March 31, 2012

1984: Outlaws Use Late Comeback to Force Tie, Beat Gamblers in OT


Two of the United States Football League’s six new teams for 1984 met on March 31 in a Week 6 contest at Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Outlaws and Houston Gamblers were both off to promising 3-2 starts and were jockeying for position in the USFL Central Division.

Coached by Woody Widenhofer, former defensive coordinator of the Steelers, the Outlaws didn’t run the ball especially well, but they did have former Buccaneer Doug Williams (pictured above) at quarterback. Their games had typically been low-scoring and they had yet to put more than 17 points on the board. A cause for concern was a 49-7 loss at Arizona the previous week.

Houston, under Head Coach Jack Pardee and offensive coordinator Darrel “Mouse” Davis, had no difficulty scoring with its run-and-shoot offense. Highly-touted rookie QB Jim Kelly was proving to be the master of it and there was a talented group of receivers. RB Sam Harrell even had a 200-yard rushing game in the early going. But the Gamblers were also coming off a tough defeat the week before, by a 52-34 margin to the defending-champion Michigan Panthers.

There were 17,266 in attendance on a Saturday at Skelly Stadium, and for most of the game it appeared that the home team would disappoint them. The Gamblers scored first as Kelly connected with slotback Richard Johnson for a 39-yard touchdown in the opening period. It was 14-0 ten minutes into the second quarter when Harrell ran for a one-yard TD. Meanwhile, the Outlaws were struggling - at one point during the first half, Doug Williams missed on 10 straight pass attempts. Only a 45-yard field goal by Efren Herrera with four seconds left before halftime kept Oklahoma from being shut out in the first thirty minutes of play.

Williams ran six yards for a touchdown to narrow the margin to 14-10, but less than two minutes later Harrell scored on another one-yard carry for Houston. Herrera booted a 37-yard field goal, but it seemed as though the Gamblers had put the game away when Kelly again passed to Johnson for a TD, this time on a play that covered 25 yards.

The 28-13 score held up through most of the fourth quarter. However, Oklahoma got a break when DB Lee Wilson intercepted a Kelly pass and the Outlaws capitalized as RB Sidney Thornton scored a touchdown on a one-yard plunge with 1:58 remaining (pictured below).


It was 28-20 and the home team had one more opportunity with 35 seconds left. Doug Williams engineered a 68-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 48-yard touchdown pass to rookie WR Alphonso Williams, who out-jumped two defenders in the end zone and held on as they attempted to wrestle the ball away with no time remaining in regulation. Williams then threw to RB Ted Sample at the goal line for the two-point conversion that sent the game into overtime.

Houston won the toss for the extra period and it appeared that the Gamblers would prevail as they drove to midfield. But Kelly’s pass intended for WR Greg Moser went through the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Wilson, making his second key pickoff of the game.

On a flea-flicker play, Doug Williams went long for Alphonso Williams, who again made a spectacular catch in which he pulled the ball away from defenders at the one yard line for a 53-yard gain. On the next play, Herrera kicked the game-winning field goal at 3:19 into the overtime period and the Outlaws came away with a stunning 31-28 victory.

The Gamblers outgained Oklahoma (350 yards to 308) and had the edge in first downs (19 to 17). The Outlaws suffered one turnover while Houston gave the ball up three times. Both teams recorded five sacks apiece and the Gamblers were penalized 9 times for a loss of 92 yards to 7 flags thrown on Oklahoma at a loss of 65 yards.

While Doug Williams had the first-half dry spell, he made big completions when they counted most and ended up connecting on 16 of 35 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Alphonso Williams was the receiving star with 4 catches for 115 yards and a TD. RB Andrew Lazarus led the team in rushing with 41 yards on 10 carries. Efren Herrera was successful on three of his four field goal attempts, missing from 51 yards on a kick that bounced off the crossbar.

For Houston, Jim Kelly was successful on 25 of 42 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns, but also was picked off three times. Richard Johnson pulled in 10 of those throws for 162 yards and both scores. Sam Harrell rushed 8 times for 32 yards and two TDs.

While the thrilling come-from-behind win put Oklahoma a game in front of the Gamblers, the two teams moved in divergent directions over the remainder of the season. The Outlaws peaked at 6-2, keeping pace atop the division standings with Michigan, before the bottom fell out and they lost their remaining 10 games to end up at a disappointing 6-12. Houston completed the schedule with a 13-5 record to win the Central Division, although the Gamblers were upset in the first round of the playoffs.

Before he was lost to a knee injury late in the season (the crowning blow in the team’s total collapse), Doug Williams threw for 3084 yards with 15 TDs but 21 interceptions, with a low completion percentage (49.4) and average gain per attempt (5.8) for the offensively-challenged team. Alphonso Williams remained a bright spot, catching 50 passes for 1087 yards (21.7 avg.) and seven touchdowns. The lack of a running game remained a chronic problem for the offense – none of the backs accumulated as many as 300 yards.

Houston remained an offensive juggernaut. Jim Kelly had a momentous rookie year, leading the league in most major passing categories including yards (5219) and touchdowns (44). Richard Johnson led the USFL in pass receptions with 115, good for 1455 yards and 15 TDs.

March 30, 2012

MVP Profile: Dan Marino, 1984

Quarterback, Miami Dolphins



Age: 23 (Sept. 15)
2nd season in pro football & with Dolphins
College: Pittsburgh
Height: 6’3” Weight: 214

Prelude:
While he had been the Univ. of Pittsburgh’s all-time passing leader, there were questions about Marino and, as part of a highly-touted class of available quarterbacks, he fell to the Dolphins as the 27th pick in the first round (and the fifth QB). Marino quickly put the doubts to rest, taking over from David Woodley as the starter after several relief appearances, with the club at 3-3, and passing Miami to 9 wins in the final 10 games. He led the AFC in passing (96.0 rating) while throwing 20 TD passes and just 6 interceptions and was named first-team All-AFC by UPI and Pro Football Weekly. Marino displayed a strong arm and quick release, making up for a lack of mobility, as well as being a quick study in reading NFL defenses.

1984 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 564 [1]
Most attempts, game – 57 vs. LA Raiders 12/2
Completions – 362 [1]
Most completions, game – 35 vs. LA Raiders 12/2
Yards – 5084 [1]
Most yards, game – 470 vs. LA Raiders 12/2
Completion percentage – 64.2 [3, 1st in AFC]
Yards per attempt – 9.0 [1]
TD passes – 48 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 5 at Washington 9/2
Interceptions – 17 [7, tied with four others]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Buffalo 10/28
Passer rating – 108.9 [1]
400-yard passing games – 4
300-yard passing games – 9
200-yard passing games – 15

Rushing
Attempts – 28
Most attempts, game - 6 (for -11 yds.) at Buffalo 9/17
Yards – -7
Most yards, game – 9 yards (on 1 carry) at New England 10/21
Yards per attempt – -0.3
TDs – 0

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 116
Most attempts, game - 50 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Pass completions – 71
Most completions, game - 29 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Passing yardage – 1001
Most yards, game - 421 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Championship
TD passes – 8
Most TD passes, game - 4 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Championship
Interceptions – 5
Most interceptions, game - 2 vs. Seattle, AFC Divisional playoff; vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl

Rushing attempts – 1
Most rushing attempts, game - 1 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Rushing yards – 0
Most rushing yards, game - 0 vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl
Average gain rushing – 0.0
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, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Dolphins went 14-2 to finish first in the AFC East while leading the NFL in total yards (6936), passing yards (5018), scoring (513 points), and TDs (70). Won Divisional playoff over Seattle Seahawks (31-10) and AFC Championship over Pittsburgh Steelers (45-28). Lost Super Bowl to San Francisco 49ers (38-16).

Aftermath:
Marino followed up his brilliant 1984 season with three more 4000-yard passing performances in the next three years and threw 44 TD passes in 1986. The Dolphins made it to the AFC title game again in 1985, but failed to reach the Super Bowl during the remainder of Marino’s 17-year career. With his ability to get the ball away in a hurry plus excellent protection, he rarely was sacked and proved to be durable, putting together a streak of 145 consecutive starts in non-strike games before an Achilles tendon injury sidelined him five games into the ’93 season. Overall, he led the NFL in passing yards four more times, TD passes twice, completions five times and attempts on four more occasions. The Dolphins were 147-93 with him behind center, 8-10 in the postseason. Upon his retirement, Marino was the league’s career leader in passes (8358), completions (4967), TD passes (420), and passing yards (61,361). The Dolphins retired his #13 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2005.

--

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 2/9/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]

March 29, 2012

1962: Browns Send Plum to Lions in Three-for-Three Trade


On March 29, 1962 the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions completed a major trade that centered on their starting quarterbacks. Cleveland dealt QB Milt Plum, HB Tom Watkins, and LB Dave Lloyd to Detroit for QB Jim Ninowski, DE Bill Glass, and HB Howard “Hopalong” Cassady.

From Cleveland’s perspective, it was part of the retooling of a team that had last topped the Eastern Conference in 1957 (they tied with the Giants in ’58 but lost the resulting playoff). Head Coach Paul Brown, the architect of Cleveland’s success since 1946 when it was in the All-America Football Conference, had been criticized for inflexibility and was now making moves that would give the offense a different style.

