April 29, 2011

Past Venue: Balboa Stadium

San Diego, CA



Year opened: 1914
Capacity: 34,000 after expansion to accommodate Chargers, up from 15,000 at opening.

Names:
City Stadium
Balboa Stadium

Pro football tenants:
San Diego Chargers (AFL), 1961-66

Postseason games hosted:
AFL Championship, Oilers 10 Chargers 3, Dec. 24, 1961
AFL Championship, Chargers 51 Patriots 10, Jan. 5, 1964
AFL Championship, Bills 23 Chargers 0, Dec. 26, 1965

Other tenants of note:
San Diego Toros (NASL), 1968
San Diego High School, 1914 to date

Notes: Hosted AFL All-Star Games, Jan. 7, 1962; Jan. 13, 1963; Jan. 19, 1964. Hosted San Diego East-West Christmas Classic, 1921-22. Hosted Harbor Bowl, 1947-49. Hosted home games of PCPFL San Diego Bombers, 1940-46, and San Diego Clippers, 1948 Used for auto racing, 1937-61, but that ended with arrival of the Chargers. Stadium was also used on occasion by St. Augustine High School and San Diego City College for football and track & field. Originally constructed as part of 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

Fate: Demolished in 1978, although field is still in use. Concrete bleachers replaced the original structure, dramatically reducing seating capacity (3000).



(Modern view below, since demolition and rebuild to smaller facility)

April 28, 2011

MVP Profile: Tom Brady, 2007

Quarterback, New England Patriots



Age: 30
8th season in pro football & with Patriots
College: Michigan
Height: 6’4” Weight: 225

Prelude:
A lightly-regarded sixth-round draft choice by New England in 2000, Brady got his chance when starting QB Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the ’01 season. With the young quarterback showing surprising poise and leadership ability, the team surged in the second half and ended up with a stunning win over the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl. Brady was selected to the Pro Bowl, as he also would be in 2004 and ‘05. The Patriots won two more championships over the next three seasons, and he led the NFL with 28 TD passes in 2002. Brady also led the league with 4110 yards passing in 2005.

2007 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 578 [2]
Most attempts, game – 54 vs. Philadelphia 11/25
Completions – 398 [2]
Most completions, game – 34 vs. Philadelphia 11/25
Yards – 4806 [1]
Most yards, game – 399 vs. Pittsburgh 12/9
Completion percentage – 68.9 [1]
Yards per attempt – 8.3 [1]
TD passes – 50 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 6 at Miami 10/21
Interceptions – 8
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Indianapolis 11/4, vs. Miami 12/23
Passer rating – 117.2 [1]
300-yard passing games – 8
200-yard passing games – 15

Rushing
Attempts – 37
Most attempts, game - 5 (for 14 yds.) at Indianapolis 11/4
Yards – 98
Most yards, game – 16 yards (on 3 carries) vs. Philadelphia 11/25
Yards per attempt – 2.6
TDs – 2

Scoring
TDs – 2
Points - 12

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 109
Most attempts, game - 48 vs. NY Giants, Super Bowl
Pass completions – 77
Most completions, game - 29 vs. NY Giants, Super Bowl
Passing yardage – 737
Most yards, game - 266 vs. NY Giants, Super Bowl
TD passes – 6
Most TD passes, game - 3 vs. Jacksonville, AFC Divisional playoff
Interceptions – 3
Most interceptions, game - 3 vs. San Diego, AFC Championship

Rushing attempts – 4
Most rushing attempts, game – 2 (for 1 yd.) vs. Jacksonville, AFC Divisional playoff, (for -2 yds.) vs. San Diego, AFC Championship
Rushing yards – -1
Most rushing yards, game - 1 vs. Jacksonville, AFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – -0.3
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, NEA, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Patriots went 16-0 to win the AFC East and complete the first undefeated regular season in the NFL since 1972. The team also paced the NFL in points (589), touchdowns (75), total yards (6580), and passing yards (4731). Won Divisional playoff over Jacksonville Jaguars (31-20) and AFC Championship over San Diego Chargers (21-12). Lost Super Bowl to New York Giants (17-14).

Aftermath:
Brady’s 2008 season ended prematurely due to a knee injury in the opening game. He came back to throw for 4398 yards and 28 TDs in 2009 and had another MVP season in 2010, in which he led the NFL in passing (111.0 rating) and TD passes (36). Brady was selected to the Pro Bowl in both 2009 and ’10.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]

April 27, 2011

1982: Forced to Settle, Eagles Draft Mike Quick in First Round


With the 20th pick in the first round of the NFL draft on April 27, 1982, the Philadelphia Eagles were looking to take a wide receiver. There were a few who were considered likely first round choices, and the Eagles were most interested in Perry Tuttle out of Clemson.

The Kansas City Chiefs snagged WR Anthony Hancock of Tennessee with the 11th pick. New Orleans took Georgia WR Lindsay Scott two choices later. It appeared that Tuttle would be available, but the Broncos, just ahead of Philadelphia in the 19th spot, traded the choice to Buffalo, and the Bills used it to take Tuttle.

Head Coach Dick Vermeil and the Eagles staff, disappointed at losing out on Tuttle, settled on WR Mike Quick from North Carolina State. To be sure, Quick had size (6’2”, 185 pounds) and was known as a good blocker, but was considered too slow.

“We actually were ready to pick Tuttle, but Denver made that trade and Buffalo got him,”
Vermeil said. “We are satisfied. We rated him (Quick) the third best wide receiver in the draft.”

“He's a big kid, very tough, and mature,” Vermeil added. “I think he can come in the first year and make a contribution.”

The contribution did not come quite so soon as Quick had a quiet rookie year in the strike-shortened ’82 season, catching 10 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown while playing behind the 33-year-old veteran Harold Carmichael and Ron Smith. The Eagles, who had gone to the Super Bowl two years before, suffered through a difficult 3-6 campaign and Vermeil resigned afterward.

It was a very different story for Quick in 1983, as he moved into the starting lineup across from Carmichael. He caught 69 passes for a league-leading 1409 yards and 13 touchdowns, and was a consensus first-team All-Pro as well as Pro Bowl selection. He had six 100-yard receiving games, including four straight early in the season. What he lacked in speed, Quick made up for in his ability to catch in traffic and run well after getting the ball. The young wide receiver’s performance was a highlight for a team that lost nine of its last 10 games to finish at 5-11 while also embroiled in front office instability.

Better things were hoped for in 1984, especially with the aging Carmichael let go to make room for another first round wide receiver, Kenny Jackson of Penn State. However, both receivers encountered injury problems, although Quick recovered to grab 61 passes for 1052 yards and nine touchdowns. Jackson, who failed to live up to expectations, had just 26 catches for 398 yards and a TD.

The Eagles were a losing team from 1983 to ‘87, but Quick continued to perform well. During that period, he scored more touchdowns (53) than any other NFL receiver and had the third-most receiving yards (5437). He went to five consecutive Pro Bowls and was again a consensus first-team All-NFL selection in 1985. The league-leading yardage total of ’83 remained his career high, but was the first of three straight thousand-yard receiving totals for Quick, who caught a career-high 73 passes in ’85. His 99-yard touchdown on a slant pass from QB Ron Jaworski in 1985 tied the unbreakable NFL record and won a game against the Falcons in overtime.

Unfortunately, at the point that the Eagles were beginning to develop into a winning team again under Head Coach Buddy Ryan, Quick suffered injuries that greatly hindered his performance and ultimately forced his retirement following the 1990 season.

Five weeks into the ’88 season, in the process of making a difficult catch against the Houston Oilers, Quick suffered a broken leg that sidelined him for eight weeks. In 1989, a knee injury in the sixth game finished him for the year. In his last season, he appeared in just four games and caught 9 passes for 135 yards and one last touchdown.

Over the course of his career, Quick easily justified his first round selection in 1982. He caught a total of 363 passes for 6464 yards (17.8 avg.) and 61 TDs.

As for the receivers chosen ahead of Quick in ’82, Anthony Hancock lasted five years, returned kicks, and caught a total of 73 passes for 1266 yards and five touchdowns. Lindsay Scott stayed with the Saints for four seasons and ended up with 69 receptions for 864 yards and a score. Perry Tuttle, the receiver the Eagles had really wanted, played for three years and had 25 catches for 375 yards and three TDs.

The player that the Eagles had settled on in the first round proved far better than those rated higher at his position – one of many examples of the surprises that regularly occur in the NFL draft process.

April 25, 2011

Past Venue: Forbes Field

Pittsburgh, PA



Year opened: 1909
Capacity: 41,000, up from 23,000 at opening

Names:
Forbes Field, 1909-71

Pro football tenants:
Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers (NFL), 1933-63
Pittsburgh Americans (AFL), 1936-37

Postseason games hosted:
NFL Eastern Division playoff, Eagles 21 Steelers 0, Dec. 21, 1947

Other tenants of note:
Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB – NL), 1909-70
University of Pittsburgh (college football), 1909-24
Homestead Grays (baseball Negro Leagues), 1922-39
Pittsburgh Phantoms (NPSL), 1967

Notes: Hosted some home games of combined Phil-Pitt team (“Steagles”, 1943) and Card-Pitt team (1944). The Steelers began splitting home games between Forbes Field and the Univ. of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Stadium in 1958 before moving to Pitt Stadium exclusively in 1964. Stadium was bought by Univ. of Pittsburgh in 1958, with university agreeing to lease to the Pirates until a new stadium was built.

