Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Jim Porter—Here is What The Hall of Fame is Doing Wrong

 By John Turney 

David Baker, the President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, abruptly stepped down last week and was replaced by Jim Porter. By all accounts, Porter is a man of integrity who is from the Canton area and has been on the Hall of Fame board. He comes from the newspaper business which should give him excellent rapport with the Hall of Fame voters and should be able to remember their names and is likely already on a first-name basis with most, if not all of them.

Yesterday, Porter did an interview with Clark Judge and Ira Kaufman on "Eye Test for Two" and when asked about possible changes in the structure of Hall of Fame classes said, that he wanted to keep the integrity of the process and that it remains consistent and that was "important to him".  He wants all the players and coaches and contributors to go through the same process and that essentially all be vetted similarly so the standards remain high, at least that is our interpretation. We would agree 100%. No free passes.

Then, after some prodding by Judge and Kauffman, Proter said he was open to possible changes in the number of seniors being increased and perhaps even increases to the total number of inductees from right to perhaps nine adding that there would have to be a process of input from voters and that the changes be approved through the Hall of Fame and so on. But the bottom line is that changes were possible in the future.

So, if the number could increase from eight to nine—and we are speculating here—that could mean adding a senior without cutting a contributor and coach, meaning rather than raising the seniors to two, as it used to be, and rotating a coach and contributor every other year there could be two scenarios and one coach and contributor plus the five modern players which would be none total inductees. 

Or, there could be two seniors and the rotation of a coach and a contributor and six moderns. Either way, nine would be good. We won't hold our breath on that one but it would be a good thing if it were taken seriously. 

Porter then told the hosts "I want to know from our voters what we're doing wrong". 

Well, we have nothing to do with the voting but these suggestions by Judge and Kaufman were spot one. 

Here is what you are doing wrong, and yes, we are being facetious—You are delaying changes! You have been on the job for almost a week!
Al Wistert
Here is what you need to do Mr. Porter—
Call an emergency meeting of the board. Have a zoom call with the voters and add the second senior slot. It is as simple as that. 

Do not wait for the current structure that is in place through 2024 to expire. Get it done now. Yesterday, even. 

It was errant to take away the second senior slot in the first place and worsened the problem of the senior backlog and the one we think was the architect of it is now gone so there is no one to lose face over a change back to the way it was.
Randy Gradishar and Chuck Howley
Yes, yes, of course, the Hall must cross the "t's" and dot all the "i's" and give the appearance of due diligence but this is a no-brainer. No one we know thinks there are two few seniors getting in the Hall of Fame. Even when two-a-year when getting in there were still worthy players waiting.

The universe of worthy coaches and contributors is much smaller than the universe of worthy players by any objective measure.

So, even if the number of inductees stays at eight, two seniors must be part of the mix and the coach/contributor rotation can be instituted. 

If the number can possibly be expanded to nine, even better—simply have two seniors and keep one coach and one contributor. Simple. 
Six modern players could mean a Jalen Ramsey-type corner
like Albert Lewis not slipping into the senior pool in the first place
If the number can be nine and the new addition is a modern player (to keep the senior pool from expanding), then it should be two seniors and the coach/contributor rotation to reach the total of nine. Again, simple.
Ken Riley and Lemar Parrish
But do it now, not in 2024 or 2025

Not making this your FIRST order of business is what you are doing wrong. 

Hall of Fame fans are counting on you and there will be close to 100% support from your HOF voters on some form of the versions we've outlined in this post. 
Mike Kenn and Joe Jacoby


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

TUESDAY TIDBITS: So When Did We Begin Keeping Statistics?

By TJ Troup 
Tavon Diggs
After Trevon Diggs intercepted on Sunday; which he returned for a touchdown the lazy production crew at CBS listed on the screen that Diggs was just the second player since 1970 to intercept at least seven passes in the first six games of a season. 

While this is very impressive, and Trevon just might lead the league in interceptions this year, the graphic begs two questions? Who was the other player since 1970, and did the league actually record individual interception returns before 1970? My boy Rod Woodson is the other player(1993), and yes the league began listing individual interceptions in 1940. 

How do I know this, why simply because I have a listing of ALMOST every individual interception return from 1940 through 2020 (am missing just a handful). You will not get the list today of who the other interceptors are, yet how about just a few from the AFL during the decade of the '60s? Goose Gonsoulin of the Broncos pilfered 8 passes in the first five games of his career in 1960. 

Tom Morrow of the Raiders intercepted 8 passes in the first four games of 1963...which was part of his intercepting streak of eight consecutive games. Pete Jaquess of the Oilers intercepted 7 passes in the first five games of 1964, and finally, Ron Hall of the Patriots intercepted 7 passes in the first six games of 1964. 

Does CBS not have access to the game by game individual stats in league history? If they actually want to do an in-depth job possibly they could contact me? Am not holding my breath waiting by the phone, and as we all know the NFL did not begin in 1970.
Jared Goff
Next up is comedy from Conor Orr at Sports Illustrated! Not sure why he has a job; especially with the following quote "Goff of Detroit has a chance to throttle NFL defenses in 2021"? Goff ranks 23rd with a passer rating of 86.9, and he is averaging 9.5 yards a completion, he is the poster boy for dink & dunk. Goff is one of only five passers of the leading 32 to have his completions average less than 10 yards. The man he was traded for—Mr. Matthew Stafford is second at 13.2 yards a completion. 

Checked the standings this morning, and surprisingly Detroit has not won a game. In the past have railed against Lion defensive coordinators and secondary coaches for their inability to teach team pass defense, and yes folks you know where I am going with this...Detroit is dead last in the defensive passer rating category at 113.8. Jack Christiansen is rolling over in his grave.

Ready for a fun history lesson today? Sure hope so, since watching the film was captivating. We are returning to October 17th, 1954, and are in Wrigley Field to watch the contending 49ers take on an improved Chicago Bear team. San Francisco has won in Wrigley the past two seasons, can they possibly beat Papa Bear and his nasty grizzlies three in a row? 
Harlon Hill
Both Harlon Hill and Jim Dooley gain over 100 yards receiving as George Blanda is pitching the pigskin all over the lot today and keeping the Bears in the game, but it is not enough. Hugh McElhenny was so impressive as a rookie in 1952, and Joe Perry gained over 1,000 yards in 1953, but there is only one football...so who gets the ball today? For the only time in their careers together they both gain over 100 rushing! At the end of the first half McElhenny has carried five times for 71 yards, and a 46-yard touchdown scamper on a sweep right. Joe Perry has been bottled up and has gained 2 yards on six carries. 

