The Soul of The Game: Remembering Joe Delaney

On this date in 1983, the Kansas City Chiefs and the football world were shocked to hear Joe Delaney had died. He had been a lightning rod of excitement for two years as their featured back after being drafted out of Northwestern State. The Chiefs franchise had been down for the better part of a decade when Delaney burst onto the scene in 1981.

He ran for 1,121 yards on 234 carries with 3 TDs while winning AFC Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors. He was the team’s lone legitimate star. He set the Chiefs all time rushing record of 196 yards against the Houston Oilers with Earl Campbell on the other sideline.

The strike shortened year of 1982 saw his numbers cut down significantly having only played 9 games. He was nicked with injuries and defenses were better prepared for him as he rushed for only 380 yards. He had the same injury that Sugar Ray Leonard made famous a year earlier, a detached retina. Yet what was going to be a bounce back year in 1983 for him didn’t come to be.

Aside from his untimely death, it’s sad to think what might have been. How great could he have possibly become as a player, father, or man of his community. As you’ll see in the short film he was one to donate his time to the youth of Houghton, Louisiana.

His loss was felt all around the NFL as teammates and foe alike all pondered what might have been. On October 7, 1984 at the press conference when Walter Payton broke Jim Brown’s NFL All Time rushing record, Joe Delaney’s name was the first he mentioned when he spoke of those with the same spirit that were unable to complete their careers who died before their time.

Joe Delaney left us 29 years ago today. His number 37 was retired for the Kansas City Chiefs and his #44 from Northwestern State was also retired. He was enshrined in the Chief’s Ring of Honor and team Hall of Fame. Gone but never forgotten and definitely a hero always.

Dedicated in remembrance of Joe Delaney (October 30, 1958 – June 29, 1983)

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

Jerry Kramer Belongs In The Hall of Fame – HOF Edition

Jerry Kramer leads Elijah Pitts on a sweep during Super Bowl I

Originally Published 26, July 2011 w/Postscript 29, May 2019

When you think of the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, two images come to mind. Of course that of Vince Lombardi, and then the image of Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston leading Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor on a power sweep. It was this fundamental approach to football that made the Packers perennial champions and lifted their greatest players to Hall of Fame status. Except for one glaring omission. Packers Guard Jerry Kramer.

Vince Lombardi once said that football will always be a game of blocking and tackling. His teams executed the blocking side of that equation with lethal precision. The great Green Bay Packer machine that churned out 5 NFL championships in the 1960s was powered by the offensive line and the power sweep was their principle play.

On many a Sunday afternoon, Kramer would do battles with the likes of Dick Modzelewski, Stan Jones, and his battles with All Pro Alex Karras were epic. Kramer led the way for both Taylor and Hornung to both make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, it was a sweep where Kramer led Hornung to the clinching touchdown to defeat the defending champion Cleveland Browns in the 1965 title game at Lambeau. This was the first of a series of three straight championships won by the Packers and the only such 3-peat achieved in the championship game era.

An unlikely odyssey began with his being drafted out of the University of Idaho and being driven to be the best he could be by hard nosed coach, Vince Lombardi. Fourth round draft picks are not assured roster spots and Jerry didnt crack the starting lineup until his 2nd season in 1959. He was sandwiched between two Pro Bowl linemen in C Jim Ringo and T Forrest Gregg.  Yet by 1960, all 3 were making the NFL’s signature all star team where Jerry became a regular.

Kramer was voted All Pro 5 times and was a member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

How do you gauge impact?? For most NFL linemen this would be hard to equate because rarely can a specific game or play come down to a key block that everyone saw. After missing the 1961 NFL Championship Game with a badly injured ankle in Green Bay, Kramer not only returned to play in the 1962 Title Game, he also handled place kicking duties that day. While blocking Giant Dick Modzelewski all day he also kicked 3 field goals for the difference in Green Bay’s 16-7 victory. A feat that is unsung in football annals. Where winds gusted up to 50 m.p.h., and forced each team to run the football even more than usual.

Kramer went 3 for 4 on field goals and an extra point on battered legs from blocking on a brutally cold day. One so cold one of the cameramen suffered from frostbite as the stadium had many bonfires to keep players and officials warm. Although fellow Packer Ray Nitschke was voted game MVP, we find it hard to believe Kramer didn’t get the vote for being able to kick on a day when even YA Tittle and Bart Starr passed sparingly. This was a season in which Tittle had thrown for an NFL record 33 TDs on the year.

Just like any skill position, you’re gauged by how well you play in the big games. Aside from the great line play of the Packers in their run to 5 titles there are individual efforts where Kramer’s greatness was showcased. In the 1965 NFL Championship Game the clinching touchdown was a Green Bay sweep to the left where Kramer can be seen making two blocks as he escorts Paul Hornung into the endzone.

