Sunday, April 25, 2021

Another Day Another Excellent Player Gone Too Soon—Mike Davis

 By John Turney 
Word over the modern transom—the Internet is that sadly, former Raider safety Mike Davis has passed away at the age of 65. Raiders.com reported that he is survived by "Mary, Mike Jr., and Allen." and that "Mike will forever be in our hearts and minds." No cause of death has been announced.

Davis played for the Raiders from 1978 through 1985 and then for the Chargers in 1987. In 1986 he was on injured reserve for the Raiders. 

Oakland Raiders drafted Davis in the 2nd round (35th overall) of the 1977 NFL Draft out of the University of Colorado where he was named an NEA All-American.

Davis is best known for an interception a playoff win at Cleveland on Jan. 4, 198, that propelled the Raiders to the AFC Championship game and then a Super Bowl win in New Orleans.

Davis was the Raiders third safety in 1978 and in 1979 earned the starting strong safety position and held it through 1985 with the exception of 1981 when he broke an ankle.

In 1985 he had a knee injury and that held him out of the 1986 season and an Achilles injury that led to his release in 1987 and at midseason, he was signed by the Chargers as a reserve safety.

At the time Davis was cut by the Raiders in 1987 he opined that it was more of his union participation and vocal leadership in the NFLPA players strike that year than his play on the field. The raiders denied it but Davis told the Los Angeles Times that it would be "foolish" to not have questions. Regardless, he was done as a Raider.
In addition to his regular-season statistics, Davis played in 11 playoff games with three picks and six sacks and has two Super Bowl rings to his credit. 
Davis never received any post-season honors in his career, though 1980 and 1984 certainly would qualify however it was a strong era for safeties and therefore difficult to make Pro Bowls or All-Pro but he did lead NFL safeties in sacks in 1984 with 5½.

R.I.P. Mr. Davis. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Geno Hayes in Hospice Care, On Waiting List for Liver Transplant

UPDATED: Hayes Passed Away 4/26/2021

By John Turney 
Internet media reports in the last 24 hours state that former NFL linebacker Geno Hayes has been placed into hospice due to a devastating ordeal with chronic liver disease. 

Hayes told ESPN that the use of NSAIDs (usually over-the-counter pain medications) to control pain contributed to or caused the liver failure. 

Hayes's former high school coach Frankie Carroll told USA Today, "Geno's in need of prayers. He’s fighting for his life".

Hayes played at Florida State and then was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft. At the 2008 NFL combine Hayes measured 6-2, 226 and ran a 4.67 forty and did 22 reps of 225 pounds, so his athleticism was top-notch. 

In 2008 he backed up Derrick Brooks at the WILL linebacker spot and n 2009 he took over the position and played very well for two years. 

According to research done by PFR, Hayes led the NFL in run/pass stuffs (tackles for loss) in 2009 and was second in 2010 with a total of 25 those two seasons. That BucsWILL position sure has a propensity for making plays in the backfield with Brooks, then Hayes (32 in three years), and the Lavonte David who has 110.0 run/pass stuffs since 2012. Hayes also averaged 90 tackles and 6 passes defensed those two years.

His play certainly impressed the Bears (though 2011 was an off-season) who signed Hayes as a free agent in 2012, however, he was not able to crack the starting lineup with Lance Briggs set at WILL, though Hayes did play some on the strong side with the Bears.  

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Hayes as a free agent in 2013 and played inside in 2014 and then outside in 2014. However, a knee injury in 2013 cost Hayes some of his speed, and the pain relief he sought has cost him his health and likely his life. 
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Hayes has been placed on a waiting list for a transplant at the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine. 

We can only hope. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Carl Barzilauskas—Still Jets Top Rookie Interior Defensive Lineman?

 By John Turney 
Since 2003 the Jets have invested a lot of draft capital in defensive linemen that player 3-4 end and move inside on passing downs (defensive interior guys) or just interior players with a couple exception (Vernon Gholston and Quinton Coples)

In 2004 it was Dewayne Robertson (4th overall) and in 2011 Muhammad Wilkerson was the 30th overall pick. Then, in 2013, Sheldon Richardson was 13th overall, two years later it was Leonard Williams with the 6th overall pick. Finally, in 2019 the jets took Quinnen Williams with the 3rd overall pick. 

All five were super talented and all had good rookie seasons, obviously some better than others. Robertson, Richardson, and L. Williams were All-Rookie picks, Q. Williams made the PFJ Second-team and some other honorable mentions. 

Also, Carl Barzilauskas made the UPI, NEAPFWA, and Football Digest  All-Rookie teams. He really was a big deal that year. 

He was the New York Jets first-round (6th overall) pick of the 1974 NFL Draft (out of Indiana) and earned a starting job right away the first Jets defensive tackle to do that in nine years. He reportedly signed a three-year contract that was "worth $650,000" which was huge back then, in fact, purported the second-largest in NFL history at the time. Just huge, as was his physical size for the day (6-6, 285) and he ran well, in the 4.8-4.9 forty range. 

There was heavy bidding for Barzilauskas' services by the New York Stars of the WFL who already had signed John Elliott, who played out his option with the Jets in 1973. So, clearly, Barzilauskas go paid.

So, for 1974 at least, the Jets had to be pleased. He led the club in sacks and though the stats were not available at the time the coaches had to see the film of him making plays in the backfield. A review of the play-by-plays shows he made at least 11 run stuffs (tackles for loss) and likely a couple more due to the fact some of the playoby-plays are not as detailed as one would hope. 
Stfs = tackles for loss
Since we at PFJ count sacks and stuffs the same way, i.e. the same "accounting method we can add them together for plays for a reasonable look at comparing plays behind the line of scrimmage.
It is interesting to note that after all these years none of the tremendously athletic dudes surpassed Carl. He still has the most stuffs, in fact, and the second-most sacks and the most combined. Pretty good. 