Rookie Ed Brown entered the game in the second quarter and his errant toss was hijacked by Hardy Brown and returned 41 yards for a touchdown in the key play of the first half. Both McElhenny and Perry carry the ball five times in the second half; Hugh gained 43 and his most impressive run began as a sweep left, then he reversed his field and swept right for 32 behind some crunching downfield blocks. Perry gained 117 and is the FIRST 49er to have two runs of over 50 yards in the same half (53 & 58)! Both are over the right side as Bob St.Clair deserved a game ball for his tremendous blocking. San Francisco gained 294 yards rushing as a team on just 32 running plays. No wonder they earned the nicknames of "The King" and "The Jet". 

The 31-24 victory by the Niners has convinced everyone this is going to be their year(McElhenny's injury and poor pass defense derailed San Francisco), as the 49ers have now lost just nine games in the last 34 they have played. 

The next stop our Nations' Capitol for the match-up of the first-place Eagles and the woeful Redskins. The past two years Philadelphia has lost in Washington, but this Eagle team is even better than the '53 team that finished second in the East. During 1951 Adrian Burk was the starter at quarterback in Philadelphia, yet the front office acquired Bobby Thomason to compete with the slender Texan for the job as the triggerman. While they both have had their moments lofting the leather in the air, they both have streaks of inconsistency. 
Thomason sometimes forces passes, and the rumor is Burk is not the most confident signal-caller? During the three Eagle victories, Thomason has completed 22 for 44 for 441 yards and ranks 5th in the league in passing. Burk has completed 30 of 62 for 442 yards and is ranked 9th in the league. Burk starts the game and is dead-on in completing many short and medium-range passes to his receivers. Though a Philadelphia running back might catch a pass once in a while, the Eagle passing attack is based upon a variety of formations and passes to the ends or flanking halfback. Have watched this complete game film many times, and you see double tight end with a halfback flanked wide. You see tight slot, or tight wing, with ends split or flexed, or a mixture. 

Left end Bobby Walston will catch 6 passes in the game for 90 yards and has the longest reception in the game—30 yards. Pete Pihos is the defending league receiving champion and he is aligned tight, flexed, split, and is just so damn impressive on film. The stocky glue-fingered veteran runs routes to perfection, and though not fast he always finds the open area. He is athletic and adjusts well to the ball in flight. Pete latches onto 9 passes for 132 yards. 
Pete Pihos

Jerry Williams demanded he be moved to offense (he was a starting safety for the Rams), and though he does carry the ball, he is basically a receiver. All three men rank among the league leaders in receptions which is unheard of in that era. Williams will catch 4 passes for 40 yards in the game. Thomason spells Burk in both the second and fourth quarters, but today is Adrian's day as he continually is on target and his receivers score. He has thrown five touchdown passes, and Thomason is back in the game and completes a pass to Williams, but Bobby is hit hard, and back into the game comes Burk. 

He throws two more touchdown passes to tie Sid Luckman's league record in the 49-21 win to keep Philadelphia undefeated. The Eagles are the best red-zone passing team in the league. When the next weeks' stats are released Thomason is ranked 4th in the league, and Burk is ranked 8th. The standard in this era is average gain per pass. Using today's standards Burk had a passer rating of 64.78 after three games, and then after his record-tying performance, his rating is 86.33. How many quarterbacks improve 20 points in a week? Burk has now thrown 13 touchdown passes, and maybe, possibly he will surpass Luckman's record of touchdown passes in a season as the Eagles earn their way into the title game? 

Alas, just not meant to be as the Eagles go 3-4-1 the rest of the year, and Burk continues to share the position with Thomason. In the rematch with Washington on November 28th Thomason starts but is ineffective and Burk coming off the bench throws five touchdown passes in the 41-33 home victory. How many quarterbacks have thrown 12 touchdown passes against a division rival in a season? Baugh, Luckman, Graham, Layne, Van Brocklin, Waterfield, Rote, Unitas? Ok, let's try the '60's Unitas, Starr, Jurgensen, Tittle, Ryan, Johnson, Tarkenton? Go ahead check out all the quarterbacks since the merger and see if one of them has accomplished this feat....but don't expect CBS Production to have that info.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Guided by Road Sage, Packers Triumph in Chicago

 By Eric Goska

Under head coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers have won
15 of their last 20 regular-season road games.
(screenshot from NFL Game Pass)

Forget TomTom or Garmin.

Matt LaFleur may be the best option when it comes to successfully navigating the road.

The Packers head coach saw his team down the Chicago Bears 24-14 at Soldier Field in Week 6. For LeFleur, it was merely the latest in an ever-rising number of wins away from Lambeau Field.

Throughout the last half century – and likely long before that – the best teams found ways to win on the road. Only three of the 102 conference champions since 1970 had losing records away from home during the regular season: the 2008 Cardinals (3-5), the 2010 Packers (3-5) and the 2018 Patriots (3-5).

Of course, each of those three clubs had to win at least once on the road in the postseason in order to reach the Super Bowl.

Laying claim to a conference championship remains a priority for the Packers after having come up short in the last two. Winning while crisscrossing the country can’t hurt their quest to land a third straight berth.

LeFleur has enjoyed success outside Wisconsin more so than any of his predecessors in Green Bay. Sunday was his 15th regular-season road victory – against five losses – since becoming the team’s 15th head coach on Jan. 8, 2019.

No big deal? Think again.

Vince Lombardi (13-7), Mike McCarthy (13-7) and Mike Sherman (11-9) – three of the best in team history – had poorer starts than LaFleur. Another, Mike Holmgren (7-13), never reached .500 during his seven years in Green Bay.

LaFleur has taken to the road from the start. Green Bay outlasted Chicago 10-3 at Soldier Field in his coaching debut, and then tacked on victories in Dallas and Kansas City before tasting defeat at the hands of the Chargers.

