Saturday, April 27, 2024

Rams Double-Dip Florida State Players in 2024 NFL Draft.

 By John Turney 
Braden Fiske and Jared Verse
What the Los Angeles Rams did the first two days of the 2024 draft was nothing unusual ... and I'm not talking about choosing two defensive players. I'm talking about choosing two defensive players from the same school.

On Thursday, they drafted edge player Jared Verse with the 19th overall pick. The following evening, they traded up in the second round to choose defensive interior Braden Fiske with the 39th selection. Both played at Florida State University, and if that sounds familiar it should. It's the fourth time the Rams have made back-to-back picks from one school with their first two picks in a draft.

And the others? Glad you asked:

-- The first was in 1945 when the Rams -- then in Cleveland -- took Michigan back Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch in the first round and lineman Milan Lazetich, also a Wolverine, in the second.

-- Forty-four years later, they had two first-round picks -- including one as part of the booty from the Eric Dickerson trade in 1987. With their first selection (the 21st overall) in the 1989 NFL draft, they chose defensive end Bill Hawkins out of the University of Miami (FL). Five picks later, they took Hurricanes' running back Cleveland Gary.

-- Finally, in 1992, they raided the University of Pittsburgh, picking defensive tackle Sean Gilbert in Round One and cornerback Steve Israel in the second round.

Of the three we can gauge, the 1945 picks were the most successful. 

Hirsch began his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin but finished in Ann Arbor before serving in the Marine Corps. After his military service, he signed with the Chicago Rockets of the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC) rather than the NFL Rams but eventually ended up in Los Angeles in 1949 where he was moved from halfback to end.

The rest is history. Literally. 

When the Rams won the NFL championship in 1951, he led the league in catches, yards receiving, yards per catch, touchdown receptions and he had the season's longest play, a 91-yard reception. Hirsch is the only player to lead in all five official receiving stats in a single season.

While you've heard of Hirsch, you probably don't know about Milan Lazetich. He went by "Mike," but his nickname was "The Sheriff" long before Jon Gruden dubbed Peyton Manning with that moniker. He played both ways -- guard on offense, linebacker on the other side of the ball -- and he was good enough to be named All-Pro by International News Service, a wire service that was smaller than Associated Press and United Press.

It wasn't as prestigious as the others, but it did predate the AP All-Pro team by three years. So let's give him some credit. Plus, former Rams' owner the late Dan Reeves picked Lazetich to his all-time Rams' team shortly before his untimely death in 1971.
Elroy Hirsch
Contrast that with the 1989 iteration of double-dipping that didn't work out so well. Neither of the two picks were All-Pro, Pro Bowl or anything else by a wire service, major or minor. Bill Hawkins kept getting hurt, and Cleveland Gary kept fumbling - -24 times in 1,000 offensive touches -- as well as frustrating coaches. 

However, Gary's 14 touchdowns did tie for the NFL lead in 1990 when he ran for over 800 yards. Plus, two years later, he rushed for over 1,000.
Bill Hawkins
That same year -- 1992 -- Hawkins was trying to make his last stand. New Rams' coach Chuch Knox moved to a more orthodox 4-3 defense after one year of Jeff Fisher's 4-3 Bear-front in 1991 and one year prior to Fritz Shurmur's 3-4 in 1993. Hawkins had been hurt under Fisher and didn't fit the 3-4. But even when the Rams went to their Shurmur's innovative "Eagle" and "Hawk" defenses he played inside, and his production was minimal.

Hawkins did start at right defensive end in Knox's first year, but he was injured by midseason -- making it four-for-four in years where he played and was hurt, signaling the end of his career.

However, by that time, the Rams were already on to young defensive help. They chose defensive tackle Sean Gilbert and Steve Israel, a super-fast cornerback, in Rounds One and Two of the 1992 draft.

Gilbert was a good player --  he made the Pro Bowl in his second year and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 1995 -- but a contract dispute prior to the 1996 season had him traded to Washington for a first-round draft choice. Israel had rare speed (a 4.2 40), but he only started in his second season. After that, he was like Hawkins: He couldn't stay healthy. By his fourth year, he was a 49er ... by his sixth, a member of the New England Patriots ... and by his ninth -- his last-- with the New Orleans Saints.

So there you have it. Three times the Rams banked on one program at the top of the draft, and twice it didn't work out so well, for either of the highly valued picks.
Sean Gilbert
As for the 2024 iteration? Verse and Fiske each have a strong chance of starting this fall. The Rams needed to upgrade their edge pressure from 2023, and they lost two defensive interior players -- future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Donald and Jonah Williams. To fill those holes, they picked Verse to replace last year's starter, Michael Hoecht, and Fiske to follow Williams.