Plum (pictured above) was a five-year veteran and statistically-outstanding passer who led the NFL in that category in both 1960 and ’61. However, he had become openly critical of Brown’s play-calling (and his insistence on calling all the plays from the sideline, not a standard practice at that time) and, together with some dissatisfaction on the head coach’s part with his quarterback’s performance in some big games, a trade seemed in order.

The key to the offense since 1957 had been star FB Jim Brown, and an earlier deal with Washington for their first-round draft choice, the Heisman Trophy-winning HB Ernie Davis from Syracuse, signaled a move by the Browns to becoming even more of a ground-oriented team. Cleveland had given up swift HB Bobby Mitchell to obtain Davis, but Davis was a bigger back (6’2”, 215 pounds to Mitchell’s 6’0”, 192) and, paired with Brown, would create a formidable tandem comparable to Green Bay’s HB Paul Hornung and FB Jim Taylor.

Meanwhile Detroit, also most recently in the postseason in ’57 and coming off back-to-back second place finishes, was looking to upgrade its offense. The defense was already outstanding, but the attack had not been of the same caliber. Ninowski was part of the problem – competing with backup QB Earl Morrall for playing time, he was successful on only 47.4 % of his passes for 1921 yards and tossed 18 interceptions with just 7 for touchdowns. While Plum was leading the league, Ninowski ranked 16th overall in passing.

Ninowski, who turned 26 just before the trade, was originally drafted by the Browns in 1958 and had seen little action as a backup in two years before moving on to Detroit. While his numbers were far inferior to Plum’s, he was also more mobile and, with Brown and Davis in the backfield, it was anticipated that Cleveland would mount an option attack.

“Hopalong” Cassady, winner of the 1955 Heisman Trophy, had never achieved the level of success that he had as an All-American at Ohio State. He appeared to be on the downside and had not done much in 1961, running the ball just 31 times for 131 yards and catching five passes. But he had been more productive in previous years and it was anticipated that he would be a versatile backup to Davis at halfback or veteran flanker Ray Renfro, as he was an able pass receiver as well as outside running threat and could also return punts. Bill Glass, a highly-regarded defensive end, had been with the Lions for four years and was slated to move into Cleveland’s starting lineup.

For Detroit, in addition to Plum, Tom Watkins was another key to the deal. A speedy runner at halfback, he had been stuck behind Mitchell in Cleveland and saw scant action for the Browns as a rookie in 1961 following an outstanding college career at Iowa State. In combination with veteran HB Dan Lewis, it was hoped that he would bolster the outside running game, which had been lacking for the Lions, and thus increase the effectiveness of star FB Nick Pietrosante. Dave Lloyd, 25 years old and having put in three seasons with the Browns, was obtained to add depth to Detroit’s veteran corps of linebackers.

Ninowski initially insisted he would not play for the Browns, nearly voiding the deal, but assurances that he would be the starting quarterback resolved the problem.

“I’ve always regretted trading Ninowski,” said Paul Brown (pictured with Ninowski below). “But at the time he wanted assurance that he’d be the No. 1 quarterback. We couldn’t give it to him then, but we’ve been so impressed with his progress we can give it to him now.”


“We’re getting what we’ve most needed – offensive help,” said a satisfied Head Coach George Wilson of the Lions in summing up the trade.

Cleveland’s plans first began to go awry due to a tragic circumstance. During the summer, Ernie Davis was diagnosed with leukemia and, as a result, never took the field for the Browns. He died the following year. Jim Ninowski had a solid preseason at quarterback, but the consistency problems he had in Detroit resurfaced during the regular season. The team got off to a 3-3 start and Ninowski went down for the year with a broken collar bone in the seventh game. Frank Ryan, a fifth-year quarterback who had been acquired after a lackluster stint with the Rams, took over and played well the rest of the way. While Cassady contributed little and was traded midseason to the injury-depleted Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Glass met expectations and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Browns, with even the durable Jim Brown struggling with an injury and having a relatively subpar year, finished up with a disappointing 7-6-1 record, and in a stunning development, owner Art Modell fired Paul Brown after the season.

While Detroit finished with an improved 11-3 tally, it was ultimately a frustrating year for the Lions as well. Plum set franchise records with 179 pass completions and 2378 yards, but also tossed 20 interceptions (as opposed to 15 touchdowns) and dropped to 11th in the league’s passing standings (still three ahead of Ninowski). His leadership qualities came into question and he became caught up in dissension between the offensive and defensive platoons, particularly after a loss to the Packers in a key Week 4 matchup – nursing a one-point lead late in the game, Plum went to the air rather than keeping the ball on the ground, it was intercepted, and Green Bay was able to kick a game-winning field goal. In several instances as the season progressed, Morrall relieved Plum in game-saving situations.

Tom Watkins ran the ball effectively, gaining 485 yards while averaging 4.3 yards-per-carry, and also averaged 26.6 yards on 17 kickoff returns. Dave Lloyd was a capable reserve. But in the end, the Lions still finished second to the Packers in the Western Conference.


Under Paul Brown’s successor, Blanton Collier, the Browns bounced back to a strong 10-4 finish in 1963 and were NFL Champions in ’64. It was Frank Ryan at quarterback, however, not Jim Ninowski, who remained with the team through 1966 but was strictly a backup. Of the players obtained in the Milt Plum deal, Bill Glass (pictured at left) proved to be the best acquisition. His Pro Bowl selection in 1962 was the first of three straight and four overall. He was a mainstay of the 1964 title-winning defense and remained with Cleveland until the end of his career in 1968.

Meanwhile, the Lions failed to contend during the remainder of Plum’s tenure with the club. They dropped off to 5-8-1 in an injury-filled 1963 season and Plum played poorly, losing his starting job to Morrall. While he eventually regained it and remained with the Lions until 1967, Plum proved to be an inconsistent performer and Detroit had only one winning season (7-5-2 in ’64) during that time. As much as he had bridled under Paul Brown’s offensive system in Cleveland, it appeared that his success there had been a product of it, and the weaknesses that he displayed with the Browns became more glaring with the Lions.


Tom Watkins (pictured at right) also remained with Detroit through ’67 (he missed the 1966 season due to injury). He never ran for more than 485 yards and was also never the unchallenged starting halfback, but was more prominent as a kick returner, leading the NFL in punt return average (14.9) in 1964 and kickoff returning (34.4) in ’65. Overall, he averaged 10.3 yards on 94 punt returns with three touchdowns for the Lions and 24.9 yards on 91 kickoff returns.

Dave Lloyd played only a year with the Lions before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he moved into the starting lineup at middle linebacker and played well until 1970, garnering a Pro Bowl selection along the way.

March 27, 2012

Past Venue: Franklin Field

Philadelphia, PA



Year opened: 1922
Capacity: 60,658 when Eagles played there, up from 30,000 at opening and 52,593 currently

Names:
Franklin Field, 1922 to date

Pro football tenants:
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL), 1958-70
Philadelphia Bell (WFL), 1975

Postseason games hosted:
NFL Championship, Eagles 17 Packers 13, Dec. 26, 1960
USFL First Round playoff, Stars 28 Generals 7, June 30, 1984
USFL Eastern Conf. Championship, Stars 20 Stallions 10, July 8, 1984

Other tenants of note:
Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1922 to date
Philadelphia Atoms (NASL), 1976

Notes: Replaced earlier stadium of the same name that was built in 1895 and demolished and rebuilt into present facility. Hosted one home game of NFL Frankford Yellow Jackets, 1927. Hosted two USFL playoff games because of a scheduling conflict for use of Veterans Stadium with baseball’s Phillies. Hosted a CFL game between Hamilton and Ottawa, 1958. Hosted Army vs. Navy football game, 1922, 1932-35 (13 games in the series were played at the predecessor stadium). Hosted annual Philadelphia City Title high school championship game, 1938, 1940-41, 1943-72. Hosts annual Penn Relays track meet. Constructed and owned by the Univ. of Pennsylvania, it was named for Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin. Stadium was dedicated during halftime of Penn vs. Navy football game on Oct. 28, 1922 with President Warren G. Harding presiding. Upper deck was completed three years later. Site of first radio broadcast of a football game, 1922. NFL Commissioner Bert Bell died of a heart attack during a game between the Eagles and Steelers, Oct. 11, 1959. Lights installed in 1970 and venue hosted first Eagles appearance on Monday Night Football. Original grass surface was replaced with AstroTurf in 1969 and Sprinturf in 2004.

Fate: Still in use.



(View above shows stadium with additional temporary end zone seating. View below is a more modern depiction)

March 26, 2012

1953: Browns and Colts Conclude 15-Player Trade


On March 26, 1953 the Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns completed one of the largest trades in NFL history. It involved 15 players, most of whom were reserves or newly-drafted rookies. Cleveland was one of the league’s best teams, having appeared in its seventh straight league title game in 1952 including a string of four consecutive All-America Football Conference championships and a NFL title in 1950. The Colts were returning to the NFL after the original team of that name (also previously in the AAFC) folded following the ’50 season - they were replacing the failed Dallas Texans franchise of 1952, which in turn had taken the place of the New York Bulldogs/Yanks of 1949-51, and thus there were players passed along from both of those clubs involved in the transaction.

