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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First Quarter Report Card: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s 20-17 win over the Houston Texans, the Dallas Cowboys stretched their record to 4-1. Detractors are waiting for the shoe to drop on this team. However the front runner for Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year is Scott Linehan who has kept Dallas a run oriented offense. So much so DeMarco Murray just became the first RB since OJ Simpson in 1975 to begin his season with 5 straight 100 yard games.

Murray and Bryant have weathered the storm of 8-8 seasons.

Murray and Bryant have weathered the storm of 8-8 seasons.

Yes you read that correctly, it’s the first time in 39 years a back has begun the season with 5 straight 100 yard games. Here we have been critical of Murray from going down at first contact. He has run with purpose and fury in this his contract year and redefining his career. Never in his career has he been able to string together more than 7 straight starts.

Now they have to travel to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. This line with 3 1st round draft picks has matured into road graters. Murray is running with purpose and fury. A contract year will do that for a runner. To The Chancellor he’s always been a displaced 3rd down back. He’s breaking 2 to 3 tackles and falls forward after contact.

Rolando McClain has made plays along with fellow LB Bruce Carter.

Rolando McClain has made plays along with fellow LB Bruce Carter.

Right now he’s on a torrid pace with 670 yards rushing. On pace for 2,144 yards this season, which will be hard to maintain. Yet make no mistake about it, the Cowboys are 4-1 and teams that start with that record make the playoffs 75% of the time.

With the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, this is no fluke. If they could play game 1 again against the 49ers this team would be 5-0. When you can physically dominate your opponent on the line of scrimmage, it sets the tone for your football team. Now your defense is rested and playing less. Remember that worst defense in NFL history?? Well now they’re just 21st in defense. Keep in mind fresh defenders can make game changing plays.

Take it from The Chancellor of Football this is a recipe for championship football. Don’t listen to these idiots on ESPN who keep trying to feed the masses “it’s a passing league.”

With a run first offense, Romo isn't forced to make every throw which lead to some of his interceptions.

With a run first offense, Romo isn’t forced to make every throw which lead to some of his interceptions.

If so, then why did Seattle destroy Denver in last year’s Super Bowl?? Why has Drew Brees and the pass happy Saints watched the ground and pound 49ers play in 3 straight NFC Championships?? Why did it take the Cowboys, averaging 37 pass plays to 21 runs until week 7 to pick up their 4th win last year??

Before yesterday, Dallas was averaging 32.5 rushes to 29.5 passes per game. Murray ran for 136 yards on 31 carries as the Cowboys won their 4th game in a row to start this 2014 season. If you asked the Cowboys they would love to replay game 1 with the 49ers again. Somewhere down in Texas, they must be in the meeting room showing this offensive line the Football Life for The Great Wall of Dallas. Just as the team’s history had a second version of The Doomsday Defense, keep your eye on this offensive line.

This team is going to make the playoffs.

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Alex Smith v. Colin Kaepernick: In Whom Do You Trust

Today’s football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs isn’t just another football game. The saga playing out will be the Alex Smith v Colin Kaepernick debate. Did the 49ers keep the right quarterback?? Most 49er fans think they did. Is that because they’re blind loyalists and wanted to move on with the new QB??

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

This has a similar backdrop to the 1994 game between the Chiefs and 49ers. In that one Steve Young brought the 49ers to Arrowhead to face his predecessor Joe Montana, now a Chief. However this one is taking place in San Francisco. Its a shame this game couldn’t happen at Candlestick Park with all the history.

For the record, The Chancellor of Football believes the 49ers kept the wrong quarterback.

Short sighted 49er fans forget that Smith drove Harbaugh’s first team to an NFC best 13-3 record. Then knocked off the Saints with “The Catch III” playoff winner to Vernon Davis in the final seconds. Smith didn’t lose that NFC Championship Game to the Giants. Those two muffed punts by Kyle Williams did them in.

In 2012 the 49ers were an established contender at 7-4, when Harbaugh made the switch to Kapernick. Smith said all the right things as he watched the 49ers make the Super Bowl. They lost that game to a superior team and the game revealed Kaepernick’s fatal flaw that still haunts him.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

He makes splash plays when he runs the football but hasn’t developed as a downfield quarterback. Watch his play. He can’t throw his receiver open to a designated spot in the defense, and relies on a straight path to drill the football to his receivers. In other words, he can only complete passes like a game of catch. He hasn’t shown the ability to throw on time and drop the ball in over the linebackers or the fade routes to Crabtree Richard Sheman was talking about.

This is why you see so many of his interceptions by defenders undercutting his throws. Think back to the Monday Night game against Chicago. Kaepernick hasn’t developed the touch that failed him on that final throw in Super Bowl XLVII, and is still throwing the same way. Relies too much on running and scrambling instead of allowing the specificity of the planned offensive play to take shape.

As these two went on separate paths, the 49ers went 12-4 and did make it back to the NFC Championship Game. Not only did Smith have a better record the year before with the 49ers but went 11-5 with a new team and new offense. Yes the Chiefs lost in the AFC Wildcard 45-44 but it was the most points scored by a team that lost an NFL playoff game ever.

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Last year Kaepernick threw for 3,197 yards 21 TDs to only 8 interceptions. Smith tossed 23 TDs, 7 interceptions and 3,313 yards. So the tale of the tape is close.

Isn’t it ironic that after a week in which the NFL community is questioning whether Harbaugh has lost his locker room, here comes what ultimately could be his demise in San Francisco?? The Chancellor of Football told you before the season, Harbaugh will be out after this year.

Both teams are showing up to today’s game at 2-2 and Smith knows this defense pretty well. If you think this game doesn’t mean a lot to him, look at last week’s footage between the Texans and Bills. Before that game Ryan Fitzpatrick passionately told the Texans what beating his former team meant.

If you thought the buzzards are starting to circle above Harbaugh now, don’t let them lose this football game. By the way…Joe Montana and the Chiefs won that game in 1994 too.

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First Quarter Report Card: New Orleans Saints

It is totally amazing how in the game of football, a team can look nearly identical as it once did but the results are totally different. Take the 2014 New Orleans Saints. Here at Taylor Blitz Times The Chancellor of Football posed this question: When do you say when? What were the Saints about to sacrifice when they were about to commit heavily financially in Jimmy Graham??

Will the Saints turn it around in 2014??

Will the Saints turn it around in 2014??

Over the first quarter of the new season it looks like they sacrificed everything. When it was time to sign TE Jimmy Graham it was expressed he was the security blanket Brees needed. This isn’t true. He’s a weapon but the true chain mover of this offense was RB Darren Sproles.

Every time the Saints needed a first down they went to Sproles on screens, circle routes out of the backfield, draws, you name it. They haven’t had the same returns going to Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. A combined 6 receptions for 40 yards and no big plays. Last year after 4 games Sproles had 23 receptions for 277 yards and 1 touchdown.

Defenses are focusing in on this and the Saints first down totals 30, 27, 26, and 20 are diminishing per game. You won’t see it in Drew Brees totals but you see it here and in defensive statistics.

Jarius Byrd is out for the year.

Jarius Byrd is out for the year.

Last year, the Saints owned time of possession and wound up with the league’s 4th best defense. In 2013 the Saints were 3rd in time of possession where this year they are 16th. Couple that with poor tackling and free agent losses and they’ve plummeted to 30th on defense. Allowing 89 more yards and 27.5 points per game.

They have a chance to right the ship in the upcoming weeks against the Bucs, Lions, Packers, and Panthers. None are offensive juggernauts and Green Bay is ranked 28th. ESPN and their talking heads keep mentioning Aaron Rodgers like this is 2010.

However Brees is playing like its 2010 as he has completed 71% of his passes for 1,203 yards and 7 TDs. He leads the NFL’s #3 offense into battle with the 26th, 1st, 22nd, and 24th ranked defenses in this next quarter. To get back into this season the Saints need to go 3-1 in this next quarter to give themselves a chance. If they can get to 4-4 or even 5-3 by the midway point, they will put themselves in wildcard contention.

If Atlanta keeps backsliding with their 31st ranked defense, they can still grab the division.

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First Quarter Report Card New England Patriots

After watching last night’s obliteration of the New England Patriots, it’s time grade this team. Did we really just watch Tom Brady get benched?? Last night just looked strange seeing Belichick and Brady on the business end of a 41-14 bludgeoning. However when you looked around, there are no other playmakers on this team.

Tom Brady's frustrating 2014 start.

Tom Brady’s frustrating 2014 start.

Of course you don’t want to overreact to 1 game but we have now played 4. A quarter of the season is a good enough sample size to assess how a team is doing and project how they will do. So far Brady has been sacked 9 times but he’s been hurried and hit many more. The offensive line has been shuffled and one glaring front office decision is truly haunting this team.

Remember when the Patriots didn’t re-sign Wes Welker and decided to waste $31 million on Danny Amendola?? We’ll get into that but…how do you pay that to a marginal receiver who was once cut on Hard Knocks?? Do you realize New England has the NFL’s 29th ranked offense?? Only Tampa, Jacksonville, and Oakland have been more anemic. Right now the Patriots are ranked 30th passing the football…30th!!

The glaring lack of receivers to get deep is killing this team. Concentrate your defense 20 yards or less and you can bottle them up. Denver did this in the AFC Championship Game and it’s the blueprint opponents have used ever since. New England has averaged 20 points while facing the 7th, 17th, 20th, and 11th ranked defenses in this 1st quarter of the season. Patriots-Logo1

Now they go home to face the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals who boast the 14th ranked defense. Two things to keep in mind though. Brady and company could only muster 16 points at home against the 20th ranked Raider defense a few weeks back. Another is the Bengals held New England to their lowest output of the season last year with just 6 points.

The surprising part of last night’s loss was how gashed the Patriots 4th ranked defense was. They nearly gave up two 100 yard rushers in Jamaal Charles (92 yds) and Knile Davis (107 yds). Keep in mind one of their 2 wins came against the Raiders who are not only dead last on offense, but just fired head coach Dennis Allen.