History is against them, but give them time. Both should be starters and contributing. Plus, given their talent, they could ... with the emphasis on could ... challenge the 1945 dynamic duo in productivity. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Houston Texans Update Their Uniforms

 By John Turney 

The Houston Texans wore the original uniforms through 2023 ... 21 years. Sure, they added red to their combinations but the design elements were the same.

Now they have updated them and they look good. The navy "deep steel blue" and red is a nice color combination. The new ones are not "Nike out of control" types, like so many of the uniforms Nike designed in the mid-2010s.

This is a good, solid B+ or so -- in that range—

And added a pretty odd alternate uni and helmet. 

Here is the Texans' press release—

HOUSTON – Today, the Houston Texans revealed four new, fan-inspired uniforms for the first time since the team's inception in 2000. The four new uniforms – home, away, alternate and Color Rush – are a direct result of Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair's charge to fearlessly evolve. Through more than 10,000 surveys and 30 focus groups, the uniforms are H-Town Made.

"Today, for the first time since 2000, we are so proud to reveal our new uniforms. They are even more special because they are inspired by and for our fans," Houston Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair said. "Our fans asked us to be more H-Town and we delivered. They were with us every step of the way and there's truly something for everyone over the four uniforms."

The home uniform is classic, featuring the updated Deep Steel Blue color that matches the original Deep Steel Blue unveiled in 2000, along with a H-Town call out on the inside collar. The home helmet is Deep Steel Blue with blue-on-blue metallic flake paint. It includes the traditional bull logo on the sides with the new H secondary logo on the back. The away, Liberty White uniform is traditional with a modern edge, featuring the traditional sleeve stripe on the back and sides of the jersey that transforms into a bullhorn-inspired design from the front.

The alternate uniform is the bold Battle Red version of the away jersey. The alternate helmet is Battle Red with candy paint red flakes, a red metallic chrome facemask, new bullhorn-inspired helmet logo application and the Texans bullhead logo on the back. The Color Rush city-inspired uniform introduces H-Town Blue as the first new color introduced to the Texans brand in team history. The Texans are also the first team in NFL history to introduce a new logo on an alternate helmet and a two-logo system across all helmets.

 This is pretty gerish and it "borrows" Columbia blue from the old Houston Oilers. The "H" looks like it belongs on a MLB hat. To us it does not look like a football design. It looks like baseball. This gets a C- grade—

"Battle red" they call it. Interesting use of the horn on the lid. Similar to the Eagles' and Rams' concepts that have part of the animal on the helmet and/or sleeve in the case of the 1973-99 Rams unis. Call this a B- grade—

The white uniforms combine the old helmet and the horn concept on the sleeves This is a B.

These are fine, there are some good design elements and the colors are good. Other than the Color rush kits they get good solid B- (the Color rush being the grade down).

Monday, April 22, 2024

RIP Roman Gabriel

By John Turney 
Art Credit: Dan Stromme
Former quarterback Roman Gabriel wasn't just one of the best quarterbacks of the 1960s. He was legendary, going 41-11-4 during a four-year run with the Los Angeles Rams when they won two division championships and Gabriel had more rushing touchdowns than any of the team's backs.

He was an accurate passer, an effective runner and a natural-born winner. What he wasn't ... and never has been ... was a Hall-of-Fame candidate, though that never seemed to bother him.

"I never gave it a whole bunch of thought," he said in a 2018 interview with the Talk of Fame Network, "especially when it took my good friend, Kenny Stabler, to die to get in."

Sadly, Gabriel joined Stabler on Saturday, passing away at the age of 83. His death was announced by his son, Roman Gabriel III.

"We mourn the loss of Rams' legend and football pioneer, Roman Gabriel." the Rams' said on X (formerly Twitter). "We extend our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time."

At 6-feet-4, 225 pounds, Gabriel was large for a quarterback of his era -- or any era, for that matter -- and was so imposing that one opponent called him "a tackle playing quarterback." But he was more than big. He was talented, too. Strong and tough, he had the arm to throw deep outs and accurate bombs better than most quarterbacks.

He was also inspirational. As the NFL's first Filipino-American quarterback, he once said he hoped to become a role model for "a lot of the young people" ... and he did. He not only impacted Filipino youngsters but legions of Rams' fans who -- to this day -- name Gabriel as their favorite Rams' player. 

In short, Gabriel was as iconic as the Rams' horn on his helmet. He just had this thing, this imperceptible thing,  that stuck with people. He was as charismatic as he was successful, and he was successful.

In 1969, he was the NFL MVP and a consensus All-Pro. He was also a four-time Pro Bowler.

He spent 11 seasons with the Rams where he was their all-time leading passer in nearly every passing statistic and holds the career record for most touchdown passes with 154. But by 1973, he was gone from L.A., traded in a blockbuster deal to Philadelphia where he spent the last five years of his career.

