Tuesday, July 7, 2020

ROBERT JAMES: Buffalo Bills Playoff Team of '74.

By TJ Troup
For those of you who actually forked out $50.00 (way overpriced) for my book on pro football in the decade of the '50s this story will follow a similar format.

So before detailing my thoughts on Robert James, let's start with some background.

During the 66 games played before 1973 the Buffalo Bills won just twelve times. Lou Saban's time in Denver brought mixed results, and in a sense, he is returning home to Buffalo. He is heavily involved in trading for players who can help his team win, and the draft will hopefully bring in some young talent.

Saban's staff is top-notch with Stan Jones working with the defensive line, and Bob Shaw with the receivers. Two men though stand out on his staff. Jim Ringo is going to teach and build one of the best offensive lines of the decade of the '70s, and defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Johnny Ray has never received the credit he deserved for the revitalization of the Bills defense.

During the debacle of '71 Buffalo allowed 4,604 yards, while in 1974 the defense allows 3,489 yards. Basically an improvement of 79 yards a game; very impressive.

Lou Saban after missing the playoffs in '73 is convinced his team after tasting victory will be hungry for more. Sources always are vital for me in telling the tale and have three that were sure helpful—Pocket Pro Football, Street & Smith's, and finally Prolog.

What those dedicated men have written coupled with film study takes us to the Buffalo receiving corps. JD Hill and Ahmad Rashad are the starting wide receivers and are capably supported by Bobby Chandler. This group runs sharp routes, have the moves to get open, and all are glue-fingered. Buffalo maybe a running team, and these men will block, yet the Bills are very capable of completing passes.
Those passes are thrown by Joe Ferguson. He has excellent footwork, and a strong arm (even throwing off his back foot). He is mobile enough and sure has his moments on roll-outs to the right. His accuracy is adequate (51%), but the most important aspect to his passing game is throwing 12 touchdown passes in '74 after just 4 in '73.

Ferguson is impressive throwing the ball in the red zone. Jim Braxton is a load of a fullback. Powerful with just enough speed to motor past pursuing linebackers, he is an accomplished pass blocker who picks up the blitz well.

We all know he can lead block for Simpson, and every opponent must begin their defensive game plan with that fact in mind. OJ Simpson coming off an incredible season delivers again in '74. No one expected another 2,000 yards, and while 1,125 is quite a drop-off he still can the focal point of the offense.

The offensive line received lots of fanfare with the catchy nickname; and these men were consistent, versatile, and resilient since they missed so little time in the line-up. Foley and Green at the tackles, DeLamielleure and McKenzie at the guards, and Montler at center (Bruce Jarvis is the best back-up center in the league). Size, quickness, technique, and a combative attitude make them a very fun group to watch.

Though rarely stated, an offensive line on the practice field has only so many minutes to work on two skills......pass protection, and run blocking. The emphasis, of course, is on the run, and at times the Buffalo line struggles in pass protection (Vern Den Herder had 4 sacks in one game), yet they are more than adequate protecting Ferguson.

The very flawed ESPN Encyclopedia lists the All-Pro voting; with McKenzie getting some consideration and Joe D. honorable mention. Tackle Paul Seymour is a load as the starting tight end, and keeps Reuben Gant on the bench. Seymour can catch a pass, but that is an afterthought with the weapons available.

Every tight end must be able to master the "reach block" on the sweep, and as big as Paul is he can make this difficult block. Drive blocking comes easy for him. Larry Felser writing for both Street & Smith's and the Pocket Handbook states emphatically the job these men did as a group and individually.

We are at a point in this era where the run is again paramount, and Buffalo can, and will run the ball. When Lou Saban watched film of the Buffalo run defense for 1971 he must have felt sick to his stomach----2,496 yards. That must change yet in '72 only slight improvement to 2,241. Not only is the scheme vital to stopping opponents from running the ball; you must have some tough hombres who can shed blocks, and fill running lanes.

During 1973 a marked improvement to 1,797 yards, and though Buffalo allows slightly more in '74 with 1,878 opponents ran the ball more and as such the per carry average improved to just 3.8 a carry.

Buffalo's depth at linebacker was instrumental in this team earning a playoff berth. Rich Lewis at right linebacker, and steady John Skorupan at left linebacker played well the first half of the year, but injuries forced adjustments, and coach Johnny Ray's group made all the necessary adjustments. Big play rangy Dave Washington takes over at left linebacker and Doug Allen at right linebacker.

During the second half of the campaign, Buffalo aligned in the 3-4 for three games with Bo Cornell at right outside linebacker, and Allen moving to inside linebacker. There are men who just know instinctively how to pursue, shed blocks, and tackle.

Undersized Jim Cheyunski came in a trade and was the glue to the defense. "Chey" as I call him was just a damn tackling machine. Film study shows him demonstrating proper technique and you can see his heart and desire for the game. He will at times be driven back due to his lack of heft, but not often. Cheyunski is also rock-solid in zone pass defense.

When a defense is aligned in the 3-4 there is going to be the "blitz". Cornell, Washington, Allen, Skorupan, and Cheyunski are credited with 7 1/2 sacks total. Not near what other teams get on the blitz, but Buffalo does not blitz a lot. The most improved area of the team from the debacle of '71 is the defensive line.

Walt Patulski never lived up to being drafted so high, but he played his best football in '74. Improved at both stopping the run, and rushing the passer; Walt contributed to the team success. Surprisingly Dave Costa is not mentioned in any of the publications, but he was very valuable to this team. Costa takes over for Bob Kampa in week three and starts nine games (not three as listed at the Pro Football Archives).

Costa had success in Oakland, and in Denver, and he may not have much left, but boy oh boy did he give effort in '74 at right defensive end. Dave shed blocks, sealed inside running lanes, and tried to rush the passer(only 2½ sacks). Dave went to the bench when Buffalo aligned in the 3-4. Mike Kadish has finally matured into a standout d-tackle and '74 is by far his best year. His tremendous strength was always an asset, but now he sheds the block, and is versatile enough to align on the center(nose tackle) in the 3-4.
Earl Edwards story is fascinating, and without a doubt, the best trade Lou made (running back Randy Jackson and a 3rd round pick), and while he played well in '73 he is even better in '74. Edwards has the physical gifts to play both tackle and end, and does both for the Bills during the year. Kadish and Edwards combine for 14 sacks to give Buffalo the in your face pass rush all defensive coordinators want.

While neither man gets any all-pro recognition that is understandable since this is the era of the d-tackle. Don't believe me? Look at the number of elite d-tackles who suited up in 1974—a legendary who's who. Kadish & Edwards might not get the recognition they deserved, yet no doubt the guard attempting to block them had to prepare and give maximum effort. Many pundits stated the d-line was the key to Buffalo defensive success, and they are partially correct.

