Warren Sapp Makes The Hall of Fame

Warren Sapp as a Miami [[_]] Hurricane!!

Warren Sapp as a Miami [[_]] Hurricane!!

When you think back to Tampa Bay’s Super Bow XXXVII win over the Oakland Raiders, you knew it was a win that was years in the making. It was born when Buccaneer coach Sam Wyche made two critical moves that solidified the franchise. The first thing he did was turn the organization into a defensive minded outfit, by signing free agent Middle Linebacker Hardy Nickerson as it’s  impenetrable core. This was the first year of NFL free agency in 1993 and this was where the Buccaneers re-invented themselves. Second was anointing Wyche’s assistant coach to Head Coach, Tony Dungy who selected Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the draft of 1995. Brooks was a slightly undersized linebacker from Florida St.  But Warren Sapp??

Twin draft pics in 1995 turned the fortune of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Twin draft pics in 1995 turned the fortune of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a sterling career at the University of Miami, Sapp was in line to make an impact on the NFL when before the draft, a report was leaked that Sapp had failed drug tests which affected his status. Even though he was the Big East Defensive Players of the Year, an All American, and winner of both the Nagurski and Lombardi Awards, 11 teams passed on him on draft day. He was projected to go number 1 and fell to the “Yucs” at #12. You could see the disappointment in his face. The picture above was once they were in Tampa for the press conference.

Why the “Yucs”?? This team had been laughingstocks for most of their history up to that point. For 12 years, from 1983-1994 the team had double-digit losses.

What didn’t bode well for Warren Sapp that day was the fuel to what burned as motivation for Sapp the rest of his career. He started slowly but by his 2nd season, he made his presence felt with 51 tackles, 9 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Since he was one with a big mouth and part of the “in your face generation” that hit the NFL in the mid to late 90’s it took time to gain acceptance. He should have made the Pro Bowl in ’96 but the Buccaneers were 6-10 and still a loser.

Sapp was a larger than life defensive tackle that Tony Dungy built his defense around. Pictured here celebrating in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Sapp was a larger than life defensive tackle that Tony Dungy built his defense around. Pictured here celebrating in Super Bowl XXXVII.

All that changed in 1997 as the team rolled out to a 5-0 start. In the opener against San Francisco, they knocked out both Steve Young and Jerry Rice in a 13-6 win. Sapp had relentlessly been involved in both plays. He began the season on everyone’s radar with a 2 1/2 sack performance.  In a frightening display of power and speed, Warren and the Bucs in their new uniforms showed a new day was dawning in Tampa.

They had throttled an offense that had been one of the NFL’s best for two decades and knocked Jerry Rice out for the season. Those two points alone had NFL shows talking about the 49ers, the Bucs, and especially Warren Sapp. No longer was he just one for on-field antics that made a few defensive plays, he was maturing into the best interior lineman in football. In ’97 he finished with 58 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks along with 3 forced fumbles and 1 recovery. They finished with a 10-6 record and a defensive ranking of #3.  Earning Tampa its first playoff berth in 14 years.

After defeating the Lions for their first playoff win since 1979, they made the pilgrimmage to Lambeau Field for a divisional playoff against the defending Super bowl Champion Packers.  Many weren’t taking the Bucs too serious. You have to understand the stigma they were trying to shed. Further evidence was the fact that 5 of their 6 losses had come from within the NFC Central. Sure they beat an inconsistent Detroit in the Wild Card 20-10. Many thought the Bucs would be happy just getting to the divisional round. Where Favre, White, Joyner and company were eyeing back to back championships and should plow through the neophyte Bucs. Besides, it would be 27* and Tampa hadn’t won a game where it was under 40* ever.

Sapp chases down Favre for one of his 3 sacks in the 1998 NFC Divisional Playoff in Lambeau.

Sapp chases down Favre for one of his 3 sacks in the 1998 NFC Divisional Playoff in Lambeau.

What took place on a dreary day in Green Bay was a young Lion standing toe to toe with an old warrior for 60 brutal minutes of football. In the signature game that defined his career, Sapp was all over Brett Favre and the Packer offense. He amassed 3 sacks and a fumble recovery. After each time he stopped a running play or harassed Favre, the two talked trash to each other and a national television audience witnessed the coming of the Bucs.

Inspired by Sapp’s lead by example, the Bucs, who had fallen behind 13-0, refused to be buried and began to believe they could win. Although they fell just 21-7, many saw a future champion in Tampa. On this day, he wrested the defensive leader mantle from Nickerson and placed it on himself. He was the face of the franchise and the entire off-season, his performance in that playoff loss to Green Bay seemed to be all people were talking about.

What we saw that day were two of the NFL’s best playing high stakes football as though it were being played in a backyard somewhere. The little brother Bucs led by Warren passionately jawing and playing with the favored big brother Packers led by Brett. Tony Dungy had tuned his team to the point they needed to catch and beat Green Bay in their growth as a club. So the playoff game was played like it was a Super Bowl.

