SUPER BOWL XIII CHAMPION 1978 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

In the “Battle of Champions”, Super Bowl XIII on January 21, 1979 the defending champion Cowboys took on the Steelers in deciding who was to be the team of the decade. The first Super Bowl with a kickoff pushed back so that it would conclude in front of a primetime audience.

xiiipsThis was arguably one of the best Super Bowls of the first 25 that were played. Even though the Steelers had bested Dallas in Super Bowl X, this could make things even.  The discrepancy of 10 Steelers in the Hall of Fame vs. 3 for Dallas is beyond ridiculous considering Pittsburgh barely won 35-31.  Of course Cowboy fans point to a bogus “incidental contact” pass interference call between Benny Barnes and Lynn Swann, then you have the Jackie Smith dropped pass…nevertheless referee Fred Sweringen blew that interference call…it’s important because John Stallworth was out for the second half and the Steelers couldn’t move the ball.

Let’s take a trip back in time. Aside from Oakland and Miami, the Steelers and Cowboys were viewed as the best teams of the 1970’s.  The Steelers had won it all in 1974 and returned to the Super Bowl as a powerful defending champion. Pittsburgh repeated as champions and established themselves as a dynasty.  They dropped off the championship mantle for ’76 and ’77 yet were poised to return in 1978.

xiiips2In their absence the Dallas Cowboys had retooled themselves and ascended to the Super Bowl XII championship with Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett added to the mix. The young players that joined the Cowboys in 1975 like Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, and Randy White were now starters and superstars.  Now they were set to do what Pittsburgh had done and repeat as Super Bowl champions.  So for the second time they’d meet in a Super Bowl with one team coming in as a defending champion.

In 1978, the NFL saw rule changes that allowed receivers to only be chucked within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. This “Mel Blount rule” along with a rule allowing pass blockers to extend their arms liberalized the passing game. Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers became a new team as he led the league with 28 TDs thrown. The Steel Curtain wasn’t as stout as it had been in the mid 70’s yet they allowed the fewest points in the first 16 game season with 195 allowed. Franco Harris was still a 1,000 yard rusher at this time.

So this powerful 14-2 challenger went down to Miami’s Orange Bowl to take on the defending champion Cowboys who finished 12-4. For only the second time in the 13 year history of the Super Bowl, we would have two teams facing that each previously had won the game before. The first was the Steelers meeting the Cowboys in X, so everyone anticipated a great game for XIII. Two prime champions faced off and an epic battle ensued.

The Steelers opened up the scoring 7-0 with a Bradshaw to John Stallworth pass from 28 yards out.

After the Cowboys came back and tied the game with a Staubach to Tony Hill pass, Dallas “Doomsday Defense” struck. “Hollywood” Henderson and Mike Hegman sacked Bradshaw with Hegman stealing the ball and scoring with it. The Steelers were down 14-7 when a few plays later…

Each team’s defense forced multiple turnovers during the first half. The majority of the 2nd quarter had the teams deadlocked at 14 when the Steelers sustained a drive just before halftime. With seconds to go, Bradshaw connected on his 3rd TD of the half with this pass to Rocky Bleier.

Terry finished the first half with 253 yards with his 3 touchdowns and would become the first QB to throw for over 300 in a Super Bowl. Keep in mind this was the same quarterback that had nearly played his way out of a job in 1974. All the footage of his mistake prone ways as a young player were being extinguished in the mind as he put on this bravura performance in the 1st half.

Up 21-14, the Steel Curtain started to crack as Staubach started to move the ball in the 3rd quarter. Right when they were going to tie the game at 21, Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown on a 3rd down forcing them to settle for a field goal and a 21-17 deficit. Dallas, demoralized by the turn of events lost momentum for most of the second half.

After a questionable pass interference put the Steelers on the Cowboys 22, Franco scored on this trap to make it 28-17. We were getting late in the 4th quarter also.

Following an accidental squib kick, DT Randy White mishandled the football and fumbled as he was hit by Tony Dungy. Now the Steelers were poised for the kill at the Dallas 18 yard line.

It was not all over… Although the Steelers led 35-17 with a little more than  6 minutes left in the game, Staubach’s championship mettle shone through. The crack in the Steel Curtain became s fissure as the Cowboys scored twice from 90 and 48 yards out respectively. Yet Pittsburgh held on to win 35-31 and unseated the Cowboys as champions.

super-bowl-logo-1978Super Bowl XIII was a celebration with the two best teams facing off in the big game.  Rarely does that happen. Great games like that to climax the season leave you wanting more but you have to wait until next season to get that fix. To think the NFL’s #2 (Cowboys) and #3 (Steelers) ranked defenses were shredded by 35 and 31 points respectively. No one saw that coming.

Bradshaw was the runaway MVP as he passed for a Super Bowl records for yardage (318) and touchdown passes (4). Much like Ben Roethlisberger today, it was the defense and the running game that carried the QB to his first Super Bowl win. Terry had a good game in his second, Super Bowl X, but it was this one that validated his career and sent him to the Hall of Fame.

It’s impossible to see this championship ring and not think of the Super Bowl game first.

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SUPER BOWL XII RUNNER UP 1977 DENVER BRONCOS

Growing up at the time in the “Mile High City”, nothing beat the 1977 season of the Denver Broncos. They would show commercials with the Broncos from the prior week with Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better playing in the background. It was the first winning season in the 18 years of the franchise. “Bronco-mania” took off with everyone attending the games wearing anything orange.

sbxiidenWhat you also had was the emergence of the Orange Crush Defense. Although the Oakland Raiders were the first full time unit to fully employ the 3-4 defense and win the Super Bowl, it was the swarming nasty Bronco outfit that achieved greatness.

The original Orange Crush defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII and Denver’s first ever winning season. This was the first great full time 3-4 defense that yielded only 148 points (10.6 pts / game) and just 18 touchdowns for the season. Holding 7 of their opponents to 10 points or less.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Led by Randy Gradishar, ESPN’s Tom Jackson, and the late Lyle Alzado this defense had an unheard of 4 All Pros concentrated on this defense and 5 Pro Bowlers. This not ready for primetime group came out of nowhere and swallowed the Steelers and Raiders in the playoffs before falling to Dallas in New Orleans in Super Bowl XII.

The story of this group was how it had to overcome being the weak little brother that grew up to take on the bully of the division and the conference. They had taken the AFC West crown from the Oakland Raiders, who perennially dominated the division. Although they split with the defending Super Bowl champion Raiders, doubters still persisted as they were about to face off in the ’77 AFC Championship Game.

sbxiiden2You have to keep in mind that the Broncos had lost 15 straight home games to the Raiders at this point. So we’re talking 1963-1977. They had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-21 and had QB Craig Morton plucked from the hospital after a 2 day stay for his bad hip. The Bronco defense led by Alzado, Jackson, and Gradishar had to set the tone early.

After a roughing the punter allowed the Raiders to finish a 9:00 drive to establish a 3-0 lead, an anxious Denver crowd sat on its hands nervously. Would they be able to move the ball against the defending Super Bowl champs?? Could they overcome the stigma as having been life time bottom feeders of the AFC West?? Craig Morton, who was 0-3 on that bad hip, struck with the most important touchdown in the history of the Denver Bronco franchise.

That 74 yard touchdown from Morton to Moses established the Broncos were for real and they went on to dominate in a 20-17 win. In one year they had gone from never having been to the playoffs, to vanquishing the Steelers and Raiders, who had won the last 3 Super Bowls. All they had to do was take on the Dallas Cowboys down in the Superdome to become world champions.

super-bowl-logo-1977They came up short in Super Bowl XII 27-10 but the memories of that season were great. Head Coach Red Miller was only the second rookie coach to take his team to the Super Bowl. Craig Morton became the first quarterback to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl, having led Dallas to V.

The franchise has gone on to win Super Bowls in the late 1990s but nothing will match the magic of the first visit. I got the chance to meet Lyle Alzado at Owens Boys Club in 1977. “‘Broncomania” school spirit wearing orange on Fridays in Ms. Carmen’s 2nd grade class at Goldrick Elementary. In fact the whole school was in orange every Friday of the season. 1977 was a great year.

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Week 15 – Arizona Cardinals @ St Louis Rams: Look Out Below

Although the Cardinals enter this game 10-3 and the Rams 7-6, it’s St Louis coming in with the hot hand. The Rams are playing with an esprit du corp that belies their record. Where we can find the Washington Redskins practice deteriorate into a fist fight, Head Coach Jeff Fisher has his team improving as the season has worn on. Along with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, it could be argued this is the hottest team in football.

Robert Quinn and Chris Long are leading the pass rush as they had last season.

Robert Quinn and Chris Long are leading the pass rush as they had last season.

You laugh until you notice the Rams have won 3 of their last 4 while holding those teams to 7 points or fewer. By the way one of those teams was the AFC West leading Denver Broncos. They also have a pelt on their post from having also vanquished the Seattle Seahawks at home where they are 4-2 on the year.

Now in comes the offensively challenged Arizona Cardinals. A team that has averaged 13 points in their last 4 games and they have to face a Rams defensive unit coming off back to back shut outs. The Cardinals were a 4th quarter touchdown away from coming in on a 3 game losing streak. Once RB Andre Ellington was put on season ending Injury Reserve, they’re down to 2nd string RB Stepfan Taylor to go along with QB Drew Stanton. The Cardinals had been able to get by with timely defense and finding a way to win it in the end.

Stanton's play of late has not been up to the "Super Bowl declarations" of Head Coach Bruce Arians.

Stanton’s play of late has not been up to the “Super Bowl declarations” of Head Coach Bruce Arians.

Once Carson Palmer went down, this already challenged offense has bogged down mainly behind Stanton flaming out. Sure Head Coach Bruce Arians keeps telling the media he’s able to lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, but he must be talking about a rigged game of Madden on Playstation 4. In the last 3 games he has thrown 1TD to 5 interceptions. Now he has to go out and face a Rams defense that has 18 sacks and 12 turnovers in their last 4 games??

Now lets take a look at the Thursday Night series this year… you do realize the home team has won 8 of these games so far. By the time we add the momentum the Rams are coming in with… The Chancellor of Football sees a 31-7 triumph tonight.

Why was this titled “Look Out Below?” The Arizona Cardinals are coming dangerously close to becoming this century’s version of the 1986 New York Jets. That team exploded out of the blocks and had a league best 10-1 record until injuries brought on a late season slump. The Jets became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a 5 game losing streak. They made the playoffs and this Cardinals team may also. Yet understand they are staggering and hoping to make it to the finish like a struggling boxer. However hope doesn’t win football games and they could be in for a thunderous loss tonight.

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SUPER BOWL XII CHAMPION 1977 DALLAS COWBOYS

Super Bowl XII, Cowboys 27-10 over the Denver Broncos…very painful game…didn’t get to watch it…long story …and LIVED in Denver at the time…I’m still upset at my Mom for that!! TV with a blown picture tube and couldn’t go to a friend’s house to watch th……sigh…deep breaths Jef. Remember how many of us played this game over and over on electric football?

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This team was known for several firsts:

  • The only AFL or NFL champion to finish #1 offensively and defensively
  • The first Super Bowl where the participants faced each other during the season.
  • Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett were the first pair of Heisman winners in the backfield of an NFL champion.
  • The Cowboys were the first dome team to win a Super Bowl. Lets face it… Dallas played in a dome with a hole in the roof. It was a cheap way to not have air conditioning at Texas Stadium.
  • It was the first time since the AFL NFL merger where a former quarterback faced his team in the championship game (Craig Morton)
  • Super Bowl XII was the first played in a dome. The first NFL championship game played indoors was actually 1934.

Everyone talks about Dallas and the great train heist that was the Herschel Walker trade… what about the deal to get Tony Dorsett??Seattle traded their #1 pick to Dallas for several picks in 1977. The Cowboys landed Tony D. and Seattle got some substitute teachers and their cars washed. Overnight the Cowboys returned to the league’s elite because they were down in 1974 where they missed the playoffs. Dorsett became the anchor for the Cowboys rushing for 1,000 yards in 8 of the next 9 seasons.

This game ruined the legacy of the Orange Crush defense because they were special…after 7 turnovers they still only gave up 27 points.

*How did Butch Johnson’s touchdown not be ruled an incomplete pass?*

sbtrophyEnough of that Cowboy haterism….Did you know that this was the first Super Bowl champion to finish the season #1 on offense and #1 on defense in the same year?? To say that the Dallas Cowboys weren’t the best team in football is to deny what was Tom Landry’s best team ever. Pittsburgh was run over in Denver in the 1977 AFC Divisional playoff 34-21, so Steeler fans you gotta stay quiet with this one and they got handled in that game. Randy White, Ed “Too Tall” Jones mixed in with Larry Cole and Harvey Martin were the sickest pass rush in football. Unofficially Martin recorded 26 sacks in just 14 games.

Drew Pearson was in his prime, rookie Tony Hill was doing his thing at receiver, coupled with Hall of Famers: Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett at RB…they made you hate them with their air of invincibility if you weren’t a Cowboy fan. It was at this point when NFL Films dubbed them “America’s Team” that has stuck to this day…whether or not it bothered you or other players and teams. For one year this was about as powerful a champion as you can find.

Sour grapes? Maybe but Dallas’ pass rush was ridiculous. Craig Morton should have been the MVP for all the Halloween candy he passed out in interceptions that day. Yet Randy White and the late Harvey Martin earned the honor of the only Co-MVPs in Super Bowl history. Amazingly that gave the Cowboys 2 Super Bowl MVPs wearing the number 54 (Chuck Howley in V). We should have seen the loss coming, for both teams had identical 12-2 records and Dallas beat Denver in the last game of the regular season. So you couldn’t say it was a fluke.

super-bowl-logo-1977Dallas’ 2nd best team of the 70’s was the team that lost in the chance to repeat in Super Bowl XIII to the Steelers, but this team in 1977, was solid at every position, and spectacular at others, and Staubach quarterbacked them to their second Super Bowl win.

With the Cowboys one of the  NFL’s youngest teams, Tom Landry seemed destined to win more Super Bowls.

SUPER BOWL XI RUNNER UP 1976 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

January 9, 1977 was a day that the Minnesota Vikings again fell short of the Super Bowl win they so desperately wanted.  The 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders was the last hurrah for a team that dominated the NFC for much of the 1970s. They almost went to 4 Super Bowls in a row.  That famous “Hail Mary” against Dallas in the ’75 NFC Divisional playoff should have been called pass interference on Drew Pearson.

vikxiThink of how rewritten the 1970s in the NFL would have been had they won those Super Bowls…

  • Had they won Super Bowl IV against the Chiefs there would still be talk of inferiority between the AFL and NFL even though they were merging the following year.
  • Had they won Super Bowl VIII in Chuck Foreman’s (The U) rookie year the Dolphins do not repeat and do not become a dynasty.
  • Had they won the next year in Super Bowl IX the Steelers dynasty does not take place.
  • Which leads to Super Bowl XI, had the Vikings won that gamevikxi.1 it would have added to Oakland’s (at that time) failed legacy and would have handed them their 8th loss in AFL or AFC Championship games including 2 Super Bowls in 10 years.

 

This team has never received their due.  They dominated the black and blue division and were the scourge of the NFC for many years.  The legacy of the players was too damaged for not winning the Super Bowl.  Come on, the length of time it took for Paul Krause, the NFL’s all time leading interceptor, to get into the Hall of Fame was ridiculous.  The fact that Jim Marshall and Chuck Foreman aren’t in the Hall is a travesty.

11This team was one of the best in the 1970s and this team was the last one to reach the Super Bowl.  Buddy Ryan coaxed a good year out of a “Purple People Eater’s” defense that was aging. Ahmad Rashad and Sammy White were decent receivers and the aforementioned Chuck Foreman (The U) teamed with Fran Tarkenton (the all time touchdown and yardage leader at the time) to form a formidable offense.

An interesting contrast in handling coming up short in the Super Bowl is between Fran Tarkenton and Head Coach Bud Grant. Tarkenton told NFL Films how those games have haunted him all these years. How it robbed the Vikings of their dignity and celebrity which cost teammates Hall of Fame votes. Where Bud Grant said he never looked at any of them on field and it doesn’t bother him one bit. Always looking ahead.

super-bowl-logo-1976Yet if you catch the end of Super Bowl XI as the cameras panned the Viking sideline, you could see a deep hurt in every Viking player’s face. It was as though you could see the last of their prime as an elite team evaporate from the players as the final moments ticked down. Unlike the Buffalo Bills 4 year Super Bowl run, this one lasted 8 years starting with their appearance in IV.

Chuck Foreman only had 1 more 1,000 yard season in 1977 before his career wound down. DT Alan Page was with the Chicago Bears in 1978, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, and Fran Tarkenton were gone after 1979. Even Metropolitan Stadium was gone by 1982 as the team moved indoors with the Metrodome. The end of an era for a once proud franchise. One last look back is in order:

This was the last conference championship ring the Minnesota Vikings won.  1976 NFC Champions.

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SUPER BOWL XI CHAMPION 1976 OAKLAND RAIDERS

Al Davis said he wanted a ring so nice that he wanted a Raider to be able to meet the Queen of England and not feel he had to take it off. Mission accomplished!! One of the unique features to every Raider championship ring is that Al Davis uses the AFL “A” and not the AFC “Block A” on the side. This was the bauble for winning Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977 over the Minnesota Vikings 32-14.

superbowlxi3They finally clutched the prize, Madden, Stabler, Biletnikoff, Tatum, Hendricks, Matuszak, Sistrunk, Villapiano, Atkinson and Raider Nation.  What is strange is how the Raiders could have totally written sports history.  They played in 5 other conference championships before winning the Super Bowl in 1976.

That’s without talking about the “job” they got in the Immaculate Reception in the 1972 AFC Divisional playoff that would have put them in a SIXTH. I cornered Franco Harris in 1991 and tried to get him to exact the ball hit Fuqua and not Tatum and he wouldn’t do it!! sigh…yet I digress  After playing in Super Bowl II, the Raiders could have been in Super Bowls 3,4,5, 8-10, & 12. So this was the culmination of pushing to be the best over all those years.

imagesrYet stop and think about how history could have been written had they won those games.

  1. We wouldn’t have had Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl III
  2. The Raiders would have played the Vikings in Super Bowl IV, who was the original AFL team to be in Minnesota, until the NFL undercut the AFL by giving the owners of that territory an NFL franchise. This is ironically how the AFL got to Oakland in the first place.
  3. They would have stopped Johnny U. and the Colts from making the “Blunder Bowl” or Super Bowl V and could have been going for a threepeat. Had they won in 69 and 70 it would have made them the last AFL Champion as well as the first AFC Champion.
  4. They would have stopped the Dolphins from being a dynasty by keeping them from winning back to back Super Bowls. By the way, remember the undefeated 1972 Dolphins and their record 18 game winning streak?  Who did they lose to? The Raiders in early 1973 in a game played at Berkeley because the A’s were in the World Series. Footnote this with it was the Raiders who in the ’74 Divisional playoff, the “Sea of Hands” play stopped the Dolphins from going to 3 Super Bowls in a row…so this isn’t far-fetched folks.
  5. They would have stopped the Steelers dynasty from taking off (Super Bowls IX & X) and would have been crowned team of the 70’s by this time easily. Don’t start Steeler fans because these were some battles with the Raiders.
  6. They would have stopped the Broncos miracle ’77 season keeping them out of Super Bowl XII.

As for the team that always threw deep, I find it ironic that the Super Bowl XI MVP was a supposedly slow, couldn’t get deep, that left the NFL as the leading playoff touchdown in receptions and yards before he left in 1977 and that is Fred Biletnikoff.  My man was busy cookin’ the best that the NFL had to offer at CB.

It was understood when the game was on the line they went to the diminutive route runner from Florida St. Fred Biletnikoff had only 4 catches in Super Bowl XI, yet those catches set up 3 Super Bowl scores, and was the focus of why the Raiders blew out the Vikings in Super Bowl XI.

super-bowl-logo-1976He was a tremendous performer and the predecessor of Lester Hayes’ use of stickum in 1980.   He was the all time post season reception leader and yardage when he retired. Who broke his record? Cliff Branch…the man he showed the ropes on being an NFL receiver.  Jerry Rice eventually broke these records but you have to appreciate how things became the way they are.

Now Raider fans, you guys have to let go of the Immaculate Reception as I had to after several beers with Franco.  You did get jobbed and that ’75 AFC Championship Game icy field in Pittsburgh was fair when you guys played head games with the Chiefs and others about leaving the water on all night, hence the wet field. It’s just gamesmanship.

Well the idea the refs were out to get you guys disappeared in the ’76 divisional playoffs with the Sugar Bear Hamilton roughing the passer call on Stabler.  That call was among the worst ever!! Remember that call?? In the AFC Divisional playoff in 1976 you were losing to the Patriots 21-17 and were about to have to face a 4th and 17 with 1:38  left. Just seconds away from being upset when the flag came in…

So Stabler scored the winning touchdown with :10 seconds left and you were off to the AFC Championship. Big beneficiary of a very bad call. Hamilton hit Stabler under the arm…

OK then you guys got robbed in Denver on Lytle’s fumble in the 1977 AFC Championship game….ok maybe there is somethin’ to it.  The tuck rule with Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2001…damn you guys are on to something!! Just keep in mind you have had your share of calls also.