The defensive passer rating is a tool that tell us how a team played TEAM pass defense. Ranking dead last in 1971 was Buffalo at 84.2 (league average is 62.2).  Ranking 5th in 1974 was Buffalo at 51.6 (league average is 64.2). What brought about the dramatic improvement?

Dwight Harrison came in a trade and delivered at right corner. He was more than adequate as both a zone and man-to-man defender. Neal Craig also came in trade, and though at times inconsistent he always displayed athleticism and the ability to make a big play (which he does in '74) so the strong safety post is taken care of.
Tiny Tony Greene is the consummate versatile pro. He can play corner if he has too(and did at times in his career), but he is at his best at free safety. Tony is not a big hitter due to his lack of size, but is a willing, and capable tackler. He is lightning quick and can accelerate on the proper angle to the ball. Greene entered 1974 with just four lifetime interceptions, and then ranges far and wide to pilfer 9 balls during the year. He is rewarded with unanimous All-Pro recognition. Tiny Tony was a difference maker. 

Earlier in the season "the Hawk" (swirling winds) and rain in the game against Joe Namath and the Jets took the league back to the 1940s as the teams combined to complete just 2 of 20 passes (Buffalo 0 for 2) with the Buffalo pass defense intercepting three.

That leaves the headliner for this story. John Rauch must have known during 1969 that he just did not have much of a team in Buffalo, and by 1974 only two men from that '69 team are still suiting up for the rabid loyal Buffalo fans—OJ Simpson, and undrafted Robert James.  Am convinced that running track at a small college is an eye-opening experience(have been there), and Robert James was an outstanding sprinter at Fisk College. His speed is going to help him survive at the most difficult position in football—left corner.

Watch James come up and defend the sweep; textbook. He might not be Night Train Lane, but at 184 lbs. he does the job. Dropping into zone and playing the ball is a major part of being a left corner, and James does this expertly.

The most important physical gift of a corner is the hips as the receiver attempts to "eat up your cushion" and jet right by you deep. Robert James smooth backpedal and then opening his hips to run with the receiver up the sideline is just so difficult—think not, try it sometime (also been there).

Against Green Bay, Robert James put on a clinic on how the corner position should be played. He earned a pro bowl berth in both 1972 and 1973 and recorded just one interception each year. The voters did notice, and at this point in his career, he is the best in all of football. Unanimous First-team All-Pro.

Was so fortunate to be in the Coliseum for the last game of '74 to watch this playoff-bound team take on a strong Rams team. So many were there to see Simpson return to the Coliseum (I get it), but I was there to watch Earl Edwards, Jim Cheyunski, Tony Greene, and ROBERT JAMES.

The game that day was a smog-filled snooze fest, but so what, got to see the Rams eke out a win against Buffalo. Robert James career ended in August of '75 with a horrific knee injury against these same Rams. Not sure he was going to be a Hall of Famer, but sure would have enjoyed watching him play many more years, and yes today is his birthday.

Finally, as stated at the beginning like my book on the '50's....we have a game of significance: Buffalo is 6-1 and New England is also 6-1 (only defeat at the hands of the Bills). Two John Leypoldt field goals sandwiched around a mini Mack Herron touchdown gives us a 7-6 score after one hard-fought quarter. When Joe Ferguson fumbles the ball to the Patriots at his own thirty-one-yard line; Plunkett quickly capitalizes with another td toss to Herron.

Herron's quickness got him open against Dave Washington. Ferguson drives the Bills to a score as Ahmad Rashad scores from the twenty-five. The Patriots in front of the home crown respond and with just over a minute left in the half score again on Sam Cunningham's 31-yard run after Ron Bolton intercepted Ferguson. Wait a minute, the Bills can drive the field now with a 2-minute offense? Ferguson is intercepted again, but reserve linebacker Merv Krakau intercepts Plunkett, and trundled to his own thirty-seven yard line.

So does Buffalo have a 1-minute offense? They do as Simpson scores from the one with just 39 seconds left in the half after Ferguson completes to Hill and Rashad for 57 yards. New England 21 Buffalo 19. Since the Patriots scored 28 in the loss two weeks earlier, and already have 21.....there needs to be some decisive defensive half-time adjustments by the Bills.
The Patriots have a 4th down and inches to go situation in the middle of the 3rd quarter, but elect to pass, and Plunkett's misguided aerial to Sam Cunningham in the flat is intercepted by long-armed Dave Washington, and the big man dashes 72 yards to get the lead back for the Bills. Eddie Hinton returns the kick-off 53 yards, and with just over 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter Herron scores for the third time today. New England 28 Buffalo 26 at the end of three.

On the first play of the 4th quarter, Leypoldt drills home a 47-yarder and the Bills have the lead. Can the Buffalo defense hold for an entire quarter?
Jams (#20) covers Otis Taylor in 1971
Yes, they can. Simpson fumbles and the Patriots have one last shot at the win as John Smith lines up for a 46 yard attempt. Jeff Yeates gets his big paw up and blocks the kick. Final first place Buffalo 29 New England 28. Buffalo only needs to win two of their remaining six games, and that is exactly what they do, and earn their first playoff berth in eight years. The season ends with a decisive victory by Pittsburgh on their way to a Super Bowl title, but no doubt the Buffalo Bills and Robert James have joined the elite teams in the league.

Monday, July 6, 2020

1949 NFL Season in Review

By Andy Piascik
The 1949 season saw another close two-team race in the West and one of the biggest runaways in NFL history in the East. It also saw the transfer of the Boston Yanks to New York where owner Ted Collins re-named them the Bulldogs. And perhaps most important, 1949 marked the end of the war between the NFL and the All-America Football Conference as a peace agreement was reached in December just before the two leagues played their Championship Games. The terms called for the admission into the NFL of the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Colts, and most of the New York Yankees (who would essentially merge with Collins’ Bulldogs) beginning in 1950.

The game on the field continued the inexorable march toward the two-platoon system. Directly related was the continued shift to more passing. There was also the ongoing return of players from the military as well as the graduation from college of many who went straight from high school to the service and who were coming into the NFL as older-than-usual rookies.
Chuck Bednarik
Philadelphia great Chuck Bednarik was a prime example of the latter. Bednarik entered the Army Air Corps upon graduating high school in 1943 and enrolled at Penn in 1945 after two years in the service. Having served as a waist gunner on 30 bombing missions, Bednarik, like many of his contemporaries, went into the NFL in 1949 as a man mature beyond his years.
Another Drop in Attendance

Attendance was down for a third consecutive year in 1949 to 23,916 per game. That was a decrease of more than 2,000 per game from 1948 and more than 8,000 a game from the all-time mark established in 1946. The good news for the NFL is that a long, steady rise would begin in 1950 and the league’s average attendance has never been as low as 23,916 again.