Fate: Demolished in 1971, the site contains the Forbes Quadrangle, a library and dormitories for the Univ. of Pittsburgh. Home plate remains on display in its exact location in what is now first floor walkway of Forbes Quadrangle and a portion of the left field wall still stands.

April 24, 2011

1987: Bucs Trade Steve Young to 49ers


Coming off of a second straight 2-14 record in 1986, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the first overall choice in the NFL draft and came to terms with QB Vinny Testaverde, the Heisman Trophy-winner out of the University of Miami, ahead of time. Three weeks later, on April 24, 1987, with the draft coming up in a matter of days, the Bucs traded QB Steve Young to the San Francisco 49ers for two picks (second and fourth round) and an unspecified amount of cash (reportedly enough to cover Young’s 1985 signing bonus).

The southpaw Young had been a college star in his own right at Brigham Young (he was a direct descendant of the namesake) and signed a huge 10-year, $40 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Express in the United States Football League. He played well for a mediocre team, and with the USFL on hiatus following the spring ’85 season, bought himself out of the big contract. Two days into the 1985 NFL season, he joined the Buccaneers, who had taken him in the first round of the ’84 supplemental draft.

After quarterbacking a subpar USFL team, Young found himself in an even worse situation in Tampa Bay. He took over for the veteran Steve DeBerg as the starting QB after the team got off to a 1-10 start in ’85 and completed 52.2 percent of his passes for 935 yards with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. With his outstanding mobility, Young also rushed for 233 yards and a TD on 40 carries (5.8 avg.). In his third start at Minnesota, he had a rough outing, completing just 13 of 32 passes, three of which were intercepted. But he passed for over 200 yards in each of the last two games, including 277 in a three-point loss to the Packers (his high with the Bucs).

Young lost the starting job back to DeBerg during the ’86 preseason but got it back after the veteran tossed nine interceptions in the first two regular season games. He had five 200-yard passing performances, was never intercepted more than twice in any contest, and ran for two touchdowns in a win over Buffalo. In all, Young started 19 games in two seasons with Tampa Bay, completing 267 of 501 passes for 3217 yards and 11 touchdowns, as opposed to 21 interceptions. He also ran the ball 114 times for 658 yards and six touchdowns. The team went just 3-16 in his starts, but there were far too many weaknesses on the club that the promising young quarterback couldn’t overcome.

Meanwhile, the 49ers were looking for someone to back up star QB Joe Montana, who would be 31 years old by the start of the ’87 season and had been sidelined for part of 1986 with a back injury that required surgery. While he amazingly missed only eight weeks, his passes lacked the usual velocity when he came back, his running ability was hindered, and he was knocked out of a playoff loss to the Giants with a concussion.

“We think that Steve's style of play will fit into our system and he will be able to display his vast talents,” San Francisco Head Coach Bill Walsh said. “This move is not a reflection on Joe Montana. We fully expect Joe to continue as the leader and mainstay of our team,” Walsh added.

“I'm pretty excited,” Young said in reaction to the deal. “There are a lot of plusses for me. First, playing in the city itself. The town's 49er-crazy. And playing for Coach Walsh. He's obviously a genius in coaching quarterbacks. Being around a legend
like Joe Montana will help me.”

For the next four years, those initial sentiments were tested as an increasingly-impatient Young backed up Montana, who returned to form and led San Francisco to back-to-back NFL titles in 1988 and ’89. He did get to start ten games, and the talented 49ers went 7-3 under Young’s direction. Young threw 23 touchdowns to just six interceptions during that period, and his spectacular 49-yard touchdown carry that pulled out a win over the Vikings in a 1988 contest not only became an often-replayed highlight, but served as a reminder of the outstanding running ability that complemented his passing.

Following an injury to Montana in the 1990 postseason that required surgery and effectively kept him off the field for the next two seasons, Young got his chance to start regularly. There were questions about his discipline in the pocket and whether he fit in San Francisco’s offensive scheme, and he missed time due to injury. The club went just 5-5 during his starts in ‘91 (as opposed to 5-1 under backup Steve Bono), but Young won his first NFL passing title with a 101.8 rating.

It was the first of four straight passing championships, and six in seven years, and Young received NFL MVP recognition in both 1992 and ’94 while also garnering selection to seven consecutive Pro Bowls from ’92 to ’98. The 49ers also won the Super Bowl following the 1994 season, thus relieving him of the inevitable pressure that came with succeeding Montana and his four championships. There was tumult and retooling along the way, but Young rose to the occasion as he also displayed toughness, such as overcoming a broken thumb early in ’93 that hindered his performance. He played until the 1999 season and retired with a 96.8 career passer rating (101.4 in 13 years with the Niners) and 4239 rushing yards in the NFL. In 2005, he joined Montana (who finished out his career in Kansas City) as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Vinny Testaverde had a far more difficult time in Tampa Bay, lasting six seasons before being dealt to Cleveland and throwing 112 interceptions (twice leading the league in that category) as opposed to 77 TDs. He would go on to play a total of 21 years in the NFL, and while he often showed off the ability that made him a first-overall draft choice, he also remained inconsistent and pickoff-prone.

The two draft picks obtained from the 49ers were used to take LB Winston Moss from Miami and Arizona State WR Bruce Hill. Moss moved into the starting lineup during his rookie season and stayed there for four years before moving on to the Raiders. Hill played five years, all with the Bucs, and caught 58 passes for 1040 yards and nine touchdowns in 1988. He worked out well in combination with another 1987 rookie, WR Mark Carrier, but tended to drop too many passes and his numbers progressively diminished after his good second season.

The 49ers had been strong throughout the decade of the 1980s and would remain so with Young at the helm in the ‘90s. Tampa Bay continued to flounder, despite the efforts of coaches, including Ray Perkins (newly arrived in 1987, who traded Young and made other deals in an effort to stockpile draft choices), to turn the franchise around. It would not be until the arrival of Tony Dungy as head coach in 1996 that the team’s fortunes would begin to change for the better.

April 23, 2011

MVP Profile: Thurman Thomas, 1991

Running Back, Buffalo Bills



Age: 25
4th season in pro football & with Bills
College: Oklahoma State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 198

Prelude:
Drafted in the second round by Buffalo in 1988, Thomas led the NFL in total yardage in 1989 and ’90 (as he would in 1991), had over 1200 yards rushing (1244 & 1297), and was named to the Pro Bowl in both seasons as well. He also had a high of 60 catches for 669 yards in 1989. Thomas was a consensus first-team All-Pro in 1990 and performed well in the narrow Super Bowl loss to the Giants following that season.

1991 Season Summary
Appeared and started in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 288 [3]
Most attempts, game - 32 (for 126 yds.) vs. New England 11/3
Yards – 1407 [3, 1st in AFC]
Most yards, game – 165 yards (on 25 carries) vs. Miami 9/1
Average gain – 4.9 [3]
TDs – 7 [12, tied with Reggie Cobb & Vince Workman]
100-yard rushing games - 8

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 62
Most receptions, game – 13 (for 112 yds.) at NY Jets 9/15
Yards – 631
Most yards, game - 112 (on 13 catches) at NY Jets 9/15
Average gain – 10.2
TDs – 5
100-yard receiving games - 2

All-purpose yards - 2038 [1]

Scoring
TDs – 12 [4, tied with Mark Clayton & Andre Rison]
Points – 72

Postseason: 3 G
Rushing attempts – 58
Most rushing attempts, game - 26 vs. Denver, AFC Championship
Rushing yards – 185
Most rushing yards, game - 100 vs. Kansas City, AFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – 3.2
Rushing TDs – 1

Pass receptions – 11
Most pass receptions, game - 4 vs. Kansas City, AFC Divisional playoff, vs. Washington, Super Bowl
Pass receiving yards - 63
Most pass receiving yards, game - 27 vs. Washington, Super Bowl
Average yards per reception – 5.7
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, NEA, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Bills went 13-3 to win AFC East while leading the league in rushing (2381 yards) and touchdowns (58). They repeated as conference champions by winning a Divisional playoff over the Kansas City Chiefs (37-14) and AFC Championship over the Denver Broncos (10-7), but again lost the Super Bowl, this time to the Washington Redskins (37-24).

