Saturday, July 29, 2023

RIP Mike Giddings—An NFL Pioneer

By John Turney 
Born November 16, 1933, Michael Roy Giddings passed away Thursday, July 27th due to complications from a stroke. He was 89.

He is survived by three children: daughters Vicki McMenomy, Jacqui Celsi and son Mike Giddings.

Giddings was a pioneer of pro personnel, NFL independent scouting and analytics/Moneyball. Giddings invented (and copyrighted) a scouting color code system (Blue-Red-Purple-etc.) that many NFL teams use and that made such a difference within pro football circles that NFL analyst Charles Davis once told a group of scouts "This man created the language we all use." 

The language Davis was referring to was terminology such as shutdown corner, off-ball linebacker, edge rusher and designated pass rusher (later nickel rusher) among other terms used in Proscout binders in the eighties and nineties and beyond.

He is best known for founding Proscout, Inc., in 1977, a pro player evaluation service serving NFL teams that is still in operation, now owned by his son. 

From its inception, in addition to providing an "extra set of eyes" to scout NFL players for subscribing teams, Proscout provided an annual Research and Development book -- a binder filled with trends, analysis and statistical breakdowns not available from official statistical outlets. It was a giant leap forward in NFL analytics.

"He's just so damn bright", Hall-of-Fame general manager Jim Finks told Paul Zimmerman in 1982 when commenting on Giddings adding, "and he's almost always right on the money."

Proscout was devised to help teams with their rosters but it also came to help some players after they retired. Grades were always confidential to subscribing teams but once a player is out of the NFL for a significant amount of time with no possibility of coming back Giddings would share them with Hall-of-Fame voters who had a player who was Hall-worthy but may not have garnered as many Pro Bowls as some more well-known players who played the same position. 

For the past twenty-five or so years the name "Proscout" and "Mike Giddings" have come up regularly by voters presenting a player's case. It's a sign of the level of credibility and respect that Giddings established in his profession in a nearly 45-year career of scouting and analytics.

A year prior to starting Proscout, in 1976, Giddings became the NFL's first director of pro personnel with the Denver Broncos, focusing on NFL players -- not scouting collegiate players.

In football his entire adult life, Giddings coached at every level—high school, junior college, college, and the NFL. He was a head coach in the collegiate ranks and professionally. 

He received wide national publicity in 1982 when Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman did a feature on him and his company and the impact he was having on the NFL and advising the NFL movers and shakers like George Halas, Paul Brown, Jim Finks, Bud Grant and others.

Scouting and evaluation grew from his coaching experiences both as the head man and as an assistant. 

He was the head coach of The Hawaiians in the World Football League in 1974 and '75 and at the University of Utah in 1966 and '67. Being a recruiting was part and parcel of being a college coach but with the Hawaiians, being part of a new league, he had to build a team from scratch and he draw from his time with the San Francisco 49ers when he was the linebackers coach to do that.

It was there that he, in addition to working with his unit Giddings was also tasked by 49ers' coach Dick Nolan to scour the waiver wires and aid the front office in ways to upgrade the team. That duty was the wellspring from which Proscout idea would originate -- upgrading the bottom of a team's roster.

Giddings was with the 49ers from 1968-73 and coached Hall-of-Famer Dave Wilcox to some of his best seasons. He also worked with Matt Hazeltine, Skip Vanderbundt, Frank Nunley and others.

The job as the 49ers' linebacker coach came about because after being fired ("every coach needs to be fired once in a while", Giddings once said) from Utah he had an opportunity to assist Dallas Cowboys' personnel man Gil Brandt with the 1968 Draft. Brandt, pleased with the work, recommended Giddings to Dick Nolan who'd just left Tom Landry's staff to take the 49ers job.

Prior to being named the head coach at Utah he served for five years under John McKay at the University of Southern California where he was the defensive coordinator and helped the Trojans win a National Championship in 1962 -- the school's first since 1939.

He went to USC after a year as the head coach at Glendale College where he led the Vaqueros to a 7-2 record in what was called by the school's president, "one of the finest football seasons in (the school's) history. 

He'd begun his coaching career at Monrovia High School (a Los Angeles suburb), where he led the Wildcats to the CIF finals in 1959.

Giddings took the Monrovia job in 1957 after two years serving in the United States Marine Corps. He'd been commissioned to Second Lieutenant out of college and assigned to Marine Recon in Quantico, Virginia. Giddings remembered "loving recon because it’s right up my alley jumping out of airplanes, coming out of submarines ..."

While serving active duty Giddings also played service football for the Quantico Marines Devil Dogs who were 8-3 in 1955 and after a transfer to Camp Pendelton near San Diego played for that installation's football team while fulfilling his recon duties.

It was at Pendleton, playing for Colonel Joseph W. Stribling that Giddings found his life's work calling him the "best football coach strategically I’ve ever seen, or been with." Giddings told his coach, "Colonel, you’ve made me just fall more in love with this game than I ever have. I now know what I wanna do in life. After I’m a Marine, I wanna be a coach."

Prior to his military service, he played football at the University of California. The 6-2-1/2, 225-pound pulling guard lettered twice under the legendary coach “Pappy” Waldorf. There he was teammates with Hazeltine, Hall-of-Fame center Les Richter, and Jim Hanifan who would become one of the NFL's great offensive line coaches. 