He was successful there, too, voted the league's Comeback Player of the Year in his first season with the Eagles, while leading the NFL in pass completion and yards passing and tying for the league lead in touchdown passes.

All told, Gabriel ended his 16-year career with 2,366 completions for 29,444 yards and 201 TD passes. He also had 149 interceptions, which may seem like a lot. But it's not. In fact, as late as Week 11 in 1983, Gabriel held the NFL record for lowest interception percentage.

It was 3.3 percent.

Born in 1940 in Wilmington, N.C., Gabriel played at the same high school as Sonny Jurgensen -- New Hanover in Wilmington -- where, as a 6-4, 210-pound senior, he was allowed to do something no New Hanover quarterback ... not even including Jurgenson ... had been.

Throw on third downs. 

It was a smart move. Gabriel was named an All-American. He was also the conference MVP in basketball on a team that won the state title and all-conference in baseball as a senior.

Despite numerous collegiate offers, including one from Notre Dame, Gabriel chose to stay close to home and play for North Carolina State where he was a two-time ACC Player of the Year and two-time All-American.

As a sophomore, he led the nation with a 60.4 completion percentage, a mark that stood as a school record until 1974. As a junior and senior, he set so many school and ACC passing records that still remain in the top 20 in career passing yards, completions, completion percentage and touchdowns.

Then it was on to the pros, where he was the second-overall pick in the 1962 NFL draft and the first-overall choice in the AFL lottery. 

Gabriel chose the Rams and was a part-time starter in his first four seasons there, going 11-11-1 -- a record so superior to the others (a combined 4-27-2) that when George Allen was hired as the Rams' coach in 1966, he named Gabriel as his starter.

That was another smart decision. But the Rams got lucky. They almost lost him. 

Prior to Allen joining the team, the Raiders' Al Davis signed Gabriel to a four-year, $400,000 contract from 1967-70, a move that -- along with others -- pushed the NFL and AFL to negotiate a merger and kept Gabriel in L.A. where he was given a significant raise.

That was smart, too. Because under Gabriel's direction, the team not only improved immediately, going 8-6 in 1966, but it beat the Packers and Colts in back-to-back weeks at the end of the 1967 season to win a division and finish 11-1-2. Gabriel threw three touchdown passes in each game and was named the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Week after both wins.

Though the Rams would lose in the playoffs to the Super Bowl-bound Packers, Gabriel was elected to his first Pro Bowl, was chosen a Pro Bowler again in 1968 and, in 1969, led the Rams to an 11-0 start when he was the AP and NEA MVP, UPI Player of the Year and was chosen to his third Pro Bowl.

In those first four years under Allen, Gabriel was the Rams' short-yardage and goal-line threat, scoring 18 rushing touchdowns -- more than any running back on the team -- and converting countless first downs on third- or fourth-and-short situations.

However, knee and arm injuries caught up to him in the early 1970s, and by 1972 his production was limited. That prompted the Rams to bring in Chargers' quarterback John Hadl which, in turn, prompted them to trade Gabriel. 

Initially, he wanted to join his former coach, George Allen, in Washington, but he'd unloaded all the teams's draft picks on other players. So the Redskins had no draft capital to compete with Philadelphia, which sent Pro Bowl receiver Harold Jackson, Tony Baker and three high draft choices to the Rams for Gabriel.

Through devotion to Kung Fu, acupuncture and daily paraffin baths for his sore arm, Gabriel regained his functionality and performed so well in his first season with the Eagles that he was named to the Pro Bowl and chosen the league's Comeback Player of the Year.

But that was it.

The next few years, he slumped as a passer, eventually became a backup and completed his final pass in 1977 to local hero Vince Papale after stepping in for an injured Ron Jaworski.

After retiring, Gabriel worked as a color commentator for CBS Sports, was the head coach at Cal Poly Pomona and head coach of the Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football. In between, he was an offensive coordinator for the Boston Breakers of the USFL. 

He also did some acting throughout his career, co-starring in a film with John Wayne and getting spots on "Gilligan Island" and "Perry Mason." He appeared on national television plugs for various companies, too, and co-owned a car dealership with Hall-of-Fame teammate Merlin Olsen. 

Later in his life, he spent countless hours raising money for various charities.

Gabriel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and in 2013 was chosen to The Professional Football Researchers Association's Hall of Very Good. He's also been inducted into the N.C. State Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

But Canton? Nope. Not even close. He's never been a modern-era or senior finalist or semifinalist, a snub that seemed to annoy his fans more than it did Gabriel.

"I'm really pleased with my life," he said in 2018. "I'm in the Wilmington (N.C.) Hall of Fame, my hometown. I'm in Wilmington's Walk of Fame. I'm in my college's Hall of Fame. And the North Carolina Hall of Fame.