This Sunday is a must win game against Cincinnati. They need to prove to themselves they are still among the league’s elite. If they lose this game they’ll have to travel to Buffalo with a 1-2 road record and 2-3 record overall. The Bills boast the 10th best defense in football right now. Of course some will scoff “Didn’t the Bills just bench their quarterback?”  Which is true. However with just 4 touchdowns so far this season, isn’t that what New England did to Tom Brady last night??  These are interesting times.

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The RGIII v. Kirk Cousins Debate

With the Washington Redskins coming off a 45-14 loss to the New York Giants last night, many would think this would be the worse time for this conversation. Au contraire, for no time would be better for this debate than coming off this abominable performance.

Cousins or RGIII??

Cousins or RGIII??

Supporters of Robert Griffin III heard all week how Cousins was going to supplant him as the starter. The Chancellor of Football is one, for the record, who believes Cousins will become the permanent starter. Those in Griffin’s camp could be heard in the aftermath of Cousin’s 4 interception performance against New York. Yet were these people the week before?

Cousins dazzled in a week 2 shootout against the Eagles. He had gone 30 of 48 for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns. In that game he showed the complete package an NFL quarterback is supposed to have in his passing arsenal. The ability to make the proper read and trajectory on his throws. To throw the football on time within the zone of a defense.

So what happened this week??

Cousins was unglued by the Giants defense.

Cousins was unglued by the Giants defense.

To some it could have been the fact Cousins was starting in a prime time game where most of America was watching and came out nervous. There is some truth there but ultimately the clock in his head as a QB was thrown off by the early sack and forced fumble by Matthias Kiwanuka. One, two, three and boom he was hit and the ball came out. He played rushed the rest of the night.

A closer look reveals that ace Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell tricks quarterbacks into false pre-snap reads. His defenses for years have masked their intentions well. I can think of several plays where he confused Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLVI. His pre-snap read was a Cover 2 and at the snap of the ball, the two safeties stayed put 15 yards downfield. Fewell had a linebacker take the deep middle. Take  a look…

If Fewell can confuse a Hall of Famer playing in his 5th Super Bowl, he can rattle a young QB with less than 15 starts.

RGIII has to learn to let route options 2 & 3 open up downfield and less of this.

RGIII has to learn to let route options 2 & 3 open up downfield and less of this.

Robert Griffin III upon his return has to show he can be durable enough to be a starter. An even closer look shows he has to stay with the full development of a play from a specificity standpoint. Many times he comes off his receivers too early and either scrambles or quickly flips it to the running back. He has to learn to let the pass patterns move the defense to their predesignated spots to open where his passes should be thrown.

Its this facet of the game Griffin III needs to develop where Cousins has, but needs experience against complex defenses. This is the impetus on what will happen between these two. Which will come first??

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Legends Of The Fall: OJ Simpson

There is no more polarizing name in the history of the NFL than that of OJ Simpson. Once upon a time he was the greatest halfback in the history of professional football. A former Heisman Trophy winner from USC who was drafted #1 by the AFL’s Buffalo Bills in 1969. He restored respectability to a once great franchise.

OJ Simpson...an all time great runner.

OJ Simpson…an all time great runner.

Yet he is known now more for the events that transpired June 17, 1994 and the subsequent trial of the century. Simpson’s was a tragic fall and one we’ll get into later. Right now we want to focus on his previous life as the most electrifying running back the NFL had ever seen.

One interesting  note is he finished his career with 11,236 yards rushing, or 1,076 yards short of then all time rushing champion Jim Brown. Head coach John Rauch, who had been fired by Al Davis in Oakland, wanted to prove his genius and played OJ at wingback. So for his first three years he played in a position he was primarily misused until Rauch was replaced by incoming Bills coach Lou Saban.

Finally freed to play tailback as he had at USC, Simpson grabbed the imagination of NFL fans everywhere. He broke breath taking runs. His impromptu style brought shoulder fakes and make ‘em miss moves that the casual fan could identify with. To watch him battle against defenses that feared the big play element he brought to bare was a thing of beauty. He was the prototype to the bigger half back at 220lbs that had the speed to break the big play.

Although he burst into the nation’s consciousness with 1,251 yards in 1972, it was his legendary 1973 season that he became an all time classic. His 2,003 yard season was marveled at, lionized, and written about ad nauseum for eclipsing a number no one thought possible. He did this in a 14 game season and raised the bar in an era where great backs got the ball 30 times a game.

Simpson was a superstar of the highest magnitude as he led the NFL in rushing 4 times in a 5 year span. It was his 1975 season that propelled Simpson to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as he broke numerous records including the most TDs in a season with 23. As for rushing for 2,000 yards?? He didn’t do that but he did gain 2,243 yards from scrimmage… Take a look

For the most part, Simpson’s work was condensed in the 5 years from 1972-1976. In these 5 years he rushed for 7,699 of his 11,236 yards or 68.5% of his overall total. He put in work against some great defenses too. He had several 100 yard performances against Miami’s “No Name Defense.”

Against the Steel Curtain in 1975, by the way #9 on our list of Greatest Ever Defenses, Simpson crushed ‘em for 227 yards in Three Rivers Stadium no less. This was great considering he was within 24 yards of the all time single game rushing record. By the way he held that record also with a 250 yard rushing performance against the Patriots in 1973. Then he broke that record with a 273 yard performance against Detroit Thanksgiving 1976.

By this time the wear and tear began to erode his skill and ability to cut and change direction. Multiple knee surgeries followed an injury plagued 1977 where “The Juice” played in only 7 regular season games. He was dealt to his hometown San Francisco 49ers where he finished out his career. As the 1979 season came to it’s conclusion, it was time for OJ to say goodbye to the game.

NFL Films named Simpson pro football’s hero of the decade. Think about that a second.  Not Roger Staubach…not Terry Bradshaw… OJ was their choice and it was a logical one. His feats scaled the record books and he had gone where no other runner had gone before. He only played in one playoff game during his career, yet Pete Rozelle made sure he had primetime games to showcase his talents.

OJ Simpson….one of the best runners and greatest players in NFL history.

Epilogue: Once the events that took place on June 17, 1994, with the murder of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, it threw every Bills fan in a weird place. To see his descent into this tragic figure ripped our hearts out. It happened right after the Bills had lost our 4th straight Super Bowl in which he was a part of each NBC telecast.

The Chancellor of Football's pilgrimage to Buffalo. Bills  v Cowboys 9 22 1996

The Chancellor of Football’s pilgrimage to Buffalo. Bills v Cowboys 9 22 1996

Regardless what you think of him now, I wanted to put up an article featuring what he once was. He left an impression on me as a young fan and why I’m still a Buffalo Bill fan to this day. I can remember going to Rich Stadium, named after the late Ralph Wilson now, and asking where his name was on the ring of fame. That was Sept. 22, 1996 when Buffalo was hosting the Dallas Cowboys, so the emotions were still raw. Especially among the season ticket holders where I sat.

So here it is, 18 years to the day later and as The Chancellor of Football thinking back to that day. Which had a mixed set of emotions as it always does now when OJ’s name is brought up. I remember when the late Tim Russert of Meet The Press fame, spoke of seeing his bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame the first time after the double murders. His expression was much the same as I would suspect with every other Bills fan.

Many people remember it as the murder and court case of the 20th century. No one outside of Bills fans think of it as the fall of a franchise’s greatest player. We live with that more than the 4 Super Bowl losses in the 1990s. Don’t forget…they happened at the same time.

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2014 NFC Predictions

If there is one thing we learned from week 2 of the NFL, it’s that appearances are deceiving. Are the Seahawks as vulnerable as they appeared in a 30-21 loss to San Diego?? Have we begun to see the cracks in the 49er defense, after allowing Chicago to score 21 4th quarter points in a 28-20 loss?? Seriously if they lose to Arizona this week, they’ll be 3rd in the west??

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

Seattle Seahawks will be the 2014 NFC Champions.

NFC North Champs: Chicago Bears

NFC East Champs: Philadelphia Eagles

NFC South Champs: Atlanta Falcons

NFC West Champs: Seattle Seahawks

Wildcards: Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints

Joining The Chancellor of Football in Glendale Arizona and Super Bowl XLIX from the NFC will be the Seattle Seahawks. They will renew their playoff rivalry when they beat the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.

With another Super Bowl title, Lynch could be building a Hall of Fame resume.

With another Super Bowl title, Lynch could be building a Hall of Fame resume.

The Falcons went into the tank when they lost Julio Jones last year. They lost 6 games last year by 6 points or less. Not only do they bring back the big play with his return, now they have Devin Hester in the slot. This offense will be the scourge of the south. They just need to be adequate on defense and should finish with 12 wins.

Similar situation will happen in the NFC North. Not in Green Bay but in the Windy City. Marc Trestman’s offense in it’s 2nd year should roll with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, and Matt Forte. The Bears receiving corps is so imposing they could win hurt just running hooks against the 49ers last week. No intricate pass patterns and  they scored 21 unanswered points.

Yes you did read correct The Chancellor of Football doesn’t think San Francisco will make the playoffs. A knee jerk reaction to blowing a big lead in week 2?? No try Taylor Blitz’s NFC West Preview before the season. They will lose to the Cardinals this week and the pressure will build from there.

Calais Campbell has to come up big this season.

Calais Campbell has to come up big this season.

Which brings us to the Cardinals who will win today to start 3-0. A great start but the losses they took on defense will take it’s toll as teams develop game plans for this new personnel. They surprised San Diego in week 1 with cover 0 blitzes. In fact, on the last 3 plays to end the game. Last week they beat the back pedaling Giants who look lost on offense. They are masking their limitations at linebacker with all this blitzing. It will catch up to them.

Sproles has been the sparkplug behindthe Eagles 2-0 start.

Sproles has been the sparkplug behindthe Eagles 2-0 start.