After the 1967 season the Packers found themselves in position for that elusive 3 peat when they faced the Dallas Cowboys. However conditions were worse for this game than they were in the 1962 NFL Championship Game.  The famed “Ice Bowl” was played at a -15*F and a negative wind chill close to -70* below zero.

Yet with the game on the line the Packers began a march that culminated in their being stuck just 1 yard from the winning touchdown. After 2 shots at it, Bart Starr took the Packers final timeout. With the season and perhaps the dynasty of the Packers in his hands, it was his wedge block on Jethro Pugh that Bart Starr followed into the endzone to win it with :16 left. So of the 3 NFL Championship Games that concluded the dynasty he had a hand in several key plays.

Ice Bowl Sneak in Progress

Bart Starr follows Jerry Kramer’s block to clinch the Ice Bowl 21-17 to give the Green Bay Packers 3 championships in a row

Did you know that Kramer has already been picked as the Guard for the 1960’s NFL’s All Decade Team as selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee??  How can he not be in the Hall of Fame as a player??

jerry's spotSome think it could be due to having an injury plagued career but he lined up for 11 years and made countless blocks that led to his entire backfield being immortalized in Canton when you include Bart Starr. If Jim Parker of the 1950’s Colts and Johnny Unitas’ chief protector, was the standard bearer for all tackles and made the Hall of Fame. The same can be said for Mike Webster at center for the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the team’s anchors. He too made the Hall of Fame. Where does that leave a guard who:

  • Was a 5 time All Pro,
  • Was a 5 time World Champion,
  • Member of the All Decade Team for the 1960’s voted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee
  • Was voted one of the Guards on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team commemorating the greatest players from the league’s 1st 50 seasons.
I’ll tell you where that leaves him, an overdue member of the Pro football Hall of Fame. One of the unique aspects is that most offensive linemen live in a world of anonymity. Yet Jerry Kramer is one of the most recognizable faces of all the famous Packers. He has been the keeper of the flame for his former Packer teammates through a series of books and has been a great ambassador of the game.  A long overdue title he has rightfully deserved is that of a Hall of Famer.
Ladies and Gentlemen, for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you Green Bay Packer legend, Jerry Kramer.

The Chancellor right before entering The Pro Football Hall of Fame wearing an autographed Jerry Kramer jersey from the family. Its time he is enshrined.

We have to get this right and I believe they will in 2018. Please lend your thoughts as well by writing in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the address below. Please be respectful and positively lend your voice:

Please write & nominate #64
Send letters to:
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Attention Senior Selection Committee
2121 George Halas Dr NW, Canton,
OH 44708

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Postscript: 28, May 2019: An end to an incredible journey happened last August in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jerry’s long awaited induction was a celebration for of course Green Bay Packer fans, and all of us who were a part of the Facebook campaign Alicia had begun back in 2011. To which Alicia asked me to be a part of when her idea was just taking shape.
20180803_191754Once Jerry announced it would be Alicia who would be his presenter, the months leading up to the ceremony had a double celebration feel to it. We joked about the time when it really hit you the moment was going to happen. For me it was when we took this picture as Rich Eisen was right above us announcing everyone take your seats. The Gold Jacket broadcast was just minutes away.
The highs and lows shared over the years made it one where the ultimate high of Jerry’s enshrinement could only be matched by the smile he had that entire weekend.
The reverence, class, love and respect for Jerry was evident in the moment he “officially” had on his Gold Jacket as PFHoF David Baker and Commissioner Goodell applauded on stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,, including yours truly. The triumphant end of a 40 year post career odyssey.
There was only time for smiles while enjoying Jerry’s triumphant moment.

“Hey big guy!” The laughs at the Hall of Fame party were priceless.

An enshrinement celebration for an immortal finally having his moment in the sun was shared exponentially with the entire Kramer family.

Jerry was besieged by fellow Hall of Famers in Gold Jackets offering congratualtions. These were not only his Packer teammates.. we’re talking Hall of Famers from the 1960’s through the 2000’s from all over the NFL & AFL. The Chancellor was right there to soak it all in and share in the celebration.
At an event of a lifetime of course you take as many pics as you can yet the lasting images are the snapshots captured in your mind.
The best one for me was as we revelled into the evening snapping pics,  Chris Berman, Jerry, and Jeremy Schapp regaled and told stories in a lounge area right behind us. Jeremy, a sports journalist in his own right, is the son of legendary sportswriter Dick Schapp.
The two books Dick cowrote with Jerry, “Farewell To Football” and “Instant Replay” were the books given to me to read back in 1977 that cemented my love of football in the first place. So you can understand why this moment stood out…

I can’t fully express my gratitude to Jerry, his daughters Alicia, Diana and sons Daniel, Matthew Cole, and Tony for the invitation to be there. It was an event so uplifting all of us that were in Canton continue to share pics and stories as though it happened yesterday.  Thank you.

Alicia admiring her father’s HOF ring last year after reception ceremony at Lambeau.

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