A Sudden Resignation and a Failed Coaching Experiment
Jimmy Conzelman resigned suddenly as head coach of the Cardinals early in 1949 after leading Chicago to two consecutive conference titles and an NFL championship in 1947. Phil Handler replaced him and was eventually joined by Buddy Parker as the Cards employed co-coaches. The experiment did not work as hoped and the Cardinals fell from 11-1 to 6-5-1. Parker left in disgust at the co-coach approach and soon re-surfaced in Detroit where he would guide the Lions to championship heights. For the Cardinals, the changes in coaches were among a series of events that coincided with and contributed to the end of their brief status as an elite team.
Two Titles in a Row for the Eagles

The Eagles became the fourth team in NFL history to win consecutive league championships. Philadelphia’s 11-1 record remains the best in franchise history and they raised their record to 28-7-1 for the three straight years they finished first in the East. They also upped their record for the six-year period from 1944 through 1949 to 48-16-2.

The Eagles also accomplished the extremely rare feat of leading the league in both most points scored and fewest points allowed in the same season. Philadelphia was frequently dominant in victory in 1949 as they won games by scores of 28-3, 49-14, 38-7, 38-14, 44-21, 42-0, 34-17, and 24-3. They pitched two shutouts and had a total of six games where they allowed seven points or fewer. It all added up to a remarkable 19.2 per-game point differential that is one of the very best in pro football history. 

The Eagles charged through the East and finished 4½ games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh. The Steelers hung close for a while and were actually tied with Philadelphia for first place at 4-1 but were blown out of Forbes Field by the Eagles on October 30th. That game was the beginning of a tailspin for the Steelers as they went 2-4-1 after their 4-1 start, including two losses to Philadelphia by a combined 48 points.

The T-Formation and the Passing Game
The T-formation grew more popular as the offensive alignment of choice and the related move toward a more pass-oriented game continued. The league average of 357 passing yards a game was slightly higher than 1948 and the second-highest in league history at that point, just a few yards off the highest-ever mark of 1947. It was a trend that would continue. With the luxury of hindsight, it’s clear 1946 marked the final season of one era and 1947 the first of another.

The 1949 season saw Sid Luckman, the NFL’s first T quarterback, lost his starting job to Johnny Lujack. It had been a great run for Luckman since his rookie season in 1939. With him at the helm, the Bears won four championships and had several of the most dominant seasons in league history. Individually, Luckman won passing titles, set numerous passing records, and was the NFL’s MVP in 1943. He retired after the 1950 season and was part of the third class elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. 

8-2-2 versus 9-3
For the third year in a row, the race in the West went to the season’s final day. As in 1947 and 1948, the Bears were one of the two contestants and they came up just short once again. In the two previous seasons, they were beaten out by the Cardinals. In 1949, it was the Rams as Los Angeles finished 8-2-2 and Chicago 9-3.   

It wasn’t until 1972 that the NFL changed the way it calculates winning percentages where ties are counted as half a win and half a loss so an 8-2-2 record today comes to .750. Had the current means of calculation been in force in 1949, the Rams and Bears would have tied for first and played a playoff to determine Western supremacy. Calculated the old way, however, ties were discarded and the Rams’ 8-2-2 record translated to an .800 winning percentage. That left the 9-3 Bears out in the cold with a winning percentage of .750.

It marked the fourth and final time in NFL history that the old way of calculating winning percentages came into play in deciding first place. The other three times were in 1925, 1930, and 1932 before the league split into two divisions so on those occasions, the old-style basically determined the league champion. For the Bears, 1949 was another of a long series of heartbreaking endings in the post-war era.

Outstanding Individual Performances
Gene Roberts of the Giants finished fourth in both rushing yards and receiving yards while scoring 17 touchdowns, one short of Don Hutson’s NFL record. Roberts also became the first running back to top 200 receiving yards in a game with 201 in New York’s 35-28 win over the Bears on October 23rd. Incredibly, Roberts duplicated the feat three weeks later with 212 receiving yards in a 30-10 victory over the Packers. Seventy-one years later, Roberts remains the only running back in NFL history to catch passes for 200 or more yards in a game, something he did twice in a mere three weeks.
SteveVan Buren
Steve Van Buren set an NFL record with 1,146 rushing yards as he won an unprecedented fourth rushing title and third in succession. He also set several career records including that for most rushing yards, eclipsing Clark Hinkle’s mark.
Tom Fears
Tom Fears broke another of Hutson’s many records with 77 receptions as he led the league in that category for the second year in a row. And Sammy Baugh extended his record by winning a sixth passing title, a mark he still holds together with Steve Young.
Bob Mann
In what at the time were both very rare occurrences, Fears and Bob Mann of the Lions topped the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards while Tony Canadeo of the Packers joined Van Buren in topping the century mark in rushing yards. George McAfee and Frank Seno set career marks in several kickoff return and punt return categories, respectively, while Detroit rookie Don Doll tied one record with four interceptions in a game and set another with 301 interception return yards. The latter mark, set in a 12-game season, stood until well into the 16-game era when Deion Sanders broke it in 1994.

Fears, Waterfield and Van Buren were among those who made most or all of the all-pro teams. Dick Huffman of the Rams did likewise as he continued as one of the game’s best linemen. Pete Pihos of the Eagles, Buster Ramsey, and Pat Harder of the Cardinals, Ray Bray of the Bears, Fred Naumetz of the Rams, and Dick Wildung of the Packers were also honored as among the best at their respective positions. Neither the NFL nor any major media outlet named a Most Valuable Player, though Van Buren would likely have been the winner if any had. He did win the MVP honor awarded by the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club.

Games of Note
September 23rd at Memorial Coliseum (17,878): Rams 27 Lions 24
In a Friday night opener before a meager crowd at the cavernous Coliseum, the Rams began their trek to the Western title with a come from behind win over the Lions. The game marked the debut of rookie quarterback Norm Van Brocklin as Los Angeles began four years of alternating between Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield. A standout at the University of Oregon, Van Brocklin was another rookie who, like Chuck Bednarik, went straight from high school to the military before attending college.

Both Van Brocklin and Waterfield threw touchdown passes as Los Angeles rallied from a 24-17 fourth-quarter deficit to win. The winning points came on a 46-yard field goal with 2:15 left by Waterfield. The game was also the first as a Ram for Elroy Hirsch, who had spent the three previous years in the AAFC and was one of a few and by far the most prominent player to jump from the rival league to the NFL.

