August 30, 2010

List of the Day: Best Pass Receiving Seasons, 2000s AFC

Marvin Harrison

1- Marvin Harrison, 2002 Indianapolis Colts
143 rec., 1722 yards, 12.0 avg., 11 TD

2- Wes Welker, 2009 New England Patriots
123 rec., 1348 yards, 11.0 avg., 4 TD

3- Andre Johnson, 2008 Houston Texans
115 rec., 1575 yards, 13.7 avg., 8 TD

4- Rod Smith, 2001 Denver Broncos
113 rec., 1343 yards, 11.9 avg., 11 TD

5(tied)- Jimmy Smith, 2001 Jacksonville Jaguars
112 rec., 1373 yards, 12.3 avg., 8 TD

5(tied)- Hines Ward, 2002 Pittsburgh Steelers
112 rec., 1329 yards, 11.9 avg., 12 TD

5(tied)- T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 2007 Cincinnati Bengals
112 rec., 1143 yards, 10.2 avg., 12 TD

5(tied)- Wes Welker, 2007 New England Patriots
112 rec., 1175 yards, 10.5 avg., 8 TD

9- Wes Welker, 2008 New England Patriots
111 rec., 1165 yards, 10.5 avg., 3 TD

10-Marvin Harrison, 2001 Indianapolis Colts
109 rec., 1524 yards, 14.0 avg., 15 TD

Andre Johnson

Wes Welker

Baltimore Ravens: Derrick Mason, 2007
103 rec., 1087 yards, 10.6 avg., 5 TD

Kansas City Chiefs: Tony Gonzalez, 2004
102 rec., 1258 yards, 12.3 avg., 7 TD

Buffalo Bills: Eric Moulds, 2002
100 rec., 1292 yards, 12.9 avg., 10 TD

San Diego Chargers: LaDainian Tomlinson, 2003*
100 rec., 725 yards, 7.3 avg., 4 TD

Tennessee Titans: Derrick Mason, 2004
96 rec., 1168 yards, 12.2 avg., 7 TD

Oakland Raiders: Jerry Rice, 2002
92 rec., 1211 yards, 13.2 avg., 7 TD

New York Jets: Laveranues Coles, 2006
91 rec., 1098 yards, 12.1 avg., 6 TD

Cleveland Browns: Kellen Winslow Jr., 2006
89 rec., 875 yards, 9.8 avg., 3 TD

Miami Dolphins: Chris Chambers, 2005
82 rec., 1118 yards, 13.6 avg., 11 TD

* Running Back

Hines Ward

Reggie Wayne

1- Marvin Harrison, 2002 Indianapolis Colts
1722 yards, 143 rec., 12.0 avg., 11 TD

2- Rod Smith, 2000 Denver Broncos
1602 yards, 100 rec., 16.0 avg., 8 TD

3- Andre Johnson, 2008 Houston Texans
1575 yards, 115 rec., 13.7 avg., 8 TD

4- Andre Johnson, 2009 Houston Texans
1569 yards, 101 rec., 15.5 avg., 9 TD

5- Marvin Harrison, 2001 Indianapolis Colts
1524 yards, 109 rec., 14.0 avg., 15 TD

6- Reggie Wayne, 2007 Indianapolis Colts
1510 yards, 104 rec., 14.5 avg., 10 TD

7- Randy Moss, 2007 New England Patriots
1493 yards, 98 rec., 15.2 avg., 23 TD

8- Chad Johnson, 2007 Cincinnati Bengals*
1440 yards, 93 rec., 15.5 avg., 8 TD

9- Chad Johnson, 2005 Cincinnati Bengals*
1432 yards, 97 rec., 14.8 avg., 9 TD

10-Marvin Harrison, 2000 Indianapolis Colts
1413 yards, 102 rec., 13.9 avg., 14 TD

*Legally changed name to Chad Ochocinco in 2008

Randy Moss

Chad Ochocinco

Kansas City Chiefs: Derrick Alexander, 2000
1391 yards, 78 rec., 17.8 avg., 10 TD

