The National Football League did not have an “official” ball until its sixth season. Apparently, it wasn’t a priority. The league adopted its first official game ball at the league meeting held August 1-2, 1925, at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. The balls used at the dawn of the American Professional Football Association (as the NFL was known in 1920 and 1921) were typically the model used in the college game, adopted in 1912. This ball had a circumference on the long axis from 28 to 28 ½ inches when tightly inflated, 22 ½ to 23 inches on the short axis, and weighed 14 to 15 ounces. Referred to as a “prolate spheroid,” the ball was difficult to grip with one hand, making it hard for players with smaller hands to execute a credible forward pass. In truth, the ball more closely resembled a watermelon than the football used today.
During the two-day league meeting in the summer of 1925, the owners gave both Wilson and Spalding the opportunity to present their cases to become the ball supplier of the National Football League. Mr. Wyle of the A.G. Spalding Company presented their ball on August 1. This was the J5 model, which he advised would cost the league $6.75 per unit in lots of 20 dozen or more. These balls would bear a league stamp. Mr. Whitlock of the Wilson Company gave his pitch the next day. The Wilson A5 ball could be provided at a cost of $7.25 each. These footballs came with a new feature—guaranteed shape. As an added incentive, Wilson offered to provide a trophy to the league champions at the end of the season.
After some deliberation, the owners voted to go with Spalding, and the J5 model became the league’s official ball on August 2, 1925.
Though the National Football League did not adopt the ball with dimensions approximating those today’s players and fans recognize (28 to 28 ½ x 21 to 21 1/4) until 1934, this action demonstrates that the league’s founders were always looking toward the future and ways to improve their game.
The Thomas E. Wilson Company took over as the official supplier of NFL game balls in 1941.
During the talk, Giddings said, "Joe’s gotta be going nuts." adding, "You got an untenable situation at quarterback. And we need a quarterback. This is a damn good Denver team and Ralson's going to get fired if we don’t get a quarterback."
So, Ward and Giddings began to hammer out a trade for Namath.
Ward said the Jets needed a receiver badly and the only one they'd take was Haven Moses. Denver had Rick Upchurch and Jack Dolbin so Giddings figured that Ralston would agree to that, at the time both were thought to have upsides. Ward added that the Broncos would probably have to throw in a third-round pick.
Giddings got back to Ward the same day, "After the game, I got him before they got on a plane. I said, “Okay. You got it, except you pay half Joe’s salary You pay 225 and throw in a fourth".
Ward tells him, "Done deal".
"Can I take it to John (Ralston)?
Giddings continues, "So, I take it to John. Namath’s coming to Denver, and the only people that know are John and me. However, one other person got involved, Max Coley."
Coley told Ralston that he knew Ramsey was better than Namath.
What followed was a good year for the Broncos, their best ever to that point, but one with filled strife.
In the game that essentially knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs, their fifth loss of the season was against the Patriots in late November. The Patriots rolled over the Broncos 38-14 and Ramsey was awful. He was 11/28 for 124 yards and threw three picks and was sacked nine times. Ramsey just wouldn't get the ball off and when he did it was nowhere near the target.
Giddings explained the situation further, "Alzado spent the year on injured reserve, they'd moved him to nose tackle and he got hurt (one of his scouting axioms is 'don't move blues') but he still traveled with the team, they let them do that in those days and Lyle was a leader on that team. Anyway, in the fourth quarter, Alzado comes by and he says, 'I told you. I told you we had to have a quarterback, goddamn you Giddings, why didn’t you get us a quarterback?'"
After the game, the Broncos are traveling to Providence to catch a plane since there was a storm and they couldn't fly out of Boston. Giddings recalls, "We know it’s over (playoff hopes), but we didn’t think that it would be over the way it ended up (in a blowout loss) and Lyle comes up and he taps me and says, 'Hey, Mike. I’m sorry. We know you had a deal for Namath. Thanks for trying'. And how he knew, I don’t know."
The Broncos won their final two games to end the season 9-5 but the players had a revolt against Ralston, the so-called Dirty Dozen who wrote a letter to the team ownership demanding changes they got them. The positive-thinking coach lost his job and became an instructor at the Dale Carnegie Institute in Denver in 1977 and resumed coaching as an offensive coordinator with the Eagles in 1978.
Namath had a terrible year in New York, worse than Ramsey's in Denver. And like Ralston, Holtz lost his job.
The next year Namath finally ended up in Los Angeles where he wanted to be and didn't do well. The Broncos found another strong-armed quarterback with knees that were not great but not nearly as bad as Namath's named Craig Morton and Haven Moses was part of the beginning of a new era of winning football in Denver.
All's well that ends well. Namath would have been better in Denver than with the 1976 Jets and it could have saved Ralston's job. For a time. But hazarding a guess it could have been just enough to keep Denver in the throws of mediocrity for another year or two.
Ralston's replacement. Red Miller was what was needed.