October 8th at Shibe Park (34,597): Eagles 28 Cardinals 3
The Cardinals had lost the previous week to the Bears and this one-sided defeat that dropped them to 1-2 was a further indication that this season would be different from their first place seasons of 1947 and 1948. The Eagles utilized a familiar formula as their defense held the Cards to 57 net passing yards, had four sacks and intercepted three passes while Van Buren and company rushed for 296 yards and four touchdowns.  The Cardinals fell two games behind the Rams and basically would not be a factor in the conference race. Philadelphia, meanwhile, improved to 3-0.

October 9th at Wrigley Field (42,124): Rams 31 Bears 16
The previous week, the Bears had vanquished the Cardinals, the team that edged them out in the West on the last day of the two previous seasons. This was the first of two Chicago losses to the Rams, the team that by season’s end would establish itself as the new power in the West. With the additions of Van Brocklin, Hirsch, fullback Tank Younger, and halfback Vitamin T. Smith on offense, the Rams were much improved and were en route to the first of three straight Western crowns.

Hirsch teamed with Fears and Bob Shaw to give Los Angeles a potent three-receiver line-up under head coach Clark Shaugnessy, the master innovator, and all three caught touchdown passes from Waterfield as the Rams rallied from a 16-3 deficit. The total yards were about even and the Bears actually outgained the Rams through the air, but in a theme that recurred again and again in this era, the Bears turned the ball over eight times including seven interceptions. They fell to 2-1, a game behind 3-0 Los Angeles, and spent the rest of the season unsuccessfully chasing the Rams.

October 16th at Wrigley Field (50,129): Bears 38 Eagles 21
Chicago rebounded from their home loss to the Rams as they completely shut down the Philadelphia running game and handed the Eagles their only loss of the season. The Bears piled up 200 rushing yards of their own while stifling the Eagles to the tune of 42 yards on 32 rushes in improving to 3-1. Van Buren was held to 15 yards on 15 carries and the Eagles fell to 3-1.

Chicago outgained Philadelphia 457 yards to 255 and had a 28-14 advantage in first downs. Despite that, the Eagles led 14-7 early and were within 28-21 in the fourth quarter until George McAfee returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown. At season’s end, the Bears and their fans were left to wonder what might have been had they won the West and played the Eagles again for the league title in a Championship Game that would have been played on the same Wrigley Field turf.
October 23rd at the Polo Grounds (30,587): Giants 35 Bears 28

The Giants were in the midst of a mediocre season but they roused themselves to inflict a damaging blow on an old rival. The Bears were coming off their spirited win over the Eagles and the loss to New York dropped them to 3-2, two full games back of the Rams. Chicago lost the conference crown by percentage points to Los Angeles so the defeat to the very beatable Giants was damaging in the extreme.

One factor that came into play was an apparent bit of sentimentality by the usually unsentimental George Halas. The Bears’ owner and head coach started the fading, New York City-born Sid Luckman in a game played not far from where Luckman had starred at Columbia University. Luckman played terribly as the Giants built a 21-0 lead and the Bears came up short despite Johnny Lujack playing sensationally in relief with two touchdown passes and 319 yards in just over a half. Chicago’s Jim Keane tied an NFL record with 14 receptions in a losing cause.

October 30th at Forbes Field (37,903): Eagles 38 Steelers 7
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia went in tied for first but the Eagles clearly established they were the best team in the East in front of one of the Steelers’ largest home crowds ever as they improved to 5-1. It was another dominant effort by Philadelphia as they rushed for 237 yards and three touchdowns with Van Buren leading the way with 103. The Steelers dropped to 4-2 and, perhaps because of frustration on Pittsburgh’s part at being blown out, the teams engaged in a prolonged fight in the third quarter that resulted in two players from each side being ejected. 

October 30th at Memorial Coliseum (86,080): Rams 27 Bears 24
Before the largest crowd in NFL history to that time, the Rams again rallied for a thrilling victory over the Bears. Two Chicago touchdowns in the fourth quarter erased a 20-10 Los Angeles lead, but the Rams scored late to pull out the victory. Waterfield led the way with 303 passing yards, 143 of which went to Tom Fears on 11 receptions.

Gerry Cowhig’s winning touchdown run from the one was set up by a 57-yard kickoff return by rookie Tom Kalmanir followed several plays later by a Chicago penalty for pass interference in the end zone. Though it may sound like a broken record, the Bears again killed themselves with seven turnovers and 103 yards in penalties. The Rams improved to 6-0 and increased their lead to three games over the 3-3 Bears.

November 6 at Shibe Park (38,830): Eagles 38 Rams 14
The Rams went in undefeated but were manhandled by the Eagles before a crowd that was a Shibe Park record for football in a showdown between the two division leaders. Philadelphia continued its recent dominance of Los Angeles as the Eagles improved their record against the Rams to 5-0-1 since 1944 and their overall record in 1949 to 6-1. The victory increased their lead in the East to two games while the Rams’ loss and a Bears win closed the gap in the West to two games. 

The Eagles had a 472 to 264 advantage in total yards and 264 of them came on the ground. Los Angeles scored first but it was all Philadelphia thereafter as the Rams turned the ball over five times. Few at the time would likely have been surprised that the game was a preview of the Championship Game played six weeks later.

November 13th at Forbes Field (20,510): Rams 7 Steelers 7
In the second leg of their Pennsylvania road trip, the Rams rallied for a touchdown by Fred Gehrke with just 24 seconds remaining to gain what turned out to be a valuable tie and up their record to 6-1-1. The game was played in a steady rain on a muddy field and the Steelers did not attempt a single pass. Pittsburgh generated little offense after they scored first in the second quarter and played conservatively thereafter.

The Rams weren’t hindered much by the Pittsburgh defense as they totaled 362 yards from scrimmage. But three turnovers and several occasions where they came up short on fourth down kept Los Angeles off the scoreboard until the final seconds. Gehrke capped a 59-yard drive with a touchdown plunge from the one.

November 20th at Comiskey Park (34,100): Rams 28 Cardinals 28
For the second straight week, Los Angeles had to rally late to salvage a tie. Combined with the Bears’ win over Washington, the Los Angeles lead in the West narrowed to one game, with the Rams at 6-1-2 and the Bears at 6-3. As with their game the previous week, rallying for a tie proved crucial to the Rams winning the West.

