This Might Surprise You — The NFL’s Coaching Elite (Pt 1)

In “QB Reality – Why Most Teams Stand No Chance,” I pointed out that a small number of quarterbacks own the majority of championship rings. Today I’ll tell you about an even grander elite class – the championship coaches club.

Of the first 30 Super Bowls, only 4 winning coaches won only one Super Bowl. Free Agency seemingly levels that statistic out at first glance — with the next 19 Super Bowls handing the Lombardi award to 11 one-time winners. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find that very few coaches even make the Big Game, let alone win it.  A total of 49 coaches have coached in the 49 Super Bowls, averaging one compounded appearance per game.

The vast majority of coaches who make a championship game make multiple appearances, or they played for or worked under one of those frequenting Super Bowl Sunday. When I say vast majority, I mean just about every single head coach. The trend dates back to when the Detroit Lions were the Portsmouth Spartans. Sounds crazy? We’ll take a quick look in this post before fully submerging next week.

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Potsy Clark coached the Portsmouth Spartans in the first NFL Championship Game.

Vince Lombardi’s name symbolizes championship football. He won 5 championships in 7 years with the Green Bay Packers, leading them to 6 championship games in 8 years. Lombardi didn’t just pop out of nowhere to land the Packers in championship games. Lombardi previously served as an assistant on the New York Giants, who won the NFL Championship in 1956, and made the NFL Championship Game in 1958.

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Lombardi on top of the world with Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg.

The Giants head coach was Jim Lee Howell, who won the NFL championship as a player in 1938 under the great Steve Owen. Owen’s Giants earned 7 NFL Championship Game appearances, Howell’s 3. Owen’s playing career also included a title with the 1927 Giants. Tracing Lombardi’s championship bloodlines date back to the league’s first decade. Tom Landry’s do likewise,  serving with Lombardi on the same Giants coaching staff.

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Lombardi and Landry with the Giants.

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Steve Owen with Frank Filchock.

Turns out that nearly every single coach to win an NFL title – or even finish second – meets at least one of three criteria. The phenomenon dates back to the 1920s. In our next post we’ll point out the criteria, go over NFL champions by decade, and demonstrate the resilient stranglehold a superior set of coaches have on NFL title games.

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Paul Brown.

 

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Chuck Noll.

 

Don-Shula

Don Shula.

READ THE INSIDE STORIES OF SUPER BOWLS AND NFL CHAMPIONSHIPS FROM THE MEN WHO PLAYED THE GAME.

THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY: VOICES OF THE MEN WHO BUILT THE NFL

AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON HERE (ALSO ON KINDLE)

AVAILABLE FROM BARNES AND NOBLE HERE (ALSO ON NOOK)

“Entertaining and Engrossing.” — Library Journal

Classic NFL Games — 1962 NFL Championship — Second Half

This is part two in a two-part series, covering the second half of this classic contest. Part one, covering the first half, can be found here. The game summary is in present tense to hopefully give a feel for events unfolding in real time.

The Packers lead 10-0 at halftime. The brutal weather conditions curtail the Giants prolific passing game. A potential 17-point lead looks insurmountable. Green Bay receives the second-half kickoff an opportunity to take that sizeable advantage.

Tom Moore fields Don Chandler’s kick. Moore breaks down the sideline. He races all the way to the 50, but fumbles as he goes down. Ken Iman recovers for the Packers. Green Bay’s fortunate to recover all of their fumbles today.

Jim Taylor is stuffed by Dick Modzelewski on first down. The Packers line up strong right on second, and Bart Starr completes a pass to Boyd Dowler at the Giant 41. On 3rd and 1, Tom Scott forces Taylor to fumble at the line of scrimmage. Fuzzy Thurston recovers this one for the Packers, although they are forced to punt. Max McGee’s punt is downed at the Giant 6.

The Giants come out of halftime’s gate looking sharp. Alex Webster takes the first down handoff to about the 10, where he’s dragged down by Henry Jordan and Ray Nitschke. Webster runs off tackle on second down, breaking into the Packer secondary. Hank Gremminger tackles him at the 23-yard line. Webster takes his third handoff in a row for 2 yards to the 25.

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Y.A. Tittle now looks to pass. He airs it to Del Shofner for a first down at the Giant 36. Phil King runs to the 41, and Webster adds 2 more yards before Bill Quinlan wraps him up. On 3rd and 3, Webster goes off tackle left and gets to the midfield stripe.

Tittle calls a pass on first down. Quinlan and Bill Forester force Tittle to hurry, and the pass intended for Shofner falls incomplete. The Giants run a play-action to stall the pass rush, but the Packers bulldoze through. Tittle’s dump to Webster only gets them back to the line of scrimmage.

The Packers aggressive defense is called for offsides, giving the Giants 5 yards. On 3rd and 5 linebacker Dan Currie snuffs out a screen to Joe Morrison. Chandler’s punt bounces into the end zone for a touchback.

Paul Hornung takes a handoff, but Sam Huff, Bill Winter and Jim Katcavage of the Giants crush him for a 5-yard loss. Starr misses two straight passes to McGee, the first nearly being intercepted by Dick Lynch. McGee lines up to punt for Green Bay.

Giant cornerback Erich Barnes notices Packer Lew Carpenter lined up inside and decides to rush McGee, letting Carpenter go free. Barnes’ gamble pays huge dividends; he blocks the punt. Packer Gary Barnes tries to pick up the ball near the 3, but the rookie from Clemson can’t find the handle. A mass of blue shirts converge. Jim Collier falls on top of the ball at the goal line. The refs signal a Giants touchdown and Yankee Stadium goes delirious.

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“It was dangerous,” Barnes told Sports Illustrated. “When I go in like that, I’m exposing my area to a pass….It’s a judgment thing and you have to decide quickly.”

The score is now 10-7, Packers. Tom Moore fields the kickoff, breaks a tackle at the 25, and gets to the Packer 34.

What happens next wouldn’t happen today. Starr tells the officials that his teammates can’t hear the signals. The Packers return to the huddle while the officials quiet the crowd.

Giant lineman Rosey Grier refuses to be quiet. He slams Jim Taylor for a 1-yard loss on first down. The Packers run a sweep, but Modzelewski and Scott push Taylor back another 2 yards. Starr throws to Kramer on 3rd, but it’s broken up and nearly intercepted by Winter. Momentum favors the Giants right now.

The Packers punt again, McGee booting a low, sinking punt. Just as quickly as momentum changed in the Giants favor earlier, Lady Luck winks at the Packers. Sam Horner fumbles the punt and Ray Nitschke comes out of the rugged pile up clutching the ball. The Packers regain possession at the Giant 42-yard line.