In 1999, Sapp had the best season of his career. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his 41 tackle, 12 1/2 sacks, and 4 forced fumble performance. He led the Bucs back to the NFL playoffs, this time making it to the NFC Championship Game. Although an 11-6 loss to the Rams kept them from Super Bowl glory, Sapp led his team there at the conclusion of the 2002 season.

The calm before the storm before Super Bowl XXXVII.

The calm before the Super Bowl XXXVII storm. Tampa won 48-21. The Raiders never knew what hit them.

The victory in Super Bowl XXXVII validated many careers and vindicated one Warren Sapp. Eight years before he was embarrassed at the NFL draft amid rumors of drug use and having his character in question after his years in Miami. To some they still saw him as a big-mouthed player that was more show than substance. That Super Bowl victory made them have to acknowledge him as a champion. Critics had to give him his due as the best “three” technique defensive tackle of his time.

300_110727For his career he amassed 573 tackles, 96 1/2 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, 12 recoveries, and 4 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.  Since the NFL is about sack totals for most pundits, he’s second only behind former Viking and Hall of Fame member John Randle. Whom he played with many times in Hawai’i where he made 7 trips to the Pro Bowl. Sapp wanted to be remembered like a Joe Greene. A true giant of the game.

Right after Super Bowl XXXVII, Sapp said we had to put his Bucs up there with the greatest defenses to play in the NFL. Can that point be argued??

  • ’85 Chicago Bears – #1 defense / allowed 258.4 yards per game /allowed 198 points for the season / 64 sacks / 34 ints / scored 6 TDs defensively
  • ’00 Baltimore Ravens -#2 defense / allowed 247.9 yards per game /allowed 165 points for the season / 43 sacks /23 ints/  1TD scored defensively
  • ’02 Tampa Buccaneers – #1 defense / allowed 252.8 yards per game / allowed 196 points for the season / 43 sacks/ 31 ints /scored 5TDs defensively
  • ’78 Pittsburgh Steelers – #3 defense / allowed 260.5 yards per game /allowed 198 points for the season/  / 27 ints /1 TD scored defensively

On second thought an argument can be made for the 2002 Tampa By defense as among the best of the Super Bowl era. One point that can’t be is the selection of Warren Sapp as a Hall of Famer.

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, from The [[_]], Warren Sapp aka QB Killa

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Super Bowl XLVII Preview: Ray Lewis and His NFL Legacy

Ray at a Baltimore practice session.

Ray at a Baltimore practice session.

The mere mention of his name conjures up images of frighteningly intense play from his great 2000 season. We have seen and heard his pregame speeches and he has spawned an entire generation of Middle Linebackers to imitate his play. One such player will line up for the San Francisco 49ers in Patrick Willis. Do you think it’s a coincidence that he wears number 52?? With this being his last NFL game how do we see him going out??

While it’s true that Lewis has lost a step, he’s been very effective as of late. In the AFC Championship he was in on 14 tackles. Against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, he had 17 tackles and 1 fumble recovery. What you don’t see are the flash plays that he was able to achieve in the early 2000’s. However you do see a veteran linebacker take the minimum amount of steps necessary to make plays from his position.

The 2012 Ray Lewis in Lando Calrissian facemask. Are we sure he won't intimidate Colin Kaepernick on gameday??

The 2012 Ray Lewis in Lando Calrissian facemask. Are we sure he won’t intimidate Colin Kaepernick on gameday??

This is a veteran linebacker that needs to key with the zone option read Colin Kaepernick will run at them on Sunday. In the Ravens defense, when they see this play, Lewis needs to stay on Frank Gore and the outside guys in Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and Bernard Pollard have to be there to hit Kaepernick early to get his attention. Lewis out in space would definitely be a liability at this time. He, Haloti Ngata, and Terrence Cody have to take care of Frank Gore at the point of this play.

If the Ravens can prove to use the front 3 to eat up the blockers and limit Gore’s effectiveness on the read option, Lewis will be able to scrape from inside out if Ellerbe and Kruger can keep containment. This will have to be later in the game once the read option has been neutralized up front. This game may be won or lost on this premise. Lewis needs to flow from his Inside Linebacker position to the cut back point of this play with containment. If the 49ers can stretch the outside, Lewis will not be able to make it to that point to stop Kaepernick.

Ironically, he was the last player introduced in Super Bowl XXXV when players were introduced individually.

Ironically, he was the last player introduced in Super Bowl XXXV when players were introduced individually.

Don’t underestimate the value of leadership and what it means to motivate men. It’s a lot like going to war with Genghis Khan to those fellow players in the huddle with him. Warriors bring out the best in fellow warriors. The Ravens had lost 4 of 5 at the end of the season without him. During that time they had allowed 27.7 points per game in those 4 losses and only 4 turnovers. Take out the 2 special teams touchdowns against Denver, Baltimore is only giving up 16 points per game and forced 8 turnovers upon his return.

