Chuck Noll, Rocky Bleier and Retirement

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Chuck Noll, Rocky Bleier and Retirement

In my opinion, Chuck Noll is one of the five greatest coaches in pro football history. My other four are Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Paul Brown, and Tom Landry. Everybody else is second tier in comparison, although I might accept arguments on behalf of Sid Gillman. Noll likely learned exceptional amounts from both Brown, whom he played under, and Gillman, whom he coached with. Interestingly, Don Shula and Noll were teammates under Paul Brown. Noll later worked under Shula as an assistant in Baltimore, absorbing that painful Super Bowl 3 loss. Perhaps that loss still burned in Noll’s stomach while coaching the Steelers, and helped ensure his focus for their Super Bowls. Like I heard NBA champion Kurt Rambis say once, “You’ve gotta hate losing more than you love to win.” In honor of Coach Noll, I’ve decided to post a story from The Game before the Money that Rocky Bleier shared. Rocky started considering retirement after Super Bowl 14. He decided to […]

Legendary Insights: Don Maynard Part 2

This is the second of three posts summarizing my recent chat with New York Jets legend gained from modified equipment. We now examine the explosive Jets passing offense of the 1960s. ROUNDING OFF Maynard broke into pro football with the New York Giants in 1958.  He played behind Frank Gifford and Kyle Rote as a running back and receiver. He also returned kicks and subbed as the fifth defensive back. “Besides Gifford, I was probably the most all-around ball player they had,” Maynard said. Don paid attention to how Gifford and Rote ran pass routes and modified their actions. For example, Maynard noticed that when a receiver cuts sharply, he grants the defender an extra second while he stops to cut. Maynard rounded off his routes to keep his momentum going. The Jets had a “staircase” pattern. A receiver ran several yards, cut across, and flew downfield. Maynard’s rounding approach not only sustained his momentum, but also left turning defensive backs flat-footed. That […]

Legendary Insights: Don Maynard Part 1

I had lunch with New York Jets legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Don Maynard in Riodoso, New Mexico recently. He lives there part-time, helping his son and daughter maintain an RV park they own. Don spoke in-depth about his NFL career with Joe Namath and the New York Jets. I’ll type this up as a three-part series, starting with Don’s specialized game equipment, then following up with separate inside looks at the Jets passing game and their magical run to Super Bowl 3. Maynard is a brilliant man and originally attended Rice to study petroleum engineering. He then transferred to Texas Western (now UTEP). Don modified car engines in the 1960s to run off propane, long before Ford and Toyota unveiled concepts like “Flex-Fuel.” His intelligence led him to design gear modifications that worked to his advantage on the football field. NEVER BUCKLED UP Maynard didn’t like the feel of the chinstrap, so he never wore one. Instead, he had […]

This Might Surprise You: Joe Theismann

Memories of Joe Theismann, with his thick eye black and bright single-bar facemask, are often synonymous with the Washington Redskins. But what if he hadn’t worn number 7 for the red and gold? That almost was the case as Theismann, a collegiate star for Notre Dame, was actually drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1971. Theismann, however, declined Miami’s offer of $55,000 over three years. That’s right, $55,000 over three years. Theismann asked for that amount, but the stickler was a $35,000 bonus Theismann would owe back if he missed any of the three seasons. Joe opted for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. In 1974, the Redskins traded for Theismann’s rights and he jumped straight into the lineup – as a punt returner. He didn’t start at quarterback until 1976. WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN? At the time Theisman was drafted, Bob Griese had been the Dolphins’ starter since 1967. He led them to the playoffs in 1970 before three […]

A Brief History of Hash Marks

In the NFL’s early years, there were no formalized scheduling rules. Some teams played more games than others, and the team considered to have the best overall record was declared champion, sans playoff. Adding confusion was a crazy agreement to disregard ties when determining the NFL champion. The 1932 season brought this mishmash to a pinnacle. What the heck does all that have to do with hash marks? Well, the 1932 season ended with the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans tied with 6 wins and 1 loss.  Forget that the Bears played to 6 ties and the Spartans 4, including two against each other. Unable to determine a champion on paper, the NFL blazed a trail college football would follow a scant 80 years later, and held a playoff. REALLY NOW, WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH HASH MARKS? The championship game was scheduled to be played at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, but brutal weather forced the game indoors, to […]

An Appreciation: Johnny Lujack

Johnny Lujack painting by Robert Hurst: www.ADamnFineArtist.com   SEVENTY YEARS AHEAD OF HIS TIME? When people think of Johnny Lujack, they often think of Notre Dame, the Heisman Trophy, or his shoe-string tackle of Doc Blanchard in the original “Game of the Century” (watch below). The Irish lost only one game in the three years he started at quarterback, and Lujack led them to 3 national championships. Few football fans recognize his exceptional — albeit very short – pro career. World War II interrupted Lujack’s college career after the 1943 season, causing him to miss the ’44 and ’45 seasons. George Halas’ Chicago Bears drafted Lujack in the first round of the 1946 NFL Draft, but Lujack elected to play out his eligibility at Notre Dame. “In those days you could be drafted on what the normal four years would have been,” Lujack told The Game before the Money. “I entered Notre Dame in ‘42, so my graduation year would have been […]

The Story of the NFL Draft and Recent Super Bowls

Last week we looked at the starting lineups of last year’s Super Bowl teams, wondering how much the draft led to the Seahawks’ and Broncos’ success. We found that while the draft was important, it appears to be equally important to find talent from other sources, likely because the draft is only seven rounds. Now we take a look at Super Bowl teams (including the Seahawks and Broncos) from the past 5 Super Bowls, plus the first Giants/Patriots game after the 2008 season. Turns out last year’s teams were below the average number of starters to be drafted for the period, although the Seahawks were only slightly under (54.2%). Of the Broncos 22 starters only 10 were originally drafted by the franchise, a figure equaled by the 2011 Giants as the lowest in our survey. The 2010 Packers led all teams with 17 of their draftees in their Super Bowl lineup. Only the Seahawks and Packers won the Super Bowl […]

How Much Will the NFL Draft Help Your Team?

Like children going to bed at night on Christmas Eve are NFL fans in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft. Wishes of draftees dance in their heads. Mock drafts are read with excitement or worry depending on the prediction. Calendars get marked with plans days before the big event at Radio City Music Hall. And like Christmas, some fans go to bed afterward elated about receiving the main object of their desire while others lay down disappointed, unable to have telepathically communicated to their team’s general manager whom they should have drafted to ensure divisional championships for years to come. How important is draft day? Surely it’s quite important, but is it truly the watershed moment it’s built up to be? I started to ponder this question through fantasy football. I found that in seasons I reached the championship, several of my starters weren’t drafted. This year was no exception as Zac Stacy and Julian Edleman were two […]

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