The Philadelphia Eagles will win the NFC East with the best personnel in the division. The acquisition of Darren Sproles will pay dividends all season. The inability to account for him has led to mismatches and huge momentum changing plays. These were the plays he used to make for the Saints when they’re offense bogged down.

Sproles change of pace plays are exactly what the Saints miss in the NFC South. Although they’re 0-2, they lost those games by 3 points and 2 points respectively. We’re only talking a few plays per game difference and they’d be 2-0. Sproles is /was that difference. Sean Payton is using Mark Ingram more in the passing game but he’s not the dynamic playmaker Sproles was. Brees and the offense will get it together despite the slow start.

Cliff Avril still brings pressure from the edge.

Cliff Avril still brings pressure from the edge.

Last week the Seahawks learned what it meant to be the Super Bowl for every opponent they will face this year. The Chargers were crisp and physical in their offensive execution. This week they get to right the ship against the finesse Denver Broncos. One aspect of their defense this year is they need more heat on the quarterback. So far they have just 4 sacks and a 1-1 record. They will right the ship and should finish with homefield advantage.

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2014 AFC Pedictions

Under normal circumstances Taylor Blitz Times would have these published before the season starts. However this has been a different off-season where more focus was on historical articles. Although we’re 1 week into the new season, we still haven’t seen a sample size large enough to alter The Chancellor of Football’s picks.

2014 AFC Champions will be the Denver Broncos

2014 AFC Champions will be the Denver Broncos

AFC North Champs: Cincinnati Bengals

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots

AFC South Champs: Indianapolis Colts

AFC West Champs: Denver Broncos

Wildcards: Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens

The representative to make it to Glendale, AZ and Super Bowl XLIX will be the Denver Broncos. They will narrowly defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game they should win at home.

Ware will make Von Miller a better player as well.

Ware will make Von Miller a better player as well.

Lets face facts, not many trust Bengals QB Andy Dalton but he will take a big step up this year and win his first playoff game. He won’t have the moxie to take on not only Peyton Manning but what should be one of the AFC’s best defenses. The signing of DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward, and Aquib Talib give the Broncos a defensive swagger they haven’t had before.

More importantly none of these players have won a championship which only adds to the overall hunger of the team. The Broncos won’t score anywhere near last year’s 606 point performance. They won’t have to as they will become more balanced.

The player that is growing on The Chancellor the most is Andrew Luck.

The player that is growing on The Chancellor the most is Andrew Luck.

Right behind these two teams will be the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. Was there anyone more impressive than Andrew Luck in week 1 of the NFL season?? The fight he brought the Colts back with was infectious. He made his entire team believe they could come back and they were playing without DE/LB Robert Mathis. The Colts gained more from that 31-24 loss in Denver than teams that won in the first week.

The Patriots will bounce back from week 1 but will they feel the effects of trading away G Logan Mankins the rest of the season?? Brady and the offense was under attack in their 2nd half loss to the Dolphins. They gained less than 100 yards as Miami pulled away. Bill Belichick will right the ship and they should win the AFC East with at least 11 wins.

The Bengals and Colts look like the two that will play in the 2015 AFC Championship Game however we have to get through 2014 first. The Broncos will look to take a more battle hardened team to Glendale than the one they took to New York last year. Will Denver win Super Bowl XLIX??

 

2014 NFC West Predictions

Its football season and all is right with the world. Unlike in previous seasons, The Chancellor of Football spent the majority of this summer writing historical pieces instead of in depth team previews. However nearly every preseason game was watched as well as the roster moves for the top tier teams. So without further adieu lets take a look at the NFC for 2014.

Seattle Seahawks alternate logo.

Seattle Seahawks alternate logo.

NFC West

1. Seahawks 14-2**

2. 49ers 9-7

3. Cardinals 7-9

4. Rams 4-12

No division will see as big a drop off in production as the NFC West. Once the province of 3 Super Bowl caliber defenses only 1 remains. Arizona lost Darnell Dockett off the DLine. He used to take on and beat double teams allowing Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington to flow sideline to sideline to the football. With his being gone for the season, teams will focus on DE Calais Campbell. Rendering him less effective.

Pro Bowl Corner Patrick Peterson and the secondary have to pick up the slack.

Pro Bowl Corner Patrick Peterson and the secondary have to pick up the slack.

Couple the loss of Dockett with the free agent defection of Dansby and season long suspension of Washington, the heart & soul of this unit is gone. How about the pending suspension for pass rush specialist John Abraham?? With 13 year veteran Larry Foote and Kevin Minter taking over for Dansby and Washinton this defense became two steps slower. Worse they’ll have to substitute more telegraphing their intentions.

Carson Palmer is the Andy Dalton of the NFC. One week he looks like a world beater then he’ll play uninspired and throw head scratching interceptions. He has to play his best to lift this team but he is a beta quarterback. His career has already been defined by this and it won’t happen. Ask the Raiders and ask Cincinnati.

In San Francisco…see the above about the Cardinals. Former Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Navorro Bowman will start on the PUP list which keeps him off the field until week 7. OLB Aldon Smith (28 sacks last 2 years) faces a 9 game suspension along with DE Ray McDonald facing a 6 game suspension. Just days after Roger Goodell unveiled his new discipline protocol for domestic violence too?? He might get more than 6 games.

Harbaugh will be on the hot seat.

This will be Harbaugh’s last season in San Francisco

Last year the 49ers were 7th in pass defense while ranking 18th in sacks with 38. Well removing these 3 players represents 17 of those 38. How much easier will it be to concentrate blocking efforts on 15 year veteran Justin Smith and OLB Ahmad Brooks?? Did you know NT Glenn Dorsey was put on the IR/PUP list and won’t be back until week 7 also?? Remember the Super Bowl caliber defense San Francisco fielded over the last 3 seasons?? This isn’t it. Addition from subtraction only works in creative math…not in football

Now couple this with GM Trent Balke not willing to offer a contract extension to Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. In fact Balke and 49ers brass almost traded Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns this summer. Traded?? Yes. There have been grumblings his message is getting old in San Francisco and now he’s being tied to the development of one Colin Kapernick. Honestly his game has not advanced in this last year and a half.

If this team comes out to the 2-4 record The Chancellor sees on the horizon, this science beaker will explode. Let’s say they are 3-3 or even 4-2. They will still drag a hodge podge defense into a week 7 road match-up with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Denver pasted the 49ers 34-0 in preseason to christen their new stadium. It could begin with a loss to the Cowboys in week 1.

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

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

With all that has been offered: How significant was this pass defense in the grand scheme of these teams?? Their legacies?? Where they’re going?? Seattle just jumped all over the Green Bay Packers last night 36-16 to begin the defense of their Super Bowl championship.

We’ve already previewed the Seahawks and they played as advertised. Russell Wilson is maturing as a QB and they could have Percy Harvin all season. If they’re champions already with a young team that is getting better, what will that mean for the rest of the league?? Homefield advantage…

We do know what team will face them in the NFC Championship but won’t reveal it until later. One hint… it won’t be a team from the NFC West.

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NFL Kickoff : Seattle Seahawks v. Green Bay Packers

Once upon a time the Green Bay Packers traveled to play a young team led by Pete Carroll on a Monday night in week 3 of 2012. That game ended in a debated Hail Mary that dominated the headlines the following morning. What Packer fans and pundits forgot was the fact the Seahawk defense chased Aaron Rodgers out of Qwest Field. They sacked him 8 times in the game with 7 of those coming in the first half.

Can the Seahawks repeat?? Absolutely

Can the Seahawks repeat?? Absolutely

In that game Rodgers never adjusted to the noise and neither has the rest of the league. Since that game the Seahawks are 21-1 over nearly 2 seasons since the “Fail Mary.” Seattle joined the league’s elite where the Packers slipped to the 2nd tier of playoff teams. Last year they made the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record and that isn’t elite.

Can Green Bay crack the Seattle defense on the road?

Can Green Bay crack the Seattle defense on the road?

Did you know the Green Bay Packers are 8-7 on the road since that game?? Ooops make that 8-8 on the road if you include the “Fail Mary” game. Well….upon further review, if we include the 2012 playoff loss to the 49ers they are 8-9 on the road. Now they have to go in to play a team returning 11 of 12 starters on a defense that had one of the best seasons in NFL history and win?? On a night where the 12th man will be rowdy as they raise their first ever league championship banner??

The key to the Packers winning is Eddie Lacy running right at the Seahawk defense.

The key to the Packers winning is Eddie Lacy running right at the Seahawk defense.

Only one way for the Pack to pull off a stunner… They have to run Eddie Lacy at the Packers on direct power running plays. Screens and trickery won’t work against the Seahawks since they rarely blitz. If the Packers try these plays the Seahawk defenders will beat Green Bay blockers to the point out in space.

Another factor is the history of Pete Carroll coached teams in big games. Aaron Rodgers will struggle with this pass rush and secondary tonight. Green Bay’s receivers can win mismatches against an average secondary. Not this one…and not when they are healthy.

The other is Packer coach Mike McCarthy who has a penchant for abandoning the running game. Tonight is the night he has to coach against those tendencies and he won’t do it. He wants to showcase his quarterback and this is looking like a shutout to The Chancellor of Football. Tonight 29-0 as Seattle is on their way to defending their Super Bowl championship.

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Next up: 2014 NFC West Preview

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #1 1985 Chicago Bears

This is The Chancellor of Football’s choice for the NFL’s greatest single season defense and there is a serious gap between #1 and the #2 Baltimore Ravens. We’ll cover why at the end of this article. However welcome to the perfect storm of dynamic personnel, innovative defensive tactics and an intensely focused unit. One interesting aspect of the 1985 Chicago Bears performance is they did so without ’84 All Pro Safety Todd Bell who held out that season.

Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan was also carried off after Super Bowl XX.

Defensive Coordinator Buddy Ryan was also carried off after Super Bowl XX.

