today we review the many masks of Dexter Manley. Usually he wore a form of the NJOP mask, with the classic one in 1981 and the double wire in 1982. The 1983 and 1984 masks appear to the be same and in 1985 it looks like an elongated version of the mask.

Here are shots from every season:













Saturday, August 10, 2019

Taylor Rapp Opens His NFL Career as both a Safety and Linebacker

By John Turney
Rams second-round (pick #61 overall) Taylor Rapp started tonights preseason game against the Raiders as a strong safety in place of usual and expected starter John Johnson. And like Johnson Rapp spent a good portion of his night as a linebacker.

In 2018 the Rams had two base defenses they employed, one with Johnson as a safety and another with Johnson as an inside linebacker with usual inside linebacker Cory Littleton moving to outside linebacker. Based on tonight's game only it appears the same scheme will be in place—two base defenses and then the sub-packages (nickel and dime).

When the starters return to lineups Eric Weddle and Johnson will be the safeties and then we will learn the role Rapp will have for the season. At this point, we don't know what the role will be, but after game one of the preseason do know from the film that he played Johnson's hybrid role from 2018—strong safety in one base, an inside linebacker in the alternate base. 

Johnson, however, was usually a safety in sub-packages (Mark Barron and Littleton were in ILBs in sub) and tonight, at least, we saw Rapp as a 'backer in sub defenses.

Early in the game, we see Rapp as a strong safety (feet near the 40-yard line)

Here Rapp is playing the MIKE position in base defense
Again here he is the MIKE, the player lined up over the slot is the SAM backer in a "walk" position

Here, Rapp is back at strong safety (SS)
Again, Rapp is at SS in base 3-4 defense

Here, Rap is at MIKE in base 3-4

Rapp, here is the SAM. The Will has dropped to a stacked WILL

This is Nickel with on WILL walked out but Rapp is the Mike

Nickel, Rapp at Mike

Nickel, Rapp at MIKE

Rapp at Mike, in nickel.