Charles Haley Makes The Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2015 is one where players had to wait a good while before being enshrined. Officially the enshrinement ceremony takes place on Saturday, however Charles Haley and his class mates received their “Gold Jackets” in a gala event Thursday night.

Charles Haley receives Hall of Fame gold jacket from Eddie DeBartolo

For years there had been a great debate concerning Haley’s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. His contributions to the game have more to do with being one of the driving forces in two of the NFL’s modern dynasties. In winning 5 Super Bowl rings Haley did more than just show up. He recorded sacks in 4 of those games providing the turning point in Super Bowl XXVII and solidifying the Cowboys momentum in Super Bowl XXVIII with a huge 3rd quarter sack of Jim Kelly.

You’d be surprised how many defensive stalwarts whiffed on the biggest stage. Lawrence Taylor won two Super Bowls and never recorded a sack in either game.  The great Bruce Smith played in 4 Super Bowls and only recorded a sack in the first he played in, XXV. Haley had big momentum swing sacks that turned games in his team’s favor.

Over the course of his career, Haley had 100 sacks and 26 forced fumbles with his best season coming in 1990. His 16 sacks set the tone for a 49er team going for the 3-peat and the offense struggled during the season. In the ’90 NFC Divisional Playoff against Washington, the exclamation point had Haley slam into Mark Rypien just as he threw. The ball popped up and NT Michael Carter snared it and rumbled 61 yards for the touchdown. They won 28-10 and were hosting the New York Giants in the NFC Championship the following week. Haley played well in the 15-13 loss to the Giants recording a sack but his career took a turn dealing with the break-up of that team in the off-season.

In this ’99 interview with the late Steve Sabol you get to understand Haley and his personality best. He was one of the great players on his team but he did just as much to keep those teams loose going into high stakes games. You can’t discount that fact. So it will be interesting to hear his induction speech and which former teammates come to represent him. I hope to see a large contingent for him Saturday. Charles Haley take a bow… you deserve it and soak in induction weekend.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Charles Haley Makes The Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2015 is one where players had to wait a good while before being enshrined. Officially the enshrinement ceremony takes place on Saturday, however Charles Haley and his class mates received their “Gold Jackets” in a gala event Thursday night.

Charles Haley receives Hall of Fame gold jacket from Eddie DeBartolo

Charles Haley receives Hall of Fame gold jacket from Eddie DeBartolo

For years there had been a great debate concerning Haley’s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. His contributions to the game have more to do with being one of the driving forces in two of the NFL’s modern dynasties. In winning 5 Super Bowl rings Haley did more than just show up. He recorded sacks in 4 of those games providing the turning point in Super Bowl XXVII and solidifying the Cowboys momentum in Super Bowl XXVIII with a huge 3rd quarter sack of Jim Kelly.

You’d be surprised how many defensive stalwarts whiffed on the biggest stage. Lawrence Taylor won two Super Bowls and never recorded a sack in either game.  The great Bruce Smith played in 4 Super Bowls and only recorded a sack in the first he played in, XXV. Haley had big momentum swing sacks that turned games in his team’s favor.

Over the course of his career, Haley had 100 sacks and 26 forced fumbles with his best season coming in 1990. His 16 sacks set the tone for a 49er team going for the 3-peat and the offense struggled during the season. In the ’90 NFC Divisional Playoff against Washington, the exclamation point had Haley slam into Mark Rypien just as he threw. The ball popped up and NT Michael Carter snared it and rumbled 61 yards for the touchdown. They won 28-10 and were hosting the New York Giants in the NFC Championship the following week. Haley played well in the 15-13 loss to the Giants recording a sack but his career took a turn dealing with the break-up of that team in the off-season.

In this ’99 interview with the late Steve Sabol you get to understand Haley and his personality best. He was one of the great players on his team but he did just as much to keep those teams loose going into high stakes games. You can’t discount that fact. So it will be interesting to hear his induction speech and which former teammates come to represent him. I hope to see a large contingent for him Saturday. Charles Haley take a bow… you deserve it and soak in induction weekend.