Barzilauskas' career apexed in that year, though he likely gained experience and skills he just never got much help and later had some injuries so he never matched the production of his rookie year. But, in the hidden tapestry of NFL history, it is worth noting that a 1974 first-round pick arguably nad the best rookie season of any defensive interior players among some very, very tough competition. 

Way to go, Carl. 

Cincinnati Bengals New Uniforms Unveiled

 By John Turney 

There is not much to say about the Bengals new uniforms other than they look tons better than the 2004-2020 Reebok-designed kits. The new ones are similar to the 1981 set but with additional combinations and the striping is cleaner (with fewer stripes on the sleeves).

There is some "Nike nonsense" but nothing like the Fibonacci stuff were endured or the explanations that went alongside the cruddy Browns or Jaguars uniforms back in the day. 

Here it's seemingly limited to the font of the numerals looking like tiger "claw marks" or some such stuff. 

Here are shots from the 2004 unveiling:


Here are the new uniforms

With a couple of notable, awful exceptions (Rams and Falcons) many of these new uniform sets are a return to classic designs with some modern tweaks. This includes the Chargers, Browns, Buccaneers (back to Pewter Power), the Colts (serifs on numerals), and even the Jaguars who should have gone even more tradition but did go back to what Tom Coughlin wanted—a clean, classic look rather than the 2013 Nike garbage they were wearing. Additionally, Dallas went with a blue/silver color for their pants rather than the so-called "seafoam green" they wore for years. So there is a trend to tradition.

Teams are learning that fans want good-looking uniforms that are dignified and are neither gimmicky nor clownish. The Rams didn't get that message last year but the Bengals did and their uniforms are the better for it.

Well done, Bengals. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Admit it—You've Never Heard of Horace Jones. Or Tony Cline.

 By John Turney 
In the early 1970s, the Raiders hit on two defensive ends in successive drafts (1970 and 1971) and after just a couple of years, they seemed to be set for years. 

But no. 

The Oakland Raiders took Tony Cline out of Miami (FL) in the 4th round (102nd overall) of the 1970 NFL Draft. Cline was a solid college defensive end (Named All-Independent Southeast by the AP in 1969) and likely got some notice playing on the same defense as Ted Hendricks we graduated a year before Cline and drew a slew of scouts. 

Cline has as good a rookie year as any defensive end has ever had—58 tackles and 17.5 sacks, which would have been the rookie sack record had it been kept. To this day only Bubba Baker of the 1978 Lions has had more in his rookie season (23). The official record is held by Jevon Kearse with 14.5 in 1999 and followed by Aldon smith with 14.0 in 2011.

What was interesting is that as a rookie and some in the next year Cline was used as a bit of a rover, but really he'd stand up and played left outside linebacker converting the raiders 4-3 defense into a 3-4 front. It's a smart move if you have a guy that can do it. Thirteen years later Jack Reynolds tried to convince George Siefert and Bill Walsh to do the same thing with Fred Dean,. Reynold's thought he could really call some great things with the same eleven guys on the field but deploy them as a 3-4 or a 4-3 whenever he wanted to. With the 49ers it was not successful because Dean couldn't do the linebacking part of it. With the early 1970s Raiders, Cline could. 

The next year the Silver and Black chose Louisville defensive tackle, Horace Jones, in the 12th round, and as a rookie, he filled in for an injured Cline at left end, started a game at tackle, and then finished the season at right end with longtime right end Ben Davidson playing right tackle to make room for the "young 'un.

In 1972 with Cline settled in at left end and Jones at right end, they both had excellent seasons. Cline had 67 tackles, 7 stuffs, and 5 sacks and Jones really should have gone to the Pro Bowl with his 64-tackle, 9½ sack, and 16-run stuff performance (which was significantly better than AFC Pro Bowl regular Elvin Bethea). But it wasn't a time when those stats were available and often a player had to have a breakout season then the next season he got his just due. 

The sixteen run stuffs is particularly rare. It certainly led the NFL and is one of the top totals we've found at PFJ since researching that stat. Example:  In 2019 Brandon Graham led the NFL with 12; Jadeveon Clowney led in 2017 with 13.5; J.J. Watt had 16.5 in 2015; Jerome Brown had 17 in 1989; Jack Youngblood had 13.5 in 1973—these give you an idea of Jones' 1972 season. 

The problem was Jones didn't get a shot at his just due in 1973. Bubba happened.

Al Davis always in love with defensive linemen was, apparently enamored with Bubba Smith who was coming of a very serious knee injury in 1972 where he got his knee ripped up when he got tangled in a yard-marker chain on the sideline in a preseason game and he missed the 1972 season.

The Colts, in rebuilding mode, were trading everyone away or just releasing them—Johnny Unitas, Tom Matte, Jerry Logan, Norm Bulaich, Charlie Stukes, Ray May, etc. and when the Raiders offered Raymond Chester, a healthy, young, fast tight end, the Colts must have jumped. 

However, this gave the Raiders three defensive ends with two slots. Jones got the bench, spelling both Cline (who moved to right end so Bubba could have his usual left end position) and Smith. 