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SUPER BOWL X RUNNER UP 1975 DALLAS COWBOYS

Heading into Super Bowl VI, Cowboy coach Tom Landry referred to the Miami Dolphins defense as “a bunch of no named guys.” The Dolphins and the sporting press spun Landry’s comment into the nickname “The No Name Defense”, that they would forever be known for. Yet little did he know he would return with an equally set of anonymous guys to the title game four years later.

1975.Dallas-Cowboys-Roger-Staubach-Super-Bowl-Ring-0002Don’t get us wrong there were known players on the Cowboy’s roster, they were aging and past their prime. Quarterback Roger Staubach had come of age in the 1975 playoffs and was in his prime. He took the Cowboys to Super Bowl X after engineering a miracle in Minnesota. A play that came to be known as The Hail Mary. However it was holdovers from the 1960’s defenses which included Middle Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan #55, Outside Linebacker Dave Edwards #52, DT Jethro Pugh #75, and future Hall of Fame CB Mel Renfro, that lent familiarity to long time fans.

1975.Dallas-Cowboys-Roger-Staubach-Super-Bowl-Ring-0003The 1974 season saw the Cowboys say goodbye to Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle Bob Lilly, Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, and longtime CB Cornell Green. To replenish the cupboard, Gil Brandt, Tex Shramm and Tom Landry loaded the roster with new players. An amazing 12 rookies made the team and became known as “The Dirty Dozen”. Yet none were stars or household names. Well at least not at the time.

The plain truth is the basis for a team that made the Super Bowl 3 times in 4 years, and 3 more NFC Championships games in the ensuing 4 years after that came from this draft. Long time MLB Bob Breunig, Hall of Fame DT Randy White, OLB Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, S Randy Hughes, OLineman Herbert Scott, Pat Donovan, and Burton Lawless were mainstays on this team. Had the bounce of the ball gone differently in Super Bowl X and/or Super Bowl XIII this group would have been remembered in many ways close to the Steelers 1974 draft class.

1975.Dallas-Cowboys-Roger-Staubach-Super-Bowl-Ring-0001Just think about it… had the Cowboys won Super Bowl X or XIII the tally would have been 3 wins by both Dallas and Pittsburgh. Dallas sends more players to the Hall of Fame and fewer Steelers would have been enshrined.

Speaking of Tom Landry’s no-name bunch: Roger Staubach, Tackle Rayfield Wright and Safety Cliff Harris were the only Pro Bowl selections. In fact, the ’75 Cowboys are one of 3 of the first 42 Super Bowl participants to have the fewest pro bowl players with 3. When you think of the ’75 Cowboys who were the runners?? Calvin Hill, Dwayne Thomas, Walt Garrison?? All were gone from the team and Tony Dorsett was 2 years away.

super-bowl-logo-1975Staubach’s taking the Cowboys to Super Bowl X was similar to John Elway taking the Broncos to the title game with “The Drive”. He capitalized on the momentum from the Viking playoff win and drove his team to the title game. He was the lone marquee name and took Super Bowl X down to the final play before falling 21-17.

The greatest of the first ten of these games stamped the Cowboys as a team to watch as the late 70’s beckoned.

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Thanksgiving Day 1980: Shortest Overtime in NFL History – Bears vs Lions

Once upon a time there was a championship team in Detroit. However that was back in the mid 1950s. For the next 25 years the Lions were one of the NFL’s bottom feeders. They made the playoffs only 1 time between 1957 and 1979.

Enter Billy Sims.

The 1978 Heisman Trophy winner was the Lions 1980 #1 draft pick. Billy Sims

The 1978 Heisman Trophy winner was the Lions 1980 #1 draft pick. Billy Sims

The Lions struck gold in drafting the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma. He hit the NFL running and the excitement the team generated had the entire Motor City abuzz.

After a 5-1 start, the Lions fell back to earth losing 4 of their next 6 games. Detroit’s mid-season swoon had begun with a 24-7 loss in Chicago. The Bears had been to the playoffs in 1979 but they came into Thanksgiving having lost 4 of their last 5 games. With the Lions 7-5 and the Bears 4-8, each team entered desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.

So as the rest of America settled into turkey and stuffing, the Lions and Bears hit the field in the Silverdome. Would Detroit establish themselves as the team to beat in the NFC Central??  Or would the Bears right the ship and save their season??

In spectacular fashion the Bears had scored on back to back plays and overtime lasted all of :16 seconds. Thanksgiving dinners were ruined all over the state of Michigan. Athough the Bears swept the Lions they would finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs. The Lions were home for the postseason where 9-7 was not enough to get in either. The Minnesota Vikings stole the division on a Hail Mary.

Dave Williams scored 1 of his career 8 touchdowns in spectacular fashion in the shortest overtime in NFL history. If you’re going to be known for one thing, have it happen when all of America is watching.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Day: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

The NFL finally did something great with making all these divisional match-ups make up the bulk of the final slate of games. All season long we’ve looked at the impending battle lines that make up today’s Eagles vs Cowboys tilt in Jerry World. A pair of 8-3 combatants fighting for NFC East supremacy. What could be better??

DeMarco-Murray-hd-imagesThis is a game that will challenge Head Coach Jason Garrett and QB Tony Romo. One of the penchants they have to fight is trying to fool opponents when they play high profile games like this. It almost came back to bite them in the game against the New York Giants. They get away from controlling the clock and running DeMarco Murray right at opponents wanting to show Tony Romo is healthy or the defacto leader of the football team.

They come out and do this as they did against New York or Washington and they will lose.

Mark Sanchez could be the Eagles key to victory.

Mark Sanchez could be the Eagles key to victory.

An interesting note, the Philadelphia Eagles are not only 2-1 under Mark Sanchez, his stats for 2014 are better than the man he replaced in Nick Foles. For the season Sanchez has completed 62.3% vs 59.8% for the man he replaced however his interceptions have been up in recent weeks. If the Eagles can get Sanchez passing the football early and force Dallas to feel pressure to score with them…the Eagles will win.

What Dallas needs to do is slow this game down and run Murray downhill at them. The Eagles can’t stand up to The Great Wall 2 for 40-45 rushes. They are ranked 16th against the run but that is due to playing against teams trying to pass to keep pace with their offense. We saw how poorly this defense tackles when they lost to the Packers a few weeks back. They also wilted in the second half in a 26-21 defeat in San Francisco earlier in the season.

The Eagles have feasted on patsies and lost their 3 games to playoff caliber talent in San Fran, Arizona, and Green Bay. Well…make it a 4th in what should happen today. The Cowboys should win 34-27.

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SUPER BOWL X CHAMPIONS 1975 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

At what point do you begin to erase an earlier label that was given to you as a player?  Can you totally overcome a negative stigma associated with that label?  At what point does a team peak with its full talent on display??superbowlx

Just think that only a year and a half earlier, the Steelers were 3-1-1 at midseason, and mired in a quarterback controversy between “Jefferson St” Joe Gilliam and Terry Bradshaw. Pittsburgh won with defense and a running attack in spite of the quarterback. After alternating between the ineffective Gilliam and Bradshaw, Noll finally gave the nod to Bradshaw.

Many speculated Pittsburgh wasn’t ready for a black quarterback. Did you know the 1974 Steelers were the only Super Bowl champion that completed less than 50% of their passes?? Gilliam went 4-1-1 in his starts completing 45.3% of his passes (96 of 212) for 1,242 yards 4TDs and 8 interceptions. Bradshaw finished completing 45.3% of his throws (67 of 148) for 785 yards 7 TDs with 8 interceptions. Terry, having gone 5-2, was sacked more and threw interceptions at a higher rate than Gilliam. So he really never beat him out.

superbowlxblack2After an upset victory in Super Bowl IX established them as league champion, the confident Steelers rolled through the next year with Terry Bradshaw at the helm. The Steelers were led by their famous front four known as the “Steel Curtain”, their powerful running game, and Bradshaw received some credit for being the quarterback of the champs.  Yet the respect afforded the Steelers QB was begrudging and not to the level of previous winners like Unitas, Staubach, Greise, Dawson, Starr, or even Fran Tarkenton who hadn’t won one yet appeared in Super Bowls twice.

The 1975 season began with a first time champion who was one of the youngest teams in football.  They were just developing as a team having come through the ’74 season with 8 rookies on the roster.  They hadn’t hit their peak as a team. Even Bradshaw was just shaking off the bad play that had him labeled as “Lil Abner” and a “dumb” quarterback.

He hadn’t lived up to his billing as the number 1 player in the 1970 draft until now, but with a pair of second year receivers in Swann and Stallworth, they were developing to complement the running game.  The strength of this team was its defense and running game.  Franco Harris again rushed for 1000 yards and the Steelers went 12-2 in the regular season. The Steelers were beginning to become bigger than life with Joe Greene, LC Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Jack Lambert and company.

The patch worn by each team in Super Bowl X.

The patch worn by each team in Super Bowl X.

Bradshaw had improved as a quarterback in 1975 as he emerged as a leader. He completed 57.7% (165 of 286) for 2,055 yards 18 TDs to just 9 picks. Yet his moment finally came in a Super Bowl performance that put him on the level of the quarterbacks who were treated with more acclaim. His stats were good but it was the way he stood strong in the pocket to deliver the game clinching 64 yard touchdown to Lynn Swann while being knocked out.

You could see he knew was going to get clocked as he side stepped Cowboy linebacker DD Lewis and gathered himself to throw deep. Much like present Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is thought of now. He was carried to his first Super Bowl by his teammates. In his second, he validated himself among the great quarterbacks by making the play to win the game.

super-bowl-logo-1975Super Bowl X validated the career of Terry Bradshaw and he didn’t have to look over his shoulder the rest of his career. Two more championship triumphs were to follow and this ring commemorated the Steelers becoming a dynasty. Bradshaw would go on to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however the contributions of “Jefferson St” Joe Gilliam shouldn’t be forgotten.

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This article is dedicated in the memory of Joe Giliam.

SUPER BOWL IX RUNNER UP 1974 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Super Bowl IX!  Although the Vikings lost to Pittsburgh 16-6, this team outlasted the Rams 14-10 in the NFC Championship Game to get there.  This was the second of 3 Super Bowl appearances in a 4 year span after drafting Chuck Foreman, from The [[_]], and acquiring Fran Tarkenton in a trade from the Giants. vikingix

This was the Purple People Eaters at their best.  John Gilliam was a tremendous deep threat, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page (NFL MVP in ’71), and Gary Larsen were still the best front four in football and were in the midst of a division dominance that ruled the NFC Central for the better part of 8 years.

They didn’t win the Super Bowl but still had a hell of a run and should have more Hall of Famers off of that team:  Jim Marshall and Chuck Foreman. Foreman was as dominant a RB in the mid 70s as any.  He carried the Vikings to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years and was a leading receiver out of the backfield.  He was Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas, and Marcus Allen before they were and in a bigger body. One game that ruined his legacy was in of all places Buffalo to end the 1975 season.  super-bowl-logo-1974

In the same game where Fran Tarkenton threw for his 291st career touchdown pass to move ahead of Johnny Unitas, Chuck Foreman and OJ Simpson were putting on a clinic and were both after the NFL all time touchdown records for a season.  Well Chuck got 4 to OJ’s 3 but OJ finished with 23TDs to Chuck’s 22 to set the record.

Problem was Chuck had to leave the game after getting hit in the face with a snowball when he scored his 4th touchdown in the 4th quarter…had he scored a 5th he would have tied OJ for the single season touchdown record of 23 that would be later broken by John Riggins (24 in 1983) and an all time record may have garnered him some votes.

Yet Bud Grant’s team was aging having made their 3rd title appearance in 6 years. They were in the middle of a historic run when you look back on it. Those title losses could have reshaped history. Had they won Super Bowl IV against KC, it would have made the Jets win in the season before, a total fluke. The score would have been NFL3 to AFL1 in Super Bowl competition.

They would have kept Don Shula’s Dolphins from becoming a dynasty in VIII and would have stopped an emerging Steeler team in IX. However once they fell to the Steelers, you had to wonder if it was in their psyche to underplay in championship competition.

They had to look at Super Bowl IX and feel they gave one away.

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SUPER BOWL IX CHAMPION 1974 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The first NFL championship in 42 years where the game ball was given to Steeler patriarch, the late Art Rooney. It had been a long time coming for all the decades of despair this team had been through. From the war time merging with the Philadelphia Eagles to form the “Steagles”. To the failed ability to recognize quarterback talent by cutting future Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas. Nothing good had happened for this organization for decades.

Enter Chuck Noll.

superbowlixNoll was hired to be the Head Coach after serving under Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts regime in 1969. His last game with the organization was the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. By then Noll was defensive coordinator after serving for years as a defensive line coach, most notably with the early 60’s San Diego Chargers in the AFL.

They say the player is the father to the coach a man becomes and Noll had been a lineman in his playing days. So instead of building his team first with a quarterback or featured runner, he drafted defensive tackle Joe Greene. He would build his defensive masterpiece from the ground up. A point often forgotten is the selection of LC Greenwood in the 10th round that same year.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

In 1970, quarterback Terry Bradshaw was selected as the #1 overall pick. They finally had their quarterback of the future but the chief building block was Noll’s defense and in particular his defensive line. Five years later they were the best in pro football and came to be known as “The Steel Curtain”

Of course the Steelers had the great class of 1974 to put the finishing touch on what would become a football dynasty. However a look back and you can truly see how Pittsburgh’s first NFL championship had AFL roots.

If the AFL hadn’t been around to offer Chuck Noll his first coaching job at the professional level in 1960, would he have been in place to take the Steelers job in 1969?? Also look at the make up of the Steeler team from a draft and racial standpoint. Mining talent from historically black colleges and smaller schools was an AFL trait, not an NFL one. What Noll did in Pittsburgh was recreate the San Diego defensive line of the early 1960s he wasn’t allowed to in Baltimore.Steel_Curtain_Time_Magazine

  • Joe Greene – North Texas St.
  • LC Greenwood – Arkansas AM & N
  • Ernie Holmes – Texas Southern
  • Dwight White – East Texas State

So think of Joe Greene as a latter day Earl Faison or Ernie Ladd who had come from Grambling. By the time we include the late quarterback “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam from Tennessee State, Mel Blount from Southern, and John Stallworth from Alabama A&M, this team resembles the 1965 San Diego Chargers or 1969 Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL more than it did the 1968 Baltimore Colts.

super-bowl-logo-1974Many former players have talked about the racial quota that existed in the NFL back when. Well along with Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram, Chuck Noll broke that system for good and let talent flourish. First the Steelers took $1 million to move in with the AFL teams to form the AFC in 1970 with the league merger. Than Chuck Noll built the best AFL team he could through the draft

In doing so he brought Pittsburgh a championship it so desperately sought. It would not be the last.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

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This bauble was what each player and coach received after their 16-6 win vs the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals

Make no mistake about it this is a big game. It’s a proving ground where the winner will make themselves out to be an NFC heavyweight. The winner of this game will make it as far as the divisional round of the playoffs. The team that falls today will make the playoffs but will fall in the wildcard game.

NFL: SEP 13 Lions at SaintsWhile it’s endearing to think the roll of the Cardinals will continue, but without Carson Palmer this team can’t make it to the Super Bowl. Truth is Drew Stanton is a very capable backup who is 3-0 this year and was 2-1 for the Lions in 2010 in the same capacity. However right now he’s completing just 49.5% of his passes. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet but he is going to go against the #1 defense in the Lions.

This is the game Matthew Stafford and the Lions will prove their mettle with a tight win. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson has beat Patrick Peterson like a drum since they have played in the NFL. The Cardinals may try Antonio Cromartie on him some today. Detroit hasn’t been stellar on offense this year but if they didn’t have kicking woes, they would be the 8-1 team and not the Cardinals. Although 7-2 isn’t bad.

They will win today 23-14 and cement their legitimacy as an NFC favorite heading into the 2014 playoffs.

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SUPER BOWL VIII RUNNER UP 1973 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

This was the bauble the Vikings won making it to Super Bowl VIII. Once there they lost to Miami 24-7 yet polished off Dallas 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game. It was the first of 3 in a 4 year run after drafting Chuck Foreman (The U) and  acquiring Fran Tarkenton in a trade with the Giants.

Bowl VIIIThis was the Purple People Eaters at their best.  They threatened to have an undefeated season until a late season upset at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons on a Monday night. The Vikings were 9-0 and the last unbeaten team.  Although they finished 12-2, Pete Rozelle’s schedule makers were trying to negate their cold weather home field advantage. They played 4 of their last 5 on the road where their 2 losses came. They were very close to going undefeated had they a more fair schedule.

Could this have been backlash against Bud Grant for saying Don Shula had an unfair advantage being on the NFL competition committee??

Chuck Foreman was rookie of the year with 1,363 total yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs.  John Gilliam was a tremendous deep threat with 42 receptions, 907 yards and 8 touchdowns. The play action was set up by the 6th best rushing attack that ran for 2,275 yards in 1973. Aside from Foreman, Oscar Reed (401 yds), Ed Marinaro (302 yds of 80’s tvHill Street Blues fame), Dave Osborn (216 yds), Bill Brown (206 yds), and even Fran Tarkenton pitched in with (202 yds) and everyone had a better than 4.0 avg per rush.

viii44Bud Grant’s ball control offense rested the NFC’s sixth best defense. Led by Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page (NFL MVP in ’71), and Gary Larsen, they were still the best front four in football and were in the midst of a division dominance that ruled the NFC Central for the better part of 8 years.

super-bowl-logo-1973They came up short in Rice Stadium vs the Dolphins but with their offense intact they would have a few more chances. Everyone was still in their prime  Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Chuck Foreman should ALL be in the Hall!!

SUPER BOW VIII CHAMPION 1973 MIAMI DOLPHINS

The NFL’s first dynasty after Vince Lombardi’s Packers was Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. The only dynasty we never got to see reach its conclusion on the field. After compiling a 32-2 record including two Super Bowls, RBs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and WR Paul Warfield signed contracts with the rogue WFL. It brought the end to an era where Shula’s ground game and “No Name Defense” ruled the NFL.

super bowl viiiThe most dominant team of 1972 & 1973 would be broken up losing two Hall of Famers in Csonka and Warfield. However their WFL contracts wouldn’t take effect until 1975 meaning the team would be intact for one final season.

The heartbeat of the Dolphin dynasty was its ground game. In the perfect season of ’72, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first backfield tandem to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. They nearly repeated that feat in ’73 when Morris rushed for 954 to Csonka’s 1,003.

With the team being broken up an inevitability thanks to the WFL signings, Miami had a threepeat in their sight in ’74. After an 11-3 record there was a feeling the Dolphins were vulnerable. Six of their wins were by 7 points or less. Where in ’73, all 12 wins they won by more than a touchdown. The wear and tear of upholding that championship mantle had brought them back to the pack.

super-bowl-logo-1973Their first playoff game would be in Oakland against the revenge minded Raiders. Although Miami defeated them in the AFC Championship Game at home in ’73, the Raiders beat them in the regular season in Berkeley. That win halted the Dolphins 18 game winning streak which was an NFL record at the time. So into the Oakland Coliseum they went…

The game became known as “The Sea of Hands” one of the most famous games in NFL history. The Dolphin dynasty came to an end with Kiick, Warfield, and Csonka jumping to the new league the following season. No one knew Don Shula would go on to be the winningest coach in NFL history. Even more surprising, he would coach through the 1995 season and would not win another Super Bowl. For the coach on the losing end of Super Bowl III, to the coach who drove his team to the NFL’s only undefeated season, to the man that led his team to 3 of the next 5 title games, culminating with this ring. The second NFL championship ring that crowned a dynasty. Don Shula had taken his place among the greatest coaches in NFL history.

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Midterm Review Seattle Seahawks: Quiet Storm Brewing

A consensus started to take shape when the Dallas Cowboys won in Seattle 5 weeks ago. Folks started to bury the defending Super Bowl champions. Further fuel was dumped on the fire with a loss to the Rams the following week. Then they endured the Percy Harvin trade after that. Yet this team bounced back with 3 consecutive wins and will face the meat of their season with 5 divisional games in their last 7.

Marshawn Lynch's 4 touchdown performance last week propelled a 38-17 drubbing of the Giants last week.

Marshawn Lynch’s 4 touchdown performance last week propelled a 38-17 drubbing of the Giants last week.

Every NFL season takes its own shape and the 2014 Seahawks aren’t the 2013 Seahawks. They have had to learn what it means to be the hunted as they have been hit with everyone’s best shot. Still they’re 6-3 and field the 3rd best defense in the NFL. Many pundits were writing their epitaph as though their season was over. One friend to Taylor Blitz Times suggested they may not make the playoffs. No chance of that… Did you know over the next 7 weeks Seattle will face the 22nd, 24th, 17th, 17th, 24th, and 30th ranked offenses in 6 of those games?? Two will be against Arizona now without QB Carson Palmer.

Truth be told the Seahawks got away from who they were trying to implement Percy Harvin in their offense. He is a tweener that isn’t a polished receiver and too small to play running back. From the Super Bowl until he was traded, his touches took away from Marshawn Lynch who establishes the attitude and tone for the team. Bubble screens and Jet sweeps were featured as the offense got away from power and became a finesse offense. Not one time with Harvin in the lineup did the Seahawks have any offensive continuity.