Of the 15 players involved, 10 were sent by the Browns to Baltimore and included:

QB Harry Agganis, first-round draft choice in 1952 out of Boston University who had not played for the Browns while pursuing a baseball career; S Bert Rechichar (pictured above), Cleveland’s other first-round pick in ’52 out of Tennessee who intercepted six passes as a rookie; HB Don Shula (pictured below), ninth-round pick in 1951 from John Carroll, who intercepted four passes in his first year and went into the military; HB Carl Taseff, 22nd-round draft choice in ’51, also out of John Carroll and just out of the military - he ran the ball 13 times for 49 yards as a rookie on offense; G Ed Sharkey, a veteran of three AAFC seasons and two in the NFL, the most recent with the Browns; G Elmer Wilhoite, 12th-round draft choice out of USC in 1953; E Art Spinney, from Boston College who played for the original Colts in 1950 and spent two years in the military; E Gern Nagler, 14th-round draft choice from Santa Clara in ’53; T Stu Sheets, co-captain at Penn State and 17th-round pick in 1952; and T Dick Batten, 18th-round choice out of College of the Pacific for 1953.


The Colts, building upon the carcass of the Texans franchise and desperate for new talent, gave up five players:

C Tom Catlin, All-American from Oklahoma drafted in the fourth-round for 1953; DT Don Colo, a three-year pro who had been with the original Colts in 1950 and moved on to the Yanks and Texans; OT Mike McCormack, third-round draft choice in 1951 by the Yanks who had played one season for them; HB John Petitbon, formerly of Notre Dame and taken by the Yanks/Texans in the seventh round for 1952, intercepting five passes in his first year; and G Herschel Forester, an eighth-round draft choice out of SMU in 1952 who was in the military.

Head Coach Paul Brown of Cleveland was especially annoyed with players who had indicated that they would play pro football only if they first failed to make it as baseball players. He said of Agganis, a star quarterback at Boston University, that, “we are not waiting to see whether or not (he) makes a baseball team. We prefer to make our plans now and can afford to do so since we do not have a quarterback problem.”

Agganis, known as “The Golden Greek”, chose to sign with baseball’s Boston Red Sox for a reported $35,000 and was forbidden to play football. Colts Coach Keith Molesworth, needing a quarterback, hoped he could be persuaded to change his mind and Agganis was a key player in the deal for Baltimore. “The Golden Greek” stuck with baseball, however, and showed the potential to become a star at the major league level. Tragically, Agganis died of a pulmonary embolism at age 26 in 1955.

Molesworth (and his successor, Weeb Ewbank) had better outcomes with some of the other players. Rechichar, Shula, and Taseff all moved into the starting lineup in the defensive backfield while Spinney started at defensive end before being shifted to guard on offense. Of that group, Rechichar had the biggest immediate impact, garnering second-team All-Pro honors in ’53 and eventually being selected to three Pro Bowls. While he was at it, he booted a league-record 56-yard field goal in the 1953 opening-game win over the Bears.

Rechichar was with the Colts, but past his prime, when they won back-to-back NFL titles in 1958 and ’59. Taseff and Spinney were still in the starting lineup, however. Shula was gone by then, but would gain far greater fame as a head coach (starting with Baltimore).

Of the others, Sharkey played one year for the Colts as a reserve before moving on to Philadelphia in 1954. None of the remaining players involved saw action with the team, although Nagler was with the Chicago Cardinals for five seasons and Pittsburgh for one before ending up back in Cleveland as a tight end.

For Cleveland’s part, Paul Brown was concentrating on strengthening his team at tackle and linebacker. While McCormack and Forester were in military service and would not be available until after 1953, Brown saw them as an investment in the future. Colo was expected to contribute right away, especially with DT Bob Gain leaving for the military, and he did, moving into the starting lineup in ’53 and staying there until 1958 while achieving selection to the Pro Bowl three times during that period.


McCormack (pictured at right) joined the club in ’54, started as a middle guard on defense that year, and then moved to right offensive tackle, where he remained a fixture for eight seasons. He garnered first- or second-team All-Pro honors in every one of those years and went to six Pro Bowls. The lineman that Paul Brown acquired as a future consideration was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984. Forester, while far less accomplished, put in four seasons with the Browns.

Catlin played at linebacker in Cleveland and also stayed for four years before moving on to the Eagles. Of the five players the Browns received, Petitbon contributed the least, playing one year at safety in 1955 after spending time in the service.

Overall, the huge trade garnered benefits for both teams. Cleveland, filling in some holes on an already-sound club, topped the Eastern Conference in ’53 and added NFL titles in 1954 and ’55 (and regularly contended well beyond). The Colts, looking to build for the future, didn’t become a winner right away (they were 3-9 in 1953), but methodically developed into a championship team by the last two years of the decade.

March 24, 2012

MVP Profile: Bobby Hebert, 1983

Quarterback, Michigan Panthers



Age: 22
1st season in pro football
College: Northwestern Louisiana State
Height: 6’4” Weight: 208

Prelude:
The unheralded Hebert was chosen by the Panthers in the third round of the inaugural USFL draft in ’83. “The Cajun Cannon” had a good arm and immediately moved into the starting lineup for the new team, although he and the Panthers got off to a slow start until some veteran offensive linemen with NFL experience were added to the roster.

1983 Season Summary
Appeared in all 18 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 451 [3]
Most attempts, game – 45 at Philadelphia 6/5
Completions – 257 [3]
Most completions, game – 25 at Philadelphia 6/5
Yards – 3568 [3]
Most yards, game – 314 at Philadelphia 6/5
Completion percentage – 57.0 [3]
Yards per attempt – 7.9 [1]
TD passes – 27 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 5 at Chicago 6/26
Interceptions – 17 [5]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Denver 4/4, vs. Chicago 4/17
Passer rating – 86.8 [1]
300-yard passing games – 1
200-yard passing games – 8

Rushing
Attempts – 28
Most attempts, game - 5 (for 7 yds.) at Boston 5/1
Yards – 35
Most yards, game – 11 yards (on 2 carries) at New Jersey 4/10
Yards per attempt – 1.3
TDs – 3

Scoring
TDs – 3
2-pt conversions – 1
Points - 20

Postseason: 2 G
Pass attempts – 66
Most attempts, game - 39 vs. Philadelphia, USFL Championship
Pass completions – 38
Most completions, game - 20 vs. Philadelphia, USFL Championship
Passing yardage – 609
Most yards, game - 314 vs. Philadelphia, USFL Championship
TD passes – 4
Most TD passes, game - 3 vs. Philadelphia, USFL Championship
Interceptions – 2
Most interceptions, game - 1 vs. Oakland, USFL Semifinal playoff, vs. Philadelphia, USFL Championship

Rushing attempts – 3
Most rushing attempts, game - 2 vs. Oakland, USFL Semifinal playoff
Rushing yards – 28
Most rushing yards, game - 20 vs. Philadelphia, USFL Championship
Average gain rushing – 6.7
Rushing TDs – 1

Awards & Honors:
USFL Player of the Year: Sporting News
1st team All-USFL: League, Sporting News, College & Pro Football Newsweekly, Pro Football Weekly

Panthers went 12-6 to win the USFL Central Division while leading the league in touchdowns (57) and finishing second in scoring (451 points). Won Semifinal playoff over Oakland Invaders (37-21) and USFL Championship over Philadelphia Stars (24-22).

Aftermath:
The Panthers got off to a 6-0 start in 1984 but slumped after a season-ending broken arm to WR Anthony Carter, Hebert’s most productive target. The team still made it to the postseason, finishing second in the division and qualifying for a wild card slot, and Hebert passed for 3758 yards with 24 TDs, although with 22 interceptions. With the merging of the Michigan and Oakland franchises for ’85, Hebert became starting QB of the Invaders and passed for 3811 yards and 30 TDs. The team topped the Western Conference but lost the final USFL title game to the Stars. With the demise of the league, Hebert, who had gone undrafted by the NFL, signed with the New Orleans Saints to return to his native Louisiana. After splitting time with Dave Wilson in 1985 and suffering a broken foot in ’86, he took over as the starting quarterback full-time in 1987 and the Saints posted their first winning record and capped the year with their first postseason appearance as well. Hebert and the Saints followed up with winning seasons in 1988 and ’89, although they missed the playoffs. Hebert sat out in 1990 due to a contract dispute and returned to the club in ’91, regained the starting job, and the team won the NFC West. In 1992 he achieved a NFL career high in passing yards (3287) and New Orleans again returned to the postseason, although again failed to win a playoff contest. Hebert signed with Atlanta as a free agent in ’93 and achieved his only Pro Bowl selection as he passed for 2978 yards and 24 TDs. He played sparingly as backup to Jeff George in 1994 and ’95 and, in his final year in 1996, threw for 3152 yards but also a league-leading 25 interceptions. Overall, he was the USFL’s career passing yardage leader with 13,137. In the NFL, he passed for 21,683 yards and 135 TDs and, with the Saints, compiled a 49-26 record in his starts.

--

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 2/9/14]

March 23, 2012

Past Venue: Downing Stadium

New York, NY



Year opened: 1936
Capacity: 22,000

Names:
Randall’s Island Stadium, 1936-48
Triborough Stadium, 1948-55
Downing Stadium, 1955-2002

Pro football tenants:
New York Yankees (AFL), 1936-37
New York Yankees/Americans (AFL), 1940-41
Brooklyn Dodgers (ContFL), 1966
New York Stars (WFL), 1974

Postseason games hosted:
None

Other tenants of note:
New York Cosmos (NASL), 1974-75

Notes: Both the Yankees and Yankees/Americans of the second and third AFL split their home games between Yankee Stadium and the then-Randall’s Island Stadium. Originally built as a WPA project and opened in conjunction with the Triborough Bridge. Facility opened with trials for 1936 US Olympic team. Eventually named for John J. Downing, a director of the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation. Venue also used for baseball, track & field, and soccer. Site of first televised college football game, Waynesburg vs. Fordham, 1939. Lights from Ebbets Field were moved there following that stadium’s demolition.