However, Smith was just not up to snuff. He'd been a First- or Second-team All-Pro in 1970 and 1971 and was finally living up to his promise when taken with the number one overall pick in 1967 after three years of up-and-down play. It seems the Raiders were starting the wrong end in Smith and playing Cline in a position he was not familiar with. 

However, the Raiders still played well enough to win and thanks to some near All-Pro play by the defensive tackle Art Thomas and Otis Sistrunk the line held its own. It does beg the question of how good they could have been had Jones been able to play more.

The next season, 1974, was more of the same. The Raiders were excellent a near-Super Bowl team and again the line played well, especially the interior, but the outside was still not up to the 1972 standards. Cline was injured and missed to whole season so Horace Jones played the full season but it was not up to his own 1972 level it seems.
In 1975, though Cline and Jones were the left- and right ends and they led the rush of what we think was the best Raider defense of the decade—ranking third overall and recording 55 sacks and a defensive passer rating of 37.2. Once again they were beaten by the Steelers in the playoffs but Cline and Jones sure got to the quarterback recording 11 and 13 sacks respectively. 

In 1976 both Cline and Jones had knee injuries. Jones missed the season being put on the injured list, but in a move that puzzled the Bay Area media Cline was put on waiver and the 49ers snatched him right away. Maybe the Raiders, thinking teams would think he's more injured than he was would let him go through waivers. Whatever the thinking Cline was gone. 

The issue was he went to the 49ers who were in the first year of the Gold Rush—a nickname given to one of the best pass-rushing defensive lines in history. After many years of playing the flex defense under Dick Nolan the new coach, Monte Clark hired Floyd Peters to coach the defensive line and they played the classic Rams/Viking type of defense-get after the quarterback and in it ends like Tommy Hart and Cedrick Hardman were turned loose. The 49ers also had a fine pair of young tackles as well, so there was no place for Cline to play. The 49ers totaled 61 sacks and Cline in spot duty had just one of them. he did fill in after Cedrick Hardman broke and ankle and missed the final two games.

Of course, the Raiders had the last laugh in that they finally won the Super Bowl going with a 3-4 defense (they'd run out of defensive linemen (Art Thoms also missed the 1976 season) so they just put more linebackers on the field). 

In 1977 Jones was making a comeback try with the Raiders but was frustrated in the preseason. "I feel strong (but) I feel slow", he told reporters. Jones had rehabbed well, working with a trainer to get back to where he was before the knee blew out but he could tell he wasn't there.

The Raiders could tell as well. A couple of days after that interview he was waived and the Seahawks signed him. He played kind of signed. waived signed, yo-yo for Seattle got a chance to play against the Bucs, made a tackle, but the knee was never ready and in November Jones was put on injured reserve and his career was over. 

He'd hope to sign with someone for the 1978 season but in April was hospitalized with an infection in his surgically repaired knee and in the Summer he announced he was done with football. 

Cline was done in 1978 as well, being waived by the 49ers in August after played the same role in 1977 that he did in 1976—that of the third defensive end, spelling Hart and Hardman. 

Career stats—

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the poem "Maud Muller"  which contains the line, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!' "

If only the knees of Cline and Jones had held up what a defensive end tandem these two might have been. They both showed flashes of greatness, both had a couple of legitimate All-Pro/Pro Bowl-type seasons but it just was not meant to be or simply didn;t happen. It's just one big "That's too bad, it would have been fun to watch" thing. 

Or as Howard Cosell used to say, "The Kn-ee. Al-ways th-e Kn-ee".

Fairness and Equity in the Hall of Fame—More is Needed

OPINION
By John Turney 
Julian Edelman retired this past week and immediately the discussion on social media/websites began the usual "Is he a Hall of Famer". In general, the proposition went over like a lead zeppelin.

Among the naysayers were lists of other wide receivers who were said to be more worthy (likely) and that they should be in (not so fast). 

It brought up something that has been an issue since football began. we think—the so-called "skill players" getting more than their fair share of glory when it comes to honors. That also applies to the Hall of Fame and the job the committees have done over the years.

Now the Hall of Famer voters are the best and the brightest by and large, but they are human and therefore fallible. They make their judgments and the aggregate of those judgments is the polling and from that, we get Hall of Fame classes each year. 

So, why is it longtime beat writers with the most experience, the most access to coaches who will always tell them about offensive line play or defensive schemes continually favor the glory boys? The HOF voters, many of them in the so-called "writer's wing" of the Hall of Fame as winners of the Dick Mccann award, of all people, should know better.

On a football field, there are six skill players—three backs and three ends. There are sixteen others (excluding special teamers for now). That is a ratio of 2.6 non-skill players for every skill player.

So, when you look at the numbers in the Hall of Fame why is the ratio (for modern players, we didn't look are pre-WWII players for this) about 1.6 to 1? We are one short, aren't we?

If you put it in raw numbers and not a ratio we are short about 100 non-skill players—linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.  One hundred gritty and tough blockers, run-stoppers and sackers, tough-guy tacklers, graceful pass defenders. 

Why?

Many, many. and we say it again MANY of them have resumes that include more "honors" than the skill players who sometimes get in with one All-Pro or maybe two. They have stats these days which can be reasonably analyzed. There is literature of the day available via searches on archived newspaper sites online. Lots of full games are available online (though likely not legally kosher). Scouting reports and coaches playbooks are found in the Hall of Fame library that are full of information and quotes and testimonials. The point being there is information available on the non-skill players.

So why, anytime the Hall of Fame comes up does this "highlight generation" jump on a wide receiver or running back or even quarterback bandwagon? Have we gone THAT far down the fantasy football rabbit hole so as to ignore the Lombardi, Chuck Noll, even passing-type coaches Don Coryell and Bill Walsh ethics were taught? 