"Some things are good, and some things happen. If it happens, it happens. And it would be great. But I don't think about it." 

Broncos Roll Out Some New and Some Old Looks With New Uniforms

 By John Turney
The Denver Broncos released their new uniforms and a classic uniform today. The Broncos, if you recall were the first to go with Nike designs and in 1997 began the "navy" blue era, changing the blue to a darker shade. 

Shots from the 1997 reveal 
There were mixed feelings at the time and today it's the same. Online there are some who say they are "fire", but seems like a lot of opposition as well "garbage"— so again, mixed results just like 1997.

First, the easy part. T
he throwbacks patterned after the 1977 Super Bowl uniforms are excellent. Could not have done it any better. Give them a "A" because they hit all the notes, clean classic.

Well done.

The throwbacks, the "classics"

The rest? Hard to say. They don't fail like many of the Nike concepts but they have all the silly components that Nike likes to say "inspired" then look so, it's a case of somethings are decent. Some things are over the top.
The colors are the same as before -- navy, orange and white, of course, but the names are tarted up. They are calling the the orange "sunset orange" for example. The white is "summit white". Okay fine. The the navy is "midnight navy" from the department of redundancy department.

The mountains on the sleeves and the "5280" all over everything (overdone) are pretty gimmicky but subtle enough that they won't show too much on television and photos. 

There are three jerseys, three pants and two helmets and creates a mile high pile of combinations—

The helmets were switched to a matte finish, away from the glossy one, and have an odd decal composed of tiny triangles that form an arrow in the back and have a "5280" on the front bumper.

The decals are supposed to represent a climb upward. 

The alternate "snowcap" helmet -- "summit white"

In a statement, Broncos president Damani Leech said,

"It was great to hear from the Nike folks, from a pure design standpoint, them talking about what it felt like in 1997 — or from the ones that weren’t there, how they study uniform history and how it felt like in 1997 was incredibly innovative. We still want to do that. We wanted to move the aesthetic forward, move the game forward. And we wanted expansion. We want this to be something that a new, young, diverse fanbase can say, wow, that’s amazing. I want to be a part of that from a fan standpoint and I want to wear that from an apparel standpoint."

Apparently, the team wanted the whole uniform set to reflect Colorado's mountains and it is all over the uniforms.  The "snowcapped" white helmets introduced last year foreshadowed it, we suppose.

The Broncos are in a mountain motif for at least the next five years. 

So, the throwbacks are an "A" and the rest is a "B-". The design is just Nike trying to show off but the whole thing is saved because navy, orange and white are a good color combination.

Here are some closeups of the uniform "narrative" if you are into that kind of thing—

Sunday, April 21, 2024

2023 Hall of Fame's "Awards of Excellence" Winners

By John Turney 
In an effort to recognize significant contributors to the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year created something called the Awards of Excellence program.

So what is it?

Good question. It's a means of honoring persons behind the scenes who help make players, teams and the NFL successful, and in 2022 it included 20 recipients from four categories- assistant coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers and public relations personnel

Now, one year later, the Hall is back with its second annual Awards of Excellence winners --, only this time it adds a fifth category: film and video directors.

On Wednesday it announced its 2023 winners, some of whom you know ... most of whom you don't ... but all of whom the Hall deemed worthy of recognition.

"This year's group of 17 assistant coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers, film/video directors and public relations personnel have impacted their clubs and the game of professional football positively," said Hall-of-Fame president Jim Porter, "and this program is a way to recognize that. Each recipient has dedicated decades of time to creating meaningful change for their respective fields, their teams and the National Football League."

Who are they? You're about to find out.

Film/Video directors -  Mike Dougherty, Milan "Mickey" Dukich, Thom Fermstad, Henry Kunttu and Al Treml

The distinction of being the NFL's first full-time film director is held by Mickey Dukich. He was hired by Rams' head coach Sid Gillman in 1956, with cinematographer his official title. He stayed with the Rams through 1994, not making the move to St. Louis.

Treml began filming NFL games in 1964 and three years later was hired by Vince Lombardi, making him just the second full-time film director in league history. He served in Green Bay as the film/video director through the 2000 season. 

Henry Kunttu was hired in 1969 by the Buffalo Bills and was in that job for 42 seasons. In addition to his work with the Bills, he has directed television commercials and industrial films.

Dick Vermeil hired Dougherty in 1976, and he served as the Eagles' film/video director through the 2012 season. He was instrumental in moving the NFL from film to videotape in 1986.

Joining the Seahawks as their film/video director when the franchise began in 1976, Fermstad held the job for 36 years. He had been with the Vikings for the three years prior when Jack Patera hired him to join him in Pacific Northwest.