His place in history is secure. Simply put, he is the greatest Middle Linebacker of the last 50 years. Dick Butkus ruled the first 50 and the eras are different and here, we pay homage to each era. More players have used his example how they need to be when it comes to being a leader on his or her team. You have some that lead by words before or during a contest, or you have those who lead by deed. When you have both you catch lightning in a jug. When you have a player that players from other teams look to for leadership and counsel off the field, what does that tell you??

He has a chance to walk off into the sunset with another Super Bowl triumph. The first team achieved greatness because of his will. We’re hard pressed to think this second incarnation of the Ravens won’t do the same thing.

Epilogue: You know..everyone is entitled to their opinion of Ray Lewis. Rather than go on your page and say something, I’ll say it here. I hear others saying he is no role model from his obstruction of justice charge following his trial. What is disturbing is anyone who still vents how he is a murderer and such never seem to keep it to themselves…including a Mrs. Wes Welker. Now, I’m sure those of the opinion went over every nook and cranny of that trial’s evidence to find him guilty…right??

Brian Billick on the sidelines of Super Bowl XXXV.

Brian Billick on the sidelines of Super Bowl XXXV.

Maybe not, but there are many that preach forgiveness and all these virtues yet have none for the man. Let’s ask the question… Why?? I’m sure you donated money to funds set up for the the two deceased men who were killed in that fight. Correct?? By the way do you know their names?? Have your opinions, but I find it ironic we’re headed to Super Bowl XLVII some 12 years later and I can hear Brian Billick’s voice the second they arrived in Tampa for XXXV.

He stepped to the podium and sternly said ‘We’re not going to re-try Ray Lewis and go over that trial. Number one it’s inappropriate and two you’re not qualified.’ No matter his repentance those still feel compelled to say or express venomous comments at the mention of his name as though you’re pure of sin or misdoing. Seriously?? So no matter what he’s done, you have decided to be judge, jury, and executioner on his character forever. Nevermind charitable works, turning his life over to Christ and the lives he has touched. What would you say about him if his behavior was that of an athlete with run-ins after the fact?? Out in the nightlife with questionable behavior?? We’d be listening to how unrepentant his behavior is or had been.

What really is upsetting is how so much of this smack of racism. For African Americans it’s an unspoken but understood issue that once you fall from grace you won’t be forgiven. In Lewis’ case in many instances on the web, OJ is always brought up and it seems to be the same people with the race bating. How many of these have written the Atlanta District Attorney or the Atlanta police department looking for follow-up investigation information?? Yet do we hear murder yelled out every time we saw or speak of actor Robert Wagner, whose wife Natalie Wood, drowned mysteriously with just a few people on the boat?? Aside from one outburst a few years before he died how often was “Chappaquiddick” yelled at Ted Kennedy after the drowning incident that involved Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969?? I don’t remember that slur following Kennedy around every where he went.

In those latter two incidents the person was there but the venom was never delivered anywhere near the frequency of bombs hurled at Lewis. This upsets me to no end because we don’t hear of the Robert Blake incident with this frequency either now do we?? Everyone needs to come off of their high horse and those that hide behind the “concerned citizen” cloak have nothing to fear. Unless you’re going to meet up with and have a fight with a younger Lewis outside of a bar with each of you banked by sets of friends you have nothing to worry about. He’s turned his life over to Christ and has led an exemplary life after that in the name of redemption. At what point do you forgive?? Just a thought…

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Edgerrin James Belongs In The Hall of Fame – From The [[_]]

The 49-45 upset of UCLA put [[_]] and Edgerrin James on the map. Miami return to prominence happend that day.

The 49-45 upset of UCLA put [[_]] and Edgerrin James on the map. Miami return to prominence happend that day.

When you stop and think of professional athletes, so few live up to their potential. In the case of Edgerrin James, no other NFL player had to live up to more coming out of college and he had a hurricane to thank. Although he played for the Miami Hurricanes (The [[_]]), it was Hurricane George that postponed a Miami v UCLA game that was supposed to be played in September of 1998 to December 5th. For many, the college football season was over and the nation watched Heisman hopeful Cade McNown and the 10-0 Bruins who were 1 win away from playing for the national championship. In a wild 49-45 upset, James burst onto the national scene with a 39 carry 299 yard 3 touchdown performance that returned the [[_]] to national prominence and made himself a top NFL prospect.

Since Miami had been down for years following NCAA sanctions, this was the first national glimpse of this immense talent. What followed in the April draft 4 months later added more pressure. Everyone forgets the Indianapolis Colts had drafted Marshall Faulk to resurrect the franchise in 1994 and had just drafted Peyton Manning in the previous year. Having traded Faulk away, it was a forgone conclusion they needed a running back in the #4 spot and Heisman winner Ricky Williams from Texas was there for the taking. General Manager Bill Polian opted to take Edgerrin James instead and it was this move that solidified the franchise. Some experts doubted James calling him a one game wonder.