Don't kid yourself Air Coryell does not work without Russ Washington, Ed White, Doug Wilkerson, and Don Macek. And ask Jim Hart if Dan Dierdorf and Tom Banks and Conrad Dobler and Roger Finnie and Bob Young were part of the Cardinals offense. Coryell along with Jim Hanifan brought a new, aggressive short-set style of pass blocking to the NFL. Said Dierdorf, "Are they going to let us play this way?", suggesting that it might be against NFL rules. 

Bill Walsh emphasized a zone blocking style for his West Coast Offense that included lots of backside cutting that was not like by defensive linemen and was taught by Bobb McKittrick and this spread throughout the NFL. So, even the pass-happy gurus relied on the blocking of great linemen.

So, back to the 1.6 to 1 ratio. Are we suggesting that the ratio should be exactly the same as the 2.6 to 1 that exists on the field? No, of course not. But would 1.8 or 1.9 be so bad?

Can there not be a sense that instead of focusing on getting the 40th of 41st or 42nd wide receiver in who may or may not be a second chair receiver on a team that has a receiver in the Hall of Fame that the fans and even voters focus on getting maybe the 19th or 20th cornerback in?

Albert Lewis is running out of time before he gets thrown into the senior "swamp" as it is called. Why should that happen while so-called second-chair receivers get in?

Lewis has longevity (16 years), was a shutdown corner, had honors, was good on run support (check his tackles for loss stats sometime—33.5 plus 12.5 sacks), and is the best punt blocker in NFL history—a true weapon on special teams, a guy who could win you a game with a punt block or recovery.

Then we look at Ronde Barber. (Now, to be clear, this is not an advocacy piece, we just picked a couple of cornerbacks with some great credentials to point out the unfair disparity between the receivers and the men who cover them).

Whether you think Barber is the proverbial shutdown corner or not, he was a unique cornerback in NFL history in a lot of ways. He was a zone corner (in the Tampa-2) a lot but also a slot corner when the Bucs were in nickel and he was super effective there. He could cover the slot receiver and could also be a force in the run game—63 run stuffs in his career, only one cornerback is close. Barber also had 28 sacks...91 plays behind the line of scrimmage for a corner. Pretty impressive.

Again, you may not think he's Deion Sanders in man coverage but his career, his uniqueness, separates him from other corners far more than some of the wide receivers being advocated do from their wide receiver peers. So, It's a matter of fairness. There is, really, only one Ronde Barber, and there are seemingly a dozen or more backs and receivers with few honors and big stats. So who is rarer?

We could go on. There is one pure 3-4 inside linebacker in the Hall of Fame with another (Ray Lewis) who played in both 30 and 40 defenses. All the rest are 4-3 MLBers. The 3-4 defense was the predominant defense of the late-1970 to the early 1990s and then again recently (as a hybrid).

There is just one nose tackle in the Hall of Fame (Curly Culp). The nose that played the most games at nose, made the most Pro Bowls, was All-Pro the most among nose tackles cannot get a sniff. 

Those are just a few more examples of the lack of fairness to the grunts of the NFL and the place of privilege of the "skill" guys. Had this kind of thinking been in place maybe Joe Jacoby, Clay Matthews, and Everson Walls (for three recent examples) would not have been sent to the swamp. 

Are Bryant Young, Willie Anderson going to the swamp? They cannot get much traction. That could change, of course, but these are "blue" players, as are others who just get overlooked too often and they seem to come from our "excluded group" of non-skill players.

So, this is just a heads up to fans on Twitter and elsewhere, when you bring up skill players for the Hall of Fame they sure better be great and the burden should be on you to show they are better than some of the tackles, linebackers, and safeties who have stellar resumes. 

As for voters, this is just a convivial suggestion. Increase the fairness and equity for the blood and guts of the game. Get that ratio going forward to 1.7 or 1.8 to one, rather than falling to 1.5 to one.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Top Jimmy—The Rams "Other" Youngblood

 By John Turney

The "other" Youngblood on the Los Angeles Rams was Jim Youngblood, not Jack the Hall of Fame defensive end. Jim or "Jimmy" as he was known as the outside linebacker who played seven seasons on Jack's outside shoulder—usually on the left side of the Rams defense.

But we are getting ahead of his story. 

Youngblood played linebacker at Tennessee Tech and in both 1971 and 1972, he was a "Little All-America Selection" by the Associated Press and was All-Conference both seasons as well and the conference Defensive Player of the Year both seasons, too. 

In addition, he was all-American on the NEA and Time magazine teams, He still holds Tech records for career tackles (476) and for most tackles in a season (156, 1972). In 1971 he had 142 tackles. 

In the 1973 NFL draft, Youngblood was the third of three Second-round picks the Rams had. He was 6-3 231 pounds and "could run" with a 4.8 forty time to his credit. The initial plan was for him to play inside since, at that time, Jack Reynolds (the Rams MLB from 1973-80) had not established himself as and was a bit of a disappointment as a 1970 #1 draft pick. Additionally, he was from the George Allen-era and in 1973 there was a new coach—Chuck Knox and he wanted 'his' guys and Jimmy was going to be one of them. 

As a rookie and for the next few years Youngblood was a top-flight special teams player for the Rams. He was not the best in the NFL, that honor would go to likely Rusty Tillman or Warren Bankston but he was likely in the top handful core special teams players in the league. 