Aftermath:
Thomas ran for a career-high 1487 yards in 1992 and led the NFL in total yards for the fourth straight year. He was named to the Pro Bowl following the ’92 and ’93 seasons, but while Thomas continued to run for over a thousand yards for the next five years, his average gain slipped under four yards per carry from 1993 to ’96 and his pass receiving production also began to drop off, with one 50-catch season after ’92 and his average gain falling consistently under 10 yards per reception. In 1997, his last full year as a starting RB, Thomas ended up with under a thousand yards (643) for the first time since his rookie season and totaled 533 yards and 29 catches in his last two years with the Bills (1998 and ’99). He spent one last year as a backup with Miami in 2000. Overall, Thomas ran for 12,074 yards, caught 472 passes for 4458 more yards, and scored 88 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2007.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]

April 21, 2011

Past Venue: Baker Bowl

Philadelphia, PA



Year opened: 1887
Capacity: 18,800

Names:
Huntingdon Grounds, 1895-1913
Baker Bowl, 1913-50 (unofficial)
aka National League Park, 1895-1938 (official)
Also at various times referred to as Philadelphia Base Ball Park and Phillies Ball Park

Pro football tenants:
Frankford Yellow Jackets (NFL), 1931
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL), 1933-35

Postseason games hosted:
None

Other tenants of note:
Philadelphia Phillies (MLB – NL), 1887-1938

Notes: Extra seating was added for football when the Eagles moved in. The stadium was owned by major league baseball’s Phillies and was named for a one-time owner of that club, William F. Baker. Also used for bicycle racing and for a time contained a banked track for that purpose. Tragic mishaps occurred in 1903, when a section of the left field balcony collapsed onto the street below, killing 12 and injuring over 200, and 1927 when a section of the grandstand collapsed, causing some 50 injuries. After Phillies left for Shibe Park, upper deck was removed and stadium was used for midget car racing, ice skating, and other sports.

Fate: Demolished in 1950, the site is now occupied by a bus maintenance facility for the Philadelphia School District.

April 20, 2011

1990: Colts Trade Rison & Hinton to Falcons to Draft Jeff George


On April 20, 1990, two days before the NFL draft commenced, the Atlanta Falcons (a 3-13 club in ’89) traded the first overall pick and a fourth-round draft choice to the Indianapolis Colts for OT Chris Hinton, WR Andre Rison, and two draft picks (fifth round in 1990, first round in ’91). The deal was contingent upon the Colts reaching a contract agreement with Illinois QB Jeff George, which they accomplished at 5:30 that morning following an all-night bargaining session.

George (pictured above), an Indianapolis native, signed a six-year, $15 million contract that included a $3.5 million signing bonus. The package made him the third-highest-paid quarterback in the league without playing a down as a pro, behind Buffalo’s Jim Kelly and Randall Cunningham of Philadelphia (and ahead of such notable veteran quarterbacks as Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway).

While many Colts fans objected to the deal, General Manager Jim Irsay made clear his commitment to it. “Obviously, we feel that this trade will prove to be very significant for this organization,” he said. “Our position is, let's let time decide.”

The price was very steep. Hinton had been selected to the Pro Bowl six times since joining the Colts in 1983 when they were still in Baltimore – ironically, they obtained him from the Broncos as part of the deal that sent the draft rights to QB John Elway to Denver. Rison was the team’s top draft choice in 1989 and showed great promise during his rookie season, catching 52 passes for 820 yards.

“I'm an action guy. This is just an ideal place for me. I expect a lot of great things are going to happen for me and Indianapolis in the next year,” the confident George said. He had passed for 2932 yards and 22 touchdowns in his last season at Illinois. His college career had started at Purdue, but when the head coach was fired, he transferred to Illinois (after initially committing to Miami). George passed up his last year of college eligibility to enter the draft. While he had ideal size at 6’4” and 218 pounds, and there was no question as to his athletic ability, the lack of stability during his college career raised some questions.

Indianapolis had two veteran quarterbacks on the roster, Chris Chandler, who started as a rookie in 1988 but went down with a knee injury in ’89, and Jack Trudeau, who also played collegiately at Illinois. Head Coach Ron Meyer indicated that one of them would likely be dealt (it was Chandler, to Tampa Bay).

It looked as though the Colts had made the right decision during the second half of the ’90 season. After getting off to a 2-6 start (not helped by star RB Eric Dickerson being suspended for the first five games), Indianapolis won five of the remaining eight games with George starting at quarterback and playing well. In the five wins, he threw for 1070 yards with 10 touchdowns and only one picked off, and overall for the year totaled 2152 yards with more TD passes (16) than interceptions (13).

However, it was all down hill from there. The team collapsed to 1-15 in 1991 and Meyer was replaced as head coach by Ted Marchibroda – a move that was anticipated as being one that would spur George’s progress. The team’s record improved, but for all of his ability, George was highly erratic (not helped by the lack of a strong ground game once Dickerson departed plus poor pass protection) as well as prone to complain, a poor leader, and resistant to being coached. By his fourth year (1993), he was at odds with Marchibroda, his teammates, and the fans and the offense often seemed more effective when Trudeau was behind center. George was traded after the season – ironically enough, to the Falcons.


As for Atlanta, trading the first overall pick in 1990 had worked out well. Rison (pictured at left) proved to be an excellent fit in new Head Coach Jerry Glanville’s run-and-shoot passing offense. He set a new team record with 82 pass receptions while accumulating 1208 yards and 10 touchdowns and was a consensus first-team All-Pro. Hinton started off slowly due to a contract holdout, but was back in good form by midseason and part of an improved offensive line. However, the fifth-round draft choice obtained from the Colts was used to take Reggie Redding, a tight end from Cal State-Fullerton who was converted to offensive tackle and had a short and inconsequential career.

The Falcons were back in the postseason in 1991 with a 10-6 record and Rison put together another Pro Bowl season (81 catches, 976 yards, 12 TDs). The first-round draft choice for ’91 that had been picked up from the Colts was used to take WR Mike Pritchard, who contributed 50 receptions for 624 yards as the Falcons boasted an exciting passing offense. Hinton was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl after the season.


The team’s fortunes ultimately declined again, but in five years in Atlanta, Rison caught 423 passes for 5633 yards and 56 touchdowns (he led the NFL in TD receptions with 15 in 1993, when he also gained a career-high 1242 yards; his high for catches was 93 in 1992). Hinton played four years with the Falcons and was a consensus first-team All-Pro selection in 1993. In three seasons before moving on to Denver, Pritchard caught 201 passes for 2187 yards (10.9 avg.) and 10 TDs.

Jeff George never achieved the level of success that was anticipated when he came into the NFL. Despite a strong arm and quick release, good performances were all-too-frequently followed by ineffectiveness and controversy, and the stops along the way over the course of his NFL career became progressively shorter. Two productive years in Atlanta were followed by his being suspended during the ’96 season after a nationally-televised tirade directed at Head Coach June Jones; from there it was on to two years in Oakland (where he led the NFL with 3917 passing yards in 1997, but didn’t fit into new Head Coach Jon Gruden’s West Coast-style offense in ‘98), a season with the Vikings, and two in Washington (where he became a source of friction between owner Dan Snyder and head coaches Norv Turner and Marty Schottenheimer). Efforts at staging a comeback in the ensuing years went nowhere.

To be sure, the quarterback crop in 1990 had not been a strong one – only one other was taken in the first round, and it was Heisman Trophy-winner Andre Ware out of Houston, chosen by Detroit with the seventh pick and a complete bust as a pro. The only signal-callers of consequence taken in that entire draft were Neil O’Donnell (chosen by Pittsburgh, third round), Scott Mitchell (fourth round by the Dolphins), and John Friesz (sixth round, San Diego). On the other hand, outstanding players at other positions selected in the first round that year included DT Cortez Kennedy (Seattle), LB Junior Seau (San Diego), and RB Emmitt Smith (Dallas). The fourth round draft pick that the Colts obtained from Atlanta went for WR Stacey Simmons out of Florida, who played just one year as a kick returner.

April 19, 2011

MVP Profile: Terry Bradshaw, 1978

Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers



Age: 30
9th season in pro football & with Steelers
College: Louisiana Tech
Height: 6’3” Weight: 215

Prelude:
The first overall pick by the Steelers in 1970, Bradshaw took time to develop. In his fifth season (1974), he lost his starting job early to Joe Gilliam but got it back and led Pittsburgh to the first championship in franchise history. With a solid hold on the starting job, he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 1975 as the Steelers won a second straight Super Bowl. Following an injury-plagued 1976 season, he came back in ’77 to achieve a new high with 2523 passing yards while leading the NFL with 8.0 yards per attempt.