Going into the 1999 NFL season Edgerrin had a lot to live up to. Could he consistently show the power and speed he displayed to a nation when he dismantled UCLA in that landmark game?? How in the world did he get selected ahead of a Heisman winner who just rushed for 2,124 yards and 28 TDs and was considered a can’t miss NFL superstar by pundits and coaches?? If that weren’t enough, Faulk had been a 1,000 yard rusher 4 times in 5 years including 1,319 yards rushing and 908 yards receiving in 1998. Marshall caught 86 passes and had scored 10 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season and a rookie that wasn’t Ricky Williams was supposed to top that?? The Colts had been 3-13 in 1998 and now Edgerrin is going to be paired with a second year QB that threw 28 interceptions as a rookie?? No way….

In leading the NFL in rushing with 1,553 yards and scoring 17 TDs he laid to rest the competition with Ricky Williams who gained 884 and only 2 touchdowns in an injury plagued year. In the video you just heard that he had a rookie year better than 5 of the 6 who had been rookie rushing champions. First include Hall of Fame member Earl Campbell who gained 1,450 yards in his initial campaign. He also outrushed Hall of Fame member Jim Brown in his. Now someone will scoff Brown played in a shorter season and he did, but his 942 yards in 12 games comes out to 78.5 per game. Far fewer than the 97 yards per game James accumulated while helping the Colts go 13-3 and win their first AFC East division championship since 1987.

James in contemplation before the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.

James in contemplation before the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.

For an encore he became the first back since Eric Dickerson to start his career with back to back rushing titles in 2000. In his greatest season he ran for 1,709 yards with 13 TDs while catching 63 passes for 594 yards and another 5 scores. If you’re keeping score at home that is 4,444 yards from scrimmage and 35 touchdowns in just 2 years. The only back that could compete with that was Marshall Faulk who had gone on to power The Greatest Show on Turf Rams.

In 2001 James suffered a devastating knee injury and missed 10 games which sank the Super Bowl aspirations of the Colts. In the following season he only rushed for 989 yards and 2 touchdowns. His average had dropped from 4.4 in the previous 3 years to 3.6 and the whispers around the league were he’d never be the same. Not only did he bounce back, over the next 5 seasons he topped 1,000 yards rushing including 2 with over 1,500 yards in 2004 & 2005. Five seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing after reconstructive knee surgery…what was there left to accomplish??

Unfortunately the Colts regular season successes didn’t equal playoff success. The ’99 season ended when Indianapolis was upset 19-13  by the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans. Post season losses to the Jets, Patriots, and finally the Steelers in 2005 kept James from winning it all with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. The three had been the face of the team for 7 years together and his contract was up. The salary they would have to bring him back as a free agent would have crippled the franchise. Yet Colts owner Jim Irsay thought so much of James and his contribution to the organization that when the Colts did win it all in 2006, he presented him with a Colts Super Bowl ring even though he now played for the Arizona Cardinals. A classy move.

A triumphant James walks off the field after winning the NFC Championship.

A triumphant James walks off the field after winning the NFC Championship.

What looked like the swan song for James turned out to be false, he had one more surprise for critics that claimed he had lost a step. In 2007 he teamed with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald on an improbable run to Super Bowl XLIII the very next year. Most of the publicity went to Warner since he was a reclamation project that arose like Lazarus, yet they don’t make it without James’ 1,222 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.The combination of James on the ground, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald downfield proved too much as the 9-7 Cardinals soared through the playoffs. They beat Atlanta, Carolina, and finally the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship. Only to lose the Super Bowl on a last second touchdown to the Steelers 27-23 in one of the best games ever.

However every good thing must come to an end and James had led an incredible football life. Think about his accomplishments and what can be attributed to him. How many recruits chose to go to Miami after watching his exploits against UCLA that day when all other teams were not playing?? Miami had received the Death Penalty and had been down for four years after dominating college football for a decade. His performance announced the return of Hurricane football. In the next three years after his 1999 graduation, Miami won the Sugar Bowl and played in two straight national championships winning one in 2001. How many running backs went to The [[_]] because of his influence?? Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore came right after him. It was alleged he even donated $250,000 to the school at one time.

How about his low-key personality and league wide respect he garnered while he played with the Colts?? He was one of the first superstars that wore dreadlocks and coming from Miami he broke many stigmas that are unfairly attached to Hurricanes from a nation wide perspective. He was never in trouble away from the field and was thought of so highly he was given a Super Bowl ring by the team he no longer played for. Think about that for a second. All of this in the era of the “ME” athlete. When was the last time you heard of such things in the era of free agency?? Did the San Francisco 49ers give Joe Montana a Super Bowl ring when they won in 1994 after Joe left in 1993?? Give that some thought…

James and Colts Owner Jim Irsay at the Ring of Honor Ceremony.

James and Colts Owner Jim Irsay at the Ring of Honor Ceremony.