Fate: Demolished in 2002 and replaced by Icahn Stadium.

March 21, 2012

MVP Profile: Steve McNair, 2003

Quarterback, Tennessee Titans



Age: 30
9th season in pro football & with Oilers/Titans
College: Alcorn State
Height: 6’2” Weight: 229

Prelude:
Chosen in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Oilers, “Air McNair” was brought along slowly, starting six games in his first two seasons. Very mobile, he had to polish his passing skills, but took over as the full-time starter in ’97, the team’s first in Tennessee. He rushed for 674 yards in 1997 and 559 in ’98 while improving on his passing numbers. In 1999, he missed five games due to a back injury but the team was 9-2 with him behind center and reached the Super Bowl, barely losing to the Rams. McNair was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2000 as he completed 62.6 % of his passes for 2847 yards and 15 TDs and rushed for 403 yards. Tennessee’s fortunes dipped in ’01, but bounced back in 2002 as McNair achieved new highs with 3350 and 3387 yards through the air, respectively, and 21 TD throws followed by 22 in ’02 – and despite being hindered by injuries that kept him out of practice, but not games, during the last five weeks of the year.

2003 Season Summary
Appeared and started in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 400 [19]
Most attempts, game – 45 at New England 10/5
Completions – 250 [18]
Most completions, game – 25 vs. Oakland 9/7
Yards – 3215 [15]
Most yards, game – 421 vs. Houston 10/12
Completion percentage – 62.5 [9]
Yards per attempt – 8.0 [1]
TD passes – 24 [7, tied with Trent Green & Aaron Brooks]
Most TD passes, game – 3 at Pittsburgh 9/28, vs. Houston 10/12
Interceptions – 7
Most interceptions, game – 2 at NY Jets 12/1
Passer rating – 100.4 [1]
400-yard passing games – 1
300-yard passing games – 2
200-yard passing games – 8

Rushing
Attempts – 38
Most attempts, game - 6 (for 18 yds.) at New England 10/5
Yards – 138
Most yards, game – 30 yards (on 2 carries) at Carolina 10/19
Yards per attempt – 3.6
TDs – 4

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 1
Yards – 4
Yards per catch – 4.0
TDs - 0

Scoring
TDs – 4
2-pt PAT – 1
Points - 26

Postseason: 2 G
Pass attempts – 49
Most attempts, game – 26 at New England, AFC Divisional playoff
Pass completions – 32
Most completions, game - 18 at New England, AFC Divisional playoff
Passing yardage – 369
Most yards, game - 210 at New England, AFC Divisional playoff
TD passes – 2
Most TD passes, game - 1 at Baltimore, AFC Wild Card playoff, at New England, AFC Divisional playoff
Interceptions – 4
Most interceptions, game - 3 at Baltimore, AFC Wild Card playoff

Rushing attempts – 6
Most rushing attempts, game - 4 at Baltimore, AFC Wild Card playoff
Rushing yards – 27
Most rushing yards, game - 16 at Baltimore, AFC Wild Card playoff
Average gain rushing – 4.5
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Co-MVP: AP
2nd team All-NFL: AP
Pro Bowl

Titans went 12-4 to finish second in the AFC South and qualify for the postseason as a wild card team. Won AFC Wild Card playoff over Baltimore Ravens (20-17). Lost AFC Divisional playoff to New England Patriots (17-14).

Aftermath:
Injuries limited McNair to eight games in 2004 and, while he had another Pro Bowl season in ’05, the Titans went 4-12. He was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for 2006 and, although he performed ably for a 13-3 team that made the playoffs, he made it into only six contests in ’07 and retired. Overall, McNair passed for 31,304 yards and 174 TDs, against 119 interceptions, with an 82.8 rating and rushed for 3590 yards on 669 carries, a 5.4-yard average gain.

--

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 2/9/14]

March 19, 2012

1983: Besana and Ex-Raiders Lead Invaders to Win Over Panthers


On March 19, 1983 the Michigan Panthers of the United States Football League made their home debut against the Oakland Invaders. Both teams came into the contest at 1-1. Coached by Jim Stanley, the Panthers had scored just one touchdown in the first two contests (they won their opening game over the Birmingham Stallions by a 9-7 score thanks to three Novo Bojovic field goals). Rookie QB Bobby Hebert, a largely unknown quantity from out of Northwest Louisiana State, had won the starting job but was off to a slow start, as was the far-more-heralded rookie WR Anthony Carter from the Univ. of Michigan, who had been the team’s biggest preseason signing.

Oakland was coached by John Ralston, formerly of Stanford and the Denver Broncos, and had its own unheralded starting quarterback in Fred Besana, a 29-year-old who had last been behind center for the Twin Cities Cougars of the semi-pro California Football League. Backup to Steve Bartkowski and the ill-fated Joe Roth at California, he had failed to make the cut with the NFL Giants and Bills, but was making the most of his opportunity in the new USFL. He had already found a favorite target in WR Wyatt Henderson. The Invaders, who had skimped on talent coming out of college, also featured TE Raymond Chester and HB Arthur Whittington (pictured above), veteran ex-Raiders, on offense.

There were 28,952 in attendance at the Pontiac Silverdome for the Saturday night game. Hebert started poorly, completing only one of his first seven passes, and was relieved by backup Whit Taylor. Still, the Panthers led by 3-0 after one quarter of play thanks to a 44-yard field goal by Bojovic.

Oakland took the lead in the second quarter as Besana connected with Henderson on a fly pattern for a 45-yard touchdown. Bojovic kicked another 44-yard field goal but Kevin Shea was successful from 32 yards and the Invaders were up by 10-6 at the half.

Oakland scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, with Besana tossing another TD pass to Henderson, this time of 22 yards, and Whittington running for a 14-yard score. The extra point was missed after the latter TD, but it hardly seemed to matter as the Invaders held a commanding 23-6 lead.

The Panthers were down but not out, however, and Hebert returned to the game to spark a furious rally. It began with a touchdown pass to WR Derek Holloway that covered 48 yards and, with the successful extra point, made it 23-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

Besana extended Oakland’s lead by finding the 13-year veteran Chester along the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown, and this time the PAT was successful. But Hebert brought Michigan back once more as he threw long to Carter for a 58-yard gain that set up another scoring pass to Holloway, this time covering 22 yards.

Nursing a ten-point lead, the Invaders drove to another score. Kevin Shea’s 24-yard field goal extended their margin to 33-20 with 4:25 to go. The Panthers came back one more time, as Hebert connected for a third time with Holloway, who made a leaping grab in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown, but time finally ran out on Michigan. Oakland came away the winner by a score of 33-27.

The Invaders outgained the home team (460 to 375) and had more first downs (23 to 20) as well as a big lead in time of possession (38:06 to 21:54). Oakland rolled up 169 rushing yards to just 55 on 14 carries by the Panthers, who were playing catch-up during the second half. Besana was sacked seven times (four of them by LB John Corker, the eventual USFL leader in that category) while Oakland’s defense dumped Michigan quarterbacks on four occasions. However, the Invaders suffered no turnovers while the Panthers gave up the ball twice (both on fumbles).

Fred Besana completed 24 of 30 passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns and none intercepted. While Wyatt Henderson scored two of those TDs among his three catches for 93 yards, Raymond Chester was Oakland’s top receiver as he pulled in 7 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Arthur Whittington also had a big day, rushing for 109 yards and a TD on 26 carries and adding 4 catches for 46 more yards.

For the Panthers, following the shaky start Bobby Hebert ended up completing 13 of 23 throws for 289 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. Derek Holloway caught three passes – all for touchdowns – and gained 108 yards. RB Ken Lacy was the team’s leading ground gainer with 23 yards on 8 attempts. Anthony Carter had a mixed performance, pulling in two passes for 85 yards that included the one long bomb that set up Holloway’s second TD. However, he also fumbled two punts, one of which led to an Oakland score.


The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-2 and they would fall to 1-4 before turning the season around. In the end, they finished first in the Central Division with a 12-6 record and narrowly won the USFL Championship over the Philadelphia Stars. In the first round of the playoffs they defeated the Invaders, who had a mediocre 9-9 record but were still able to top the weak Pacific Division.

Things got much better for Bobby Hebert and Anthony Carter. Hebert led the league in passing, yards per attempt (7.9), and TD passes (27). Carter caught 60 passes for 1181 yards (19.7 avg.) and 9 touchdowns.

Raymond Chester concluded his accomplished pro football career by catching 68 passes for 951 yards (14.0 avg.) and five TDs and garnering All-League honors. Arthur Whittington was dogged by injuries but nevertheless rushed for 1043 yards on 282 carries (3.7 avg.) and had 66 receptions for 584 more yards. Fred Besana led the USFL in passing yards with 3980 and Wyatt Henderson, who got off to the fast start on the scoring end of Besana’s passes, finished with 54 receptions for 801 yards and 9 TDs.