The Packers fashioned 6-2 records away from Lambeau Field in both 2019 and 2020. This year, the team has reeled off three straight after laying an egg in the opener against the Saints.

That success places the Green and Gold among the best in the business. Only the Chiefs (17-2), Saints (15-4), Ravens (15-4) and Bills (14-4) have a better winning percentage on the road since 2019.

So how have LaFleur and the Packers done it? There are myriad reasons, but we’ll touch upon two: turnovers and quarterback play.

Turnovers

Green Bay did not have a turnover in Chicago while the Bears gave up one when safety Darnell Savage intercepted rookie quarterback Justin Fields in the end zone. In their 15 road wins, the Packers have turned the ball over six times while the opposition has coughed it up 22 times. Green Bay has scored 89 points as a result of those miscues; its opponents just 13.

Quarterback Play

Aaron Rodgers has posted a higher passer rating than his counterpart in 14 of those 15 wins. The exception: Drew Brees engineered a 127.8 to Rodgers’ 124.9 in Green Bay’s 37-30 triumph in New Orleans in 2020.

In Chicago, Rodgers completed 17 of 23 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers may not excite, but his rating (128.0) was more than 50 points better than that of Fields who compiled a mark of 75.2 on 16 completions in 27 attempts for 174 yards with a touchdown and interception.

In 15 road victories under LaFleur, Green Bay’s passer rating is 113.1. That’s noticeably higher than the 85.8 of the competition.

Quarterback Play in the Packers-Bears Rivalry

Superior play at quarterback has helped the Packers win 44 of the last 59 regular-season meetings with the Bears. The incredible run started in 1992 and has been orchestrated primarily with just two passers – Rodgers and Brett Favre – at the helm.

Forty-seven times Green Bay posted the better passer rating. Forty-two times it emerged victorious.

Hitting 100, as Rodgers did Sunday, has been an even better harbinger of success, one that predates 1992. The Green and Gold has won the last 26 meetings with Chicago when they hit or exceed that number.

Their last loss: Nov. 3, 1968 when Gale Sayers’ 205 rushing yards trumped Bart Starr’s 102.5 rating. Starr completed 10 of 18 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 13-10 loss.

On the Road Again
How Packers head coaches fared in their first 20 regular-season road games.
 
         Record         Coach                                    Years
            15-5            Matt LaFleur                      2019-2021
            13-7            Vince Lombardi                 1959-1962
            13-7            Mike McCarthy                 2006-2008
            11-9            Mike Sherman                  2000-2002
          9-10-1          Phil Bengtson                    1968-1970
          8-11-1          Dan Devine                         1971-1973
            8-12            Lindy Infante                     1988-1990
            7-13            Forrest Gregg                    1984-1986
            7-13            Mike Holmgren                 1992-1994
          6-11-3          Curly Lambeau                  1921-1925
            6-14            Lisle Blackbourn                1954-1957
            5-15            Gene Ronzani                    1950-1953
            4-16            Bart Starr                             1975-1977

Friday, October 15, 2021

Just Because You Needed to See Walter Payton Run a "Go" Route Today

 By John Turney 
Credit: Merv Corning

Early in his career Walter Payton would occasionally line up as a split end and run a go, a slant or other routes isolated as the "X" receiver—the split end.

Here are just a few examples—

Walter on a "go"

On a slant

Motioning to the split end position

Certainly, he didn't do this a ton but it is more proof that Payton was as versatile a back as there ever has been. In the 1990s and 2000s we had Marshall Faulk who was a great runner, a great receiver out of the backfield, and could also run wide receiver routes as well as pass block with the best running backs ever. 

The offenses Payton played in didn't lend itself to a lot of 4-wide or 5-wide like Faulk's so he didn't get as many opportunities to catch passes from out wide or even in slot positions but he could do it when asked.

Payton was a back for all ages. Would be huge star today, was a huge star in his own era. He had all the skills. All of them. 


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

TUESDAY TIDBITS: Rising to the Top

By TJ Troup 
The 2018 season for the Cardinals ended with a record of 3-13. The 2018 season for the Bills ended with a 6-10 record. Here we are in 2021 and most folks would rank these two teams at the top of the league at this point. How quickly a team can rise when they find the personnel and the coaches that actually understand the game and how to win! October 17th the Cardinals will travel to Cleveland to play a team that can run the ball and score. 
Once upon a time these two teams were in the NFL East and had some dandy contests. Monday night the 18th the Bills head to Nashville to play the Titans, and yes once upon a time these two teams battled in the AFL East. Our journey for October 10th will take us to Forbes Field on a Wednesday evening in 1934. Rookie Beattie Feathers of Chicago will gain more than 100 yards rushing for the third consecutive game on his way to becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher in league history. 
John Henry Johnson
Yes, youngsters, being first is always significant. Pittsburgh and Cleveland have had a storied rivalry since 1950, and on a Saturday evening at Municipal Stadium in '64 veteran fullback John Henry Johnson hammers the Browns defense for over 200 yards, and three touchdowns to finally put a loss on Cleveland. John Henry is the first man to gain over 200 yards rushing against a future league champion. Film study also shows that the Steeler defense was innovative that night as they used a 5-man line, and nickel coverage in an attempt to limit Jim Brown, and the deep passing game of the Browns. 
Lance Alworth
Beginning on October 20th, 1963 Lance Alworth began a 26 game streak of complete dominance as a receiver. Alworth gained 2,761 yards on 131 catches and scored 27 touchdowns. The list of receivers averaging 21 yards a catch over a twenty-six game span is very short. Alworth gained over 100 yards receiving in twelve of those games, and San Diego won eleven of them. The Chargers record in the other 16 games(Lance missed two games) was 8-6-2. Talk about a difference-maker. 

When the Bills took the title away from the Chargers in December of '64—San Diego had to come to grips that there was a team that could match them. October 10th, 1965 Lance gains 168 yards on his 8 receptions. Hadl zipped a pass to Bambi for 14 yards in the second quarter to get the Chargers the lead, and later scored again-----this time on a 52-yard pass play to put San Diego ahead 24-3. Buffalo gained just 150 net yards; their fewest since October 13th, '62 when they gained just 140 again against San Diego. No doubt Sid Gillman and his team felt they made a statement at War Memorial that afternoon, but as the season wore on many people believed they would meet again for the title. That is a story for another day.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Dawson Knox Delivers the Bills from Tight End Purgatory

 By Jeffrey J. Miller 

The recent play of Dawson Knox, the Buffalo Bills somewhat unheralded tight end, has many of the team’s followers thinking they have finally found the long-sought replacement for the men who held down the position during the team’s first golden era. If his outstanding performance against the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football (10/11/21) serves as an indication, they just might be right.   