1978 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 368 [13, tied with Dan Pastorini]
Most attempts, game – 33 vs. Seattle 9/10, vs. Houston 10/23
Completions – 207 [10]
Most completions, game – 17 vs. Seattle 9/10, at NY Jets 10/1, vs. Houston 10/23
Yards – 2915 [9]
Most yards, game – 242 at Cincinnati 9/17
Completion percentage – 56.3 [7]
Yards per attempt – 7.9 [1]
TD passes – 28 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 3 at NY Jets 10/1, at San Francisco 11/27, vs. Baltimore 12/9
Interceptions – 20 [8, tied with Dan Fouts & Jim Zorn]
Most interceptions, game – 4 vs. Cincinnati 11/19
Passer rating – 84.7 [2, 1st in AFC]
200-yard passing games – 8

Rushing
Attempts – 32
Most attempts, game - 6 (for 6 yds.) at San Francisco 11/27
Yards – 93
Most yards, game – 27 yards (on 2 carries) vs. Cleveland 9/24
Yards per attempt – 2.9
TDs – 1

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points - 6

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 78
Most attempts, game - 30 vs. Dallas, Super Bowl
Pass completions – 44
Most completions, game - 17 vs. Dallas, Super Bowl
Passing yardage – 790
Most yards, game - 318 vs. Dallas, Super Bowl
TD passes – 8
Most TD passes, game - 4 vs. Dallas, Super Bowl
Interceptions – 4
Most interceptions, game - 2 vs. Houston, AFC Championship

Rushing attempts – 11
Most rushing attempts, game - 7 vs. Houston, AFC Championship
Rushing yards – 28
Most rushing yards, game - 29 vs. Houston, AFC Championship
Average gain rushing – 2.6
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, Bert Bell Award
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFL: NEA
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Steelers went 14-2 to win AFC Central. Won Divisional playoff over Denver Broncos (33-10), AFC Championship over Houston Oilers (34-5), and Super Bowl over Dallas Cowboys (35-31).

Aftermath:
Bradshaw had a Pro Bowl season in 1979, throwing for a career-high 3724 yards and leading the Steelers to another NFL title. While there were no more championships, Bradshaw played well from 1980 to ’82, but a severe elbow injury limited him to the season finale in 1983, and he was forced to retire. For his career, he passed for 27,989 yards and 212 TDs, but most significantly had a 107-51 record as a starting quarterback (as well as 14-5 in the postseason, 4-0 in the Super Bowl). Bradshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1989.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]

April 18, 2011

Past Venue: Frank Youell Field

Oakland, CA



Year opened: 1962
Capacity: 22,000

Names:
Frank Youell Field, 1962-69

Pro football tenants:
Oakland Raiders (AFL), 1962-65

Postseason games hosted:
None

Other tenants of note:
None

Notes: Hosted Alameda-Contra Costa All-Star Football Classic (high school), 1967-68. Stadium was constructed by the Oakland Recreation Commission as a temporary home for the Raiders until the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum was completed. Named for Francis J. Youell, a city council member and prominent local sports booster.

Fate: Demolished in 1969, the site is now a parking lot for Laney Community College.

April 17, 2011

1963: Commissioner Suspends Hornung & Karras for Gambling


On April 17, 1963 the Commissioner of the National Football League, Pete Rozelle, announced several actions resulting from a three-and-a-half month investigation by the league into gambling involvement by players. The most noteworthy step taken by the Commissioner was to indefinitely suspend HB/PK Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers (pictured at right) and DT Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions. He also fined five other members of the Lions $2000 apiece for betting on the 1962 NFL title game and the Lions organization was penalized $4000.

The suspensions created headlines due to the prominence of the players involved. Hornung, a former Heisman Trophy winner out of Notre Dame, had led the league in scoring for three straight years (1959-61), including the 1960 season when he set a record of 176 points (it would last until 2006). He received MVP recognition in 1961 as the Packers won their first of two straight championships. While had had missed time in ’62 due to injuries, the Golden Boy was a popular player known for his fun-loving nature and enjoyment of the night life while also being talented on the football field. Karras, a five-year pro out of Iowa, was one of the mainstays of the outstanding defense in Detroit and had been selected for the Pro Bowl for the third straight season in 1962, also receiving consensus first-team All-Pro honors in 1960 and ’61.

Newspaper rumors had first surfaced in January, leaked by Chicago owner/head coach George Halas, indicating that the league was looking into allegations of gambling involving a player on a Midwestern team. Austin Gunsel, formerly of the FBI and now treasurer of the NFL, had begun coordinating the investigation a month before as a result of a large number of rumors involving players associating with gamblers. The 16 agents retained by the league were used to conduct the probe, and 50 players were interviewed with several undergoing lie detector tests.

Rozelle indicated that no evidence of fixes of games had been found as a result of the investigation (“There is no evidence that any NFL player has given less than his best in playing any game. There is no evidence that any player has ever bet against his own team.”). However, he made clear that gambling or association with suspicious characters would not be tolerated, and beyond those specifically named, the Commissioner indicated that several players had been reprimanded for making small wagers among friends and playing one-dollar betting cards.

Hornung and Karras were accused of betting typically in the $50 to $200 range on NFL games. Rozelle said that Karras had placed at least six bets since 1958 of $50 each until upping the amount to $100 on the Lions to beat the Packers in the 1962 Thanksgiving Day game and on the Packers to beat the Giants in the NFL Championship game. As to Hornung, the Commissioner indicated that he had placed several bets through a friend on the West Coast over the course of his career.

Detroit players fined $2000 apiece were star linebackers Joe Schmidt and Wayne Walker, G John Gordy, S Gary Lowe, and DE Sam Williams. Rozelle had concluded that they were each guilty of a single violation of the league’s gambling policy (“basically a group action, an action of extremely rash judgment but one abnormal for each”). The levy amounted to approximately one-sixth of their salaries.


Hornung was subdued and humble afterward, admitting his guilt. “I did wrong. I should be penalized. I just have to stay with it.” Karras, by contrast, expressed outrage (he allegedly shouted at Rozelle during the phone call notifying him of the suspension). “It comes as a shock to me,” he stated. “I haven’t done anything I am ashamed of and I am not guilty of anything.” (Karras, pictured at left, had not helped his situation by admitting in a broadcast interview that he had bet on NFL games)

The owners stood behind Rozelle’s action, although William Clay Ford of the Lions indicated that, while the team would comply, “compliance does not mean that we agree with the nature or extent of the penalties imposed.”

Both the American Football League and Canadian Football League confirmed that Hornung and Karras would not be allowed to play in either while under suspension by the NFL. “Under no circumstances will they be permitted to play in the American Football League until after suspensions are lifted,” said AFL Commissioner Joe Foss. Sidney Halter, CFL commissioner, stated that “I would refuse to register any contract submitted by a CFL club with a player suspended by an American league for betting on games.”

While the suspensions of Hornung and Karras were indefinite, Rozelle indicated that they could be reviewed, although no earlier than the conclusion of the 1963 season. The initial reactions of the two players carried over into their behavior over the course of the ensuing year. Hornung remained contrite and kept in contact with the league office, clearing his activities (such as attending the Kentucky Derby) and seeking a path toward reinstatement. Karras remained defiant and refused to sell the interest that he had in a bar, Lindell’s A.C. Cocktail Lounge, that had first drawn the attention of the Detroit police to the defensive tackle’s association with known gamblers (the Lions were fined for not adequately following up on the reports they had received from the police, and for allowing unauthorized individuals who were suspected gamblers, including one of Karras’ partners in the business, to sit on the team’s bench during games).

In early January of 1964, Karras, concerned about his chances of being reinstated, finally sold his interest in the bar. Both he and Hornung were reinstated by Commissioner Rozelle for the 1964 NFL season. The year away from the game showed in the performances of both when they returned. Hornung had particular problems with his placekicking in ’64, and Karras, who had dropped twenty pounds from his usual playing weight, had a somewhat less stellar season than usual.

Both players did bounce back to some degree. Karras had an All-Pro season in 1965 and played through ’70, finally being released late in the 1971 preseason. Hornung showed flashes of his old form, including a five-touchdown performance in a 1965 showdown against the Baltimore Colts on the way to Green Bay regaining the NFL title. The Golden Boy played through the ’66 season and was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the 1967 expansion draft, but retired during training camp.

April 16, 2011

1983: Invaders Roll Up Yards, But Bryant & Stars Prevail


The Philadelphia Stars were off to a 5-1 start in the inaugural United States Football League season as they faced the Oakland Invaders at Veterans Stadium on April 16, 1983. Under the direction of Head Coach Jim Mora, the Stars boasted a stingy defense and a ground-oriented offense that featured rookie RB Kelvin Bryant (pictured above). The Invaders, coached by John Ralston, were 3-3, but that made them contenders in the Pacific Division as, entering Week 7, all of the teams had identical records. Two ex-Raiders, RB Arthur Whittington and TE Raymond Chester, were key players on the offense, as was QB Fred Besana, a former minor league star.

There were 34,901 fans in attendance for the Saturday game at the Vet. For much of the first half, they saw Oakland outplay the Stars, but fail to score points. Bryant, who had been held to under a hundred yards in the previous two games as he played with a bruised sternum, was held to three yards in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Oakland ran up 215 yards of offense in the first half, yet came up empty. Within inches of a touchdown on one first quarter possession, FB Jairo Penaranda fumbled into the end zone and CB Antonio Gibson recovered for the Stars. In addition, PK Kevin Shea missed two field goal attempts, of 46 and 42 yards, to stifle scoring opportunities.

Deep into the second quarter, Philadelphia’s offense had generated just one first down and was being kept in check. However, that all changed when Bryant took a handoff in his own territory, appeared to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage near the sideline, but then broke a tackle and reversed field. 45 yards later he was pulled down at the Oakland 25, setting up a 39-yard field goal by David Trout for the first score of the game.