Taylor busts left on a sweep for 12 yards. Andy Robustelli brings him down, and they both roll to a stop. Taylor casually gets up and tosses the ball to the refs. Robustelli charges Taylor with a clenched fist headed towards his face. Taylor jerks back, looking as surprised as a high school football coach after an icy Gatorade bath. The refs, however, appear indifferent. Two of them grab Robustelli rather calmly, possibly asking him to politely reconsider punching ol’ Jimmy after the play.

NFL PLAYOFFS

The Packers gain nothing on first down, and Taylor fights for 4 tough yards on second. Starr slips while passing on third. The ball floats in the air, seemingly without direction. Boyd Dowler comes from nowhere to lasso it in on the sideline at the Giant 22.

It’s not, however, enough for a first down. The Packers line up for a field goal, and Kramer again pushes it through the uprights. The Packers get points off the turnover, but the Giants can still take the lead with a touchdown. The score is 13-7 with 4 minutes left in the third.

The Lombardi legacy as we know it had not been built. The Packers were in their third straight title game, having lost to the Eagles in 1960 and topping the Giants in 1961. They were good, not iconic. The legend remained under construction, future Hall of Famers like Willie Davis laboring long hours as crew.

“Those games really were signature moments at the most critical time in the league’s history,” Davis told the New York Times decades later. “We were these nobodies from little old Wisconsin, and they were the Giants from big and sophisticated New York. And they were a recognized great team with lots of stars. But we had Lombardi, we were determined, and we were ready to show it.”

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Willie Davis had a Hall of Fame career with the Packers.

The Giants, winners of the 1956 title, were runners-up in 1958, 59, and 61. They weren’t about to cower to the young Packers. After Willie Wood’s kick sails through the end zone for a touchback, the Giants adjust their offense to the steady 25mph winds.

Tittle drops back two steps, and immediately throws to Frank Gifford on the sideline. The “Sideline Pass” nets the Giants 6 yards. After Forester and Quinlan stop Webster for no gain, the Giants run the exact same Sideline Pass for a first down. Packer cornerback Herb Adderley experiences difficulty defending the play, which is over almost as quickly as it starts

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Sports Illustrated put Frank Gifford on the cover previewing the game.

Tittle throws Del Shofner’s way twice. Packer Jesse Whittington breaks up the first pass. Whittenton tackles Shofner immediately after Shofner grabs the second one at the Giant 42. Coincidentally, Shofner and Whittenton were once roommates with the Rams. The refs measure for a first, and declare it 3rd and 1.

Alex Webster barely gets enough for the first down. Tittle throws to tight end Joe Walton across midfield to the Green Bay 47. Tittle goes back to Shofner on second down, and a bizarre sequence ensues.

Willie Wood breaks up the pass. Back Judge Thomas Kelleher tosses a flag for pass interference. Willie outstretches his hands in disbelief as Kelleher runs past him to mark the ball. Kelleher trips over Wood. Wood gets ejected for bumping Kelleher. This also tacks 15 yards of personal foul yardage onto the play. The Packers find themselves without a future Hall of Famer in the secondary. The Giants happily find themselves camped on the Packer 18.

Afterward Wood said, “I jumped up to protest and my hand must have hit him in the chest. I guess he must have thought I was trying to throw a punch.”

Kelleher stated, “In my opinion, Wood committed an overt act in striking me that called for disqualification.”

Commissioner Pete Rozelle noted that ejections carry at least $50 in fines.

Tension fills Yankee Stadium. The home team knocks on the door to take the lead late in the third. Optimism and excitement warm the frosty fans in the dropping temperatures.

Tittle overthrows Shofner on first down. On second down, Tittle hands off to King, who hands off to Gifford on a reverse. Gifford’s met immediately by Packer Bill Forester and back to Tittle, nearly 10 yards behind him. Tittle throws right to linebacker Dan Currie, who drops an easy interception. A collective sigh of relief fills Yankee Stadium.

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The Giants run a play-action pass on third, but tight end Joe Walton gets nabbed for a penalty behind the line of scrimmage. This sends the Giants back to the Packer 40, and a 3rd and 32 situation.

Tittle completes a 7-yard pass to Webster, but the Giants again get flagged. What was once 1st and 10 on the Packer 18 is now 3rd and 47 near their own 40! The Giants punt after an incomplete pass. The ball stops at the Packer 28, ten yards behind the original line of scrimmage.

An action-packed third quarter ends. The quarter featured momentum shifts, an ejection, scoring by both teams, but no lead changes. The Packers still own a 13-7 margin.

FOURTH QUARTER

The Packers start on their own 28. Starr fakes a handoff to Taylor, and gives to Tom Moore on kind of a reverse sweep. Moore breaks all the way to the 43. He’s had good kick returns and now a good rush today. After an incomplete pass, Taylor gets to the 47 before Huff, Grier and Modzelewski slam him down. Starr fires incomplete in McGee’s direction, and the Packers punt again.

The Giants start on their 24. Phil King goes left for 3 yards, where Jordan and Nitschke  unpleasantly greet him. Tittle fires a Sideline Pass to Gifford, but this time it’s incomplete. Tittle throws over the middle on third, where Gremminger bats it in Adderley’s direction, and Herb nearly intercepts.

Elijah Pitts fields Don Chandler’s punt at the Packer 22. He makes a nifty return to the Giant 43. Two handoffs result in only one yard thanks to Modzelewski and Huff. Bart Starr backpedals deep on third. He fires to Max McGee who makes the catch at the Giant 30.

The Pack go back to the run, but Huff, Modzelewski, and Tom Scott bust Taylor at the line of scrimmage. The Packers run a draw to Taylor, and Jim Katcavage isn’t fooled; Taylor gets knocked back 2 yards. The Packers try a draw to Moore, and Katcavage laughs, pounding Moore down also.

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Jim Katcavage played 13 seasons for the Giants.

Green Bay lines up for a field goal, but the kick falls short. Jimmy Patton picks it up at the 3 and maybe gets to the 5. The Giants start deep in their own end.

Dan Hanner stops Alex Webster for no gain. A second down pass to Shofner misses. The Packers jump offside, giving the Giants 3rd and 5. Tittle then connects with Gifford down the sideline at the 25. Adderely forcefully knocks Gifford out of bounds. Gifford’s body sails several feet, almost into the player bench. He still picks up the first down.

Tittle then hits Walton at the 37 for another first down. The Giants are moving, trailing by only 6 with about 8 minutes left. A touchdown puts them ahead.

New York runs a play-action, but the pass intended for Walton falls harmlessly to the ground. A Sideline Pass to Gifford gains 7, but a busted play-action on third forces the Giants to punt again. Both defenses excel at disrupting plays now.

