Tag Archives: wide receivers

Anybody want a 500-catch receiver?

It’s been an interesting offseason so far for name-brand NFL wide receivers. Seven of the Top 14 in career receptions — among active wideouts, that is —  have either been released (3), traded (1) or had their contracts run out without being re-signed (3). Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? (And an eighth, let’s not forget, Larry Fitzgerald, reworked his deal to save the Cardinals nearly $13 million on their 2015 cap.)

Reggie Wayne will have to make catches like this for another team now.

Reggie Wayne: 1 of 2 1,000-catch receivers sent packing this month.

The disposability of running backs has been a major topic of conversation the past few years, but any player in his 30s — as all of these receivers can attest — lives a fragile existence, too. If you’re still drawing a hefty salary at the age, you’d better be putting up the numbers to justify it. Otherwise your team might decide you’re in a Death Spiral and put you in the recycle bin. With a younger player, there’s more patience with ups and downs, but with a guy in his 30s it’s different. One off year, after all, could easily foreshadow a second . . . and a third.

Dwayne Bowe is the youngest of the aforementioned wideouts (31 in September), Reggie Wayne the oldest (37 in November, if there is another November for him). You could argue that the bell has tolled for some of them — Wayne and Santana Moss, say, and (maybe) the oft-concussed Wes Welker. But Bowe and Greg Jennings had three years remaining on their contracts, and Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson had two. So there’s a significant Bail-Out Factor here as well.

Nobody can tell me that some of them don’t have some good seasons left – in the right offense with the right quarterback. But it’s the way of the NFL world now. A well-paid wideout in his 30s has a less-than-stellar year and, regardless of the circumstances (instability at QB, injuries, etc.), isn’t brought back.

Marshall’s trade to the Jets was a virtual giveaway. (“Take his contract (and personality) — please!” ) All the Bears got in return was a fifth-round pick. They even had to throw in a seventh-rounder themselves. Here’s the rundown on the Not-So-Magnificent (Anymore) Seven:

THE COMINGS AND GOINGS OF SOME TOP-RANKED WIDEOUTS

Rank Wide Receiver, Last Team Catches Status
1 Reggie Wayne,Colts 1,070 Unsigned FA
2 Andre Johnson, Texans 1,012 Cut, signed with Colts
6 Wes Welker, Broncos    890 Unsigned FA
8 Brandon Marshall, Bears    773 Traded to Jets
10 Santana Moss, Redskins    732 Unsigned FA
13 Greg Jennings, Vikings    552 Cut
14 Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs    532 Cut

And here are their individual situations:

● Wayne (37 in November): 3-year, $17.5M deal expired.

● Johnson (34 when season starts): Had 2 years left on a 5-year, $67.8M deal ($15.6M cap number for 2015). Signed with the Colts for 3 years, $21M ($10M guaranteed).

● Welker (34 when season starts): 2-year, $12M deal expired.

● Marshall (31 when season starts): Traded to the Jets with 2 years left on a 3-year, $30M deal ($22.3M guaranteed). The Bears received a 2015 No. 5 pick for him but also sent the Jets a No. 7.

● Moss (36 when season starts): 1-year, $1.02M deal expired.

● Jennings (32 in September): Had 3 years left on a 5-year, $45M deal ($11M cap number for 2015). The Vikings replaced him with Mike Wallace in a trade similar to the Marshall swap.

● Bowe (31 in September): Had 3 years left on 5-year, $56M deal ($14M cap number for 2015).

Sources: pro-football-reference.com, spotrac.com

Andre Johnson is one of two 1,000-catch wideouts cast off by his longtime team this month.

Andre Johnson, meanwhile, will try to pick up in Indianapolis where Reggie Wayne left off.

Oh-Oh-Odell Beckham

Here’s what’s really amazing about Odell Beckham, the Giants’ fantabulous rookie receiver: He became a phenomenon even though his team lost seven of his first eight NFL games. Now that’s hard to do — though it’s probably a little less hard if you happen to play in the media capital of the world.