Following the Trout field goal, the Stars got the ball back quickly when safety Mike Lush intercepted a Besana pass and returned it 33 yards. Bryant again made a big play with less than two minutes remaining in the half, running for a 37-yard touchdown, and Philadelphia went into halftime with a 10-0 lead. Bryant, thanks to the two long runs, gained 99 yards rushing in the second quarter alone.

Near the end of the third quarter, Besana threw to WR Wyatt Henderson for an eight-yard TD, the first touchdown the Stars defense had allowed in three weeks (they had surrendered just six points in their previous two games combined). However, Philadelphia put the game away in the fourth quarter when QB Chuck Fusina connected with WR Tom Donovan for an 18-yard touchdown. The defense kept Oakland in check the rest of the way and the final score was 17-7.

The Invaders outgained Philadelphia (339 yards to 270) and generated far more first downs (23 to 12). But they failed to score points when they had the opportunity and turned the ball over three times (the Stars suffered no turnovers at all).

Kelvin Bryant gained 118 yards on 14 carries that included one touchdown. Chuck Fusina completed 9 of 16 passes for 146 yards with a TD and no interceptions. Bryant, WR Willie Collier, and FB Booker Russell each caught two passes, with Collier’s 57 yards leading the club.

For Oakland, Fred Besana was successful on 26 of 42 throws for 271 yards and included a touchdown, but two were picked off. Arthur Whittington gained 89 yards rushing on 27 attempts. Raymond Chester caught 6 passes for 51 yards while Wyatt Henderson accumulated 78 yards on five receptions and scored the team’s lone TD.

“I’ve never been around a defense that comes through like these guys, week after week after week,” said Coach Mora. “They bend, but they don’t break.”

A disappointed Fred Besana said afterward, “It’s the same old story, we drive up and down the field, then we have breakdown after breakdown.”

The Stars continued on to a 15-3 record, winning the Atlantic Division, and advanced to the USFL Championship game, which they lost in a close 24-22 contest against the Michigan Panthers. The Invaders finished first in the Pacific Division with a mediocre 9-9 tally and lost to the Panthers in the Semifinal playoff round.

Kelvin Bryant was leading the league in rushing after the win over Oakland with 713 yards. He ultimately ended up as the runner-up to New Jersey’s Herschel Walker with 1442 yards on 318 carries (4.5 avg.) and was named MVP by the league.

April 15, 2011

MVP Profile: Y.A. Tittle, 1957

Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers



Age: 31 (Oct. 24)
10th season in pro football, 8th in NFL and 7th with 49ers
College: LSU
Height: 6’0” Weight: 190

Prelude:
While drafted by the NFL’s Detroit Lions in 1948, Tittle instead signed with the Baltimore Colts of the AAFC. He had an immediate impact, leading the league in yards per attempt (8.7) and throwing for 16 TDs against 9 interceptions. After another year in the AAFC, Tittle and the Colts joined the NFL in 1950, and he led the league in pass completions (161) although the team went a dismal 1-11 and folded. Picked up by the 49ers in ’51, he gradually took over from Frankie Albert as the starting quarterback and was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1953 and ’54 seasons.

1957 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 279 [3]
Most attempts, game - 34 vs. Baltimore 12/8
Completions – 176 [1]
Most completions, game - 24 at Baltimore 11/24
Yards – 2157 [2]
Most yards, game - 295 at Baltimore 11/24
Completion percentage – 63.1 [1]
Yards per attempt – 7.7 [5]
TD passes – 13 [3]
Most TD passes, game – 3 vs. LA Rams 10/6
Interceptions – 15 [4, tied with Lamar McHan]
Passer rating – 80.0 [3]
200-yard passing games - 4

Rushing
Attempts – 40
Yards – 220
Yards per attempt – 5.5
TDs – 6

Points
TDs - 6
Points – 36 [19, tied with ten others]

Postseason: 1 G (Western Conference playoff vs. Detroit)
Pass attempts – 31
Pass completions – 18
Passing yards – 248
TD passes – 3
Interceptions – 3

Rushing attempts – 3
Rushing yards – -12
Average gain rushing – -4.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: UPI
1st team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News, Sporting News
2nd team All-NFL: NEA
Pro Bowl

49ers went 8-4 to tie for first place in the NFL Western Conference. Lost playoff to Detroit Lions (31-27).

Aftermath:
Tittle suffered through an injury-plagued season in 1958 and, and while he bounced back with a Pro Bowl year in ’59, by ’60 found himself in competition with the up-and-coming John Brodie. With Head Coach Red Hickey committing to a shotgun offense for 1961, Tittle was dealt to the New York Giants in the preseason. He revived his career in New York, receiving MVP, All-Pro, and Pro Bowl recognition after each of the next three seasons and tossing over 30 TDs (33 and 36) in back-to-back years in 1962 and ’63. The Giants won the Eastern Conference in all three, but came up short in the title games after each. The team collapsed in 1964, Tittle’s last season. He retired as NFL career leader in pass attempts (3817), completions (2118), and yards (28,339) and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1971.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 2/21/17]

April 14, 2011

1984: Young & Townsell Star as LA Defeats Showboats


The Los Angeles Express had been among the least-productive teams offensively during the United States Football League’s first season in 1983, and the club was not doing much better early in ’84. However, the arrival of rookie QB Steve Young, who had signed a huge contract to play in the USFL (10 years, $40 million), marked a change for the better.

On April 14, the Express hosted the first-year Memphis Showboats at the Memorial Coliseum. Under Head Coach John Hadl, they had lost their first four home games and were 2-5 coming into the contest. The team at least changed their appearance for the home fans, playing in white jerseys rather than the usual blue.

There were only 10,409 in attendance for the Saturday game at the huge stadium, and it did not get off to a promising start for the home team when Memphis WR Derrick Crawford returned the opening kickoff 71 yards. The Showboats, also 2-5 entering the contest, made the most of the good field position, driving to a touchdown on an eight-yard run by QB Walter Lewis.

Later in the first quarter, the Express got a big break when an underthrown pass by Young went through the hands of CB Leon Williams; WR JoJo Townsell made the catch and went all the way for an 81-yard touchdown that tied the game.

A minute into the second quarter, LA extended its lead when RB Kevin Nelson scored on a five-yard TD carry. Midway through the period, Alan Duncan kicked a 31-yard field goal for Memphis and the Express led by 14-10 at the half.

The Showboats were being outgained offensively, but nevertheless took the lead at 17-14 in the third quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by RB Cornelius Quarles, and it seemed as though Los Angeles might come up short once again.

With four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Memphis had the ball and was seeking to run time off the clock and possibly score again. However, a 30-yard carry by RB Alan Reid was wiped out by a holding penalty and the Showboats were forced to give up possession. The Express took over at their 34 with 1:58 remaining.

Young drove the team down field and appeared to have given LA the advantage on a 12-yard scoring run with just 59 seconds left on the clock. However, the end zone celebration was cut short by a penalty on the team’s oldest player, 30-year-old RT Jeff Hart, who was called for holding. Nelson followed up with a 10-yard run to the Memphis 12 and Tony Zendejas tied the game at 17-17 on a 27-yard field goal with a second remaining.

The Showboats won the toss for the overtime period, but four plays into OT, Express CB Wymon Henderson forced a fumble on an attempted option pass by Crawford and LB David Howard recovered for LA at the Memphis 36. A pass from Young to Townsell, who got an outstanding block from tackle Gary Zimmerman, covered 34 yards to the Memphis two. Young scored the game-winning touchdown at 2:51 into overtime, pushing between C Mike Ruether and G Mike Durrette to get into the end zone. The final score was 23-17 in favor of the Express.

The Express easily outgained Memphis (527 yards to 255) and had far more first downs (26 to 11), but untimely penalties and turnovers had kept the score close and nearly cost LA the game.

Steve Young had his best performance to date. The rookie from Brigham Young threw for 358 yards as he completed 22 of 34 passes that included one TD while none were picked off. JoJo Townsell, the second-year receiver out of UCLA, was the chief beneficiary as he caught 9 of those passes for a league-record 249 yards and the long touchdown. Kevin Nelson, also a UCLA product, rushed for 113 yards on 21 carries, including a touchdown.


For Memphis, Walter Lewis completed 14 of 20 passes for 147 yards with no TDs or interceptions. Alan Reid ran for 81 yards on 18 attempts and added 55 yards on 5 catches out of the backfield. Derrick Crawford caught 6 passes for 21 yards while WR Cormac Carney had 57 yards on his lone reception.

“The only thing I can say is we did the same things we've been doing, but we won tonight,” said a relieved Coach John Hadl afterward. “Again, the kids showed a lot of character. We put ourselves in some bad situations again, but we came back.”

Behind Steve Young’s solid play, the Express ended up with a 10-8 record, good enough to place first (thanks to tiebreakers) in the weak Pacific Division. They won an epic triple-overtime Quarterfinal playoff game over the Michigan Panthers, but lost in the Western Conference Championship to the Arizona Wranglers. Memphis was 7-11 for fourth place in the Southern Division.