This was the era of the 46 Defense of Buddy Ryan. A Nickle defense where DBs were substituted for more athletic linebackers which allowed Ryan to use it as an every down formation. He could spring it on a team at any time without substitution.

Contrary to misinformed sportswriters he had been using the defense since 1981. Considering he named the formation for the number Safety Doug Plank wore which moved him into a Linebackers position. Plank’s last full season was 1981 and was replaced by Bell in 1982.

The 46 covered the Guard, Center, Guard which kept the MLB from being blocked. Furthermore if either the Center or Guard pulled, a DLineman would be in the backfield to disrupt any running play.

The 46 covered the Guard, Center, Guard which kept the MLB from being blocked. Furthermore if either the Center or Guard pulled, a DLineman would be in the backfield to disrupt any running play.

Although this formation gave the Bears an edge over their competition they only used it 30-40% of the time. It was the element of surprise that caught the NFL off guard. What is overlooked is how great the personnel fit every scheme Ryan used. In 1984, this group set the NFL record for sacks with 72. After he departed they set the record for fewest points allowed in 1986 yielding 187 points. It’s the season in between, 1985, that was their crowning achievement.

Take a look at a few stats:

  • #1 overall ranking
  • #1 against the run #3 against the pass
  • #1 in turnovers w/ 54 forced
  • #1 in interceptions w/ 34
  • #1 in passer rating allowed w/ 51.4
  • #1 in points allowed: 198 for the season
  • #1 in 1st downs allowed per game: 14.8
  • #1 in opp. completion percentage allowed 47.7%
  • #1 in touchdowns allowed w/ 23
  • #1 in rushing touchdowns allowed w/ 6

Now add to the fact they were #3 in sacks with 64, #3 against the pass giving up yardage in garbage time with blowout leads. It was the venomous way they attacked strong competition that makes this defense the valedictorian of NFL units.

Look at the competition they faced and look what they did to them. In 1985 the NFC East champion Cowboys (10-6) were trounced 44-0, the wildcard Giants (10-6) 21-0 in the playoffs, and the 10-6 Redskins slaughtered 45-10. Outscoring them 110-10 when they were the “best division in football” yikes!! Then you have the NFC West Champion LA Rams (11-5) killed 24-0 in the NFC Championship, and the last wildcard team? The defending champion San Francisco 49ers (10-5-1), who were pounded 26-10 in Candlestick.  Funny thing was the 49er touchdown was a Carlton Williamson interception, so the 49er offense scored 3 at home.

* So the Bears gave up 20 points combined to the 5 best teams in their conference and avg. more than 4TDs margin of victory (31-4 avg. score)…damn! All were 10 win teams.

Then of course each division faces another division in the other conference which in the 85 Bears case was the AFC East.  Thank God they didn’t play my Bills… The AFC East champion Dolphins won 38-24, but both wildcards in the AFC went to the Jets and Patriots.  What happened to those teams you ask?  The Jets (11-5) were clobbered in the Meadowlands 20-6 and the Patriots (11-5) twice. The Bears beat the Patriots 20-7 in week 2, then the 46-10 smashing in Super Bowl XX.

*So the only loss was to defending AFC Champion Miami & where did the Dolphins season conclude?  They lost the AFC Championship at home to the Patriots where had they won there would have been a rematch with the Bears in the Super Bow. So you could say that they were a pretty strong team…fair to say? The Bears beat EVERY playoff team in 1985 from the NFC, and faced three from the AFC…all teams had 10 wins or more and the Bears basically laughed at ‘em.  This is what a heavyweight champion should look like!!

They were 4-1 against top 10 offenses and in those 4 wins held each team to less than 10 points. In fact, the ’85 Bears held 11 of their 16 opponents to less than 10 points and recorded back to back shutouts over the Falcons and Cowboys. In the playoffs they set another record not allowing a point in back to back playoff shutouts to make it to Super Bowl XX. Once there they set records for holding the Patriots to -19 yards at the half, 7 yds rushing for the game, record 7 sacks, and allowed the fewest yards in Super Bowl history with 127.

This second look shows a few plays from the 46 front look but the final play with Steve McMichael’s sack was one of the secrets of the ’85 Bears. They lined up in a 3-4 and had DE Richard Dent the rushing weakside ‘backer a la Lawrence Taylor. Ironically the 46 defense didn’t die it evolved into teams running it from 3-4 alignments and not 4-3 alignments as Buddy Ryan originated this from. If you’ve watched the Steelers over the last 15 years they have used DEs that were built like DTs and would squeeze them down to cover the Guard,Center, Guard and position an Inside Linebacker right next to the Strong side Linebacker. They just made it interchangeable in elements to surprise their opponents from time to time.

They had NFL Defensive Player of the year and Hall of Famer Mike Singeltary, All Pro Gary Fencik, Hall of Fame DEs Richard Dent and Dan Hampton. Pro Bowl Linebacker Otis Wilson and OLB Wilber Marshall who should be in the Hall of Fame.

In 2000 when the Ravens gave up 165 points and the question was raised- “Were they better than the ’85 Bears defense?”  HELL NO!!! The Ravens didn’t face 1984 MVP Dan Marino, 3-time Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana, Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms, 1983 MVP Joe Theismann, and Danny White was a pro bowl quarterback as was Ken O’Brien of the Jets. ALL WERE IN THEIR PRIME!  Had the 2000 Ravens seen these quarterbacks they give up another 150 points easy and wouldn’t make the mythical Super Bowl if they played the 85 Bears schedule!!

Spurgeon Wynn. Who?? Spurgeon Wynn, Tim Couch, Anthony Wright, Kent Graham, Gus Frerotte, Brian Griese, Ryan Leaf, Scott Mitchell, and Akili Smith were some of the QBs those Ravens faced so….no way do they get this nod. I loved those Ravens don’t get me wrong, but what would the ’85 Bears have given up against the 2000 Ravens schedule? That’s frightening to think about.

The best ever defense from the historian view of The Chancellor of Football’s view was the 1985 Chicago Bears hands down. How badly they trounced sound competition has resonated for decades. In compiling this list every #1 defense from 1960 to the present was used, every championship defense, and every record setting defense with the nod going to those that played since the merger in 1970. Hundreds of defenses boiled down to the 1985 Bears sitting atop as the best.

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1990′s Buffalo Bills – The Rasputins of The NFL

When you think back to the Buffalo Bills team that made it to 4 straight Super Bowls, there are two schools of thought. You have one from the ignorant callous fan that says “Well they lost 4 straight Super Bowls.”  Then you have a more respectful set of players and fans that marvel at the feat of making it to four straight.

Andre Reed embracing Jim Kelly after hiss induction speech.

Andre Reed embracing Jim Kelly after his induction speech.

There was a point right before Super Bowl XXVIII when the media started to change their attitude toward the Buffalo Bills. After the win over Joe Montana’s Kansas City Chiefs in the ’93 AFC Championship, the country lamented over the Bills going to a fourth straight Super Bowl. When all of a sudden one of the networks had Stephen Hawking on and asked him a question: With the current landscape of 28 teams how long would it be before we would see another team make it to 4 straight Super Bowls?? Hawking sat quietly for a second and then pronounced “With the current landscape of teams it would take another 46 years.” Or if you’re counting at home it would happen in the year 2039.

The Buffalo Bills clowning around on Super Bowl picture day before XXV.

The Buffalo Bills clowning around on Super Bowl picture day before XXV.

Well the NFL now has 32 so it may not happen again in our lifetimes thanks to new mathematical algorithms. On Saturday WR Andre Reed became the 6th member of the early 90′s Bills to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s time to take a look back at one of the unique teams in NFL history and The Chancellor of Football’s favorite football team.

Reed joins fellow WR James Lofton, RB Thurman Thomas, the late Ralph Wilson former owner and founder, Head Coach Marv Levy, and QB Jim Kelly in Canton. It was this team’s closeness that was on full display as Reed was inducted. Kelly, who has been battling cancer, was determined to attend the ceremony and threw Reed one final pass that brought on the loudest cheer of the evening.

Kelly and Reed before taking the field in 1990.

Kelly and Reed before taking the field for the 1990 AFC Championship Game.

The amazing thing is how far this group had grown as men. Most people don’t realize or remember this team was known as the “Bickering Bills” during the 1989 campaign. Infighting almost derailed a season as they went 9-7 after a 12-4 campaign the year before marked them as a team on the rise. They would go on to become the NFL’s most galvanized team as the new decade took shape.

The 1990 Buffalo Bills were the first team to lose the NFL Championship or Super Bowl by a single point…20-19. Talk about being tantalizingly close. Most experts and pundits believed they would be dominant in 1991 as they went 13-3 with homefield advantage again. Thurman Thomas was league MVP and Bruce Smith was coming back from injury as the 1991 playoffs beckoned.

Back to back Super Bowl losses had many fans and pundits writing off the Bills. How would they recover?? Yet all these players were in their prime and led by unsung leaders like LB Darryl Talley, they dusted themselves off and came right back in 1992. During this season they were 4-0 against the NFC west including a 38-35 win in San Francisco vs. the 49ers who went 13-3. Good enough for homefield advantage in the NFC. Going into the final week of the season the Bills were ready to clinch homefield in the AFC when:

Once the most dominant team in the AFC, several teams had caught up to the Bills and the K-Gun offense. The 1993season brought on the first season of free agency as the Bills roster started to be plucked over. Gone were LBs Shane Conlan and Carlton Bailey. LT Will Wolford signed with the Indianpolis Colts. How much longer could they jeep their core players intact??

Other AFC teams bolstered their offensive units as QB Joe Montana and Marcus Allen joined the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dolphins started to acquire talent around Dan Marino as they brought in free agents Keith Byars and Mark Ingram. The Raiders pulled a coup and brought in Jeff Hostetler to quarterback the Raiders back to the playoffs.

The Houston Oilers resurrected Buddy Ryan and his 46 defense to conquer the AFC. They signed LB Wilber Marshall to help fortify an already talented defense. After all it was the defensive collapse in the 41-38 loss to the Bills in the ’92 playoffs that propelled Ryan’s hire in the first place. All of these teams wanted a shot at the aging Bills.