Jacksonville Jaguars: Jimmy Smith, 2001
1373 yards, 112 rec., 12.3 avg., 8 TD

Pittsburgh Steelers: Hines Ward, 2002
1329 yards, 112 rec., 11.9 avg., 12 TD

Buffalo Bills: Eric Moulds, 2000
1326 yards, 94 rec., 14.1 avg., 5 Td

Tennessee Titans: Derrick Mason, 2003
1303 yards, 95 rec., 13.7 avg., 8 TD

Cleveland Browns: Braylon Edwards, 2007
1289 yards, 80 rec., 16.1 avg., 16 TD

New York Jets: Laveranues Coles, 2002
1264 yards, 89 rec., 14.2 avg., 5 TD

Oakland Raiders: Jerry Rice, 2002
1211 yards, 92 rec., 13.2 avg., 7 TD

San Diego Chargers: Vincent Jackson, 2009
1167 yards, 68 rec., 17.2 avg., 9 TD

Miami Dolphins: Chris Chambers, 2005
1118 yards, 82 rec., 13.6 avg., 11 TD

Baltimore Ravens: Derrick Mason, 2007
1087 yards, 103 rec., 10.6 avg., 5 TD

Rod Smith

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

August 28, 2010

1974: Bell Defeat Wheels After Near-Forfeit

During the World Football League’s first season, the Philadelphia Bell might not have been one of the more successful teams, but it was certainly one of the most entertaining. Under Head Coach Ron Waller, the Bell ran a complex offense full of unorthodox formations. Directing that offense on the field was QB Jim “King” Corcoran (#9 in above photo), a flamboyant minor league football veteran who had spent ten years playing for such clubs as the Norfolk Neptunes and Pottstown Firebirds. He had arrived at training camp in a white Lincoln Continental with the license plate of “KING” while shouting out the window through a bullhorn, “The King has arrived! The King has arrived!”

For all the flamboyance, Corcoran proved to be an effective quarterback for the Bell, passing to wide receivers Donnie Shanklin and Ron Holliday, as well as a local product from non-football-playing St. Joseph’s named Vince Papale who would later make the NFL Eagles as a 30-year-old special teams standout. RB John Land led the Bell in both rushing and pass receiving, and formed a solid tandem with Claude Watts.

Defensively, the team included former Eagles and Chargers LB Tim Rossovich, perhaps better remembered for his off-field behavior that included eating glass and occasionally setting his hair on fire than for his on-field exploits. Other standouts included LB Wally Dempsey, an eight-year veteran of the CFL, and CB Ron Mabra.

However, the team had also been responsible for the league’s biggest scandal when large crowds for the first two home games were found to have been significantly padded by tickets that had been given away (if not substantially discounted). With the end of the complimentary tickets, the crowds dropped off significantly, despite the exciting nature of the team’s play.

Philadelphia had compiled a 3-4 record as they prepared to host the winless (0-7) Detroit Wheels at JFK Stadium on August 28, 1974 before a crowd of 15,100. As was the case with many of the WFL teams, the Wheels were experiencing severe financial hardship to such an extent that the game came close to not being played.

The Wheels had started out short on cash and were never able to dig out of the hole. Not only was money short to pay players, but the team couldn’t cover administrative costs either. Programs were not delivered for one home game because the printer had not been paid, and players brought towels from home so they could take showers.

When the Detroit players arrived for the game at JFK Stadium, they found that there were no supplies, including tape, available. The team considered forfeiting since it wasn’t safe for the players to take the field without taping up. However, WR Jon Henderson was able to talk a Johnson & Johnson salesman into donating a carton of tape so that the game could be played.

For all the adversity, the Wheels were typically competitive on the field, and this game would be no different. The Bell scored first on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Corcoran to Land. But by the third quarter, Detroit was leading 16-14. Philadelphia’s Jerry Warren put the Bell ahead to stay with a 23-yard field goal, and the Bell followed that up with a 24-yard TD pass from Corcoran to Shanklin. The Wheels scored again, but couldn’t catch up as Philadelphia held on for a 27-23 win.

The Bell accumulated 174 yards on the ground, led by John Land’s 90 yards on 16 carries; Claude Watts contributed 34 yards on 15 attempts and a touchdown. “King” Corcoran completed 11 of 29 passes for 184 yards and two TDs. Both Land and Donnie Shanklin caught three passes apiece, with Shanklin’s 64 yards topping the club.

Detroit outrushed the Bell, gaining 194 yards, as RB Jesse Mims led the way with 85 yards on 15 carries and a TD. QB Bubba Wyche, a CFL veteran (as were many of the players on the team) who capably directed the offense throughout the difficult season, completed 13 of 28 passes for 156 yards, with no touchdowns and two of them picked off. Mims and FB Sam Scarber each caught four passes, for 20 and 33 yards respectively, although RB Billy Sadler gained the most yards receiving with 67 on his one catch.

The Wheels would not survive the season, although they did win once before folding with a 1-13 record. They also had the distinction of having the lowest average home attendance during the WFL’s first season (10,228). Philadelphia finished up at 9-11, putting them third in the Eastern Division but good enough to qualify for the postseason – they lost convincingly to the Florida Blazers in the first round.