The Packers start at their own 28 with 6:53 left. Taylor runs a counter to the 34. Moore gets to the 38. The Pack faces third and short, which Taylor picks up.

Hornung, who replaced Moore on the previous play, dashes across midfield but is shaken up. He leaves the game, and Moore returns. Taylor runs around end to the Giant 41 and a first down. It’s still a one score game with 4:25 left, but the Giants need a stop.

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An inside handoff to Moore proves big, and he gets to the Giant 29. The Packers then stall for a couple of plays, Taylor getting bent at the line of scrimmage and Dowler dropping a pass on the 18. Remember these guys aren’t playing with gloves. Bare hands football in the brutal cold in 1962.

The Packers face 3rd and 10. They fail to pick it up, but defensive holding grants them a first down on the 24. Tom Moore bobbles the first down handoff. He hangs on, but Patton smacks him for a 2-yard loss. Green Bay runs a draw to Taylor, who slips on the rock solid turf and falls back to the 27. With 2:15 left, the Giants call time out.

Third and 12. Green Bay clings to a 6-point lead. They need points to make it a two-possession game. The Giants need a stop, a turnover, or a sack out of field goal range.

Starr fades back. Nobody’s open. The fierce Giant pass rush forces him out of the pocket. Like Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre would do for the Packers decades later, Starr darts out of the pocket and past the line of scrimmage.

Linebacker Tom Scott foils Starr’s plan. He clocks Starr a few yards later, and a gang of blue jersey follow in mashing Starr to the icy ground.

 

Packer lineman Jerry Kramer lines up to attempt the game-clinching 30-yard field goal. The wind gusts and swirls. It’s been so unpredictable today that at times it’s blown the centerfield flags at Yankee Stadium in opposite directions simultaneously. It’s even torn pieces off the American flag overlooking the field.

Paul Hornung established himself as the Packers trusted kicker for years, setting an NFL scoring record of 176 points in 12 games. (The record’s only been broken once in a 16-game schedule, narrowly by LaDainian Tomlinson.) A knee injury’s hobbled Hornung since Week 5, and Kramer’s been the substitute kicker. Lombardi hoped Hornung could kick today, but Hornung proved inconsistent in pre-game warm-ups. The responsibility, and quite possibly the Packers’ chance to repeat as champs, rests upon Kramer’s leg.

Packer center Jim Ringo, who lost feeling in his right hand because of nerve damage, instead snaps the ball with his left hand. Starr places the ball on the turf. Kramer kicks it. The ball sails through the uprights with 1:50 left.

“I just aimed for the middle and prayed,” Kramer would say about the kick afterward.

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The Packers lead 16-7, and the Giants now need two scores instead of one to win. Kramer now replaces the ejected Wood on kickoffs. His kick is bobbled by Sam Horner, who regains control and takes it to the Giant 27.

Tittle looks to his deep threat Shofner, but the winds render the ball incomplete. Tittle throws directly to Packer Ray Nitschke on second down, but the linebacker drops the pass. Nitschke would later say he couldn’t feel his hands because of the bitter cold. He said it was an easy catch any other day.

There’s 1:27 left. A quick touchdown and an onside kick is the Giants only hope. Shofner makes a catch at the Giant 45. Walton catches one at the 50. Hank Gremminger bats the ball away from Shofner on 2nd and 5, but a Green Bay offsides call gives the Giants another first down.

Joe Walton makes a grab at the Packer 32 and the Giants call time out with 33 seconds left. Tittle fires in the end zone, and Whittenton nearly intercepts. Tittle fades back with 20 seconds left. The Packers haven’t been rushing Tittle hoping he’ll eat up more time in the pocket. Tittle follows the plan, an throws incomplete toward Walton with 8 seconds to go.

Tittle finds Walton on third down, and the tight end gets all the way to the Packer 4 as time expires. The Packers repeat as champions with a 16-7 road win.

Y.A.  Tittle Walking Off Field After Game

 

SUMMARY

Kramer’s three field goals tied a record for field goals in championship games. The record was held by several people, including Pat Summerall and Kramer’s teammate Paul Hornung. Ironically, Kramer’s counterpart Don Chandler currently co-holds the record for most field goals in a Super Bowl with Ray Wersching. Each hit 4 – Chandler as a Packer in Super Bowl 2, Wersching in Super Bowl 16 with the 49ers.

Kramer’s field goals were not only the scoring difference – but the third field goal provided an enormous cushion for the Packers. Imagine Kramer had missed his final attempt. The Giants would be driving deep – all the way to the Packer 4 — with a chance to win. Clock management would be of much greater concern; the Giants likely wouldn’t run 12-13 seconds per play, and the time ate up by the kickoff return would have been saved. It’s very possible that New York would have the ball on the Packer 4 and still have time to run two or three more plays. A thrilling 14-13 Giant victory is not out of the question.

Players remember the game not only for the terrible weather conditions, but for the hardnosed play of both teams. This contest was extremely physical even by 1962 standards. The ground, frozen so hard that some players likened it to concrete, added extra punishment.

“I’ve never played a tougher game,” said Paul Hornung in the locker room.

“I never took a worse beating on a football field,” added Jim Taylor. “The Giants hit me hard and then I hit the ground hard. I got it both ways.”

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The 30th NFL championship paid the winning team $5,888 per player, and $4,166 per player for the losing team. Both were records at the time. Tickets went for $8-10 on average.

Ray Nitschke earned MVP honors, recovering two fumbles and forcing an interception. Jerry Kramer received the Packer Game Ball. He scored 10 points, made key blocks on the line, and connected on 3 of 5 field goal attempts in debilitating weather conditions.

The second straight title laid the foundation for Lombardi’s Packers to later be recognized as one of the greatest dynasties in league history.  The 1962 championship remains a key pillar to that dynasty.

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Classic NFL Games — 1962 NFL Championship — First Half

In honor of the NFL playoffs and the recent passing of Allie Sherman, we examine an overlooked classic. This is part one of a two-part series. I’ll write the game’s action in present tense, hopefully giving a feel for the events unfolding live.

The 1962 NFL Championship was a heavyweight showdown. The prizefighters were the Green Bay Packers, entering the game with a 13-1 record, and the 12-2 New York Giants who hadn’t lost since mid-October. Both head coaches – Allie Sherman and Vince Lombardi – had been assistants with the Giants under Jim Lee Howell.

The teams didn’t meet in the regular season. Their last rendezvous was the 1961 NFL Championship at Lambeau Field, a 37-0 Packer victory. The Giants hungered to avenge the embarrassment. Fans also wanted revenge. A “Beat Green Bay! Beat Green Bay!” chant thundered from the stands, and one fan hoisted a “OK YA – Make Green Bay Pay” sign in the end zone seats at Yankee Stadium.