The tight end position has been a historically weak one for the Bills. Sure, they have had a handful of solid men play the position over the years, most notably Pete Metzelaars during the team’s Super Bowl run of the early 1990s, but how many others can the average fan name? In fact, the Bills’ search for a viable tight end compares with the team’s recently fulfilled search for a quarterback, a journey that lasted from Jim Kelly’s retirement in 1997 until the arrival of Josh Allen in 2018. The difference is in the case of the tight end, rather than 20 years, it is more like 55! To put it in perspective, the Bills have not had a tight end voted to a Pro Bowl since 1966 and have not had one recognized as perhaps the best in the league since 1964.

Ernie Warlick goes deep against the
Jets, 1964

A little background:  Ernie Warlick was the Bills’ starting tight end during the team’s first American Football League championship run, when the team captured back-to-back titles in 1964 and ’65.  Warlick still holds the top-two best season averages for yards-per reception among Bills tight ends (minimum 20 catches) with 20.8 in 1964, and 20.0 in 1963. Paul Costa followed in Warlick’s footprints, taking over the position midway through the 1965 season. Costa still holds the club record for yards in a season by a tight end, chalking up an efficient 726 in 1967, when the leagues were still operating within a 14-game schedule. The Notre Damer also holds the distinction of being the last Bills tight end to receive a post-season accolade, being voted to the AFL All-Star game after the 1966 season.

Paul Costa hurdling a helpless Houston
defender, 1965

Since then … well, uninspiring might best describe the team’s performance at the position. Aside from Metzelaars, who enjoyed a ten-year career with the Bills that included four Super Bowl appearances, a handful of others have performed decently at the end of the line. Reuben Gant, Keith McKeller (the man for whom the famed K-Gun was named), Jay Riemersma and Scott Chandler each put in a solid year or two, but all failed to attain a level of performance that could be remotely considered elite.    

Until now?  Hopefully. Knox has shown flashes of brilliance over his first two years in the league but was prone to an off-putting propensity for dropping the easy ones. As a rookie in 2019, the Mississippi product was considered by many to be the answer to the Bills’ tight end conundrum, but a sophomore lull led to some in Bills Country to beseech the team to go out and select a hot college prospect or sign a big-name free agent. 

Dawson Knox bowls over Cincinnati defensive back Jessie Bates in 
Buffalo's 21-17 win over the Bengals, September 22, 2019.

The Bills coaching staff and, perhaps more importantly, quarterback Josh Allen never lost faith in the six-foot, four-inch, 254-pounder, and Knox was the unquestioned first stringer going into the 2021 season. Thus far, Knox has played like the tight end the team and its fan have been coveting since the mid-1960s. A man who can make clutch catches, be that reliable third-down option, and provide another deep threat for opposing defenses to stop. 

Knox’ breakout performance on the nationally televised Sunday Night Football, in which he out-shone future Hall-of-Famer Travis Kelce, had Monday morning pundits standing up and taking notice.  In the Bills convincing 38-20 upset win, Knox connected with QB Josh Allen on three catches good for 117 yards (a 39.0 average) and a 53-yard touchdown strike. Through the first five-game of 2021, Knox has 18 catches for 261 yards (a 14.5 average) and five touchdowns. If he can maintain this pace, he could end the season with 61 receptions for 887 yards and 17 scores, which would set new standards in all three categories. That just might be good enough to give the Bills their first Pro Bowl tight end in five-and-a-half decades!      

Warlick and Costa’s best single-season performances:

Paul Costa

1966: 27 receptions, 400 yds (14.8 ave).  Selected to the AFL All-Star Game.
1967: 39 receptions, 726 yds (18.6 ave)

Ernie Warlick
1962: 35 receptions, 482 yds (13.8 ave).  Selected to the AFL All-Star Game.
1963: 24 receptions, 479 yds (20.0 ave).  Selected to the AFL All-Star Game.
1964: 23 receptions, 478 yds. (20.8 ave).  Selected to the AFL All-Star Game.

Bills best tight end performances since the merger:

Ruben Gant

1977:  41 catches, 646 yds (15.8 ave)

Pete Metzelaars

1986: 49 receptions, 485 yds (9.9 ave)
1988: 33 receptions, 438 yds (13.3 ave)

Keith McKeller
1989: 20 catches, 341 yds (17.1 ave)

Jay Riemersma
2001: 53 receptions, 590 yds (11.1 ave)       

Scott Chandler
2012: 43 receptions, 571 yds (13.3 ave)
2013: 53 receptions, 655 yds (12.4 ave)

Charles Clay

2016: 57 receptions, 552 yds (9.7 ave)


Not a very impressive list.

 
The Bills’ top six season per-catch averages among tight ends, all-time (minimum 20 catches):

1.       Ernie Warlick, 1964 (20.8)

2.       Ernie Warlick, 1963 (20.0)

3.       Paul Costa, 1967 (18.6)

4.       Keith McKeller, 1989 (17.1)

5.       Reuben Gant, 1977 (15.8)

6.       Paul Costa, 1966 (14.8)

The Bills’ top six season yardage leaders among tight ends

1.       Paul Costa, 1967 (726)*

2.       Scott Chandler, 2013 (655)

3.       Reuben Gant, 1977 (646)*

4.       Jay Riemersma, 2001 (590)

5.       Scott Chandler, 2012 (571)

6.       Charles Clay, 2016 (552)

*14 game schedule.

Rob Burnett—One Tough Dude

By John Turney 
Rob Burnett fell to the fifth round in the 1990 NFL draft due to a disappointing senior season. As a sophomore he was dynamite. That year, 1987, he totaled 43 tackles and 11 sacks (including 4 on Halloween against Pitt) and honorable mention All-American honors and was Second-team All-Conference. Greatness was said to follow.