“King” Corcoran led the WFL in pass attempts (546), completions (280), and touchdown passes (31) while ranking second in passing yards (3632); he also tossed 30 interceptions. John Land (pictured at left) rushed for over a thousand yards (1136) and also led the club with 54 pass receptions; Claude Watts was just under a thousand rushing yards with 927.

As Coach Waller summed up his exciting and colorful team, “We’re not a very conventional team. People come to our games to be entertained. We don’t put you to sleep like the Miami Dolphins do.” Of course, it could be said that the Bell also failed to win with the regularity of the Dolphins at that time, but they certainly contributed plenty to the brief history of the off-beat World Football League.

August 27, 2010

List of the Day: Best Pass Receiving Seasons, 2000s NFC

Torry Holt

1- Torry Holt, 2003 St. Louis Rams
117 rec., 1696 yards, 14.5 avg., 12 TD

2- Randy Moss, 2003 Minnesota Vikings
111 rec., 1632 yards, 14.7 avg., 17 TD

3- Steve Smith, 2009 New York Giants
107 rec., 1220 yards, 11.4 avg., 7 TD

4(tied)- Keyshawn Johnson, 2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
106 rec., 1266 yards, 11.9 avg., 1 TD

4(tied)- Randy Moss, 2002 Minnesota Vikings
106 rec., 1347 yards, 12.7 avg., 7 TD

6(tied)- Steve Smith, 2005 Carolina Panthers
103 rec., 1563 yards, 15.2 avg., 12 TD

6(tied)- Larry Fitzgerald, 2005 Arizona Cardinals
103 rec., 1409 yards, 13.7 avg., 10 TD

8(tied)- Muhsin Muhammad, 2000 Carolina Panthers
102 rec., 1183 yards, 11.6 avg., 6 TD

8(tied)- Anquan Boldin, 2005 Arizona Cardinals
102 rec., 1402 yards, 13.7 avg., 7 TD

8(tied)- Torry Holt, 2005 St. Louis Rams
102 rec., 1331 yards, 13.0 avg., 9 TD

Randy Moss

Larry Fitzgerald

Chicago Bears: Marty Booker, 2001
100 rec., 1071 yards, 10.7 avg., 8 TD

San Francisco 49ers: Terrell Owens, 2002
100 rec., 1300 yards, 13.0 avg., 13 TD

Detroit Lions: Mike Furrey, 2006
98 rec., 1086 yards, 11.1 avg., 6 TD

New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston, 2007
98 rec., 1202 yards, 12.3 avg., 11 TD

Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten, 2007
96 rec., 1145 yards, 11.9 avg., 7 TD

Seattle Seahawks: Bobby Engram, 2007*
94 rec., 1147 yards, 12.2 avg., 6 TD

Green Bay Packers: Donald Driver, 2006
92 rec., 1295 yards, 14.1 avg., 8 TD

Philadelphia Eagles: Brian Westbrook, 2007**
90 rec., 771 yards, 8.6 avg., 5 TD

Washington Redskins: Laveranues Cole, 2004
90 rec., 950 yards, 10.6 avg., 1 TD

Atlanta Falcons: Roddy White, 2008
88 rec., 1382 yards, 15.7 avg., 7 TD

*Seahawks moved to NFC in 2002
**Running Back

Steve Smith (Panthers)

David Boston

1- Torry Holt, 2003 St. Louis Rams
1696 yards, 117 rec., 14.5 avg., 12 TD

2- Torry Holt, 2000 St. Louis Rams
1635 yards, 82 rec., 19.9 avg., 6 TD

3- Randy Moss, 2003 Minnesota Vikings
1632 yards, 111 rec., 14.7 avg., 17 TD

4- David Boston, 2001 Arizona Cardinals
1598 yards, 98 rec., 16.3 avg., 8 TD

5- Steve Smith, 2005 Carolina Panthers
1563 yards, 103 rec., 15.2 avg., 12 TD

6- Santana Moss, 2005 Washington Redskins
1483 yards, 84 rec., 17.7 avg., 9 TD

7- Isaac Bruce, 2000 St. Louis Rams
1471 yards, 87 rec., 16.9 avg., 9 TD

8- Terrell Owens, 2000 San Francisco 49ers
1451 yards, 97 rec., 15.0 avg., 13 TD

9- Randy Moss, 2000 Minnesota Vikings
1437 yards, 77 rec., 18.7 avg., 15 TD

10-Larry Fitzgerald, 2008 Arizona Cardinals
1431 yards, 96 rec., 14.9 avg., 12 TD