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SUPER BOWL XXIV RUNNER UP 1989 DENVER BRONCOS

Whenever the 1980’s Denver Broncos are brought up the first player that comes to mind is John Elway. Rightfully so as he led one of the NFL’s most successful teams during the decade. However his teams did have some great talent on them. Did you know LB/DE Karl Mecklenburg, FS Dennis Smith, and SS Steve Atwater have been Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists in the last couple years??

sb24denIf we rewind the clock to 1989, Atwater was a wide-eyed rookie learning the ropes under Smith’s tutelage. Big hits rang up all year as receivers ducked for cover against these big safeties. Smith was a Pro Bowl player in 1989, the 3rd of 6 trips to Hawai’i after an 82 tackle 2 interception season. The intimidation factor they brought led the Broncos to a #3 defensive ranking overall or #2 in the AFC, and yielding the fewest points in the league with 226 points.

Meanwhile Mecklenburg was a Pro Bowl player with 143 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries. The 1989 season was the 4th of his 6 Pro Bowl trips and where there are a ton of vids showcasing Smith and Atwater, Mecklenburg is largely forgotten in circles outside of Denver. This vignette from ’86 showcases his talent best

In each of the Denver Broncos Super Bowl seasons they fielded a top 10 defense. Unsung players like Simon Fletcher and Michael Brooks made the back 7 one of the best during this era.

sb24den2Another factor in 1989 was the Broncos finally landing a top running back in rookie RB Bobby Humphrey out of Alabama. He was Denver’s first true breakaway threat since Floyd Little. He rushed for 1,151 yards and 7 TDs after starting the season on the bench. Denver climbed to #6 in rushing where they had ranked 20th in the 1st Elway era Super Bowl team in 1986.

Yet alas this team ran into one of the all time great teams in Super Bowl history. This is the championship ring won by Denver after beating Cleveland for their 3rd AFC championship in 4 years.

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SUPER BOWL XXIV CHAMPION 1989 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Want to hear something interesting?  Going into Super Bowl XXIV, the Denver Broncos were the ONLY team in the NFL the 49ers hadn’t defeated during the 1980s.  So in the last game of the decade…what happened??  Yikes 55-10 in a Super Bowl!!!  Joe Montana and company could have scored 80 if they wanted to…As crisp as the 49ers played, what did their practices look like??  Damn!

49.24The craziest thing was when Terry Bradshaw skirmished with John Elway that week about how Elway had been coddled…etc (remember Terry was roughed up by press and such as a young player) and after a back and forth, they sit down to talk about Super Bowl XXIV in a round table discussion and Bradshaw blurted out “I just don’t see Denver having a chance. This sucker could be as bad as 55-3!” Much to the chagrin of CBS brass trying to drum up interest for a game the press was touting as a blowout. Why 55? Eight tds, and a missed p.a.t.s? Only 3 for the Broncos?

If Bill Romanowski hadn’t faceguarded (form of pass interference) Orson Mobley in the endzone to give the Broncos 1st and goal at the 1, Terry Bradshaw would have NAILED IT!! The Broncos needed 4 plays to score from their touhdown also…Terry Bradshaw is a dummy? Not on this prediction! Final score 55-10.

49.24aHas there been a better or more dominant run in a single postseason?? In dispatching the Vikings 41-13, Montana carved up the #1 defense that ranked 1st in sacks with 71.  Joe was 17 of 24 for 241 yds and 4 touchdowns. In the NFC Championship, they faced their NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams. The Rams had been the scourge of the playoffs with their “Eagle Defense” with 2 D Linemen and 5 Linebackers.

No one could figure out Los Angeles hybrid defense as they befuddled Randall Cunningham’s Eagles and Phil Simms Giants. Well… Montana shredded them going 26 of 30 for 262 yds and 2 scores. Thanks to Craig, Rice, Taylor, and Rathman, San Francisco set a post season record with 29 first downs in a 30-3 slaughter. Don’t forget they split their games with them in the regular season. San Fran taught them the difference between post season and regular season play.

As for Super Bowl XXIV, Montana had his best ever game when it counted most. It almost seemed like a choreographed fight scene from a movie. Every move was countered perfectly. No matter what defense the Broncos were in Montana had an answer. The 1989 Denver Broncos were ranked 3rd in defense and had given up the fewest points in the NFL. Montana was 22 of 29 for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns and sat most of the 4th quarter.

super-bowl-logo-1989The perfect game Bill Walsh had Montana strive for from the quarterback position he watched in a booth next to Eddie DeBartolo. George Seifert was the coach who witnessed it up close as the Head Coach. He riddled the #1 and #3 ranked defenses with 9 touchdowns and no interceptions. This was a coronation, not just the 49ers becoming team of the ’80s, but Montana unseasting Johnny Unitas as the NFL’s greatest ever quarterback.