March 18, 2012

1994: Rams Trade Jim Everett to Saints


The Los Angeles Rams, who had paid a big price in players and draft choices in 1986 to obtain QB Jim Everett, dealt him to the New Orleans Saints on March 18, 1994 for a seventh-round draft choice. Everett and the Rams had suffered through three difficult years after appearing in the NFC Championship game following the ’89 season. He was benched for a time during ’93 and was nearly cut outright by the team after the season.

It was a long fall for a player who had come out of Purdue with great promise. Originally drafted by the Houston Oilers in the first round of the ’86 draft (third overall), Everett was traded to the Rams after the season had begun when a contract couldn’t be worked out. The price was DE William Fuller, G Kent Hill, 1987 and ’88 first round draft choices, and a 1987 fifth round pick. It seemed worth it to the Rams, a good team that had suffered regularly due to instability at the quarterback position. The 6’5”, 212-pound Everett seemed like the sort of player who could change all of that, especially when he tossed three touchdown passes in his LA debut.

The strike-interrupted 1987 season was a difficult one for the Rams. In the midst of it star RB Eric Dickerson was traded to the Colts, putting even more of the burden on Everett. Head Coach John Robinson, used to a ground-oriented offense, brought in Ernie Zampese as offensive coordinator to bring the young quarterback along and install a new aerial attack that relied on quick timing patterns. LA finished strong as Everett got the hang of the new system and it set the stage for a breakout year in ’88.

1988 and ’89 were the high points for Everett with the Rams. He led the league in touchdown passes in each season (31 and 29, respectively), had his two best passer ratings (89.2 and 90.6), and passed for 3964 yards in ’88, followed by a career-high 4310 in 1989. LA went to the postseason both years, going 10-6 and losing in the Wild Card round and then 11-5 and climbing to the conference title game in 1989. Everett was also helped by the steady play of All-Pro WR Henry Ellard and, especially in ’89, the emergence of deep threat WR Willie “Flipper” Anderson, plus veteran TE Pete Holohan.

However, the seeds of Everett’s downfall were sown in the 1989 postseason. Following a fine clutch performance in an overtime win over the Giants, Everett looked bad in a dreadful 30-3 loss to the division-rival 49ers in the NFC Championship game. One play stood out in particular when, in a third-and-ten situation in the second quarter, he appeared to panic and went down without being hit. To be sure, Everett had plenty of company in looking bad against the eventual league champions – the defense was injury-riddled by the time the Rams faced the 49ers – but previously regarded as a tough competitor, the “self-sack” engendered second thoughts on that score.

Everett still went to the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career in 1990 as he fell just short of a second straight 4000-yard passing season (3989) and tossed 23 TD passes. However, the Rams sank to 5-11 and the questions regarding his toughness under pressure grew louder. It got worse in ’91 with LA collapsing further to 3-13 and Everett tossing more interceptions (20) than touchdown passes (11) while being sacked 30 times. John Robinson was replaced as head coach by Chuck Knox (back for his second stint in LA) and while the quarterback’s performance was better, the Rams were still only 6-10. But a fourth straight losing season in ’93 (5-11) in which Everett failed to complete half of his passes and lost his starting job to backup T.J. Rubley caused the team to part ways with the 31-year-old veteran.

As for the Saints, they were coming off of an 8-8 season in 1993, a disappointing result after making it to the playoffs the previous three years and starting out at 5-0. QB Bobby Hebert had been allowed to depart following the ’92 season and 34-year-old Wade Wilson took his place, with mixed results. Under Head Coach Jim Mora, New Orleans had finally become a contender, but depended on its solid defense more than the conservative offense, and had failed to win a postseason game.

Everett signed a two-year contract and agreed to a lower salary in order to play for the Saints (Wilson, whose salary was worth $4 million against the cap, was waived and re-signed for a lesser amount).

“This is the most exciting time of my life since getting drafted,” said an enthusiastic Everett. New Orleans had worked out several free agent quarterbacks and negotiated with Philadelphia QB Bubby Brister for a week before making the deal for Everett when the Rams agreed to a lower draft choice in return.

For the first year, Everett performed well (a club-record 64.1 % completion percentage and 3855 yards plus 22 TD passes and just 21 sacks). The offense was adjusted to his benefit and the receivers, led by wideouts Michael Haynes and Quinn Early, were adequate. Unfortunately, the running game was mediocre, the defense slipped, and the Saints dropped to 7-9.

The record was the same (as were the weaknesses) in 1995 despite another solid season from Everett, who passed for 3970 yards and 26 touchdowns, against 14 interceptions. But the quarterback and team collapsed in ’96. Everett’s production dropped across the board, he tossed more interceptions (16) than TD passes (12), and the Saints were 3-13. Mora was gone before the end and his successor for 1997, Mike Ditka, chose to bring in new quarterbacks. Everett was let go - he played one last year for the San Diego Chargers, throwing just 75 passes in four games.

Overall with New Orleans, Everett completed 61.0 % of his passes for 10,622 yards and 60 touchdowns with 48 interceptions. However, the team went just 17-30 in his starts and the questions about his competitiveness and toughness (despite his durability) were never fully quieted. An on-air scuffle with talk show host Jim Rome in 1994 only highlighted the issues. In the end, a promising career fell short of expectations despite a fair number of accomplishments.

March 16, 2012

Past Venue: Foxboro Stadium

Foxboro, MA
aka Schaefer Stadium, Sullivan Stadium



Year opened: 1971
Capacity: 60,292

Names:
Schaefer Stadium, 1971-83
Sullivan Stadium, 1983-89
Foxboro Stadium, 1989-2002

Pro football tenants:
New England Patriots (NFL), 1971-2001
New England Colonials (ACFL), 1973

Postseason games hosted:
AFC Divisional playoff, Oilers 31 Patriots 14, Dec. 31, 1978
AFC Divisional playoff, Patriots 28 Steelers 3, Jan. 5, 1997
AFC Championship, Patriots 20 Jaguars 6, Jan. 12, 1997
AFC Wild Card playoff, Patriots 17 Dolphins 3, Dec. 28, 1997
AFC Divisional playoff, Patriots 16 Raiders 13, Jan. 19, 2002

Other tenants of note:
New England Tea Men (NASL), 1978-80
New England Revolution (MLS), 1996-2001

Notes: Used as venue for FIFA World Cup, 1994. Built on land originally donated by owners of the Bay State Raceway, midway between Boston and Providence, RI. Stadium was built without public funding (and with few amenities) and was originally named for the Schaefer Brewing Co. (an early instance of the selling of naming rights). Was renamed in 1983 for the Sullivan family that originally owned the Patriots and, after they sold the club, reverted to name of locale. Original PolyTurf surface was converted to AstroTurf and, in 1991, to grass. First football game was a preseason contest between the Patriots and New York Giants, Aug. 15, 1971. Occasionally used as home venue by Boston College.

Fate: Demolished in 2002, site became a parking lot for Gillette Stadium.

[Updated 2/3/14]

March 14, 2012

1967: Raiders Obtain Daryle Lamonica from Bills


Concurrent with the first combined NFL/AFL draft, there were several major trades. Perhaps the biggest occurred on March 14, 1967, the first day of the draft, as the Oakland Raiders dealt QB Tom Flores, split end Art Powell, and a second round draft choice to the Buffalo Bills for QB Daryle Lamonica, split end Glenn Bass, and two draft picks (third and fifth round).

The 25-year-old Lamonica (he turned 26 prior to the ’67 season) had been taken by the Bills in the 24th round of the 1963 AFL draft out of Notre Dame (he was chosen by Green Bay in the NFL). He proved to be an effective backup to veteran Jack Kemp with the Bills and, with ideal size (6’3”, 215), a strong arm, and outstanding ability as a long passer, often relieved Kemp if a change of pace seemed in order in his first few seasons. He was also mobile and, even in a part-time role, led AFL quarterbacks in rushing with 289 yards in 1964. By 1966, however, he was seeing less action and was restless in Kemp’s shadow.

Meanwhile, Tom Flores, a week short of his 30th birthday at the time of the trade, was an original member of the Raiders in 1960 and was coming off a very solid year for a team that went 8-5-1. He ranked third in passing and achieved career highs with 2638 yards and 24 touchdown passes, earning selection to the AFL All-Star Game. However, there was a sense that the team’s managing general partner, Al Davis, and head coach, John Rauch, had concluded that Flores was not the quarterback to take the team to the next level.

As for the two receivers involved, Powell had been one of the best in the AFL since joining the New York Titans in 1960. After moving to the Raiders in ’63, he had never scored fewer than 11 touchdowns in a season (with a high of 16 in that first year) and had been over a thousand yards receiving in three of four years, including 1026 on 53 catches in 1966. Considered temperamental, he was nevertheless highly talented.

By contrast, Glenn Bass had caught just 10 passes for 130 yards in ’66. While he had 82 receptions in his first two seasons and had pulled in 43 throws for 897 yards and 7 touchdowns in 1964, Bass had been having physical problems, including a major ankle injury in 1965, and lost his starting job to rookie Bobby Crockett in ’66. At age 27, there were certainly doubts regarding his future.

At the time, the trade was viewed as a major gamble by the Raiders, who were giving up two experienced and accomplished players for a backup quarterback and injury-prone receiver. Meanwhile, Buffalo had topped the Eastern Division for three straight years, but after back-to-back AFL Championships, the Bills were badly beaten by Kansas City for the ’66 league title. The trade with Oakland, in conjunction with other deals, seemed likely to strengthen the club for a possible Super Bowl run in 1967.