Appearing in twelve games, Young completed a healthy 57.7 percent of his passes and threw for 2361 yards with 10 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. He also rushed for 515 yards on 79 carries for a 6.5-yard average and seven TDs (Walter Lewis led all USFL quarterbacks in rushing with 552 yards). JoJo Townsell ended up with 58 catches for 889 yards (15.3 avg.), seven of which were for touchdowns.

April 13, 2011

Past Venue: Shea Stadium

New York, NY (Queens)



Year opened: 1964
Capacity: 62,439

Names:
William A. Shea Municipal Stadium, 1964-2009

Pro football tenants:
New York Jets (AFL/NFL), 1964-83
New York Giants (NFL), 1975

Postseason games hosted:
AFL Championship, Jets 27 Raiders 23, Dec. 29, 1968
AFL Divisional playoff, Chiefs 13 Jets 6, Dec. 20, 1969
AFC Wild Card playoff, Bills 31 Jets 27, Dec. 27, 1981

Other tenants of note:
New York Mets (MLB – NL), 1964-2008
New York Yankees (MLB – AL), 1974-75

Notes: Under terms of the lease negotiated with baseball’s Mets, prior to 1978 the Jets were unable to host their first home game at the stadium each year until the Mets had completed their season. In 1975, both of New York’s pro football teams and both major league baseball teams used the stadium as a home venue due to the major renovation of Yankee Stadium, but while the Yankees returned to the Bronx, the Giants were awaiting construction of a new stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Stadium named in honor of William A. Shea, the lawyer who negotiated the return of National League baseball to New York. Constructed at Flushing Meadow in Queens, which at the time of opening was the site of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, and at the time of ground-breaking was referred to as Flushing Meadow Park.

Fate: Demolished in 2009, the site is used as a parking lot for the new Citi Field.

April 12, 2011

MVP Profile: George Blanda, 1961

Quarterback/Placekicker, Houston Oilers



Age: 34 (Sept. 17)
12th season in pro football, 2nd in AFL & with Oilers
College: Kentucky
Height: 6’2” Weight: 210

Prelude:
Blanda was chosen by the Chicago Bears in the 12th round of the 1949 NFL draft and, with a very brief hiatus in Baltimore, played for them for ten years. He led the league in passing attempts (362) and completions (169) in 1953, but otherwise was forced to share the quarterback job while handling the placekicking. After two seasons (1957 & ’58) in which he saw scant action at quarterback, he retired. The creation of the new AFL in 1960 pulled Blanda out of retirement, and he led the Oilers to the first league title while throwing for 2413 yards and 24 touchdowns.

1961 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games & started 12
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 362 [4]
Most attempts, game – 36 at Dallas Texans 10/1
Completions – 187 [3]
Most completions, game – 20 vs. NY Titans 11/19, vs. San Diego 12/3
Yards – 3330 [1]
Most yards, game – 464 at Buffalo 10/29
Completion percentage – 51.7 [3]
Yards per attempt – 9.2 [1]
TD passes – 36 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 7 vs. NY Titans 11/19
Interceptions – 22 [3, tied with Jack Kemp & George Herring]
Most interceptions, game – 4 at San Diego 9/24, at Buffalo 10/29
Passer rating – 91.3 [1]
400-yard passing games – 2
300-yard passing games – 4
200-yard passing games – 10

Rushing
Attempts – 7
Most attempts, game - 3 (for -4 yds.) at Dallas Texans 10/1
Yards – 12
Most yards, game – 7 yards (on 1 carry) vs. San Diego 12/3
Yards per attempt – 1.7
TDs – 0

Kicking
Field goals – 16 [2]
Most field goals, game - 2 on 5 occasions
Field goal attempts – 26 [3, tied with George Fleming]
Most field goal attempts, game – 5 vs. Buffalo 10/8
Field goal percentage – 61.5 [1]
PATs – 64 [1]
PAT attempts – 65 [1]
Longest field goal – 55 yards vs. San Diego 12/3

Points
Field goals – 16
PATs - 64
Points – 112 [2]

Postseason: 1 G (AFL Championship at San Diego)
Pass attempts – 40
Pass completions – 18
Passing yards – 160
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 5

Rushing attempts – 2
Rushing yards – -4
Average gain rushing – -2.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Field goals – 1
Field goal attempts – 1
PATs – 1
PAT attempts – 1
Longest field goal – 46 yards

Awards & Honors:
AFL Player of the Year: AP, UPI, Sporting News
1st team All-AFL: League, AP, UPI, NY Daily News, Sporting News
AFL All-Star Game

Oilers went 10-3-1 to win the AFL Eastern Division. After starting off slowly at 1-3-1 (during which time Blanda was briefly benched in favor of backup Jacky Lee), Head Coach Lou Rymkus was replaced by Wally Lemm and the team won nine straight to close out the regular season. Set records for points scored (513) and touchdowns (66). Defeated San Diego Chargers for AFL Championship (10-3).

Aftermath:
Blanda was an AFL All-Star after each of the next two seasons and led the Oilers back to the AFL Championship game in ’62 despite being intercepted a record 42 times. He led the league in interceptions thrown for four straight years (1962-65), but also in passing yards in 1963 (3003) and both passes and completions from 1963-65. The team’s record had tailed off badly after ’62, however, and young QB Don Trull was drafted to be Blanda’s replacement. At age 39, Blanda was let go by Houston following the 1966 season and signed with the Oakland Raiders. He proved to be a capable backup quarterback – especially in a remarkable 1970 season when he again received MVP consideration – and placekicker for the Raiders through 1975, at age 48. Blanda retired as the all-time NFL leader in scoring (2002 points) and field goals (335), as well as seasons played (26 – the one that still stands), and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1981.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]

April 11, 2011

1960: Steelers Obtain John Henry Johnson From Lions


On April 11, 1960 the Detroit Lions traded FB John Henry Johnson to the team that originally drafted him, the Pittsburgh Steelers, for two draft choices (a 3rd round selection in 1961, used to pick OT Dick Mills from Pitt, and a 4th round selection in 1962 that went toward OT John Lomakoski of Western Michigan). As a 30-year-old running back whose production had diminished over the previous two seasons, it hardly seemed that obtaining Johnson was any sort of bargain for the Steelers.

“That’s the best we could get for him,” said Detroit Head Coach George Wilson. “We tried to make other deals but we had to settle for future draft picks.” (Neither Mills nor Lomakoski proved to be of consequence for the Lions).

After playing collegiately at little St. Mary’s College in California and - after that school dropped its football program - Arizona State, Johnson was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 1953, but never played for them (although they paid for a knee operation). He instead went to the Calgary Stampeders in Canada for a year before finally coming to the NFL in 1954 with the 49ers, who had dealt for his rights.

In San Francisco, Johnson was part of what was referred to as “The Million Dollar Backfield” along with HB Hugh McElhenny, FB Joe Perry, and QB Y.A. Tittle. It was an outstanding group, but it was also difficult for Johnson to get many carries with the other veteran backs that were available. He gained 681 yards on 129 carries (5.3 avg.) with nine touchdowns in ’54 and caught 28 passes for another 183 yards, gaining selection to the Pro Bowl. However, over the next two years he accumulated just 370 yards on 99 rushing attempts and had ten pass receptions for 96 yards. He also played as a defensive halfback and distinguished himself for his ferociousness as both a blocking back on offense and as a tackler in the defensive backfield.

Traded to the Lions in 1957, Johnson played well for the team that ultimately won the NFL title. He gained 621 yards on 129 attempts, caught 20 passes, and added his blocking ability to the offense. But once again, as in San Francisco, a good year was followed by two mediocre ones (524 yards rushing and 14 catches in 19 games).

There was also some controversy as Johnson was fined $1000 and suspended for a week in 1959 for missing the team plane to return from a West Coast trip. While the fine was later lifted, his days in Detroit were clearly numbered. Nick Pietrosante, a promising rookie in ’59, and third-year veteran Ken Webb were available to play fullback for the Lions, and Johnson was considered expendable.

Johnson joined two ex-Lions, QB Bobby Layne and HB Tom Tracy, under former Detroit head coach Buddy Parker in Pittsburgh (where Parker continued his practice of relying on veteran players), and despite his advanced age (for a running back), went on to have the most productive seasons of his career with the Steelers.

In combination with Tracy, Johnson helped give Pittsburgh a solid running game in 1960 (the team ranked 4th in both rushing yards and average), gaining 621 yards, with a healthy 5.3-yards per carry. Along the way, he had a 182-yard performance late in the season against the Eagles, which included an 87-yard run that was the longest in the NFL that year. In ’61, he carried the ball over 200 times (213) for the first time in his career and had 787 yards along with 24 pass receptions.

The Steelers contended in 1962, finishing second in the Eastern Conference with a 9-5 record, and Johnson finished second in rushing with 1141 yards on 251 carries (4.5 avg.) and caught 32 passes for another 226 yards at the age of 33 (which he turned in November). He had four hundred-yard games along the way and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time since his rookie year.

