Monthly Archives: August 2014

Follicles on parade

Just saw this headline on Facebook:

Man dying of heart attack ‘refused defibrillator by air stewardess because of his HAIRY CHEST’

So naturally, I had to post this. It’s Jets legend Joe Namath and future Charlie’s Angel Farrah Fawcett at the shooting of a Noxema commercial in the ’70s.

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For your additional enjoyment, here’s the commercial:


R. C. Owens’ one-of-a-kind field goal block, revisited

History, as we all know, is a living thing. More information — better information — comes along, and the record gets revised. Earlier this week I published a post (and photo) about the Colts’ R. C. Owens blocking a field goal try in 1962 in a unique way: He stood back by the goal posts, jumped as high as he could and re-jected a kick attempted by the Redskins.

The newspaper accounts said it was an NFL first, and in all my research I’ve never come across another play like it. (I do remember seeing — on TV — a 1970 game between the Chiefs and Raiders in which Morris Stroud, the Chiefs’ 6-10 tight end, played “goalie” in the closing seconds and nearly blocked a 48-yarder by George Blanda (a boot that left the bitter rivals in a 17-17 deadlock). The Associated Press reported: “The ball barely made it over the crossbar and above the hands of . . . Stroud, who was stationed at the goal line.”

Reader/Facebook buddy/fellow blogger Jack Finarelli brought up another candidate in a comment: Erich Barnes, a six-time Pro Bowl cornerback with the Bears, Giants and Browns from 1958 to ’71. Wrote Jack: “I think I remember [him] doing this also in a game about 1961 or 1962. As I recall, it was considered a ‘blocked field goal’ and was open for recovery.”

So I did a little investigating. Turns out Barnes did do something like that — in 1969, when he was playing for Cleveland. (He may have done it as a Giant, too, but my search of The New York Times archive turned up nothing. It did, though, produce a photo of him blocking a field goal in the conventional fashion against the Rams in ’61.)

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Here’s the link to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s story on The Game in Question. The relevant passage is as follows:

The Eagles got on the board in the second quarter after a freak play. Erich Barnes, who also was injured late in the game and may have a cracked rib, leaped high to deflect Sam Baker’s field goal bid.

Erich was playing right in front of the goal posts. He touched the ball and it bounced back in the playing field, where it was recovered by [Philadelphia’s] Tim Rossovich.

So the Eagles had a first down on the Cleveland 2-yard line. They took it into the end zone on two smashes by Tom Woodeshick.

Maybe that’s why Barnes’ play has been forgotten: because, unlike Owens’, it didn’t prevent the opponent from scoring. In fact, it cost the Browns four points — the difference between a field goal and a touchdown.

There’s also uncertainty about whether Baker’s boot would have gone through the uprights. According to United Press International, he “was short on a 44-yard field goal attempt, and Barnes, leaping high at the goal post in a bid to deflect the ball, batted it back on the playing field.”

Which is why it was a live ball — and why the Eagles were able retain possession. Had the kick gone into the end zone, as it (presumably) did in Owens’ case, it would have been ruled a touchback.

What we don’t know — because we don’t have the game film handy — is what UPI meant by “short.” It could have just meant the ball would have barely made it over to the crossbar. Or . . . it could have meant Barnes’ block was superfluous.

I’d like to think this blog can do this kind of stuff often — that is, try to get the facts as straight as we can. The truth, after all, is in the details.

Sources:, The New York Times archive, Cleveland Plain Dealer archive,

Larry Csonka goes digital

I always thought of Larry Csonka, the Dolphins’ Hall of Fame bulldozer, as the Three Finger Brown of pro football. Or rather, I did after I saw these two Sports Illustrated covers, dated Aug. 7, 1972 and July 28, 1975. Some suggested the first photo was misinterpreted, that Csonka was merely telling the world that “We’re No. 1.”

Csonka 1 fingerCsonka 2 fingers



They’d much rather have a fist bump

Not sure quite what to make of this, but I thought I’d throw it out there. In the first photo, we see coach George Halas playfully pulling on quarterback Sid Luckman’s hair during the Bears’ 73-0 walloping of the Redskins in the 1940 title game. . . .