In 1974-75, his second season and third seasons his role expanded to playing the MIKE in nickel situations—his height and speed give him some physical qualities that the starter, Jack Reynolds, lacked. So, though teams did play a lot of sub defenses, when the Rams did Jimmy would play one of the linebackers along with Isiah Robertson. 

In early 1976 he was still in that role until Rick Kay, the left linebacker hurt his knee. Kay had replaced starting left linebacker Ken Geddes who went to Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft. So, being thin on the outside the Rams moved Youngblood to that position and he seemed to find his role in the NFL—left linebacker. 

There was a hiccup in 1977 when Jack Reynolds held out in a contract dispute and Youngblood moved back to the middle and rookie Bob Brudzinski played in Youngblood's spot until Hacksaw returned but for all intents and purposes, Jimmy was the left linebacker from 1976 through 1982.

In 1976 Jimmy was solid, perhaps still learning, but still was not yet making game-changing plays. Those started to come in 1977 when he got his first pick-six and it built from there.

In 1978 he was All-NFC and caught New York Post's columnist Paul Zimmerman's eye who named him All-Pro on his personal team. Youngblood totaled 123 tackles and 5½ sacks and 15 passes defensed. 

His career-high in sacks was interesting in that Sport magazine said, quoting an NFL scout, "(H)e alternates his rush with Jack Youngblood and it confuses the hell out of tight ends". The reason for that was that Jack had a pinched nerve in his shoulder and was not as effective in his pass rush the last month of '78 and Jimmy had to pick up some slack. 

The following year he made his only Pro Bowl and was Second-team All-Pro. He picked off five passes taking two to the house all the while being Jack Youngblood's wingman on the left side of the D. 

By 'wingman', it often meant that when Jack tried his signature move of slipping inside on toss plays or sweeps to his side it left the outside open and Jimmy could see the move so he'd compensate to make sure the outside gap was filled. 

This was very similar to the relationship Dave Robinson and Willie Davis developed in Green Bay a decade earlier. They, as a LDE and LLB tandem, could anticipate and react to each others' moves and it was both sound in that it covered the gaps and it allowed for big plays because they messed with opponents blocking schemes. 

Injuries mounted in 1980 but Jimmy still had a pick-six and was still solid in all aspects. He rebounded healthily in 1981 with 101 tackles and four forced fumbles, though the Ram 4-3 defense had seen its best days by then. 

1982 was a disaster with Jimmy having to move to MLB late in the year due to injures and got injured himself and that all led to the regime change in Los Angeles with John Robinson coming in and Fritz Shurmur changing the Rams defensive scheme to a 3-4.

From 1976-81, his peak if you will, he picked off 14 passes and defensed 62 more showing his forte—good coverage for a linebacker. Oh, he was good versus the run, that was a given, though. What he showed in the NFL is he could convert from the middle type guy who ran mostly forward in college to a guy who could drop into a zone or cover a running back in man coverage. 

Youngblood opened 1983 as an inside linebacker in the Rams new 3-4 defense but quickly lost his job to Jim Collins. Collins was now (after two seasons of injuries) healthy and ready to excel, which he did. 

In 1984 Youngblood was cut and the Redskins signed him as a backup but he was cut in midseason and late in the year the Rams re-signed him as a backup and that ended his career. 
Jimmy Youngblood was yet another solid player who may not even qualify for the PFRA Hall of Very Good (though he might someday) but he was a pro's pro who scored four defensive touchdowns and could be counted on to do several things. He was, as the draft previews said, "A big linebacker who can run". 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Art Peed, Buffalo Bison

By Jeffrey J. Miller

Art Peed is an intriguing figure. I know very few have heard of him, not only because he played during the NFL’s rag days of the 1920s, but also because there is so little evidence that he ever existed.  Let me explain …

I first discovered Peed while researching the 1929 Buffalo Bisons for my book, Buffalo’s Forgotten Champions, which was published in 2004.  Peed’s (last) name appears in Buffalo’s lineup in the box score for the November 17, 1929 game between Buffalo and the Boston Bulldogs, substituting at right tackle for starter Ellie Comstock.  It is the only game in which his name appears, and he is not mentioned in the following day’s writeups in either the Boston Herald or Buffalo Courier-Express.  Curious, I went to what was the definitive source at that time for all things NFL, TOTAL FOOTBALL II, the voluminous tome of football statistics and demographics compiled by research stalwarts Bob Carroll, Davis Gershman, David Neft and John Thorn (1997-99).  

Peed’s name, however, was not listed among the thousands of entries in the All-Time Player Registry.  But double-checking (and triple-checking when possible!) one’s work is an essential part of a historian’s job, so I pulled my trusty copy of the excellent Pro Football Encyclopedia by Tod Maher and Bob Gill. Peed was not listed in their registry either, but one game was credited in 1929 to Max Reed, the former Bucknell center who played nine games for the Bisons in 1925, so concluded that the authors had deduced that Peed was a misspelling for Reed.  My research, however, showed that Reed was not a member of the Bisons in ’29.  I filed Peed/Reed issue away for a while and continued with my research.

Box Score, Buffalo Bisons at Boston Bulldogs
Buffalo Courier-Express, 11-18-29

A short while later, I came across a game program for the Bisons’ following week (November 24) matchup with the Chicago Bears. There, in black-and-white, was Peed’s name again!  What’s more, the program provided a little more information, including his first name (Art) nominal position (guard), jersey number (27), weight (205) and college (North Carolina). It seems, however, that he did not appear in this game as his name did not show up in the next day’s box score.  But it was enough to convince me that TOTAL FOOTBALL II and The Pro Football Encyclopedia had gotten it wrong and set out to track down this mysterious man. 