Last week the Seahawks rediscovered who they were with a 350 yard rushing performance buoyed by Lynch’s 21 car. 140 yards and 4 touchdowns. His physical runs wear down the opponent while galvanizing Seattle. Everyone feeds off the toughness he exhibits. This comes just in time for the stretch run to the playoffs. The new media darling is the Arizona Cardinals who have earned that distinction with an 8-1 record. Keep in mind the Seahawks have two cracks at them along with two more with the 49ers. By the way, Patrick Willis was just put on IR for San Francisco today.

Keep in mind last year the Cardinals won in Seattle in week 16 although the Seahawks had already earned home field advantage. Most pundits won’t tell you that. What they also failed to mention was where the Cardinals gained their motivation for that game. Well in the 2012 season as the Seahawks were establishing themselves as an NFC heavyweight, they crushed Arizona 58-0 in the worse NFL shutout loss of the century. It was an ass whooping of epic proportions, one the Cardinals didn’t forget. The Seahawks will remember last year’s 17-10 loss as well.

Now that the games are big for everyone, Seattle can apply pressure to opponents.

Now that the games are big for everyone, Seattle can apply pressure to opponents.

A closer look will tell you no one is going to sneak up on anyone as the playoffs beckon. The Seahawks will now have opponents feel the pressure of making it to the postseason instead of feeling all the anxiety themselves. Now the games get bigger and more important. Just in time for a LB Malcolm Smith to return to the lineup. Just in time as big hitting SS Kam Chancellor works his way back into game shape having missed two games.

This team is poised to make a Super Bowl run and now they have gone back to the formula that won the hardware last season. Does anyone believe Dallas will go up there and run like that in the playoffs if they faced one another?? Who really thinks the Cardinals will sustain their 2 game lead over Seattle?? What about all of ESPN’s reports the team is going to do away with Marshawn Lynch once the season is over?? The Chancellor doesn’t think so but we do know the Seahawks will ride Lynch all the way to Glendale and Super Bowl XLIX if they can. If they can do that they can establish the first post Bill Belichick dynasty.

Stay tuned…

 

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The Soul of The Game: Ernie Stautner

Last night during the retirement of Joe Greene’s #75, it was revealed his was only the second number retired in Steelers history. When they announced the other number belonged to Ernie Stautner, only the real old timers remembered him as a player.  Some knowledgeable Steeler fans would remember him from his days as a defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys during the Super Bowl years of the 1970’s.

Stautner was a 9 time Pro Bowl DT who eventually made it to the Hall of Fame.

Stautner was a 9 time Pro Bowl DT who eventually made it to the Hall of Fame.

However an earlier incarnation of Stautner was the greatest Steeler during those 42 years of losing before Super Bowl IX. During his 15 year career with the Steelers he was the lone standout as he made the Pro Bowl nine times. Stautner was voted to the All Decade Team of the 1950’s.

He was revered as the strongest defensive tackle at the point of attack. In the video you’re about to watch, you’ll see he alternated between defensive end and tackle. He only weighed 235 lbs for most of his career. The same weight as Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. Yet through his intensity and technique he was the greatest defensive player of the Pittsburgh Steelers first 42 years of existence.

Speaking of technique, he went on to be the defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys for over 20 years. He taught them all from Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, George Andrie, and on through Harvey Martin, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and Hall of Famer Randy White. He spanned both Doomsday I and II and only departed once Jimmy Johnson brought his own coaching staff to Dallas in 1989.

The late Stautner giving some gameday tips to the late Harvey Martin in 1978.

The late Stautner giving some gameday tips to the late Harvey Martin in 1978.

Yet it’s his first NFL incarnation of one of the greatest defensive linemen of his era. He was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969 which ironically was the year the Steelers drafted Joe Greene.

Dedicated to the memory of  Ernie Stautner (Apr 20, 1925- Feb 16, 2006)

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Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys: Is Romo In of Out??

The story that is hitting the rumor circuit is Tony Romo will not play in today’s game. This game between the Cardinals and Cowboys is big when it comes to tie breaker advantages for the end of the season. If the Cowboys thought it was important to put him in for those final 5 minutes last week, The Chancellor believes he will play when you look at the big picture.

Romo will be a game time decision. We think he will play.

Romo will be a game time decision. We think he will play.

With a win today, the Cowboys move to 7-2 on the season. However more important is they would have divisional and wildcard tiebreakers over both Seattle and Arizona depending on how the NFC West shakes out. They would be 5-2 within the NFC and believe it or not, the Cowboys will pull for Seattle and Arizona to finish ahead of the 49ers. San Francisco beat Dallas head to head and is 3-2 in the conference before today’s game against the Rams.

With that important a backdrop, Tony Romo will be “asked” to play.

Larry Foote and the defense has been clutch all year.

Larry Foote and the defense has been clutch all year.

This could play right into the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, whose defensive game plans and blitz packages mimic those the Cowboys struggled to block on Monday Night. As we alluded to in our Cardinals article last week, they thrive on situational football. Each week Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles comes up with a variety of blitzes for their opponents.

This fact has to be brought up in case Tony Romo plays. Before last week, the Cowboys stuck to the gameplan of rushing DeMarco Murray (1,054 yds) straight ahead. However the penchant to audible out of running plays finally came back to bite the Cowboys in their overtime loss to Washington. If Weeden plays will he have the latitude to call those audibles or will Jason Garrett mandate he stay with the play??

This could cause a problem because the Cardinals are #1 in the NFC against the run and #2 overall. This is a battle hardened group used to facing Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore within their division. So they will put pressure back on the quarterback as they have all year. With the Cardinal offense on pace to set an NFL record for fewest turnovers, someone for Dallas needs to make a few plays.

The Cardinals are on course for homefield advantage and could possibly play a first ever Super Bowl in their own home stadium. Dreams are starting to materialize. With a win today, they’ll be 5-0 against the NFC with tie break advantages against San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Sure they have two huge games against Seattle coming up but they are building a hell of a cushion.

This will be a slugfest and The Chancellor of Football sees Arizona winning this game 22-17.

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Arizona Cardinals – Ode To Professionalism

Over the last several weeks a lot of attention has been heaped on the Dallas Cowboys. Whether the conversation covered power rankings or flat X’s and O’s, they deserved all they received. However a closer look and the team that has more quality wins is the Arizona Cardinals.

Bruce Arians has to be NFL Coach of the Year for his team's performance.

Bruce Arians has to be NFL Coach of the Year for his team’s performance.

In their 6-1 start, they edged the 5-3 Chargers 18-17, pounded out a 23-14 win over the 4-3 49ers, and now a 24-20 victory over the 5-2 Philadelphia Eagles. The only blemish on their schedule was a 41-20 loss to the 6-1 Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning vs. Drew Stanton?? Those were the quarterbacks on the marquee in that defeat in Invesco Field with Carson Palmer nursing an injury.

How are the Cardinals doing this and more importantly can they sustain it? Did you know the Cardinals are ranked 24th in defense, 25th in total offense while being 22nd in gaining first downs?? They don’t have a top ten rusher, receiver, and Bruce Arians has used 3 different starting QBs thanks to injuries.

A closer look reveals Andre Ellington is 11th in rushing with 464 yards and 2 TDs. Yet that doesn’t explain anything. DeMarco Murray has that in his last 3 games alone.

Three keys to this team’s success are:

1. Their esprit de corps in executing Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles’ game plans.

2. Arizona is 2nd in the NFL with a +9 turnover ratio while keeping 6 opponents to 20 points or less.

3. Winning situational football week in and week out which can only be attributed to coaching.

“Situational football” is a phrase used by Bill Belichick in practicing specific moments that can arise in a game. What situation?? Take game 1 against the Chargers when they had a tentative lead with just a minute to go. Instead of lining up in a passive prevent zone and allowing Rivers to calmly lead his team in field goal range. They came after him on 3 successive plays with 0 coverage blitzes. Three incompletions and the Cardinals win.

John Brown is the Cardinal's version of the Steelers Antonio Brown. Diminutive and can flat out fly.

John Brown is the Cardinal’s version of the Steelers Antonio Brown. Diminutive and can flat out fly.

Another situation was this past Sunday with 1:39 to go in the game facing 3rd and 5. Rookie wideout John Brown sticks his foot in the ground 15 yards downfield then bursts pass S Nate Allen for the game winning 75 yard touchdown.

That is just it. The situation where all these cookie cutter coordinators are totally coaching their players what to expect, the Cardinals are going for broke. Carson Palmer pulled the trigger and led Brown perfectly on the game winning touchdown.

Arizona is keeping everyone close with this approach and finding ways to win it in the end.

Can they sustain the rate of committing just 5 turnovers in 7 games?? If they can they’d break the record of the 1990 New York Giants with fewest (13) in a season. Doubtful they can sustain it. Yet they have NFC tie breakers over San Francisco and Philadelphia. With a win this Sunday against Dallas, they will add another tie-breaker. Dallas better not overcoach this week.

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Has Marvin Lewis Become the New Tony Dungy??

At the beginning of the season, Taylor Blitz Times had the Cincinnati Bengals picked to face the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. The season before they were picked to make it to their first Super Bowl since 1988. The prevailing theme is they would come of age where their temperament would match their talent and win a few signature games.

Has Marvin Lewis become the new Tony Dungy??

Has Marvin Lewis become the new Tony Dungy??

The type of wins that would send the message to other teams in the conference and the NFL they were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. How long have we been waiting for Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati Bengals to come through with that signature win??

A few short weeks ago, this team was 3-0 and faced the staggering 2-2 New England Patriots. Tom Brady and co. had just come off the business end of a 41-14 thrashing from the Kansas City Chiefs. After traveling on a Monday night no less. The Bengals were ripe to gain that landmark win, yet were thoroughly outclassed 43-17.

Fast forward to this past Sunday. The Bengals know the Colts will figure prominently in the AFC playoffs. Where they had a chance to redeem themselves and send a message, they were blanked 27-0. Are you serious?? In a month they have gone from the last unbeaten team to an 0-2-1 record in that time. Before anyone can point to injuries take a look at the 5-1 Arizona Cardinals and all the players lost to injury.

Andy Dalton is linked to Coach Marvin Lewis. Like it or not, their chance to change their legacy could be in jeopardy.

Andy Dalton is linked to Coach Marvin Lewis. Like it or not, their chance to change their legacy could be in jeopardy.

We can’t make excuses and the biggest problem is we have seen this before. Whether we’re talking about Marvin Lewis or QB Andy Dalton. The question has been “What are you going to do in January??” With one of the NFL’s most talented teams, The Chancellor has to raise the question “Has Marvin Lewis taken this team as far as he could??”

This is starting to look eerily similar to the plight of the Tampa Buccaneers of 1998-2001. Head Coach Tony Dungy had built the league’s best defense and had acquired a few offensive pieces, yet couldn’t get over the hump. After multiple playoff flame outs, management turned to Jon Gruden and the team went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII. A change of leadership with a new motivation strategy was the ticket then, is that what the Cincinnati Bengals need now??

Super Bowl caliber teams don’t go a month without a win nor do they get embarrassed by teams they figure to face come playoff time. For the record, The Chancellor of Football is a fan of Marvin Lewis, and has been so since his 2000 champion Ravens defense. However the question needs to be raised. Its de ja vu all over again.

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Report Card: San Diego Chargers

While the Denver Broncos have retooled their defense in an attempt to make it back to the Super Bowl, one team has begun to turn heads. The San Diego Chargers aren’t just posing as the #1 challenger for the AFC West crown. They’re posing as a legitimate threat to win the entire conference.

Phillip Rivers is the early season MVP of the league.

Phillip Rivers is the early season MVP of the league.

We keep wanting to take the Cincinnati Bengals seriously but when it’s time for them to win that champion’s building block landmark game, they fall flat on their face. Enter the San Diego Chargers…

Do you realize the Chargers are on a 5 game winning streak which began with a win over the defending champion Seahawks?? Did you know Phillip Rivers is the first QB in NFL history with 5 straight games with a passer rating of 120 or higher?? He is tied for 2nd with 15 touchdown passes thrown. Although Andrew Luck leads with 17, he’s thrown 7 interceptions to Rivers 2.

Head Coach Mike McCoy could be up for NFL coach of the year honors this season.

Head Coach Mike McCoy could be up for NFL coach of the year honors this season.

Their only loss was to the 4-1 NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals. So this team has been through an early crucible that should serve them well as they gear up for a huge game against Denver in 2 weeks. Therein lies the problem. How do they not look ahead of this weeks game against the Kansas City Chiefs?? That is the #1 item for Head Coach Mike McCoy to convey to his team.

Has anyone coached better than Mike McCoy this season?? You would be hard pressed to find one. At the beginning of the season you had backfield cogs Ryan Matthews & Danny Woodhead. Since they have been lost to injury, Branden Oliver (249 yds rushing / 124 yds receiving) has emerged as a spark plug. He runs with an explosive fury where Donald Brown is the steady sacrificial runner for this offense.

I know what you’re thinking… sacrificial?? Yes sacrificial.

The Chargers have been a power rushing team averaging 31.6 rushing attempts per game. The Chargers know Brown (59 car. 126 yds)will not break any nifty shifty runs. His runs are the equivalent of a boxing jab to just help wear down the defense. In keeping defenses honest TE Antonio Gates has re-emerged with 6TDs on 24 receptions. He hasn’t scored at this pace since 2004.

San Diego stands to get Ryan Matthews back from injury in 5 weeks. The ground and pound approach that has allowed Rivers to flourish has kept the defense rested as well. Right now they field the 3rd best defense in football.

Right now the Chargers have the NFL’s longest winning streak in football with 5. They have scored 30 or more in 4 games and it was their blueprint Dallas took to Seattle in their watershed victory last week. Two weeks from now they could be 6-1 going into that Sunday Night tilt in Denver. At stake, control of the AFC West and possible control of the conference as a whole.

Don't forget how well Charger coach Mike McCoy knows Peyton Manning.

Don’t forget how well Charger coach Mike McCoy knows Peyton Manning.

Last year the Chargers won in Denver on a Thursday night 27-20 but lost the rubber-match in the playoffs there 24-17. Those were the two lowest point totals for the record setting Bronco team a year ago who this year aren’t as potent. This year the Chargers are a little more battle hardened and must show it by not overlooking the Kansas City Chiefs.

The following week will take care of itself. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Report Card: Cleveland Browns

Dare we say it but we could be in the midst of a changing of the guard in the AFC North. No team has played with the verve and spirit of the Cleveland Browns consistently in this division. The proof that this team is growing is they were ripe for a letdown. After conducting the greatest come from behind road win in NFL history, they had to face the Steelers who they had been 1-18 against.

Brian Hoyer has put the debate over who should start at QB to rest.

Brian Hoyer has put the debate over who should start at QB to rest.

We would have said rivalry but when it’s this one sided it doesn’t qualify as one. After totally letting the Steelers off the hook in week 1, they battered them 31-10 this time behind a combined 155 yards rushing and 3TDs between Ben Tate and Isiah Crowell. Much like The Chancellor of Football alluded to last week with the Dallas Cowboys, it was the physical nature of running the football that wore the Steelers down. They ran the football 38 times in this game.

Isiah Crowell and the Browns have run by committee this season.

Isiah Crowell and the Browns have run by committee this season.

By owning time of possession you keep the game close and rest your defense. Going into the game yesterday Cleveland was averaging 143.5 yards per game. Not trickery draws and pass formation runs to fool the defense. We’re talking knuckles in the dirt, fire off the ball physical line play up front.

Hats off to Brian Hoyer who has been the beneficiary of this running game. Several times against the Steelers he used play action to full effect hitting downfield receivers. In all actuality if the vote were to happen now Hoyer would figure to be a Pro Bowl quarterback. His play this season has been more consistent than Tom Brady’s believe it or not.

For the season, Hoyer has completed 60.4% of his passes for 1,227 yards 7 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He’s not turning the football over… in fact the Browns as a team aren’t. They only have 2 turnovers in 5 games and are +3 on the season. If their defense stepped up and made more plays they could be 4-1 or even 5-0.

Free agent signee Karlos Dansby and the defense need to step up their game.

Free agent signee Karlos Dansby and the defense need to step up their game.

Right now the defense has been abysmal giving up 149.6 yards per game. They play well at times but have too many breakdowns to be consistent. Lets face it, the Browns overspent on Paul Kruger. His production doesn’t match the $40 million they have committed.

Maybe he can turn that around and Karlos Dansby (42 tot. tackles /2 sacks) and the front seven need to force more turnovers. Did you know no one in the front seven has forced a fumble yet?? Can’t gang tackle when you can’t disengage from blocks. They need to play with more force up front…period.

If the Cleveland Browns are to make a playoff run, the defense raising its play is the key. This team is 3rd in rushing and the defense should be rested. As Hoyer showed in the 4th quarter comeback 29-28 win over Tennessee, he can rally the team. The defense needs to play better to allow them some separation on the scoreboard.

It’s a work in progress…

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Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #5 1991 Philadelphia Eagles

A recurring theme that seems to be running through these greatest defenses were they had to carry anemic, inefficient offenses through the season. One such incident took place when the Philadelphia Eagles lost the 1990 NFL MVP in Randall Cunningham in the first week 1991. All appeared to be lost as they attempted to go on without their #1 weapon. This defense turned in one of the last truly great performances finishing #1 against the run, #1 against the pass, and obviously #1 overall.

1991 Pro Bowl members of the Eagles defense.

1991 Pro Bowl members of the Eagles defense.

When you carry a team that played five quarterbacks during the season, you’ve done something. We’re sure you remember that renowned NFL quarterback Brad Goebel or Pat Ryan, right?? Who?? Brad Goebel not Stan Gable…that’s a fictitious character from Revenge Of the Nerds.

As for real quarterbacks they had two games against the Redskins Mark Rypien, that year’s Super Bowl MVP. Two more against Hall of Famer Troy Aikman then one against Steve Young and Warren Moon. Also Hall of Fame members. All but Young made the Pro Bowl in 1991. They went 3-3 against them and held Young’s 49ers (#3 offensively) and Aikman’s Cowboys (#9 offensively) to less than 100 yards passing in two complete games that year.

Remember these Aikman and Young went on to face each other in 3 consecutive NFC Championships starting the following year and won the next four Super Bowls.

They faced 6 top 10 offenses going 3-3 against them. Defensively they held 6 opponents to 10 points or fewer. Two of those games were against top ten offenses as we mentioned earlier. Counting match-ups with divisional foes as individual games, 8 times they held their opposition to their lowest offensive output for the season.

Half the defense made the Pro Bowl starting with the late Reggie White, the late Jerome Brown, and Clyde Simmons from the defensive line. These three accounted for 37 of the Eagle’s 55 sacks. Those 3 alone had just 7 sacks fewer than the 2013 NFL champion Seahawks had as a team. OLB Seth Joyner (110 tck / 6.5 sacks / 6 ff /3 ints) and CB Eric Allen who picked off 5.

The only reason SS Andre Waters didn't make the Pro Bowl was his reputation.

The only reason SS Andre Waters didn’t make the Pro Bowl was his reputation.

Amazingly the late SS Andre Waters didn’t make the Pro Bowl even though he had 156 tackles. It was he and FS Wes Hopkins that sent the early message in their signature game against the Oilers. Did you know starting the very next week, when others used their 13-6 destruction against Houston as a blueprint, stats diminished for the Run & Shoot?? This performance was the impetus for the abolition of the Run & Shoot as a complete offensive approach in the NFL.

In winning 7 of their last 8 attempting to make the playoffs, the quarterback rating allowed was around 40.0. For the season, 206 of 467 (44.1%) for 2,807 yards 16 TDs and 26 interceptions would get a quarterback cut and ripped by NFL Network or ESPN shows. Well this was the passing given up by the 91′ Eagles all year.

Or think of it like this: Look at the ’91 Eagles performance against 6 top 10 offenses and 4 HOF QBs. Compare those stats to Geno Smith who was the worst rated QB last year:

  • Geno Smith – 247 of 443 (55.8%) 3,046 yds 12tds 21 ints
  • ’91 Eagles – 206 of 467 (44.1%) for 2,807 yards 16 TDs and 26 interceptions

One of the best in history and #5 on The Chancellor of Football’s list.apicofme3

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SUPER BOWL VI CHAMPION 1971 DALLAS COWBOYS

By the way…”America’s Team” used to be called “Next Year’s Champions” ’til they won this ring in Super Bowl VI, 24-3 over the Miami Dolphins in New Orleans.

superbowlviThis ended an odyssey of multiple championship and playoff losses between the years of 1966-1970. The Green Bay Packers escaped Dallas twice in the NFL Championship games in ’66 and ’67. Losses to the Cleveland Browns in 68 & 69 kept the Cowboys from further glory. The worst was still to come…

Thanks to the merger in 1970, Dallas’ playoff nemesis Cleveland moved over to the AFC where they struggled. Dallas had played the Vikings in the 1968 Playoff Bowl in Miami and knew they could handle them, yet they were struggling too. One of the new pieces Dallas added to the puzzle was Duane Thomas, a slashing, elusive runner who provided a missing element to the Cowboys arsenal. However the Cowboys were intact with a veteran laden team and seemed destined to ascend to their first world championship. So what happened?