In 1988 Burnett recorded 63 tackles and 5.5 sacks and those numbers would again earn him honorable mention All-American honors and he was voted First-team All-Conference as well. Then, in 1989, he had that disappointing senior season, he had just 1.5 sacks but made 40 tackles. In his freshman year in 1986, he played in eleven games but recorded no statistics. 

Burnett would finish his Syracuse career with 146 tackles (which ranks 10th all-time at Syracuse), and 18 sacks (which still ranks ninth on the school's all-time list). In addition, he was named a member of the Syracuse All-Century team.
Looking back Burnett, was 6-3½, 245-250 pounds, and ran about a 4.9 forty pounds but said he was resting on his laurels later in his collegiate career. He did his duty, did his workouts, lifted weights but was not serious about it, and did not hit it hard. He grew, got somewhat stronger but not as he could have and his play leveled off.

So, rather than being a second-round pick in the draft, as he figured he was a mid-rounder. Some of it was unfounded rumors Burnett thought, coaches who had benched him for a few games talking to scouts that also caused the drop.

Burnett didn't light the NFL on fire as a rookie but he and fellow rookie Anthony Pleasant (a third-round pick) ended the seasons as starters but were just okay, but showing improvement
The Bud Carson (Browns head coach) defensive scheme was an up-the-field 4-3 where the linemen played the run on the way to the quarterback—the kind of scheme the Steelers and Rams enjoyed when he ran their defenses in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was fun for ends like Pleasant and Burnett to play that way just "pin their ears back and go". Had there been more success that year Burnett may have had an entirely different career in the NFL. 

It was in 1991 Burnett became truly committed to football—that he learned to truly love it and it was Bill Belichick that ignited that fire. 

Belichick had been hired by the Browns and he ran a tough football camp. "He put us through a training camp that was like no others I have ever seen". It made me ask how much I wanted to play football, how much I wanted to sacrifice to play for the Browns. You want to talk physical, that was physical". 

Belichick was famous for a 3-4 defense the Giants used that brought two Super Bowl wins to New York but with the Browns, he used a 4-3 but it kept many of the same principles of the 3-4 scheme. "He still wanted pressure but he wanted his defensive lineman to play the run and play smart—it was a real adjustment".

In his mind, Burnett wondered if he would even make the 1991 Browns roster. Nick Saban, the Browns defensive coordinator said, "I don't know if he was in danger of not making the team but there was a question of whether or not he was the kind of player we could win with in our scheme. Rob has always had some ability but had some difficulty in our scheme when we first started because he was a one-gap type of player, both he and Anthony (Pleasant). 

Burnett had to also hit the weights, gain some weight, get stronger, getting up to 280 or so pounds. After that work was done Saban said, "Now they are not one-dimensional guys—they can play with power to dome degree and that helps them with the pass rush because the tackles have to set on them a little differently".

In 1992 and 1993 the Belichick/Saban-coached Browns defense improved (third-fewest rushing touchdowns, sixth-fewest rushing yards, the fifth-lowest yards per rush while also the third-most sacks and Burnett had 9.0 sacks both seasons. 

In 1993 he was an end in the base defense but with the development of rookie Dan Footman playing more and more Burnett began playing left tackle in nickel, something that would be a theme going forward in his career, and Footman would play left end.  

By 1994 he was a Pro Bowl alternate and replaced Bruce Smith in the game. He was also named All-Pro by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News who wrote, "Burnett was the dominating player on the NFL's stingiest defense (league-low 204 points allowed). He had a team-leading 10 sacks and led Cleveland's down linemen in tackles."
Though generally a power player, Burnett had good quickness and 
could swim a blocker and make a tackle in the backfield
The '94 Browns made the playoffs that season and the defense was on par with 1992-93 in terms of the "numbers". But, in 1995 the Browns announced they were moving to Baltimore and the wheels came off the club.

Later Burnett recounted that "Fans were going nuts. Sponsored pulled out of the stadium. They blacked out signs. They booed us. We got death threats. Everything possible that could possibly distract a team was done." A 1994 playoff team went 5-11 in 1995 and they were off to Baltimore. 
Burnett suffered a setback in 1996 with a knee injury and missed ten games but he returned in 1997 and under Marvin Lewis, the Raven defense got better and better every year and Burnett was the cornerstone on the line playing in front of Ray Lewis and opposite Mike McCrary and next to excellent run-stuffing tackles. 
Burnett, at left end, two-gapping and allowing Ray Lewis to go untouched and make a tackle

Marvin Lewis was very creative as the Raven coordinator, using all sorts of the popular schemes and gimmicks of the time. You could see Burnett dropping into coverage when the Ravens would zone blitz. When the Ravens used the Bear front of the 46 defense Burnett would play over the nose and in nickel, he'd usually play the right three-technique with Peter Boulware the Sam 'backer played left defensive end in Burnett's spot. Also, when the Ravens used a 33 nickel Burnett was again be the zero technique. 

Clearly, Lewis thought Burnett was a mismatch for NFL centers in the 46/Bear and 33 nickel packages. In many ways, Burnett was playing the "Dan Hampton role" in the Raven defense in 1997-99 that Hampton did in 1985-87 forth Chicago Bears.

In 2000 when free-agent defensive tackle Sam Adams was signed he's play the zero-tech in the 46/Bear and Burnett's rule changed a bit. He would play the left three-tech in that front and also in the nickel with, again, Blouware as the left defensive end. 

Six years after Gosselin named Burnett All-Pro, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman picked Burnett for his personal team, writing this, "Here's what Burnett means to the Ravens: He's the only member of their front four who can rush the passer and still stand firm at the point. Which allows the tackles, Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, to slant away from Burnett and toward Michael McCrary, freeing him to rush upfield, a skill at which he excels. It's a terrific scheme, and Burnett, who never takes a play off and can put on a serious pass rush of his own, is the guy who makes it go."

In addition to Zimmerman, Peter King (also Sports Illustrated) and Gordon Forbes (USA Today), Dave Goldberg (AP), and Mike Sando (Tacoma News Tribune) named him to their personal All-Pro teams, and those made up more than half the votes he got for the AP All-Pro team, and it was enough for him to make Second-team.  