Halas pulling Luckman's hair, '40 title game

And in the second photo we see coach Jimmy Conzelman doing the same thing to backs Elmer Angsman (7) and Charley Trippi (62) after the Cardinals beat the Eagles for the ’47 title. I ask you: What was it in that era about coaches pulling players’ hair? (And does this explain why players now douse them with Gatorade?)

Conzelman pulling guys' hair, '46 title game


Josh Shaw’s whopper is an old football story

Football player suffers careless off-field injury. Football player wants to keep it from his coach. Football player goes to great lengths to cover it up.

Now there’s something that’s never happened before — especially in football, where players get hurt as a matter of course.

Reading about Josh Shaw’s travails at Southern Cal, I was reminded of a funny story once told me by Jack Ferrante, a receiver on the Philadelphia Eagles’ championship teams in the late ’40s. The Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 2.54.18 PMEagles in those days held training camp in Saranac Lake, N.Y., not far from Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. They bunked in the Eagles Nest, an old lodge their owner, Alexis Thompson, had bought for his bobsledding activities as much as anything else.

Thompson was a competitive slider, and the lodge had an elevator “so that bobsleds could be lowered into the basement for summer storage.” (In an earlier incarnation, the Eagles Nest — then known as Keegan Cottage — had served as a tuberculosis sanitorium.)

“We used to walk about a block, block and a half, to a high school field where we practiced,” Ferrante said. “But [Thompson] had all kinds of facilities there. Downstairs he had a playroom, and upstairs he had a big living room where we ate and everything. And we all slept in this one dorm. Everybody slept in the same room in bunk beds. They used to play some dirty tricks on me. They used to put fish in my bed. And I’d jump out, not knowing what the heck was in there. But it was all in good fun.

“Sometimes we’d go down in the den and play ping pong — doubles, one paddle to a side — and we’d have a lot of fun with that. That’s how we spent most of our time. That and playing cards. It was a dead little town.”

How does all this relate to Josh Shaw, you ask? I’m getting there, I’m getting there.

Steve Van Buren, the Eagles’ famed running back, had a boat up there, and he and some of his teammates would occasionally go fishing (which is where the fish in Ferrante’s bed came from). Anyhow, one day “the boat got out of control,” Jack said, “and Wojie [Hall of Fame center Alex Wojciechowicz] got thrown out of the boat. He got hit in the face and, cheese and crackers, we couldn’t stop the boat because I had just filled the gas tank up. It just kept going and going and going. Thank God it just stopped.

“Wojie’s got this big gash and everything, and when we go back [to the lodge] we’re trying to keep him away from [coach] Greasy [Neale]. So at the next practice, on like the first play from scrimmage, Wojie pretends like he got hit, you know? And coach never knew what happened. If he’d ever found out, we wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere.”

Wherever he is, Alex Wojciechowicz is probably smiling right now at Shaw’s predicament and thinking: Been there, done that. Or maybe he’s smiling because he just slipped another fish in Ferrante’s bed.

The vanishing shutout

NFL defenses posted just three shutouts last season, one off the all-time low. There weren’t many the previous three years, either — six in 2012 and five in both ’11 and ’10. You don’t have to be Norman Einstein, as Joe Theismann would say, to figure out that’s one shutout every 53.9 games — in this decade, at least.

The whitewash in pro football is even more of an endangered species than the complete-game whitewash in baseball. And you wonder why James Harrison is perpetually perturbed?

If this offensive explosion keeps up — and it shows no signs of abating — the shutout may go the way of the single-bar facemask. Especially with kickers becoming increasingly accurate. Since 2000, 183 shutouts have been spoiled by a single field goal. That didn’t happen nearly as often in the Pre-Soccer-Style Era.

Shutouts, decade by decade (regular season only):

● 1940s (85 total) – 1 every 6.4 games

● 1950s (40) – 1 every 18.2 games

● 1960s* (73) – 1 every 22.1 games

● 1970s (158) – 1 every 12.2 games

● 1980s (98) – 1 every 21.7 games

● 1990s (83) – 1 every 28.1 games

● 2000s (89) – 1 every 28.6 games

● 2010-13 (19) – 1 every 53.9 games

*NFL and AFL combined

In the ’40s, of course, there were too many shutouts. But the situation corrected itself as the T formation spread and the passing game evolved. There were too many shutouts in the ’70s, too. That calamity was fixed by rule changes in 1978 that limited contact against receivers and allowed blockers to use their hands.