Assistant coaches - Sherman Lewis, Tom Moore and Dante Scarnecchia

Moore, 84, first coached in the NFL in 1977 with the Steelers - the first of nine NFL teams that employed him, including Indianapolis where he was Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator during the quarterback's prime. He still works on the offensive staff of the Buccaneers.

Bill Walsh gave Sherm Lewis his start in the NFL after he spent 14 years as an assistant coach at Michigan State. He was later the offensive coordinator for Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and coached for Minnesota, Detroit and Washington.

Scarnecchia coached for the New England Patriots in various capacities from 1982-2019, with the exception of 1989 and 1990 when he was with the Colts. He was the offensive line coach for Bill Belichick and earned six Super Bowl rings.

Athletic trainers - J. Lindsy McLean, Bob Reese and Lamar "Bubba" Tyer

McLean served the 49ers from 1979-2003, earning five Super Bowl rings along the way. Prior to that, he served 16 years as a trainer for three universities.

Now a professor of psychology at Radford University, Reese was the Jets' head athletic trainer for just under 19 years (April 1977 through February 1996). Prior to that, he worked for the Bills as an assistant trainer from 1972-76.

Hired by George Allen in 1971, Tyer served as Washington's head trainer for 25 years ... then as director of sports medicine for another dozen years with the franchise.

He was called out of retirement briefly in 2021, the second time he was asked to return. He previously retired in 2003 but was convinced to return by Joe Gibbs when he began his second stint with the club.

Equipment managers - William T. "Buck" Buchanan, Robert "Bob" Noel and Bill Simmons

Buchanan was the equipment manager for the Dallas Cowboys from 1973-98 and was part of four NFL championships.

Noel was the Green Bay Packers' assistant equipment manager until 1977 when he was promoted to head equipment manager, a position he held through the 1993 season. In all, he spent 43 years with the franchise.

Simmons was the equipment manager for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1966-87. His son, Dan "Chief" Simmons, was a 2022 Awards of Excellence winner who worked for the elder Simmons in 1972 before moving on to the Saints where he worked 42 years as their equipment manager.

Public relations personnel - Greg Aiello, Kevin Byrne and Budd Thalman.

The NFL spokesman for 27 years, Aiello was the liaison between league executives (most notably the commissioner) and the media. He spent 39 years in the NFL, the first dozen with the Dallas Cowboys in public relations.

Byrne officially retired in 2020 but remained as a consultant to the Ravens' franchise, which he served for 41 seasons (including when they were the Cleveland Browns)..

Thalman was with the Buffalo Bills from 1973-86 and then served as sports information director for Penn State until he retired in 2001. Prior to his time with the Bills, he worked for the Associated Press and then as SID for the Naval Academy.

Recipients will be honored June 28-29 in Canton, Ohio.

Last year's Awards of Excellence winners were as follows:

Assistant Coaches - Alex Gibbs, Jimmy Raye, Terry Robiskie, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese

Athletic Trainers - George Anderson, Otho Davis, John Omohundro, Jerry Rhea and Fred Zamberletti

Equipment Managers - Sid Brooks, Ed Carroll, Tony Parisi, Dan “Chief” Simmons and Whitey Zimmerman

Public Relations personnel - Joe Browne, Charlie Dayton, Joe Gordon, Jim Saccomano and Gary Wright.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Lions Release New (And Better) Uniforms

By John Turney

Yesterday the Lions updated their uniforms and did some good things and some things that were just okay -- not offensive, just not spectacular. 

In 2017 the Lions released uniforms that were average in our view. We gave them a grade of "C". 

In the Nike world of uniforms that were not nearly as bad as we had seen at the time, nothing as bad as the Tampa Bay BuccaneersJacksonville Jaguars or Cleveland Browns, for example.

All those teams reverted to a more classic look as soon as possible -- teams are stuck with any new uniform for a minimum of five years. After that teams can change. 

Well, the Lions didn't do the exact same thing. They wore their uniform seven years -- two years longer than they had to.

In 2017 the Lions introduced these uniforms—

Yesterday they revealed this—

The white numbers on the Honolulu blue jerseys are an improvement. They have a two-stripe pattern on their sleeve stripes rather than the old Northwestern Stripes.

Apparently, the striping was inspired by that of the Ford Mustang and not the Dallas Cowboys.

It seems the new shade of blue is brighter. They dumped the grey over grey uniforms and added a black alternate, not unlike the ones they wore from 2005-07. This time, though, they have black pants to match.

The primary uniform, blue over silver is an improvement. So our grade goes from a C to a B/B+.

The rest of the stuff, white over white, black over black, black over blue, white over blue ... is just ... meh. Call all that a B-, okay but but great.