As mentioned, the Cardinals were a shell of their teams that had gone 9-3 and 11-1 the previous two seasons. Though still potent on offense with an average of 30 points per game, Chicago slipped badly on defense in 1949 to where they were near the bottom in all major statistical categories. The Cards were overwhelmed by a powerful Los Angeles offense as they relinquished 465 yards and fell to 4-4-1. The tying score came midway through the fourth quarter on a 12-yard interception return for a touchdown by the Rams. Los Angeles had a chance to win on the game’s final play but Chicago blocked Waterfield’s short field goal try.

December 11, Memorial Coliseum (44,899): Rams 53 Redskins 27
The Coliseum scoreboard showed the Bears comfortably ahead in what turned out to be a 52-21 thrashing of the Cardinals in their finale so the Rams knew at kickoff that they had to beat Washington to claim the crown in the West. To that end, Los Angeles took control early on one touchdown pass each by their two great quarterbacks in the first quarter. Their lead grew to 34-7 at halftime and 53-14 in the fourth quarter.

The Rams piled up 584 total yards, 405 of which were through the air. Waterfield and Van Brocklin split duties throughout, with Waterfield throwing for 235 yards and two touchdowns and Van Brocklin passing for four additional scores. Bob Shaw tied Don Hutson’s record by catching four of those touchdown passes and Tom Fears caught two more as part of a 10-catch day that, as mentioned above, enabled him to break another of Hutson’s records for most receptions in a season.

December 18, Championship Game, Memorial Coliseum (22,245): Eagles 14 Rams 0
A weekend of heavy rain turned the Coliseum turf to mud and kept the crowd to little more than one-fifth of the huge stadium’s capacity. The Eagles followed the same formula that brought them so much success over three years as they rode their tremendous defense and the running of Van Buren to a second consecutive NFL title. Philadelphia rushed for 274 yards, with Van Buren leading the way with a Championship Game record 196. The Eagles ran the ball 61 times compared to a mere nine pass attempts, though one of those passes resulted in a Tommy Thompson to Pete Pihos touchdown.

Philadelphia’s defense played superbly and the Rams’ offense did little throughout. Los Angeles gained a mere 21 yards on 24 rushes and Waterfield and Van Brocklin completed only 10 of 27 pass attempts. All told, the Rams had only 119 total yards.

Though the Rams won the turnover battle 3-1, the Eagles came up with a big special teams play in the third quarter that resulted in a touchdown and extended their lead to 14-0. Defensive end Leo Skladany blocked a Waterfield punt, recovered the ball at the Los Angeles two-yard line and went in for the score.

Despite having their two great quarterbacks and other offensive standouts in Fears, Hirsch, Younger, Shaw, and Dick Hoerner, Los Angeles was completely stifled the rest of the way. As impressive as the Eagles winning two consecutive NFL championships is the fact that they posted shutouts in both of their title game victories. 

Philadelphia’s victory in the Coliseum marked the end of a tumultuous, difficult, and groundbreaking decade for the NFL. Just as the league emerged from the struggles of the Great Depression, new hardships began with the United States’ entry into the Second World War. No sooner did the war end than the NFL was confronted with four years of competition from what was until that time its most formidable challenger, the All-America Football Conference.

The decade closed with a peace agreement that stemmed the tide of unmanageable red ink. The peace agreement coincided with the beginning of the almost unbelievable rise of television, a cultural force that would dramatically alter American life and the fortunes of pro football. There probably aren’t too many people beyond a small core of football historians and old-time fans who today would agree with Mickey Herskowitz’s characterization of the 1950s as the sport’s Golden Age, but the 1950s were pivotal in the rise of the popularity of the pro game and the roots for much of the game’s rise in the 1950s lay in the 1940s.

Beyond television and any other factors, the 1940s saw the end of the barring of African-Americans from the pro game. The numbers early on were small, criminally small, but they grew bit by bit until the NFL was full of superbly talented black players who contributed greatly to the game’s quality and popularity. Looking back to that time when the sport was at its finest to that point, we are left to wonder what football and its fans missed because of the pre-1946 barring of black players. In celebrating the greatness of the game in the latter part of the 1940s and what came after, we are also left to ask Why?     

The formidable research efforts of Ken Pullis proved invaluable: first, his work for the Pro Football Researchers Association’s Linescore Project for 1949 and, second, his Progression of NFL Records which is available both from PFRA and in the two editions of The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia.  

Top Ten Nike Feature Successes

By John Turney

Okay, to be fair, here are some things Nike got right since 2013 when they became the exclusive uniform maker of the NFL (and we will include the uniforms they made prior to that)

1. Chargers Uniform set

2. Colts Number Set

Changes from block to block with a serif. Not sure it was Nike's idea, but they are the maker of the uniform and it looks good. So, we give them credit.

3. Seattle Uniform Set
Not crazy about the grey or lime green color rush but overall, good navy color with "action green" accents.

4. Vikings Uniforms (home)
The "hull" numbers are good, the matte color was wrong at first, but has been corrected. A good look with updates. Could use a bit more gold for accents, though.

5.  Color of Rams blue
The Rams "royal" is good. The number set is not good, the gradient is from the 1990s as is the rounded shape. The "sol" or yellow may be too fluorescent but will withhold judgment until we see it under natural light. But from what we can tell, the blue is good.

6. Browns new uniforms
Would rank higher, but like Chargers, are not a Nike design, but are the classic design. 

7. Buccaneers new (old) uniforms
Same as Browns. A good look. Always a fan of the Pewter Power. 

8.  Lions Honolulu blue
Like the Rams, Nike got the color right for the blue jerseys

That's about it. Cannot come up with ten. Eight good features. Well done. 

Nike's Top Ten NFL Uniform Feature Fails

By John Turney

We've criticized Nike's NFL uniform program before but today we'll pick out the top ten specific fails of their designs—the ones that were really egregious and had to be changed or will be changed when the NFL rules allow it.

1. Jacksonville's Gradient Helmet (uniforms already changed)
Just a fail. The who kit was a fail, changed as fast as the rules allowed.

2. Rams "Wave Horn"
Another fail, but some hardcore fans are onboard. Polls show few like it, come think it's a "C" some think it's a crescent moon. Rams literature says it's a wave. It's not a ram horn. It IS a fail. 

3. Browns Wordmark on pants (uniforms already changed)
Browns whole uniform set is back to the traditional look. A total Nike fail. 

4. Buccaneers Digital Clock Numerals (uniforms already changed)
Like the Browns and Jaguars, the Bucs whole uniform concept reverted to traditional look (pre-Nike). A total fail.

5. Falcons Gradient uniform
A brand new look and already mocked by the uniform community. "The 1990s called and they want their gradient look back" and so on.

