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The Beta Quarterback Revisited

When you look at life from a psychological standpoint, you have leaders and you have followers. Well in the Taylor Blitz Times lexicon of NFL football describing the quarterback position, you have the alpha and the beta.

The alpha infuses confidence in his football team through his play and leadership. His teammates are inspired through his verve, spirit, and fight which in turn raises their level of play to meet his.  You can see the confidence in their eyes when the game is tight. He doesn’t shrink when games are on the line or when the team is up against a superior opponent. This is what every coach covets each year in the NFL draft.

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Dak was 1-6 against playoff teams in ’19 and 6-10 over the last 3 years. Beta Quarerback

Then you have the beta quarterback that many teams seem to be afflicted with. He comes through with the physical gifts that scouts and coaches can see where he can improve, and can possibly sculpt a winner from. He shows promise and can win you a few football games yet isn’t a leader. This is the guy that looks to his teammates for confidence when they’re looking to him for theirs.

Subsequently when the situations get tight or they’re up against tough teams, he shrinks at the moment of truth.  Sure they win games they are supposed to win but the superior opponent he needs to beat to become a champion, he will always come up short. Late game interceptions, missed connections in crucial times, & mangled last minute drives which short ciruit his team’s efforts. Most important he always loses when an alpha quarterback is leading the other team. Constant big game heartbreak follows this guy….always.

Well this is how The Chancellor of Football sees the game. As you read those first two paragraphs, certain quarterbacks started to form in your mind.

One play after overthrowing a streaking Emmanuel Sanders in the endzone, Jimmy G took a sack and forced fumble that ended Super Bowl LIV.

One of the most unique aspect of the beta quarterback is he almost rises to prominence in the same way. Usually they are under appreciated talents that are among the best of the back-up quarterbacks.

Good enough to make the roster, run the scout team offense, and if we lose our starter he can pilot the ship for 3 or 4 games. Yet with the advent of complete NFL free agency, these are the guys signed after they have done well when they have relieved an injured starter. Jimmy Garoppolo was signed after performing admirably for Tom Brady in New England and is the poster boy for the beta quarterback.

The San Francisco 49ers had fallen on hard times and were in the middle of a meltdown under overmatched Coach Chip Kelly.  The Niners were struggling with Colin Kaepernick finding rhythm in Chip Kelly’s offense after a successful run with Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Then the 49ers brought in Kyle Shanahan who was the hotshot offensive coordinator who had taken the Atlanta offense to Super Bowl LI. To run his offense he needed a franchise QB and the team jettisoned Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert as each appeared damaged goods. They brought in Jimmy Garoppolo who had gone 2-0 during Tom Brady’s suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Kirk Cousins is another beta quarterback

The 49ers surprised opponents in 2017 when they went 5-0 under Garoppolo. However the sample size wasn’t large enough to make a full judgment. He couldnt finish the ’17 or ’18 seasons and in 8 games he had thrown 12 TDs yet had an eyebrow raising 8 interceptions. Desperate for any competent quarterbacking after the last few years GM John Lynch & Shanahan had tied their success to Garoppolo’s wagon.They began to assemble talent around him. The team made progress and when Garoppolo didn’t do so well, the thought process was: “Once he matures, he won’t throw those passes.”

However that incessant tic never seems to leave this guy. It’s in his DNA and it becomes glaring once the rest of the team assembled with him should thrive with his leadership.

All season long as it became apparent the 49ers had turned the corner experts held out Jimmy G was the weak link that would let San Fran down. The Chancellor of Football was one of them. 49er fans would point to games he performed well in yet didn’t notice how he struggled in a prime time game at home with Western division leading Seattle. He played well as long as the team was out in front and they could sic that front four on opponents.

Once the 49ers outlasted New Orleans and Drew Brees 48-46 it looked like Garoppolo was on the precipice of proving his doubters wrong. Yet a knock kneed performance in a 29-22 home loss and a mundane Monday Night performance when they beat Seattle 26-21 raised suspicions.

When Shanahan started to cover up his QB in the 2nd quarter of the 49ers divisional playoff win over Minnesota, it appeared he lost confidence in him. He turned the game over to his rushing game and defense and nearly won a title. Lost in 49er euphoria was Shanahan only allowed his QB to throw the football 27 times total in 2 playoff games. He really didnt beat any Alpha QBs as the 49ers used smoke and mirrors to keep him from throwing in obvious situations.