The Lions stepped out of the Nike world and reverted to uniforms closer to the 1980s and 1990s and that is a good thing. Nike has introduced some pretty awful uniforms and now teams are catching on and using old templates of classic uniforms and updating them.

Hopefully, the Rams will be next to do something similar, and after that maybe the Falcons will follow suit and follow the trend of updated classics.

This is what the Lions said—

Not sure what the "classic lines of the Bronco" have to do with football, but whatever. And if the home uniforms are reinterpreting the Ford Bronco ... is this the white Ford Bronco?

Just asking.

As far as the black ... not sure who does it better the Panthers or the Lions—

Yep, primary unis = B/B+. The rest? B-.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Jets Reveal New Uniforms for Second Time in Five Years

By John Turney

Jets uniforms revealed in April 2024

There is not much to say about the New York Jets uniforms revealed today because we've seen them before. They debuted in 1978, taking over for the classic Jets look, and continued to wear them through 1997.

Although there were changes made in 1991 it was the basic look for 20 years and they brought it back recently as a throwback.

The Jets are yet another team to revert to a classic look as soon as the NFL uniform rules allow and that is the takeaway -- it's another Nike design fail.

These new uniforms are good, as they always were. And they are good now. There are some differences from the 1978-90 versions but it's the same look.

But they are better than the recent Nike-design worn from 2019-2023 --- 

2019-2024 Jets uniforms

In fairness, the 2919 Jets uniforms were not awful, we graded them a "C" at the time but they were probably as good as Nike ever did. And given the resources at their disposal they needed to do better.

This time they go with a design that they have very little input - a tweak of the font and logo perhaps. The color is not exactly the same but those are minor details.

So, Jets uniforms go from a C to a B/B+ or so. 

Everything old is new again ... basically, the same uniform revealed to day was revealed in 1978.

1978 Jets' uniform reveal

Sunday, April 14, 2024

O.J. Simpson, Superstar to Pariah

by John Turney 

Last Week Pro Football Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson died of complications from cancer.

"On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace."

-- The Simpson Family

With that, the death of Hall-of-Fame running back O.J. Simpson was announced Thursday morning on his X (formerly Twitter) account, with his attorney later confirming Simpson's passing, according to Yahoo! News.

He was 76.

O.J. Simpson was one of the greatest running backs in pro football history, yet that is not how he's best remembered. Instead of a football legend, he's known as the defendant in a double-murder trial ... "the trial of the century" ... that, in 1995, made Simpson a freed man and a social outcast.

Though he was found not guilty, the trial inaugurated a series of events that tarnished Simpson's football legacy, cratered his popularity and ruined what had been an American success story that began in the 1960s.

Two years after his acquittal, a separate civil trial found Simpson liable in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to the families of the deceased. Then, one decade afterward, he was found guilty of armed robbery and other felonies that had him serve nine years in a remote Nevada prison.

He was released on parole in October, 2017.

Simpson's life was unlike any other in sports. No one rose to such heights, only to become the object of disdain and a virtual persona non grata. If he was sought by the media he once courted, it wasn't to discuss his football accolades but to get him to admit his role in the killing of Brown and Goldman.

He never did, though he sometimes came close.

But that did little to sway public opinion, with news of his death Thursday provoking a wave of mixed reactions across the country. Nevertheless, the Heisman Trust mourned the passing of its 1968 trophy recipient, while the Pro Football Hall of Fame took a more neutral approach, celebrating his accomplishments as a first-ballot Hall of Famer (1985).

"O.J. Simpson," president Jim Porter said in a prepared statement, "was the first player to reach a rushing mark many thought could not be attained in a 14-game season when he topped 2,000 yards. His on-field contributions will be preserved in the Hall’s archives in Canton, Ohio."

Though Simpson's football accomplishments were overshadowed by events of the past three decades, his legacy as one of the game's great running backs remains. In 11 pro seasons, he won four rushing titles, ran for over 11,000 yards, scored 76 times and played in five Pro Bowls. He also was the first NFL back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, gaining 200 in the 1973 finale to finish with 2,003 ... when the league played 14-game seasons.

"I was part of the history of the game," he said later. "If I did nothing else in my life, I'd made my mark."

Simpson was born and raised in San Francisco where, as a troubled youth, he joined a street gang and spent time in juvenile hall. But his life changed when he met baseball great Willie Mays, who encouraged him to avoid trouble. Simpson reformed and became an All-City football star at San Francisco's Galileo High.

After a couple of years playing JuCo football, he earned a scholarship to the University of Southern California where he set records, twice led the nation in rushing and, as a senior, won the Heisman Trophy. He was college football's biggest star then, rivaling, among others, Red Grange (Illinois), Bronko Nagurski (Minnesota), Doc Blanchard (Army), Doak Walker (SMU), Jim Brown (Syracuse) and Gale Sayers (Kansas).