With his one-handed grabs, big-play ability and week-in, week-out productivity, Beckham takes your breath away. His numbers don’t just speak for themselves, their shout: 79 catches for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 11 games. If he hadn’t missed the first month with a hamstring injury, we’d be talking about one of the greatest receiving seasons in history, not just one of the greatest by a first-year guy.

But let’s discuss that for a moment – the best seasons, that is, by rookie receivers. Earlier this week in the New York Post, Brian Lewis wrote:

No rookie receiver has ever had the kind of a start to an NFL career that Odell Beckham Jr., has, no first-year wideout has dominated defenses and back pages and highlight shows like this since Randy Moss.

I agree with the second half of that statement, but I take issue with the absolute certainty of the first half. After all, this is the league’s 95th season. Almost everything has happened before, including a rookie receiver exploding the way Beckham has

Before I go any further, check out this chart. It’ll give you an idea of where Odell’s performance falls — with a game, of course, still to play.

MOST RECEIVING YARDS PER GAME BY A ROOKIE IN NFL/AFL HISTORY

Year Receiver, Team G Yards Avg TD
1960 Bill Groman, Oilers (AFL) 14 1,473 105.2 12
1952 Billy Howton, Packers 12 1,231 102.6 13
2014 Odell Beckham, Giants 11 1,120 101.8 11
1954 Harlon Hill, Bears 12 1,124 93.7 12
2003 Anquan Boldin, Cardinals 16 1,377 86.1 8
1998 Randy Moss, Vikings 16 1,313 82.1 17
1965 Bob Hayes, Cowboys 13 1,003 77.2 12
1961 Mike Ditka (TE), Bears 14 1,056 76.9 12
1982 Charlie Brown, Redskins 9* 690 76.7 8
1958 Jimmy Orr, Steelers 12 910 75.8 7
1996 Terry Glenn, Patriots 15 1,132 75.5 6

*9-game strike season

(I tacked on the touchdowns at the end in case you were curious.)

One of the things I love about this chart is that just about every decade is represented. There are three receivers from the ’50s, three from the ’60s, two from the ’90s and one each from the ’80s, ’00s and ’10s. Only the ’70s, when defense had the upper hand, are missing.

Another thing I love about this chart is that it’s fair. It looks at per-game average rather than gross yardage, which would skew things toward receivers who had the benefit of longer seasons. Beckham will play in “only” 12 games this year, which is how many Billy Howton, Harlon Hill and Jimmy Orr played in in the ’50s. So you can put his stats next to theirs and decide for yourself who was better. (I’m excluding Bill Groman from this discussion because the AFL in 1960 wasn’t close to being on the NFL’s level.)

Howton had six 100-yard games that season and Hill seven. Let’s compare them to Beckham’s six (so far):

        Howton 1952                          Hill 1954                         Beckham 2014

Opponent Rec-Yds-TD Opponent Rec-Yds-TD Opponent Rec-Yds-TD
Redskins 3-128-1 Lions 4-140-1 Colts 8-156-0
Rams 5-156-1 Colts 3-144-1 Seahawks 7-108-0
Lions 7-151-1 49ers 4-116-1 Cowboys 10-146-2
Lions 7-123-2 49ers 7-224-4 Titans 11-130-1
Rams 6-200-0 Browns 3-117-1 Redskins 12-143-3
49ers 8-162-2 Rams 6-109-1 Rams 8-148-2
Totals 36-920-8 Cardinals 6-117-1 Totals 56-831-8
Totals 33-967-10

You can debate until you’re blue in the face the differences between eras and what all this means. But as you can see, what Beckham is doing as a rookie isn’t exactly unprecedented. Howton cardOther receivers have “had the kind of a start to an NFL career that Odell Beckham Jr., has.” They just played so long ago that hardly anybody remembers.