Well they made it to Super Bowl V in Miami where they faced the Baltimore Colts, another team that had moved over to the AFC. These two pre-merger NFL antagonists were embroiled in a defensive struggle where Dallas clearly outplayed the Colts and were poised to take a 20- 6 3rd qtr lead when Duane Thomas fumbled at the 1 yard line. Are you kidding me, the 1 yard line? Nothing demoralizes a team than to drive the length of the field& come away without points, especially, in a game where they’re hard to come by.
You can’t hurt your team worse than that Duane. The silent treatment that followed in 1971 was something Duane put everyone through when he didn’t get a raise from Tom Landry / Gil Brandt, who remembered that fumble. How can a player who ….sigh…you get the picture.

super-bowl-logo-1971The defense, which had a series of let downs in previous championship games played brilliantly. Doomsday knocked Johnny Unitas out of the game, in fact the Colts first touchdown was a fluke double tipped pass. They even blocked the extra point and kept the Colt point total to 6 until deep in the 4th quarter. Chuck Howley (Super Bowl V MVP & only time losing player received the award) and the Cowboys defense forced 7 turnovers yet the offense could only eek out 13 points to lose on a last second field goal 16-13.

superbowl-trophyNow comes the day, Super Bowl VI, football’s version of the Brooklyn Dodgers (many times the bridesmaid) finally has their day in the sun. This time they had an ace up their sleeve. Just like young ace pitcher Johnny Podres of those Dodger teams, the Cowboys had Roger Staubach who was unburdened by those losses since it was Craig Morton (Super Bowl V) and Don Meredith quarterbacking those other 60’s playoff defeats.

It was Johnny Podres that finally pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers past the Yankees for the ’55 World Series after 8 years of championship disappointment. In winning Super Bowl VI for Dallas, Staubach ended a 6 year odyssey for the Cowboys.

The Cowboy’s defense that day held the Dolphins (who would go on to win the next two Super Bowls including an undefeated season) to just 3 points and Duane Thomas didn’t fumble at the 1, he scored from the 3. Couple touchdown passes from Staubach to Mike Ditka and Lance Alworth and the Cowboys finally clutched the prize.

I never heard it expressed but I would suspect that the chase to get that championship made obtaining this one sweeter than a team winning it without those near misses. I do remember Bob Lilly describing in “America’s Game” that the day after Super Bowl VI he felt empty. That the chase was over and the greatest day of his life as a football player was over. Aside from losing the ’72 NFC Championship game to the Redskins the week after the famous playoff comeback vs. the 49ers, it seems that could be said for the Dallas roster that had been fighting to win it all since the mid 60s.

Did they get old? maybe…They exhausted their tank in that win over the Miami Dolphins and shedding that label…”Next Year’s Champion’s” Looking at Dave Edwards pic wearing his ring…you can seriously see the pride in the accomplishment.

SUPER BOWL V CHAMPION 1970 BALTIMORE COLTS

When you think of the old Baltimore Colts, the first flashback that comes to mind are the black and white films with Johnny Unitas leading the team in the 1950’s. Then another thought stirs up images of Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and the mid 1970’s version with Head Coach Ted Marchibroda. You follow-up that thought with the green and yellow Mayflower trucks moving the team to Indianapolis in the middle of the night in 1984. Yet sandwiched between the first and second of these events is the most forgotten champion in modern football history. The 1970 Baltimore Colts.

The bauble won for becoming the first champion of the post AFL/NFL merger.

The bauble won for becoming the first champion of the post AFL/NFL merger.

There are varied reasons why this team is so overlooked when you think of this franchise.  Did you know this is the only Super Bowl winner where the franchise was sold just one year later?? Before the 1972 season, Robert Irsay (Los Angeles Rams) and Carroll Rosenbloom swapped franchises.

Carroll had one of the most successful tenures as an owner in NFL history. Yet after losing Super Bowl III, one of the landmark games in league history, he lost Head Coach Don Shula to the Miami Dolphins after the 1969 season.

The last ring won by John Constantine Unitas and Carroll Rosenbloom.

The last ring won by John Constantine Unitas and Carroll Rosenbloom.

So is it ironic or part of the story that his last game as Colts owner, was a 21-0 loss to Shula’s Miami Dolphins in the 1971 AFC Championship Game?? Another twist was it was played in the Orange Bowl which had been the site of Super Bowl III.

Another reason this champion wasn’t remembered is there wasn’t a main powerful character. Yes the Colts had an aging fading John Unitas at quarterback. In 1970, he finished with a career low 51.7% completion percentage, and was the only qb to win the Super Bowl in a year he threw more interceptions (18-14) than touchdowns. He was 3 seasons removed from 11 straight Pro Bowl seasons and 5 player of the year awards.

By this time he was getting by on inspiration and finding the touch at the right time. As was the case in the first ever AFC Championship Game. Clinging to a 20-17 lead late in the 4th,Unitas had reserve WR Ray Perkins motion from the backfield and lofted a perfect sideline floater just past Raider CB Nemiah Wilson for the decisive touchdown. It was the only touchdown he threw in the game as he went 11 of 30 for 245 yards.

Super Bowl V was the first NFL championship game not played on natural grass.

Super Bowl V was the first NFL championship game not played on natural grass.

It was echoed in Super Bowl V as he went 3 for 9 for 88 yards with 2 interceptions and 1 TD before being knocked out of the game. The lone touchdown was the bizarre 75 yarder to John Mackey where the ball bounced from Colt Eddie Hinton and Cowboy Mel Renfro first. So the late Earl Morrall had to come off the bench to save the Colts season just as Unitas tried to in Super Bowl III.

The game was played at a frantic pace with 11 total turnovers in what was nicknamed The Blunder Bowl. The Colts outlasted the Dallas Cowboys, they didn’t beat them. A last second interception by Mike Curtis put them in position for Jim O’Brien to win it with a field goal 16-13.

Another reason they weren’t remembered were they were coached by the late Don McCafferty. He was the hand picked successor once Don Shula departed for Miami having been the long time Offensive Coordinator. By the time we make it to 1972 the Colts were winless in their first five games. General Manager Joe Thomas wanted Unitas benched. When McCafferty refused he was fired.

super-bowl-logo-1970Less than 1 1/2 years after winning Super Bowl V, Carroll Rosenblom was no longer the owner, John Unitas was no longer the quarterback, Don McCafferty was no longer the coach, and the magic was gone from 33rd Street in Baltimore. The romantic era starting with the 1958 NFL Championship Game win over the Giants, ended in the 1971 AFC Championship in Miami.

In many ways the Super Bowl V championship had a lifetime achievement feel more than a best of the league feel. Would they have won Super Bowl VI had they rematched with the Cowboys?? How different would have Don McCafferty’s legacy been had they won it? As a matter of fact, the Dolphins split their games with the Colts in 1970 and 1971. Would the Colts even make it to Super Bowl V had the Dolphins been able to get past Oakland in the ’70 playoff game??

Epilogue: Carroll Rosenbloom’s Rams won the NFC West 5 times from 1973-1978 but lost the NFC Championship 4 times. He died from a heart attack and drowned before the 1979 season when the Rams did make it to Super Bowl XIV. Which left the team to his wife…. Georgia Rosenbloom who later remarried. Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere.

Don McCafferty died of a heart attack in 1974 after he had coached the Detroit Lions for one season.

John Unitas remains one of the greatest players in NFL history and was the first to throw for more than 40,000 yards. A staple at Baltimore Ravens games well into the 2000s. Unitas passed away on Sept 11th, 2002.

Bubba Smith, the giant Defensive End  passed away in August 2011. Smith played the majority of his career in Baltimore and stated in 2007 “Super Bowl III, I still haven’t gotten over it.”

Earl Morrrall, the journeyman quarterback who was player of the year in 1968 with Unitas out. Was with the team when they lost Super Bowl III. Afterward he would duplicate his 1968 with a great performance leading the Dolphins to the undefeated season in Bob Griese’s absence. He won 2 more Super Bowls (VII & VIII) with Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. Morrall died last month on April 25, 2014.

To these men I dedicate this article to… they were a champion. NFL champions for 1970.

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SUPER BOWL III RUNNER UP 1968 BALTIMORE COLTS

Wow Talk about shock and awe!!!

superbowliii

The Jets 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III was one of those events that defined an era. Everyone has spoken of the great accomplishment, the AFL arriving on the big stage but so few people talk about the vanquished 15-1 Baltimore Colts and Don Shula.

The loss was so devastating and embarrassing that the NFL didn’t issue a championship ring. A team that was 3hrs away from being the greatest team in NFL history received THIS WATCH when they failed to win the game…wow! Think the NFL thought highly of their championship season? Now before you ask, the answer is yes the teams that lost Super Bowls I, II, and IV did receive rings.

old-nfl-logoLet’s take you back to 1968…The Colts were motivated to win it all in 1968 because in 1967 they had the BEST record ever to NOT make the playoffs:11-1-2 including a win over the Packers who would go on to win Super Bowl II. The Rams had an identical record and won the tiebreaker for giving the Colts their one loss. The Colts were in the Western Conference and for the better part of the 60’s couldn’t unseat the Packers.

Except in 1964 when Paul Hornung was suspended for gambling, yet the Colts were upset in Cleveland in the Championship game. Yes you heard me correctly…the Packers and Colts were in the WESTERN CONFERENCE back then. So Vince Lombardi steps down and the Packers run out of steam and the Colts go 13-1 in 1968. So in TWO seasons they had only lost 2 games going 24-2-2. No regular season overtime back then hence the two ties.

super-bowl-logo-1968Like other teams I’ve mentioned, this team that DIDNT win it all was the strongest Baltimore Colts team ever. They had a defense that set the league record for fewest points allowed in a 14 game season with 144 points. They held 11 of their 14 opponents to 10 pts or less including 3 shutouts.

superbowliiiwatchThe great Johnny Unitas got hurt and Earl Morrall replaced him and became league MVP at quarterback. They had Tom Matte and Jerry Hill as arguably the best running tandem in football. Their only regular season loss in 1968 was to the Cleveland Browns who they would go on to blow out 34-0 in the NFL Championship game IN CLEVELAND. So with that it was as though they practically had an undefeated season and were lauded as the best team in NFL history.

Then came January 12th, 1969…wow!! One look at this watch shows you how embarrassed the NFL was to lose to the upstart AFL. The corporate pressures, corporate culture and such were so great that within 2 years coach Don Shula was gone. Within 4 years Carroll Rosenbloom would swap franchises with Robert Irsay (then Rams owner), become owner of the Rams, would later marry Georgia, drown and she became Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere owner of the Los Angeles / St. Louis Rams. Of course this legitimized the AFL and NFL merging as well. Everyone talks about the champion but take a look across the river and pay attention to the team that loses it. The after affects can be frightening…

Would all of this have happened had the Colts WON Super Bowl III?

Epilogue: Although the Colts would go on to win Super Bowl V, how redemptive was it?

SUPER BOWL III CHAMPION 1968 NEW YORK JETS: The Demons From Super Bowl III

One of the great things about the NFL and its history are the stories behind the men. Unfortunately the greatest lessons come from those that come up short in big games. Everyone loves a David v. Goliath scenario when the underdog pulls off an upset. When a landmark incident takes place like Super Bowl III, all eyes follow the winner who have vanquished a favored foe and the game is revered and talked about for years to come.

sbiii.3Super Bowl III has been rehashed, talked about, re-shown, and re-released in 1997 (as a video broadcast) for a generation to see for themselves a landmark game that changed the course of the NFL. It was the centerpiece to a  Hall of Fame career for Joe Namath and allowed Weeb Ewbank to become the only coach to win a championship in both leagues. Yet what does all this fallout do to the men who lost that event?? Is the harm irreparable for  the men who came up short in Super Bowl III?? How easy is it to forget and move on??

Surely the Baltimore Colts could go on and win another championship and set things straight, right?? Here are the accounts of  Bill Curry, Mike Curtis, and the late Bubba Smith. As you listen to the recount through their eyes, you will get a different feeling about Super Bowl III than ever before.

Copy of Joe Namath's Super Bowl III ring.

Copy of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III ring.

What is ironic, these are interviews celebrating their Super Bowl V championship for the America’s Game series. What makes these poignant is the dissident sound of honesty reflected in their voices. What makes these stories resonate is this was a game 45 years ago and made even more impactful that this was the last interview for Bubba Smith to talk about this with his passing away in August 2011.

CHAPTER I:  The updated story from our upcoming book as written July 12,  2010 and showcased online: SUPER BOWL III RUNNER UP 1968 NFL CHAMPION BALTIMORE COLTS

CHAPTER II: A vignette of what was shared by Bill Curry, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, and Ernie Accorsi as the events and aftermath of Super Bowl III were recounted.

CHAPTER III/EPILOGUE: Again, what makes this unique are the events that take place hastening Don Shula’s departure, where he became the NFL’s All Time winning coach in Miami and not Baltimore. Even after winning Super Bowl V, Carroll Rosenbloom was still disenchanted with being the owner of the Baltimore Colts and swapped franchises with the Rams Robert Irsay in 1972.

super bowl iii3Was it ironic or a part of the story, that after winning Super Bowl V, the Baltimore Colts made it to the AFC Championship to defend their title?? Who did they lose to 21-0, to bring about the end of an era (1958-1971) where the Colts were among the NFL elite?? Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl. Another irony is Don Shula went on to become the winningest coach in NFL history in the stadium where Super Bowl III was held. The Orange Bowl. Don Shula went on to excorcise his demons. As for Carroll Rosenbloom, Ernie Accorsi, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, and Bill Curry??

So remember to pay close attention to the men and these moments. What will become of the principles of a landmark event for those on both sides of the equation. A compelling study in the psychology of man and sport.  This is one of the reasons we love bringing you these real life stories with such richness.

super-bowl-logo-1968Thanks for reading and share this with those who love football and football history. Teach them something that scores on ESPN won’t tell them.

SUPER BOWL I CHAMPION 1966 GREEN BAY PACKERS

War of the Worlds… The first meeting of champions from both the upstart American Football League, and the established National Football League took place on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles. NFL Films called it “Spectacle of a Sport” and it was when you think about it. Separate leagues, separate television contracts, and even different balls made the two leagues as different as night and day. The AFL was the league that went for 2 pt conversions and had the names of the players on the back of the jersey where the more established NFL was more conservative by nature.

Even the Super Bowl trophy was new as Pete Rozelle commissioned a new trophy produced every year. Up until that point the championship trophy rotated to the winning organization for that year. So the NFL trophy that made the rounds stayed in Green Bay at the conclusion of the 1965 season when the Packers dethroned the defending champion Cleveland Browns 23-12.

4654756ringDid you know the LA Coliseum for Super Bowl I had over 15,000 empty seats? The game was broadcast on 2 networks….well kinda…lol Pete Rozelle and the NFL had the main CBS feed and microphone, where the AFL’s NBC just gave a commentary over the video supplied by CBS for their broadcast. So after the game, commentators for both networks were fighting over the INDIVIDUAL locker room microphone after the game when it was time for the trophy presentation and subsequent interview of Vince Lombardi. That is nuts…

How far had the AFL come in the 6 years since its inception? The Chiefs were behind only 14-10 after a 1st half where the Chiefs held their own however the game changed on a Willie Wood interception in the 3rd quarter, running it back to the Chief 5. A few touchdowns later and the Packers were on cruise control 35-10 which was the final.

Super-Bowl-Trophy-SizeIn my opinion, this was the best of the Green Bay champions of the 1960s. They were more diverse than previous champions and the mixture of young talent with the veterans made for a lethal combination. The exact peak where veteran savvy and physical ability meet before aging would slow the Packer machine. You still had Jim Taylor as the bludgeoning fullback where at halfback Elijah Pitts along with rookie Donny Anderson supplemented aging Paul Hornung. Bart Starr was now the chief QB in the league who threw for 4TDs in the ’66 NFL title game against Dallas and 2 more against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl which doesn’t include a 64yd TD strike to Carroll Dale that was called back. What 3 yards and a cloud of dust? This team wasn’t just running sweeps anymore.

Speaking of sweeps: Forrest Gregg, Jerry Kramer, Bill Curry, Fuzzy Thurston (always loved that name), and Bob Skoronski were still supplying those holes and were the essence of the Packers. They beat you on the line of scrimmage…that plain and simple. Forrest Gregg went on to win a 3rd ring with the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and coached the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XVI. Kramer became the voice of that team thru a series of bestselling books. Curry went on to play in 2 more Super Bowls with the Baltimore Colts and coached at the University of Alabama as well.

Thurman SuperBowl XXV 233These men paved the way for many a 1,000yd rusher in the 60’s. TE Marv Fleming has to be added to the mix since TEs had to block back then. Fleming replaced Ron Kramer as Starr’s short pass option over the middle. He would go on to play in 5 of the first 8 Super Bowls (3 with Miami) becoming the first man to win 4 rings (the Charles Haley of his day). Carroll Dale, Boyd Dowler, and “out all night” Max McGhee were steady, heady receivers. Max went on to enjoy success in the restaurant business… Chi Chi’s I believe.

Again…winning on the line was the name of the game with the Packers when it came to defense: Willie Davis, Ron Kostelnik, the late Henry Jordan, and the late Lionel Aldridge were draped on Len Dawson in the second half of Super Bowl I like a tailored suit. They were a veteran group that did its main job of stopping the run, and in a 4-3 defense, keep blockers off of the MLB. Since the late Ray Nitschke skated into the Hall of Fame, I think it’s fair to say they did it well. How many highlights do you see Nitschke making plays tackle to tackle? Tons. Texan Lee Roy Caffey and Dave Robinson were solid at outside linebacker. Robinson along with Bobby Bell was the prototype to the modern outside linebacker with their size and range when the league brought in the Robert Braziles, Clay Matthews, Lawrence Taylors and Ricky Jacksons in the 80’s.

super-bowl-logo-1966The late Bob Jeter, former USC quarterback turned safety Hall of Famer Willie Wood, Tom Brown, and Hall of Famer Herb Adderley (converted RB from Michigan State) was simply the best defensive backfield in football…maybe football history. Who could read a QB better than a former QB? When it came to athletes Adderley in his heyday was Deion Sanders without the flash. Adderley won another ring in Super Bowl II with the Packers then would go on to play in 2 more Super Bowls with Dallas, winning in Super Bowl VI along with Forrest Gregg. However Adderley was still a starter and blanketed Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, of Miami, in that game some 5 yrs later.

Another look at this team tells you another story. Lombardi coached at a time when it was expressed Italians / Catholics weren’t viewed as football coaches (see how he didn’t get the job to replace Jim Lee Howell in New York) or would be voted President back in the late 50’s. I bring this up because as you look up the racial make up for most teams in the 60’s, the Packers more than any team did more for diversity and breaking quotas than any other team. At least in the NFL. Lombardi had a lot to do with that obviously and they were constant champions. Not 3 in 4 yrs, not 2 Super Bowls in a row, not 4 Super Bowls won in a decade. They won half (FIVE) of the decades championships, there must have been suicidal Bears fans everywhere in the 60s.

Aside from football X’s and O’s this football team will never be forgotten.

SUPER BOWL I RUNNER UP 1966 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The first AFL Super Bowl representative was the 1966 Chiefs, by virtue of a 31-7 burial of MY Buffalo Bills who were trying to 3-peat in the AFL.  With a little bit of luck the Cowboys would best the Packers and the Chiefs could play the Cowboys in Super Bowl I…..uh, sorry Green Bay wasn’t having it besting the Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL Title game.  Then those Packers went on to beat Kansas City in Super Bowl I 35-10.  So why am I talkin’ about Dallas??  Would you believe there is a history?

1loserThe KC Chiefs had moved from Dallas to Kansas City back in 1963 and even though they were AFL Champions, Lamar Hunt (AFL Founder) moved the team to not compete with the Dallas Cowboys.  The NFL, conservative and slow to expand, placed a new franchise in Dallas in 1960 since Lamar Hunt would have a team there.  They were even more shiesty with what they did with the Minnesota territory…yet we’ll get back to that…

AllDecalsDuring the 1960s, war raged between the NFL and AFL, these two principles from Dallas who both lived there crossed paths several times and were architects, in clandestine, about a possible merger between the two leagues.

They even met once at Love Field in Dallas under the Texas Ranger statue to talk about it right before Hunt boarded a plane for Houston to meet with Bud Adams and other AFL owners to vote Al Davis AFL Commissioner where the war for players escalated 10 fold. This act and subsequent talent drain included signing players from the other league (free agency LOL) that finally brought each side to the table.  At the meeting to announce the merger did you notice that Tex Schramm (Cowboys) and Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) flanked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle at that conference?

So it would have been something had the Chiefs faced the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl I.  Uh, but you see there was this team from Green Bay and…Uh…well, LOL let’s just say they weren’t going to be denied.  So with that, this ring is for the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs formerly known as the Dallas Texans for reaching Super Bowl I.

 

super-bowl-logo-1966EPILOGUE: About that Minnesota thing… The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league.  The AFL couldn’t operate with only 7 teams.  Fitting that the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask?  They went west and became the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs main rival.  As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14.  So when you think of the Vikings of the 70’s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960… The fact that the Vikings first and last Super Bowl losses came courtesy of these two teams is more karma than ironic. Folks I can’t make this stuff up.