Buffalo Bisons lineup versus Chicago Bears,
November 24, 1929

So, before I could finish my manuscript, I had to resume the dig.  I subsequently visited the National Obituary Archive website and discovered a death listing for an Arthur Peed.  Included in the listing was Peed’s date of birth, which was July 11, 1904, which would have made him 25 years old in 1929. That made sense. It gave Peed’s residence at the time of death (March 1, 1981) as Batavia, Ohio. 

Since this was 2002, long before everybody ditched their landlines in favor of cell phones, I found a listing for a Ralph Peed in Batavia in the White Pages (remember those?) and dialed the number.  Mr. Peed seemed a little surprised by my call but was willing to talk and listen to my wacky story. I seem to recall that Mr. Peed identified himself as Arthur’s grandson (for some dumb reason I did not jot down that singular bit of information while I had him on the phone—d’oh!). I do, however, recall that he said he was unaware if Art had played college football, let alone professional.  He said he would ask family and see if there was anything he could dig up and get back to me.  I never heard from him again. The number I had for Mr. Peed is no longer in service, and internet searches show him as deceased.  

For some reason, I was convinced that Peed was a legitimate player on Buffalo’s 1929 squad and decided to include his name in the complete listing of players who appeared in games for the Buffalo All-Americans/Rangers/Bisons of the 1920s. 

Sure, he could have been the Bisons’ version of Captain Tuttle, the fictitious surgeon invented by Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre on the 1970s TV show M*A*S*H*, but that was very unlikely. Perhaps the name was a misspelling of Reed after all, as Maher, et al., seemed to believe, but my gut told me otherwise. The Buffalo teams were populated with several players who appeared in one game only, like Shirley Brick, John Rupp, Wes Bradshaw, Eddie Casey, Gus Sonnenberg, and several others, so why not Peed?      

Which brings us to 2021. On a lark, I recently visited Tod Maher’s terrific Pro Football Archives website and saw he has Peed listed.  Curiosity peaked, I then went to the Pro Football Reference website and, lo and behold, Peed was listed there too!  I do not know when these sites decided to include Peed, or why, but I felt somewhat vindicated.  

I pulled out one more resource, the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia edited by Pete Palmer, Ken Pullis, Sean Lahman, Matthew Silverman and Gary Gillette (2006), and voila!  There was Peed’s name again!  That three highly respected sources were recognizing Peed’s existence gave me satisfaction that my hunch was, apparently, correct.  And since my recognition of Peed came first, well …

But I am continuing my search for Art Peed. I need to close the probability gap from one percent to zero. He is not showing up on Internet searches, and his family couldn't verify whether he and their namesake father (or grandfather) are the same person. A picture, a roster, a game account …anything.  Eventually, I will find it!      

Monday, April 5, 2021

BOB HUDSON: A Decade of Versatility

 By TJ Troup

The New York Football Giants tied Cleveland for first place in the American Conference in 1950. New York had one of the most powerful rushing attacks ever seen, and a very much improved hard-hitting defense, but after beating the Browns twice in the regular season they could not pull off the hat trick in the playoffs. Many of those stalwart Giants returned in '51, yet every team hopes to help itself in the draft, and New York chose some quality lineman, and halfback Kyle Rote. Standing 6' 4'' and 225 lbs. end Bob Hudson was selected in the 12th round with the 146th pick. 

The second half of Hudson's rookie season he contributed as a deep receiver with catches for 50 yards against Cleveland, 33 yards against Pittsburgh, and 20 against the Yanks. Since the Browns beat New York twice in the regular season; the Giants had to settle for second place. Hudson returned to the Giants in '52 and watching film of their star-crossed season demonstrated though a strong team New York needed more speed and athleticism in the line-up to compete with Cleveland. Hudson is a reserve in 1952. 

Bob Hudson started at left offensive end late in the pre-season of '53 but was released by New York. The Philadelphia Eagles finished second in overall defense in 1952 but needed help in the secondary. Bob Hudson joined the Eagles and became a starter on defense in '53. The Eagles showcased their toughness, and resilience on a weekly basis, but de-throning the Browns from the top was the goal. Philadelphia ended the '53 campaign with a 42-27 victory over the undefeated Browns to finish second. 

They also led the entire league in total defense and ranked sixth in the defensive passer rating category with a mark of 53.2 (league average was 53.6), yet this was an improvement over 1952. The first half of the year Hudson began to show he was always around the ball and could take the ball away from an opponent with either an interception or fumble recovery. He had already intercepted one pass on the season, and during the home Saturday night 23-7 victory over their cross-state rivals from Pittsburgh he pilfered two passes and returned them 59 yards. The next week he recovered a Cardinal fumble thus at mid-season he had already taken the ball away four times from Eagle opponents. 

Due to the Indians World Series appearance in 1954, the schedule had to be altered for the Browns, and as such, they would play in December when all the other teams except Detroit had ended regular season play. The Eagles were strong out of the gate in '54 with three straight wins including an opening day home win over the Browns. October 17th, 1954 is a day in Eagle history that many historians and fans remember fondly as lean Texan Adrian Burk shredded the porous Washington Redskin secondary with SEVEN touchdown passes. 

The Philadelphia pass offense was pure precision on short and medium-range passes, yet this saga is about a member of the defense, and what a defense the Eagles had in 1954. Early in the game Redskin halfback Charlie Justice began a sweep to his right and lofted the ball deep to swift Bones Taylor on a streak pattern. Running stride for stride with the lanky end Hudson went up high to intercept deep in Eagle territory for his second interception of the young season. 