It was the same story when he joined pro football as the Buffalo Bills' first pick in the 1969 AFL–NFL common draft. He set a passel of records, was the NFL's 1973 MVP, three times was the AFC Offensive Player of the Year and was chosen to the 1970s' all-decade team. Were there an award for the league's best player of the 1970s, it would've been Simpson.

He was that good.

He was also named to the NFL's 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams, the latter chosen after Simpson was incarcerated, stirring some controversy at the time. But his football record speaks for itself: He ended his career second only to Jim Brown in rushing yards with 11,236 and was chosen to the Pro Football Hall after the minimum five-year wait.

After retirement, Simpson never wandered far from the public limelight. He frequently endorsed products, with a Hertz Rental Car commercial that had him running through an airport the most memorable. He also took up acting (he'd made a couple of small appearances while in college) and found success co-starring in films like "The Towering Inferno" and "Capricorn One." 

His most recognizable role, however, was that of Detective Norberg in the "Naked Gun" comedy series -- that is, until he was charged in connection with the double-murder, fled authorities in a memorable car chase watched by millions on live TV, arrested and later acquitted.

With those events, Simpson's legacy was forever damaged. The majority of Americans then believed he was guilty, just as they did over 20 years later. A poll in 2016 reflected the same sentiments, though there were differences along racial lines.

From hero to pariah, Simpson's journey had the highest of highs -- Heismans and MVPs -- and the lowest of lows. So it's hard to articulate just what his legacy is. But, in the end, maybe it's not so complicated. Maybe it's as simple as what Hall-of-Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure once voiced of his former teammate.

"You can never know what someone is capable of," he said.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

"For Some of Them it Was Only the Moment That Mattered"

By TJ Troup 
Since this will be my last column for the Journal, wanted the title to come from one of the men who I respect for his ability to write lyrics; thus Jackson Browne thank you. There are teams that we know well, and then there are teams that we just don't know well enough. 

Having done in-depth research on the interception and who pilfered the ball, we can all access the list of the men of intercepted at least 10 passes against a specific opponent. Many of the men on the list are Hall of Fame players or achieved a lot of success in their careers. 

One of the names on the list is Joe Beauchamp who intercepted 10 passes against Denver in his career. Beauchamp was drafted in the 6th round of the "red shirt" draft in 1966. He not only joined an organization that had played in five championships in six years but the Chargers were known far and wide for giving unknown players a chance. 

Joe Beauchamp had played junior college football, and lettered in 1964 for Iowa State, but was not heralded as one of the best college defensive backs. 

Beauchamp played in eight games his first season in '66, and in November of that season against the Broncos twice in the second quarter, he intercepted. Very little was written in Street & Smith's over the next few years though Joe started many games. December 8th, 1968 Beauchamp achieved the "double takeaway" by both intercepting and recovering an opponent fumble in the same game. 

He was the only San Diego defender to accomplish the double takeaway over the course of a 32-game span (Oct. 22nd, '67 through November 9th, 1969). Though the Chargers played competitive and winning football, they could not beat the Chiefs or Raiders when it mattered. 

The San Diego Chargers highlight film for 1970 was both entertaining and insightful, and Joe Beauchamp was still playing well when he played either corner or safety. 

Recently have been in contact with Emmy Award-winning producer David Plaut, and he shared his thoughts on a number of subjects on Charger players and coaches. Harland Svare moved from the front office to the sideline for the last four games of 1971 and will detail his first full year as head coach. Quoting Street & Smith's '72 annual "People who watched the San Diego Chargers for the last several years are accustomed to seeing touchdowns scored". 

During 1971 the Chargers finished 23rd in points allowed with 341, with just 19 sacks, and were 24th against the run by allowing 2,296 yards. Svare made multiple trades to acquire veteran defenders who he believed who bolster the defense. David Plaut shared with me that Dave Costa and Tim Rossovich were "hilarious with outsized personalities".  Mr. Plaut also shared that Joe Beauchamp was "extremely intelligent and a thoughtful person". 

When Bob Howard was injured early in '72, Ray Jones replaced him. Ray Jones played for four teams in four seasons and film study shows Jones consistently getting beat. He is benched and Beauchamp moves from safety where he was tied for the league lead in interceptions with five (four other men also had five)on October 29th, to left corner where he continued to play well. 
The Charger defense allowed 344 points in '72, and recorded 26 sacks, yet the Lightnin' Bolts are sure improved in defending the run since they allowed just 1,673 yards. The 1972 edition of the Illustrated Digest of Pro Football on page 232 states that Joe "found a home at right corner in 1970. Top athlete with speed, quickness, and zest for combat". San Diego under Svare failed so badly that he was replaced by Tommy Prothro. 