Santana Moss

Isaac Bruce

New Orleans Saints: Joe Horn, 2004
1399 yards, 94 rec., 14.9 avg., 11 TD

Green Bay Packers: Javon Walker, 2004
1382 yards, 89 rec., 15.5 avg., 12 TD

Atlanta Falcons: Roddy White, 2008
1382 yards, 88 rec., 15.7 avg., 7 TD

Dallas Cowboys: Terrell Owens, 2007
1355 yards, 81 rec., 16.7 avg., 15 TD

New York Giants: Amani Toomer, 2002
1343 yards, 82 rec., 16.4 avg., 8 TD

Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, 2008
1331 yards, 78 rec., 17.1 avg., 12 TD

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joey Galloway, 2005
1287 yards, 83 rec., 15.5 avg., 10 TD

Seattle Seahawks: Koren Robinson, 2002*
1240 yards, 78 rec., 15.9 avg., 5 TD

Philadelphia Eagles: Terrell Owens, 2004
1200 yards, 77 rec., 15.6 avg., 14 TD

Chicago Bears: Marty Booker, 2002
1189 yards, 97 rec., 12.3 avg., 6 TD

* Seahawks moved to NFC in 2002

Terrell Owens

Steve Smith (Giants)

August 25, 2010

1968: Colts Obtain Earl Morrall

As the Baltimore Colts prepared for the 1968 season, their 35-year-old all-time great quarterback, Johnny Unitas, was battling elbow tendinitis. Backup QB Jim Ward was inexperienced and had a bad knee. On August 25, the Colts obtained veteran QB Earl Morrall from the New York Giants for a fourth round draft pick.

The 34-year-old Morrall had played in 12 NFL seasons with four teams since coming out of Michigan State in 1956, where he had been an All-American and led the Spartans to a win in the Rose Bowl. As a result, he had been a first round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers where he sat on the bench behind Y.A. Tittle and played poorly in limited opportunities – he threw 78 passes, six of which were intercepted. He was traded to Pittsburgh after the 49ers drafted QB John Brodie out of Stanford.

With the Steelers, Morrall got a chance to start and showed improvement, but early in the ’58 season he was sent to Detroit in the deal that reunited QB Bobby Layne with Head Coach Buddy Parker in Pittsburgh. He sat behind Tobin Rote with the Lions, and after Rote’s departure in 1960 competed with, first, Jim Ninowski and then Milt Plum for the starting job. He had his best year in 1963 as he consigned Plum to the bench and ranked fourth among the league’s passers. But Morrall suffered a shoulder injury in ’64 and, when Harry Gilmer became head coach in ’65, a firm decision was made during the preseason to stick with Plum. Morrall was traded to the Giants.

Morrall had a solid season for the 7-7 Giants in 1965, throwing for 2446 yards and 22 TDs against 12 interceptions. However, he broke his hand during a 1966 campaign that was disastrous for the Giants, and in the offseason they obtained Fran Tarkenton from Minnesota. Morrall sat on the bench in ’67 and was considering demanding a trade when the deal was made with the Colts.

There had been plenty of criticism leveled at Morrall over the years, summed up by nicknames like “Bullpen Boy” and “The Understudy”, and it was widely held that he was too inconsistent to be successful as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Baltimore Head Coach Don Shula was well aware of the criticisms, but was familiar with Morrall as a former assistant coach with the Lions and believed that his experience could prove valuable if Unitas was not fully sound. He assured a reluctant Morrall that it was possible he could see significant action.

Shula’s prediction proved all too true when Unitas suffered a devastating muscle tear in his throwing arm in the final preseason game at the Cotton Bowl against Dallas. Unitas would end up seeing only brief and ineffectual action during the season as he was forced to rest his arm, but Morrall proved to be up to the job.

The Colts went 13-1 over the course of the campaign. Morrall put together an MVP season (Associated Press, UPI, NEA) as he led the NFL in overall passing (93.2 rating), touchdown passes (26), yards per attempt (9.2), yards per completion (16.0) and touchdown percentage (8.2); he ranked second in yards (2909) and completion percentage (57.4).

Morrall only once failed to throw a touchdown pass in a game, and had a high of four in a 28-7 win over the Bears, in which he also had his high for passing yardage (302). Along the way, he led the Colts to victories over all four of the teams that had given up on him during his career: 27-10 over the 49ers, 41-7 against Pittsburgh, 26-0 over the Giants, and 27-10 over Detroit.

The Colts breezed by the Vikings in the divisional round of the postseason and then shut out the Browns, 34-0, for the NFL title. However, the storybook season came to a bitter end in Super Bowl III as the upstart New York Jets stunned the Colts, 16-7. Morrall played poorly, completing just 6 of 17 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions, and failed to spot a wide-open split end Jimmy Orr in the end zone late in the first half. The disappointing showing (which was hardly Morrall’s alone) seemed to lend credence to denigrating comments that Jets QB Joe Namath made prior to the game and the criticisms that had been leveled throughout Morrall’s career.