That year the Ravens had one of the best defenses in NFL history and won the Super Bowl simply crushing NFL-caliber offenses every week and allowing just 165 points, 970 yards rushing, a 2.7 yards per rush average, five rushing touchdowns, and took the ball away 49 times—all tops in the NFL that season. 

It was the middle season of a three-year run that was one of the top run-stopping teams of all-time—from 1999-01 the Ravens allowed just 75.3 rushing yards a game and 21 rushing touchdowns and a 3,1 yards per carry average—all NFL bests and also they allowed an NFL-fewest 707 points over that three-year span.
After the 2001 season Burnett, along with several Ravens was a cap casualty. He was making a lot of money and getting long in the tooth. The Ravens had to reload and could play 35-year old defensive linemen a ton of cash. So, in the off-season, he signed with the Dolphins after seriously considered signing with the Patriots but the money was better in South Florida since they offered a two-year $2 million with some incentives and it was reported that the Patriots were offering a one-year deal around the veteran minimum which was around $750,000 at the time. 

Burnett spoke of his closeness to Belichick and what that relationship meant to Burnett's career but it was a matter of making the best business decision at that point. When the Dolphins played the Patriots in October that season Burnett told the media "I have nothing but love for Bill. If I hadn't have come here I'd be there right now".

Sidebar—
Anthony Pleasant, Burnett's partner in crime at defensive end in Cleveland did play for Belichick again. In New York in 1998-99 and with the Patriots in 2001-03 so had Burnett chosen the Patriots they would have been reunited with the coach who changed their style of play and making them more valuable than they might have otherwise. 
Sidebar over

With the Dolphins Burnett was a nickel rusher for the two seasons he was there. The Dolphins had Jason Taylor and Adewale Ogunleye at the ends and two very large tackles in their base four-man line—Tim Bowens and Larry Chester who were both listed at 325 and were great run stuffers, but could not rush the passer a lick. So, Burnett would play left tackle and Jay Williams would play right tackle in between Taylor and Ogunleye in likely passing situations. 

Burnett, in his prime, a 6-3 280-pound strongman would be a player today in a system that had some two-gapping or gap-and-half in it. No team plays pure two-gap all the time anymore, but there are still some elements of it that remain. Burnett's strength would always be an asset in a system that utilized those elements and he had did have good quickness, he was more than just a power guy.

He wouldn't have the speed to excel on the edge in passing situations but as an inside rusher, he'd do very well in our view.  We think his role would be similar to that of a Justin Smith when he was a 49er or a Calais Campbell when he was a Jaguar—NOT as a body-type comparison but as a role comparable. Another comparable might be Trey Flowers excelled in Belichick's system in New England and who got paid big-time by the Lions in 2019, but, we might suggest that Burnett would be superior to Flowers in terms of strength and pass-rush skills.

After his career Burnett was a businessman, getting into car dealerships, nightclubs, and as well as other commercial real estate ventures, and is very successful in those fields. He also tried his hand as a Ravens radio commentator for WBAL-AM for the 2006-2009 seasons.

Burnett was a tough guy, a strong guy with enough quicks to be a good edge rusher but his ability to sink to three-technique and even nose-up on a center in Marvin Lewis' version of the 46/Bear made him special. Additionally, he was a great kick blocker—knocking down five field goals and three PATs in his career to make our list as one of the better players at that in league history so he had value in special teams as well. 

Rob Burnett—one tough dude.

Career stats—

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Davante Adams Rates a 10 in Victory in Cincinnati

 By Eric Goska

Davante Adams hauls in his 10th reception, a 59-yarder,
against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
(screenshot from NFL Game Pass)

Davante Adams travels well.

It’s too bad some of his teammates can’t say the say same or Green Bay may not have needed an extra period to shake the pesky Bengals.

Adams, the Packers supremely talented wide receiver, ranks among the best ever at staging mega-catch efforts on the road. His trip to bountiful Sunday helped propel Green Bay past Cincinnati 25-22 in overtime at Paul Brown Stadium.

Adams snagged 11 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown in the nail-biter. All but one of his receptions came on scoring drives.

The lone exception was a 20-yarder that set up a potential game-winning 51-yard field goal that Mason Crosby sent wide left as regulation ended. It was one of three attempts that Crosby botched in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Rewind to 2014 and it’s doubtful anyone envisioned how indispensable Adams would become. Selected 53rd overall that year out of Fresno State, the wideout ranks third behind Donald Driver (743) and Sterling Sharpe (595) in Green Bay history with 588 catches for 7,147 yards and 64 touchdowns.

More than half of that haul has come on the road. Away from Lambeau Field, Adams has caught 329 passes for 3,984 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Driver (380 catches) is the only Packer to have caught more passes on the road.

Adams excels at catching passes in bunches. His effort against the Bengals was the 16th time he has come away with 10 or more receptions in a single game.

Ten of those performances have come on the road which places him among select company. The only other players to have matched or exceeded that feat in NFL history are Julio Jones (11), Jerry Rice (10) and Andre Johnson (10).

Adams’ first career 10-plus road effort came in Atlanta in 2016. There he led all receivers with 12 catches as Green Bay stumbled 33-32.

In the time since, the Packers have been nearly unbeatable when No. 17 comes up that big. Their only other loss was a 27-24 setback in Seattle in 2018 where Adams came away with 10 for 166.

The team has won its last seven road games when Adams latches on to 10 or more passes.

In Cincinnati, Adams stretched the field. He had five catches of 20 or more yards, a career high and the most by a Packers receiver since James Lofton had five on Nov. 27, 1983 in Atlanta.

In Cincinnati, Adams moved the chains. He secured nine first downs, one away from his personal best of 10 that he notched in a 35-20 win in Houston last season.

Adams got to 10 early in the fourth quarter on a deep throw in which he beat safety Jessie Bates III down the field.  Rodgers hit him in stride, and the 59-yard gain set up a 22-yard Crosby field goal that put Green Bay ahead 22-14.

Adams’ big road outing is his second in a row. He grabbed 12 passes for 132 yards and a score in Green Bay’s 30-28 win over the 49ers in Santa Clara on Sept. 26.

That’s back-to-back road games with 10 or more receptions. Only Adams (in 2020) and Don Hutson (in 1942) have accomplished that feat in Packers history.