Don’t expect the NFL to do anything about the current imbalance, though. Offense sells tickets and, besides, who — outside of defensive players and coaches — is complaining?

Not that these people don’t have a point. Let’s face it, the game hasn’t been this far out of whack in decades. Pro football, to its great profit, has always favored the offense, but there are times when it gets a little ridiculous. This is one of those times.

A shutout miscellany:

The Last 5 Teams to Post Back-to-Back Shutouts

● 2009 Cowboys (11-5) — Beat Redskins 17-0, Eagles 24-0. Lost in second round of playoffs. Hall of Famers: LB DeMarcus Ware (projected). Pro Bowlers: Ware, NT Jay Ratliff, CB Thomas Newman, CB Mike Jenkins.

2000 Titans (13-3) — Beat Browns 24-0, Cowboys 31-0. Lost first playoff game. Hall of Famers: None. Pro Bowlers: DE Jevon Kearse, CB Samari Rolle, SS Blaine Bishop.

 2000 Steelers (9-7) — Beat Bengals 15-0, Browns 22-0. (This came during a five-game stretch in which Pittsburgh allowed no touchdowns and just six field goals.) Missed playoffs. Hall of Famers: None. Pro Bowler: LB Jason Gildon.

● 2000 Ravens (12-4) — Beat Bengals 37-0, Browns 12-0. Won Super Bowl. Hall of Famers (1): FS Rod Woodson (with LB Ray Lewis in the waiting room). Pro Bowlers: Woodson, Lewis, DT Sam Adams.

● 1985 Bears (15-1) — Beat Cowboys 44-0, Falcons 36-0. Won Super Bowl (and racked up two more shutouts in the postseason). Hall of Famers (3): DE Richard Dent, DT Dan Hampton, LB Mike Singletary. Pro Bowlers: Dent, Hampton, Singletary, DT Steve McMichael, LB Otis Wilson, SS Dave Duerson.

The Only Teams Since the 1970 Merger to Post 3 Straight Shutouts

● 1976 Steelers (10-4) — Beat Giants 27-0, Chargers 23-0, Chiefs 45-0. Lost in AFC title game. Hall of Famers (4): DT Joe Greene, LB Jack Lambert, LB Jack Ham, CB Mel Blount. (They had five shutouts in all, tying them with the 1944 Giants for the most in a season since the ’30s.)

● 1970 Cardinals (8-5-1) — Beat Houston Oilers 44-0, Patriots 31-0, Cowboys 38-0. (Note: A three-week stretch in which they outscored their opponents 113-0.) Missed playoffs. Hall of Famers (2): CB Roger Wehrli, FS Larry Wilson.


● 1948 Eagles (9-2-1) — Had three 45-0 blowouts (Giants, Redskins, Boston Yanks), the first two in consecutive weeks. Won NFL title. Hall of Famers (2): E Pete Pihos, LB Alex Wojciechowicz.

● 1962 Packers (13-1) — Handed out two 49-0 beatings (Bears, Eagles). Won NFL title. Hall of Famers (5): DE Willie Davis, DT Henry Jordan, LB Ray Nitschke, CB Herb Adderley, FS Willie Wood.

● 1960 Dallas Texans (8-6) — Shut out both teams that reached the AFL championship game (Chargers 17-0, Oilers 24-0). Hall of Famers: None. (DT Buck Buchanan and LB Bobby Bell didn’t come along until ’63.)

And finally, lest we forget:

● The 1934 Lions had more shutouts in their first seven games (7) than the entire NFL had in each of the past four seasons (5, 5, 6, 3).


Thoughts on the Logan Mankins trade

For me, there are two surprises in the following chart. The first is that only eight rookie tight ends in NFL history have had 50 or more receptions. The second is that every one of them went in the first 40 picks of the draft except for Tim Wright, the guy the Patriots just acquired from the Bucs for six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins. Wright, who played his college ball at Rutgers, was passed over by all 32 teams a year ago.