Earl Morrall remained with the Colts for three more seasons, splitting time with the increasingly brittle Unitas – and gaining some measure of vindication when he relieved the great quarterback in Super Bowl V following the 1970 season, a game the Colts won with a field goal in the closing seconds.

Don Shula, who by then had moved on to the Miami Dolphins, turned to Morrall as a backup prior to the 1972 season. When starting QB Bob Griese went down with a broken leg at midseason, Morrall did a solid job in leading the Dolphins the rest of the way to an undefeated record. Miami won the Super Bowl, but by then Griese was back in command.

Morrall lasted through the 1976 season, when he was 42 years old, for a total of 21 years in the NFL – a lengthy tenure for a quarterback dismissed as a career backup.

August 24, 2010

List of the Day: Best Passing Yardage Seasons, 2000s AFC

Tom Brady

TOP 10
1- Tom Brady, 2007 New England Patriots
4806 yards, 398-578, 68.9 %, 50 TD, 8 INT

2- Matt Schaub, 2009 Houston Texans
4770 yards, 396-583, 67.9 %, 29 TD, 15 INT

3- Rich Gannon, 2002 Oakland Raiders
4689 yards, 418-618, 67.6 %, 26 TD, 10 INT

4- Trent Green, 2004 Kansas City Chiefs
4591 yards, 369-556, 66.4 %, 27 TD, 17 INT

5- Peyton Manning, 2004 Indianapolis Colts
4557 yards, 336-497, 67.6 %, 49 TD, 10 INT

6- Jay Cutler, 2008 Denver Broncos
4526 yards, 384-616, 62.3 %, 25 TD, 18 INT

7- Peyton Manning, 2009 Indianapolis Colts
4500 yards, 393-571, 68.8 %, 33 TD, 16 INT

8- Peyton Manning, 2000 Indianapolis Colts
4413 yards, 357-571, 62.5 %, 33 TD, 15 INT

9- Tom Brady, 2009 New England Patriots
4398 yards, 371-565, 65.7 %, 28 TD, 13 INT

10-Peyton Manning, 2006 Indianapolis Colts
4397 yards, 362-557, 65.0 %, 31 TD, 9 INT

Peyton Manning

Matt Schaub

Rich Gannon

Buffalo Bills: Drew Bledsoe, 2002
4359 yards, 375-610, 61.5 %, 24 TD, 15 INT

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, 2009
4328 yards, 337-506, 66.6 %, 26 TD, 12 INT

San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers, 2009
4254 yards, 317-486, 65.2 %, 28 TD, 9 INT

Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer, 2007
4131 yards, 373-575, 64.9 %, 26 TD, 20 INT

Cleveland Browns: Derek Anderson, 2007
3787 yards, 298-527, 56.5 %, 29 TD, 19 INT

New York Jets: Vinny Testaverde, 2000
3732 yards, 328-590, 55.6 %, 21 TD, 25 INT

Miami Dolphins: Chad Pennington, 2008
3653 yards, 321-476, 67.4 %, 19 TD, 7 INT

Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Brunell, 2000
3640 yards, 311-512, 60.7 %, 20 TD, 14 INT

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, 2009
3613 yards, 315-499, 63.1 %, 21 TD, 12 INT

Tennessee Titans: Steve McNair, 2002
3387 yards, 301-492, 61.2 %, 22 TD, 15 INT

Trent Green

Jay Cutler

Ben Roethlisberger

Philip Rivers

August 22, 2010

1947: College All-Stars Shut Out Bears Before Record Crowd

The Chicago Bears had represented the NFL in the College All-Star Game five times, once as the league runner-up (the only time the pro team was not a defending NFL or, later, pre-merger AFL champion that had won the Super Bowl), and had a record of four wins and one tie with no losses. Most of the contests, sponsored by The Chicago Tribune on behalf of Chicago Charities, had been close and the pro teams enjoyed an edge of just seven wins against four losses and two ties. Just the year before, the All-Stars had shut out the Los Angeles Rams, 16-0.

On August 22, 1947 the Bears, coached by George Halas and champions of the NFL in ’46, took on an All-Star squad for the sixth time at Soldier Field. Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy coached the All-Stars, who were utilizing the T-formation for the first time. A record crowd of 105,840 was on hand to witness the home town Bears against a team that included QB George Ratterman of Notre Dame, HB Doc Blanchard of Army, Georgia HB Charlie Trippi, G Alex Agase from Illinois, and T Dick Barwegan of Purdue. And there was the small but very fast Buddy Young, halfback from Illinois, at 5’5” and 165 pounds (pictured).