Boosted by these massive hauls, Adams has 42 receptions through five games. It’s the fastest start ever by a Packer, or five more than Adams (37) had in 2018 when he established the previous best opening to a season.

Rating a 10
NFL players with the most regular-season road games in which they caught 10 or more passes.
 
    No.               Player                   Record        Years
      11                  Julio Jones                 5-6             2011-2021
      10                 Jerry Rice                    5-5             1985-2004
      10                 Andre Johnson          4-6             2003-2016
      10                 Davante Adams         8-2             2014-2021
       9                  Wes Welker                6-3             2004-2015
       9                  Calvin Johnson          2-7             2007-2015
       9                  Tony Gonzalez           2-7             1997-2013
       9                  Antonio Brown          5-4             2010-2021

Numbers obtained through a search utilizing Stathead at Pro Football Reference

J.J. Watt—100-100 Club

 By John Turney

Several years ago PFJ's Nick Webster began tallying run/pass stuffs—plays made behind the line of scrimmage excluding sacks. He accounts for tackles for loss, run or pass, in the same way sacks are totaled so it is cleaner than the NFL's "TFL" stat and more inclusive than Stats, LLC's "Run stuffs" sun it includes pass plays, like a screen that result in the loss for the offense. 

Earlier today J.J. Watt passes the 100 run/pass stuff mark with two stuffs, taking his career total to 100.5. He hit the century mark in sacks last year.

According to Webster's research Watt is bow the third player to have 100 or over in both run/pass stuffs and sacks—The others being Bruce Smith (200 sacks 118.5 stuffs) and Deacon Jones (173.5 sacks and a total of at least 100 stuffs). For Jones, we say "at least" because we know he has over 100, but we do not have a final total as of right now. It is somewhere around 110 but could go higher as more film is watced.

Career stats as of today—

Saturday, October 9, 2021

William Fuller—The Fuller Rush Man

 By John Turney 
Former North Carolina defensive tackle William Fuller was a defensive lineman for the Tar Heels from 1980 to 1983. He was a consensus All-America as a senior and totaled 81 tackles and led the team with five sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. He also earned First-team All-America honors as a junior and is one of only seven Tar Heel players to be named First-team All-America twice. He is one of only three defensive linemen ever to make the All-ACC team three times. Tar Heels defensive MVP and received a Japan Bowl invitation.
Fuller had 22 tackles for losses in both 1981 and 1983. He still holds the UNC career record for tackles for losses with 57 and ranks sixth with 20 sacks. He also forced four fumbles and recovered three; broke up nine passes and made 157 career tackles.

He was voted to the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame class in 2016. He had been inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame twelve years earlier. Two years before that he was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th Anniversary Football Team. He had a boatload of honors.

Fuller was selected by the Philadelphia Stars in the 1984 USFL Territorial Draft and signed with the Stars for four years and $1.6 million. In the Summer he was also drafted in the NFL supplemental draft of players in other leagues (USFL and CFL) by the Los Angeles Rams.

Coming out of school he was 6-3, 250 or so pounds, and had a 4.8-4.9 forty time—good, but not elite. But he had a solid build and good quickness and strength. Had he not signed with the USFL he would have been a first-round pick for someone. 

With the Stars, he was part of two USFL championships and was a starter both years, but missed five games in 1984 with a broken foot. In 1985 he made the All-USFL team and had 8.5 sacks. 
With the USFL folding in after the 1985 season those drafted in that supplemental draft of 1984 had their NFL rights assigned to the club that drafted them meaning the Rams held Fuller's rights. Rams coach John Robinson expressed interest in Fuller and the feeling was mutual. Fuller was anxious to play football again "I've been out of football for a year" and said to the media "The Rams are a great team and if I had my way I'd have been in Los Angeles at the beginning of training camp.

In mid-August, there were reports that Fuller was going to sign with the Rams but the deal didn't happen but in mid-September Fuller signed a contract for about $300,000 for a two-year deal. He passes a physical, had his publicity photo taken, and was assigned number 95, and was set to be activated two weeks later. During workouts Robinson said he's "very quick and appears to be somewhat sophisticated in his pass-rushing techniques. He looks like he could help us as an outside rusher. He looks like he could be a fine player".

As it turned out Fuller was signed to give the Oilers an extra player for the Rams to offer in acquiring Jim Everett. Unbeknownst to John Robinson Rams team president John Shaw gave the Oilers permission to allow Fuller to workout with them. 

A few days after signing was traded to the Oilers as part of a package the acquired Jim Everett and he became an Oiler. The Oilers got Fuller, Kent Hill, two first-round picks, and a fifth-round pick for Everett—quite a haul. Fuller, all along was trade bait. 

His first two years as an Oiler Fuller (now around 275 pounds) played right end in nickel situations. The Oilers were a base 3-4 team but used a four-man line in pass-rush situations and that is what his role was—get after the passer. He showed flashes but he was not getting to the quarterback—warning track power (lots of deep flies but few homers).

In 1988 he was the starting right end in the 3-4 base but moved to left end in nickel. Left end Ray Childress moved inside, to tackle in those situations. He started to produce as an NFL player and did for the next eight seasons averaged 10 sacks a year from 1988 through 1996.

In 1989 Fuller began the year (2 starts) and ended the year (2 starts) and left end. Starting nose tackle Doug Smith missed the first few games so Ray Childress filled in there and Fuller took Childress' spot. Then at the end of the season, Childress was injured so Fuller stepped in again. Fuller also started five games at right end and in the other games was the designated rusher. 

The following season the Oilers switched to the 4-3 and Fuller moved to left end permanently and Childress played left tackle. This alignment and position likely led to Fuller's greatest success, From 1990 through 1997 he was a top-flight left end. There were some times when he sunk to defensive tackle when the Oilers employed the 46 defense, which nearly every team tinkered with after the Bears had such success with it and the Oilers were no exception. 

In 1991 Fuller had 15 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl and he was also named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week 16 of that season. He was also named the AFC Defensive Lineman of the Year and his sack total led the AFC and tied for second in the NFL. His number fell some in 1992 but his play didn't—it was not any kind of "off" year even though his sack total wasn't close to his 1991 production. 