Over the course of his ten years Joe took the field with many other defensive backs, as he was the one constant whether at corner or safety. Beauchamp remained in the Charger line-up through the first eight games of 1975 before being replaced in the line-up. Gary Garrison and Joe were the only two Chargers who played for San Diego from 1966 through 1975. 

Shifting gears, as I stated in my opening sentence this is possibly my last column for the Journal as have decided it is time for me to have my third book published. 

Has been a learning experience for me so far, as far too many of the publishing companies attempt "to hide" the total cost of having a book published. My agent will make sure that the contract is suitable, yet there are so many areas that need to be addressed in having a book published, and am bound and determined to learn them all. 

My upcoming book is titled: "1961—A SENSATIONAL SEASON". Without a doubt this is the best writing I have ever done, and hope some of you will purchase a copy when it comes out. Add to my learning about how to have a book published, my senior softball season starts in two weeks, and this old war horse is motivated to play even better this year.

Friday, April 5, 2024

The Graduating Class of 1981

By John Turney 
Joe Greene by Merv Corning; Alan Page by Joe Isom
In the past few months, NFL stars Aaron Donald, Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox announced their retirements, and they won't be the last. More will bow out or learn they're no longer needed, making 2023 their last season. Donald and Kelce are Hall of Famers waiting to happen. So are Tom Brady and J.J. Watt, who retired a year ago. With four first-ballot cinches bowing out in successive years, that got me wondering.

What's the best class of pros to retire from the NFL?

Certainly, 1973 is one. That's when Johnny Unitas and Dick Butkus retired. But I wonder if there's a deeper class of retirees than the one that left following the 1981 season. Not only were there all-time greats; there was a litany of significant players, too.

Start with Joe Greene and Alan Page. Two of the top five defensive tackles in the history of the game exited the NFL after 1981. Then throw in first-ballot Hall of Famer Jim Langer, the first of the great interior offensive linemen to be enshrined from the Dolphins' dynasty of the early 1970s. It was also Gene Upshaw's final season. Hall-of-Famers Curly Culp and Claude Humphrey called it quits, as well.

But the line doesn't end with Gold Jackets.

Star safeties Bill Thompson and Charlie Waters were part of the 1981 departing class. Thompson's career began in 1969; Waters in 1970. Both were All-Pros and played in Super Bowls, with Waters earning two rings.

Rich Saul (five Pro Bowls) and D.D. Lewis (14 seasons, two rings) exited, too.  Edge rushers L.C. Greenwood, Fred Dryer, Cedrick Hardman and Coy Bacon all played their last NFL downs in 1981, though Hardman and Bacon are asterisked. Both were lured to the USFL.

That's a lot of combined sacks and Pro Bowls.

In 1981 Jerry Sherk's knees finally gave out after 12 seasons and four Pro Bowls. John Matuszak's back gave out on him, too, but in the 1982 Raiders' camp. So he also walked away. Steelers' right tackle Jon Kolb (four rings) left after 1981. So did Randy Rasmussen (15 years), Conrad Dobler (10 years, three Pro Bowls) and Carl Mauck, who played 13 years. I'll throw in Joe Federspiel and Brad Dusek, too. They weren't perennial Pro Bowl choices, but they were good players.

Then there were outstanding skill players, such as Calvin Hill, Lawrence McCutcheon, Ron Jessie, and Raymond Chester. Those four ... as well as others ... put up numbers. With so many stars whose careers ended in 1981, it's a wonder there weren't at least four first-ballot choices in the Class of 1987.

There should've been.

Greene, Upshaw and Langer all made it on their first tries, but Page did not ... and that makes no sense. One of the best defensive players ever, he was unfairly punished for the Vikings' Super Bowl failures (he was on all four losers). Nevertheless, he was enshrined one year later in the Class of 1988.

Had voters then had the ethos of those who followed (and put less emphasis on Super Bowl losses, with the treatment of the 1990s' Buffalo Bills vs. the 1970s' Vikings an example), the Class of 1987 would've been the only one in Hall-of-Fame history with four first-ballot inductees.

I admit that the top of this list may not match the Brady-Watt or Unitas-Butkus combination ... or even the 2010 entry of Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith ... for star power, but I doubt there's been one year with more accomplished players who retired.

I know, 11 other Hall-of-Fame classes included three first-ballot inductees, including 2018, 2019 and 2021. But, in my book, Alan Page, was a first-ballot choice, and the NFL's graduating class of 1981 was the best ever.

Bill Groman, Houston Oilers Receiver, Colorization

by John Turney


George Blanda and Sammy Baugh Colorization

By John Turney


Otto Graham Colorization

 By John Turney

The Browns'  Otto Graham in orange jersey—not often worn