He'd been recruited to Cal and also USC out of South Pasadena High School where he starred in football, baseball and basketball. Tempted to stay home to play college sports he ultimately opted for Berkeley. 

Giddings was originally born and raised in Newport Beach, California he attended Newport Grammar School through the third grade before moving to San Marino and attending South Pas.

During his time running Proscout, he moonlighted as the head coach of Newport Harbor High School from 1982-85. There he led the Sailors to the CIF Southern Section Central Conference semifinals once and the quarterfinals three times.

Growing up in Southern California Giddings spent a lot of time at beaches -- big wave surfing, something he kept up through his adult life. As a young man he excelled in baseball and other sports. He was an avid golfer and would cycle weekly until a stroke felled him earlier this year.

It was a unique and extraordinary life. 

He changed how NFL teams looked at scouting and team building and at how they managed their cap but not overspending on players who were not truly producing or were hitting walls or had alerted Giddings' eyes in some way.

His ideas were original, no one got there first but many followed.

Rest in peace.

THE 1952 DALLAS TEXANS: "It Was a Promising Venture That Ended As a Joke"

By TJ Troup 

Steve Sabol holds up a small reel of film and states that he is holding the sorry history of the Dallas Texans. Harry Kalas then narrates with some superb footage of the lowlights (and a couple of eye-popping offense plays) of the Texans. Telling the saga of the Texans can only come to life if we have sources—accurate sources! 

Thanks to my four friends for all their help in providing me those sources. John Richards and John Turney sending me film, Eric Goska sending me play-by-plays of the two Texans vs. Packers games and finally Nick Webster getting me a copy of Giles Miller's book on his seven-week sojourn as the owner of the Dallas Texans. 

Where to begin is easy; using the same format that was used in "The Birth of the Modern 4-3 Defense" am gonna detail who played where, and how well they actually played their positions. Down the stretch in 1950, the New York Yanks fell apart on defense and fell from first place to 7-5 for the season. 

Jimmy Phelan becomes the head coach in 1951, and the defense is even worse as NYY wins only one game. Giles Miller has high hopes when he purchases the team, and as the title suggests football in Texas is a promising venture, but you have to win and play competitive football. Studying film of the linebackers on this team was so you ask? 

Well, I'll tell ya....not one of the men who played linebacker for the Texans in '52 ever took a snap at linebacker in the NFL after this season. Opening day in the Cotton Bowl the Texans take on the contending New York Giants. 
New York Giants at the Cotton Bowl in front of a sparse crowd.
Having a punishing ground attack the last two years the Texan front seven is gonna get tested. One of the linebackers is #30 ....wait there is no #30 listed in any of the online rosters of the Texans? Real research means you find out who wore #30 and it is Weldon Humble (most of the year he wears #66). 

Humble had played some linebacker for the Browns, and no doubt his experience on a winning team is one of the reasons he started. The other starting linebacker is #33 George Robison. Neither man was able to instinctively fill holes, was able to quickly shed blocks, pursue or tackle well. Robison starts the first four weeks, but he lacks what it takes to play linebacker in the NFL. Humble will play some at linebacker (he is the starting left offensive guard), but as the season progresses Joe Reid, Pat Cannemela, Jankovich, and Keith Flowers are the linebackers. 

Though they give effort, none of these men measure up. Why is the linebacker position so important in 1952 you ask? The other five teams in the National Conference are as follows; though the Packers are fast becoming a passing team, they are adequate at running the ball and have the best running quarterback in the league in Tobin Rote. 

The Bears will not run the ball as well in '52 as they did in '51, but they have a decent o-line, a cave full of runners, and have a history of having a punishing ground game. Buddy Parker has built the Detroit Lion offense into a balanced attack with a strong o-line, and talented runners led by Hunchy. 

The Rams balanced offense has proven they can fill the air with passes, yet a ground attack with Towler (league rushing champion), Tank Younger, and Skeets Quinlan moves the chains all season on the ground. Finally, the 49ers led by Joe Perry have added the best and most elusive runner in years in, if the Dallas Texans are gonna succeed on defense their linebackers better be able to fill holes, pursue and tackle ....and they DON'T! 

Aligned in a basic 5-2-4 most of the time, the d-line for Dallas has size at the tackle position in Campanella, Donovan, and Grigg. None of these men are capable in pursuit (not sure how well they were coached?). By far the best d-tackle is Don Colo, but he battles injury and is in and out of the line-up, but when healthy he is a force to deal with. 

The starting middle guard is Sisto Averno, and he is consistently blocked all year (he also fills in at offensive guard). Rotating in at right defensive end are Sonny Gandee, who wore jersey #83, before he was traded to the Lions for Flowers, then Art Tait (also wearing #83), and getting some snaps there was Keever Jankovich (he plays d-end for '53 Cardinals), but Barney Poole is the nominal starter at right defensive end. 

The starting left defensive end is rookie Gino Marchetti. He has a non-stop motor, exceptional quickness for a big man, and impressive strength. What he lacks is experience and technique, yet anyone can see this man is going to become one helluva ballplayer. We don't know how many sacks he recorded, yet he sure demonstrates on film he can pillage the pass pocket, and pressure the quarterback. Jerry Davis had played corner for the Cardinals, but before his season ended with multiple knee injuries he is the starting right safety for Dallas. 