Then came Super Bowl LIV and alpha QB Patrick Mahomes. For 3 quarters it looked like the Niners were about to pull the upset and Jimmy G was on the precipice of proving his doubters wrong.

Then the moment of truth… San Francisco was up 10 and the pilot light in the alpha Patrick Mahomes came on. He made play after play to will his team back in the game. The beta?? Jimmy G went 2 for 9 in the 4th quarter when his team desperately needed a play from him. All we got were deer in the headlights looks on television closeups. He had one last chance to bail his team out with 1:40 to go… Emmanuel Sanders split two Chiefs defensive backs and was streaking to a game winning touchdown… all he needed was one Garoppolo throw from a clean pocket. Jimmy overthrew him then had a sack and forced fumble on the next play to kill the 49ers Super Bowl chances.

Beta!!

Had he completed it he would be have gone into the pantheon of Super Bowl champions and would have completed his winning touchdown in about the same spot Joe Montana completed his to John Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII. Same spot in the same stadium some 30 years earlier…

Like Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins, Garoppolo is a beta QB….fools gold. They don’t have an alpha and they know it. The rest of us had already come to that conclusion before Super Bowl Sunday. This game just cemented it. Like S

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Unsung Players: Isaac Curtis Breakout 1973 Season

One of the unsung players I remember growing up was Isaac Curis of the Cincinnati Bengals. It was 1981 and the Bengals were looking to upgrade their receiving corps when they selected wideouts David Verser and Cris Collinsworth with their 1st & 2nd round selections. What of the incumbent starter Isaac Curtis??

It made me go back and look at who he was and I learned about what happens as a player ages.  I remember reading his exploits and had come across his performance as a rookie many moons ago and saw it on film once. Recently I found Curtis’ rookie season in my video archives and wanted to share them.

When you think of rookie sensation receivers some will think of Odell Beckham, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss or some old timers will bring up Paul Warfield or “The Catawba Claw”… one guy forgotten about?? Isaac Curtis

In a season where only 1 receiver crossed 1,000 yards (Harold Carmichael) Curtis broke out with one of the eras greatest rookie seasons. He amassed 49 receptions for 849 yards and 9 TDs yet broke huge plays for Cincinnati. Five of his scores were from greater than 40 yards out and 3 of those over 70 yards. Those are Randy Moss-esque for that era.

Take a look:

Cincinnati won the AFC Central however fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Dolphins in the divisional playoffs which curbed the impact historically. However players were the only voters for the Pro Bowl back then and they voted him in as a rookie and the next 3 years. Quarterback Ken Anderson became a two time passing champion and joined his deep threat in the pro bowl in ’75 & ’76.

What was lost was the offense fashioned by Bill Walsh under Paul Brown became one of the most efficient in history.  However Curtis was their long range weapon in the Ohio bred “West Coast offense.” In 4 of his first 6 years he led the Bengals in receptions & in 4 of those seasons he led Cincinnati in touchdown receptions.

Curtis played on through the 1985 season finishing as the Bengals career reception leader with 416. He was also Cincy’s career recption yardage leader ( 7,101 yards) and touchdowns (53). Thirty four years after his retirement he still ranks in the top 5 in all 3 team categories.

These stats may not get Isaac Curtis to Canton but he definitely deserves to be in the Bengals “Ring of Honor” as one of the team’s greatest players. That 1973 breakout was equal in impact and stature to the ’64 debut of Hall of Famer Paul Warfield. A few more bounces of the ball in playoff appearances in 1973 and 1975 may be the only difference why we’re not talking about Curtis in a Gold Jacket. An unsung great.

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The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year – Khalil Mack

With the NFL’s second season upon us we have to look back to the team and players who made the 2018 season. Keep in mind this blog is about defense and the unheralded players appreciated by the rank and file. Yet bookending a season where Taylor Blitz & The Chancellor was there for the induction ceremony for our 1st subject written for the PFHoF in Robert Brazile, it’s with great pride to announce the 1st 2 time Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in Chicago Bear Khalil Mack.

Mack made his presence felt the second he put on a Bears uniform.

Mack bested ’17 Taylor Blitz DoY Aaron Donald for this honor based upon his ability to show up in important games and the domino affect he has had on a division and a conference.