6. Titans numeral set
Lots wrong with Titans new uniforms. Likely changes coming when rules allow. Another Nike fail. 

7. Dolphins number set (already changed)
These numbers already changed to a more traditional block look. A fail.

8. Jet 'New York' Wordmark on Chest, Rather than team name
Not offensive, but odd. Most teams have the nickname (Jets, for example) on the chest. Not the city name. And they play in New Jersey.

9. Rams Sunburst on sleeve
Not to mention the light grey uniforms, why not a ram horn in the shoulder, like the blue jersey? What is with the sunburst? Add in the odd placement of the wordmark. Lots wrong with Rams new kits. Lots of changes, we suspect, in five years.

10. Lions Northwestern stripes on helmet and pants
Northwestern stripes, a tradition on Lions uniforms (a thick stripe with two narrow stripes on either side) look great. But not on the helmet and pants. They are traditionally alternated. They belong on the jerseys and socks. Not on the helmet and pants. Contrast, not repetition, is the hallmark of a great uniform. Something Nike designers may not have been taught in design school. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Conversation on Uniforms with Jack Youngblood

Interview by John Turney

Pro Football Journal:  Thanks for your time

Jack Youngblood:  My pleasure.

PFJ: Do players care about uniforms?

JY: Sure we do. You want to look good. And you want to feel good. Comfort is important and there is a difference in uniforms, the feel, the heat the coolness factor. I've had tweaks in uniforms fans wouldn't notice that made a difference in comfort or performance. In equipment, too.

PFJ: What was your color scheme in high school?

JY: We were blue and orange, a blue jersey with white pants and orange trim. For away games, we wore all white with blue numbers. Our road uniforms were never really clean, though, kind of a dingy white. (laughs).

PFJ: What was your uniform number?

JY: Uh . . fifty-two. I was a center and middle linebacker
Monticello-Jefferson County High School Uniform
PFJ: Sounds like it was kind of like what you wore in college?

JY: Similar, very similar.

PFJ: And as a Gator you wore blue and orange?

JY: Yes, a white helmet then as a junior or senior we went to orange helmets.

PFJ: And uniform number there?

JY: As a freshman fifty-two, I was a linebacker, but on the varsity was a defensive end, they changed my number to severy-four.
University of Florida, 1970
PFJ: And a navy blue jersey?

JY: Yes, well, kind of a mix between royal blue and navy, a faded midnight blue. It was a different kind of blue. As a senior, we wore blue at home, before that we wore white at home. As a junior and a soph we wore white at home and since it was hot and often rainy we'd usually change jerseys at halftime so in the third quarter we'd come out in white jerseys and muddy brownish pants.

We couldn't tell during the game, but you could really see it in the films that week.

PFJ: Then, you are drafted by the Rams and you wore white at home there as well, correct?

JY: Yeah, but our white uniforms were HOT. As a rookie, we wore a polyester jersey that held the heat. After a quarter in the Los Angeles heat, you were soaked. I mean SOAKED. The next year we switched to a mesh jersey and it was much, much cooler—much more comfortable.
1971 Rawlings polyester jersey with snap crotch
At Florida, our jerseys were durene, a cotton weave and it was cooler than the polyester ones we had in Los Angeles in '71.

PFJ: That rookie year, weren't your blue jerseys' still durene?

JY: Absolutely. We wore them in my first regular-season game in New Orleans and it was a hot and humid day, it was not nearly as hot in those blue jerseys as it was in the Colesium with the white shirts. We wore the blues again in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. That might have been it for that year in the dark jerseys, not sure.

PFJ:  SOm if occurs to me, in high school, college, the College All-star game and the NFL, including the Pro Bowl you always wore blue jersey (or white). Correct?

JY: Uh, yes, that's true. No, in the Senior Bowl in mobile, we wore red jerseys. Good question, I never thought of that until this moment. Monticello, Gators, Rams—all blue, Pro Bowl, College All-Star game, blue, too, except the Senior Bowl. Hmm.
Youngblood #73, in a red jersey, the only time in organized football he wor other than blue
PFJ: We've seen pictures of those 1971 white jerseys they had a snap under the crotch, too. That could not have helped, could it? In terms of heat?

JY: HELL NO! (laughes). I cut that crap off. It'd be like a wet diaper. I got some scissors and cut that material out. No way was I going to snap that up and have an extra pound of sweat tucked into my pants. I don't know how those guys—Merlin and Deacon and Marlin (McKeever) could stand that snap crotch deal. No way for me.

PFJ: In 1973 you went from blue and white to blue and gold. What was the reaction of your teammates?

JY: Well, Freddie (Dryer) didn’t like them, but most everyone else liked them. Freddie liked the classic blue and white colors. He grew up in Los Angeles and was a Rams fan so he liked the look he saw when he was a teenager I guess.

At first, there was white trim on the gold numbers and gold trim on the blue numbers of the road jerseys but after a couple of home games, the media complained they couldn’t see the numbers very well so Mr. Don (Don Hewitt) and Todd had to cut them off and the seamstress had to sew them back on.

But the color scheme was good. I wore them for the rest of my career.
1973 jersey before the white trim was removed
Mr. Don was a great equipment man, the best ever in my opinion. He was always keeping our helmets shiny, I’ve always felt his illness later in life was a result of him breathing in those fumes from the polish he used on our helmets every day. He had a small cage in the locker room in Long Beach with very little ventilation and I am convinced it had have hurt his health.

He was such a great guy. When I got my dog, Jet, a black lab, when we ran sprints at the end of practice, that dog would sniff out my helmet and fetch it to Mr. Don and then he’d get a treat from a bag Don kept in the locker room. Eventually, Don gave Jet his own locker—#85½.
Youngblood and Jet
It kind of ticked me off when the Rams fired Todd, Don’s son during the Spagnuolo era. It was just one more step away from the LA era. They fired my buddy John Oswald, made him train his replacement, and when the replacement was ready they canned Johnny. They did that to a lot of the old LA people who left their homes in LA and moved to St. Louis.

PFJ: That year, 1973, was the first year you had your full name on the back of your jersey, what do you remember about that?

JY: I do remember that. It was Don Klosterman's idea, our general manager. He came to me and asked if I'd like my full name on my jersey because they had just drafted Jimmy (Youngblood) and our surname is so long, what is it—ten letters, that adding a "Ja" and a "Ji" would be too wide for the nameplate, so they kind of stacked the names, and Don said, and I don't know this to be true, that it was the first time in league history that happened.
Full names on back of jersey
Over the years other guys on our team had it, and when I covered the Rams on the radio in the late 1980s I saw a few others after I retired, but I remember thinking it was kind of cool.