The 1993 team fought it’s way to another 12-4 record although the games were much closer. Was this still the AFC’s best team?? They seemed to be just a step ahead of the competition within the conference instead of leaps and bounds as they had been in 1990 or 1991.

The offense evolved into Kelly engineering more of a controlled passing game as TE Pete Metzellars led the team in receiving. Where in previous years the team really stretched the field with James Lofton and Andre Reed. Lofton retired after ’92 and the Bills brought in possession receiver Bill Brooks. Thurman Thomas was still in his prime but defenses ganged up on the run now that the Bills couldn’t stretch the field. The result?? Thurman did rush for 1,315 yards but a career low 3.7 yard average.

With the wear and tear of 10 additional postseason games over the previous 3 seasons, would they have enough in the tank to make it to that 4th Super Bowl?? That became the prevailing question. After a 29-23 come from behind win against the LA Raiders in sub zero weather in the divisional playoffs, here came Joe Montana, Marcus Allen and the Kansas City Chiefs. The AFC Championship at stake.

As we’re winding down the football life of these Buffalo Bill teams of the early 90′s, we get to really appreciate it several decades later. The outside world caught a glimpse into the closeness of this team. It was on full display as you watched last weeks induction ceremony. It was felt with conviction when Reed declared “The Bills will stay in Buffalo!”

There is nothing like being a Buffalo Bills fan. The excitement leading up to each of those Super Bowls were tempered as you came down after each loss. Then six month later we had to endure the fall of OJ Simpson, the greatest player in the history of the franchise. Bills players and fans had to endure that purgatory together and it could be the genesis of all this closeness. No one else could share in the pure elation after the greatest comeback in NFL history either. That entire January in 1993 was special.

Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas as they visited Jim Kelly at the start of his battle with cancer.

Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas as they visited Jim Kelly at the start of his battle with cancer.

To be a Bills fan and rally around the exploits of these players was easy. The ability to dust themselves off and march right back to the Super Bowl year after year taught a lesson in perseverance. Twenty five years ago they were known as “The Bickering Bills” and now they have matured into a close group rallying around Jim Kelly with his cancer battle. Its even easier to rally around them as men. Now each have taken their place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame which comes with a big ring.

Prayers from The Chancellor of Football are with you Jim Kelly. As a Miami Hurricane and Buffalo Bill fan…big time prayers. Get well!

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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 II CHAMPION 1967 GREEN BAY PACKERS & The Ghost of Vince Lombardi

To threepeat or 3 NFL Championships in a row…only time it’s been done in the modern era…1965-1966-1967…concluded with Super Bowl II win over the Oakland Raiders 33-14 and included the legendary ICE Bowl win over Dallas in the NFL Championship game 21-17. Legendary teams do legendary things! Can you imagine playing football in -15*F and wind chill near -50*F in 1960s fabrics?? Yikes but that’s what made the difference between Lombardi’s Packers and Dallas during that game. I can’t remember a famous last minute drive under similar conditions. I mean “The Drive” of Elway fame, Cleveland v. Denver in 1986, took place in a balmy 12 degrees.

alt_sports_cd_super_bowl_ii_lg

Super Bowl II was the final of 3 NFL champihips in a row.hence the 3 large diamonds.

But wow, three championships in a row! Vince Lombardi IS a football God and he kept teams from equaling that feat. Look at the strange circumstances that surrounded others trying to equal it…its Lombardi I tell ya’

1. Early 70s Dolphins after winning Super Bowls 7 & 8, loses to the Oakland Raiders in the famous Sea of Hands play in ’74 playoffs…Divine intervention? Go watch that play and you’ll see that the Dolphins had 2 backups trying to cover the throw from Ken Stabler to Clarence Davis…the Dolphins lost two DBs in the second half of that game and also gave up a bomb to Cliff Branch in the 4th quarter also…not saying Lombardi did it…but he had a hand in it…

2. Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowls 9 & 10 come into ’76 primed to duplicate. Long story short…Pittsburgh overcomes a bad start and in winning their last 9 games while only giving up 28 pts including 5 shutouts. Both Rocky Bleier AND Franco Harris rushed for 1,000 yds that season with Bradshaw injured.

Finally healthy they light up Baltimore 40-14 in the divisional playoff (only AFC playoff pt total that high in the 70s) and lose BOTH Franco and Rocky in that game? Really?? Without either RB able to play the next week, they lose to the Raiders in AFC title game 24-7. I’m tellin’ you…Lombardi has something to do with all these strange circumstances…

super bowl ii23. Oh those wonderful 49ers of late 80s lore. Won back to back in Super Bowls 23 and 24, started 1990 10-0 and went on to go 14-2 and host their old protagonist, the New York Giants in the NFC Championship. Now yes, Leonard Marshall knocked Joe Montana from the game…but leading 13-12 and running out the clock, dependable Roger Craig loses the ball, squirting out behind him without really being hit? WTH? Giants recover and make last second field goal to escape 15-13: I can’t make this up!! Ghost of Lombardi and another strange circumstance…

4. The boisterous Dallas Cowboys of Super Bowls 27 and 28, and fairly healthy yet without Jimmy Johnson are coming to San Fran for the ’94 NFC Championship, were geared up for this battle. OK, Emmitt Smith was nursing a hamstring injury. Including the playoff game with the Packers, the week before, the Cowboys had only turned the ball over 20 times all year!! ALLYEAR!!

Wouldn’t you know they turned it over 3 times in 5 minutes and were out of it 21-0 after 7 minutes of play on their way to losing 38-28…so Emmitt’s hamstring had nothin’ to do with it! LOL. This represented the first time in NFL/NFC championship history that a team was down 21-0 in the 1st quarter. That is a span from 1933-1994!! 61 yrs that hadn’t happened. Off in the distance you can hear Lombardi’s ghost chuckling…

super bowl ii35. Then you had the steady Denver Broncos who won Super Bowls 32 and 33, over the Packers and Falcons respectively. With an opportunistic defense, John Elway with Terrell Davis (the 2000 yd rusher in 1998) was the engine that made that team go.

With the specter of a possible three-peat looming, Elway decided to retire. Shanahan whom many thought would start Bubby Brister the veteran over 2nd year player Brian Griese… a total brain freeze where Lombardi must have “clouded his judgment.” LOL So what happened…? Enter 1999, the Broncos struggled out of the gate 0-2 when Griese threw an interception against the Jets in week 3, Terrell Davis blew out his knee while making the tackle.

Now the two most indispensable Broncos: Davis and Elway were gone and the 0-3 record doomed the season… In a more ironic twist, tackle Mark Lepsis was a backup tackle in ’98, was the first to help Davis off the ground when he crossed 2,000 yards. It was he who fell on Davis in ’99 blowing out his knee on exactly the same spot on the field. Ah, that Lombardi…can almost hear his voice now “What the hell is goin’ on out here?”

super-bowl-logo-1967Now someone may ask “what about the 78-79 Steelers or the ’03-’04 New England Patriots?” Well let’s just say Lombardi’s intervention wasn’t necessary. The ’80 Steelers were swept by perennial division rival doormat Cincinnati, which gave the Browns the division title knocking Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. Hmmm maybe Vince was busy.

The Patriots just seemed to run out of gas in their playoff run. All strange circumstances of Green Bay’s 3 championships about to be equaled and goofy, weird circumstances kept it from happening EACH time. If you listen closely, off in the distance, you can hear Vince laughing.

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Legends of The Fall: Marcus Allen

Did you know that only once in NFL history has the single season rushing leader wore silver and black??  It was Marcus Allen in 1985 when he played for the Los Angeles Raiders. Yet when you think of Allen, you think of receiving out of the backfield more than you think of him as a pure runner.

Marcus Allen on a first half gallop in Super Bowl XVIII.

Marcus Allen on a first half gallop in Super Bowl XVIII.

However in 1985, Jim Plunkett was lost for the season and Marc Wilson just wasn’t a top flight quarterback. Super Bowl XVIII was a distant memory as the team hadn’t improved from a personnel standpoint. They started to age. Recent drafts didn’t help when the team brought in receivers Jesse Hester and Dokie Williams, who weren’t quite the caliber of past Raiders and Allen was the only offensive weapon that was in his prime.

Where the team followed up their Super Bowl championship with a wild card loss to Seattle, team brass decided to lean on Marcus and ball control to stay competitive in 1985. Why not?? Marc Wilson only completed 49.7% of his passes that year in 12 games…

For the year Lionel James led the NFL with a record setting 2,536 all purpose yards but it was Marcus that set the yardage from scrimmage record with 2,314. He led the NFL with 1,759 yards rushing as the Raiders only real offensive weapon. Don’t forget Eric Dickerson held out and missed the first four games of the season and finished with 1,234 yards for 1985. Dickerson’s 1,808 in ’83 and 1,821 in 1986 were on a par with Allen’s ’85 total.

Allen had one of college football's greatest seasons when he won the Heisman in 1981.

Allen had one of college football’s greatest seasons when he won the Heisman in 1981.

Everyone forgets Marcus was the first running back in college football history to rush for 2,000 yards when he went for 2.342 in 1981. He had gone to USC where he was converted from defensive back and had been a blocking back for previous Heisman winner Charles White. Once White graduated, it was Allen’s show. It should have happened that way in the NFL as well.

Yet starting with a fumble forced by Seth Joyner in an overtime 33-27 loss to the Eagles, the rift between Al Davis and Marcus started to widen. The Raiders subsequently finished 1986 with 4 straight losses to miss the playoffs for only the 5th time since 1967. This ended a 20 year era in which the Raiders were among the league’s elite. This is where the feud affected Allen’s play on the field and had Davis draft Bo Jackson in the 1987. They started phasing Allen out as he only carried 9, 13, and 10 times in the final three games of 1986.