Fifteen future Hall of Famers lined up that day. The Packers offensive line boasted two, plus Jerry Kramer, for whom many fans vehemently advocate HOF membership. The Giants defensive line countered with their own Hall of Famer in Andy Robustelli, plus two All-Pros — Rosey Grier and Jim Katcavage. Dick Modzelewski was no slouch either.

The teams not only fought each other, but also fierce cold. The official temperature was 20 degrees at kickoff, and dipped to 14 by the final gun. Tolerable football weather, but the 25-30mph winds that gusted up to 45mph made it feel much colder. Vince Lombardi Jr. remembers feeling colder than during the Ice Bowl.

FIRST QUARTER

The wind fittingly blows the ball off the tee before Willie Wood kicks off. Rookie Earl Gros holds it for Wood, and Joe Morrison returns the ball to the Giant 30. The Giants start on the ground. Three straight handoffs – one to Alex Webster and two to Phil King – establish the running game nicely. The Giants move to their own 46.

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Alex Webster was a key part of the Giants offense for a decade.

Y.A. Tittle drops back and gets pressured up the middle. He spots All-Pro receiver Del Shofner wide open on the sideline, but overthrows him. We soon find out how Shofner got open. A 15-yard offensive pass interference penalty gets marked off, and the Giants have 1st and 25 on the 31. Webster gains 11 back, but two incompletions force the Giants to punt. Don Chandler’s punt nearly gets downed by Mickey Walker at the 2, but bounces into the end zone. The Packers score the first break with a touchback.

Paul Hornung runs for two yards. Erich Barnes forearm clubs Hornung in the head, long after the whistle. What would be a penalty, fine, and possible suspension today doesn’t raise an eyebrow.

Jim Taylor, the league’s leading rusher and MVP, takes the ball 10 yards to the Packer 34. Bart Starr hits Ron Kramer for another 10 yards. Taylor then exacts revenge for Hornung by plowing over Barnes on a sweep, en route to 14 yards. The Packer offense is cruising, and is across midfield.

Starr throws an incomplete pass, however, and then Taylor fumbles on a draw play. Jerry Kramer pounces on the ball — a second early break. Green Bay runs a screen to the right to Taylor. He scampers to the Giant 29, picking up a first down. After a 3-yard run, Green Bay sets up a screen to the left to Taylor. Fuzzy Thurston’s block springs him to the 19.

NFL PLAYOFFS

The refs measure for a first. Kramer, who started the game with a fractured rib, leaves the field. The refs take a bit to decide it’s 3rd and 1, and Kramer runs back to the huddle. He doesn’t even miss a play.

Taylor takes the ensuing handoff, but Dick Modzelewiski, Rosey Grier, and Sam Huff combine to stop the play cold. Lombardi chooses the field goal. Kramer, who took over kicking duties after Hornung’s mid-season knee injury, boots it through the swirling winds and between the uprights. The Packers lead 3-0.

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The mighty wind kicks up Yankee Stadium’s dirt.

Sam Horner makes a nice kickoff return to the Giant 38. Phil King rushes for 5 yards, Alex Webster for 3. Tittle then completes his first pass of the day, a strike to Shofner that puts the Giants at the Packer 33. Tittle goes right back to Shofner for another 8 yards. A screen to King gets to the 16, and the Giants look poised to take the lead.

Ray Nitschke has other ideas. He stuffs King on a draw play, then charges Tittle on a 2nd and 9 throw. Nitschke deflects the pass, which becomes the equivalent to a pop fly for Packer linebacker Dan Currie. Currie intercepts the ball and has clear sailing to the end zone. Currie’s injured knee begins wobbling, however, and he collapses around the Packer 40.

Two incomplete passes later, Paul Hornung runs towards the right end, appearing to look downfield to throw. He keeps the ball, however, and scampers to midfield for a first down.

Taylor gets stuffed by Andy Robestelli and Jim Patton. He now has 7 carries for 38 yards. On 2nd and 10, Starr hits Ron Kramer at the Giant 34. That makes 6 first downs for the Packers already. Taylor takes the ball on the next three plays, and Huff, Katcavage, and Patton team up to stop him. Huff hits Taylor well after the whistle on 3rd down, but under 1962 rules the ref pays no mind. Perhaps he’s just thankful Ol’ Sam didn’t plow into him by accident.

The first quarter ends with the Packers missing a field goal. Kicking with a fractured rib in 35mph winds can do that to a guy, I guess.

SECOND QUARTER

The Giants dodge the turnover bullet and start on their own 20. They alternate handoffs to King and Webster. Three runs give them a first down at their 32. The Giants shift gears, but throw three straight incompletions. The wind really affects the passing game today. Frank Gifford would say, “(Tittle) threw one at me which I started to catch, when the wind caught it and it suddenly flew 10 feet over my head.”

The Giants punt. Rookie Jim Collier smothers return man Elijah Pitts as he catches it. The Packers set up shop at their own 32. Both teams have had pretty good field position thus far, but it hasn’t amounted to many points. Hornung runs the sweep behind fine blocks by Kramer and Thurston, and breaks an Erich Barnes tackle. Hornung bursts for 6 more yards on a draw.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch Paul Hornung run. He dodges defenders with miniscule lateral movements that maintain his forward speed. He doesn’t cut so much as gracefully run around people.

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Jim Taylor takes the next handoff, and his forward progress carries him to the Giant 47 and a first down. Again, Huff and Barnes provide extracurricular violence after the whistle, this time in the form of a headlock. Taylor, who needed stitches for his elbow at halftime, noted that he and Huff exchanged uncouth words. While shouting, Taylor accidently bit his tongue.

Starr misses on first down, and on second the Giants stuff a screen to Taylor. Starr fades back on third, skids on the slippery turf, and throws a dart to Boyd Dowler for a first down at the Giant 33.

Dick Modzelewski gets even on the next play, sacking Starr for an 11-yard setback. The Packer drive stalls, and Max McGee’s punt is downed at the Giant 5. The first time anyone’s been bottled up in their own territory.

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Modzelewski played 14 NFL seasons.

Alex Webster picks up 9 yards on 3 carries. Nitschke, Bill Quinlan, Willie Davis, and Herb Adderley all provide tackling assistance. The Giants punt.

The Packers fare no better on their subsequent possession – 3 rushes, no first down. Grier and Huff punctuate the Giants swagger by thumping Taylor for a 4-yard loss on third. Max McGee’s short punt puts the Giants at their 29.