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Legends of The Fall: Joe Montana

While being interviewed for the 1999 documentary Unitas, legendary writer Frank Deford offered “all great quarterbacks are descended from John Unitas.” To which I believe. However the narrative has changed to this generation being descendants of Joe Montana. Some of his performances were so impressive they left sports writers in awe and unlike many of today’s quarterbacks, he was rarely thought of as the best during his time. For all his greatness he was overlooked until the latter stages of his career where he took quarterbacking to an art form.

Joe Montana during his san Francisco heydey.

Joe Montana during his San Francisco heydey.

Yet if you think back to the 1981 season, folks were waiting for the cinderella 49ers to fall on their face than appreciate Joe that year. It wasn’t until after The Catch in the NFC Championship Game and we were getting ready for Super Bowl XVI did Montana start to get acclaim.  It was similar to the attention Colin Kaepernick was generating before last year’s Super Bowl. Part curiosity surrounding his play and part flavor of the month.

Remember many writers were reeling at the time having picked Dallas to vanquish him in that ’81 Title game. Then thanks to the surprising Super Bowl opponent being Cincinnati, they were almost forced to talk about him. It was a grudging respect they afforded him.

Back in that time the prototypical quarterback was the tall, stout, rocket arm passer. The Terry Bradshaw, Bert Jones, a young Doug Williams, a Ken Stabler, or a Dan Pastororini. The 6’3 guy who could stand amidst the masses and deliver the football 50 yards down field. The late Bill Wash even contemplated trading Montana for the right to draft John Elway. Even after that first Super Bowl triumph. 

Yet it was his size and mobility that set him apart. On every scouting press release Montana was listed at 6’2 200 lbs. but anyone who saw those skinny legs know better. He looked every bit of 180 lbs. They led to his gliding around the pass pocket and avoiding big hits. Whether he scrambled for yardage or he was biding time for a receiver to clear downfield. It was Montana’s nimble feet that kept him in rhythm with his receivers and had his feet ready to throw at a moments notice. Only later was it revealed that those steps were timed with specific receivers to break open and throw at precise moments. That specificity was where Montana elevated quarterbacking to an artform.

Joe Montana and Bill Walsh are linked forever in football lore.

Joe Montana and Bill Walsh are linked forever in football lore.

Another aspect was the ability to bring his Niner teams from behind. The confidence he could instill in his team was on full display during the 1983 playoffs. First he led a last second drive to hold off the Detroit Lions 24-23 to prove The Catch wasn’t a fluke. Then came the NFC Championship with the defending champion Washington Redskins and NFL MVP Joe Theismann. The Redskins jumped out to a 21-0 lead and going into the 4th quarter were laughing their way to Super Bowl XVIII. Then San Francisco Joe got hot.

At the time, the biggest come from behind win in an NFL postseason game was 20 points. Yet in the 4th quarter alone Montana threw 3 touchdowns to tie the game 21-21. Only an offensive pass interference (pick play) that derailed a late drive and two questionable defensive calls kept Joe from performing the greatest championship come back in league history. RFK Stadium was silent until those questionable calls robbed fans everywhere of another possible great moment. Motivated by the slight they felt in not being able to determine they’re fate in that championship game, propelled Joe and the 49ers through 1984.

The 49ers became the first team to go 15-1 in the regular season in NFL history. In defeating the New York Giants and Chicago Bears during the NFC playoffs, he tamed the next two Super Bowl champions that were led by their defenses. Don’t forget the ’84 Bears record of 72 sacks in an NFL season still stands. He lost the MVP to the power passing game of Dan Marino that year. What did he do to earn the media’s respect ?? He beat Marino in Super Bowl XIX 38-16 and along the way set a passing record of 331 yards and the team set another with 537 yards of total offense. Only when Montana forced the media to vote for him did they award him what he earned. He became a Hall of Famer based on his second Super Bowl MVP.