He became a prisoner of Davis who wouldn’t showcase him and mandated he not be given the ball. So the only running back in history with a Heisman, Super Bowl MVP, and NFL MVP, and first to rush for 2,000 yards in college had to become a blocking back for Bo Jackson. He endured that for six years until the advent of free agency freed him in 1993.

In Kansas City, Marcus was able to be a feature back again.

In Kansas City, Marcus was able to be a feature back again.

In his first year in Kansas City, it was he not Joe Montana, who was voted the most valuable player. Allen was also the NFL’s comeback player of the year as he led the league with 13 TDs in his first season with the Chiefs.

Yet we’re left with what if again.

After that great 1985 season, Allen wouldn’t rush for 1,000 yards again. He finished with 12,243 yards rushing and 123 touchdowns. From the backfield he caught 587 balls for another 5,411 yards and 21 scores. What would those numbers balloon to if he wasn’t exiled in Los Angeles?? Would he have played 15 years had he stayed the feature back?? Ultimately, what were we football fans cheated out of thanks to the Davis / Allen feud??

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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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Legends of The Fall: Eric Dickerson

If you traveled back to the 1980′s in the NFL, Eric Dickerson was described as a running back from the future. Everything from his upright running style to the way he wore so much in the way of protective equipment. He had the speed of a sprinter yet at 6’3 220 lbs he could run over small defensive backs who came up to support the run. Now that we’re 30 years removed from his rookie year of 1983 there is only one player The Chancellor thinks is the 2nd coming of Dickerson. It’s Adrian Peterson.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton in 1984. Payton eclipsed Jim Brown to become the all time leading rusher  that year. Not to be outdone Dickerson broke OJ Simpson's single season record with 2,105 yards.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton in 1984. Payton eclipsed Jim Brown to become the all time leading rusher that year. Not to be outdone Dickerson broke OJ Simpson’s single season record with 2,105 yards.

One of the greatest open field sprinters in NFL history, Dickerson was a threat to break it the distance every time he touched the football. What made him great was his sprinter’s speed in the open field with his size. He’d break into the open field and cornerbacks tried to take angles on him and couldn’t run him down. Only Peterson can be compared to him for how far above the rest of the running backs they competed against.

In 1983, you have to remember the Rams wanted to shake up their offense. You had the great quarterback class of 1983 and the bright star from SMU. The Rams had a 1,000 yard rusher in Wendell Tyler but saw a more explosive runner in Dickerson. It was interesting because we hadn’t seen Dickerson carry the total load since he alternated series with Craig James while in college. With the Rams desperate to catch the 49ers, who had risen to power in the NFC West, they took Dickerson.

The clear understanding was he would pay immediate dividends over the quarterbacks who would take 4 to 5 years  to develop. At least that was the NFL’s thinking of QB development at the time. Dickerson took the National Football League by storm rushing for 1,808 yards and 18 TDs as he powered the 9-7 Rams to a wildcard playoff entry. The Rams had missed the playoffs the previous two years and were energized by their rookie rushing champion. He was the first to do so since Earl Campbell and second to do so since Jim Brown in 1957. They were a run oriented team with spartan quarterbacking and Dickerson still got his yards. Going into 1984 most pundits weren’t predicting a sophomore slump but a possible run to the record books. Dickerson delivered in grand style.

Although the 2,000 yard season has been achieved several times in the 29 years since Dickerson’s magical 1984, his was the most appreciated because teams saw it coming but couldn’t stop it from happening. Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson were both coming off knee reconstructions when they accomplished theirs. He was a sight to behold and led the league in rushing in 3 of his first 4 seasons. Each of which with over 1,800 yards which is amazing. No runner in league history can touch that. The only reason he didn’t do it four straight times was his holdout in a contract dispute before the 1985 season.

Without training camp that year he had a slow start and finished with only 1,234 yards. Marcus Allen led the league in rushing that year with 1,759 yards. Yet he hit his stride as the playoffs loomed. In the divisional round he torched the Dallas Cowboys with a National Football League playoff record 248 yard performance. That 20-0 win sent the Rams to Soldier Field where they lost to the Bears 24-0 in the NFC Championship Game.

However if you’re keeping score, after three years he held league records for most yards rushing as a rookie, most yards in a season, and most ever in a playoff game. Aside from a Super Bowl, the biggest fight he had was with the front office. Yet nothing prepared us for his being traded to the Indianapolis Colts at the beginning of the 1987 season.

For all he had accomplished in Los Angeles it was his 1987 and 1988 seasons that cemented Dickerson as a greatest ever runner. The argument when a player is accomplishing these feats is what fuels it?? Is it the offensive line or the running back?? You just heard that Charles White, in Dickerson’s absence, won the 1987 rushing title with 1,347 yards rushing. Dickerson was second with 1,288. The ’88 year saw him reclaim the rushing title with 1,659 yards and 14 TDs where back in LA, White only gained 328. More importantly he had legitimized the Colts as a franchise in Indianapolis.

Before his arrival in ’86, the Colts were 12-36 in their previous three years in Indianapolis. In fact HBO’s Inside The NFL was there to chronicle if they were going to join the ’76 Bucs as the second winless team after an 0-13 start. They acquire Dickerson and he powers them to the 1987 playoffs with a 9-6 record.  His ability to control the ball allowed what was a laughingstock of a defense in ’86 to be the league’s 2nd toughest to score upon at only 15.9 points per game. Ladies and gentlemen that is tilting the field.

The only record he didn’t have at this point of his NFL career was the late Walter Payton’s 275 yards in an individual game. You can blame the Denver Broncos for that. During what was probably the most electrifying game of his career, the Broncos couldn’t keep pace on the scoreboard and eventually he was pulled in a 55-23 blowout. Thanks John Elway. Personally I pulled for Denver to keep scoring so he’d stay on the field for a chance at the record. No such luck….take a look

One of the unique aspects of that game against Denver:  Had the Colts beat the Cleveland Browns in the ’87 AFC Divisional Playoff, this would have been the AFC Championship Game the year before. Dickerson would go on to rush for 13,289 yards 90 touchdowns while catching 281 passes for 2,137 yards and another 6 scores. As the game seems to be phasing out the dominant rusher, he starred as the league took to the air. He was the equivalent of the great quarterback class of 1983 and captured the imagination of NFL fans everywhere. Although I compare him to Adrian Peterson, no other runner ever truly looked like him. If I could splice some film side by side, the person that looked most like him when they ran was Deion Sanders. He ran with an effortless gazelle like stride and when he broke into the open field it was curtains. You weren’t catching him. Well unless you’re Darrell Green.

Dickerson and his former Ram teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Slater.

Dickerson and his former Ram teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Slater.

What would he have accomplished had he completed his career in Los Angeles?? Would he have gone past Walter Payton for the all time NFL rushing champion had he stayed?? Would the Colts franchise have moved again without his arrival?? What would he have rushed for had he not spent time off the field fighting for a higher salary?? He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Ironically when the Colts and Rams were involved in another trade of a Hall of Fame running back in Marshall Faulk.

Eric Dickerson was a one of a kind talent. At his best he was an unstoppable force. Sure his career left us with many questions but at his best none put fear in modern defenses like he did.

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Missing Rings: 1993 Houston Oilers

Everyone can tell you when an era ends but when was it’s zenith?? The truly great teams burn bright for some time while winning championships. Others burn almost as bright for a long time but memory fades on those that don’t bring home Super Bowl rings. When it comes to the case of the Houston Oilers between 1987-1993, the zenith came at the end and the fall was so dramatic it killed the franchise.

Warren Moon was building his Hall of Fame resume with Pro Bowl performances 8 straight years.

Warren Moon was building his Hall of Fame resume with Pro Bowl performances 8 straight years.

Yet as we look back at the Houston Oilers of 1993, you have to stretch back a little further and remember what happened during the playoffs of 1991 and 1992.

The Oilers had become one of the most talented teams in football. They were the vanguard of the teams that ran the Run & Shoot offense. Their trigger man, Warren Moon had made it into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. He had orchestrated the league’s #1 offense in 1990 and 1992. in 1991 they dropped to second in the league behind the K Gun of the Buffalo Bills.

Moon was starting at a time when African American quarterbacks were just getting their start in the NFL on a league wide basis. Yet despite those pressures he approached Dan Marino’s passing records with 4,689 yards in 1990, and 4,690 yards in 1991. However his team coming up short in the playoffs was starting to become an issue. Similar to what was once a concern of Peyton Manning and continues to dog Tony Romo, Moon had only won 1 playoff game between 1987-1990. In reality, the Oilers were expected to ascend to be the best team in the AFC as they stockpiled talent around him. Make no mistake Moon was playing to erase the stigma that a black quarterback could lead his team to a championship. It hadn’t been done since Doug Williams in 1987.

He had diminutive and quick receivers in Ernest Givins, the late Drew Hill, Curtis Duncan, and a tall wideout in Haywood Jeffires. In 1991, 4 yards kept Moon from having 3 – 1,000 yard  seasons as the Oilers opened 7-1 and looked like the AFC’s best rival to knock off the defending champion Bills.  However they ran into John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Playoff. On a mission they ran out to a 21-6 lead in Mile High Stadium. However Elway rallied his team back to a last second 26-24 win that sent the Oilers home after a total collapse. A team with 7 Pro Bowlers and 3 All Pros was sent home by a hodge podge rebuilding Denver team that hadn’t made the playoffs in 1990 and wouldn’t in 1992.

Andre Reed scores the go ahead touchdown in the greatest comeback in NFL history.

Andre Reed scores the go ahead touchdown in the greatest comeback in NFL history.

The team was still in it’s prime as they approached 1992. Age was becoming a factor as the 36 year old Moon missed 6 games during the middle of the year. Houston entered the playoffs with a 10-6 record courtesy of a 27-3 win over Buffalo in a Sunday night finale. It set up a rubber match at Rich Stadium in a wild card game against the two time defending AFC Champion.