Howton and Hill, too, were phenomenons. Billy, for instance, had six touchdown catches of 50 yards or longer (90, 89, 78, 69, 54, 50) plus a non-scoring grab of 76. Harlon had TDs of 76, 66, 65 and 64. They were downfield threats, just like Beckham is. The NFL just didn’t get the attention then that it does now. (Never mind an NFL Channel; there was barely an NBC.)

When Howton retired after the 1963 season, he was the all-time leader in receptions (503) and receiving yards (8,459) and ranked third receiving touchdowns (61). He simply had the misfortune of playing in Green Bay when it truly was pro football’s Siberia. (Read: Before Vince Lombardi arrived and thawed things out.)

I kid you not: The day Howton broke Don Hutson’s career receptions record (488), The Dallas Morning News mentioned it in the last paragraph of its game story. (Howton spent his last four seasons with the expansion Cowboys.) And the day the Colts’ Ray Berry broke Billy’s receptions mark, The Associated Press reported: “Berry caught five passes . . . to raise his career total [to] 506,” which was three more than “the career record held by Jim Howton.”

Harlon Hill cardJim Howton?

As for Hill, he could have wound up in Canton — why Howton isn’t there, I’ll never understand — if injuries hadn’t robbed him of his specialness. Consider: He scored 32 touchdowns in his first three seasons, a total of 36 games. Only four receivers have scored more in their first 36 games: Randy Moss (43), Jerry Rice (40), Rob Gronkowski (38) and John Jefferson (36). How’s that for company?

None of this is meant to knock Beckham down a few pegs. The kid has been an absolute revelation. It’s just meant to remind everybody that he’s not alone on that peg. As I said, the NFL has been around for a long time.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Slingin’ Antonio Brown

The Steelers’ Antonio Brown has done something this season that hasn’t been done in a decade — and has been accomplished by only 10 receivers in NFL history. Care to guess what it is?

Answer: He’s racked up 1,000 receiving yards and thrown a touchdown pass in the same year.

Obviously, it’s much more common for a 1,000-yard running back to throw for a TD. For one thing, backs get their hands on the ball more than wideouts do. But with the Jet Sweep so popular these days, we might begin to see more scoring passes tossed by golden-armed receivers. Let’s hope so, anyway.

Here’s the short list of wideouts Brown has joined. Note that a couple of them — Randy Moss and Marty Booker — had two of these seasons.

1,000 RECEIVING YARDS AND A TOUCHDOWN PASS IN THE SAME SEASON

Year Receiver, Team Yds TD Pass Details
2014 Antonio Brown, Steelers 1,498 3 yards to WR Lance Moore vs. Texans
2004 Drew Bennett, Titans 1,247 26 yards to WR Derrick Mason vs. Packers
2002 Randy Moss, Vikings 1,347 13 yards to WR D’Wayne Bates vs. Dolphins
2002 Marty Booker, Bears 1,189 44 yards to WR Marcus Robinson vs. Patriots
2001 Marty Booker, Bears 1,071 34 yards to WR Marcus Robinson vs. Falcons
1999 Randy Moss, Vikings 1,413 27 yards to WR Cris Carter vs. Giants
1996 Curtis Conway, Bears 1,049 33 yards to RB Raymont Harris vs. Cowboys
1995 Jerry Rice, 49ers 1,848* 41 yards to WR J.J. Stokes vs. Falcons
1983 Carlos Carson, Chiefs 1,351 48 yards to WR Henry Marshall vs. Chargers
1974 Drew Pearson, Cowboys 1,087 46 yards to WR Golden Richards vs. Giants
1962 Tommy McDonald, Eagles 1,146 10 yards to RB Timmy Brown vs. Redskins
1960 Bill Groman, Oilers (AFL) 1,473* 3 yards to E Al Wicher vs. Patriots

*led league

(Brown, by the way, leads the league in receiving yards with two games to go.)

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Steelers wideout Antonio Brown gets ready to uncork one against the Texans.

Steelers wideout Antonio Brown gets ready to show off his arm against the Texans.