In fact, the results proved to be very different and, ultimately, very one-sided for the Raiders. Bass failed to make the team, but Lamonica more than made up for it with a MVP performance. The player who came to be known as “The Mad Bomber” proved to be an excellent fit in Oakland’s offense with his ability to throw deep and also displayed strong leadership skills. Despite the lack of a legitimate deep threat, flanker Fred Biletnikoff, split end Bill Miller, and TE Billy Cannon performed capably. The Raiders went 13-1 and won the AFL Championship, succumbing to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

Things did not go as well for Buffalo. Flores initially gained the starting job but had arm problems and, even with Kemp playing erratically, saw limited action – he threw a total of 64 passes, none for touchdowns but with 8 of them intercepted. Powell played in only six games and went down with a knee injury, catching 20 passes for 346 yards and four TDs. Instead of contending, and despite the efforts of a still-formidable defense, the Bills fell to 4-10.

Lamonica and the Raiders were 24-3-1 over the next two seasons, although they fell short of another AFL title both times. Still, Lamonica remained one of the league’s best quarterbacks and again received MVP recognition in 1969 as he passed for 3302 yards and 34 touchdowns. The arrival of fleet WR Warren Wells provided an effective deep threat to pair with Biletnikoff.

With the AFL merging into the NFL in 1970, Lamonica was still the starting quarterback for the Raiders and was selected to the Pro Bowl following the ’70 and ’72 seasons. However, the team, while still fundamentally strong, was not as successful and zone defenses began to neutralize the strong-armed quarterback. He began to yield playing time to the younger Ken Stabler and signed with the World Football League’s Southern California Sun, where he ended his career. It was an outstanding one – in eight years in Oakland (six as the primary starting quarterback) he passed for 16,655 yards and 148 TDs and the team went 62-16-6 in his starts and qualified for the playoffs in five of those first six seasons.

As for the Bills, the decline in ’67 continued through 1972, long after Tom Flores and Art Powell were gone. Flores appeared in one game in 1968 after being injured during the preseason, was dealt to the Chiefs during the ’69 season to provide veteran insurance when QB Len Dawson missed time due to injury, and retired afterward. He would eventually return to the Raiders as a head coach, leading the team to two NFL titles. Powell was gone in 1968, catching one pass for the Minnesota Vikings before his career also came to an end.

As for the draft choices the Raiders received, the third round selection was used to take Bill Fairbrand, linebacker from Colorado, and the fifth round pick went for LB Mike Hibler of Stanford. The second round choice the Bills got from Oakland was used for TE Jim LeMoine from Utah State. None of them were of consequence.

A risky trade that worked far better for the team that took the bigger chance proved a dud for the club that was seeking to retool and remain successful with veteran acquisitions. For the Oakland Raiders, it meant going from a promising team to a champion – and with a quarterback whose style of play came to define the franchise. But for the Buffalo Bills, it symbolized a descent from championship-level play to mediocrity.

March 13, 2012

MVP Profile: Don Meredith, 1966

Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys


Age: 28
7th season in pro football & with Cowboys
College: Southern Methodist
Height: 6’3” Weight: 203

Prelude:
A native of the Dallas metro area who played collegiately at SMU, Meredith was originally chosen by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 1960 NFL draft, but a deal was worked out so the expansion Cowboys could sign him in order to keep him away from the Dallas Texans of the new AFL. He backed up veteran QB Eddie LeBaron for the first two years and saw increasingly more action as he gradually took over the starting role in 1962 and ’63. Mobile and with a good arm, he improved (and fought off injuries) along with the team. The Cowboys broke even for the first time in 1965 at 7-7 as Meredith, while only completing 46.2 % of his passes, threw for 2415 yards and 22 TDs.

1966 Season Summary
Appeared in 13 of 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 344 [7]
Most attempts, game – 45 at Cleveland 10/23
Completions – 177 [7]
Most completions, game – 26 at Cleveland 10/23
Yards – 2805 [4]
Most yards, game – 406 at Washington 11/13
Completion percentage – 51.5 [9]
Yards per attempt – 8.2 [2]
TD passes – 24 [3]
Most TD passes, game – 5 vs. NY Giants 9/18, vs. Philadelphia 10/9
Interceptions – 12 [12, tied with Earl Morrall & Ron Smith]
Most interceptions, game – 4 at Cleveland 10/23
Passer rating – 87.7 [3]
400-yard passing games – 1
300-yard passing games – 3
200-yard passing games – 6

Rushing
Attempts – 38
Most attempts, game - 6 (for 33 yds.) vs. Minnesota 9/25, (for 32 yds.) at Washington 11/13
Yards – 242
Most yards, game – 41 yards (on 3 carries) vs. Pittsburgh 10/30
Yards per attempt – 6.4
TDs – 5

Scoring
TDs – 5
Points – 30

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship vs. Green Bay)
Pass attempts – 31
Pass completions – 15
Passing yardage – 238
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 4
Rushing yards – 22
Average gain rushing – 5.5
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Player of the Year: Bert Bell Award
2nd team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News
Pro Bowl

Cowboys went 10-3-1 to finish first in the Eastern Conference while leading the NFL in total yards (5145), passing yards (3023), scoring (445 points), and touchdowns (56). Lost NFL Championship to Green Bay Packers (34-27).

Aftermath:
The Cowboys again advanced to the NFL title game in 1967 – and once more lost a close contest to the Packers – although Meredith had a lesser, injury-plagued year in which he threw for just 1834 yards with 16 interceptions along with 16 TD passes. He still was chosen for the Pro Bowl and was again in ’68 as he passed for 2500 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Cowboys lost in the Eastern Conference title game, however, and the following summer Meredith abruptly retired. “Dandy Don” went on to an acting and broadcasting career – most notably on Monday Night Football. For his NFL career, he passed for 17,199 yards with 135 TD passes and 111 interceptions and rushed for 1216 yards with a 5.0 average gain.

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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 2/9/14]

March 11, 2012

1984: Cribbs Rushes for 191 Yards as Stallions Defeat Maulers


The Pittsburgh Maulers, one of six new teams in the United States Football League’s second season, had lost their first two games on the road. Owned by Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. (father of the owner of the NFL’s 49ers), Coach Joe Pendry’s team had the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, RB Mike Rozier, but little else. QB Glenn Carano was a former backup for the Cowboys and the defense was mediocre. Still, the Maulers lost their first two contests by a combined total of just seven points. On March 11, 1984 they debuted at home against the Birmingham Stallions.

There were 53,771 fans in attendance at Three Rivers Stadium, the first sellout in league history, fueled by the fact that Birmingham’s new starting quarterback was ex-Steeler Cliff Stoudt. He had been less-than-popular as the replacement for the injured Terry Bradshaw in ’83, and had made the jump to the USFL. Stoudt was joined in the backfield by RB Joe Cribbs, who had been selected to the Pro Bowl in three of four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. The one element of the Birmingham offense that had played well in 1983 was the line, not surprising under Head Coach Rollie Dotsch, who had been offensive line coach of the Steelers during their last two championship years. Adding experienced veteran talent in the backfield could only help, and the club had gotten off to a 1-1 start.

It was a cold and windy day with temperatures in the 20s. A deafening chorus of boos greeted Stoudt’s pregame introduction and a regular barrage of snowballs were tossed toward the quarterback and his teammates during the contest (drawing angry criticism from Coach Dotsch afterward). However, the Maulers proved mistake-prone on both sides of the ball and put themselves in a hole early.

In the opening period, Birmingham CB Chuck Clanton intercepted Carano’s second pass and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Before the first quarter was over, Scott Norwood kicked a 35-yard field goal that was set up thanks to a roughing-the-passer penalty on Pittsburgh on a third-down play in which Stoudt threw an incompletion. A run by Cribbs put the ball in field goal range.

It got worse for the Maulers as a fumble by Rozier after catching a swing pass was recovered by Birmingham DT Joe Cugliari. It initially seemed that Pittsburgh had dodged a bullet when, following a 23-yard pass completion from Stoudt to another ex-Steeler, WR Jim Smith, the defense held and Norwood’s field goal attempt was wide to the right. But Norwood was hit by LB Ron Crosby, who was called for roughing-the-kicker. Five plays later, and just into the second quarter, Cribbs scored on a four-yard touchdown carry.

Norwood suffered a knee injury on the play that resulted in the penalty and was forced to sit out the remainder of the contest. Following the Cribbs touchdown, Stoudt ran for a two-point conversion (waving the football triumphantly over his head in response to the Pittsburgh fans) and the score was 18-0 in favor of the visitors.

Tony Lee kicked field goals of 28 and 42 yards for the Maulers in the second quarter to narrow Birmingham’s margin to 18-6 at halftime. In the second half, another penalty snuffed out a successful fake punt for the Maulers. From their 45, punter Larry Swider, after dropping the snap, threw to CB Bill Yancy (a receiver in this instance). However, the play was called back because of an illegal receiver downfield.


Stoudt (pictured at left) was having a poor day throwing but, with Cribbs running effectively and the Maulers beating themselves, it hardly mattered. He also added another six points in the third quarter on a ten-yard run, although the attempt to pass for a two-point conversion failed.

