Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Justin Reid—Is He the Only One?

By John Turney

Yesterday CBS Sports Tweeted stating that Justin Reid "(I)s the only player in the last 30 years to do all of the following—score a touchdown, make an extra point, pick off multiple passes, force multiple fumbles, recover multiple fumbles, and record multiple sacks with the caveat that forced fumbles "first tracked in 1991."

And while that is accurate it is a little bit unfair to Jeff Heath who did all those things except that he had only one sack rather than two. 

Reid's accomplishment does raise this issue:  Did anyone do this prior to 1991? 

As CBS Sports mentioned the statistic of forced fumbles went back to 1991 but beginning in 1976 official gamebooks (also called play-by-plays) began listing forced fumbles and before that, the text of a gamebook often indicated if a forced fumble occurred and who caused it. 

We mention that because if play-by-plays are satisfactory evidence and if video evidence is as well then there are others who have done the same thing as Reid as long as the exact words used in the Tweet are adhered to. It is possible it means players who KICKED a PAT but it  reads, "make an extra point." 

Obviously one can score an extra point without kicking it, like on a botched snap like Dick Butkus did in 1971. After a dash for a botched snap holder, Bobby Douglasspicked up the free ball and found an open Butkus in the end zone and hit him for a game-winning PAT. 
Credit for still:  NFL Films
So if that counts, and it does, considering the verbiage CBS Sports used, then it opens up the list and includes Butkus because the Bears, in their 1972 Media Guide, credited him with three forced fumbles in 1971. If they had kept records before that who knows how many he would have, thirty? Fifty?

If the threshold were one sack, rather than two, Heath would qualify. And Hall of Famer Roger Werhri would, too. Another Hall of Famer, Packer safety, Willie Wood might as well but we've not seen film of him forcing fumbles but he had to have. Brig Owens also might qualify and possibly Wendell Harris as well. 

But the criteria is two or more sacks so we'll go with that.

Andy Russell, Steve Zabel, John Anderson, and Nolan Cromwell meet all the criteria. Play-by-plays are clear about them each forcing two or more fumbles in their career. Two of Russell's forced fumbles came in 1974, two years before they were officially part of the tackle charts included in the play-by-plays. Russell returned some kicks and blocked a punt in his career as well. 

Zabel and Anderson kicked the extra points (Zabel also kicked a field goal something Reid has yet to do) and Cromwell ran one in as a holder and Russell had the ball lateraled to him from the holder Dick Hoak who thought he couldn't get the ball placed in time. Baker's extra point was much like Butkus's, he caught a pass after a bad snap and the holder was able to get the throw off.

Then there are players who a matter of course likely qualify. They are players who played defense a long time and the odds are they forced at least a couple of fumbles in their careers. Lou Michaels, Wayne Walker, Jim Houston, Bob Gain, and Ralph Baker are in that group. 

Michaels and Walker were regular kickers so they would have kicked their PATs and given they had so many sacks, 47 and 38½ respectively. It would be highly unlikely they didn't force some fumbles. 
Lou Michaels
Bob Gain played most of his career in the 1950s when the sack data is incomplete but he had 14 in the 1960s and we'd surmise that he forced the ball out of a quarterback or running back's hands. Ralph Baker played eleven seasons so again, the odds are very high that he, too, caused some fumbles.

None of this takes anything from Reid—it just lets folks know that at least four others have done the same and five more almost certainly did. And if the sacks, rather than being arbitrarily set at two were set at one two more would make the cut and possibly three more after that.

None of this takes anything from Reid—it just lets football fans know that even with a rare feat, like Reid’s, it goes to show the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1:9 is fair commentary, "There is nothing new under the sun." If it happens today it probably happened before if someone looks hard enough. 

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