Legendary Days: Bo Jackson Explodes On A Monday Night

Think back to 1986 when Bo Jackson decided to play baseball instead of report to the Tampa Bay Buccaneer organization. What could he have accomplished had he donned that uniform?? Would he have become one of the all time rushers and turned around a moribund franchise?? Or would he spend the bulk of his career playing in relative obscurity as Corey Dillon did in his?? It’s still interesting to think about when we think of the career of Jackson.

Bo Jackson was a force

Bo Jackson was a force

Most observers hold on to the what if scenarios over what other players actually performed on the field. The Chancellor doesn’t but what can’t be underscored was the impact he had when the Raiders decided to pick up his rights in the 1987 NFL draft. Yet they had to wait until he finished off his MLB season first.

The 1987 LA Raiders were an aging fading team in need of a spark. They were light years away from the ’83 group that won Super Bowl XVIII and were in the midst of a 7 game losing streak when they traveled to Seattle on a Monday night. Although it wasn’t a scintillating match-up, this was the first chance for a nation to catch the former Heisman winner playing his “hobby”.

The problem was we were left without knowing the best Bo could have been. He could have broken records or he could have just been a good pro. The player that he reminds me of most is Herschel Walker. Another former Heisman winner with a super man type body. Most straight line power runners wear down against modern defenses. There are some exceptions and Bo could have been one of them. Make no mistake about it he had the potential to be one of the biggest stars in NFL history. Yet we didn’t get the chance to see it and that’s the problem. We’re stuck in a gray twilight of what he could have been.

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Taylor Blitz Times NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Richard Sherman

Someone somewhere coined the axiom  “Big time players make big plays in big games.” No defensive play this year was bigger than the pass defensed by Richard Sherman that turned into the game ending interception to win the NFC Championship. It would have been easy to catch Sherman flat footed having played a majority of the game being avoided.

TBT Defensive Player of the Year: Richard Sherman

TBT Defensive Player of the Year: Richard Sherman

If you make the biggest play in the history of your team to send them to the Super Bowl, you have done something. How many times do we see a player dominate in the regular season only to disappear in the playoffs.  Yet Sherman was front and center as one of the lead players on the #1 defense in football.

One pass defense could have altered the legacies of both teams.

One pass defense could have altered the legacies of both teams.

In the most pivotal game of the season, Sherman provided the key play. Not the NFC Championship, but week 4 when the consensus was Seattle couldn’t win on the road. It was the 4th quarter when the Seahawks were losing in Houston 20-13. At the time the Texans were thought of as a Super Bowl team and on their way to a win. With just 2:51 left Sherman jumped a Matt Schaub pass and returned it 58 yards for the tying touchdown. Seattle eventually won 23-20 in overtime. The resultant confidence led the Seahawks to a 6-2 road record and NFC best 13-3 record. While the Texans didn’t win another game the rest of the season. Talk about a turning point.

The confidence building moment against Houston.

The big interception against Houston.

In 2013, Sherman talked the talk while leading the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and that significant touchdown. He also was 7th on the team in tackles with 48, defensed 17 passes and recovered 2 fumbles. The Seahawks assign him to their opponents best receiver and he answered the bell every week.

In the pivotal moment of the NFC Championship we saw a transcendent play. For an instant Colin Kaepernick thought he had Crabtree breaking free and let fly. From a fundamental standpoint he stayed inside Michael Crabtree, using the sideline as his friend, then reacted to make the play of the season.

Honorable Mention: 

Navorro Bowman pictured in last year's Super Bowl.

Navorro Bowman pictured in last year’s Super Bowl.

Navorro Bowman ILB – San Francisco 49ers: We were just a couple plays away from back to back Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player Awards for Navorro Bowman. If Richard Sherman doesn’t turn in that play to win the NFC Championhip how does he not win it again?? As we made it to the second half of the season, many pundits were pitching the case for Luke Kuechly. However truth be told he didn’t turn anywhere near the season Bowman did out in San Francisco.

  • Bowman -180 total tackles, 5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 9 passes defensed, 2 interceptions and 1 returned for a touchdown
  • Kuechly -166 total tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions ,  8 passes defensed, yet 0 forced fumbles or fumble recoveries

On top of that, was there a bigger defensive play than the interception return for a touchdown to put San Francisco into the playoffs?? Monday night against the Falcons his 89 yard pick six takes place with 1:31 to go when the 49ers needed a play. This play and his final play are the essence of the man. He stops Kearse in the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship at the two yard line. The tackle wasn’t enough, he forces and recovers a fumble although he injures himself in the process. It’s that spirit that makes him the best linebacker in the NFL. One we wish a speedy recovery from the knee injury suffered against Seattle.

Burfict has been the playmaker on Cincinnati's  top ranked defense.

Burfict has been the playmaker on Cincinnati’s top ranked defense.

Vontaze Burfict ILB – Cincinnati Bengals: Another blood thirsty linebacker who turned in one stellar season was this former Arizona St. Sun Devil. He recorded an astounding 50 more tackles than his breakout rookie season with 177 total tackles. Add to that his 3 sacks, 8 passes defensed, an interception, 1 forced fumble to accompany 2 fumble recoveries with one returned for a touchdown.

He was the trigger man on the NFL’s third best defense and has a great future ahead of him. We just need to see if he’ll be featured in the new defensive coodinator’s scheme now that Mike Zimmer is the head man in Minnesota.

These were the defenders that made the season for Taylor Blitz Times.

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Overcoaching: Take Two

There are multiple ways NFL teams overcoach. Some are merely lined up in formations that doesn’t suit their personnel. Others fail to include their best players often enough in their game to make a difference. Still others get away from their game plan too quickly in a knee jerk reaction to what is happening in a given game.

The Dez Bryant eruption on the sideline with fellow Cowboy Jason Witten.

The Dez Bryant eruption on the sideline with fellow Cowboy Jason Witten.

Several of those manifested themselves in the Dez Bryant outburst toward the end of Dallas 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions. We have often said “When you have a talent like this, you sick him on the defense 15-20 times per game.” Every great receiver has been selfish and wanted the football and at what point does “We’re trying to get you the ball.” fall on deaf ears??

On the week he proclaimed to be as good as Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Bryant had to watch in disbelief as the Lions fed his nemesis 14 times for a club record 329 yards and a touchdown. We’re not talking about the game where Terrell Owens set the reception record of 20 on 5 yard passes. “Megatron” averaged 23.9 yards per catch!! Seam routes, bombs, deep in routes, every single play designed to get him in winnable situations. When it called for it, put the ball up where he at 6’5 can get it.

Well the 6’2 Bryant who said earlier in the week he could do what Johnson can do, made a circus catch on one of his two touchdowns. However it was his 3 catches and something said after a pass thrown behind him in the third quarter that set him off. Yet across the field he watched the Lions move Johnson from the “X”, to the “Z” when he caught the bomb, to the “Slot” where he ran several corner routes. To the final seam route from the “Y” position that put the ball in place for the game winner by Stafford. The Lions game plan called to do what was possible to get him the ball. All the while Bryant played decoy on 59 of 64 offensive plays for Dallas.

The volatile Dez Bryant erupted on the Cowboys sideline eliciting multiple reactions from observers.

The volatile Dez Bryant erupted on the Cowboys sideline eliciting multiple reactions from observers.

If Bryant is the top gun in your offense, why are you only targeting him 5 times?? You need to have your main player be at the heart of the offense in the waning moments. Not watching Romo throw erratically over the head of Cole Beasley with 2:38 to go. Yet here he stood on the backdrop of personally challenging himself after calling out Johnson and had to stand and watch rookie Terrence Williams targeted 10 times during the contest.

Come on are you serious??

Now listen it’s easy to point out there was a better way for Dez Bryant to channel his emotions. However football is an emotional game played by men who do wear their passion on their sleeve. No one seemed to mind just two weeks ago when a livid Tom Brady berated his young receivers on the sideline for running the wrong routes and dropping passes against the Saints. In fact, the game’s announcers speculated why he was upset and justified it all at the same time. It could have gone for as long as Dez’s situation but the camera panned away after a few moments.

Bryan Cox had the same thing happen to him in 1995 when they caught him upset during a Monday Night game against Pittsburgh. Now he cited racial bias and asked why it wasn’t a concern when Dan Marino went off on the sideline. Remember the blow-up about Troy Aikman supposedly yelling at all African American players back in 1998?? What about the sideline blow-up of Ken Norton Jr & Thomas Everett during the 1992 NFC Championship Game against San Francisco??

This is football and you’ll have some of that and then you move on from it. There are fights during pre-season and some harsh things that are said on the sideline. Yet when the final minutes were ticking down in Norton, and Everett’s case, they were kissing cousins joking about their first Super Bowl visit sided by side. Norton with the football he intercepted Steve Young with under his arm to seal the win. This will blow over also but masked the big reason it happened and we’re speculating. Why was he upset in the first place??

He watched the Detroit Lion feed the ultimate competitor in Calvin Johnson the football. They were committed to getting him the football. In this instance, Bryant didn’t see that same commitment on the Cowboys part. Don’t even begin to bring up Cris Carter, Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Michael Irvin from a generation ago being different. They were the exact same way. Taylor Blitz Times readers know I have the footage to back up exactly what I’m saying too. Yet overcoaching brought this on, trying to show how diverse the Cowboys attack can be rather than get the best players the football.

It was a good thing Bryant did go off instead of watching his teammates wander listlessly through the final plays of another 4th quarter meltdown. This team has anointed Tony Romo the leader when the defacto on the field, in the trenches “follow me” ass kicking player hasn’t been seen in Dallas since Marion Barber and Terrell Owens. Did he go overboard?? Come on every incident we glamorize about football is about extreme emotion on the sideline. We joke about it in the Jim Harbaugh commercial when he’s over the top coaching little kids. We joke about it when the black coach replaces Robin Williams after biting a snicker candy bar yelling “Now let’s go for it!!” at the top of his lungs.

Did you know that once upon a time the Baltimore Colts weren’t playing up to their ability in 1970?? They were in a team meeting when Mike Curtis lit into his team when he told them “We have three games plus the (postseason) . I’m going to play the same way I always play. And you’re going to go full speed in practice and in those games or I’m going to kick your ass, myself. Remember I said that.”  The Colts won all six and won Super Bowl V ironically against the Dallas Cowboys.

Someone needed to light a fire down in Dallas. Maybe they won’t coach past their strengths again leading to another meltdown. Fire can’t come from Jerry Jones, only fear. Fire comes from passionate teammates who are in the trenches with you. Dallas you’re 4-4 what are you going to do with this??

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The Soul Of The Game: Pat Fischer

Pat Fisher played cornerback for 17 NFL seasons.

Pat Fisher played cornerback for 17 NFL seasons.

In the long history of the NFL there have been players who defined their positions because of their physicality. Men like Dick Butkus, Dick “Night Train” Lane, and Lawrence Taylor were freaks at their position. They were bigger than what other teams were geared to deal with normally. Yet there are those that stand out as hitters first although their size would suggest something different. Enter Pat Fischer.

Standing only 5’9, and 170 lbs (that can’t be right) Smith played in an era where the NFL was a running league. Unlike today’s game where he could play out in space chasing an X, Z, or slot receiver, Fischer had to come up and tackle in an era where everyone was emulating Green Bay’s power sweep. He had to take on pulling guards,  some fullbacks along with his coverage responsibilities. Yet he only missed 10 games in his first 16 years.

His physical play belied his diminutive size as he played as a pint sized intimidator. Lionel “Train” James loves to say “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Never was this more true than of Pat Fisher. Even in the Super Bowl VII highlight, NFL Films had John Facenda narrate how much a nemesis he was against the run and the pass. Let’s face it, a cornerback his size now is primarily a special team guy who is platooned only against multiple receiver sets. They rarely tackle players other than small slot receivers. Take a look at how Fisher played…

In the NFL of the 1960’s there was a concentration of talent that stayed with the same teams and systems for many years. Fischer was caught in this vice where Hall of Fame cornerbacks Dick “Night Train” Lane, Herb Adderley, Jimmy Johnson, and Lem Barney were playing. He was an overlooked player for awhile and some of it could have been other players not leaving behind on-field animosity when voting for fellow players.

There has to be some truth to it or Fischer wouldn’t have had one of his 3 Pro Bowl seasons in 1969 when he had just 2 interceptions. Now his first, in 1964, where he picked off 10 returning them for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns couldn’t be ignored. That was 1 TD short of the all time record. Yet other years he was overshadowed by these other players.

mel-gray-05893042

Pat Fischer played well into the 70’s and here he is going against Mel Gray in the mid ’70s.

One could also make the argument Fischer’s 1969 Pro Bowl and All Pro season came because of the higher visibility Vince Lombardi brought to the team in his only year coaching there.

Whatever the reason, Fischer played from 1961-1977 and retired having played in more games at cornerback in NFL history. If you think about that time frame, he came in 9 years before the AFL / NFL merger and played through the 12th Super Bowl. This is before the modern athlete could have arthroscopic surgery between seasons to prolong their careers. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame??

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The Golden Age of Hating The Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys helmet design on Facebook.

Dallas Cowboys

It was a feeling that manifested itself sometime during the 1970’s. We can put it on the late George Allen, former coach of the Washington Redskins, who was first to verbalize a total disdain for the Dallas Cowboys. It raised the level of rancor between the Redskins and Cowboys that elevated their rivalry to national televised status. T

hey had a behind the scenes rivalry that was based upon the Cowboys becoming the NFL’s most southern most team when they came into the league in 1960. Before that, the Redskins of George Preston Marshall were. It was during the 1970’s when their rivalry was felt between the fans and the players on the field.

However the disdain Allen felt during the early 1970’s was felt by many teams and fans. The feeling was the late Tom Landry and his Dallas Cowboys were given too much publicity by the networks and the print media. CBS was constantly covering the Cowboys and the level of success they had in the 1970’s, with 5 Super Bowl visits, seeded hatred in their rivals. Especially within their division. Yet none of them were good enough to challenge them in the NFC East.

By the time NFL Films made the 1978 Dallas Cowboys yearbook and labeled it “America’s Team” hatred was at an all time high. Even jealousy if you will. It was the arrogance and air of supremacy the Cowboys organization painted during those CBS days that fueled two schools of fans.

You had those who thought of themselves as beautiful and carried themselves with a sense of arrogance  and identified with the team. Then you had the regular meat and potatoes folks who loved when the Pittsburgh Steelers punched them square in the mouth during Super Bowls X and XIII. They were also fans of all other teams. Yet when your team is no longer in it, they cheered for whoever was facing Dallas in the playoffs or Super Bowl.

Ironically, this is where the Steelers gained their nationwide fans. It had nothing to do with the fact they won 4 Super Bowls in the 1970’s, it was the fact they beat the Cowboys in two of those Super Bowls that made them remain as fans.

As the 1980’s beckoned, many of the teams that Dallas had sat on for the previous decade began to grow anew.  A fresh generation of coaches and players started to internalize the disdain for the bully on the block and began their ascent. It was known that you had to take out Landry’s Cowboys if you really want to be recognized as champions. Although the Redskins were the one with the more acknowledged rivalry, it was the Philadelphia Eagles under Dick Vermeil that got the first crack at the boys from the Lone Star State.

Much of the animosity started at the beginning of the week, when the Eagles were cast as underdogs against Landry’s Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Although they were hosting, the Eagles were made underdogs by Vegas. Right on cue, the Eagles were being treated as bit role players even though they split their games with Dallas that year.

An upset Dick Vermeil made a declaration that ratcheted feelings up when he vowed “Never allow anyone to take you for granted! I get the feeling the Dallas Cowboys are taking us for granted right now. We’re here because we earned the right to be here. If the Dallas Cowboys are going to take us for granted, we’ll whip their ass!”

To further irk Tom Landry, Vermeil opted to play in their white uniforms forcing the Cowboys to play in the blue jerseys, which they felt were jinxed. Dallas complained to the league office yet for once the powers that be didn’t allow Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm to get their way. The crowd at Veteran’s Stadium was unforgiving as the two teams emerged from the tunnel.  It was 4* and -17* windchill when on the Eagles second play from scrimmage:

The roar of the crowd during Wilbert Montgomery’s touchdown was the loudest ever at Veteran’s Stadium. Cowboy haters everywhere delighted as the Eagles held the early upper hand on the Cowboys 7-0. As the game wore on and Landry’s charges behind 17-7 late in the fourth quarter, they were able to punt and pin the Eagles to their own 5 yard line. From their own 5 yard line the Eagles ended fading hopes for Dallas when in 3 runs Philadelphia moved the football to the Dallas 25. Montgomery was putting the finishing touches on a signature day when he struck with this 54 yard masterpiece.

The Eagles vanquished the Cowboys 20-7 on their way to Super Bowl XV. Wilbert Montgomery etched his name into  Philadelphia lore with a 194 yard performance. They had destroyed the Flex Defence, rushing for 263 yards on 40  carries averaging 6.575 yards a pop!! Cowboy haters everywhere rejoiced in hearing Landry, Danny White and Cowboy apologists have to answer the questions as the defeated football team. In fact many Cowboy haters pulled for the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl two weeks later. People weren’t cheering for the Eagles as much as they were for Dallas to lose.

The following year the Cowboys had revamped their secondary &  national press covered the exploits of rookies Everson Walls (who should be a Hall of Famer), Michael Downs, and Ron Fellows. Although the publicity was on this group in Big D, they were overshadowing an even greater group in San Francisco. Where Bill Walsh had drafted and started rookie CB Ronnie Lott, CB Eric Wright, and S Carlton Williamson to go along with scrappy veteran S Dwight Hicks.  Yet through most of the 1981 season, you didn’t hear about the 49ers. Even after a 45-14 devastation of the Cowboys in week 5 with Ronnie Lott scoring the decisive touchdown.

Did you know the 49ers didn’t make the Monday Night Football highlight package?? Don’t tell our CEO there was no media bias. Nor can you say the coverage of Dallas’ rookie trio of defensive backs didn’t motivate the group by the bay. Was it borne from the Cowboys propaganda and success of the 1970s?? Or was it borne from Tom Landry’s ties to the New York media since his pro coaching career started there??

Did you know the late Pat Summerall who broadcast many of the Cowboys games in that era, was a teammate and friend of Landry back in New York?? So when they didn’t make the ABC Monday Night package it fed into the hating Dallas mantra that much more by the 1981 NFC Championship Game.

There had been a history between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas. In fact you could say the 49ers were who Dallas had built their reputation on with wins over them in the 1970 and 1971 NFC Championship Games. At that point the Cowboys were called “Next Year’s Champions” for four straight playoff defeats to Vince Lombardi’s Packers and the Cleveland Browns. As a new decade beckoned it was the Niners and the Cowboys who stepped to the fore.

Once Dallas emerged and won Super Bowl VI, their prestige soared where the vanquished 49ers went into a tailspin the rest of the decade. Yet before that happened, there was the 1972 NFC Divisional playoff where a measure of revenge was going to be exacted against Landry’s troops when Roger Staubach led a furious 4th quarter rally. Staubach led Dallas to a 30-28 win after they were behind 28-13 with 5:00 to go in the game. This is when he earned the nickname Captain Comeback.

Fast forward to the 1981 NFC Championship where the resurrected 49er franchise, now under Eddie DeBartolo, were preparing for the game. Still smarting from the lack of respect afforded his group after the 45-14 win and no media coverage, set the tone of a franchise when talking to a reporter. “They ate it once and they can eat it (defeat) again.” Reminiscent of Dick Vermeil the year before, Cowboy haters were all pulling for the 49ers in this game when they took the field.

The final stint came when the Washington Redskins had their turn to climb over Dallas to make it to the summit of pro football. After a strike shortened season where the 8-1 Redskins entered a playoff tournament to make it to Super Bowl XVII, most pundits picked the media darling Cowboys to win the NFC Champoinship citing the Redskins only loss was courtesy of the Cowboys. Our CEO can remember being fired up for the NFC Championship between Washington and Dallas and knew it was going to be a thing of beauty.

It actually started when the Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21-7 win over the Vikings to set up the NFC Conference final when the chant “We want Dallas!!  We want Dallas!!” resonated from the jam packed crowd at RFK.   Just moments before, John Riggins who had rushed for 185 yard was in the midst of a curtain call, turned and gave a bow to the crowd sending them into a frenzy.  Those sights and sounds reverberated throughout the stadium and CBS chose instead of showing the final plays of that game, panoramic views of the raucous fans.

As for the rest of the Cowboy haters who gathered to watch this team go down again. Look no further than another bulletin board comment that jump started the festivities. It started with Dexter Manley professing in the paper that he “hated Dallas” that Monday that got the ball rolling.  Then back and forth in the newspaper ensued from Danny White of the Cowboys, to Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke, EVERYONE was stoking the fire.  How bad did it get?  There was even a heated argument about the game within the House of Representatives the Friday before the game and the late Thomas “Tip” O’Neill adjourned session an hour early.  It was on!!!!

Over a football game? Yes over a football game. The hating of Dallas really grew wings in the George Allen era.  He preached it, lived it, and over all the treatment America’s Team received as a media darling kept breeding that hatred within rival teams.  Real Redskin fans will talk with high regard of the fact that they beat Dallas in the ’72 NFC Championship when the Cowboys were defending champions.  So here we were some 10 years later and all that animosity was a thing of the past right?  After all new owner, new coach, new quarterback and cast of characters comprised the Redskins roster.  Right?