Dating back to a 2010 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship, the Bears were 2-12 against them while Aaron Rodgers and company won the NFC North 5 times. The Bears either finished 3rd or last in all 7 of those years.

The Bears trade for Mack and sign him on Sept 2nd and one week later & not in football playing shape introduced himself in week 1 on Sunday Night Football.

Mack dazzled a national audience becoming the 1st defensive player in NFL history to record a tackle, a sack, force a fumble, recover a fumble and return an interception for a touchdown in the same game. On one of his 5 hurries forced Rodgers into a sack that knocked him out for much of the game as the Bears forged to a 20-0 lead in front of a shocked and silenced Lambeau Field. His impact on that game far exceeded his 3 tackles, sack, forced fumble and TD on an interception return. Although they lost 23-22 to their NFC North antagonist, the mantle of dominance shifted to Chicago from Green Bay on that day.

Mack shifted the entire focus of opponents blocking schemes.

The following week against perennial NFC West force Seattle he terrorized Russell Wilson sacking him once, forced a fumble, 5 tackles and another tackle for loss. Yet with all the attention focused on Mack, the Bears integrated 1st round draft pick Roquan Smith into the lineup and the Bears chased Wilson into 6 sacks. A monster defense was born.

The affect both of these games had on Sunday night in primetime was immense. Not only did Mack infuse confidence and swagger into his team, opposing teams had to adjust their blocking schemes to accommodate him. Where was he lining up?? We even warned in our week 1 preview: All of a sudden the 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year & NFL Defensive Player of the Year lands in an NFC North without a Pro Bowl Tackle and you don’t think it will be an issue??

The clincher was another big game where the 9-3 Bears, still battling for respect, hosted the 11-1 Rams and 2017 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Where Donald was neutralized Mack had another 3 tackles, sack and forced fumble as the Rams #2 offense was held to 214 yards and 6 points. By far these were their season lows as the Bears announced they were for real. On two of Jared Goff’s 4 interceptions he was hurried by #52.

Mack’s performance has raised the NFL’s 10th ranked defense in 2017 to a ranking of 3rd while garnering 50 sacks. This also ranks 3rd. The Bears won the NFC North for the first time since 2010 and host the defending champion Eagles this weekend. They will do so with a terrorist to come off the corner in Khalil Mack.

For good measure the Bears won the NFC North with a 24-17 win over Green Bay in front of a frenzied Soldier Field. Mack had 6 tackles and 2.5 sacks as the Bears eliminated the Packers from the playoffs and soon after fired Coach Mike McCarthy. The changing of the guard was complete.

Mack finished with 47 tackles, 10 for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries and an interception for a touchdown. His best performances came against Chicago’s superior competition where Aaron Donald disappeared in games the Rams lost.

Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year recipients:

  1. 2011 -D’Qwell Jackson: Cleveland Browns – Recorded 158 total tackles (115 solo) 3.5 dqwell-jackson-11sacks, 1 forced fumble with 2 recoveries and garnered 1 interception as the only light on a 4-12 team. The Browns were in the top ten defensively all year and finished 10th.
  2. 2012 –Navorro Bowman: San Francisco 49ers – Garnered 148 total tackles (98 solo) 2 sacks, 6 passes defensed, and 1 interception with a fumble forced. Was an All Pro force who outperformed his more celebrated All Pro teammate Patrick Willis. Starred on the NFL’s #3 defense and made the play of the year knocking down a 4th down pass to Roddy White on the last play of the NFC Championship Game. Sent the Niners to the Super Bowl.
  3. 2013 – Richard Sherman: Seattle Seahawks – He led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and a week 4 TD against Houston that turned their season around. He also had 48 tackles, defensed 17 passes, recovered 2 fumbles and tipped Colin Kaepernick’s desperation throw into the game clinching interception in the NFC Championship Game.
  4. watt2014 – J.J. Watt: Houston Texans – One of the greatest defensive performances ever with 78 tackles, led the league with 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 recoveries returning 1 for a touchdown. Then had 1 interception returned 80 yards for his 2nd defensive touchdown. He drug a rebuilding Texan team to within a game of making the  playoffs with a 9-7 record in Bill O’Brien’s rookie season. May have been the greatest season by a defender in NFL history.
  5. 2015 – Thomas Davis: Carolina Panthers – The 6th best defense in 2015 & made it to Super Bowl L where Davis played with a plate in his broken arm just 2 weeks after the original injury. Toughness aside he garnered 105 total tackles (75 solo) 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. Although his teammate Luke Kuechly garnered national media attention, the 4 additional sacks and 2 more forced fumble won Davis the Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Award.
  6. 2016 – Khalil Mack – Mack’s season has been transcendent as he collected 55 tackles (46 solo) 11 sacks with 5 forced fumbles. He’s recovered 3, returning 1 for a touchdown before we remind you he has 1 pick for another touchdown that also came in the win over Carolina. These are huge impact plays that decide contests not innocuous stats in the middle of a game without meaning or context. In the last 2 seasons he has 14 sacks that have come in the 3rd & 4th quarter of games.
  7. 2017 – Aaron Donald – Despite missing 2 games, Donald forced 5 fumbles in his 11.5 sacks and had 15 tackles for loss. Keep in mind he held out all of the preseason awaiting a new contract. Imagine had he been in game shape in week one??