Overall team speed proved to be the key to the game for the All-Stars. In addition to quick halfbacks like Young and Trippi, the line, while lighter than Chicago’s, had speed to make up for it.

The All-Stars got the jump on the NFL champions by scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. In their first possession, they drove 82 yards on 11 plays, highlighted by a 31-yard run by Young and capped by a four-yard touchdown carry by Notre Dame HB Jim Mello. The Bears blocked the ensuing extra point attempt, but the All-Stars came right back on their next possession. This time it took only two plays to go 87 yards – Young gained 41 yards on a pass from Ratterman and then the Notre Dame quarterback threw 46 yards for the TD to end Jack Zilly. The PAT was good this time, and the Bears found themselves in a 13-0 hole that they would not be able to climb out of.

There was only one more score the rest of the game, a 21-yard field goal by UCLA’s Ernie Case in the third quarter that provided the final tally of 16-0. It could have been even more lopsided – twice the collegians recovered fumbles inside the Chicago 10 yard line but failed to put any points on the board.

The All-Stars outgained the Bears in total yards by 340 to 116, and rushing yardage by 189 to 35. Chicago never got closer to the opposing end zone than the 20 yard line and the offense was unable to sustain any sort of meaningful drive.

Buddy Young was the MVP for the All-Stars as he gained 165 yards from scrimmage and electrified the crowd with his open-field running ability. Having made a statement as to his ability to play against pro competition despite his small stature, he went on to have a successful pro career in the AAFC and NFL. George Ratterman, who also went on to play in both leagues professionally, performed capably as he completed 8 of 12 passes.

The win over the Bears was the last time that the College All-Stars won two games in a row (they had previously done so in 1937 and ’38) and the only time they recorded back-to-back shutouts. They would win only four more times in the remaining 28 games of the series.

August 20, 2010

List of the Day: Best Passing Yardage Seasons, 2000s NFC

Drew Brees

TOP 10
1- Drew Brees, 2008 New Orleans Saints
5069 yards, 413-635, 65.0 %, 34 TD, 17 INT

2- Kurt Warner, 2001 St. Louis Rams
4830 yards, 375-546, 68.7 %, 36 TD, 22 INT

3- Daunte Culpepper, 2004 Minnesota Vikings
4717 yards, 379-548, 69.2 %, 39 TD, 11 INT

4- Kurt Warner, 2008 Arizona Cardinals
4583 yards, 401-598, 67.1 %, 30 TD, 14 INT

5- Tony Romo, 2009 Dallas Cowboys
4483 yards, 347-550, 63.1 %, 26 TD, 9 INT

6- Aaron Rodgers, 2009 Green Bay Packers
4434 yards, 350-541, 64.7 %, 30 TD, 7 INT

7- Drew Brees, 2007 New Orleans Saints
4423 yards, 440-652, 67.5 %, 28 TD, 18 INT

8- Drew Brees, 2006 New Orleans Saints
4418 yards, 356-554, 64.3 %, 26 TD, 11 INT

9- Drew Brees, 2009 New Orleans Saints
4388 yards, 363-514, 70.6 %, 34 TD, 11 INT

10-Marc Bulger, 2006 St. Louis Rams
4301 yards, 370-588, 62.9 %, 24 TD, 8 INT

Kurt Warner

Daunte Culpepper

Tony Romo

San Francisco 49ers: Jeff Garcia, 2000
4278 yards, 355-561, 63.3 %, 31 TD, 10 INT

Detroit Lions: Jon Kitna, 2006
4208 yards, 372-596, 62.4 %, 21 TD, 22 INT

New York Giants: Kerry Collins, 2002
4073 yards, 335-545, 61.5 %, 19 TD, 14 INT

Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck, 2007
3966 yards, 352-562, 62.6 %, 28 TD, 12 INT

Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb, 2008
3916 yards, 345-571, 60.4 %, 23 TD, 11 INT

Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme, 2004
3886 yards, 310-533, 58.2 %, 29 TD, 15 INT

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brad Johnson, 2003
3811 yards, 354-570, 62.1 %, 26 TD, 21 INT

Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler, 2009
3666 yards, 336-555, 60.5 %, 27 TD, 26 INT

Washington Redskins: Jason Campbell, 2009
3618 yards, 327-507, 64.5 %, 20 TD, 15 INT

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, 2008
3440 yards, 265-434, 61.1 %, 16 TD, 11 INT

Aaron Rodgers

Marc Bulger

Jeff Garcia

Jon Kitna

August 17, 2010

1951: Browns Dominate College All-Stars

After four seasons of dominance in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL in 1950 and won that league’s championship as well. As a result, on August 17, 1951 they faced off against a team of college football’s best players in the 18th annual College All-Star Game, sponsored by The Chicago Tribune on behalf of Chicago Charities.