Not only were the Bills without future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, they would be without Pro Bowlers Cornelius Bennett and Thurman Thomas as well. Moon had a first half for the ages as he went 18 of 22 for over 220 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first half. At an 81% completion rate, broadcasters Charlie Jones and Todd Christensen waxed philosophical about his breaking the record of 88% Phil Simms had accomplished in Super Bowl XXI. Houston was up 28-7 at the half and then SS Bubba McDowell returned an interception to give the Oilers a 35-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.  They had outscored the Bills 62-6 in 6 quarters in less than a week. They were hitting on all 8 cylinders.

Then came the greatest collapse in the history of the NFL. A 32 point lead was washed away as Buffalo just put on a performance for the ages in a 41-38 win. Once the Bills took the momentum from the shellshocked Oilers the game was almost inevitable. Moon’s crispness in the first half, where he led the Oilers to touchdowns on all four of their drives, went 3 and out on the first four of the second half. Also completely befuddled was defensive coordinator Jim Eddy, who never changed the nickle package or calls for the entire second half of that game. Bills receivers and backup QB Frank Reich knew exactly which plays would work and kept waiting for adjustments that didn’t come.

If the Oilers would have won a Super Bowl between 1987-1993, would Ray Childress be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame??

If the Oilers would have won a Super Bowl between 1987-1993, would Ray Childress be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame??

Psychologically, the jury was in on the Houston Oilers of that era for many pundits. They just couldn’t win the big game despite the talent they had on the field. Pro Bowl defenders Ray Childress, Al Smith were possibly tarnishing Hall of Fame careers at this point. Former Pro Bowl talents such as CB Cris Dishman, DE Willam Fuller, and DE Sean Jones were all on the field in Buffalo and none could make a play to turn that game around. Just as they hadn’t in Denver the year before.

Owner Bud Adams had seen enough and decided the defense was the reason for the collapse and hired Buddy Ryan. That’s right the same Defensive Coordinator of the 1985 Bears and former Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Adams did this and forced him onto then Head Coach Jack Pardee. Ryan had total autonomy just as he had in Chicago. In fact he was able to hire his own assistants and player requests. In came former Ryan disciple Wilber Marshall, a fiery linebacker that was one of the unsung performers on that ’85 Bears team.

Ryan also forced the team to draft a MLB in Miami Hurricane Michael Barrow and draft a tight end in John Heny Mills. With a defense that had 6 former pro bowlers on it and a soon to be Pro Bowler Lamar Lathon at that point, this was going to be a sight to behold. Ryan resurrected the 46 defense deep in the heart of Texas yet how much of the leadership of that team was stripped of Pardee?? 1993 looked like the last year for the Oilers to make it to the Super Bowl or the team would be broken up. All or nothing.

When Buddy Ryan brought in former All Pro Wilber Marshall, the defense took on a totally different tone.

When Buddy Ryan brought in former All Pro Wilber Marshall, the defense took on a totally different tone.

The preseason began with Ryan firing off comments about Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride and the Run & Shoot offense. The “Chuck & Duck” Ryan scoffed at the high penchant for passing and not running the football. The team however sputtered out of the gate as the defense had some growing pains and the offense started slow. In fact, a 1-4 start to the 1993 season looked similar to the Houston Texans of this year. A lot of talent, although a little old and they should be able to turn it around. That fourth loss came in a return trip to Buffalo. With Warren Moon’s benching, it looked to all the world this era of Oilers football was about to come to a crashing end.

However the defense not only grew into it’s shoes, it became the scourge of the league. Gone was the passive 4 man rushes of the Jim Eddy defense and in was the confusing blitz packages Ryan had made famous in Chicago. His Philadelphia Eagles didn’t use as many packages as he did in Houston. Over the next eight games they had 35 sacks, 30 takeaways and had knocked 5 quarterbacks from the game. A defense full of star quality talent left opponents without a focal point to game plan against. The league hadn’t seen heavy focus on the 46 defense in over 5 years. They also hadn’t played against this personnel in these new positions. Teams were thoroughly overmatched as the last 11 opponents never scored beyond 20 points.

As the defense helped turn the season around Warren Moon came off the bench when his backup Cody Carlson was injured in week 6. His play was more efficient than it was spectacular as defenses had caught up to the Run & Shoot by ’93. However the Oilers were running the ball more and inserted a bigger back to try and wear down defenses. Former special teamer Gary Brown took over due to injuries and rushed for 1,002 yards on 195 carries. He was the first player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards while only starting half the season. Gone was the scat back presence of Lorenzo White and Allen Pinkett and a bruiser was now running the football in the Run & Shoot. Now teams couldn’t go with pass specialists at linebacker with a hammer in the backfield.

However all wasn’t rosey.

The team operated in the awkward vacuum of two camps within a football squad. Buddy Ryan had complete autonomy with his players and coaches. The season long tension was always there as Ryan said what he wanted to at press conferences, even if it wasn’t supportive of the offensive side of the ball or the team as a whole. Head Coach Jack Pardee and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride acquiesced some of their game planning to accomodate Ryan. Think not?? Brown in half of the ’93season carried the ball nearly 200 times where in 1991, Allen Pinkett started all 16 games and only ran it 171 times.

What bothered Ryan the most was the offense continuing to pass the football at the end of halves when they should have run the football and gone into the locker room. This resulted in two of his starting defensive backs being lost for the season on meaningless plays right before halftime. So when starting FS Marcus Robertson was injured with just seconds left before the half in the last game, Ryan exploded and threw a punch at Gilbride. Now heading into the NFL playoffs he would be missing 3 of his 4 starters in the secondary.

The Oilers of 1993 were a lab experiment about how a team with such disjointed chemistry could actually band together to be the tough minded team no one thought of them as. They survived “Babygate” when OT David Williams missed a game early in the season to witness the birth of a child. Media scrutiny was less intense and more forgiving when DT Jeff Alm committed suicide before their week 14 match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Decicating that game to his parents and their fallen teammates memory, they went on the road and whipped the Steelers 26-17 to capture the AFC Central.  Ten months after a collapse branded this team as one of the psychologically weak teams in modern history, they had forged an identity tougher than any could remember.

They finished the regular season 12-4 finishing on an 11 game winning streak. Which had only been equaled by the ’72 Dolphins, the ’69 Minnesota Vikings, and the 1934 Chicago Bears in all of NFL history. No question did they look across state and see a possible match-up with the defending champion Cowboys. When they went out and hit Steve Young so often in a 10-7 win out in Candlestick on Christmas Day, league wide fear of this team only grew. This was not going to be the same team that wilted under playoff pressure come playoff time in 1993.

The Chiefs defense matched the physicality of the vaunted Oiler defense.

The Chiefs defense matched the physicality of the vaunted Oiler defense.

Everyone feared this group except one team, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Oilers had run over the Chiefs 30-0 early in the season and had talked a big game while doing it. As the AFC Divisional slate put these two together again, talk of knocking out Chief quarterback Joe Montana drew the ire of Chief defenders. The late Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith talked about their knocking Moon out if Montana left the game simiarly. What hadn’t been thought of was beating the bully at their own game.

The Chiefs came into the game as a team that didn’t blitz a lot. They stayed with bookend pass rush All Pros Smith and Thomas and played coverage behind them…or so the Oilers thought. The Chiefs threw blitzes at Warren Moon tying an NFL playoff record with 9 sacks and knocking the offense out of continuity from the very start. They held the Oilers to only 277 yards of offense. Their season low?? 246 yards ironically against the Chiefs in their 30-0 loss to the Oilers at the beginning of the season.

It was Joe Montana and moving on half rollouts away from the blitz that kept him upright in this game. A veteran of 20 previous playoff games, with a 15-5 record that featured 4 Super Bowl championships, he may have played his best game at 37 years of age. He completed 22 of 38 passes for 299 yards 3 TDs and 2 interceptions. Once he adjusted to the Oilers and their fleet of second string people in the secondary, he and Marcus Allen kept the ball away from Moon in the second half. The 28-20 win by the Chiefs came at great delight to both Buffalo and Dallas who no longer had to think of facing this monster team from Houston. They would go on to play in a second straight Super Bowl once Buffalo DID knock Montana from the AFC Championship Game.

As for the Oilers, they were broken up after 1993. Gone was Warren Moon who went on to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. Buddy Ryan received another Head Coaching position in Arizona taking Wilber Marshall with him. The defense was turned over to Ryan disciple Jeff Fisher, who would succeed Jack Pardee once he was fired in week 10 of 1994. Present Titans coach Mike Munchak played his last game for the Oilers in that 93 playoff loss and began his coaching career that same year. Former Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride was let go once Pardee was dismissed. They had been the men responsible for bringing the Run & Shoot to Houston and it left with them.

Ironically the offense that didn’t win it all as a complete scheme lived on in offenses around the league. It was Gilbride teaching some of the Run & Shoot principles to New York Giant receivers as they have won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Even the team of the 2000′s, the New England Patriots run variations of offensive principles that were a staple of Gilbride’s down in Houston. Especially the screen plays that Gilbride designed. Below is a copy of one of the pages from the Patriots Super Bowl playbook of 2003 and you can clearly read “Run and Shoot screen”. 

RunAndShootScreen

The largest fall had been with the fan base that was there from the Luv ya Blue days through this era of Oiler football. The heart of the fan base drained drastically as the team fell to 2-14 in 1994. Within two years, Bud Adams moved the team to Tennessee and renamed the franchise the Titans. It was a sad and sudden end to the Oiler franchise but it came off the heels of promise that was the best team in Oiler history that didn’t make it to the Super Bowl.

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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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Missing Rings: The 1987 Cleveland Browns

When it comes to talking about Super Bowl Rings of NFL champions gone by, we think of great teams. Yet within each team, there are individuals who have their own story to tell. If becoming a champion is the crowning jewel for a lifetime achievement then how monumental is the chase itself?? Enter Marty Schottenheimer and the 1987 Browns.