I also liked that our name was in white lettering on our blue jerseys. I thought that made it stand out for some reason. I think the Steelers and us were the only teams that did something like that. It's a small detail that we players notice when we're in the locker room or sitting around, clearing our mind. We do catch little things like that.
PFJ: What were some of the "tweaks" uniform or equipment-wise you remember you or teammate used that readers might find interesting?

JY: Let me think . . . Well, I wore Adidas soccer shoes for a long time. I liked the lightness and feel of the soccer cleat as opposed to the football cleat Adidas made. Eventually, I had Don (Hewitt) drill a hole in the front so we could get a toe cleat in there.
Youngblood's soccer cleats with no toe cleat
Freddie, interestingly, liked to wear Astroturf shoes in the Colesium. He thought the grass, the turf there was solid enough he got good traction from those shoes and didn't need the 3/4 inch or 1/2 inch cleats. When he got those two safeties, he had turf shoes on, there is some trivia for you.
Dryer wearing turf shoes

PFJ: You wore blue shoes at home from 1973-76, right?

JY: Oh yeah, we did. And at first, not all the brands made blue shoes. Again, Mr. Don had to improvise he had to paint a lot of those shoes blue. They were often black Adidas and he'd paint he blue or they might be white Riddells like some guys wore, and he'd paint those blue as well.

Before I settled on soccer shoes I wore Adidas football shoes, the same as in 1972, and they had to be painted blue—blue shoes, Carl Perkins style (laughs)!

JY:  You know about Burger Bear's (John Williams) mask, don't you? The two masks Hewitt fixed up for him?

PFJ: Yes, we've written about it, it was a great look.

JY: That was one crazy mask. Don did that for Jackie, too, but it didn't last very long.
John Williams combination mask
PFJ: In 1983, when the Rams went to the 3-4 defense you went to the 3-bar mask from the 2-bar (NJOP from NOP), correct? Why the change? Did the defense have anything to do with it?

JY: Yes and no. I was just tired of having my chin busted up. But yeah, playing head up on a tackle, I guess I thought my chin would take even more of a beating, but I may have changed even if we'd have stayed with the 40 defense, I just don't know.
1983-84 helmet, DW-NJOP
Another thing we did was we had panels sewn into the sides of our jerseys to make it more form-fitting, kind of a think scuba materiel. It could be hot, but the tight fit made it harder for the lineman to hold me.
1984 Jersey with the side panel of stretch material
From the time they changed the holding rules in '78 we were always trying to find a way to make our uniform sleeker, tighter to prevent offensive men from grabbing you. Don (Hewitt) tried two-way tape, but the best way was just altering the jerseys to make them tighter. They became so tight you had to put the shoulder pads and jerseys on at the same time. That didn't happen in '71-'72 when I came into the NFL.

PFJ:  In 1976 in Miami, someone broke into the Rams locker room in the middle of the night and stole a bunch of equipment including quite a few helmets. The equipment men had to shuffle helmets, what was it like that day?

JY: Mr. Don earned hi money that day. I had to wear a couple of helmets, one was Terry Nelson's, he had that U-shaped bar up top—if you remember that. I also had another one that was like a bucket. Everyone had to find the guy whose helmet he had between downs, the offensive guy would look for the defensive guy and vice versa, it was a mess. Very few fit really well. Merlin had to wear a couple of different ones, too. I think he may have had to wear John Williams' helmet at one point.

Don Hewitt got a game ball after than win. He kept it all together, everyone had a hat on when they took the field which was seemingly impossible when we walked into the locker room that morning.
Terry Nelson's OPO mask with U-Bar
Youngblood with an NJOP in Miami, 1976
PFJ: In your first book you mentioned wearing as little protective equipment as possible, can you elaborate?

JY: (Laughs) That was a long time ago...when that was written. But yeah, just a sponge on my knee, the smallest thigh pads now. I see the kids now without thigh pads, maybe I should have gone that route. I wanted to be as light as possible and as little to fuss with as possible.

PFJ: Eric Dickerson said he liked to where everything that was available . . .

JY: He wore armor! Neckroll, elbow pads, huge knee and thigh pads, a big mouthpiece, the whole nine!

PFJ: We never noticed you wearing a mouthpiece, is that right?

JY: My mouthpiece was Bazooka Joe or Double Bubble, just a few pieces of that did the job.

PFJ: In 1980 we noticed you'd sometimes were a blue sleeve on your elbows

JY: Oh yeah, that's true, I did on occasion. Honestly, we knew the guy who made those and myself and Brooksie (Larry Brooks), and maybe Jimmy (Youngblood) and perhaps Bru (Bob Brudzinski) wore them for a few years. I can't remember. It was partially to protect the elbow and partially to help him with his business—to help him sell some units (chuckles). I didn't wear them much, I think the others wore them more.

They were comfortable and when you fell on hard turf did cushion the blow, but as we've talked about it gave linemen something to grab so my guess is you won't find too many shots of me in them, other than maybe that one year, and even then not every game. I developed some bone chips in my elbows around my tenth year and that was part of it as well.
Youngblood with a neoprene sleeve
Brooks with the sleeves

Brudzinki in the sleeves.

Jim Youngblood in the sleeves.
PFJ: Anything you notice about today's players you wish you'd have thought of wearing?

JY: Let me thing. Actually, yeah, there is. Maybe a couple of things. I realize now that maybe you don't need thigh and knee pads, but really, we never thought of not wearing them. We thought they were required. They were issued, and no one really thought of not wearing them. Now, guys go out naked from the waist down, except for their pants! I basically did what guys did before me. I wish I'd have been smarter!

Another thing is hand protection. We only wore a wrap on our knuckles with some tape around the wrists and that got to be less and less as time went on
I had a conversation with Merlin years and years ago. And asked him some this—I said, "Merlin, we did physical work for a living, we went to work every day, practice and on Sundays, we did labor, physical work, where we could get hurt. He agreed.

So, I said, 'Let's say we were on a ranch, we were going to do some work for a day, let's say haul some hay. What would you wear?'

Merlin replied, "Well, boots, jeans, a long sleeve shirt. A hat. A neckerchief to keep stuff from getting down the back of my neck".

I said, "What about for your hands?" He said, "Well, a pair of gloves".

My replay was "exactly". When we went to work, on a football field, why didn't we wear protection for our hands? He just shrugged.

I saw Merlin's hand get cut to the bone. TO THE BONE, I saw his hand bones from a cleat tearing into his hand. A glove would have helped. He didn't miss a down. My left hand is basically a claw. I know a glove would not have prevented all of that, but it would have helped.

So, these young guys have that part of it right, going back, I would have worn a pair of gloves for a bit of hand protection.