Year  Tight End, Team Rec Yds Avg TD Round-Pick
1988  Keith Jackson, Eagles 81 869 10.7 6 1-13
2002  Jeremy Shockey, Giants 74 894 12.1 2 1-14
1961  Mike Ditka, Bears 56 1,076 19.2 12 1-5
2008  John Carlson, Seahawks 55 627 11.4 5 2-38
1973  Charle Young, Eagles 55 854 15.5 6 1-6
1998  Cam Cleeland, Saints 54 684 12.7 6 2-40
2013  Tim Wright, Bucs 54 571 10.6 5 Undrafted
2010  Jermaine Gresham, Bengals 52 471 9.1 4 1-21

That’s right, no Rob Gronkowski (42 receptions). No Jimmy Graham (31). No Tony Gonzalez (33). No Kellen Winslow Sr. or Jr. (30 combined in their first season). No Shannon Sharpe (7). Maybe this Wright kid is better than we think. (Of course, before today, when the deal was announced, how often did he even cross our minds?)

At the every least, Wright provides low-cost Gronk Insurance in the event the all-world tight end is slow coming back from knee surgery. When No. 87 was out of the lineup last year, the Patriots’ supercharged offense seemed more like a stick shift. Wright also creates significant cap space in case the Pats want to hang onto Darrelle Revis, whose 2015 option is a gargantuan $20 million. Mankins, after all, had the Pats’ second-highest cap number after Tom Brady; Wright, meanwhile, like most undrafted free agents, subsists on gruel.

Still, trading a guard with Mankins’ resumé . . . how often has that happened? Well, I dug up one similar example back in the ’70s. (Which isn’t to say there might not be others.) I also found a couple of guards who were dealt after being voted to five Pro Bowls — and two more who were sent packing after being voted to three. The particulars, chronologically:

Walt Sweeney, Chargers to Redskins (January 1974) — A nine-time Pro Bowler in San Diego (1964-72), Sweeney joined George Allen’s Over the Hill Gang at the age of 33. He started for two seasons in Washington before calling it a career. The Chargers received fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks spread over three drafts.

Ed White, Vikings to Chargers (July 1978) — White had made three Pro Bowls in Minnesota and would make another in San Diego. Though already 31, he ended up playing eight more seasons (which Mankins might try to do just out of spite). The Vikes, in return, got Rickey Young, who caught 88 passes in his first year with them, a record for running backs (since broken).

Joe DeLamielleure, Bills to Browns (September 1980) — Hall of Famer DeLamielleure, then 29, had been selected for five Pro Bowls in Buffalo and added a sixth in Cleveland. The Bills came away with second- and third-round picks.

R.C. Thielemann, Falcons to Redskins (August 1985) — Atlanta needed a wideout. Washington wasn’t sold on its right guard. So the 30-year-old Thielemann, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons, was swapped Charlie Brown, who was coming off an injury-marred season after tying for the NFC lead in receptions in ’83. R.C. was just a spoke in the wheel with the Redskins, but he did start on their ’87 championship team.

Kent Hill, Los Angeles Rams to Houston Oilers (September 1986) — This was the trade, two games into the season, that enabled L.A. to obtain the rights to unsigned QB Jim Everett, the third pick in the ’86 draft (who had no desire to sit behind Canton-bound Warren Moon). Hill, part of a mega-package that included DE William Fuller and two No. 1s, was 29 and had gone to five Pro Bowls. He played that year and one more in Houston and then retired.

As for Everett, he didn’t win the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, but after moving to the Saints he did leave us with this memorable clip:

Anyway, yeah, this Mankins trade is extremely rare. I wouldn’t want to be the team that comes out on the short end of it.


The shelf life of a multiple-championship coach

Hardly a day goes by that some Media Type doesn’t wonder — on radio, TV or in print — whether Tom Brady will win another Super Bowl. To which I reply: Never mind Brady. Will Bill Belichick win another Super Bowl? Coaches have an expiration date, too.

And the Man in the Grey Cotton Hoodie may have passed his. No coach, after all, has won the Lombardi Trophy later than his 18th season in an NFL head job (the Cowboys’ Tom Landry in 1977). Belichick is in his 20th — five with the Browns, 15 with the Patriots. So if he wins his fourth title, he’ll set a modern record for shelf life.