Mark Jackson celebrates the touchdown at the end of "The Drive"in the '86 AFC Championship Game.

Mark Jackson celebrates the touchdown at the end of “The Drive”in the ’86 AFC Championship Game.

It all began on a dark foreboding afternoon on January 11, 1987 in the 1986 AFC Championship Game. After holding the Denver Broncos to only 216 yards of offense and 13 points in the first 55 minutes of the game, they pinned the Broncos to their own 2 yard line after the kick. The crowd was rocking as Browns fans were throwing confetti and were just a series or two away from Super Bowl XXI. Decades of NFL futility were about to come a close as John Elway and the Bronco offense took the field.

Yet in one of the NFL’s greatest ever playoff drives, John Elway drove the Broncos 98 yards to the tying touchdown. Then the game winner in overtime. The 23-20 thriller ended a season that had been the most accomplished in the modern history of the franchise.

In 1985, the Browns were a limited team that was easing their prized rookie quarterback, Bernie Kosar, into the game plan. This earthbound run oriented outfit was the first division winner in NFL history with a .500 record. Both Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack rushed for 1,000 yards during the season. These shortcomings came back to haunt them in a 24-21 loss to Miami in the playoffs. A game in which Cleveland was up 21-3 at one point. Once the Dolphins focused on the ground game, Kosar was ineffective in his first road playoff game.

So in 1986, third year Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer brought in passing guru Lindy Infante to open up the offense and personally develop Cleveland’s kid quarterback. Kosar developed into an upper level quarterback throwing for 3,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. Along with the Dawg defense they paced the conference and wrapped up home-field advantage with a 12-4 record. As the playoffs neared, pundits were mixed with what they expected of Bernie. Although he finished with the NFL’s lowest interception ratio per pass attempt, many felt a 23 year old quarterback would fold under pressure.

Marty Schottenheimer

Marty Schottenheimer

In the AFC divisional playoff contest with the New York Jets, Kosar completed 33 of 64 for an NFL playoff record 489 yards in a come from behind 23-20 win. The game went to double overtime before Mark Moseley kicked the Browns to a victory. Then came the loss to Denver and depression set in state wide. It wasn’t the fact the Browns lost, it was the heartbreaking way they lost it. Yet with a developing quarterback and one of the AFC’s best defenses, they vowed to make amends the following season.

Going into 1987, Cleveland started tinkering with their defense. They parted ways with high profile linebacker Chip Banks and altered their 3-4 defense in the early portion of the season. With two Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon, the Browns could go man to man against anyone. Results were mixed as Cleveland had issues rushing the passer. Minnifield and Dixon started in the Pro Bowl for the 2nd straight year, so coverage wasn’t the issue.

The offense continued to diversify as Kosar elevated his game to a higher degree. In 1987 he had the second lowest interception percentage  of all NFL quarterbacks (2.3%) as he threw for 3,033 yards, 22 TDs with only 9 interceptions. His 62% completion percentage (241 of 389) was among the best in pro football. Although he was a bit awkward as a quarterback he started to win some acclaim. He made the Pro Bowl and was voted the People’s Choice MVP that year. Keep in mind these numbers came from only 12 games thanks to the players strike that year.

He still had future Hall of Fame TE Ozzie Newsome to go with his receivers Webster Slaughter (47 rec./ 806yds / 7 TDs) and Reggie Langhorne. However third receiver Brian Brennan (43 rec/ 607 yds / 6TDs) out of the slot was Wes Welker before Wes Welker. Running backs Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack were no longer the 1000/1000 tandem. Mack was the straight ahead freight train and Byner became a combination runner and receiver out of the backfield.

Ancient Cleveland Municipal Stadium was remembered fondly by those from Ohio. Yet to the outside world it was an antiquated unattractive place.

Ancient Cleveland Municipal Stadium was remembered fondly by those from Ohio. Yet to the outside world it was an antiquated unattractive place.

To the casual football fan this team was put together in a hodge-podge sort of way. Very few of the Cleveland Browns were blue chip players. Kosar and Mack were supplemental selections. Inside Linebacker Mike Johnson and All Pro Cornerback Frank Minnifield came from the USFL. Spot time starter Felix Wright #22, came from playing several years in the Canadian Football League. The year before, the Browns brought in former Ohio St alums LB Anthony Griggs and SS Ray Ellis. Each of which were let go by the Philadelphia Eagles when Buddy Ryan took over. Starting DEs Al “Bubba Baker” was a former Cardinal and Carl “Big Daddy” Hairston was in his 12th year was a former Philadephia Eagle from an even earlier regime than Ellis and Griggs.

Now Pro Bowl Cornerback Hanford Dixon and Pro Bowl Linebacker Clay Matthews were 1st round selections fully entrenched as starters.Yet it was this unlikely group that fought as a unit to bring prestige and respectability to Cleveland. Their stadium was ancient and unattractive when you compared it to other teams around the league. Yet all of this fueled the furnace that was the spirit of those 1987 Browns. It fueled the fans as well. Hanford Dixon coined the “Dawg Defense” and the bleacher zone the “Dawg Pound” and that took on a league of it’s own. People dressed in dog masks, chewing on dog biscuits, throwing them on the field. In fact, in 1989 playing the Denver Broncos, the fans were so rowdy throwing biscuits on the Broncos huddled in the endzone, the referees switched sides. It was the first time in NFL history that had happened.

Did I just mention the Broncos?? Well back to 1987…

Wide Outs Webster Slaughter and Reggie Langhorne embodied the spirit of the Browns of that era.

Wide Outs Webster Slaughter and Reggie Langhorne embodied the spirit of the Browns of that era.

After posting a 10-5 record and winning the AFC Central, the Browns beat Eric Dickerson’s Indianapolis Colts 38-21 to set up the rematch they had waited for all year with Denver. This time the AFC Championship would be held in Mile High Stadium. Yet the Browns didn’t care. They had to exorcise the demons from “The Drive” and losing the AFC Championship the year before to the Broncos. When in fact it was a morality play when you thought of the two cities and the two teams. Cleveland was the unattractive “Mistake By the Lake” and Denver was the sprawling western urban city with mountains to ski off in the distance.

Even the quarterbacks took on the embodiment of their towns. John Elway was the prototypical glamour quarterback. First round draft pick with a rocket right arm who was on the cover of magazines and gained much of his fanfare from the previous year’s championship game. Where Kosar was the physically awkward antithesis to Elway’s athleticism, he didn’t have John’s polished ready for television demeanor and looks either. However there was an assassin beneath the surface. This was the kid who won the 1983 National Championship at the University of Miami (The [[_]]) as a redshirt freshman. The 31-30 upset of the #1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers that were averaging 52 points a game. So Kosar didn’t shrink under intense pressure.

How about the Head Coaches??

Well in one you had the polished, always in a shirt and tie Dan Reeves v. the bland “V-Necked”sweater or brown overcoat wearing Marty Schottenheimer. Reeves came up as a golden child on one of the NFL’s glamour teams playing for Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys. Then coming up through the coaching ranks and winning a ring as a coach (Super Bowl XII) just as he had as a player in Super Bowl VI. He was a highly sought coaching commodity when Denver hired him in 1981.

Schottenheimer?? He had been a back-up linebacker and special teams player for the Buffalo Bills over in the “other league” known as the AFL. He had been a mid-season replacement for embattled coach Sam Rutigliano for whom he coached the defensive backs in 1984. In ignominious fashion it was his secondary who gave up one of the Browns biggest gaffes ever in 1980 when they allowed a Hail Mary to Ahmad Rashad in the final seconds to the Minnesota Vikings.

In short Cleveland was the antithesis of everything they felt the Broncos were not. Gritty, tough, fighting for respect from the establishment. It tapped into the inferiority complex of the Browns fans and together they lived with the pain of “The Drive” from 1986 ripping at their souls. As for the ’87 AFC Championship??

The largest come from behind game in NFL postseason history was the 20 point comeback by the 1957 Detroit Lions in a 31-27 win over the 49ers. At least up until that time. That was against a 49er team that couldn’t win the big game. This comeback by Cleveland, down 18 twice, was performed against the team with the best home record of any NFL team (75% 1960-1987) during those years. Against the backdrop of the emotion from the previous year?? It was the epitome of a never say die attitude that should be taught to kids everywhere.

To have such a monumental performance come up short like that doesn’t take away from it’s brilliance. Earnest Byner had rushed for 67 yards and caught 7 passes for an additional 120 and 2 touchdowns. Did you know this was only the 2nd time a team scored 30 points in any NFL championship game and lost?? The Browns scored 30 in just the second half!! They were down 21-3 at the half and lost 38-33. We’re talking 178 games of AFC /AFL Championships, NFC / NFL Championships and Super Bowls. The only other time was when Dallas lost Super Bowl XIII to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Yet the overwhelming feeling after Byner’s fumble was the best team didn’t win that day. All the media talked about was John Elway who passed for 14 of 26 for 281 yards 3 TDs and 1interception. When the best player on the field that day was Bernie Kosar who threw for 361 yards (26 of 41) for 3 TDs and 1 pick. Which was the record for any championship quarterback playing on the road.

Browns fans had to watch in disbelief in Super Bowl XXII, when Washington blew out the Broncos 42-10 knowing their team was better. In fact the following year Cleveland won in Washington 16-10 on the road to knock them out of playoff contention in 1988. So could they have beaten them in a Super Bowl?? Probably. The year before when they lost “The Drive” to the Broncos. Had to watch the Giants pull away from the Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI. In 1985, the Browns beat the Giants 35-33 in the Meadowlands in the 13th week. Are we sure the Giants would have won on a neutral site Super Bowl?? Remember we’re talking about a pre- free agent NFL back then.

However for one magnificent evening, Marty Schottenheimer and the Cleveland Browns taught fans everywhere a lesson in not giving up. Working your way out of a hole borne from self induced mistakes and putting on a Herculean effort that shouldn’t be forgotten.

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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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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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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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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.

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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.  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