Three Packers close in on Tittle, but Tittle deftly lofts a screen to Phil King for 6. On second down at the 34, Dan Currie pops King at the line of scrimmage, forcing a fumble. The ball bounces into the Giants backfield, behind two unaware Giant linemen, Darrell Dess and Ray Wietecha. Ray Nitschke recovers for Green Bay.

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The Packers give to Hornung. He rolls right. He abruptly pulls up and floats a pass to Dowler at the Giant 8. Forrest Gregg and Jerry Kramer trade blocking assignments for the next play. Jim Taylor follows center Jim Ringo’s block and plows into the end zone. Kramer connects on the extra point and it’s 10-0 Packers with 2:39 left in the half.

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Ringo didn’t know if he’d play in this game. A pinched nerve removed feeling in his right arm. He couldn’t snap with his right hand, and switched to using his left.

The ball again blows off the tee on the ensuing kickoff. The gusts reportedly tore two stripes off the American flag, and at one point the swirls had flags blowing in opposite directions. Earl Gros holds the ball for Willie Wood, and Johnny Counts takes it from the 9. He bursts up a middle seam, and breaks all the way to the Giants 41 before Wood makes a shoestring tackle. New York’s special teams have produced excellent return yardage thus far.

Webster runs for 3, taking us to the 2-minute warning. There is no commercial break on the broadcast, much different than today’s NFL. On 2nd and 7, Gifford runs a deep route and tight end Joe Walton flares right. Tittle hits Walton at the Packer 41, and Walton scurries out of bounds to stop the clock.

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Joe Walton scored 9 TDs in 1962.

Henry Jordan and Bill Quinlan stuff Phil King on first, and then Tittle misses Gifford and Walton on second and third down. The drive stalls on the Packer 39. The wind takes Don Chandler’s field goal attempt far right.

1962 rules place the ball back at the Packer 20. The Packers run out the clock and take a 10-0 lead into halftime.

SUMMARY

The wind stifles the passing game, the Giants major strength. Lombardi would state he wished to surprise the Giants with his own passing attack, but the weather prevented it. Turnovers and random football bounces have consistently helped the Packers and hurt the Giants.

Both teams are playing exceptional defense. The Giants style looks a more physical, smashmouth style. The Packers look more disciplined and designed, each man covering his own assignment.

Ray Nitschke and Alex Webster Square Off

Ray Nitschke also utilizes the headlock.

Classic Games — The Ice Bowl (original broadcast)

BART STARR PAINTING BY ROBERT HURST. PRINT WITH AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE BOOK IS AVAILABLE IN OUR SHOP FOR $50.

The 1967 NFL Championship, often called the Ice Bowl, was played on December 31, 1967. Tomorrow’s NFC Divisional Playoff between the Cowboys and Packers will be the first time these two legendary franchises have met at Lambeau Field in the playoffs since that iconic day.

To celebrate, we’re posting the original Cowboys radio broadcast of the epic final drive. Be sure to listen to the post-game interviews of Dan Reeves, Lee Roy Jordan, and Mel Renfro in the Cowboy locker room.  Priceless.

 

The Ice Bowl is covered in depth in The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL, as interviews with Bart Starr, Carroll Dale, and Bob Skoronski of the Packers liberally detail their memories of the game, along with insight to what Coach Lombardi discussed in the locker room and on the sidelines.

Also, please note that you can order the game’s entire broadcast by clicking here.

 

A Brief History Of — Controversial Calls in the NFL Playoffs

Disputes followed the Dallas Cowboys victory over the Detroit Lions in the 2014 NFC Wildcard. Fans from both teams point to missed penalties, Ndamukong Suh’s overturned suspension, and the dubious Picked-Up-Flag Gate (PUF Gate). We’ll examine PUF Gate first, then delve into other famous “no-calls” and “blown calls” in NFL playoff history.

When officials nullified the pass interference penalty on Anthony Hitchens in the Cowboys/Lions affair, Matthew Stafford screamed, “How does that get overturned?!!?” The on-field mics that caught Stafford’s displeasure give us clues to the answer. As a fan, getting to hear the on-field audio is a tremendous treat. I love that they mic players during games.

Cowboy defensive back Orlando Scandrick simply walked up to the official and said, “Hey, every single penalty tonight’s been on us.” And the ref picked up the flag. Now, it appears that the official might have been headed over to pick up the flag before Scandrick’s comment. We’ll guess that it took more convincing than Scandrick’s plea, but the question is, “Who convinced whom that the call should be overturned?”

Stafford got an explanation from an official on the sideline. Refs ruled that Hitchens didn’t touch the Lions Brandon Pettigrew before the ball arrived, and therefore no foul. Even Michael Strahan took offense, and narrated the replay on Fox’s post-game show.  Replays showed Hitchens grabbing Pettigrew’s jersey, a clear defensive holding call that got missed.

But football’s bigger than one play. The Lions didn’t help themselves by following the chaos with a 10-yard punt. The Cowboys scored the game-winning touchdown on the ensuing possession, even making a fourth down in the process.

The NFL, quite strangely, admitted to numerous missed calls in the game and confirmed the pass interference penalty should have stood. In unbiased journalistic mode, I’ll add that the league also admitted missing a bunch of penalties that should have been against the Lions.

The NFL rarely states things like this publicly, so it’s interesting to me that the league officially notated a myriad of officiating blunders. Below are a few other playoff plays that fans of certain teams would declare “blunders.” Since we started with last week’s wildcard game, we’ll even go round-by-round for ambiance.

1965 NFL WESTERN DIVISION PLAYOFF

The Packers and Colts faced off at Lambeau Field to determine who would play the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL Championship. Johnny Unitas suffered a season-ending injury a few games before, and Bart Starr got knocked out of this game very early tackling Colts linebacker Don Shinnick. It ended up being Tom Matte quarterbacking the Colts, and Zeke Bratkowski leading the Pack. Green Bay lined up for a game-tying field goal late in the fourth. Don Chandler, who Vince Lombardi acquired specifically for situations like this, shanked the ball to a point where the nets behind the goal posts might not have caught it. But this was 1965, the goal posts were on the goal line, and the uprights didn’t stretch much higher than the crossbar. The ball maybe went directly over the upright, and in believing so, the refs called it good. The game went into overtime (the NFL’s second ever overtime game), and the Packers won 13-10.

Colt Tony Lorick describes his team’s frustration in The Game before the Money: “It seemed like it went high and over to the outside. We were clapping because it was no good.”

Packer Carroll Dale pointed out that we’ve all seen kicks that we thought looked good or no good, but the refs call it correctly from a different perspective. Bratkowski trumps everyone with his semi-famous comment: “I got a ring on my finger that says that kick was good.”