There were 92,180 fans on hand at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The All-Stars were coached by Yale’s Herman Hickman and included future pro stars Kyle Rote, halfback from SMU; Northwestern end Don Stonesifer; tackles Bob Gain from Kentucky and Mike McCormack of Kansas (both of whom would go on to play for the Browns); and guard Bud McFadin of Texas.

Both teams started off slowly in the first quarter, with the lone score occurring when Rote fumbled a handoff in the end zone that was recovered by Notre Dame QB Bob Williams, who was promptly downed by Cleveland DE Len Ford for a safety. The Browns began to gain momentum, however, and early in the second quarter drove 56 yards in a series that ended with HB Dub Jones running for a two-yard touchdown.

Shortly before halftime Cleveland again put together a scoring drive highlighted by runs of 22 yards by FB Marion Motley and 20 yards by Jones. Lou Groza kicked a 17-yard field goal and the Browns had a 12-0 lead at the intermission.

In the third quarter, the Browns methodically moved the ball 62 yards on 10 plays, ending up with Dub Jones again scoring a touchdown on a short (three-yard) run. QB Otto Graham’s passing highlighted the next Browns drive, in the fourth quarter, and Graham connected with end Dante Lavelli on a 14-yard TD pass. The final TD came on a second Graham touchdown pass, this one of eight yards to FB Emerson Cole. When the onslaught was over, the Browns had won by a final score of 33-0.

Just as the All-Stars couldn’t stop the Cleveland offense, they couldn’t generate any offense of their own. They gained only five first downs and never penetrated beyond the Browns’ 45 yard line. Kyle Rote, who rushed eight times for 45 yards, had the longest gain of the day for the All-Stars with a run of 23 yards. Bud McFadin was named MVP for the collegians – the second time a guard had received the honor.

Dub Jones and Otto Graham were the stars for the Browns, with Jones gaining 105 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns and Graham completing 16 of 30 passes for 263 yards and two TDs. Overall, Cleveland outgained the All-Stars 425 yards to 126.

It was the worst defeat the All-Stars had suffered up to that time, when most of the games had been competitive and the pro teams held only a nine to six advantage in wins, with two ties, coming into the 1951 game. More and more, as the series wore on until its conclusion in 1976, the pro teams dominated – the final tally would be 31 wins for the defending pro champions, 9 wins for the All-Stars, and the two ties.

August 16, 2010

1965: Miami Awarded AFL Franchise for ’66 Season

By 1965, the American Football League was looking to expand beyond its original base of eight franchises. While there was some interest in putting a team in Philadelphia, the primary focus was on Atlanta (also rumored as a possible relocation spot for the struggling Denver Broncos). Commissioner Joe Foss went so far as to announce that the president of Cox Broadcasting Company, Leonard Reinsch, would be awarded an AFL franchise.

However, the NFL and its commissioner, Pete Rozelle, also had an interest in Atlanta and at the end of June a franchise was awarded to Rankin Smith. The loss of Atlanta to the NFL served as a major embarrassment to Commissioner Foss, and added to the groundswell that eventually led to his resignation. It also necessitated finding another suitable city (the potential ownership group in Philadelphia also withdrew its bid).

Attention soon turned to Miami. On August 16, 1965 the league awarded its ninth franchise to Joe Robbie and entertainer Danny Thomas for $7.5 million. The personable Thomas contrasted with the temperamental Robbie, an attorney from Minneapolis long acquainted with Joe Foss. The team would begin play in 1966 and would have use of the Orange Bowl as its home field. A contest that attracted nearly 20,000 entrants came up with the nickname of Dolphins for the new club.

Joe Thomas was hired away from the NFL’s Vikings to become director of player personnel, and took up the task of preparing for the team’s first draft of college talent as well as the expansion draft of unprotected players from the other AFL teams. George Wilson, the highly respected former head coach of the Detroit Lions, was hired as the first coach of the Dolphins.

The expansion draft pulled in established veterans like G Billy Neighbors from the Patriots, FB Billy Joe and flanker Bo Roberson from Buffalo, WR Frank Jackson and DE Mel Branch of the Chiefs, LB Wahoo McDaniel from the Jets, QB Dick Wood from Oakland, and TE Dave Kocurek of the Chargers. It also yielded some younger veterans who would prove valuable, such as OT Norm Evans, S Willie West, and cornerbacks Jimmy Warren and Dick Westmoreland.