Pittsburgh contended again in ’63, and Johnson played a key role by rushing for 773 yards. However, there was some controversy as he removed himself from games after suffering an ankle injury early in the season and wasn’t always in agreement with Coach Parker as to when he was ready to return. The Steelers missed his inside running when he was out of the lineup. Johnson nevertheless was a strong performer when in action and again was named to the Pro Bowl.

Prior to the 1964 season, Parker announced that Johnson, now 34 years old, would not be the starting fullback. However, Johnson not only started but gained 1048 yards on 235 attempts (4.5 avg.). In a game at Cleveland, he compiled an even 200 rushing yards on 30 carries, three of them for touchdowns. For the third straight year, he was a Pro Bowl selection.

His career with the Steelers came to an abrupt end in the first quarter of the first game of the ’65 season when he tore knee ligaments against Green Bay and was sidelined for the remainder of the year. When conflict flared between Johnson and the Steelers management during the ensuing offseason, he was released and played one last year with the AFL’s Houston Oilers before retiring.

While his career, especially in San Francisco and Detroit, seemed to move sporadically, by the time of his retirement he had gained 6577 yards (4381 of that with the Steelers) to rank fourth all-time in NFL history (adding the 226 yards gained in the AFL, his total was 6803). He was held in equally great esteem for his blocking and was a tough competitor. Perhaps most remarkable was his rushing production in his thirties, normally a time when pro running backs are at the end of their effectiveness. He was eventually enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, gaining induction in 1987.

April 10, 2011

Past Venue: Polo Grounds

New York, NY



Year opened: 1890
Capacity: 55,000 following 1923 expansion, up from 34,000 in 1911.

Names:
Brotherhood Park, 1890
Polo Grounds, 1890-1964
aka Brush Stadium, 1912-19

Pro football tenants:
New York Giants (NFL), 1925-55
New York Bulldogs (NFL), 1949
New York Titans/Jets (AFL), 1960-63

Postseason games hosted:
NFL Championship, Giants 30 Bears 13, Dec. 9, 1934
NFL Championship, Packers 21 Redskins 6, Dec. 13, 1936
NFL Championship, Giants 23 Packers 17, Dec. 11, 1938
NFL Eastern Division playoff, Redskins 28 Giants 0, Dec. 19, 1943
NFL Championship, Packers 14 Giants 7, Dec. 17, 1944
NFL Championship, Bears 24 Giants 14, Dec. 15, 1946

Other tenants of note:
New York Giants (MLB – Players’ League), 1890
New York Giants (MLB – NL), 1891-1957
New York Yankees (MLB – AL), 1913-22
New York Mets (MLB – NL), 1962-63

Notes: Hosted Gotham Bowl, 1961. Was used at least occasionally by several New York-area college football teams, most notably Fordham Univ. and Columbia Univ. Hosted Army vs. Navy football games, 1913, 1915-16, 1919-21, 1923, 1925, 1927. Significantly renovated in 1911 following a fire and expanded in 1923. The stadium was one of four to use the name Polo Grounds – only the first was actually used for polo. Occasionally used as a soccer venue, dating back to 1894. Hosted one home game for the APFA Buffalo All-Americans, 1920 and New York Brickley Giants, 1921.

Fate: Demolished in 1964 and replaced with high-rise housing.

April 8, 2011

MVP Profile: LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006

Running Back, San Diego Chargers



Age: 27
6th season in pro football, all with Chargers
College: Texas Christian
Height: 5’10” Weight: 221

Prelude:
Chosen in the first round of the 2001 draft by the Chargers, Tomlinson gained over a thousand yards rushing in each of his first five seasons, with a high of 1683 yards in 2002. He also caught at least 50 passes in each season, including a high of 100 for 725 yards in 2003, when he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2370. Tomlinson was a consensus first-team All-Pro selection once and had been selected to three Pro Bowls.

2006 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 348 [2]
Most attempts, game - 31 (for 131 yds.) at Oakland 9/11
Yards – 1815 [1]
Most yards, game – 199 yards (on 25 carries) vs. Kansas City 12/17
Average gain – 5.2 [7]
TDs – 28 [1]
100-yard rushing games - 10

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 56
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 34 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh 10/8
Yards – 508
Most yards, game - 74 (on 3 catches) at Denver 11/19
Average gain – 9.1
TDs – 3

Passing
Pass attempts – 3
Pass completions – 2
Passing yards – 20
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 0

Scoring
TDs – 31 [1]
Points – 186 [1]

The 31 touchdowns and 186 points set NFL single-season records.

Postseason: 1 G (AFC Divisional playoff vs. New England)
Rushing attempts – 23
Rushing yards – 123
Average gain rushing – 5.4
Rushing TDs – 2

Pass receptions – 2
Pass receiving yards - 64
Average yards per reception – 32.0
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, NEA, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Chargers went 14-2 to win AFC West and gain top playoff seed in conference while leading the NFL in points scored (492) and touchdowns (59). Lost Divisional playoff to New England Patriots (24-21).

Aftermath:
Tomlinson again led the league in rushing (1474 yards) and rushing TDs (14) in 2007 and was named once more to the Pro Bowl as well as receiving first-team All-Pro honors. While he gained 1110 yards rushing in ’08, he averaged only 3.8 yards per carry and was beginning to show the effects of eight years of wear-and-tear, and suffered through an injury-plagued season in 2009. He signed as a free agent with the New York Jets for 2010 and, splitting duty at running back, gained 914 yards and caught 52 passes.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]

April 7, 2011

1984: Outlaws Take Advantage of Turnovers to Beat Panthers


The Michigan Panthers, defending champions of the United States Football League, had won their first six games of the 1984 season and 12 straight going back to ’83. However, they had also suffered a significant loss offensively the previous week when star WR Anthony Carter went down for the remainder of the year with a broken arm.

On April 7, the Panthers faced the first-year Oklahoma Outlaws in a Saturday contest at Skelly Stadium. The Outlaws, under Head Coach Woody Widenhofer and led by veteran QB Doug Williams (pictured above), were off to a 4-2 start, and all four of their wins came when it was either raining or snowing. For the Saturday game against Michigan, attended by 21,510 hardy fans, the weather featured rain and wind.

Williams scored the initial touchdown of the game on a one-yard run in the first quarter, capping a short drive of 28 yards in three plays. In the opening moments of the second quarter, Michigan DB John Arnaud blocked a Case deBruijn punt and LB Will Cokeley returned it 25 yards to even the score.

Oklahoma put together a nine-play, 47-yard drive capped by FB Sidney Thornton scoring a TD on a one-yard plunge to put the Outlaws back in front at 14-7, but the score was tied at halftime after Michigan QB Bobby Hebert ended a short, 12-yard scoring drive by connecting with TE Mike Cobb for an eight-yard touchdown.

Oklahoma’s veteran placekicker Efren Herrera broke the tie ten minutes into the third quarter with a field goal. The Panthers, burdened by turnovers and sloppy play, seemed unable to mount a threat.

However, Michigan drove 76 yards to a game-tying field goal of 28 yards by Novo Bojovic with 2:13 remaining to play in the fourth quarter. Still, they had settled for three points after WR Derek Holloway dropped a pass in the end zone that could have given the defending champs the lead.

The Outlaws had to punt following the ensuing possession, but CB Bobby Futrell of the Panthers muffed it and Oklahoma recovered at the Michigan 11 with 55 seconds left. Three plays ran the clock down and set up the game-winning field goal attempt. Herrera did not disappoint, kicking a 32-yard field goal on the game’s last play for the 20-17 win – it was the second straight contest in which the veteran of eight NFL seasons booted a field goal in the final seconds for an Oklahoma victory.

The Panthers were victimized by turnovers, fumbling the ball away four times and suffering four interceptions, with seven of them coming in the second half. Neither club generated much offense, combining for a total of 99 yards on the ground (62 on 21 attempts by Michigan, 37 on 31 carries by the Outlaws), 230 through the air (the Panthers had the edge by 123 to 107), and 19 first downs (Michigan once again led, 10 to 9). But Oklahoma turned the ball over just three times (they had seven fumbles, only two of which were lost).


Doug Williams completed 12 of 33 passes for 115 yards with an interception and no touchdowns. Sidney Thornton (pictured at left) led the team’s miniscule running attack with 32 yards on 16 carries and also caught the most passes (4) for 24 yards. TE Ron Wheeler gained 44 yards on his three pass receptions.

Bobby Hebert, who had played so well during the team’s winning streak, had a rough performance as he was successful on just 13 of 34 passes for 144 yards and four interceptions as opposed to only one TD. RB Ken Lacy led the team both in rushing (40 yards on 11 carries) and pass receiving (three for 57 yards).