An adequate and willing tackler, he still can read a quarterback and his interception return for a touchdown against the Rams is textbook. Stan Williams is usually the starting right corner. He does not shy away from contact and hustles all over the field. When Davis is sidelined he moves to right safety at times. The starting left corner is John Petitbon, and he also demonstrates he has a future in the league. A strong tackler when forcing sweeps, he battles receivers all year. 

The starting left safety is Tom Keane. His career as both a player and coach should have gotten him consideration for the "Hall of the Very Good" at the Researchers Association. He had a 100-yard receiving game as a Ram in '48 (plays some at end for the Texans), eventually won the left corner post with the Rams and contributed to the championship in '51. 

Keane is the starting left safety, and will eventually earn a pro bowl berth with the Colts. Tom Keane patrols his area on pass defense with skill, pursues and tackles well, and amazingly records 12 takeaways in the last 10 games of the year. Twice he has a fumble recovery and interception in the same game. Petitbon and Williams also have games where they accomplish this feat. 

The Dallas Texans finish dead last in the defensive passer rating category with a mark of 70.3 (league average is 57.7), so all of these men surrender touchdown catches.....31 to be exact. The Dallas Texans on offense are entertaining, and at times productive. 

When the Giants come to the Cotton Bowl on opening day the starting right offensive end is former pro bowl receiver Dan Edwards. He has three catches against NYG but is injured and his career is over. He is never adequately replaced. Stan Williams starts both ways and has receptions in seven different games. Gene Felker starts at left end the first half of the year but is woefully lacking in the skills necessary to play end in the NFL. 
Gene Felker
Ray Pelfrey joins the team, and the cagey veteran has receptions in the last five games of the year. The only end that actually proves he can contribute to a passing attack is Dick Wilkins. His impressive performance against the Eagles in December is overshadowed by Bud Grant. We see Dallas align in a double tight end full house backfield, we see motion, we see trips sets, we see wing alignments, and on many downs behind in the game, we see the Texans in spread formations. 
Dick Wilkins snags a pass
Dick Hoerner and Zollie Toth both play fullback, and have some strong plays, just not near enough. The most yards Hoerner gained rushing in a game is 39 (he can still catch a pass out of the backfield), and the most yards gained by Toth is in the upset victory over the Bears with 80. 

Billy Baggett eventually gets a chance to carry the ball, and late in the season when Davis is injured he starts at right safety. The youngster has a burst, and as lean as he is he will lower his shoulder and attack a defender. He shines on kick-off returns. 

Bob Celeri is the opening-day starter at quarterback, and he has the arm strength to make every throw, yet he is inconsistent as an accurate passer. There is no inconsistency to his belief in his ability to leave the pocket and run, or roll out and run. Two weeks into the season and he has run 10 times for 80 yards. By far his best game of the year is against Green Bay in the Cotton Bowl. Why Phelan chose to use Chuck Ortmann is a mystery. 

He had the size, arm strength, and motivation to be an NFL quarterback, but he could not hit the ground with his of the most inaccurate passers of this era. He plays three games and is gone. Next up is Hank Lauricella....and though he has some shining moments he also is not the answer. 

Frank Tripucka can fire the ball, and the last six games of the year attempts 174 passes, but Trip also forces passes into coverage....17 interceptions. Buddy Young has at least one catch in eleven games during the year, and is still effective, productive, and just damn entertaining on sweeps. Young also ranks among the league leaders in kick-off returns. 

George Taliaferro starts at halfback, plays spread offensive quarterback/tailback, has a 100-yard receiving game against Green Bay, and fills in at right corner late in the year. He tosses to Young for the first touchdown of the year in September and gains 77 yards receiving against the Lions in December. Taliaferro earns a berth in the Pro Bowl. 
George Taliaferro
The offensive line for Dallas is as follows: left offensive tackle Jim Lansford, and right tackle Ken Jackson are more than adequate, and center Brad Ecklund is a savvy veteran. Humble starts at left guard, and can still pull, and make a trap block. 

Right guard is the MVP of the team—Pro Bowler John Wozniak. He grades out as a high-caliber stud at every facet of offensive line play. This is his last year in the NFL as he journeys north to Canada. One of the plays Dallas ran well was the middle screen, and the O-line was outstanding at making the blocks necessary for Taliaferro and Young to weave their way through opposing defenses. 

Watching the highlights of their upset victory over the Bears we see Dallas make just enough plays to beat a very unmotivated Bear team. Shame on you Papa Bear for starting the second-stringers! 

The game that will be detailed, and is a joy to watch is the game in the Coliseum against the Rams. Los Angeles needs a victory to get to .500 and stay in the race with Green Bay, San Francisco, and Detroit, and explodes to a 35-0 half-time lead. 

Middle of the third quarter and Towler powers over to score to up the lead to 42-0. Waterfield kicks the extra point and Tait of the Texans is ejected for a personal foul of hitting Towler. 

At least some of the Texans still have some fight in them. Dallas begins on their own sixteen-yard line, and Taliaferro runs, passes, and leads his team to the Ram fifteen as he gained nine on a sweep left. He is shaken up, and enters Lauricella, he rolls right and is stopped for a loss of two.