He completed his career with seven 1,000 yard seasons.  Finishing with 12,246 yards 80TDs, to go along with 443 receptions 3,364 yards and another 11 TDs. Up until his arrival in 1999 the Indianapolis Colts hadn’t won their division in 12 years. Afterward they won it 5 times during his tenure. In Arizona, the Cardinals had not played for the NFL championship since 1947 until James arrived. 1947??? That is 60 years!! He was voted All Pro four times and led the league in rushing twice. In a Hoosier Dome that once had Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk as tenants, it’s James who is the franchise’s all time leading rusher with 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns. He’s also been inducted into the ring of honor for both the Miami Hurricanes and the Indianapolis Colts.

Did you know James, Barry Sanders, and Eric Dickerson are the only backs since 1980 to have 4 different 1,500 yard seasons?? Do you realize dating back to 1957, only James, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and Eric Dickerson are the only runners who began their careers as back to back rushing champions in their first two years?? Did you recognize every back mentioned with him in this paragraph are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame??

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you, from The [[_]], Edgerrin James!!

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The Greatest NFL Game Never Talked About

Webster Slaughter’s hauling in a 52 yd TD in the second quarter.

Welcome to another episode of theater of the past. The most famous games in NFL history have always been playoff games. Football is a game of emotion and it’s the finality of knowing your season could be over that can elevate the play of both teams. Yet some playoff games are talked about and held with esteem while others are rarely written about, rehashed, re-shown, or ever discussed among the greats.

To us, there is a heavy bias toward the glamour franchises or darlings that the media aid in anointing their games great while others are passed over. One such game was the 1989 AFC Divisional playoff tilt between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills. Not only was it great, it was as great as “The Epic in Miami”, or in our CEO’s estimation better.

This was a magnificent football game. You have to realize that particular weekend you had John Elway and the Denver Broncos hosting the cinderella Pittsburgh Steelers in one playoff game. Jim Everett’s underdog Los Angeles Rams in New York facing Lawrence Taylor’s Giants, and the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers of Joe Montana hosting the Minnesota Vikings for a third straight post season. Yet it was the Browns v. the Bills that caught the imagination of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was in attendance, and Donald Trump who was in the box with Browns owner Art Modell. Why??

Well the Browns, famous for their “Dawg Defense”, had been stung 3 years before by John Elway’s Denver Broncos in the ’86 AFC Championship, and the following season with Earnest Byner’s fumble in the 1987 AFC Championship. Although the Cleveland Browns had been the NFL’s Team of the decade in the 1950’s, they had been a down franchise for many years. However each time the Browns thought they had a team capable of winning it all, they lost in heart breaking fashion on 3 occasions. The stellar teams they had from 1985-1989 were aging and many pundits thought this was the last chance for this team to get a Super Bowl win for owner Art Modell.

The other side had an up and coming Buffalo Bills team that rose to prominence as a defensive giant in 1988, after nearly a decade of futility. High draft picks,which included future Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett, and Shane Conlan carried this team to the 1988 AFC Championship Game. After losing that game to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bills were looked upon as a team of the future. However the team almost imploded in 1989 from infighting and finger pointing, which earned them the nickname ” the Bickering Bills”. The offense of Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas was starting to show signs of life as the defense slumped slightly from the year before.

Better than “The Epic In Miami”?? Yes! This game featured big play after big play and came down to the wire with the Browns prevailing 34-30. To compare it to the great ’81 AFC Divisional playoff: Want to talk excitement?? With touchdowns of 33, 44, 52, 73, and 90 yards out, this game in ’89 had 5 touchdowns from 33 yards or more compared to 2 in that one. The only other playoff game in the Super Bowl era to equal 5 TDs of that distance was Super Bowl XXXVII between the Bucs and the Raiders. This game had 4 lead changes as compared to 3 in the earlier game.

Each had the record holder for receptions in a playoff game with 13 in both Thurman Thomas and Kellen Winslow. (both Hall of Famers) Each had a Hall of Fame Coach, Marv Levy of Buffalo and Don Shula as well as quarterbacks in Jim Kelly and Dan Fouts. Where the earlier game went to double overtime and ended on a boring field goal, this one had a sense of de ja vu. The Bills made a last second march toward their goal line with time running out, just like John Elway and “The Drive.” Although this time Clay Matthews intercepted Jim Kelly at the 1 yard line with :03 left. Now that is a finish!!

The game was also one of the best ever broadcast with Charlie Jones and the late Merlin Olson making the call. Here are the sights and sounds of the biggest plays from that game…

One outstanding aspect of this game was how great the commentary was. Notice how Charlie Jones and Merlin Olsen allowed the viewer to take in the sights and sounds of 80,000 fans going crazy. This is the antithesis to Joe Buck, who our CEO thinks is the worst play by play man ever. One aspect of announcing a football game versus a baseball game: Allow the visuals to stimulate the viewer more so than the commentary and know when to acquiesce to such.