With that we were at an end of an era where other NFL teams were able to get their due as the 1980’s moved on. Media coverage transferred from Dallas to new teams coming from Chicago, the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, of course the 49ers and the Redskins who were dominant the rest of the decade. From this era came the nationwide fan base of the San Francisco 49ers much like the Steelers. The backlash of the “America’s Team” name and over favorable coverage brewed hatred from the majority of NFL fans and players.

Notice in these videos, the look in their eye and the description of elation for vanquishing the Dallas Cowboys of that era. In all three cases before the NFC Championship, where decorum was to be quiet, and not give the Cowboys bulletin board material. Coaches and owners in these instances were doing it let alone players. It set the table for things to come and put their organizations on high alert of what was expected of them.

The hatred for everything Dallas began to dissipate at this time. There was some animosity left when the ’85 Bears bloodied them 44-0 in Texas Stadium after 9 straight losses to them. Yet by the time of Tom Landry’s departure, people felt bad about what happened to the Cowboys and watched the dismantling of a franchise with mixed emotions.

You were almost mad that they were 1-15 in 1989, because the villain from Texas was gone. The Jimmy Johnson Cowboys of the 1990’s were an envied team, not a hated one. To be hated you had to be more than a good  football team, and in retrospect that was what made hating the Dallas Cowboys worthwhile.

The way they were marketed, branded, and packaged. The way their coach was treated like a God and their quarterback in Roger Staubach was the idol which gave way to Danny White. Their cheerleaders were even made famous. All of this tapped into the inferiority complex of many players and fans of other teams. When it came time to beat them for a championship or a game of importance, it was the Holy Grail.

NEXT: 2013 Indianapolis Colts Preview

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Vincent T. Lombardi – Growing Up Lombardi & The 1965 NFL Championship Season

Vince Lombardi carried off the field by Jerry Kramer at the end of Super Bowl II

Vince Lombardi carried off the field by Jerry Kramer at the end of Super Bowl II

When the NFL talks about winning coaches, one name towers above all others…Vince Lombardi. He was a leader of men and motivated the Green Bay Packers to great heights in the 1960’s. His team won half the NFL championships of the 1960’s while appearing in 6 total. No team has won more than four in a decade in the modern era. Yet when folks talk about a three-peat, everyone keeps forgetting Lombardi and his Packers achieved this feat.

Think about that for a second… Chuck Noll would have had to take the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers to two more Super Bowls to equal that feat. Yet there is debate on who was the greater team. You have to give the edge to Green Bay because they did win three in a row. When they say no one has achieved this in the Super Bowl era, that isn’t entirely true.

The two that concluded this 3 year period were victories in Super Bowl I & II. Yet there is one season that seems to go overlooked of the Lombardi Packers…the 1965 NFL Championship team.

The 1961 Packers were known for Lombardi’s first championship. It’s the 1962 team that was remembered as Lombardi’s greatest and strongest team. Only a Thanksgiving Day ambush 26-14 loss to the Lions kept them from going undefeated. They were 13-1 while outscoring the opposition 415-148 while repeating as champions. Of course his ’66 squad won the first Super Bowl and the ’67 team was known for winning The Ice Bowl then Lombardi’s last game, Super Bowl II.

However when you go back to 1965, the Green Bay Packers were trying to re-establish themselves among the NFL elite. They had a chance to win 3 in a row after ’61 & ’62, however Paul Hornung’s season long suspension for gambling short circuited that effort. After watching the Bears and Colts win their conference in 1963 and 1964, the Packers were back to contend.  However there was a new bully on the block. The Cleveland Browns powered by Jim Brown had won it all in 1964, and was looking to repeat in 1965 to take their place among greatest league champions.

In their 23-12 victory over Cleveland, the Packers not only ended Jim Brown’s playing career on a down note, they would be the last to hold the rotating NFL trophy that moved from champion to champion. The following year was the first to be played under the merger agreement and the Tiffany Company started to produce a Super Bowl Trophy every year. Lombardi had driven his team back to prominence where they would sit atop the football world for three years. They had unseated a reigning champion to do it. That can’t be underscored.

After winning 99 games in 9 years, 6 conference championships, and five world championships, how does one follow that type of success?? Most of the Packers players had mainly played for Vince Lombardi and were used to his demanding, driving spirit. Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, and Herb Adderley had all grown up Lombardi. Now as we look back should they have replaced the Green Bay legend with a coach that was similar in temperament??

Vince Lombardi will always be seen as the gold standard when it comes to NFL coaches. One unique aspects of his tenure and times are the broken stereotypes that were forged through his time. It was thought of at the time he wouldn’t become a head coach or be successful because of his Italian and Catholic roots. It was one of the reasons he didn’t succeed New York Giant Head Coach Jim Lee Howell, whom he served as Offensive Co-Ordinator during the championship years 1956-1958. Only once he was hired and successful in Green Bay did they try to lure him back. Ironically he beat the Giants for his first two championships. Prejudice is bad for business.

Furthermore the NFL during that time was one where black players were unable to play the “thinking” positions on defense such as linebacker or safety. There had to be a sensitivity to that plight because of the stigmas Lombardi himself faced. Although Willie Wood was unable to play quarterback in the pros, he went on to be an 8 time Pro bowl participant and became a Hall of Fame player. The same for Linebacker Dave Robinson, who was just elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past February.

One of the way his legend has become so large is he passed away in 1970, just 3 seasons removed from coaching his great Packer teams. This leads to several question. He coached the Washington Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in his only season of 1969. Ironically his first season in Green Bay was 7-5 in 1959.

  • Would he have completed the rebuild of the Washington Redskins?? Remember they did play in Super Bowl VII just 3 years later.
  • Would his legend have been damaged had he only a  moderately successful career had he lived longer and coached the Redskins into the mid 1970’s??
  • If he had gone back to New York and coached the Giants in 1960 would he have been as successful as he went on to become in Green Bay??
Green Bay Packers 1965 NFL Championship Ring

Green Bay Packers 1965 NFL Championship Ring

After his passing in September of 1970, the NFL decided to name the Super Bowl Trophy in his honor.  In such a condensed time of 9 years, his teams won 5 championships. Don Shula, the NFL’s all time winningest coach won 2 in 33 years. Tom Landry won 2 in 29 years. All time greatest coach in NFL history?? You better believe it. Of all his great teams, it’s the 1965 team that seems to be forgotten about. After all they were the first in the only successful three-peat in NFL history won on the field, and is the chief reason he’s immortalized.

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Adderley

Greatest Defensive Performance in an NFL Game – Vernon Perry

Vernon Perry of the Houston Oilers was a solid strong safety.

Vernon Perry of the Houston Oilers was a solid strong safety.

When it comes to great performances in the NFL we tend to think of superstars having spectacular days. However there are times when a player finds himself totally in tune with a situation and turns in the game of a lifetime.

Such was the case with SS Vernon Perry of the late 70’s Houston Oilers. He was the college teammate of the late Walter Payton and Oiler teammate Robert Brazile at Jackson State. After a stint in Canada, Perry only played five seasons in the NFL (1979-1983) and the only distinction he gained was being named 2nd team All Pro in 1980.

In 1979, the Oilers were chasing perennial champion and division rival Pittsburgh, to whom they lost the 1978 AFC Championship Game to. Perry’s rookie year helped solidify a secondary that picked off 34 passes for the season. They were built as a run heavy team behind legendary Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell. In week 15 the Oilers beat the Steelers 20-17 to give them both identical 11-4 records. A loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the final week relegated the Oilers to the wild card role and the Steelers the division championship.

The wild card game was one of the most physical games in NFL history. The Denver Broncos “Orange Crush” defense battled tooth and nail in the 13-7 loss to the Oilers. They knocked out Earl Campbell, leading receiver Ken Burrough, and starting quarterback Dan Pastorini.

So a team that had serious aspirations of reaching Super Bowl XIV, or at least a rematch with the Steelers, would have to do so without Campbell’s 1,697 yards in the divisional round. Since the game would be on Saturday and not Sunday, they would be without Pastorini and Burrough as well.

Air Coryell - Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, and Kellen Winslow

Air Coryell – Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, and Kellen Winslow

Picture the 1990’s Dallas Cowboys going into a playoff game without Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin all not being in the game. This was that equivalent.

Their opponent was the AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers who also had Super Bowl aspirations. In 1979 they became the first team since the merger to make the playoffs passing more then they ran. Dan Fouts had thrown for 4,082 yards which was an NFL record at the time. They too finished with a 12-4 record to tie Pittsburgh for best record in the conference, and had their confidence boosted in week 12 with a 35-7 blowout of those Steelers. They had Pro Bowlers in John Jefferson (61 rec. 1,090 yds 10TDs), Charlie Joiner (72 rec. 1,008 yds 4TDs) along with Hall of Fame DE Fred Dean and DT Gary “Big Hands” Johnson.

The Chargers finished winning 6 of their last 7 and had held 4 of their last 5 opponents to 7 points or less. For the year, finished 5th in the NFL in defense and were healthy and home for the divisional round. This was a Super Bowl ready group… All they had to do was get past an Oiler team without it’s starting quarterback, running back, and leading receiver.

Naturally the Chargers scored on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead and were driving to take a two score lead when Vernon Perry struck…

The Chargers were undaunted but found the Oiler defense was tougher than anticipated. Once they drove inside the red-zone on the next drive, they stalled at the 7 yard line. They were up 7-3 when they lined up for a 26 yard field goal in the second quarter when:

A pensive crowd started to sit on their hands as their high-flying Chargers were clinging to that same 7-3 lead and couldn’t increase it. The Oilers were also struggling to finish drives. The Chargers were coming out with 3:24 to go and they were sure they’d score on the last drive of the half when Vernon Perry decided to undercut Charlie Joiner crossing the middle.

Thanks to the field position caused by Perry’s 2nd theft, the Oilers scored to take a 10-7 halftime lead. With a team that scored 411 points, 2nd most in the NFL in 1979, it was only going to be a matter of time before the Charger juggernaut got rolling.

Or so San Diego fans thought.

Truth be told they had moved the football early and it was becoming clear the Oilers weren’t going away. The team traded 3rd quarter touchdowns and the Oilers were on top 17-14 after Mike Renfro’s 47 yard touchdown. From that point on an upset seemed imminent and the Chargers started pressing. With just over 3:00 to go in the game, Fouts led his team into field goal range when:

Complete disappointment had set in when the San Diego offense took the field with 1:00 to go. Even though they were only behind by 3 and needed a field goal, their body english was that of a defeated team. Yet with under 10 seconds to go, Dan Fouts could get them into field goal range or hope for a pass interference when he heaved his last pass…

After the game Oiler Head Coach Bum Phillips addressed his team “We were short on man power but we were long on guts” was an understatement. Not once can our CEO remember where a team had to go into a playoff game missing 80% of their season’s offensive production due to injury.

Behind Vernon Perry’s NFL playoff record 4 interceptions, 8 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and a blocked field goal he returned 57 yards, the Oilers pulled off the biggest upset since Super Bowl III. Not only did it come when the Oilers desperately needed it in a playoff game, he set up the Oilers’ first 10 points which gave the team confidence believing they could win.  It was the best defensive performance in NFL history by an individual in The Chancellor of Football’s estimation.

It set up an AFC Championship rematch with the champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Armed with their hot rookie safety they made it to the gunlap in the race for Super Bowl XIV. Once there Perry got the Oilers off to a great start early in the game.

Yet alas the Oilers fell 27-13 in a game made famous by the Mike Renfro no touchdown call that sparked the instant replay debate. At the time the score would have been tied 17-17 late in the third quarter and the Oilers would have had the momentum in a quiet Three Rivers Stadium. However that is another story for another day. For it was the week before when Vernon Perry made NFL history that was the story of the 1979 playoffs and a game for the ages.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Missing Rings – 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars

Elusive Fred Taylor was one of the best running backs in the NFL.

Elusive Fred Taylor was one of the best running backs in the NFL.

There comes a point and time where your greatest effort is rewarded with your greatest prize. At least that is what we are all lead to believe. However that isn’t always the case and it’s what makes the NFL playoffs so compelling. To know that a one and done scenario exists in the playoffs, heightens pulses, nerves, and ultimately leads to the best and worst in players and coach alike. Jimmy Johnson before Super Bowl XXVIII asked his team “How would you feel if you lost the game and you had the best team in the NFL?? How sick would you feel??”

Enter the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars…

This was a team borne from expansion in 1995 along with the Carolina Panthers. Each team surprisingly made it to their conference championships in their second year. However the Jaguars were able to sustain their success. They honed and developed offensive talent that had been mired on NFL benches with QB Mark Brunell (Packers), WR Jimmy Smith (Cowboys), and Keenan McCardell  (Browns). In 1996 & 1997 both Smith and McCardell had over 1,000 yards receiving. In fact it’s debatable that Smith had become the NFL’s best receiver.

Through the 1999 season, Smith had averaged 90 receptions 1,346 yards and 6 touchdowns over those 4 years. He had been to the Pro Bowl in 3 of those 4 seasons. They had former Charger RB Natrone Means and James Stewart who teamed to run the ball with minimal effectiveness.

Brunell had made a name for himself playing like the AFC version of Steve Young. A gritty, mobile quarterback who could make every kind of throw. Yet his spontaneous scrambles unnerved defenses.  He also had been to the Pro Bowl in 3 of those 4 years. Mark came of age in the 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff upset of the Denver Broncos. Mark BrunellIn that game the 9-7 Jaguars made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.  After upsetting the Buffalo Bills on the road, it was expected their Cinderella season would end at the hands of the 13-3 Broncos in Mile High Stadium. Not only were they 8-0 at home but nationwide sentiment favored John Elway making it back to the Super Bowl with the NFL’s strongest team. Denver had rushed out to a 12-1 record wrapping up the AFC West and homefield advantage before resting their players.

After falling behind 12-0, Brunell engineered a comeback where he passed for 245 yards and 2 scores, but came up with timely scrambles that kept drives alive. Along with the running of Natrone Means (140 yds / 1TD), Brunell ran for 44 more as the Jaguars scored on 6 straight possessions in front of a shocked Denver crowd taking a 30-20 lead. The final 30-27 score stunned fans around the nation and everyone hailed the coming of Brunell and the Jaguars.

On the ground the Jags had a plodding rushing attack with RB James Stewart and Means. Two big backs with very little wiggle and no splash plays of any kind. They needed a spark. In 1998 the Jaguars addressed their running issues by drafting the electric but often injured RB Fred Taylor of Florida. He brought the big play from the backfield whether it was a spectacular run or pass reception. His 1,223 yards and 14 TDs should have landed him in the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Brunell passed for 20TDs and only 9 interceptions in a season where he missed 3 games. Jimmy Smith exploded for 78 receptions 1,182 yards and 8 TDs and one of his Pro Bowl berths. As an offense they finally had everything and it looked like 1999 would be the year they would put it all together.

As a defense the Jaguars began to bring in blue chip players to replace those received in the expansion draft. In their 1995 they drafted linebacker Kevin Hardy and defensive end Tony Brackens. Over the next two years, these two matured into two of the AFC’s best as the Jaguars added blue chip draft picks S Donovin Darius & CB Aaron Beasley.

Free agency brought former Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Bryce Paup and perennial All Pro Carnell Lake formerly of Pittsburgh. Then they hired former Panther Coach Dom Capers to be the defensive co-ordinator and the team that finished 6th in the NFL in defense looked to improve in 1999.

The ’99 campaign began with a 41-3 devastation of the San Francisco 49ers at home. Hall of Famers Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the 49ers were still intact at the time. They started 3-1 before Young’s career ending concussion, but that one loss?? The Jags chased him all over AllTel Stadium. He was 9 for 26 while throwing for only 96 yards and 2 interceptions before getting benched.

They held Rice to only 2 receptions while Terrell Owens had 5. After giving up an early field goal, Jacksonville scored 41 unanswered points with the last touchdown being a 90 yard interception return by Aaron Beasley. This sent a shock-wave through the NFL.

Through the first 15 weeks of the season, the Jaguars looked like they were on a collision course with the St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. They were 13-1 going into a game with the Tennessee Titans that could wrap up home-field advantage and the AFC Central Divsion Championship. They had only given up 169 points and were on pace to break the record of the ’86 Bears for fewest points in a season at 187. In fact they had a 6 game stretch where they held their opponents to 10 points or less.

They also beat the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos, who were the teams that knocked them out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Jimmy Smith was having a career year with 116 catches for 1,636 yards and 6 touchdowns. They had outscored their opposition 358-169 and were on an 11 game winning streak. What could go wrong??

Well early in September they lost 20-19 to the Tennessee Titans when Neil O’Donnell subbed for an injured Steve McNair at home. They were a 1 point loss from being 14-0 and now traveled to Tennessee to get revenge and ran smack into a buzzsaw. A division rival that had been chasing them all year had their number as Steve McNair, who was now healthy, threw for 5 touchdowns in a convincing 41-14 win. Surprise!

They now had been swept by their division rival who bullied and outhit them in that game. Not only was their confidence shaken, but questions about their Super Bowl legitimacy could be heard around the NFL and by fans. They did finish with a 24-7 win against the Bengals to finish 14-2, but they were going into the ’99 playoffs asking themselves two questions. Were they the team that was 14-0 against the rest of the NFL, or the one that got swept by the Tennessee Titans??

First up came a game with in-state rival Miami in the AFC Divisional round. It would be the first time Jacksonville would have a home playoff game. How would they fare??

After the 62-7 trouncing of Miami, the Jaguars knew they had to go through the Titans again in the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars had pulled off the most lopsided playoff game in modern (post 1960) NFL history. For one that was labeled a finesse team, they had been physical with their demolition of Miami and they flew into the AFC Championship Game. The question was: Were they physical enough to beat a true phyical team in the Titans??

At least it would be at home where they had gone 8-1 when you include their playoff game. Winner take all for the right to go to Super Bowl XXXIV. The story lines surrounding this championship was the relative health of both Mark Brunell (knees) and Steve McNair (toe) who were nursing injuries. Wouldn’t you know it was the turning point of the game.

Mark Brunell sacked for the safety which turned the momentum in the '99 AFC Championship Game.

Mark Brunell sacked for the safety which turned the momentum in the ’99 AFC Championship Game.

The AFChampionship was a hard fought affair that saw the Jaguars hold onto a 14-10 lead at the half. While driving for what would have been a momentum building score at the end of the half turned out disastrous for Jacksonville when Brunell was intercepted in the end zone by Marcus Robertson. The momentum switched from there…

McNair, whose foot finally responded, escaped Jacksonville’s defense for a 51 yard run down to the 1 yard line on the first drive of the second half. He scored on the next play to give the Titans a 17-14 lead. Brunell on the other hand was immobile wearing two knee braces. During the regular season where he escaped the pocket 47 time for 208 yards and a touchdown, he was uncomfortable all day and left the pocket once for -1 yard.

In fact after the Titans pinned Jacksonville to their own 3, the immobile Brunell was sacked for a safety by DT Josh Evans that helped break open the game at 19-14. The resultant free kick was then returned 80 yards by Derrick Mason and now the Titans were up 26-14. In less than half a quarter, the Titans scored 16 unanswered points and had a 2 touchdown lead. With their ears pinned back, the Titans pass rush forced Brunell into his roughest outing of the season. He went 19 of 38 for 239 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 costly interceptions. They lost 33-14.

Epilogue: For one brief moment in time, the Jacksonville Jaguars soared to new heights. Most people forget that they were the first to flirt with breaking the record for fewest points given up in a season and not the Ravens. It was Baltimore who broke it in 2000. They had the NFL’s best record (14-2) and finished the season scoring 396 while allowing just 217 which was the fewest.

That 179 point differential was 2nd only to The Greatest Show on Turf ’99 Rams that many wanted to see them play in Super Bowl XXXIV. They finished 4th in total defense, 7th on offense, and had 5 Pro Bowl performers in Brunell, Kevin Hardy, Tony Brackens, Carnell Lake, and Jimmy Smith. Yet they had to sit home and watch someone else represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

The team would never be the same. Injuries and disappointment followed in 2000 as they went 7-9. In fact the Jaguars had 3 successive losing seasons which led to Tom Coughlin’s dismissal after the 2002 season.

Want some irony??

Fisher had some parting verbal shots at Jacksonville on the field after that ’99 championship. Coughlin gets fired a few years later. Fisher goes on to lose Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams. Now Jeff Fisher is the St. Louis Rams head coach after NOT winning a Super Bowl in Tennessee. Guess what Fisher did last February?? He sat his ass on a couch and watched Tom Coughlin win his second Super Bowl with the New York Giants to put his name on the short list of great coaches who have accomplished that.

Always be classy when you win…

The 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the best teams that didn’t win the Super Bowl

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

For those avid readers of the Taylor Blitz Times, I would like to thank you for your continued patronage and we are growing in leaps and bounds. In the future we will have a new logo adorn the top of the website that reflects where we’re going. We have just been reached through specific searches in 100 different countries since February 25, 2011. Thanks again for reading and there are more changes to come to keep this the fun, informative site that it’s been.