Dallas has used a formation rarely seen in this era—quads right or quads left, with a tight end, three backs aligned as wings and flankers outside of the end, and of course the tailback. 

Quads left second and twelve at the seventeen, and Hank rolls right and throws the classic jump pass into the endzone where Marchetti makes an athletic catch for the score. 
Marchetti's TD reception
When Don Klosterman comes in to play quarterback for the Rams and proceeds to get sacked (one by Poole and Marchetti) and throw errant passes to the Texans the game takes on that ragged yet fun feel of a team that is going to get beat, but will give maximum effort. 

Late fourth quarter, and on second and eight from the Ram thirty-four in a double tight, trips left formation Lauricella fires to Wilkins for a touchdown. Rams 42 Dallas 13 ... and now Klosterman rainbows a pass up the left sideline that Davis pilfers, and away the Weasel goes ... 66 yards for the final score as Barney Poole blocks Klosterman. Lauricella and Taliaferro combined to gain 131 yards rushing on 29 carries (the rest of the team 10 carries for 15 yards). Returning to the title which comes from the Neft & Cohen Encyclopedia

The Dallas Texans' place in history is secure, and entertaining based upon the evaluations by coaches (Red Hickey), and players (Art Donovan). Eleven men from this team will become Baltimore Colts. That is a story for another day.

Another Win for the Good Guys in the Uniform Wars—Eagles' Throwbacks

 By John Turney
Today the Eagles joined the teams that they wore from 1985-1995, roughy the Reggie White, Randall Cunningham era.

Like the majority of the other teams that have released throwbacks they followed a winning template and nailed it. While they were not our favorites (we preferred the 2010 and 2007--yes, those) that is simply a matter of preference.

These are very good and we give them an "A".

Here are some shots—

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Steve McMichael—Has a Shot At Seniors' Committee Finalist List

By John Turney 
It was two weeks ago that Chicago Bears' defensive tackle Steve McMichael was named one of 31 senior semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024, and, yes, that's a big deal. It was the first time ... ever ... McMichael was a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist. Moreover, it means he has a chance to become of three finalists presented to the Hall's board of 50 selectors next January.

However, he first must survive this month's cut to 12, and there are plenty of reasons he should.

The first is that he was consistent and productive in what he was asked to do -- namely, rush the passer -- in one of pro football's greatest defenses. No, he wasn't someone who would produce 15 or 16 sacks a season, like Warren Sapp or John Randle. Few interior rushers can do that. But "Mongo," as he was called, was a guy who was going to get you 8-10 every year.

His career high in sacks was 11-1/2, which is fine. More impressive, though, is that he had seven seasons with eight or more. Is that a lot? Well, it's fewer than Alan Page, John Randle, Aaron Donald and Alex Karras, but more than any other defensive tackle in the Hall or out of it.

Dan Hampton and Randy White had six such seasons. Warren Sapp and Bryant Young each had five. All are enshrined in Canton.

If you could use a sacks-to-home run analogy, McMichael never hit 45 in a season but hit ... oh, call it 25 ... more often, with a high of something more like 34 than 45. If the analogy holds, there are plenty of individuals with far fewer than McMichael.

No analogy is perfect, but the point stands: Year-in-and-year-out, McMichael gave the Bears sustained excellence.

That consistency added up to 95 career sacks, which -- if unofficial sacks dating back to 1960 are included -- is eighth all-time among defensive tackles. If not, then McMichael is fourth among tackles post-1982 when sacks became official, behind only Randle, Aaron Donald and Sapp.

McMichael brought the heat like a Hall-of-Famer.

He used a variety of moves and alternated between power and speed. He was noted for having a "decisive rip" and a "fine spin," but mostly he was a high-motor, desire kind of player who mixed toughness with determination. What else would you expect from a guy who hunted rattlesnakes for fun?

But he was not a one-dimensional player. He couldn't be. Chicago defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan (and, later, Vince Tobin) wouldn't allow it. Nor would his teammates. The Bears' run defense was a brick wall, and that took everyone. One interior lineman couldn't hunt nothing but sacks. All had to play within the structure of a defense designed to keep blockers off linebackers.

Which is where McMichael comes in. 

Chicago's defensive tackles were charged with preventing interior linemen -- a center or guards -- from "jumping through" to the second level and cutting off linebacker pursuit. They were so successful that Hampton said he'd see opponents allow offensive linemen to "jump through" to linebackers more in one game than he and McMichael did in a one-or-two-year span.

Mike Singletary would second that. Having McMichael hold up C-G (center-guard double team) or T-G (tackle guard) blocks was key to the Hall-of-Fame linebacker making tackles. In fact, in the 11 years that McMichael was a starter, the Bears' defense allowed the second-fewest rushing yards and the third-lowest yards per rush -- all while leading the league in sacks.


The consensus All-American out of the University of Texas was a third-round draft pick of the New England Patriots who didn't get off to a blazing start. But there were reasons: He was miscast as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme and admittedly wasn't as committed to the game as he should have been. Then, after a back injury sidelined him as a rookie, he was cut the following August.

That's when fate intervened.

McMichael's former collegiate teammate, defensive tackle Brad Shearer, had hurt a knee and was placed on injured reserve by the Bears. So he recommended McMichael to the front office, and, in 1981, it signed the undersized defensive tackle (245 pounds) as insurance ... with some talk of converting him to center, an idea that never materialized. 