The loss to the Outlaws signaled a nosedive by the defending champions as they lost their next three games and won only four more times. They just made it into the playoffs as a wild card team with a 10-8 record, losing in triple overtime to the Los Angeles Express in the first round. Oklahoma, after showing promise in the first half of the season, advanced to 6-2 the following week against Washington but then proceeded to lose the remaining ten games to end up in fourth place in the Central Division at 6-12. Poor defensive play and the lack of an effective running game proved to be the team’s undoing.

April 5, 2011

Past Venue: Tulane Stadium

New Orleans, LA



Year opened: 1926
Capacity: 80,985, up from 35,000 at opening

Names:
Tulane Stadium, 1926-80

Pro football tenants:
New Orleans Saints (NFL), 1967-74

Postseason games hosted:
Super Bowl IV, Chiefs 23 Vikings 7, Jan. 11, 1970
Super Bowl VI, Cowboys 24 Dolphins 3, Jan. 16, 1972
Super Bowl IX, Steelers 16 Vikings 6, Jan. 12, 1975

Other tenants of note:
Tulane University (college football), 1926-74

Notes: Hosted annual Sugar Bowl, 1935-74. Hosted Pelican Bowl, 1974. Hosted one home game for NFL Pittsburgh Pirates, 1938. Owned by Tulane University and built on site of former sugar plantation, perhaps the inspiration for the Sugar Bowl. After the Louisiana Superdome opened, the stadium was used for high school and intramural football games.

Fate: Demolished in 1979-80, the site is now used for student housing and a fitness center.

April 4, 2011

1985: Late Collier TD Clinches Orlando Win Over Memphis


After two unsuccessful seasons as the Washington Federals (a combined 7-29 record and average attendance in 1984 of 7694 fans per home game), the franchise moved south to Florida and became the Orlando Renegades for the 1985 United States Football League season. They had a new owner (Donald Dizney) and head coach (Lee Corso) in addition to a new name and surroundings. However, they still yielded the same results, losing their first six games. To be sure, the club was becoming more competitive, losing one game in overtime and, in the sixth contest, led the Gold by 17-0 at halftime before succumbing by a final score of 21-17.

On April 4, 1985 the Renegades hosted the Memphis Showboats at Orlando Stadium. The Showboats, in their second USFL season under colorful Head Coach Pepper Rodgers, had started strong with three wins, but then lost the next three games prior to the contest in Orlando.

There were 21,223 fans in attendance for the Thursday night game and they saw it get off to a rousing start as WR Jerry Parrish took the opening kickoff for the Renegades, found a hole up the middle of the field and then broke for the right sideline on his way to an 87-yard touchdown.

Midway through the first quarter, the Showboats responded as QB Walter Lewis completed a 10-yard TD pass to TE Mark Raugh to cap an eight-play, 64-yard drive. Just under two minutes later, Orlando culminated an eight-play possession that covered 70 yards, including three straight pass completions that moved the ball from the Memphis 38 to the one. QB Reggie Collier, starting his second game in place of injured veteran Jerry Golsteyn, sneaked for a one-yard TD to put the Renegades back in front at 14-7 after one period.

That was all the scoring until the fourth quarter as neither team was able to generate much offense. Collier ran for his second TD, this time from two yards out on the second play of the final period. At that point, with a 21-7 lead, it seemed as though Orlando had the game in hand, but the Showboats mounted a comeback.

RB Harry Sydney ran for a 13-yard touchdown to culminate a quick possession by Memphis in which QB Mike Kelley, who took over for Lewis, completed two passes that covered 49 yards, including a 30-yard throw to Raugh.

Kelley passed the Showboats into scoring position again with a crucial completion to RB Ricky Porter that covered 34 yards on a third-and-23 play. When Chuck Bushbeck kicked a 26-yard field goal with 4:25 left on the clock, Orlando’s margin shrank to 21-17.

The Showboats again threatened, and it seemed as though another late defeat was in the offing for the Renegades. But Kelley then missed on four straight passes, including a fourth-and-ten play at the Orlando 30 with the clock running down to 58 seconds in which his throw was just beyond the outstretched fingertips of RB Anthony Parker. Three plays later, Collier dropped back to pass, couldn’t find an open receiver, eluded two Memphis linemen in the backfield, and took off down the right sideline on an electrifying 63-yard run for a touchdown to nail down the win with 33 seconds remaining. The final score was 28-17.

Memphis had more first downs (24 to 15) and led in both rushing (185 yards on 33 attempts) and passing yards (216). The Renegades had 147 rushing yards on 29 carries and 136 passing yards. In addition, Memphis missed two costly field goals, to one by Orlando.

Reggie Collier ran for a team-leading 70 yards on 6 carries and completed 12 of 19 passes for 136 yards with none intercepted. RB Curtis Bledsoe ran for 45 yards on 12 attempts and caught three passes for 25 yards. FB Rickey Claitt had 29 yards on three catches.

For Memphis, Walter Lewis, who entered the game as the USFL’s top-rated passer, completed 6 of 13 throws for 64 yards with a TD and had none picked off before being benched, while Mike Kelley was successful on 7 of 15 passes for 152 yards with one intercepted in relief. Harry Sydney rushed for 95 yards on 16 attempts. Mark Raugh caught 5 passes for 97 yards.

“I said all along that we were becoming a better team each week,” Coach Lee Corso commented afterward. “Our philosophy this week was that if we could win this week we could wipe out all the other games and get respect.”


While there was jubilation among the Renegades and their fans, an angry Coach Pepper Rodgers and GM Steve Ehrhart of the Showboats locked the locker room door, refusing to admit reporters after the game in violation of USFL rules. The club’s PR director appeared with a statement from Rodgers that read, “To say that I'm disappointed is the understatement of the year. This is undoubtedly one of the low points of the season for the.Showboats.”

It was the fourth straight loss for Memphis after a 3-0 start. They recovered to end up at 11-7 for third place in the Eastern Conference and qualified for the postseason – after dismantling the Denver Gold by a score of 48-7 in the Quarterfinal round, they lost to the Oakland Invaders in the Semifinal game. Orlando continued to improve, at least offensively (the defense gave up a league-high 481 points), and went 5-7 after the 0-6 start, which still left them in the Eastern Conference basement with a record of 5-13.

Third-year QB Reggie Collier, as he did decisively against Memphis, continued to make the most of his mobility by running for 606 yards on 92 carries (6.6 avg.) with 12 touchdowns. His passing statistics were less impressive as he was successful on 53.6 percent of his passes for 2578 yards with 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

April 3, 2011

MVP Profile: Ken Anderson, 1981

Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals


Age: 32
11th season in pro football & with Bengals
College: Augustana (Illinois)
Height: 6’2” Weight: 212

Prelude:
Anderson was chosen by the Bengals in the third round of the 1971 NFL draft, despite coming from a small college, and took over as starting quarterback in his second season. Mobile and intelligent, he also adapted well to QB coach Bill Walsh’s early version of the West Coast passing attack with short timing passes. Anderson led the NFL in passing, passing yards, and yards per attempt in 1974 and ’75, as well as completion percentage in ’74, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1975 and ’76. The team regularly contended during that period, but through coaching changes and attrition, the Bengals slumped later in the decade and Anderson, who also battled injuries, even briefly lost his job during the 1980 season.

1981 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 479 [9]
Most attempts, game – 52 at Houston 10/4
Completions – 300 [5]
Most completions, game – 30 at Houston 10/4
Yards – 3754 [5]
Most yards, game – 396 vs. Denver 11/22
Completion percentage – 62.6 [2, 1st in AFC]
Yards per attempt – 7.8 [6]
TD passes – 29 [3]
Most TD passes, game – 4 at Cleveland 11/29
Interceptions – 10
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Seattle 9/6, vs. San Francisco 12/6
Passer rating – 98.4 [1]
300-yard passing games – 3
200-yard passing games – 12

Rushing
Attempts – 46
Most attempts, game - 8 (for 37 yds.) at Pittsburgh 12/13
Yards – 320
Most yards, game – 58 yards (on 4 carries) vs. LA Rams 11/15
Average gain – 7.0
TDs – 1

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points - 6

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 77
Most pass attempts, game – 34 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Pass completions – 53
Most pass completions, game – 25 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Passing yardage – 653
Most passing yards, game – 300 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
TD passes – 5
Most TD passes, game – 2 vs. San Diego, AFC Championship, vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Interceptions – 2
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl

Rushing attempts – 11
Most rushing attempts, game – 5 vs. San Diego, AFC Championship
Rushing yards – 69
Most rushing yards, game – 39 vs. San Diego, AFC Championship
Average gain rushing – 6.3
Rushing TDs – 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, NEA, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFW, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Bengals went 12-4 to win AFC Central with best record in conference. Won Divisional playoff over Buffalo Bills (28-21) and AFC Championship over San Diego Chargers (27-7). Lost to San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl (26-21).

Aftermath:
Anderson again led the NFL in passing during the strike-shortened 1982 season (95.3) and completed a then-record 70.6 % of his passes. He led the league once more in completion percentage in ’83 (66.7) but after one last year as the starting quarterback, he backed up Boomer Esiason in 1985 and ’86, his last two seasons, all spent with the Bengals.

--

MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]