In 1993 the Oilers got the architect of the 46 defense and the Oilers ran it a lot. The defensive staff got the boot after the Bills great comeback in the 1992 Playoffs so Buddy Ryan became the defensive coordinator and the defense surged.

The 1990-92 Oiler defenses were excellent, third-fewest points allowed, third-most sacks, fourth in rushing defense, fifth in interceptions, and fourth-best in total defense. They also tied for the fourth-best record in the NFL but the playoff fold in 1992 was too much for the Oilers brass to keep Jim Eddy and his staff around. So in came Buddy Ryan.

Ryan took the Oilers to first in run defense, first in picks, and fourth in points allowed, and first in sacks—Ryan certainly took the defense to the next level. 

When the Oilers were in the 46 played the weakside end—the Richard Dent position and in the 4-3 base and nickel he remained at left end. He finished with 10 sacks and he batted away nine passes. In Week 13 Fuller snagged his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week Award.

Fuller was perfectly set up for free agency. He had put together four excellent seasons and had a great season in his "contract" year. He would be getting a significant raise from his 1993 salary of $1.25 million.  The Oilers themselves, initially, him $2.5 million for 1994 alone. 

In 1994 he signed with the Eagles after a tour meeting with several NFL teams including Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Washington. He was Charlie Casserly said he was an excellent player, not "an angular player" but still an "effective rusher". Angular means tall and lean like maybe a Jevon Kearse. Fuller was shorter, stockier. Not sure was Casserly would call that. The media seemed to think Fuller would sign with Washington, being born in Norfolk, Virginia, and growing up in the Chesapeake area attending Indian River High School where he was a three-sport letterman, graduating in 1980. 

Near the end of his tour of teams, the Oilers upped their offer to a three-year $7.8 million dollar deal that Fuller considered but finally rejected for the Eagles three-year $8.5 million offer.

The Eagles were hoping to make a move in 1994 but it turned out to be a disappointment and head coach Rich Kotite lost his job after the season and was replaced by Ray Rhodes, who kept Emmitt Thomas as the defensive coordinator and kept the same up-the-field type 4-3 scheme that Fuller (now around 284 pounds) and his linemate Andy Harmon excelled in. 

The Eagles, under Rhodes, went to the playoffs in 1995 and 1996 and even won a Wildcard game against the Lions in 1995. It was a good defense, though not great and Fuller was the best player on the defense those three seasons. 

With the Eagles, Fuller played his best football in terms of the "numbers". Those three years he averaged 43 tackles, 6.5 stuffs, 12 sacks and four forced fumbles and he also made the Pro Bowl all three years. His 35.5 sacks over that three-year period led all NFL defensive ends despite having a nagging hamstring injury in the middle of the 1995 season. In Week 17 Fuller got his third Player of the Week award for his career, his only one in the NFC.
After his contract expired after the 1996 season Fuller and the Eagles tried to come to an agreement but it dragged on. The Eagles were also interested in Neil Smith who was also a free agent and making the rounds. Reportedly Smith was down to the Broncos (where he signed) and the Eagles. 

Ultimately, in early April, the Eagles offered Fuller a one-year deal for $3 million. Fuller wanted a two-year deal and took an offer from the Chargers that totaled $4.4 million over two seasons with $2 million upfront.

After the loss of Fuller,  Ray Rhodes said he wanted Fuller back, "I don't want to sit here and tell you I didn't want William on this football team because I did. he added, "I think it was a pride thing for him, he wanted a two-year deal ad we thought our offer was fair."
However, those final two seasons were not good ones for the Fuller Rush Man. He was still stout versus the run but in 1997 he was slowed by a quad injury and was not getting to the quarterback (3 sacks). He actually was replaced on passing downs the last half of that season (and the next season as well). He looked larger in San Diego, but we've not seen any actual weight listings, but he looks closer to 300 pounds than 285. 

Even he knew he was not up to par. Fuller said, "If I don't start playing better no one is going to take me next year".

He did get invited back to the Chargers and he again struggled through the season. He had a calf injury midseason and missed a few games and for the second straight year ended with 3 sacks. Those three took him to 100.5, so he made the "Century Club" for sacks.

The Chargers were excellent versus the run, being number one in the NFL in yards allowed rushing and lowest rushing average and as a unit recorded 41 sacks, up from the 27 (an NFL-Low) in 1997 so Fuller was a big part of that, again playing mostly run downs. 

Fuller would start, play in the base defense but in nickel right end Marco Coleman would move over to left end in place of Fuller and Raylee Johnson would play right end in Coleman's base position. 

So, he was Fuller Run-Stop Man while a Charger. 

Apparently, that was enough to interest the Baltimore Ravens because they offered him $3 million for a one-year deal in 1999. Fuller decided to retire instead citing that he was ready to spend more time with his family and that the Ravens were in rebuilding mode and he'd had enough losing with the Chargers. 

The Ravens won the Super Bowl a year later. The rebuilding was quicker, perhaps, than Fuller expected. 

At 6-3, 251-284 (depending on what year) today Fuller would be a solid player, in his prime he had good base, was able to stop the run with good leverage. His speed would be questioned (4.8-4.9 forty) but his get-off was good, had good quickness and excellent strength. 

Some coaches now might be tempted to play him at three-technique to take advantage of his squatter physique and short-area quickness to beat guards. His skill set would be a good fit, in our view.

In watching he was were a slap-and-rip-type rusher. He would slap the shoulder of a blocker, dip, and get under a tackle with a "rip" and could hold his rush arc while being pushed out by the blocker. As a counter to that, he'd use an inside club move. He'd also spin inside once in a whole. He had okay speed, but not enough to consistently get the corner.

He also was alert, got his hands up, and as a result blocked 57 passes which would be a good asset today with as many short passes are thrown in the modern game. 

In addition to end in a 40 scheme or a three-tech, he'd also make a fine 5-tech in a 30 scheme. He did that in Houston and did well in the base and today would be no different though the way 3-man fronts as changed, they no longer two-gap like they did back in the day and he'd need to play at his higher weights (285-290) but he'd be effective.  

After his career, he has been involved in all sorts of community work and has always been active in defeating juvenile diabetes most of his adult life and continuing what he began during his career in supporting Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House, and the Boys' Clubs of America among other things.

Yes, he's another of the NFL's great guys with a very good career.

Career stats—