By 1982, McMichael added weight, increased his strength and began to pressure quarterbacks as he gained playing time. When starting defensive tackles Jim Osborne and Dan Hampton were injured the following season, McMichael was ready to step in and responded with  8-1/2 sacks.

From then to the end of his career, he was an elite defensive tackle.

That's not my description. It belongs to Proscout, Inc., an independent scouting form that consults with subscribing NFL teams. It grades players on a color system, with blue the highest ... then red ... then purple ... silver ... orange ... and so on. Mike Giddings Sr. is the company's founder, and he always thought five blue seasons qualified a player for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In eight of McMichael's 15 seasons, he was blue. And in some others, he was high red or red. 

In traditional postseason honors, "Ming the Merciless" (Dan Hampton's nickname for McMichael, a reference to Flash Gordon's arch villain) was first-team All-Pro in 1985 (AP), 1986 (PFWA, TSN) and 1987 (AP, PFWA, TSN) and was second-team All-Pro in 1988 (NEA) and in 1991 (AP).

Critics might question his two Pro Bowl selections, and that's fair. But remember two things: 1) In that era, a majority of teams played 3-4 defenses, and there were only two defensive-tackle slots, not three, on Pro Bowl teams to allow for an extra inside linebacker; and 2), it's also possible there was Bears' fatigue.

When a player or coach (fans did not vote then) filled out ballots, there are just so many from one defense they'll support. The Bears had Singletary, Hampton, Richard Dent, Wilber Marshall, Otis Wilson, Gary Fencik ... even Todd Bell and Dave Duerson ... on one side of the ball, and all were great players. With that cast, someone could be overlooked.

Steve McMichael was that someone.

"He was extremely tough, extremely physical, really quick," former San Francisco guard Randy Cross said of McMichael. "He was like Joe Klecko and then some. Those tackles being able to run that defense from the inside out, were the key. And it started with Steve, Hampton and Singletary. That triumvirate was the perfect mix of personnel and scheme."

"There's no question I think he should be in the Hall of Fame," Hall-of-Famer and former Washington guard Russ Grimm told The Athletic last year. "I’ll tell you this: If I started a football team, Steve McMichael would be one of the first guys I picked."

McMichael was the "character" of the 80's Bears' defense -- every team needs one -- with one newspaper calling him the "loon of loons" because of antics and pranks he later parlayed into a successful professional wrestling career. 

Case in point: The night prior to Super Bowl XX when he set the tone for Chicago's 46-10 demolition of New England, a defeat so extreme that Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman called it a "vision of hell." Before leaving a defensive team meeting that evening, coordinator Buddy Ryan announced that it would be his last game with the Bears. McMichael then stood up and flung a chair at a chalkboard -- striking it with so much force that all four legs punctured the surface. The chair was left hanging, horizontally impaled. 

With that, the meeting concluded, and the defense exited hollering and screaming. That was Steve McMichael.

"I don't use the word 'great' for very many players," said Hall-of-Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure, "but it applies to Steve. All the guys I know talk about him; they say he was a handful. He's so underrated by fans and the media, and he's like (Joe) Klecko ... a great player. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."

As always, there are too senior few slots in Canton for too many qualified players. But Steve McMichael's case is stronger than most. He has sacks, All-Pro selections, high scouting grades, a ring and respect from his peers.

Sadly, McMichael today suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as teammates and former wrestling foes rally around him. But Hall-of-Fame voters should, too. Because Steve, Ming or Mongo ... whatever you want to call him ... has a solid case for Canton.

Career stats—

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The All-Ivy League Team of the NFL

by Jeffrey J. Miller 

There is a commonly held notion that in order to attend an Ivy League college, one must possess an exceptionally high level of intelligence.    While this perception is generally true, Ivy League schools (eight private Northeastern research universities including Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University) were also at one time a fertile breeding ground for athletic talent, and football was no exception.  Even a cursory glance at pre-NFL and early-NFL rosters reveals an abundance of Ivy Leaguers. 

However, the Ivy League's place was in the athletic mill was slowly supplanted by major conferences that have sprung up over the past century.  Though the League might no longer be considered to be on the same level as, say, the SEC or the Big 10, it has still produced its share of top-notch gridders over the years.  As of 2022, there were 12 former Ivy Leaguers active in the NFL.   

Today we present an all-time team made up of Ivy League alumni.  For our purposes, we are going to use the advent of the Modern T Formation (approximately 1940) as the starting point for this team.  We have included 11 players on offense using a standard QB, HB, FB, 2-WR set on offense, and a traditional 4-3 configuration for the defense.  We have also included a kicker and a punter, rounding out the team to 24 former Ivies.   


Quarterback – Sid Luckman (Columbia).  Luckman is considered the first successful T-formation quarterback.  Chicago Bears head man George Halas convinced the Pittsburgh Pirates to draft Luckman second overall and then trade him to the Bears, believing he had the skill set to run the modern T offense Halas and Clark Shaughnessy were formulating.  It was a stroke of brilliance on Halas’ part, as Luckman would go on to win four NFL Championships with the Bears, earn six All-Pro selections (five of which were first team), win a league MVP Award (1943) and eventually be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Broncos' "Snowcapped" White Helmets Revealed

 By John Turney 
More uniform news this week. The Denver Broncos announce they will wear a white alternate helmet as part of their kits this year. It will be paired with orange jerseys and pants and both orange and white socks are shown in the promo video.