 

Marcus Allen – A Football Life

The Chancellor of Football:

Super Bowl XVIII - AOne thing I always said about Marcus Allen, no one had a better trophy case. Think about what he amassed in a three year period from 1981 through the 1983 seasons. He runs for 2,342 yards and 22 TDs and wins the Heisman Trophy. He then wins NFL Rookie of the Year in his debut with the Raiders and what does he do for an encore?? Has a 1,000 yard season and wins Super Bowl MVP for his 191 yard performance against Washington. The only guy that comes close to that is Tony Dorsett, but he only ran for 66 yards in Super Bowl XII…yet I digress.

Then in 1985 when the Raiders passing game fell flat on it’s ass with an aging Jim Plunkett giving way to Mark Wilson, the Raiders turned to Allen. What did he do?? He ran for 1,759 yards and led the NFL in rushing while winning league MVP. This was the only time in NFL history that a Raider led the league in rushing by the way. Allen’s performance saved their season leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record.
Then came the personal vendetta against Allen by Al Davis. Now I’m not sure the real issue will be revealed in this episode but something happened off-field that had to involve a woman. Had to…it became way too personal. When Ice Cube interviewed Al Davis for the 30 for 30 “Straight Outta LA” he alluded to the fact that it was something off the field he took a personal disliking to. You could see it in his face. Back in 1993 when he was finally freed by free agency and waiting to sign with a new team, Allen said in an interview that Al Davis told him he would “get him” and try to ruin his career.

This is such a travesty because the NFL fan and history were robbed of what he possibly could have become. He was imprisoned for 7 years and still rushed for 12,243 yards after he finished as a Kansas City Chief. The Bo Jackson signing always puzzled The Chancellor. If it was about passing and not running the football, this signing doesn’t make sense. Why not trade Marcus Allen for a quarterback or future draft considerations??

JavaScript required to play straightouttalamarcusallen(2.

This is when The Chancellor stopped thinking of Davis as one of the top minds in the game. It kept the Raiders stuck in neutral for many years and I hope this episode sheds some light on what went on behind the scenes. Should be a good one…
Marcus Allen – A Football Life

Originally posted on They Call It Pro Football - Official NFL Films Blog:

On December 12, “A Football Life” launches its twelfth episode of the season, featuring Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen.  Don’t miss an all-new episode this Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST only on NFL Network.

Here’s a sneak peek segment from “Marcus Allen: A Football Life.”  Be sure to check back to TCIPF throughout the week for more exclusive content from the show.

[nfl-video id=”0ap2000000109184″ contentid=”0ap2000000109184″ ads=”1″ related=”home” size=”large” playername=”blog_large_embedded”]

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On This Date In 1994: Jerry Rice Eclipses Jim Brown’s Touchdown Record

On this date 18 years ago, Jerry Rice scored this touchdown against the Raiders. It was his 127th touchdown to break the record of legendary running back Jim Brown.

On the first Monday Night Game of the 1994 season, there was an outside chance Jerry Rice could break Jim Brown’s touchdown record of 126. He entered the season with 124 and was in the prime of his career. The San Francisco 49ers were retooling their team to take down their arch nemesis in the Dallas Cowboys who bested them in the last two NFC Championships. At this time fellow Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin was starting to move into the “best receiver in the NFL” talk as well. All of this kept an already certain Hall of Famer Jerry Rice motivated.

In came the Los Angeles Raiders who had been a playoff team the year before. They had a defense that ranked 9th overall in 1993, and fifth against the pass. To bolster their defensive secondary they signed free agent CB Albert Lewis formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders had just lost Howie Long to retirement yet thought this game would show they were still among the league’s elite. Surely with a young Terry McDaniel and Albert Lewis manning the corners they would stop Rice in the season opener…right??

In what was a microcosm of the 1994 season, the 49ers slaughtered the Raiders 44-14 on national television. This was the great 49er team that signed Deion Sanders, who went on to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and multiple free agents from the 1993 Pro Bowl. They would coast to a fifth Super Bowl trophy four months later.

Looking back at how great that team was with Sanders, Ricky Jackson, Richard Dent, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame now was the greatest of the 1990s. In fact it was one of the best in history and the man who led by example on this day 18 years ago became the all time touchdown record holder. His record of 208 touchdowns will never be broken.

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NFL Bracketology: 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers v. 1981 Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals coach Forrest Gregg led the Bengals past the rival Steelers and into Super Bowl XVI.

Alright, raise your hand if you know who was responsible for halting one of the most revered dynasties in NFL history?? It was the Cincinnati Bengals THAT ENDED THE STEELERS DYNASTY!

In 1979, the final season the Steelers won a Super Bowl, they lost to an 0-6 Bengals team 34-10. Then in 1980 the Bengals SWEPT the Steelers who went 9-7 allowing the Browns to win the AFC Central 11-5 ending the Steelers dynasty. Then for good measure, in 1981 the Bengals SWEPT the Steelers again to hammer the last nails in Pittsburgh’s dynasty coffin enroute to their Super Bowl XVI appearance. The Bengals beat the Steelers 5 out of 6 times and you’re asking why would they belong here?

Terry Bradshaw drops back during the first half of Super Bowl XIII.

That being said, the ’81 Bengals would have lost in a competitive game to the ’78 Steelers who were at their height of their power (offense, defense & experience). As a defense they peaked in 1976 but once the offensive rules were liberated, Terry Bradshaw came into his own as an elite passer and threw for 28 TDs in 1978.

The defense didn’t have to be as good as 1976 because the offense, still with 1,000 yard rusher Franco Harris, was the most complete in the NFL. Still they only allowed 195 points for the season (Denver was second with 198) and this team roared to a 14-2 record. Their dynasty apex (ed) somewhere during the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys.

In that game we watched Roger Staubach, after the Jackie Smith TD pass drop, start hitting receiver after receiver bringing Dallas back from a 35-17 deficit to within 35-31. Thank God Rocky Blier recovered that onside kick. The Steeler defense was running on fumes by the end of the game and it carried over into 1979 and especially in the 1979 playoffs. They were never as strong as this 1978 team.

The Cincinnati Bengals were built to compete with the Pittsburgh Steelers and were strong on the line of scrimmage. Pete Johnson and Charles Alexander would be able to run but not with as much success as Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Steve Furness and John Banaszak would bend but not break.

Also in 1978 and 1979 the Steelers had to blitz more to get pressure on the quarterback.Look at the Super Bowl XIII and XIV highlights and you’ll see it. How do we know this? In Super Bowl XIII against Dallas, the Steelers blitzed with an 8 man front that Staubach burned for a 39 yard TD to Tony Hill to tie the game at 7-7.

Bengal QB Ken Anderson would have success throwing intermediate passes which are effective against this blitz. You forget that Bill Walsh and the west coast offense is really Paul Brown’s offense as it was taught to Walsh in Cincinnati.

You also forget that Ken Anderson had been a league passing champion in the mid 1970s and led Cincy to the playoffs in ’73 and ’74. So the Bengals had some success and would have been able to get deep at least twice in this game with lanky rookie Cris Collinsworth.

The difference is that LB Reggie Williams, DE Eddie Edwards, DE Ross Browner, and LBs Glen Cameron and Bo Harris were physical and emotional players but couldn’t make enough big plays against the 1978 Steelers and would lose. 34-18. Against the ’78 Steelers they wouldn’t win but I already showed you how they owned the Steelers after that…so don’t doubt their being mentioned in this tournament.

Requiem of An Upset – The Sequel: Judas Falls as AFL Gains Complete Vindication

Have you ever started a project only to have one of your partners try to sabotage it from within?? If you ever got back at that party wouldn’t you want it to be one where it came back and haunted at the most inopportune time?? Well sit down have we got a story for you. During the 1960’s, the NFL and AFL were rival leagues with the AFL’s having originated on the heels of the famous 1958 NFL Championship Game. Principles moved quickly to form a new football league that would rival the 40 year old NFL and had a new style of play that was scoffed at by the sporting press. The AFL fought for over half a decade for respect.

After an aggressive bidding war for players brought the rival leagues to the table to talk merger, a byproduct would be a championship game between the two leagues. The Super Bowl beginning in 1966. Sports writers of the time and most pundits thought the play in the NFL was superior to their younger counterpart. Although the AFL fought for respectability for the first 6 years, their Kansas City Chiefs were handled by the Green Bay Packers 35-10 in the inaugural game, and Oakland Raiders 33-14 in the second edition. Surely talk of a merger was still there but loyalists to both leagues were still at ends until the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

After losing Super Bowl III, the Baltimore Colts were the only team of the 92 who have participated in the Super Bowl, NOT to be issued a ring for doing so.

The shock and awe was so great that the sporing press scrambled to give the Jets credit for a David vs. Goliath type  upset victory. Yet beneath the surface, the establishment raged at the thought of the AFL being on a par with the NFL. Think not??  To the left of this paragraph lies the remnant of that embarrassment. To not commission a championship ring along with the fallout from Baltimore Colt brass losing Don Shula, and swapping franchise’s with Robert Irsay (Rams) a few years later was tantamount to the size of the loss. This is the sequel to our original ‘Requiem of An Upset. http://taylorblitztimes.com/2011/08/21/requiem-of-an-upset-super-bowl-iii-its-aftermath/

So seismic was the loss that commissioner Pete Rozelle decided to come up with a new round of playoffs called the wild card round. This would allow the team with the 2 best records who didn’t win their division to enter the championship race with the 2 division winners. Many believed that it was a move to keep a tremendous underdog like the Jets from making it to the Super Bowl. Another slap at the AFL if you will… Given the new landscape the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Oilers lined up to take on the AFL East Champion New York Jets and West Champion Oakland Raiders.

Enter the Kansas City Chiefs of Hank Stram and Lamar Hunt. It was Hunt who was the founder of the AFL and began with his team in Dallas and not Kansas City. As we entered 1969, the tenth AFL season, it was fitting that his team would have the last shot to win the overall championship in the last game ever for the AFL. They were the winningest team in league history and had played in championships in 1962 and the first Super Bowl in 1966.

On-board they had players who had spent their entire careers with them like FS Johnny Robinson and DE Jerry Mays (both should be in the Hall of Fame). Yet they finished the season with a loss in the finale to the Oakland Raiders. Couple that with the fact the 1968 season ended with a humiliating 41-6 loss to those same Raiders, confidence wasn’t that high outside Kansas City. The underdog  Chiefs upset the New York Jets 13-6 to make it to the AFL Championship Game. There they bested the Raiders in Oakland 17-7 to make it to New Orleans and Super Bowl IV.

Their opponent would be Judas, otherwise known as the Minnesota Vikings. What are we talking about?? Take a look SUPER BOWL IV CHAMPION 1969 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS <——CLICK LINK *STORY FROM AN UPCOMING BOOK – Ring of Champions*

So January 11th, 1970 was the last game ever for the AFL. Starting with the 1970 regular season, the NFL would have an all inclusive regular season combining both leagues.  How did that game appear on television?? Here is the game in it’s entirety

SUPER BOWL IV: FIRST HALF

part 1(00h41m22s-01h22m44s)

SUPER BOWL IV: SECOND HALF

EPILOGUE: So there you have it. The AFL ended the 1960’s on a par with the NFL, not only on the field but in Super Bowl competition with a 2-2 record. The regular season of 1970 had the AFL’s 10 teams joined by the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers in the newly formed American Football Conference. League play between the 26 team NFL began in 1970 yet the Super Bowl stayed an American staple as a championship game born from two rivaling leagues. Yet so many ironies  can be pointed out within these stories.

One irony is the AFL’s founder, Lamar Hunt and the Chiefs were able to get revenge on the Minnesota Vikings ownership group that tried to sink the new league. Ironically it came in the last ever game but it came. Another irony is the fact that New Orleans was the site for Super Bowl IV and was where the 1964 AFL All Star Game was to have been played.  New Orleans, at the time had wanted an AFL team and bid to host this game to showcase the city as a sports town. After multiple incidents of discrimination against many of it’s African American players, the AFL All Stars called for a boycott of the game being in New Orleans.

All this took place during the week prior to the game. The AFL All Star Game was subsequently moved to Houston’s Jefferson Stadium honoring the stance of the player’s right to be treated with respect. There was a backlash toward those players later recounted by Abner Haynes in NFL Films’ Black Star Rising (circa 1995), then Ernie Ladd & Earl Faison for HBO’s History of the AFL: Rebels With A Cause (circa 1995) by the AFL, but that is another story for another time.

One final irony was that in the end, where a city’s populace had discriminated against African American players in 1964, in 1969 we saw the Kansas City Chiefs become the first team to win the World Championship with African Americans comprising more than half of their starters. It was a powerful notion along with the 1968 Olympics that many of America’s athletes were black. Up until that point amongst those that played pro football, there was a quota system in place over in the NFL. “That players had to be stars just to play.” as recounted by Jim Marshall in Black Star Rising.

They weren’t taxi squad (special teams) or even second string players on NFL rosters. The Chiefs also were the first to win with an African American Middle Linebacker in Hall of Famer Willie Lanier, and had the first Hispanic quarterback to win a Super Bowl with Tom Flores. Flores would go on to glory later as an NFL head coach http://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/01/26/tom-flores-belongs-in-the-hall-of-fame/ , yet it was ironic that his team beat the Vikings who were the first to have a Hispanic (Mexican American) to lead his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp. The MVP was Chief QB Len Dawson who would go on to know a generation of NFL fans as half of the duo of Inside the NFL for nearly 30 years.

The AFL came to a close in the bowels of New Orlean’s Tulane Stadium, with Lamar Hunt and Hank Stram, receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy from Commissioner Pete Rozelle. There is no way that at that moment, Hunt had more than a feeling of irony that he was thwarted in an attempt to gain an NFL franchise in 1959. Now here he was being granted the ultimate prize with a rival league and could claim victory against the NFL. Not just for Super Bowl IV, but for the last 10 years.

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Taylor Blitz Times Theater Classic: Best Finish To An NFL Game Ever

Metropolitan Stadium

Everyone loves a fantastic finish and we feel as though NFL Films and such focus too much on the glamour teams. They leave too many great moments on the cutting room floor if it’s not Dallas, Pittsburgh, or Green Bay. What if we were to tell you that a team actually completed a hook and lateral (not ladder) and a hail mary to finish a game?? Yes everyone remembers the hook and lateral in the ’81 AFC Divisional Playoff between San Diego and Miami, yet we’re going to take you to one that was even better. It was the last great moment in the 21 years Metropolitan Stadium served the Minnesota Vikings.

It was 1980 and the ink was just drying on the Nation’s newspapers of Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter. The Iran hostage situation was over 400 days old and we were completing the 1980 NFL Season. Teams were just now fully understanding the capabilities afforded them when the NFL loosened it’s rules on passing before the 1978 season. The ball was able to be thrown and touch multiple receivers without having to hit a defender in the interim giving birth to the Hail Mary.

Hall of Fame Viking Coach, Bud Grant

The Minnesota Vikings had just said goodbye to Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton, the league’s All Time yardage and touchdown passing leader. In stepped Tommy Kramer, who had none of the big game moxie of a Tarkenton. He was a poor man’s Danny White in that he followed the most revered quarterback in the team’s history.

After losing the fourth game to the 4-0 Detroit Lions, 27-20, it looked as though the Vikings had indeed passed the baton. However with a strong finishing kick they went into the penultimate game of the season with an 8-6 record. If they could win the 15th game, they would win Bud Grant his 11th NFC Central Division Tltle. Their opponent  going into that game was no slouch.

In came the 10-4 Cleveland Browns and Sam Rutigliano. He was in his third year and on his way to his second straight NFL Coach of the Year award for breathing life into a moribund franchise. In those years they were known for their ability to win a game in the final seconds and had performed that feat 14 times in the last two years with less than 2 minutes remaining  in the game. Moreover this was the Browns first real winning season in nearly 10 years. What better chance to show that they had arrived than to go on the road and win in a tough NFC camp and finish off the Viking’s season.

So on a cold day the Browns took the field and roared to a 23-9 lead and the Vikings looked cold on their sideline as the 3rd quarter ended. Then the Browns started playing conservatively and played close to the vest as the Vikings roared back.

After the Vikings scored 2 touchdowns to trim the Browns lead to 23-22. The Browns had the ball and drove toward midfield yet the Vikings defense held and forced the Browns to punt and pin Minnesota at their own 20 yard line. There was less than :20 left in the game. Time for daring and time for one final drive to win the NFC Central Division championship for their coach. This is what took place…

Epilogue: The Vikings running a hook and lateral on the opposite of the three receivers look on a Hail Mary was beautiful and I can’t remember anyone running it like that since.  By the way, do you know who the Cleveland Browns linebacker #53, who was beaten on the play was?? Try former Pittsburgh Steeler Coach Bill Cowher. Yet this team covered 80 yards in 2 plays to earn Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant his 11th and final NFC Central Division title. However they went down to the eventual NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the ’80 NFC Divisional round of the playoffs 31-16.

Mike Davis intercepts Brian Sipe’s pass for Ozzie Newsome to end the Brown’s season 14-12, in the 1980 playoffs.

On that exact same weekend the “Cardiac Kids” Cleveland Browns lost in the ’80 AFC Divisional Round to the Oakland Raiders 14-12. This game was made famous for “Red Right 88″. The tail end of a play’s assignment that had the Browns throw to the tight end in -42* weather rather than kick the obvious field goal. It was 3rd down and Coach Rutigliano opted to go for the endzone one more time. Only to have Raider Safety Mike Davis step in for a game clinching interception to end the Browns season. However the Browns had two kicks blocked in that game which was one of the coldest in NFL history.

However for one  magnificent drive, Tommy Kramer, Ted Brown, and Ahmad Rashad gave Viking fans the last great moment in Metropolitan Stadium. Within 2 years they would move indoors and the Viking franchise hasn’t been the same since. Hopefully they can get a new stadium deal and go back outside where the Vikings should be.

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Finally!! A College Football Playoff!!

National Championship Trophy

The NCAA needs to be tortured for the way they have handled their Division I football collegiate championship. No, we’re not going to speak in terms of subdivisions and that nonsense because it diverts the attention from the task at hand… How can we achieve a true national champion in college football?? For the most part the argument has come from teams, bowl sponsorships, and conferences not wanting to relinquish prestige or money. What was known as Division II and III have settled their championship on the field for years…so why can’t they in the top tier?? At Taylor Blitz Times, Chancellor Taylor decided to preside over a panel of experts and to decide how we can come up with a true national champion. Here is how it can be done in his estimation.

First off this move in college football to super conferences hurts the matter. The rumor that Florida St, Texas A&M joining the SEC would do what for the conference?? The argument by SEC loyalists would be that their 5th best team is better than other conferences 1st or 2nd. They would wind up with more than 6 teams not facing each other in a season. How could they determine a true champion?? This only detracts from the landscape of college football as well as a sentiment that is not true. The top level team in any conference can stay on the field with a top tier team from another conference. For a given playoff game?? Absolutely.

So the first thing we need to do is scrap the super conferences and adopt the NCAA basketball rules and dole out automatic qualifiers for each conference champion. Whether that conference has a championship game or not is up to them to decide who they’re conference champion is. So we would then have the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac 12, SEC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, WAC, and Mountain West would all have a qualifier. That gives us an 11 team field so far and we would need to have conferences move back their championship games to conclude in late November. Reversing the last 10 years where teams kept moving games later so they don’t get leapfrogged in the BCS. (see LSU leapfrogging USC in 2003) We need that to assist in the time necessary to get our playoff system to a condensed workable format. We need that December time to decide things.

Rose Bowl Trophy

Next up, the poll rankings and the BCS. Keep them! Otherwise Nebraska and Oklahoma would put Pugaswan St School for the Dyslexic, on their schedules again. Sure we say that in jest but the BCS has been good for one thing: It has brought to light the strength of schedule and condemened teams for not playing one. Great measuring tool so it and the AP and Coaches Poll stay. Why?? Its these mechanisms that will give us our 6 at large teams that will round out the 17 team tournament. Ranking and strength of schedule will determine who gets those spots.  If you are an Independent like Notre Dame, this is the only way to qualify for the National Championship playoff. So join a conference or schedule at least 7 heavies in your campaign. It’s their choice. You have to keep in mind that we have to have a tournament long enough to include the right amount of teams yet not so long that we interfere with college basketball. So the buck stops at seventeen.

So to assist with the strength of schedule format think of it like this: Had Auburn been upset in last year’s SEC Title Game, they still would have qualified for the playoff as an at large. Where a South Carolina had to win that game to qualify because of their record. So it’s paramount to win the most games and the strength of schedule will still aid your BCS standing for a late loss. Furthermore you can have 2 or more teams qualify for the playoff from the same conference. So if the Ohio St. Buckeyes win the Big Ten, yet a streaking Wisconsin Badger team almost catches them but falls a game short of qualifying for the conference championship game. They could make it to the playoffs by virtue of their poll and BCS standings.  While some conferences like the Mountain West, WAC, Sun Belt, or Conference USA won’t have that luxury, at least they would now be invited to the dance. However if you think about it, that’s not necessarily true. http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/rankings The Boise State Broncos would have qualified and followed Nevada into this mythical playoff system were it in place last year after losing to the Wolfpack. Otherwise win your conference and carry the torch and battleflag into the playoffs for the rest of your brethren.