Pittsburgh finally scored a touchdown two minutes into the fourth quarter as Carano tossed a four-yard pass to WR Shawn Potts. Ten minutes later, Cribbs rushed for a 13-yard TD and the Maulers followed with one last score as FB Walt Easley plowed over from a yard out. Both teams attempted two-point conversions after each of their touchdowns, failing in each instance. Pittsburgh came close to one final, meaningless TD but Rozier was stopped inches short of the goal line on the last play of the game. Birmingham comfortably came away as the winner by a final score of 30-18.

The yardage totals were deceivingly close as the Stallions outgained Pittsburgh by just five yards (263 to 258). However, the breakdown showed Birmingham with 242 yards on 52 rushing plays to just 46 on 20 attempts for the Maulers. The Stallions had only 21 net passing yards to Pittsburgh’s 212 that were accumulated in a vain attempt to come from behind. Birmingham led in first downs (19 to 15) and dominated the time of possession (37:07 to 22:53). There weren’t many turnovers, but both of Pittsburgh’s led to Birmingham scores while the Stallions turned the ball over once, and the Maulers were penalized 8 times to 4 flags thrown on the visitors, often in key situations.

Joe Cribbs was the offensive star for the Stallions with 191 yards on 33 carries and two touchdowns. Cliff Stoudt was successful on only two of 17 passes for 29 yards and had one intercepted. Jim Smith’s 23-yard catch was the longest of the game for Birmingham and RB Leon Perry had the only other reception, for six yards. The Stallions went for two-point conversions after their remaining touchdowns but were only successful on one.

For the Maulers, Mike Rozier was held to 52 yards on 16 rushing attempts but caught 7 passes for 68 more, although with the one costly fumble. Glenn Carano went to the air 33 times and had 18 completions for 221 yards and a TD with one intercepted. WR Greg Anderson gained 96 yards on his 4 receptions.

“Cliff did the things that he had to do, and we won,” said Coach Dotsch in response to the comfortable win despite Stoudt’s miniscule passing performance.

“All I have to do is please my teammates, my fans, and my coaches,” added Stoudt, who also said, “the crowd really fired me up. I was just excited out there. I was having fun and I wanted them to know it.”

“The interception didn’t set things back as much as the second turnover,” said Joe Pendry regarding the early plays that put Pittsburgh in a deep hole. “That forced us to throw the ball more than we wanted.”

Pendry, whose team fell to 0-3, added “They’re (Birmingham) an excellent football team, too good for us to make mistakes against. If they didn’t stop us, we had a penalty to stop ourselves.”

The Maulers won their first game the following week, against the equally-hapless Washington Federals, but it was hardly a case of turning a corner. They and Washington ended up the season at 3-15 and at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Coach Pendry was gone after ten weeks.

Birmingham, on the other hand, went on to win nine straight games and topped the Southern Division at 14-4. They easily defeated the division-rival Tampa Bay Bandits in the First Round playoff game but lost to the Philadelphia Stars, who had also ended their season winning streak, in the Eastern Conference Championship game.

Joe Cribbs led the USFL in rushing with 1467 yards on 297 carries (4.9 avg.) and 8 touchdowns. Cliff Stoudt had far better passing days than he did against the Maulers and ended up ranking second in the league with a 101.6 rating that included 3121 yards and 26 TDs to just 7 interceptions.

March 9, 2012

Past Venue: County Stadium

Milwaukee, WI



Year opened: 1953
Capacity: 54,187 at highest, up from 36,011 at opening

Names:
Milwaukee County Stadium, 1953-2001

Pro football tenants:
Green Bay Packers (NFL), 1953-94 (select games)

Postseason games hosted:
NFL Western Conf. Championship, Packers 28 Rams 7, Dec. 23, 1967

Other tenants of note:
Milwaukee Braves (MLB – NL), 1953-65
Univ. of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (college football), 1968-71
Milwaukee Brewers (MLB – AL), 1970-2000

Notes: Beginning in 1933, Packers played some home games each year in Milwaukee (the practice continued through 1994), with County Stadium the venue from 1953. Also hosted some home games of MLB Chicago White Sox, 1968-69. Playing area was barely large enough to fit a football field and both team benches were on the same sideline. Hosted exhibition matches of NASL Chicago Sting.

Fate: Demolished in 2001, site now serves as a parking lot for Miller Park.

March 7, 2012

1933: Lone Star Dietz Becomes Head Coach of Braves/Redskins


The franchise currently known as the Washington Redskins started out in 1932 as the Boston Braves, coached by Lud Wray and playing at Braves Field. As was common among early pro football teams, they often adopted the name of the major league baseball franchise that they shared a venue with, and that was the case with co-owner George Preston Marshall’s new club. The team went 4-4-2 and had the NFL’s leading rusher in rookie tailback Cliff Battles. It also lost $46,000 and Marshall’s three partners bailed out, leaving him as sole owner.

On the evening of March 7, 1933 it was announced that the Braves would have a new head coach in William “Lone Star” Dietz, as Wray was leaving to become head coach and co-owner of the newly-created Philadelphia Eagles. In short order, the team shifted its home field to Fenway Park and, with a name change necessary, the club was rechristened the Redskins.

The 48-year-old Dietz (he turned 49 prior to the ’33 season) was certainly an interesting and multi-talented character as well as a college football coach who had enjoyed success. While raised by white parents (his father was German), he was certain that his birth mother was Native American (specifically, Oglala Sioux) and adopted the name Lone Star (newspaper reports at the time of his hiring by the Redskins erroneously indicated that he was a full-blooded American Indian; his actual origins became a source of controversy both during his lifetime and for many years afterward). He attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania where he played tackle on the football team that was coached by Glenn “Pop” Warner and featured the legendary Jim Thorpe at running back.

From Carlisle, where he remained as an art instructor for a time (and met his first wife), he went into college coaching, becoming head coach at Washington State College (now University). The football team gained national prominence during Dietz’s tenure, most notably winning an upset victory over Brown in the 1916 Rose Bowl. While in California following that contest, Dietz arranged for the players to be hired as extras for the movie “Tom Brown of Harvard” which launched a separate film career for the flamboyant coach (who became a critic of the film industry’s portrayal of American Indians). Fond of fancy clothes, he sometimes wore formal evening wear while coaching the team – photos of him nattily attired in spats, a tuxedo, and top hat on the sidelines made it into newspapers across the country. Occasionally, he would be accompanied by a Russian wolfhound on a leash.


Beneath the trappings, Dietz had a good football mind. He had a thorough knowledge of Warner’s single-wing offense and was also considered to be an excellent defensive strategist. Most of all, he was an outstanding motivator and often was successful with underdog squads.

During World War I Dietz coached a service team of Marines that also reached the Rose Bowl, but became embroiled in controversy when he was brought up on bogus charges of impersonating an Indian in order to avoid the draft. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was indicted again on a similar charge and, his money running out, he pleaded no contest. He served a month in jail, a blot on his record that ended his career at Washington State, where his teams had gone 17-2-1 over three seasons and outscored their opponents by 497-38.

From 1921 to ’26 Dietz was head coach at Purdue, Louisiana Tech, and Wyoming before rejoining his mentor Warner, head coach at Stanford, as coach of the freshman team in 1927. His last stop before coming to the NFL was Haskell Institute in Kansas from 1929 to ’32.

Taking over the Redskins (who may or may not have been so named in his honor), Dietz was joined by five Native American players on the roster. The publicity-minded Marshall had the entire team pose in headdresses and war paint on the first day of practice, and he made much of Dietz’s heritage. There was certainly talent available, with Battles and FB Jim Musick in the backfield and star OT Turk Edwards anchoring the line. Dietz had a penchant for using trick plays which often didn’t work and were resented by some of the players (most notably Battles).

The team again broke even at 5-5-2 to finish third in the Eastern Division in what was the first year of divisional play in the NFL. Musick and Battles finished first and second in the league in rushing with 859 and 767 yards, respectively. They also topped the NFL in yards-per-carry, but in reverse order with Battles averaging an impressive 5.4 yards and Musick 4.7. But in this first year of liberalized passing rules (and a more streamlined ball), the Redskins ranked eighth of the ten teams in passing offense.

Expectations were higher for 1934 thanks to an influx of promising rookies, and there were hopes of challenging the Giants for the division title. But the team again went .500 with a 6-6 record. Musick sat out the season and, while Battles again received All-Pro recognition, he gained fewer rushing yards (480). Edwards was still a bulwark on the line, but overall the team underachieved.

While the club did better at the gate, owner Marshall chose to make a change after the season, dismissing Dietz in favor of former Harvard star Eddie Casey. It didn’t work out – the Redskins dropped to 2-8-1 in 1935.

Dietz returned to college coaching, again reuniting with Warner, now at Temple University, in 1935 and then as head coach at Albright College in ’37. He stayed there until 1943, when the football program was suspended during World War II. It marked the end of a coaching career that produced an overall record of 70-47-6 at the college level and 11-11-2 in the NFL. Counting all levels of football, he was 170-71-11.


Dietz was also a talented artist who produced many portraits and illustrations that typically pertained to either Native American themes or football. He founded an art school in Pittsburgh following his coaching career that eventually failed, forcing him into poverty as a result. Still, he was an interesting and accomplished character who numbered Knute Rockne, George Halas, ex-teammate Jim Thorpe, and Walt Disney among his friends, raised show dogs, and was known for his artistic as well as sports achievements.