They are calling it their "Snowcapped" helmet. Uniform aficionados often refer to white helmets as "icy" especially when the helmet and uniform, including socks, are white. That is not the case here. 

It's fine but nothing spectacular. 

There is no historic element to it, it's not a throwback in any way. The jersey and the pants kind of are, they wore this orange jersey for years and wore orange pants in some years but never together as they do now. 

However, now the blue for the throwback or "snowy" lid is navy, not royal the traditional Broncos color of blue. 

Here is the lid—
And some shots—

The reviews are mixed. One commenter on Twitter said they couldn't believe a quarterback bad as Russell Wilson will have such a cool helmet. Another said to give him throwbacks not a white helmet no one asked for. 

That's how we see it. 

Give it a C+. Nothing terrific, nothing offensive.

Monday, July 24, 2023

New York Jets Reveal Their "Legacy" Uniforms

 By John Turney 
The Jets revealed their throwback uniforms calling them "Legacy uniforms" and they, like many of the other uniform reveals are excellent. They are reflective of the uniforms that the Jets began wearing in 1978 and continued through 1989. After that, they kept the same elements but added black facemasks and trim.

These are true to the Richard Todd, Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko era. The white facemask contrasts really well. It's a matter of taste but have always felt white masks work on red and green helmets more than on blue, white or dark red, or black. 

White masks looked good on the Chiefs, Bills, Jets, and Vikings but on Rams a few years ago they were awful. They work well here—
These get an  "A". Score another win for the good guys on the uniform front.

Some more shots.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Titans' Oilers Throwbacks Are Terrific

 By John Turney
The Tennessee Titans revealed their new throwback uniforms and they are great. Again, they have something in common with the good uniforms released over the past few years and nothing in common with the bad ones.

What is that?

These were the 1970s uniforms and Nike had zero to do with them. All the bad uniforms were ones that Nike designed. 

Great job by the Titans organization. 

Here are some shots.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Colts New Alternate Uniforms Are Very Odd

 By John Turney 
Today the Indianapolis Colts released a new alternate uniform called "Idiana Nights" that features a black helmet and a blue jersey with a heather look.
The heathering is a mix of royal blue and what looks to be turquoise or Carolina blue. It is the first of it's kind in the NFL and it's a fail. 

There just seems to be no point in making an NFL jersey look like a T-Shirt you can get at any department store. It's simply Nike being too smart by half and the kind of thinking that causes so many of their uniform designs to be replaced after five years—the soonest they can be.
Nike strikes again. 

There are horizontal double stripes on the shoulder rather than the signature UCLA loops. That is a little similar to the old Texas A&M jerseys, though they had Northwestern stripes. It's okay, it's not the Colts
but it's not awful.

The black helmet is just the way of the world. If you are going to turn a helmet black this is the only way to do it. Make everything the same but with white trim.

They just seem odd. Not good. Call it a D+. Not Rams no-curl horn bad, not Bucs' digital clock numerals bad. All those were an F. These are not that bad.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Seahawks Show Their Throwback Uniforms

 By John Turney 
The Seattle Seahawks joined the growing line of teams taking advantage of the elimination of the one-shell helmet policy and introduced a throwback uniform that is about perfect.

It's not of the original 1976-82 uniform, it has the logo on the sleeves like the 1983-2001 kits. However, the colors are from the 1990s. In the 1980s the blue was darker. So, these are really 1990s throwbacks to be a bit more technical.

Like the Bucs uniforms Nike only manufactured these, no role in designing them and they came out as good as the so-called Creamsicle unis they will wear in Tampa when they choose to go "throwback"

Score one for the good guys.

Here are some closeups of the collar:

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Does Larry Brown Have A Chance to Make the Hall of Fame This Year?

By John Turney 
Art credit: LeRoy Neiman

Recent inductions to the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened the door for qualified candidates who had short careers but were never seriously considered. -- with Larry Brown the latest example.

It's about time.

The former Washington running back is one of 31 senior semifinalists for the Class of 2024, and, yes, that's news. He's never been a semifinalist until now. Maybe that doesn't matter to young fans who don't know who Larry Brown was. But it should.

He was a first-team All-Pro twice second-team once, a four-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Furthermore, he was the first Washington running back to gain 1,000 yards rushing ... and he did it twice. He also finished in the NFL's top five in rushing attempts five times, yards rushing three, yards from scrimmage three and total touchdowns twice.

But there's more. From Brown's rookie year of 1969 through 1974 (six years) only Hall-of-Famer O.J. Simpson rushed for more yards, while Brown was second in receptions among running backs, too. Second is not bad. In fact, it's terrific.

But the following items are even more impressive. From 1969-74 ...
  • No NFL player had more yards from scrimmage, no RB, WR or TE.
  • No NFL player scored more touchdowns.
  • No running back had more rushing touchdowns (tied).
  • No running back had more receiving yards.
  • No running back had more receiving touchdowns.
Also note, the above stats include 1974 which really was not part of his peak years. If excluded, his yards-from-scrimmage lead is higher.