Sugar Bowl Trophy

We would begin the playoffs with a playoff kickoff around Pearl Harbor Day (Dec 7th if you just came to the U.S.) with the BCS 16th and 17th teams playing on the home field of the 17th team.  No need for additional travel at this point, the first round of the playoffs would be at each team’s home facility anyway. This game would be played on a Thursday or Friday night. Could you imagine a playoff game at College Station between the Texas A&M Aggies hosting Nebraska on a chilly night??   Had this been in place last year this would have been our kickoff. Or the year before it would have been Oklahoma St. hosting Oregon St. So this game could be a revenge game with conference rivals or teams that don’t know each other. Perfect. Trust me fans and players would be fired up for more. The winner of this game slides into slot 16 for the final tournament bracket which would be seeded upon each team’s BCS finish. Think we could find a corporate sponsor for this game??

With an extra week off, around December 14th,  the 15 big boys join the party with the higher seeded teams at home hosting their lower seeded counterparts. So seeds #1 – #4 for example would have hosted #13 – #16.  Those games last year would have had BCS #1 Auburn hosting #16 Alabama, #2 Oregon hosting #15 Nevada, and #3 TCU hosting #14 Oklahoma St. and #4 Stanford hosting #13 Virginia Tech. Imagine that…didn’t Stanford play Virginia Tech in last year’s Orange Bowl?? Pay attention we are on to something. Think about the marquee games being played on Thursday and Friday night as to not disrupt the NFL which plays Saturday games after college football is done.  Think about that for a second, Alabama getting a second crack at Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and Auburn after that come from behind win in the Iron Bowl?? Think Nick Saban wouldn’t have had ‘Bama up for a second go round?? Now you’re starting to see what we mean about a playoff system generating some battle lines. You’d call off sick from work or hit the sports bar early for that playoff game…think about it?? Would Auburn beat them a second time??

Orange Bowl Trophy

Step on the NFL’s Saturday toes?? On second thought, there would be a few of the middle seeds playing on Saturday though. We would then move into BCS #5-8 hosting #9-12 or: #5 Wisconsin hosting #12 Missouri in snowy Madison, #6 Ohio St. hosting #11 LSU, #7 Oklahoma hosting #10 Boise St, and #8 Arkansas hosting #9 Michigan St.  Goodness!! This slate would be better than the Thursday / Friday games. Columbus, Ohio hosting LSU to get revenge on the Tigers for that loss in the NCAA Title Game from 5 years ago??

Oklahoma being able to get revenge on Boise St for that Fiesta Bowl upset loss 5 years back?? Fans wouldn’t be up for these games with those battle lines now would they?? Could you imagine the barbecue, chips, and beer consumed watching these playoff games in one day?? How many folks would be at your house that day?? Bring pizza!!

Now we get a two week break for Christmas to set up the second round of the playoffs, and to allow other Bowl Games they’re rightful place to lead the marquee. Yet by January 1st we get right back to it with the present BCS bowls plus a few others so that we can move it around every year. So we would include the Outback Bowl, the Capitol One Bowl, and drop one of the BCS bowls as a playoff site for a given year to keep the pageantry of the bowls in place and make sure our championship keeps it’s variety from year to year.

With the winners of the Orange, Rose, Fiesta, and Sugar Bowls we’re now down to our final four schools.  So each Bowl has a sponsorship like the FedEx Orangebowl, etc. Do you think we could get a corporate sponsor for the semi final games to be played at a predetermined neutral site?? What about a semifinal being held in Ford Field in Detroit, an Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio or a game in Rocky Top, or an Indianapolis. New places for a major college football playoff game. Everyone doesn’t live in the Sun Belt, so move it around to some new places. What about a National Championship Game in Notre Dame’s stadium with the College Football Hall of Fame right up the street??

Fiesta Bowl Trophy

With the bowl games decided we would take a week or two off to set up our neutral site semi final games. These would be prime time epics with one being played on a Friday night, the other being played on Monday Night. The NFL would be in their playoffs at this time so Monday would be open. This would be taking place around January 8th / 10th or the week of the 13th / 15th.  After a one week layoff and during the two week break between the NFL’s NFC and AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl, we would have the NCAA National Championship Game on a Saturday night at a neutral field (highest bidder) all by itself around January 30th.

If you think we couldn’t find sponsors or site committees to step up to host that game you’re crazy.  Right now you’re salivating at just the shape of these playoffs and yet we did the one thing we set out to do.  Keep the governing bodies intact, not step on corporate sponsors toes and actually generate more money for college football with the additional television revenue. The Bowls were kept intact and we included the BCS. We kept a manageable line when placing our games around the NFL games to be played and kept things tight from a logistics standpoint without too much additional travel. A national championship game in Seattle, Washington?? Raleigh, North Carolina?? Albequerque, New Mexico?? Why not?? These collegiate Super Bowls could pump financial blood into new areas and …. At long last we’ll have a real National Champion crowned in college football!!

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Marshall Faulk Makes The Hall of Fame

You can still hear Chris Berman saying “Marshall! Marshall! Marshall!” on NFL Primetime. Can’t you? When we think of great players we tend to think of them at their zenith. For Marshall Faulk it was definitely the years of “The Greatest Show on Turf” where he played his way into the Hall of Fame in just three years. The earlier years were just a harbinger of things to come.

Yet when I think of Marshall Faulk, I think of a faster version of Thurman Thomas. Better yet, if we spliced Thurman Thomas with Barry Sanders, this is the hybrid that would have been created. In fact it was Sanders departure that swung the door wide open for this talent to finally get his acclaim on a world wide basis. When Barry retired, the NFL lost it’s instant highlight reel. We were spoiled as fans because week after week we saw something spectacular and weren’t sure if we’d see that again. Enter Marshall Faulk.

The NFL world was mourning the loss of John Elway and Barry Sanders to retirement. Then we were thrown for another loop when the Indianapolis Colts selected Edgerrin James ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. Almost as an afterthought Marshall Faulk was traded by the Colts to the Rams to make way for James. Instantly, I remember saying this is the Football Gods reversing the Eric Dickerson trade. Referring to the Rams trading Dickerson, the greatest runner of his era, to the Colts in 1987.

No one was really paying attention to Marshall Faulk going to St Louis yet being in Anaheim at the time, I was still in the Rams television market. My response was a flippant comment and not a premonition but it turned out to be. History would judge this trade on what happened with both teams. I thought the Colts had made a mistake letting Faulk go. So who won the Marshall Faulk / Edgerrin James trade??

Marshall Faulk in Super Bowl XXXIV

Super Bowl XXXIV Ring

The St Louis Rams became “The Greatest Show on Turf” thanks to a forgotten running back who could play receiver, had moves and an effortless running style with a burst. In three seasons (1999-2001) he rushed for 4,122 yards averaging 5.4 yards per carry while scoring 59 touchdowns!! Won 2 NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards and an NFL Most Valuable Player Award while taking the Rams to 2 Super Bowls. They won Super Bowl XXXIV beating the Tennessee Titans 23-16. Before Faulk the Rams had not been league champion since 1951.

In the 1999 championship season alone, he joined Roger Craig as the only other back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. When Craig did it he had 1,050 yards rushing, 1,016 receiving. Faulk burst by that with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 yards receiving while sitting out most of the last 3 quarters of the finale against Philadelphia.

That game the Rams lost 38-31 and Faulk would have stretched his numbers further had he played that game and the 4th quarter of 4 other blowouts at home. Not factoring that in, Faulk still broke Barry Sanders record for total yards from scrimmage with 2,429 yards. Greatness. He was the impetus for one of the NFL’s greatest champions.

How do you follow up a season like that? How about narrowly missing another 1,000/1,000 season with 1,359 yards rushing and 830 receiving while setting a new record by breaking Emmitt Smith’s TD record with 26 TDs. In 2001 he led the league with yards from scrimmage for the 4th straight year tying the record of Thurman Thomas. Yet all four of Faulk’s seasons were over 2,000 combined yards where Thomas only had 3. Now when you look back and see that in 1998, in his last season with the Colts, he ran for 1,319 yards and caught passes for 908 yards. He had four consecutive seasons  where he flirted with 1,000/1,000.

He broke records and tied another of Hall of Fame running backs, how could he not be enshrined with them with numbers like that?? All this to lead the Rams in becoming the first team to score over 500 points in multiple seasons with 3 (1999-2001). The Rams also averaged 32.6 points per game for those 3 seasons which was the best in history narrowly beating their 1951 predecessors with just under 31 points.

Marshall Faulk on Saturday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Marshall went on to finish his career with 12,279 yards rushing with another 6,875 receiving and 136 overall touchdowns. Yet it was this amazing 3 year run that catapulted him to the halls of Canton. Now its interesting to note that while Faulk was doing all this, Edgerrin James (The U) twice led the league in rushing.

Yet the Rams were participating in Super Bowls and became one of the most memorable teams in league history. Another irony is they each went to the Super Bowl while teaming with Kurt Warner when….wait for it…..the Colts let James go via free agency. *In all due respect, the Colts gave Edgerrin a Super Bowl XLI ring for all that he had done for them up to that point.*  Jim Irsay don’t let any more running backs go because the one you let out of town in 1998 was one of the best in history. The Rams won that trade plain and simple. His induction speech was eloquent and he’s been the best analyst on the NFL Network. Congratulations Marshall Faulk…Hall of Famer

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Randy Moss Belongs In The Hall of Fame

Randy Moss after a “lambeau leap” into the Metrodome Stands

With the advent of the bigger, stronger athlete on the defensive side of the ball starting in the mid 1980s, one of the plays that seemed to fade in the NFL was the bomb. As more teams mimicked the West Coast (hate that term) offense, quarterbacks were being taught to be more docile in their decisions on where to throw the ball. Gone was the daring of Darryle Lamonica, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw, and Kenny Stabler to throw the ball deep and give your receiver a fighting chance to catch a bomb. Teams were teaching quarterbacks to throw where the defense wasn’t and not take chances. Enter Randy Moss

Absolutely one of the most electrifying players ever when you think of explosive wide receivers, burst onto the scene after a 1997 collegiate season in which he should have won the Heisman Trophy. At 6’4 210lbs, Moss ran a sub 4.3 40yard dash and by some accounts ran a 4.2 with great leaping ability. As a junior at Marshall, he had 96 receptions for 1,820 yards and 26 touchdowns in a season so great, it could only be rivaled by Barry Sanders 1988 Heisman campaign.

Even though it was his second season with huge numbers, it was his checkered past that kept him from getting Heisman votes and Charles Woodson, became the first defensive player ever to win the coveted collegiate award. It was this reluctant acceptance of him that fueled him as a player and brought out some of his broodish behavior. Yet going into the 1998 draft, he certainly would be taken early, on the fact that he was tremendously talented.

Although teams had told him that they were interested, he slipped in the draft all the way to Minnesota where Head Coach Dennis Green had Cris Carter on board to mentor their prized #1 pick.  Offensive Co-ordinator Brian Billick realized that at 6’4, Randy had the speed to run by most NFL cornerbacks and at the same time was normally 5-6 inches taller also. Why not throw it deep to him?? He epitomized the old John Madden axiom of “when he’s even, he’s leavin’.” Which meant that once a wide receiver reduced the cushion between he and a covering defensive back to the point they were side by side, the receiver would run by the defender giving him a scoring advantage.

Daring returned to the NFL and in Dennis Green’s words Moss “reinvented the bomb in the National Football League” as described in the NFL Films production “Missing Rings”. Moss electrified as he made good on his promise to “wreck the whole league.”  He gathered in 69 receptions for 1,313 yards and an NFL rookie record 17TDs. Never had a rookie had that type of impact. He was the impetus for turning a good Viking offense into a great one. They went on to become the highest scoring team in league history to that point with 556 yards. Randall Cunningham won the Miller Lite NFL Player of the Year Award and Bert Bell Award winner for “Chuck it up there Dawg”,  the matra spoken by Randy Moss which meant throw it up there and give him the chance to make a play.

Randy Moss hauls in his record breaking 23rd TD pass in the 4th quarter against the Giants

Yet we dont’ have time to go over all his career moments for so many of us already know them. His exploits on the football field are of legendary status. After being exiled in Oakland for several years, teams crept back up in their coverage with all these short throws.  Bill Belichick resurrected his career teaming him with Tom Brady and the bomb was alive and well again in the NFL. Randy Moss again became the scourge of the league hauling in 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL record 23 receiving touchdowns, which broke the old mark of 22 set by Jerry Rice. Tom Brady (NFL MVP) went on to throw for 50TDs to set the all time mark while the Patriots broke the record of the ’98 Vikings for most points ever with 589 to 556. Where the ’98Vikings went 15-1, the ’07 Patriots went 16-0.

Now it’s at this point that Moss detractors leap on the bandwagon. “Oh his team didn’t win a ring” and there is something that can be said for that, as short sighted as it may be. In the 1998 NFC Championship, he helped the Vikings to a 20-7 lead. Well before Gary Anderson’s missed FG with 3:00 left gave the Falcons hope. Had he made it, the Vikings are up 10 points and headed to Super Bowl XXXIII. As a result a great team went unfulfilled.

The same can be said for 2007 when the undefeated Patriots were held down in Super Bowl XLII, yet it was Randy Moss who scored the game winner with a little over 2:00 to go in the game at 14-10. Well, they thought was the game winner until the frantic final drive of the Giants. Randy Moss didn’t drop the interception that would have sealed the game, that was Asante Samuel. He didn’t let David Tyree catch the ball, Rodney Harrison did. He didn’t get burned on a post corner fade route into the back corner for the real winning score, that was Ellis Hobbs. They lost 17-14. Yet some folks want to point to his not winning a ring as his not being worthy of the Hall.

Lets face facts, with 954 receptions 14,858 yards for 153 TDs, these are worthy numbers on their own. Its for those that can’t separate personal feeling from assessment that cant see past their blind spot. Many cite his attitude and his “I play when I want” mantra as to why they feel his candidacy is invalid.  How can he not make the Hall of Fame?? Because of a few down years in Oakland?? He wouldn’t give former Head Coach Mike Tice his own vote of confidence?? Or was it the mock moon that Joe Buck, who was announcing the 2004 Minnesota v Green Bay Wildcard Game, voiced complete outrage to set another wave of bad publicity to descend on Moss.

First off Joe Buck, just announce the game, no one gives a rat’s ass what you think?? The next day other players up to and including Coach Tony Dungy came to Moss’ defense, explaining that he was mocking a ritual the Packer fans have in really mooning the other team as they approach the stadium. Sure there were a few times in his career he didn’t help himself with his antics yet the media painted him in a very terrible way. The truth is Randy Moss understood the reluctant acceptance of him and in interviews didn’t always channel it in a politically correct way… but on the field??

Aside from Barry Sanders, he was the one player defenses feared. You could see it in the demeanor of rival cornerbacks that knew he would get deep on them at least twice in that ball game. On all the offenses he ever played on, his deep threat capabilities backed off safeties which allowed teammates to flourish underneath. This is how and where a Wes Welker got his sea legs with a Tom Brady in 2007… This is how a Duante Culpepper thew for 4,717 yards and 39TDs with only 13 int. in 2004, Randy’s last year in Minnesota, then returned to throw 6TDs to 12 int in 2005. His career decline started the second Moss left town after shattering team records the year before.

Moss pulling away from the Saints in a 2000 NFC Playoff game

Randy Moss’ legacy? The greatest deep threat the NFL has ever seen! He is in league with the Lance Alworths, the Cliff Branchs, the Don Hutsons. Yet he was even bigger and faster than those Hall of Fame talents. For a career he averaged 73 rec. 1,142 yards and 11TDs for his 13 year career. Those numbers would get another player to the pro bowl. Yet he only made the Pro Bowl 7 times and couldn’t escape the negative stint the media portrayed him as until his play forced them to say something great. That is what happened during the 2007 season.

What fuels the fire for a player to be great is to overcome slights, even if they’re perceived slights, to force colleagues or officials  to recognize you. As it is with many minorities it’s hard to overcome a negative stigma once its placed upon you. The media never let him run away from his demons as easily as he could defenses. Even when all was said and done in New England…he towed the company line. Accepted his trade to Minnesota and was still lambasted for his praising Bill Belichick as a coach.

Well The Chancellor of Football likes to think of Randy Moss and remember the 10, 1,000 yard seasons. The nine seasons with double digit touchdowns with 3 of which 17 TDs or more including a record 23 in 2007.  The numerous records achieved in both a Viking uniform and a Patriots uniform. To remember that he is the only link to the two highest scoring teams in NFL history. The 556 points scored by the ’98 Vikings only to be surpassed by the 589 scored by the ’07 Patriots. Thats too much talent to go overlooked….way too much

For induction to the Hall of Fame, I present to you Randy Moss

Robert Brazile Should Be in The Hall of Fame

Dr. DoomThere are many former NFL players swept into the dustbin of history who aren’t given their due. There are those that are victims of where they play as much as who they lost to that defined how they are remembered historically by the sporting press.

Enter Robert Brazille.  During the late 1970s the Houston Oilers were overshadowed by the perennial champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the players that comprised those teams that bested them in the ’78 and ’79 AFC Championship games.

Whereas the Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the greatest strong side outside linebackers in Jack Ham in a 4-3 defense, the Houston Oilers fielded the epitome of the weakside linebacker in Robert Brazile for the 3-4 defense.  Yet we must go back to NFL rule changes earlier in the decade that necessitated changes that had repercussions for years to come.

The 1974 NFL season saw several rule changes, kickoffs were moved back to the 35 yard line, goalposts were moved to the back of the end zone and the hash marks were narrowed on the field.  This brought the necessity for more speed to cover additional field at outside linebacker, where a new type of player was needed.  Enter the thought process of deciding if it was best to go after the passer or cover the flank from the outside linebacker position.

Several teams adopted the “53 defense” that the perennial champion  Miami Dolphins instituted part time which saw DT Bill Heinz replaced with LB Bob Matheson, who wore #53, and could rush the passer as well as drop back into coverage. This change from 3 linebackers to 4 linebackers clogged the underneath passing routes.  Many teams that were desperate for a winner went for this new tactical defensive adaptation of the old’50’s  “Oklahoma” Bud Wilkinson defense full time.  The 3-4 was just the old “Wilkinson 5-2″ which had the two ends take their hand off the ground and become trackers.

Robert Brazile was the first truly great outside linebacker that was based out of the 3-4 alignment and was the start of a new breed of linebacker.  He was the 1975 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and broke the mold for what was expected from the outside linebacker position. He took home 5 defensive and rookie of the year honors. Before him, the Jack Ham 6’1 215 lbs outside LB, was the prototypical build, Brazile was the breaking of that mold weighing in at 6 ft 3 inches and 235 lbs. More like Bobby Bell and David Robinson from the 1960s.

He was strong enough to take on offensive tackles and tight ends at the point of attack, speed to chase down ball carriers from behind and power to rush the passer.  Brazile was the only player to make All-Pro from 1976-1980 at any position and was the player that the late George Young envisioned when he drafted North Carolina’s NOSE TACKLE Lawrence Taylor.

This talent, who was a collegiate teammate of Walter Payton, played at a time where sacks weren’t recorded as a statistic. It wasn’t until 1982 when sacks became official stats. Had this happened earlier, Brazile could have gained more acclaim as the best outside linebacker of his era.  Yet the press paid more attention to Dallas Cowboy Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson who never made an All-Pro team although he had great skills, and the aforementioned Hall of Famer Jack Ham who did earn his due.  In fact do you realize Robert Brazile is a member of the all decade team of the 1970s as voted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame?? In fact he’s on their 2nd all decade team right next to Jack Lambert who is inducted, and remains the only linebacker within that group, not elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An injustice that needs to be corrected.

Again Robert Brazile was the prototype to the heavier more athletic linebacker, in a 3-4 defense, bred to cover a wider field circa 1974 to the present that played with an intensity that Lawrence Taylor,  Andre Tippett, Hugh Green, Rickey Jackson, and E.J. Junior carried into 1980’s stardom.  Yet that notoriety started because Lawrence Taylor landed in New York and the sporting press lauded him as the greatest defensive player ever.  Rightfully so… If that’s the case, what do you call or gauge the 7 time Pro Bowl, member of the All Decade team of the 70’s, 5 consecutive year All Pro linebacker selection he replaced and was patterned after??

The biggest difference is the Oilers didn’t realize what they had and should have sent him crashing off the corner more. He should have been blitzing 40 – 50% of the time. Even though statistics on sacks weren’t kept until 1982, he finished that year with 6.5 sacks when the strike shortened the year to 9 games. It was the last of his 7 straight trips to Hawaii.

Robert “Dr. Doom” Brazile, an all time great that should not be swept into the dustbin of history because he played in Houston and not Dallas.  The fact that the sporting press has failed to stand up for a great player who didn’t play for a great team or self promoted gives way to why we see those players who do.

Understand this, the next time you see Clay Matthews Jr., James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley blitz off the corner from a 3-4 linebacker spot, you’re watching what started with Robert “Dr. Doom” Brazile in 1975 and not Lawrence Taylor and 1981.  For the Hall of Fame, I present Robert Brazile… an all time classic.pastorini