PFJ: In college, you placed kicked and in 1980 you kicked off a handful of times, did you use the same kicking shoe?
Youngblood kicking a PAT at the University of Florida
JY: Heavens yes, the same one. I hauled that thing around for fourteen years. That game, Frank (Corral) pulled something, and we scored a bunch of points, so he'd kick the PATs and I had to kickoff.
When you kicked off you're supposed to go left, right, or center, to give the coverage a chance to set up, so you can, hopefully, pin the opponent deep in their own side of the field. (Laughs). Well, I just told the boys, "I have no idea where this is going, so just watch it and get your asses down there and tackle the guy!".
I'd then have to go to the sideline and get my normal shoe on and Reggie (Doss) would take a snap for me at left end.

In the Senior Bowl, we talked about I also punted in that game. I even got one blocked when there was a rule where they weren't allowed to rush—(laughs) how does THAT happen?

But for most of my career, every week I'd kick a few times and punt a few times just in case something happened to the kicker or punter, I wasn't always the backup, sometimes the kicker backed up the punter and vice versa, but when Frank was doing double duty I was the backup and in other years when maybe our punter could place kick a lick then I'd be the emergency kicker and just in case, for all those years, I kept that square-tied Riddell shoe in my bag, just in case.
Youngblood, punting in the 1971 Senior Bowl
PFJ: A while ago you mentioned taking a step away from the LA era, and speaking of that, what did you think of the 2000 Rams uniforms, the old gold, and navy colors?

JY: I didn’t like them very much, the gold was dull. They never looked sharp to me. The navy was interesting, not too bad. Maybe it would have worked if the gold was brighter. That dome (in St. Louis) was dark. Every time I was there I kept wanting to find a light switch!

PFJ: As you know the Rams changed a lot in their uniforms this year. Let’s start top to bottom. What do you think of the helmet?

JY: (Laughs) Well, the color is good, I like the metallic blue. (Laughs again). The horn is terrible. It looks like a “C”. When I first saw it on the logo I honestly thought it was a Charger logo.

Now when I see it on the helmet, it just isn’t a ram horn. There is no distinct curl like a mature ram horn. I don’t know how the Rams could get that wrong. That is your symbol and it has been for what? Seventy years or more? Longer than I have been alive? It's just not us, it's not the Rams.

PFJ: What would you say to those who say those who don’t like it are simply old?

JY: I AM old! But I am not blind. I know a ram horn when I see it and I know a crescent moon when I see it and I know a “C” when I see it.
As I said, I like the colors, I like changes. But the change has to be a positive change, not some sort of junk that no one can understand. What was it some “Fibonacci” thing? What is the world is that? I had to look that up. What does that have to do with football or a football helmet?

PFJ: Okay, how about the new Rams uniforms.

BY: From what I can tell the blue and gold ones are okay, except for the horns on the helmet and shoulders. The grey ones are weird. I looked at the website and the close-ups. I don’t know why there is a sun on the shoulders of the grey uniform. The sun on the shoulder and the crescent moon on the helmet? It’s weird. I don't understand it. We're the Rams, not the sun and the moons. We're not the zodiacs, are we?
And those patches with the squiggly lines—What is that? I thought those were those lines from a seismograph, showing the readings of a California earthquake.
I also don’t get the grey uniforms. It reminded me of the guard’s uniforms in that movie The Longest Yard—do you remember that movie?
Ray Nitschke and former Ram Mike Henry in The Longest Yard
Mike Henry was in that, he was a former Rams player who was around the team a little bit since he was acting still in the 1970s when that movie was made, we all knew him a little bit. He was one of the guards. The Rams' grey uniform looks like what the guards had to wear after the inmates stole the new, sharp, black and white uniforms. It also reminds me of our road uniforms in high school—like they couldn't get them clean (laughs).

PFJ: As a digression, there are a couple other guys who you practiced against in that movie?

JY: Yeah, that's right, that young Native American kid, what was his name?

PFJ: Sonny Sixkiller.

JY: Right, I remember chasing him around in camp one Summer. Good kid. Who else?
PFJ. Jim Nicolson, a tackle the Rams drafted.

JY: Right, Tall kid. Wasn't around long. I may have played him in the preseason a couple of years later in KC.
Jim Nicholson, in The Longest Yard 
PFJ: Pervis Atkins was in it as well

JY: I didn't know him as well, he was from Mike Henry's era, and we'd seem him some, but I didn't get to know him. Interesting info. Sonny Sixkiller . . . there's a name I have not thought about for a long time!

PFJ: Back to the uniforms . . . What do you think of the patches with the wordmarks?

JY: Wordmarks? Are those the things that have the yellow zig-zag lines sewn on?

PFJ: Yes.

JY: Is that some sort of advertisement? Are they going to sell that space someday?

PFJ: They say no.

JY: We’ll see, but it’s weird to have them placed there. It looks out of place, why are they on the side? And why are the words stacked like that?

PFJ: No idea.

JY: It's just another thing that seems off, just not something that belongs on an NFL uniform. You know, I was part of the World League and then was a GM in the Arena League, these things we're discussing seem to fit better in those kinds of leagues, not the NFL.

The NFL is supposed to be a cut above, the best of the best. The best players, the best coaches, the best stadiums, the best uniforms, the whole nine yards. When there are uniforms that are not up to snuff, it hurts the Rams brand, the image.

PFJ: Would you want to wear the new uniforms?

JY: Well, I’d wear what the boss man told me to wear. But would I like it? Not really. The blue and gold ones are okay but the horn is UG-LY.

The grey, I'd put it on and play hard like I always tried to do.
But if Dan Dierdorf or Ron (Yary) or Rayfield (Wright) lined up in those light grey uniforms I'd sure have something to say to them—"Did your Mama run out of bleach?" or something to get under their skin. Something to tease them about it (laughs) to let them know they were wearing bush-league uniforms.

But that is what happens when you get a cap guy, a non-football guy to run your team.

Marvin Demoff was my agent and his son Kevin is a sharp, smart lawyer, I am sure, but he’s not a football guy. He does not know if a football is blown or stuffed. And he shouldn’t be a part of designing uniforms for football players. It’s as simple as that.

Maybe they will change them in a couple of years.

PFJ: League rules say they have to keep them five years before they can change.

JY: There is a rule like that? That they cannot change if fans don't like them?

PFJ: Yes

JY: I wasn't aware of that. How long did you say they are stuck with that horn and those dingy grey uniforms?

PFJ: Five years.

JY: Wow.
upper-left: NOP square jaw, upper-right JOP
lower-left DW-NOP, lower right DE-NJOP