Yes, Tom Coughlin was 65 when his Giants took the championship in 2011, three years older than Belichick is now. And yes, that made him the oldest Super Bowl-winning coach. But it was “only” his 16th season as a head man. He’d have to capture a third title to top Landry.

And yes, Dick Vermeil was 63 when his Rams ran off with the Lombardi Trophy in 1999, a year older than Belichick is now. But because of a lengthy sabbatical, it was only his 10th season as a head coach. (Age, I’m convinced, is less important than the Number of Years in a Head Job — the pro football equivalent of dog years.)

Here’s a chart I put together of the coaches who’ve won multiple championships in the Super Bowl era. It’s followed by a second chart of those who won multiple championships before the Super Bowl. Weeb Ewbank straddles the two periods, but I included him in the first group because, well, when you’ve coached Joe Namath, you have to be considered a modern coach. How many quarterbacks have been more “mod” than Broadway Joe?

Anyway, these are Belichick’s true peers, more so than one-timers like Tony Dungy (’06 Colts), Bill Cowher (’05 Steelers) and Hank Stram (’69 Chiefs), among others.


Coach Team(s) Years Titles 1st Title Last Title Span (Seasons)
Tom Coughlin Jaguars, Giants 18 2 12th season 16th season 5 (2007-11)
Bill Belichick Browns, Patriots 20 3 7th season 10th season 4 (2001-04)
Mike Shanahan Broncos, 2 others 20 2 5th season 6th season 2 (1997-98)
George Seifert 49ers, Panthers 11 2 1st season 6th season 6 (1989-94)
Jimmy Johnson Cowboys, Dolphins   9 2 4th season 5th season 2 (1992-93)
Joe Gibbs Redskins 16 3 2nd season 11th season 10 (1982-91)
Bill Parcells Giants, 3 others 19 2 4th season 8th season 5 (1986-90)
Bill Walsh 49ers 10 3 3rd season 10th season 8 (1981-88)
Tom Flores Raiders, Seahawks 12 2 2nd season 5th season 4 (1980-83)
Chuck Noll Steelers 23 4 6th season 11th season 6 (1974-79)
Tom Landry Cowboys 29 2 12th season 18th season 7 (1971-77)
Don Shula Colts, Dolphins 33 3 6th season 11th season 6 (1968-73)
Weeb Ewbank Colts, Jets 20 3 5th season 15th season 11 (1958-68)
Vince Lombardi Packers, Redskins 10 5 3rd season 9th season 7 (1961-67)

One of the things that’s interesting about this chart is the span of seasons in which these coaches won titles. Belichick has one of the shorter ones — four (from 2001 through ’04). Only two guys have reached double digits: Ewbank (11, from the ’58 Colts to the ’68 Jets) and Gibbs (10, from the ’82 to the ’91 Redskins).

None of these 14 coaches, though, went a decade between championships. (Ewbank also won in ’59 with the Colts, and Joe also won in ’87 with the Redskins.) That’s what Belichick is trying to do — and if he succeeds, he’ll be the first in the Super Bowl era to pull it off.

It was different in the old days. The Bears’ George Halas, of course, owned the franchise, and other coaches, like Packers founder Curly Lambeau, practically had tenure. So in the next chart you see longer spans — 43 seasons for Halas (though he coached in “only” 35 of them), 20 for Jimmy Conzelman (though he coached in the NFL in only eight of them, leaving to take jobs in college ball and baseball) and 16 for Lambeau. (The thing about Conzelman is, he won titles with the single-wing Providence Steam Roller in 1928 and the T-formation Chicago Cardinals in ’47. That’s staying power. That’s adaptability.)