Congratulations to Khalil Mack and his Bears have a big game with Philadelphia tomorrow… will he have another big game performance himself??

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Legend of The Fall: Max McGee

One of the most interesting arguments that persists are how many of the Green Bay Packers from the ’60s can make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?? Now if you ask Packer fans they believe they all should go. This belies the truth of the matter except when you look at the accolades many of them earned during their careers.

Max McGee only made one Pro Bowl although he played on 5 world championship teams.  Yet even when you take a look at Packer greats you would consider on the bubble, they still stack up with the contemporaries of their time.

  • Max McGee- 345 rec. 6,346 yards 50 TDs *1 Pro Bowl
  • Gary Collins – 331 rec. 5,299 yards 70 TDs *2 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros
  • Del Shofner – 349 rec. 6,470 yards 51 TD *5 Pro Bowls **5 All Pros
  • Raymond Berry – 631 rec. 9,275 yards 68 TDs *6 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros

Of course these are only his fellow NFL receivers yet look at his numbers compared to former Giant Shofner. He went over 1,000 yards on 4 occasions where Max never did. Yet over his last 4 seasons he caught 54 passes and fell off dramatically. McGee did as well with only 48 receptions his final 4 years yet career wise statistically stayed with him with a steadier career.

Now McGee didn’t score as often as Gary Collins yet he had a much higher per catch avg (18.5 yds – 16 yds) over their careers. As you can see he finished with 1,047 yards more than Collins. These men all played more than 10 seasons and played for the league or Super Bowl championship 3 times, well 2 in Collins case.

Berry’s numbers are out there and he is the only Pro Football Hall of Fame member of this group. Yet he along with Shofner played in the most pass conscience offenses of their day.  Johnny Unitas, who threw to Berry, was the 1st 3,000 yard QB and threw for a league record 32 TDs in 1962. Shofner was catching passes from Y.A. Tittle who broke Unitas touchdown record with 36 in 1963.

McGee played in a run heavy offense as the Packers swept to league titles in ’61 and ’62 yet the film coming up makes it seem as though he only had Super Bowl I. His best season was the ’61 campaign when he caught 51 passes for 883 and 7 scores. Its possible he could have made it to 1,000 yards had he played all 14 games.

When looking back on his career it was a lot more than his performance in Super Bowl I. He did catch a 35 yard bomb which was the key play in the 3rd quarter scoring drive that put Super Bowl II out of reach.

McGee had a steady career not a spectacular one. If falls short of the Pro Football Hall of Fame but he definitely had an incredible football journey.

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Jerry Kramer, Alicia, The Chancellor & A Hall of Fame Trip

As we near the 2018 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony it’s impossible not to look back at how we got here. It seems surreal as so many fans didn’t think we would see the day when Jerry Kramer would get that call to the hall. That knock on the door.

kramersWhere our odyssey began was the birth of all this love of football which started in the summer heat in Denver Colorado 1977. Outside throwing a football around when I came in to cool off and an “NFL Presents” had a special on “The Ice Bowl.” I can remember being glued to the tv as the Packers and Cowboys played in what looked like ungodly weather. Of course with John Facenda’s narrative he made the names of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Tom Landry and Jerry Kramer become etched in my mind.