Poring over the game film to detail strategy is not everyone's idea of a good time...but for me, it is a joy. Philadelphia would align in a standard 5-2-4 defense but would adjust alignments and coverages many times during a game. 

A key component for the Eagles was Hudson's instinctive ability to play pass defense as he roamed the field. Philadelphia had a very strong front seven which included right linebacker Chuck Bednarik, middle guard Bucko Kilroy, and right defensive end Norm "Wild Man" Willey. Left linebacker Wayne Robinson, and rookie safety Jerry Norton also were key contributors. 

The Redskins would come out of the huddle in a slot formation to the right, and the Eagles would immediately adjust with safeties Norton and Hudson, and with corner help all aligned to the slot formation. Philadelphia did not "red dog" much, but when they did they were very effective and productive. Every team would relish a 4-0 start to a season, but the Eagles could not hold onto first place as they lost four of their next five including a heartbreaking 6-0 loss in the rematch with the Browns. When your team is struggling you hope your next opponent is Washington. During the late November win over the 'Skins Hudson intercepts twice. 

The Detroit Lions have won back-to-back Championships, and lead the western conference as they prepare for the invading Eagles on December 5th. Philadelphia still has a shot at winning the Eastern conference but must win their final two games, and have the Browns lose all three of their remaining games. Have watched the December 5th clash against Detroit numerous times (and probably will again). This era is the transition to every team playing a 4-deep secondary, and there are some legendary defensive backs taking the field in 1954. Richard "Night Train" Lane, Bobby Dan Dillon, Emlen Tunnell, and a personal favorite Jack Christiansen of Detroit. 

The Lion pass coverages are detailed in Buddy Parker's superb book, and Jack is the man who makes those coverages airtight. Many times have written about the defensive passer rating and its' value. Detroit led the league in '54 with a mark of 39.3, with the Giants right behind them at 39.7, and the Eagles just a notch below at 39.9. 

Philadelphia leads Detroit 13-6 in the fourth quarter as Layne has completed just 12 of 26 with four interceptions. Adrian Burk threw 12 touchdown passes against Washington during the season, but today he has just two and is also struggling against Christiansen and his compadres as he has completed 17 of 35 with five interceptions. Watching the film over and over again shows two teams that just "get it" when it comes to pass defense, and covering your territory while taking the ball away. Detroit has two wide receivers to the left, and the inside receiver Dibble runs a streak straight up the field, while the outside "flanker" Doak Walker cuts behind him on a square in. 

Hudson unloads his shoulder into Walker as the ball arrives, and yes the Doaker does get back to his feet, though he probably wondered if he was in Dallas or Detroit? A staple in the Buddy Parker Lion offense is the halfback option pass and Walker's attempt is intercepted by Hudson. Big Bob again pilfers two on the afternoon, but the Eagles who needed a win leave the field tied with Lions 13-13.

 Philadelphia closes the season with a dominant 29-14 win over New York, and yes Hudson intercepts again to give him eight on the year to rank amongst the league leaders, and you are going to ask who those men were at the top? Lane, Christiansen, Landry, and Tunnell. 

Bob Hudson is not going to the pro bowl, and he most certainly has not earned All-Pro distinction, but this is by far the best year in his career. Philadelphia begins the '55 campaign in high style with a come-from-behind 27-17 win over New York. but the next three weeks the Eagles lose three close games. 

So far in '55, the Eagles have shown they are just not the same team from the past two seasons. Hudson continues to contribute and twice he has recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in the same game. He continues to use his shoulder to deliver blows to runners and receivers as he pursues and covers. The victory over the defending league champion Browns took away some of the bitterness of the campaign, and Hudson intercepted Graham in the game. 

Philadelphia then falters the final four weeks. Much has been written about coach Jim Trimble and his players; the blame, the performances, and a team with such high expectations entering the season now in disarray. Bob Hudson over a 33 game span recorded 19 takeaways, but he chooses not to return to the Eagles in '56. Coach Hugh Devore was considered a brilliant coach, but the Eagle offense of '56 scored just 143 points, and only once scored more than 20 in a game. Devore returns in '57 and coming back to the team is Bob Hudson. 

Philadelphia reconfigures their personnel on defense in '57 with Bednarik attempting to play middle linebacker instead of either center or right linebacker. Bob Hudson now will play right linebacker for the Eagles, and with Bibbles Bawel at right safety—Jerry Norton is now the left safety. After an 0-3 start the Eagles manage to win four of the remaining nine games, but with so much youth on offense, and a new style of defense coached by former Giant mastermind Steve Owen the year is considered a failure. 

Devore is dismissed and replaced by a man who was a leader of men and understood how to win and with who—Mr. Lawrence "Buck" Shaw. Jerry Williams is hired by Shaw to coach the secondary and coordinate the defense. Williams had played both safety and running back in his pro-playing career, yet this will be on-the-job training by trial and error when it comes to personnel, especially in the secondary. 

Much was expected of Bob Pellegrini when he came out of college. He had size, strength, quickness, and was very motivated—BUT he was just not instinctive enough to play middle linebacker though he is sure given the chance to do so. Big Bob also has injury issues that limit him, and as such the effectiveness of the defense. Concrete Charley Bednarik is in his 10th season, and though he is an outstanding center, there are times he starts again at middle linebacker and John Simerson starts at center. 