Whether the refs made the correct call or not, the game led to the NFL raising the height of the uprights by 10 feet for 1966. Colts head coach Don Shula called it the “Baltimore Extension.”

1998 NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

The Packers, however, aren’t always treated so well by the officials. The winning slant pattern for touchdown grab by Terrell Owens became legendary, but not so legendary is a clear fumble by Jerry Rice a few plays earlier. The Packers recovered the fumble, which would have pretty much ended the game in the Packers’ favor, but officials ruled Rice was down. The play would likely have been overturned by replay, but unluckily for Green Bay, the NFL decided to forgo replay reviews for one season.

My guess is that Rice got the Ted Williams treatment; the referees couldn’t imagine Rice fumbling in the fourth quarter, so they gave him the same benefit of the doubt umps gave Williams on balls and strikes. It’s even hard for me to believe Rice would fumble, and I vividly remember watching that game live on television.  In the video below, the play is around the 4:30 mark.

1972 AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

The Immaculate Reception. Is there a more famous play in NFL history? Furthermore, is there a more controversial play in NFL history? No one can even say with certainty that Franco Harris actually caught the ball. Add to it a bizarre rule that a ball couldn’t bounce off an offensive player into the hands of a teammate, and now you’ve got double the controversy. This play is so confusing that many fans believe it happened in an AFC Championship rather than the Divisional Playoffs. And, surprisingly to many, this win didn’t lead to a Steeler championship. The Dolphins beat them in the AFC Championship.

Raider Jack Tatum always claimed that the ball bounced off Steeler Frenchy Fuqua. Fuqua started to discuss the play with the media before a teammate stopped him mid-sentence. Art Rooney always said to “Keep it Immaculate,” and speak cryptically of the play to build its lore.

The camera angles will always keep it “Immaculate.” It’s almost if Arnold Zapruder were the camera man. The film leaves whether the ball touched the ground a mystery, just like the Zapruder Films leaves to mystery if there was a gunman behind the fence on the Grassy Knoll. Football’s a lot more fun to debate, however.

1975 NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

If there is a more famous and more controversial play in NFL history, it might be the touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson to win the 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff between the Cowboys and Vikings, know as the Hail Mary. Nate Wright, Paul Krause and generations of Vikings fans (including those born after 1975) will always contend Pearson committed offensive pass interference. Unsurprisingly, Cowboy fans shrug and say, “Hey, it’s football” or “The defender fell down.” Impossible to argue with those statements because it is football and the defender did fall down. Whether or not he was pushed down is another question entirely.

An earlier 4th and 16 play that coincidentally starred both Wright and Pearson adds to the plot, and many question whether Pearson legally caught that ball as well. I covered the game play-by-play in two earlier posts – the first half here and the storied second half here.

1979 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

Elvin Bethea tells us that this is where all the talk about using replay started. On a crucial play that would have tied the game going into the fourth quarter, Mike Renfro catches a Dan Pastorini pass. Now, whether he landed both feet in bounds is the question, and the officials took a record amount of time discussing before making ANY sort of call. If this play truly is the seed of replay, there was no ruling on the field to stand. Or overturn.

Finally, the refs called it incomplete. Possibly because it had happened so long ago that they couldn’t remember it. We’ll give you some time to decide in this video.

1977 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

The surprising Broncos were near the goal line at home in Mile High Stadium and threatening to score. The ball ended up on the ground, the Raiders falling on top of it. Bronco Rob Lytle never fumbled, however. At least that was the decision on the field. The Broncos punched it in the end zone, wound up winning by a field goal, and moved on to Super Bowl 12.

Controversy ensued. Sort of. John Madden will say, “Controversy? What Controversy? That was a fumble!”

Many Raider fans still curse the no-fumble call, but when I discussed the play with Raider Otis Sistrunk, he appears to have moved on, choosing to focus on happier Raider moments. “I don’t remember that play that well. I just know we lost against Denver when we should have beaten them….When you lose, you don’t remember much. I even forgot what the score was.”

SUPER BOWL 13

 Super Bowl 13 remains one of my favorite NFL memories, and I wouldn’t call myself a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The game had everything for an 8-year old child at the time. The biggest stars stood on that grand stage – Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Joe Greene, Tony Dorsett, L.C. Greenwood, Billy Joe DuPree, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Rayfield Wright – the list is amazing.

Many say this game decided who would rightfully claim the “Team of the Decade” title. Most analysts predicted a defensive struggle, but it turned out to be a high-scoring, tremendously exciting affair – just as John Brodie predicted in the pre-game show.

Super Bowl 13 produced so many memorable moments. Bradshaw fumbling and the Cowboys returning it for a touchdown. Rocky Bleier making a spectacular touchdown catch at the end of the first half. Cowboy Jackie Smith sitting all by himself in the end zone, only to drop a crucial score. The Steelers building a lead, and the fervent Cowboy comeback which included recovering an onside kick mishandled by a young Tony Dungy. The Steelers prevailed 35-31, but it was one of those games that it’s sad that somebody had to lose.

In the middle of the madness was a pass interference call against the Cowboys. Benny Barnes got tagged with flag covering Lynn Swann, giving the Steelers a valuable first down and putting them in striking distance for a score. Swann later did just that, putting the Steelers up by their biggest lead of the day.

The pass interference stirred immediate controversy, and many Cowboy fans still blame their loss on referee Fred Swearingen’s call. They contend Swann actually pushed Barnes down and should have been the one flagged. Others say it should’ve been a no-call. Tom Landry was blunt about it, “I don’t think it was a good call.” Barnes stated that he came close to punching Swearingen and questioned his impartialness, “Maybe he was for Pittsbugh,” Barnes said. Cowboy linebacker Thomas Henderson incredulously asked, “Who is that guy?” in classic Hollywood fashion.

Lynn Swann simply said, “My hands are clean.”

I’ll add that his clean hands sport four Super Bowl rings. Zeke Bratkowski would likely say that’s all the visual evidence you need.

Couldn’t find video of the pass interference call, but here’s the touchdown:

SUMMARY

This is nowhere near a complete list (I hear you Seahawks fans!). Like The Best Running Backs I Remember and My Favorite Gamers, the list is based solely on my fading memory. Indeed, I started watching football at the end of the 1976 season, so I only saw the games from 1977 AFC Championship on. And like our friend Otis, I don’t remember that controversial play.

Remember IBM’s “You Make the Call?” What calls in NFL playoff history would you have made differently?