In more recent years, long after Dietz coached the Redskins and the team moved to Washington, legal action was taken against the club to attempt to force a change of the nickname. The belief that the team was named Redskins in honor of Dietz reopened the question of his actual origins. While it is still a subject of debate (a recent and thorough biographer has concluded that he was indeed half Native American), there can be no question that Lone Star Dietz was one of the most fascinating individuals to coach a NFL team, even if not the most successful.

March 6, 2012

1983: Boddie Upstages Walker as Express Beat Generals in USFL Debut


The United States Football League commenced its inaugural season with five games on March 6, 1983 (there was also a Monday night contest the following day to round out Week 1). Of those games, the one that drew the most attention was played in Los Angeles, where the Express hosted the New Jersey Generals.

There was a national television audience and a large press contingent in addition to 34,002 fans in attendance at the Memorial Coliseum. The reason for the intense scrutiny was the presence of one player, RB Herschel Walker. A three-time All-American and winner of the Heisman Trophy as a junior, he had left the Univ. of Georgia a year early to sign a three-year, $4.2 million contract with the USFL club in a stunning move just weeks before the season commenced.

Expectations were high for Walker, although he had only practiced with the club for a short time since his signing. When the contest was all over another rookie, RB Tony Boddie of the Express (pictured above), who was an unknown 12th round draft choice out of Montana State, would be receiving accolades for his performance.

With veteran NFL backup Mike Rae at quarterback, the Express started off the scoring in the first quarter with a 23-yard field goal by Vince Abbott. New Jersey, also with a veteran pro backup at quarterback in ex-Saint Bobby Scott, scored the first touchdown, and it was Walker running in from five yards out. The extra point attempt failed, however, and the Generals held to a three-point lead. Dave Jacobs booted a 38-yard field goal with just seconds remaining in the opening period to extend New Jersey’s lead to 9-3.

On the opening drive of the second quarter, LA added three points on a 27-yard field goal by Abbott. Rookie Tom Ramsey, a local product from UCLA, replaced Rae at quarterback for the Express five minutes into the period with the Generals holding a 9-6 lead. Ramsey passed to Boddie for an 11-yard touchdown late in the half to put the Express ahead at 13-9.

Four minutes into the third quarter, Los Angeles scored again when Ramsey threw to WR Vister Hayes for a 24-yard TD. The Generals came back with a touchdown of their own in the fourth quarter with Scott hitting WR Tom McConnaughey from ten yards out. Scott’s pass for a two-point conversion fell incomplete and the Express held onto a five-point lead.

With 3:48 left and the ball at the LA 31, Coach Hugh Campbell of the Express chose to go for it on fourth-and-inches. The gamble failed when reserve FB LaRue Harrington carried the ball into the middle of the line and was stopped for no gain. (Afterward, Campbell said that the Express had two injured defensive backs and he was concerned that they wouldn’t have been able to stop New Jersey’s passing attack, thus prompting the effort to maintain possession).

It appeared that it might prove fatal to the home team when the Generals moved swiftly to the Los Angeles five, but then Scott was sacked for a nine-yard loss and, with Walker standing on the sidelines, a fourth-down pass to WR Larry Brodsky came up inches short of a first down and LA was able to run out the clock for a 20-15 win.

The Generals outgained the Express (366 yards to 296), had more first downs (22 to 16), and held onto the ball longer (34:09 to 25:51). However, they also turned the ball over five times, to just one suffered by LA, and Scott was sacked four times while Express quarterbacks were tossed twice. Both teams ran the ball 33 times apiece and Los Angeles outgained the Generals by 169 to 147.

Herschel Walker’s pro debut was pronounced a disappointment as he gained 65 yards on 16 carries that included one TD and caught just one pass for three more yards. By contrast, the unknown Tony Boddie made a splash by gaining 77 yards on 13 attempts and adding 5 pass receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Tom Ramsey completed only 8 of 20 passes for 117 yards for the Express, but two of them went for touchdowns against one interception. Mike Rae was 3-for-7 and 22 yards. While Boddie had the most catches, Vister Hayes was the yardage leader with 60 on his four receptions.

For the Generals, Bobby Scott was successful on 24 of 38 throws for 251 yards and a TD, but was picked off three times. TE Victor Hicks was the top receiver with 5 catches for 69 yards while Tom McConnaughey was right behind with 61 yards on his four receptions. After Walker, the next-leading rusher was FB Dwight Sullivan with 7 carries for 35 yards.


“A lot of the guys had more speed than I expected to see,” said Walker (pictured at left) in summing up his first pro game. “And the execution was better. I guess that’s the biggest adjustment I have to make.”

“I said before the game that we’d use other backs because Herschel had been with us only a week,” said Generals Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks. “In the second half, we were in a catch-up situation early and I felt I had to take him out because of his lack of preparation.”

“We didn’t block as well as we should have for him – we can help him out a lot more than we did today,” added Fairbanks.

“This was real fun,” said Tom Ramsey, whose first pro contest proved to be more satisfying. “I think this is one of the more exciting games I’ve ever played in. The fans got their money’s worth. When the fans are with you, like these fans were, it fires me up.”

Over the course of the season, Herschel Walker asserted himself as a ball carrier and ended up leading the USFL with 1812 yards on 412 carries (4.4 avg.) and 17 touchdowns – he was also New Jersey’s leading pass receiver with 53 catches for 489 yards and another TD. As for Tony Boddie, he returned to earth, ending up 23rd in the league in rushing (and second on the Express) with 403 yards on 109 attempts (3.7 avg.) and three scores while pulling in 46 passes for 434 yards and two TDs.

Both teams ended up with losing records. The Express went 8-10, which was still good enough to contend in the weak Pacific Division (the Oakland Invaders won the division title at 9-9). Alternating quarterbacks (a preference of Coach Campbell from his years in the CFL) and with a generally weak running game, LA could not generate the offensive consistency to put sufficient points on the board and negated the efforts of the fifth-ranked defense. New Jersey was more of a disappointment, finishing 6-12 and well out of the running in the Atlantic Division. Bobby Scott didn’t last the year – he was dealt to Chicago when injuries depleted their quarterback ranks – and Jeff Knapple, Gene Bradley, and Dave Boisture were found wanting.

March 5, 2012

MVP Profile: Abner Haynes, 1960

Halfback, Dallas Texans



Age: 23 (Sept. 19)
1st season in pro football
College: North Texas State
Height: 6’0” Weight: 185

Prelude:
The fledgling Texans signed Haynes for the new AFL, winning a bidding war against the NFL Steelers, who drafted him in the fifth round of that league’s draft, and Winnipeg of the CFL. An unheralded small college star, he was an evasive all-purpose runner and quickly became the AFL’s first home-grown star.

1960 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 156 [1]
Most attempts, game - 27 (for 81 yds.) at Denver 10/30
Yards – 875 [1]
Most yards, game – 157 yards (on 11 carries) at NY Titans 11/24
Average gain – 5.6 [2]
TDs – 9 [1]
100-yard rushing games - 2

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 55 [5]
Most receptions, game – 7 (for 62 yds.) at LA Chargers 9/10, (for 96 yds.) at Denver 10/30
Yards – 576 [15]
Most yards, game - 96 (on 7 catches) at Denver 10/30
Average gain – 10.5
TDs – 3

Passing
Pass attempts – 1
Pass completions – 0
Passing yards – 0
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 19 [6, tied with Ken Hall]
Yards – 434 [7]
Most yards, game – 111 at Buffalo 11/6
Average per return – 22.8 [8]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 82 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 14 [2, tied with Johnny Robinson]
Yards – 215 [1]
Most yards, game – 74 vs. NY Titans 10/2
Average per return – 15.4 [1]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 46 yards

All-Purpose yards – 2100 [1]

Scoring
TDs – 12 [2, tied with Bill Groman & Lionel Taylor]
Points – 72 [7, tied with Bill Groman & Lionel Taylor]

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

Texans went 8-6 to finish second in the AFL Western Division while placing second in the league in rushing yards (2007).

Aftermath:
Haynes followed up his outstanding rookie year with 1899 all-purpose yards in 1961, including 841 rushing for a league-leading 9 TDs and 4.7 yards per carry, and 34 pass receptions for 558 more. He was selected to the first AFL All-Star Game. In ’62 he ran for 1049 yards and again had the most rushing TDs with 13, as well as the most TDs overall with 19, and also topped the AFL with 1622 yards from scrimmage as the Texans won the AFL title. Haynes was a consensus first-team All-AFL selection and was again chosen for the league’s All-Star contest. The franchise became the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963, but had a losing record and Haynes suffered a significant drop in production. The death of rookie HB Stone Johnson, who suffered a broken neck during the last preseason game, had a profound effect on Haynes and his style of play lacked the previous excitement. After improving in 1964, gaining a last All-Star selection after running for 697 yards and gaining another 562 on 38 catches, he was traded to the Denver Broncos. Haynes led the AFL in kickoff returns in ’65 (26.5 avg.), but his offensive production dropped again and, prone to carrying the ball away from his body, he led the league in fumbles in 1966 (11). His last season, 1967, was split between the second-year Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, and while he showed flashes of the old form, the writing was on the wall and he retired. Haynes ended up gaining 12,065 total yards in the AFL (4630 rushing, 3535 receiving, 3025 returning kickoffs, 875 returning punts) and scored a total of 69 touchdowns.

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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 2/9/14]