In his four-year peak, Hall-of-Famer Terrell Davis was also second in the NFL in rushing, but he was second in yards from scrimmage. Like Brown, he scored the most touchdowns in the NFL, but he didn't have Brown's all-around capabilities. Davis was tenth in receptions, 11th in yards and tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns.

And that includes none of his injured years.

The biggest difference? Davis was enshrined in Canton in 2017, while Larry Brown has never had his case discussed by Hall-of-Fame selectors.

Nevertheless, his career corresponds to Davis. He was an elite, dominant back whose career was derailed by knee injuries. The only difference is that Brown's injury wasn't sustained on one play; it happened over years and degenerated to where he was no longer effective and forced to retire after eight seasons.

It was the same injury, but it played out in different ways. And that should be considered by the seniors committee as it reduces semifinalists from 31 to 12 this month.

Decades ago, short careers were common, with the Hall inducting several players with careers of five, six or seven years. But until 2017, modern-era players were expected to play longer, though there were a handful of notable exceptions.

One was Chicago running back Gale Sayers. He was inducted despite a career that lasted seven years, mostly because that at his five-year peak he was considered one of the top two or three running backs of all-time. Severe knee injuries ended his career, and voters understood it wasn't fair to hold that against his candidacy.

So they didn't. 

His election became known as the "Gale Sayers" exception to an unwritten rule that longevity matters when considering a player for the Hall of Fame.

Then there was Miami center Dwight Stephenson. He was elected because he had a five-or-six-year span as a dominant player. Others enshrined under that same logic were Kenny Easley, Jimbo Covert and Tony Boselli -- all elected within the past seven years.

As was Terrell Davis.

His induction in 2017 (the same year as Easley) was a landmark event in that it devalued the Hall-of-Fame's emphasis on longevity. Davis had a four-year span of elite play (including marvelous playoff performances) deemed Hall-of-Fame worthy despite his playing only 78 games over seven seasons. But a devastating knee injury early in 1999 derailed his ability to sustain his greatness.

Like Sayers, he was rewarded with a Gold Jacket.

And Larry Brown? He's one of 31 senior semifinalists for a Class of 2024 that will choose three finalists. The odds are against his election, but so what? That's been true most of Brown's life.


Living in an area in Pittsburgh known as the "The Hill", Brown had to be smart, street-wise and tough. He was that and more. He took that toughness on to the football field and kept it from high school through the NFL.

Along the way, he always stood up for himself.

If subjected to a racial slur, Brown would respond with his fists. It didn't matter who it was or if it meant getting arrested. Brown wouldn't tolerate it. He wouldn't tolerate preferential treatment of players, either, especially if it stemmed from racial bias.

"Nothing has ever come easy for me," he once wrote. "Looking back to the time I was a kid growing up in a ghetto in Pittsburgh, I am not exaggerating when I say I'm lucky I am not in jail or hooked on dope or dead."

Toughness and courage will always be Brown's calling cards. They, as much as anything, allowed him to make Washington's roster as a rookie in 1969, with then-coach Vince Lombardi saying he liked his young back because "he's got guts."

An eighth-round draft choice (pick 181) out of Kansas State, Brown was known as a blocker first, a runner second and a receiver not at all. In 1969, one scouting group that ranked draft-eligible players from 0-5, with 5 the worst, had Brown at 3.2 and Simpson at 0.5.

Lombardi preferred bigger backs like Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung and Jim Grabowski in Green Bay, but he was impressed with Brown's desire to hit. In fact, according to one witness at a practice, Brown put a "280-pound lineman on his fanny" during a nutcracker drill.

However, as the 1969 preseason wore on, Lombardi noticed the rookie was slow off the ball. Brown at first said he was trying to read the defense but later admitted he couldn't hear out of one ear. So he was fitted with a hearing aid and moved to the opposite side of the huddle so his good ear could be exposed to the quarterback calling the play.

It worked.

But he also had another problem that held him back:. He was of no use in the passing game.  He couldn't catch, and he couldn't run proper routes -- missing the depth and width by inches ... or even feet.. so that he'd be a yard too short or too wide.

"I was dropping everything," he said.

Fortunately, Brown's position coach, George Dickson, came to his rescue -- convincing Lombardi to keep Brown around until the final cuts. In the meantime, he and Brown worked on routes and pass-catching techniques, with Brown carrying a football with him all day. On the field, in the locker room, at meals, in the dorm.

That worked, too.

Result: Larry Brown earned Washington's starting halfback job as a rookie, ran for 888 yards and caught 34 of the 37 passes thrown to him according to coaches. The rest is history.

Larry Brown became the best all-around back in the NFL, bad knees or not.


Brown had to fight from last string to first string from high school to junior college to Kansas State to the NFL ... and he won every battle. He had to overcome deafness in one ear and a severe sinus condition that dogged him on the field and, on occasion, would hospitalize him.

But knee injuries betrayed him. He was first hurt in 1970 but played through the injury. He injured a knee again in 1971 and refused surgery. Another knee injury in 1972 (among other ailments) caused then-coach George Allen to sit him the final two games of the season so he'd be ready for the playoffs. That cost him the 1972 rushing title.

All the while, Brown declined to submit to surgical procedures.

"My legs are my living," he wrote in 1972, "and I was not going to let anyone mess when them unless there's absolutely no other choice. You are never the same after an operation."

Prophetic words.