Epilogue: Why is this game not revered like “The Epic In Miami”? This game had more Hall of Famers and neither game produced a Super Bowl winner. We feel that it might have something to do with the media’s growing disdain for the University of Miami football team, from which both Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar hailed. Then NFL Films, who rarely slights a team due to media prejudice, chose NOT to put this game in the Cleveland Browns 1989 Yearbook. Seriously?? That was embarrassing. Yet alas it came down to one play and Clay Matthews made it. So when you saw the 4th quarter fumble caused by his son Clay Matthews III in last year’s Super Bowl, and Casey Matthews forcing a 4th quarter fumble in last year’s National Championship Game for Oregon, you now know it’s in the genes.

The Browns would go on to lose their 3rd AFC Championship Game in 4 years to the Denver Broncos that brought an end to their playoff run. However the Buffalo Bills went on to a record 4 straight Super Bowls which began the following season. From 1986-1993, one of these teams was in every single AFC Championship game for an 8 year period. It was this game that was the birth of the Buffalo “K-Gun” offense and the crossing point where Cleveland conceded to Buffalo as an AFC elite team. For one game, and four hours of sheer escapism magnificence, they played to the highest level worthy of being one of the greatest NFL playoff games ever played and is due more in it’s remembrance.

I dedicate this article to the late Charlie Jones and the late Merlin Olsen for their broadcasting excellence in elevating this game to one of  magnificent lore. Your call on this afternoon in January 1990 was simply the best ever. Gentlemen, thank you for a job well done.

R.I.P. Charlie Jones and Merlin Olsen

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A Word From the Chancellor: College Football- Boise St Needs To Become The New Miami Hurricanes

Boise St Broncos storming the field

After watching TCU and Boise St beat their heads against a brick wall just to play in BCS Bowl games, it finally hit our chancellor what needs to  be done.  The Mountain West Conference will never garner Boise St the respect it needs to crash the BCS Title Game no matter how well they play. The 4 undefeated seasons through the 2000s aren’t enough and neither were the 2 BCS Bowl wins in the eyes of jaded BCS conference lovers. With everyone joining these collegiate super conferences it’s time to reverse gears and go independent. Especially Boise St, at least TCU gets love since they hail from Texas.

Well, the blueprint has already been laid out for them. They are to copy the pattern that garnered the Miami Hurricanes prominence throughout the the 1980s and ’90s by being the independent foil that played 5 or 6 ranked opponents every year. This way they can play toward the mantra “it’s all about the money”, and take on teams that think they can beat them and will pay them for 3 to 4 game series. Think about it. Get a reported $800,000 from those three teams and supplement this with their bowl money. It will be a financial windfall. What happens if they take on a 3 game series with an LSU, and Ohio St., and an Alabama team that believes they can beat them?? Then they take on two to three single game  performances against a ranked West Virginia and USC, then schedule weaker opponents. If they come through a crucible such as that it forces the voters to rightfully vote them #1 if they can march through those 6. Gone is the conference argument being used against them. How well did this formula work for Miami??

Well the last time Miami was an independent and won the National Title outright was 1989, funny thing is they won a split title in 1991 as a Big East Conference member. You’ll note that they even lost to Florida St. yet ran the table against the rest of their ranked opponents. The teams that were not ranked by season’s end did hail from BCS conferences in Wisconsin, Cal, Pitt, defending champion Notre Dame (also an independent) and the pollsters couldn’t avoid voting them up. Look at this schedule for the 1989 Canes and fashion a 2012 schedule for Boise with some substitutes. If they could go 5-1 or 6-0 versus that tough of competition they could be #1 with ease. Think about it Coach Peterson!!

Date Result Miami Rank# (Rank#)Opponent Stadium · City
September 9, 1989 W 51-3 #3 Wisconsin Camp Randall Stadium – Madison, WI
September 16, 1989 W 31-3 #3 California Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
September 23, 1989 W 38-7 #2 Missouri Faurot Field – Columbia, MO
September 30, 1989 W 26-20 #2 Michigan State Spartan Stadium – East Lansing, MI
October 7, 1989 W 56-0 #2 Cincinnati Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
October 14, 1989 W 48-16 #2 San Jose State Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
October 28, 1989 L 10-24 #2 @ #9 Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium – Tallahassee, FL
November 4, 1989 W 40-10 #7 East Carolina Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
November 11, 1989 W 24-3 #7 @ #14 Pittsburgh Pitt Stadium – Pittsburgh, PA
November 18, 1989 W 42-6 #7 San Diego State Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
November 25, 1989 W 27-10 #7 #1 Notre Dame Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
January 1, 1990* W 33-25 #2 #7 Alabama Louisiana Superdome – New Orleans, LA
*Sugar Bowl #Rankings from AP Poll released prior to game.

The Boise St. Broncos need to copy this formula and wind up with a ranking that will elude them with their present conference situation. They have to take the voters stance and embrace the BCS and force their vote. Without this type of set-up it’s more of the same thing. A big win against a Georgia team earlier this year and SEC pundits and fans scoffed they were an SEC bottom feeder. Well if Boise St schedules two of these schools and march through them it would bode well for their shedding the “one tough opponent” label. Without this they may never get their due as the well coached team that they are.

Kellen Moore, soon to become the all time winningest quarterback in Division I history.