Coach Team(s) Years Titles 1st Title Last Title Span (Seasons)
George Halas Bears (Staleys) 40 6 2nd season 36th season 43 (1921-63)
Paul Brown (+ AAC) Browns, Bengals 25 7 1st season 10th season 10 (1946-55)
Paul Brown (NFL only) Browns, Bengals 21 3 1st season 6th season 6 (1950-55)
Buddy Parker Lions, 2 others 15 2 3rd season 4th season 2 (1952-53)
Greasy Neale Eagles 10 2 8th season 9th season 2 (1948-49)
Jimmy Conzelman Cards, 4 others 15 2 7th season 14th season 20 (1928-47)
Curly Lambeau Packers, 2 others 33 6 9th season 24th season 16 (1929-44)
Ray Flaherty Redskins 7 2 2nd season 7th season 6 (1937-42)
Steve Owen Giants 23 2 4th season 8th season 5 (1934-38)
Guy Chamberlin Canton, 2 others 6 4 1st season 5th season 5 (1922-26)

But then, this is Bill Belichick we’re talking about, the winningest coach of his time. He’s returned twice to the Super Bowl in recent years and come up empty but, being Bill, may yet get another shot. The odds are against him, though, and sometimes those can be as hard to overcome as a miracle David Tyree catch in the final seconds.



You can look at football as just football. Or you can look at it as Americana. Or you can look at it as a source of humor. Or you can look at it as (fill in the blank). At Pro Football Daly, I’m going to look at it every which way.

That doesn’t mean I’m trying to be all things to all people, or even most things to most people. It just means that, to me, there are so many aspects of the game worth exploring — statistical, historical, strategic, sociologic, economic (and probably a few other “ics” I can’t think of offhand).

Hopefully — given my beginner’s knowledge of website design — you’ll be able to find your way around easily enough. The categories in the sidebar should be fairly self-explanatory. Posts will be filed by decade so you can zero in the era(s) that most interest you. They’ll also be filed by the following subjects:

● The Film Room/X’s and O’s — Game footage and (sometimes) play diagrams that shed light on some aspect of football. Such as: Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne running the option in the early ’50s and the continuing corruption of the Statue of Liberty play.

● Stats/Charts — Expect a steady diet of these. (I admit it, I’m a Numbers Gnome.) For starters, there are graphics on the diminished importance of the running back, the Patriots’ near-record 13-year run and how, since the 1970 merger, teams that have allowed 21 points in a game have won more often than teams that have allowed 16.

● Screen Gems — Memorable movie and TV clips starring NFL players or, occasionally, dealing with NFL players. I’ve archived quite a few to choose from, including Joe Namath getting a massage on “The Flip Wilson Show” and Alex Karras scoring a TKO in Blazing Saddles.

● From Deep in My File Drawer — Unusual stuff I’ve squirreled away, waiting for the right time to trot it out. It’s pretty much a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! of pro football (with assorted other curiosities thrown in). Check out the amazing uniforms worn by a minor-league team in 1933 or a photo of a bothersome fan getting booted in the butt by George Halas’ son.

● Recommended Reading — If you’ve got some time on your hands, you might want to take a look some of these jewels. Among them are pieces about Hardy Brown, the most lethal player the NFL has known, and another about the adventures of George Allen’s kids in high school football.

● Training Camp — Since it’s that time of year, I stockpiled several camp-related items for your entertainment and/or enlightenment. You can read a long lost version of The Speech that Paul Brown delivered to the Browns at the start of each year or you can grab a cup of coffee and let my “Ode to training camp” wash over you.

● The Draft — I’ll do more down the road, as we get closer to the 2015 festivities. For now, you’re going to have to content yourself with a couple of offerings: the first about a Pittsburgh mortician who was Mel Kiper 30 years before Mel Kiper, the second about teams that won the NFL championship and, as if that weren’t enough, selected a Hall of Famer in the next draft.

● Department of Corrections — Every once in a while, when there’s been a particularly egregious misrepresentation of the historical record, I might feel obliged to chime in. Jim Dent’s book about Bronko Nagurski, for instance: Monster of the Midway. I just looked at it a little more closely and, well, I wish Jim had done the same.

● Et Cetera — As you might expect, this is a catch-all category for material that doesn’t really fit anywhere else. A classic example is a Red Smith column I stumbled across – from his New York Herald Tribune days — that had some bizarre recommendations for “improving” pro football.

Finally, a word about comments. If you’re capable of engaging in civil discourse, your comments will appear on the site. If you aren’t, they won’t. Fair enough?

That’s the end of the guided tour. I’ll leave you to your own devices now. If you want to be notified about new posts and other developments at Pro Football Daly, by all means follow me on Twitter. And thanks for stopping by.