Struggling through the 1974 season, he finally allowed doctors to attempt to correct his knee issues. But, after the surgery, his knee was never the same, just as Brown feared. Like Sayers and Davis, his waning years were simply not effective. But, also like Sayers and Davis, his peak years were tremendous.

From 1965 through 1969, for instance, he was first in rushing, second in rushing touchdowns. And his receiving stats? They were as follows: tenth in receptions, 11th in receiving yards and tied for 11th in receiving touchdowns.

Admit it. Maybe you knew that he led the NFL in rushing once and in yards-per-game twice. But you didn't know that Larry Brown was the NFL's best receiving back of his era.

The 5-11, 195-pound Brown was Washington's offense in 1972, and the Redskins rode him to the Super Bowl and a 14-7 loss to Miami. Though the Dolphins' No Name defense bottled him up, he still gained 72 yards on 22 carries and 26 more yards on five catches.

"(Brown) is the complete back," said Miami Herald columnist Edwin Pope, hardly a Washington fan, "one who apparently embodies the best qualities of the Dolphins' Morris, Csonka and Kiick."

That endorsement by a former Hall-of-Fame voter should suffice for Hall-of-Fame consideration. Yet, here we are, hoping that Larry Brown makes the next cut from 31 semifinalists to 12.

“I should be there (Canton) based on my performance and talent. It was comparable to some [inductees],” Brown once told the Washington Post. “I thought it would happen. The rumor is I didn’t play long enough."

He's probably right. But that was then. This is now. And now we can hope that the Hall's seniors committee takes a closer look at Brown's resume and gives him the same consideration as Davis and Sayers. No, he wasn't the human highlight film that Sayers was on returns. Nor did he have the playoff career of Davis.

But they didn't catch or block like Brown did. And no one ran harder.

"Brown ran too hard for his body," former Hall-of-Fame voter Paul Zimmerman wrote.

"Everybody's keying on him," an Eagles' safety said in 1973. "He's taking six, seven, eight shots on each carry. I would have to say he's a brave soul."

How brave? Once after punching a defensive lineman in the facemask he suffered a hand injury so severe that it required 20 stitches. The procedure was done with Brown refusing pain killers and the locker-room surgery so grotesque that veteran tackle Jim Snowden ... who was there ... said he nearly vomited.

"I have something inside me that keeps me driving on," said Brown. "Especially when I'm hurt. When I'm down I can see Vince Lombardi's face ... I can hear him saying 'Get up', I can hear his voice. That's the God's honest truth."

Comparing Brown to Sayers or Davis isn't to oversell him to voters. However comparisons are made to show where each ranked among their peers. When someone shows as well as Larry Brown in an era that had Hall-of-Famers like O.J. Simpson, Leroy Kelly and Floyd Little ... when he outpaces them in stats ... and when he's as honored as much or more as Kelly and Little,  it means he has the goods.

Forty years after he became eligible for the Hall of Fame, Larry Brown finally has the attention of Hall-of-Fame voters. Good. He deserves it.

Rams Kevin Demoff Says Rams Will Not Introduce a New/Throwback Jersey This Year

By John Turney 
On The Athletic's "11 Personnel Podcast" which features hosts Jourdan Rodrigue and Rich Hammond Rams  COO Kevin Demoff said the Rams will not make any changes to their uniforms in 2023.

They had announced they were going to add a jersey in 2022 but did not due to supply chain issues related to COVID. 

Now Demoff told Rodrigue and Hammond—
"We're not going to introduce a new jersey this season. We looked at a lot of different concepts over the past year and none of them felt like the right jersey to introduce. You know, at this time, at this moment, whether it was looking at true alternates or throwbacks from different concepts historically, there was nothing that seemed like a great fit. We've always made it clear that we have the ability to add new uniforms. We also said we’re not going to add a uniform for the sake of adding a uniform.”

 It seems, perhaps, that supply chain issues were not the issue.

He added—
"I think that’s really where the group landed this year and I think we feel very comfortable with the uniforms we have in the closet right now. Especially with last year’s change of making the white uniform our primary away uniform.

 I don’t think next year we’re necessarily on a different track. I think we'll continue to explore. A different idea would have to pop up next year than what we’ve already explored. You know, I think the earliest we’re probably looking at is 2025."

Ultimately it's a source of interest, a source of pride for our fans, you know, it's important to make these decisions with thought and with care to the brand." 

Demoff mentions 2025. That is interesting in that is the year they are able to rebrand. A team can change uniforms five years after each change. The Rams did a major rehaul in 2020 and have to wear them for five years, through 2024. 

So, this could be a hint that there could be a lot of changes that year. 

Or not. 

Demoff talked about throwbacks and suggested the current uniforms are too similar to the 1973-99 kits that something for the "1950s or 1960s" would have to be what is considered for that and said that was a possibility.

His commentary could be about throwbacks not a complete redesign for 2025. It is hard to know with any certainty with him.

The Cleveland Browns Add White Lids to Their Kits

 By John Turney 
Today the Cleveland Browns return to their All-American Football Conference roots by adding a white alternate helmet to their uniforms.
Marion Motley (l) wearing the original home uniform of the Cleveland Browns

In the 1940s the helmets didn't have a stripe but a modern adaptation like a brown-orange-brown stripe actually helps. 

We look forward to seeing them.

Good Job.