The funny thing is most people equate the Broncos with BYU in past annals when they are not like BYU at all. This well oiled machine mines football talent from Northern and Southern California, and nabs some of the soon to develop talent who had issues with grades. They even allow players to send try-out tapes to the school and shop their wares instead of relying on big time scouting to be noticed. There are a lot of inner city kids on these Boise teams and these other “big schools” think they’re going to “punk” the Broncos. Then they wake up in the 4th quarter in a dog fight against a team where every player has a chip on his shoulder. There is a ruggedness to their teams yet they’re disciplined. It takes this type of attitude from the coaching staff and players to make this go. What do you say Coach Peterson?? The time is now or you may let one of history’s finest runs be regarded on the periphery of achievement when compared to other schools.

Just remember Boise St, the University of Miami was seriously thinking about dropping their football program from Division I altogether before Howard Schnellenberger came up with this bold plan. It turned a fledgling school in South Florida into a national power and may be just the tonic Bronco nation needs to finally crash the BCS Title Game. Well, that and a place kicker that can make a 4th quarter field goal.

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College Football’s Leveled Playing Fields

Marshall Faulk at San Diego State

The changing faces of college football over the last fifteen years has been a unique situation upon the sporting landscape. Gone are the days when the traditional schools would line up and pummel a school from a smaller conference. Don’t get us wrong, there are still some lopsided contests but the talent level is closer than in the 1970’s,80’s, or even the 90’s. This is the byproduct of several things.

The first thing was with up to 20 cable televisions showcasing football around the country. Schools could recruit outside their region for talent and deliver the promise that their families and friends could still watch them play. Alternative schools to the traditional powers also offered players the chance to remain at their position of choice. One glaring example of this was when Marshall Faulk was coming out of New Orleans as a high school star.

Tons of schools were recruiting him and one of the heaviest was Florida State. They would offer Faulk a full scholarship yet they wanted him to switch from running back  to cornerback. Faulk opted to go to San Diego State where he dazzled the nation as a freshman gaining 1,429 yards and 23TDs. Along the way he had a freshman record 386 yard, 7 touchdown performance against U of Pacific. Before you say something about the talent level, keep in mind he’s just 3 weeks away from giving his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. So kill that noise.

The point being he didn’t have to play cornerback with Terrell Buckley and watch Amp Lee and Warrick Dunn as tailbacks at Florida St when he had other alternatives. Being on the west coast and playing in many night games, Faulk was watched all around the country and became the first freshman to get serious consideration as a Heisman Trophy candidate. There are other notable examples of this but an electrifying running back that made both Hall of Fames (college and pro) seemed like a logical example. Players know they can go anywhere and be seen all over the country.

Steve Slaton slashing up Marshall

The second was the scholarship limitations the NCAA  instituted in 1990. Now the top 20 schools, the Miami’s, Florida St’s, Oklahoma’s, Nebraska’s, Texas’, Michigan’s, Ohio St’s, the USC’s couldnt swallow the top 100 tailbacks coming out in a given year. Some of them were talents that never developed or later developed. Some players actually blossomed at non traditional schools that struggled to get the blue chip prospect.

When you get a Steve Slaton at West Virginia, a LaDainian Tomlinson who opted to stay near home at Texas Christian, or a Jamal Anderson at Utah, or even a Doug Martin right now at a Boise St. These players could have split time or may not have started early in their careers at traditional schools. In most cases we never hear of these players as they fade into obscurity and don’t make the pros.

Some play in Canada but many fall by the way side. Two players that did play later were Jeff Smith of the Nebraska Cornhuskers of ’83 and Priest Holmes of Texas in the late 90’s. Each played RB behind Heisman winners in Mike Rozier and Ricky Williams. Yet both developed their talent in the NFL, Smith had a serviceable career with Kansas City Chiefs, where Holmes went on to rewrite the Chiefs record book after winning a Super Bowl ring in Baltimore.

Yet all of a sudden we were seeing electrifying, record breaking runners at schools we didn’t expect those performances from. The aforementioned LaDainian Tomlinson, A Troy Davis at Iowa St running for back to back 2,000 yard seasons in the mid 90s. A Barry Sanders rushing for 2,629 yards and 37TDs in a 1988 Heisman Campaign, who followed an All American Thurman Thomas. Who followed another All American and ’82 NCAA rushing leader Earnest “Sparkplug” Anderson with over 1,800 yards rushing. Yes the year Herschel Walker won the Heisman he didn’t lead the nation in rushing. The latter three talents went to Oklahoma St and not Texas or Oklahoma.

The third key component in leveling the collegiate playing field were the different strategies employed by college coaches.  These evolving sets have been lifted from the antiquated wishbone offense to more pro style sets including the run and shoot, 3 receiver one back sets, to the variations of the spread offense. Teams that couldn’t field All American offensive linemen could opt for an attack that spread the defense and made it think. Why go toe to toe with an opponent when you can out think your opponent and outhit him when he is out of position? This has been the true equalizer in college football over this last ten years just ask Michigan how it feels about Appalchian St. Michigan became so confused that they thought “hell if you can’t understand it hire a coach who does” yet they didn’t have the type of talent needed to direct that offense under coach Rich Rodriguez.