Hudson actually enters the game at inside or middle linebacker early in the year, and even "red dogs" a few times, but this is not where he belongs. Brookshier is tried at right safety, with Rocky Ryan at the right corner, and yes folks this is not going to work either. Eddie Bell is the left corner in his last year as an Eagle, while Norton is usually at left safety. Lee Riley starts at both safety posts, but the second half of the season Bob Hudson is the right safety. The early season upset of the Giants is a distant memory as the Eagles travel to take on the Cardinals.

The teams tie but a loss is avoided when Hudson pursues across the field to recover Ollie Matson's fumble and return the ball 46 yards into Cardinal territory. The Eagles crush the Cardinals in the rematch but then lose three straight. Philadelphia travels to the nation's Capitol to close the year and hopefully a victory over a struggling Redskin team. Washington has a strong ground game, and will align unbalanced much of the time...thus every defense must adjust. New York and Baltimore handle the unbalanced ground attack of the 'Skins with aplomb, but Philadelphia does not in the 20-0 disappointing loss. 

Hudson makes an occasional shoulder hit/tackle, and his coverage is adequate, but he is aligned so close to the line of scrimmage for a safety that he is out of his element (strength). Late in the game, Bill Anderson makes a terrific fingertip catch for Washington to seal the victory (Hudson was not involved in the coverage).

Shaw is one frustrated angry coach having his first-ever losing season and states there will be many changes, and one of those is the release of Hudson among others. Bob Hudson joins a Redskin team in 1959 that is in a state of flux at the linebacker position. Don Schiffer's 1959 Pro Football Handbook states that Drazenovich "is among the best middle linebackers and with Larry Morris, and Torgy Torgeson on the same defensive unit figure to get stronger". This trio never takes the field for the 'Skins, and as such Hudson starts the season at right linebacker. 

Washington aligns with the right linebacker head upon the tackle and the right defensive end outside and then penetrating. Bob Hudson can only help a team when he is allowed to move and roam. His Redskin career is short and he is gone by midseason, but his pro career is not. 

The Dallas Texans of the brand new American Football League need experienced players who understand the game and have the talent to win games. Bob Hudson starts a handful of games in the middle of the year at left linebacker and gives a creditable performance including an interception against Denver in November. 

The Broncos have the worst linebacking corps in pro football, and Hudson joins them late in the year, and starts the final game of the year against Oakland. Bob plays left linebacker for the Broncos in '61. 

Watching film of him in those vertically striped socks playing for a team that has little talent after watching him play so well for those strong Eagle teams of '53 & '54 in their classic uni's...is almost painful. 

November the 5th the Broncos are destroyed by the champion Oilers and having a complete game film tells the tale of the best and worst of the league. Earlier in the year in October Hudson intercepted against Oakland with the score tied with 1:45 left on a first down pass to Doug Asad that Bob read, reacted, and made the play. Hudson could still make the big play. Against the Chargers in November with the Broncos down 19-16, he intercepts Kemp in the 4th quarter on a fourth and goal play. 

Finally, in the rematch with Houston on November 26th, he records the final interception of his career. Schiffer's 1962 Pro Football Handbook on page 139 states "(T)here are six linebackers looking for work the best of whom are probably Johnny Hobbs. Others are Bill Roehnelt, Bob Hudson, Wahoo McDaniel, Jerry Stalcup, and Pat Lamberti." Hudson did not make the team and his pro career is over. 

Recapping his career briefly: Begins as an end with an 80 number for the contending Giants, finds success wearing #42 as a left safety, and outside linebacker with the Eagles, and then his final three years with the Redskins, Texans, and Broncos playing either left or right linebacker. Today would have been Big Bob's 91st birthday. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

R.I.P. Gerald Irons—A Super Solid Linebacker

 By John Turney

Gerald Irons was born May 2, 1947,  in Gary, Indiana and today media reported that his family announced his passing Friday on Facebook due to complications of Parkinson's Disease. He was 73.

Irons was the Oakland Raiders third-round draft pick out of Maryland-Eastern Shore (where he played defensive end and guard) in 1970—the same school as Raider Legend Art Shell, who, according to Irons "recommended me" to Raiders scout and personnel man Ron Wolf. Irons was named to the Maryland-Eastern Shore "Hawk Hall of Fame" in 1984. 

In 1968 he was AllConnference for M-ES and in 1969 he was Second-team on the Pittsburgh Courier All-America Team

At 6’2” and 225 pounds, Gerald was the prototype NFL linebacker in the 1970s and played a backup role in 1970 and 1971 and in 1972 he secured a starting position at right linebacker and held it through 1975 when he was traded to the Cleveland Browns with a ninth-round pick for a browns Second-round pick. Irons had become expendable with the addition of Ted Hendricks in 1975 and the Raiders wanted the Mad Stork to start in 1976 (Hendricks had been a role player in '75) and the Browns grabbed him.

Irons was never a Pro Bowler nor All-Pro but from  1973-75 he got enough votes to be listed as honorable mention All-AFC. In his starting seasons for the Raiders he averaged 86 tackles, 10 passes defended, 2 picks, and five run stuffs—all respectable numbers. 
Irons picked up his solid play with the Browns averaging 92 tackles 6 stuffs, and 2 sacks in his three starting seasons there, and was part of the rebuilding process that saw the Browns turn to a playoff team by the end of Irons' tenure there. 

He was named an “Oakland Raiders Legend” and is listed among the “100 Greatest Cleveland Browns” of all time. He was named to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

During the off-seasons with the Raiders, Gerald earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, and later he got his law degree from John Marshall Law School. In addition, he learned to speak Japanese, which has helped his very successful post-NFL business life and in public education.

Irons is survived by his wife Myrna and sons Gerald, Jr., Jarrett, and Grant.