Legendary Insights — An Afternoon with Cotton Davidson

 

Saturday December 6th was a great day for fans at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s Lone Star Tailgate preceding the Baylor/Kansas State game at nearby McLane Stadium. Besides hearing live music and downing tasty barbeque, fans were treated to an opportunity to meet Baylor and NFL legend Cotton Davidson.

Cotton graciously greeted fans, including the rival Kansas State fans who sauntered in. He spun stories of his outstanding 12-year pro football career. Originally a first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts in 1954, Cotton lost his opportunity to be the Colts franchise quarterback before the 1955 season when the U.S. Army drafted him. Cotton claimed he didn’t do much in the service other than play football and baseball.

While Cotton marshalled Uncle Sam’s football squads, the Colts signed Johnny Unitas. Before Cotton returned to the Colts, Unitas cemented himself as a NFL star. Can you imagine Andrew Luck or Johnny Manziel drafted into military duty while the Colts and Browns found superstar quarterbacks, closing down their opportunities?

Such was the scenario between Davidson and Unitas. Cotton and Johnny U became roommates and good friends, and Cotton speaks nothing but praise for Unitas both as a quarterback and a person.

Lamar Hunt signed Cotton in 1960 to quarterback Hunt’s new startup – the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. Cotton played two seasons in Dallas before being traded to the Oakland Raiders. He and Tom Flores split time as the Raiders starting quarterback for several seasons, Cotton’s career came to a close in training camp entering the 1968 season, as a teammate injured Cotton’s shoulder. The Raiders subsequently traded for Daryle Lamonica, and Cotton’s career came to a close.

Many at Saturday’s event greeted Cotton as, “Coach.” Cotton served as an assistant under Baylor coaching icon Grant Taeff. Other attendees stated that their father or gra.ndfather played with Cotton.   The warm personal nature of those interactions underscores the fact that many of football’s best elements happen off the field. As Walt Garrison states at the beginning of The Game Before the Money, “When you leave, you got your friends and your memories. That’s it.”

An added surprise to Saturday’s fun was the presence of Louie Kelcher’s junior high school football coach. He spun a yarn about teaching Kelcher the importance of pressing on and refusing to quit. “Quit’s the worst word in the English language,” he said. He also noted that if you quit once, you’re in danger of turning quitting into a habit.

On Thursday, December 11, we were in Houston, Texas with Oiler greats Elvin Bethea and Garland Boyette. They traded stories about the old days and signed copies of The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL. We’ll recall that event in our next post.

NOTE: You can read both Cotton Davidson‘s and Louie Kelcher‘s stories, along with those of 40 NFL legends in The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL. AVAILABLE HERE

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Legendary Insights — An Evening with Doug English

An excited crowd of football fans congregated at BookPeople bookstore in Austin, Texas on November 13, 2014, celebrating the release of The Game before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL, and relishing a chance to meet NFL All-Pro and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Doug English. English shared tremendous stories about his days at the University of Texas and his outstanding 10-year career with the Detroit Lions. Fans were given an opportunity to ask Doug questions, and a chance to purchase a copy of The Game before the Money autographed by English and author Jackson Michael (that’s me).

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About 75 people turned out for the signing at BookPeople in Austin, TX

COLLEGE CAREER

English arrived at Texas in 1971, immediately after the Longhorns were voted national champions in back-to-back seasons. When asked what he learned from legendary Texas head coach Darrell Royal, English recalled a time that Royal pulled him aside to discuss Doug’s on-field personality.

“Doug, you’re a nice guy,” Royal said. “You know what happens to nice guys? Not a damn thing.”

 DougPaintingPainting by Robert Hurst

English played meaner and earned All-American honors. His senior year, the Longhorns welcomed a freshman from Tyler, Texas, named Earl Campbell. “Coach Royal was looking for a way to get Earl on the field, and put him on the punt block team. He basically told Earl to line up over the ball and follow it.”

Campbell was so quick, “he nearly beat the ball to the punter” in a game against Arkansas. The ball squirted loose, and English scooped it up. “I then took it all the way – about three steps,” Doug amusingly stated about his only career touchdown. I pointed out that very few people could claim Earl Campbell helped get them into the end zone.

Texas Longhorn tradition dictated that English provide his teammates with a keg of beer on the day of the 1975 NFL Draft, for a “draft” party on Draft Day. English remembered waiting and waiting, disappointed that he’d been passed up for the first several rounds. A few friends prank called him, claiming to be Tom Landry or Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys. After several hours, Doug’s attorney finally got a hold of him to relay the news that the Detroit Lions selected Doug in the second round.

PRO CAREER WITH THE DETROIT LIONS “SILVER RUSH”

The audience asked several questions about Doug’s NFL experience. When asked who the toughest running back to tackle was, Doug noted how Walter Payton kept pushing his legs until after you pinned him all the way to the ground. Conversely, John Riggins fought hard for the first five yards, but often eased up afterward.

Doug also addressed the touchy subject of steroids when asked. He stated that certain teams promoted a steroid culture. He recalled a friend being traded from the Lions, and later telling Doug about a knock on his door during training camp. The rest of the offensive line brought in vials of liquid, instructing their new teammate to take four on Monday, three on Tuesday, etc. Doug said steroid users could be easily identified by “big muscles and pimples.” He also doubted their necessity in today’s era of advanced training knowledge and athletes starting to train at a young age.

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Al Baker (aka Bubba Baker) and Doug being honored in Detroit

Doug then told the story of his final NFL game – a contest against the Bears at Soldier Field. He suffered a spinal injury that doctors said probably would have paralyzed him had he stayed in the game like he wished. Doug lauded the Ford family, owners of the Lions, for providing him with a breakthrough surgery for the time which allows him to live pain-free from the incident. The fact the surgery wasn’t available to most patients until many years later encouraged English to head the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.

Doug concluded by expressing his feeling that America perhaps places too high of an importance on football and its athletes. He sees the only important part of football as making a difference off the field. He remembered being exhausted after a game, and after signing dozens of autographs, he finally made his way toward the locker room. A child asked him for one more autograph. While signing, Doug asked the child if he made good grades.  Doug later received a letter from the child’s mother stating the boy’s school performance greatly improved after meeting Doug. “It took me 15 seconds to make a difference,” English said.

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Doug English, Tommy Richard and me

 

SUMMARY

The family members of two other players who interviewed for The Game before the Money were on hand, making the night extra special. The daughter of Tony Lorick and the granddaughter of Nolan Luhn both took part in the evening. Tony and Nolan have sadly both passed away and are noted in our “In Memoriam” section. Tony played fullback for the Baltimore Colts, sharing the huddle with Hall of Famers John Mackey, Johnny Unitas, Jim Parker, and Raymond Berry. Nolan played end opposite Don Hutson in Hutson’s final season. Packers founder Curly Lambeau coached Nolan in Green Bay.