Several weeks later school had started and my 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Carmen and I were in the library and she gave me Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay to read. After that I brought home at least 3 books on football a week or was reading the old NFL Punt, Pass, & Kick books at the Boys Club. Of course when I wasn’t outside playing football but the pilot light was on and I wanted to read more first on Kramer’s Packers and beyond.

Fast forward many decades and into the social media age and I looked up a couple of random old school football players and connected. Jerry was one of them. Of course to say hello and was a fan of his and make a mild acquaintance. Then in early 2010 things changed… Bored with several business writing courses I decided to write a few short stories based on championship teams to get people talking about football on Facebook. I grabbed a series of Super Bowl and conference championship rings and wrote 15 abstract stories based on what I knew of those teams and could share beyond a box score.

One of which was “The Ghost of Vince Lombardi” and the strange circumstances that befell every 2 time champion trying to win 3 in a row. Yet it was Jerry and several former players responding to the story of the Baltimore Colts not receiving a ring for losing Super Bowl III is when the “Aha” moment came. Like I said I was just trying to get a few football fanatics to talk old teams and in one afternoon more than 500 email notifications while I was out with Edie that Friday night. I wound up with thousands of notifications over the weekend. That validation is what started me writing and accumulating articles here.

When thinking of content to write about I thought of players who hadn’t made the Pro Football Hall of Fame who should be. If I were in that room with the writers, what would I say to make my point and  deflect counterpoints before they could take shape? On July 26th, 2011 I penned Jerry Kramer Belongs in The Hall of Fame which was read and widely shared. Alicia and I had become friends then and our conversations began.

You wouldn’t believe how many posted and emailed saying they thought Jerry was in already. No… he isn’t. One of the first conversations was with the late Dave Edwards who played across from Jerry’s Packers in The Ice Bowl for the Cowboys. Then Alicia embarked on her journey to raise awareness that her father Jerry, an all time great, had yet to have that “knock on the door”.  Alicia asked if I would help her with the page and without hesitation let her know that I would. I was known for uploading a lot of football footage from all I had recorded from 1982 to the present. So up went “The Ice Bowl” several America’s Game’s for the Lombardi Packers and she grew it from there.

All the while asking people to write Joe Horrigan and the Pro Football Hall of Fame on behalf of her father being selected. She grew that group incredibly quick and a sea of Packer fans flocked to the group in support and the letter writing took off in earnest. Posts with autographs Jerry had given fans over the years, publications shared and everything Jerry to keep the movement going and raise awareness.

There were some disappointing days when Jerry’s name didn’t make it past the semifinal round. Then when it looked like February 2016 as a finalist… this would be it! No knock on the door. However Alicia was the first to tell me Kevin Greene did get in from the hotel in San Francisco and 6 months later I was preparing to go as Kevin and Tara’s guest when I said “Alicia, you have to send me something to wear as a political statement” to which she agreed.

Fully expecting a JK for the Hall of Fame t-shirt, I opened the package to an autographed jersey. I told her I’m wearing it into “The Hall”. Now keep in mind Brett Favre was being inducted also and Packer jerseys were there 10-1. As I toured the autograph area and bunched in with fans trying to catch a glimpse at HOF members going in and out of what I believed was the Nitschke Luncheon. “Jerry should be in the hall!” “Open your doors for #64!” was shouted at least 100 times by Packer fans in the few hours before entering The Hall.

Even met my friend Ryan VanAcker entering the Hall of Fame because of my wearing Kramer’s jersey. Now 2 years later we’re attending Jerry’s enshrinement together from Arizona.

Now we’re just 48 hours away as a 7 year march for TBT and a 46 year march for Jerry concludes Saturday evening. To watch Alicia and Daniel keep up the march from the Facebook page over the years has been special. Especially Alicia as I watched the movement grow from an idea to former players rallying and writing letters, even former Hall of Famers lending their names. Proud of all the work she put in and tirelessly worked toward. I am happy to have been a part of it as a weekend that at times felt would never arrive, is actually upon us.

There will definitely be a few glasses of wine to celebrate Jerry’s enshrinement. A lifetime achievement where he will be recognized as a giant of the game. He’s always been one… its just time for his official commencement. The Chancellor of Football will be boarding a plane in less than 24 hours. I just had to chronicle this before we gather in Canton.

Congratulations Jerry Kramer, you’re a Hall of Famer!

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Postscript