Over the next two years the 49ers retooled their personnel and Montana adjusted to new receivers. Freddie Solomon was phased out retiring in 1985. Dwight Clark was now facing the Jerry Rices and John Taylors that came aboard during ’85 and ’86. Even Roger Craig moved from fullback to halfback. Joe lent continuity to the offense and raised his level of play and took his teammates with him. Those same blood thirsty defenses he sidestepped started getting closer and 1986 ended in the Jersey Meadowlands with a major concussion suffered against the Giants.

Although the 49ers would go on to win Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV, it was the 1987 season that was Montana’s zenith. Not only were the ’87 Niners the last team in NFL history to finish #1 in both offense and defense, it was Joe’s greatest season. Due to the player’s strike and injuries, Montana only played in 11 games when he threw a career best 31 touchdowns. Projected over a full 16 games he would have thrown for 45 and possibly challenged Marino’s record of 48. Yet he was beaten for NFL MVP by class of ’83 quarterback and media darling John Elway. Now consider the 49ers had the best record with a 13-2 record vs Denver’s 11-4-1 record and show me where Elway was better.

  • Joe Montana 1987- 266 of 398 66.8% for 3,054 yds 31 TDs 13 ints
  • John Elway 1987- 224 of 410 54.6% for 3,198 yds 19 TDs 12 ints

So two years later when the 49ers were up 55-10 in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XXIV over Elway’s Broncos, how satisfying must that have been?? The ’87 season ended with Montana having the flu and playing in his worst playoff game that saw him benched. The 36-24 upset loss to the Vikings in the NFC Divisional is what propelled the 49ers play in an unprecedented run during the 1988,1989, and 1990 NFL playoffs. They came within :02 of having the chance of a threepeat. However Joe was knocked from that game and was out of football for two years.

As we look back, think about some of Joe Montana’s exploits. To win Super Bowl XIX & XXIII, he beat reigning MVPs Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason. In winning his record 3rd Super Bowl MVP, he beat the QB he was almost traded away for in John Elway. During those 4 Super Bowl wins he went 83 of 122 for 1,142 yds 11 touchdowns and a completion rate of 68%. He never threw an interception in the Super Bowl. He came close when the late Lewis Billups of Cincinnati cut in front….but i digress.

Joe Montana at the public memorial service for former coach Bill Walsh.

Joe Montana at the public memorial service for former coach Bill Walsh.

Now we talk about his coming back from back surgery, concussions, or being out of football for 2 years, then leading the Kansas City Chiefs to their only conference championship appearance in 40 years. Consider the greatest pass rush in NFL history was the ’84 Bears with 72 sacks. He beat them in the NFC Championship 23-0. The second greatest was the ’89 Minnesota Vikings of Chris Doleman and Keith Millard with 71 sacks. Montana carved them up something special in a 41-13 NFC Divisional blowout. In Super Bowl XXIV, he beat the #1 scoring defense with a 55 point scoring barrage where he threw a record 5 touchdowns.

It was the four year run from 1987-1990 that changed the landscape of quarterbacking in the NFL. Everyone was looking for their quarteback to run the “West Coast Offense” as Montana had. Then you had the coaches in Dennis Green, Mike Holmgren, and Mike White go abroad preaching the gospel of the offense.

Former Head Coach Bill Walsh had left the 49ers after 1988 and watched Montana’s mastery of the offense he fathered, reach record heights over the next few seasons. Maybe Walsh knew what he was doing when he let it out he was looking at Elway. Then challenged Joe when he brought in Steve Young from Tampa before the 1987 season. No matter what pundits make of these events, they pushed Montana to become the best quarterback he could be. He finished with a 4-0 record in Super Bowls and 16-7 playoff record along with countless completion records. NFL executives have changed the rules over the last 15 years to make pedestrian quarterbacks look more Montana-like.

montana going to kcThe next time someone wants to talk greatest ever quarterbacks and doesn’t start with this man, they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t tell me what a quarterback was voted, show me what he earned on the field of battle. How did he fare against the best competition during his time?? Competition between his offense and opposing defenses and against opposing quarterbacks. Would his contemporaries pick him as the quarterback on their side in a big game they had to win?? You come to those conclusions and you have a best ever quarterback. Not the quarterback that sports writers want to be.  Big difference.

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