Two other The Game before the Money events are scheduled – one with Baylor star quarterback and 1961 AFL All-Star Game MVP Cotton Davidson in Waco, Texas, and another with Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea and Houston Oiler and Grambling legend Garland Boyette in Houston. More information can be found on our “Events” page. We hope to see you.

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From left to right: Me, my wife Lisa Jackson, Doug and his wife, Claire

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Good friends, Robyn and Karl, in line for the signing!

 

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Joann Knox was first in line.

Earlier that day, I interviewed on Good Day Austin on KTBC Fox 7.

 

MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

We’d like to thank Saint Arnold Brewing Company for providing amazing craft beer, and Z Tejas for providing delicious appetizers.

 

This Might Surprise You: What Was the World Like Last Time Your Team Won a Title? Part 2

This is part 2 in a series.

Knowing how much I love history, my wife bought me a birthday card listing facts about the year I was born. I started wondering what was happening the last time certain teams won a championship. Let’s find out, and I hope you have as much fun reading this as I had researching.

We started with the NFC East and NFC North Divisions. We cover the rest of the NFC here. Not too many championship rings in this bunch, San Francisco 49ers not withstanding.

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA FLACONS – The Falcons franchise debuted in 1966, with first-overall draft pick Tommy Nobis from Texas leading the charge. The Falcons continue searching for their first championship nearly 50 years later. The team showed promise during the Steve Bartkowski and Alfred Jenkins years, but the Cowboys, Rams, and Vikings always proved better. Atlanta’s lone Super Bowl appearance was against the Broncos in Super Bowl 33 on January 31, 1999. The Falcons found an auspicious start as a Morten Andersen field goal hoisted them to an early 3-0 lead. By the fourth quarter, however, it was 31-6 in favor of the Broncos, ending as a 31-19 rout. Since the gun sounded ending the game, we’ve entered a new millennium. What was it like to party in 1999? Smart partiers invested in gold, a mere $279 an ounce. Gas cost $1.30 a gallon, and movie tickets averaged around $5. You might have spent that $5 seeing The Phantom Menace, Toy Story 2, or American Beauty.  

CAROLINA PANTHERS – The Panthers entered the NFL in 1995. Showing promise, coach Dom Capers had them in the NFC Championship the next year. John Fox coached the franchise to Super Bowl 38 a few years later, where they faced the Patriots on February 1, 2004. The teams combined for 37 points in the 4th quarter, including 17 in the final three minutes. Jake Delhomme hit Ricky Proehl for a 12-yard go-ahead touchdown with scarcely over a minute left, but Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal crowned the Patriots champions. Unfortunately, people seem to remember Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” more than one of the most exciting quarters in Super Bowl history. Not only did Panther fans experience a sad ending to the game, TV fans bid tearful goodbyes to the sitcom “Friends” that off-season. We also said goodbye to President Ronald Reagan, who passed away in June, 2004.

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The Friends cast facing their own wardrobe issues.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – The Saints, synonymous with losing for decades on end, beat the Indianapolis Colts for their only championship in Super Bowl 44. Drew Brees and company lifted the Lombardi Trophy on February 7, 2010. A lot of America celebrated with them in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first iPads were 10 days old at the time. There’s been an entire tablet revolution since the Saints won. Perhaps the first YouTube video Saints fans watched on their iPad was this:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – Like Saints fans, Buccaneers fans suffered tremendously. Tampa, however, had a few bright years in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Coach John McKay, quarterback Doug Williams, and defensive end Lee Roy Selmon. They hungered for a title, however, until Super Bowl 37 in January of 2003. The Buccaneer defense showcased 3 pick-sixes (2 by Dwight Smith, 1 by Derrick Brooks) in the 48-21 trouncing of the Raiders. 2003 might marked the first official year of the Homeland Security Department, the Do Not Call List, and of U.S. Marshalls flying undercover on flights. Gas prices rose significantly, nearing the $2/gallon mark. In much cooler news, Harley Davidson celebrated its 100th Anniversary, and Arnold Schwarzenegger became California’s governor. The Buccaneers, however, haven’t been back.

 NFC WEST

ARIZONA CARDINALS – The Cardinals won their last championship in 1947 — as the Chicago Cardinals. “You had to have been there” is an appropriate phrase for Cards fans because the game wasn’t on television. Only 44,000 Americans owned television sets when the Cards triumphed. Saints fans have merely waited through the iPad Revolution – Cards fans endured the entire Television Revolution as well. Not to mention the Inflation Revolution. Gas in 1947 cost 15 cents per gallon. A new car cost $1,500. The average house cost about $13,000. Still, it was likely tough to make ends meet on the 40 cents per hour minimum wage.

Charley Trippi recalls winning the 1947 NFL Championship just before Kurt Warner, Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cardinals took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43. Unfortunately for Cards fans, the Super Bowl loss extended the title drought indefinitely.

ST. LOUIS RAMS – Speaking of Kurt Warner, he and his teammates sport the only St. Louis Rams championship rings. “The Greatest Show on Turf” featured Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Marshall Faulk. They defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl 34 on January 30, 2000, right after the Y2K panic instantly subsided. At least they won this millennium. What was the world like when the Rams won? Well, Clinton was still president. Gas averaged around $1.25 a gallon. A stamp cost 33 cents. And 51 million people gathered around the television to watch the first season-ending finale of “Survivor.” Maybe you remember the Los Angeles Rams? Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, Elroy Hirsch, and Tom Fears led them to their only league championship in 1951. At least their fans could watch on national television a scant 4 years after the Cardinals championship.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – When I think of the 49ers, I think of Super Bowl dominance featuring Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, John Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, and so many other stars. Only Rice and Taylor remained out of those players when San Francisco won their last championship. The 49ers topped the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29 in January of 1995. Nearly 20 years ago. A lot happens in 20 years. There’s this whole Internet and email thing that’s taken off. . If you wanted to watch Steve Young, Ricky Watters and the rest of the 49ers on Super Bowl Sunday , you called your friends on a touch-tone phone. No email, no text, no cell phone calls 20 minutes before kickoff….and yet we all still threw killer Super Bowl parties.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Well, we currently live in a world where the Seattle Seahawks stand atop of NFL’s landscape. The Seahawks face tough sledding to repeat, their early season dominance but a dwindling memory through their mid-season tumble.

SUMMARY

As we learned in an earlier blog post, history gives Seattle an advantage over many teams who don’t possess a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Russell Wilson joins Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger on the roster of previous Super Bowl winners on teams with winning records. Don’t be too surprised if one of those QBs topples teams with better records in this year’s playoffs.