With the run and shoot, different types of receivers were needed to make the offense go. You recruited your traditional large fast receiver(6’0-6’3 -215 lbs.) along with a new prototype that manned the slots.  This player was smaller in stature yet quicker than the large fast receiver and stood (5’7-5’9 -175-185lbs.) which were the high school receivers that traditional schools didn’t recruit unless they were going to be switched to cornerback.

Yet these players found homes in offenses that spread the field and played their game in space throwing the football. Most teams realized that the third and fourth best WR were normally better than third and fourth corners on a given team. You had the University of Houston in the 80s and early 90s as the vanguard of the run and shoot teams and most recently June Jones University of Hawaii teams. Even the Miami Hurricanes employed these techniques winning two National Championships in1989 and 1991.

Then along came Rich Rodriguez and his West Virginia Mountaineers. He took the spread offense to a complete zenith with what you could do with a 53 1/3 yard wide field and implemented a power rushing attack from a spread formation. First he recruited Pat White from Alabama.  At 6’0 (being generous) and 185 lbs. he was short for a quarterback and had a decent arm, yet it was his 4.28 40 yard dash that made it nearly impossible for interior linebackers to read blocking patterns, than get to the flank to defend against his options or pitch to Steve Slaton.

Slaton was brought down from Pennsylvania. One of the nation’s fastest running backs coming out of high school in 2005.  He had committed to Maryland who had offered him a scholarship then retracted their offer.  He took his 4.3 speed to West Virginia to team with Pat White, Owen Schmitt, recievers Darius Reynaud #82 and Brandon Miles#7 and a powerhouse was born. They spread from a traditional set and some 3 receivers yet ran what they call a speed option that most MLBs didnt have the lateral quickness to stay with.  The result?? First we have to set the table for you.

The Miami Hurricanes and Boston College had just fled the Big East to join the ACC. Many felt that the Big East was no longer a top flight conference with two of their heavyweight schools having departed. Yet the Mountaineers started a redshirt freshman in Pat White, and a freshman tailback in Steve Slaton and a new offense took the country by storm.  They improved as the season went on and Slaton finished the season with 1,128 yards and 17 TDs, while White finished with 952 yds rushing and 7 TDs to go along with moderate passing to keep defenses honest.

Once they ran out to a 10-1 record, their Big East championship gave them an automatic bid to the BCS Sugar Bowl where they would take on Georgia. The Bulldogs that year were 12-1 and only a close loss in SEC play had kept them from appearing in the National Championship Game. Experts scoffed that West Virginia’s offense couldn’t perform that well against a superior defense from a superior conference. Yes experts were treating the Big East as a second tier conference with the remaining teams.  So the battle lines were drawn and since the Sugar Bowl had to be moved from New Orleans to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, because of Hurricane Katrina, this would be a home crowd for the Bulldogs too. No way the Mountaineers could stay on the field with an SEC team……………….right??

Naturally underdogs play with a chip on their shoulder and Bulldogs were chasing Mountaineers all night. In a humiliating 38-35 defeat, SEC Champion Georgia never led in the ball game. http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=260020061 No one on the set picked West Virginia to win and the nation watched in stunned amazement as the Mountaineers burst onto the field and  was up 28-0 before Georgia knew what hit them. Freshman Steve Slaton set the Sugar Bowl rushing record with 26 carries for 204 yards, 3 Tds with twin 52 yard touchdowns that were electrifying. Passing the exploits of Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Major Ogilvie, Vegas Ferguson, and keep filling in blanks here…Slaton outrushed them all just being 7 months removed from high school. Yikes!!

This watershed game got more coaches on the bandwagon of the spread to be used as a rushing offense.  By the time the point was hammered home that this was an offense to stay, was when Appalachian State upset Michigan in “The Big House” in 2007. Now even skeptics were using some variation of the offense in their playbooks. Though the SEC was embarrassed that night in the Sugar Bowl, we come to see that 5 years later Auburn wins the National Championship over Oregon and both were run first, spread option teams. In came the Cam Newtons and Terrelle Pryors to lead this new wave…

So the landscape has changed, first through the proliferation of cable television stations allowing players to play in far away places and still be seen back home.  This changed the way colleges could approach players when they weren’t the clear cut favorite to land a particular recruit. Players weren’t forced to switch positions to go to a particular name school when there were other alternatives.

This happened simultaneously with the NCAA limiting the amount of scholarships teams which spread talent all over the collegiate landscape. Then in an effort to find the great equalizer, coaching innovations leveled the playing field even more with better tactics while landing a better athlete on their campus than ever before.  Couple these factors with the natural chip on the shoulder that most underdogs play with and college football has turned into “On any given Saturday…” Making college football an even greater game than before.  We’ll be back to help solve the National Championship Game and BCS problem later.

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