In the college draft, they lost their first draft pick, FB Jim Grabowski of Illinois, to the Packers, but did sign Kentucky QB Rick Norton, Tennessee LB Frank Emanuel, and offensive end Howard Twilley, who had broken collegiate receiving records at Tulsa.

As with all expansion teams, the first season in 1966 was a hard one, and the Dolphins went 3-11 to tie Houston for last place in the Eastern Division. The team went through four starting quarterbacks - the veteran Wood threw the most passes, but only three were for touchdowns as against 13 interceptions. Rookie Norton saw action until suffering a broken jaw at midseason. It was then the turn of the coach’s son, George Wilson Jr., who led the club to two of its wins before also going down with an injury, at which point John Stofa got his shot. Stofa had played two years of minor league football before being cut by the Dolphins in the preseason and was brought back when injuries depleted the corps of available passers; his sensational performance in throwing four touchdown passes in the season-concluding win made him the front runner for the job in ’67. But overall, Miami passers combined for a dismal 39.4 % completion percentage, lowest in the AFL, while they led the league in passes intercepted with 32.

HB Joe Auer had run the opening kickoff of Miami’s very first regular season game back for a touchdown and, over the course of the year, led the club in rushing with 416 yards on 121 carries. Veteran FB Cookie Gilchrist was obtained from Denver at midseason and provided occasional power between the tackles; they had started out with the very over-the-hill former Chicago Bears star, Rick Casares, as the starting fullback. The seventh-year tight end, Kocurek, was the top receiver with 27 catches for 320 yards.

While the offense struggled, the defense was capable, especially the backfield. Willie West had an outstanding year as the free safety, intercepting eight passes, and Westmoreland and Warren were good cornerbacks. The Dolphins intercepted a total of 31 passes (led by West’s eight) and four were returned for touchdowns.

There had been concern regarding the drawing power of a pro football team in Miami, which at the time was considered more of a college football locale due to the presence of the University of Miami. The Dolphins averaged 25,551 per game at the Orange Bowl and while they weren’t yet a winning team, they could at least generate some excitement.

August 14, 2010

List of the Day: Best Rushing Seasons, 2000s AFC

Jamal Lewis

TOP 10
1- Jamal Lewis, 2003 Baltimore Ravens
2066 yards, 387 att., 5.3 avg., 14 TD

2- Chris Johnson, 2009 Tennessee Titans
2006 yards, 358 att., 5.6 avg., 14 TD

3- Ricky Williams, 2002 Miami Dolphins
1853 yards, 383 att., 4.8 avg., 16 TD

4- LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006 San Diego Chargers
1815 yards, 348 att., 5.2 avg., 28 TD

5- Larry Johnson, 2006 Kansas City Chiefs
1789 yards, 416 att., 4.3 avg., 17 TD

6- Larry Johnson, 2005 Kansas City Chiefs
1750 yards, 336 att., 5.2 avg., 20 TD

7- Edgerrin James, 2000 Indianapolis Colts
1709 yards, 387 att., 4.4 avg., 13 TD

8- Curtis Martin, 2004 New York Jets
1697 yards, 371 att., 4.6 avg., 12 TD

9- LaDainian Tomlinson, 2002 San Diego Chargers
1683 yards, 372 att., 4.5 avg., 14 TD

10-LaDainian Tomlinson, 2003 San Diego Chargers
1645 yards, 313 att., 5.3 avg., 13 TD

Chris Johnson

Ricky Williams

LaDainian Tomlinson

New England Patriots: Corey Dillon, 2004
1635 yards, 345 att., 4.7 avg., 12 TD

Denver Broncos: Clinton Portis, 2003
1591 yards, 290 att., 5.5 avg., 14 TD

Jacksonville Jaguars: Fred Taylor, 2003
1572 yards, 345 att., 4.6 avg., 6 TD

Pittsburgh Steelers: Willie Parker, 2006
1494 yards, 337 att., 4.4 avg., 13 TD

Cincinnati Bengals: Rudi Johnson, 2005
1458 yards, 337 att., 4.3 avg., 12 TD

Buffalo Bills: Travis Henry, 2002
1438 yards, 325 att., 4.4 avg., 13 TD

Cleveland Browns: Jamal Lewis, 2007
1304 yards, 298 att., 4.4 avg., 9 TD

Houston Texans: Steve Slaton, 2008*
1282 yards, 268 att., 4.8 avg., 9 TD

Oakland Raiders: Tyrone Wheatley, 2000
1046 yards, 232 att., 4.5 avg., 9 TD

* Texans joined NFL in 2002

Larry Johnson

Edgerrin James

Curtis Martin

Corey Dillon