Seven weeks before the Sudden Death Game

The Cowboys played the Jaguars in London today, but the NFL wasn’t always this big.

Consider: On this day in 1958, the Colts lost to the Giants at Yankee Stadium, 24-21 – a preview of their overtime thriller later that year in the title game. Afterward, their Hall of Fame receiver, Raymond Berry, went to CBS’s studios in New York and had a panel of celebrities try to guess his occupation on the game show What’s My Line?

Except for a pair of glasses — which were no disguise (he needed them) — Berry did nothing to hide his identity. He even signed in, with wonderful penmanship, as “Raymond Berry” — instead of, say, R. Emmett Berry or R. E. Berry, which would have been trickier.

But again, this was 1958. So even though Berry had led the NFL in receiving yards the year before — and would lead it in receptions and receiving touchdowns in that ’58 season — he wasn’t immediately recognized. The panelists were very observant, though, noticed his athletic physique and ramrod-straight posture, and quickly figured him for a jock.

The exchange between Bennett Cerf, the publisher/humorist, and Berry was just priceless:

Cerf: You’re playing at the present time on some professional outfit. Is that correct?

Berry: Yes, sir.

Cerf: Is it a football team?

Berry: Yes, sir.

Cerf: Is it a football team in the National Football League?

Berry: Yes, sir.

Cerf:: Did you play today in that fantastically exciting game up at the Yankee Stadium?

Berry: Yes, I did.

Cerf: Well, then, you’re a football player on either the Colts or the Giants. . . . Uh, Berry, . . . Raymond Berry. . . . You’re the end who almost caught a pass in the last quarter that would have beaten the Giants. You’re an end for the Baltimore Colts.

Berry: That’s right, sir.

Here’s the whole clip:

Did you notice, by the way, how Cerf pronounced Johnny Unitas’ last name as “YOU-knee-toss”? (Unitas had missed the game with broken ribs, and backup George Shaw had thrown three TD passes, including a 23-yarder to Berry.) Yes, it was a different world in 1958 — before London games and the NFL Network. But you have to remember: In those days, the Colts-Giants game would have been blacked out in New York. The only way Cerf or anybody on the panel could have seen it is if they had a ticket — unless, that is, they wanted to drive to Connecticut, outside the Blackout Zone, and rent a hotel room.

Anyway, on Dec. 28, Raymond Berry returned to New York and caught 12 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown as the Colts defeated the Giants, 23-17, in OT. Had he gone on “What’s My Line?” that night, Cerf probably wouldn’t have said to him, “You’re playing at the present time on some professional outfit. Is that correct?”

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 4.24.17 PM

The Clemson receiver factory

Before this year, I’m not sure I’d ever thought of Clemson as Wide Receiver U. Outside of Jerry Butler (255 yards and four touchdowns in his fourth NFL game) and Dwight “The Catch” Clark, how many Tigers wideouts have left much of a mark in the league?

What’s going on this season, though, with the Bills’ Sammy Watkins and the Steelers’ Martavis Bryant is pretty unusual. Watkins, the fourth pick in the draft, and Bryant, who went in Round 4, have been doing immense damage the past three weeks. They’ve scored eight touchdowns between them, and it could have been more if Sammy hadn’t had a bye week Sunday (after consecutive 100-yard games).

I’m trying to think of another school that has turned out two instant-impact wide receivers in the same year. The Miami trio of Michael Irvin (Cowboys, first round), Brian Blades (Seahawks, second round) and Brett Perriman (Saints, second round) all came out in 1988, but they didn’t create the early stir that Watkins and Bryant have.

In 2001 the Hurricanes had a pair of first-round wideouts, Santana Moss (Jets) and Reggie Wayne (Colts). But, as you may recall, they were even quieter as rookies than the Irvin/Blades/Perriman group.

Hmmm. Wait, I just came up with one. Two years ago, Baylor gave us Kendall Wright (Titans, first round) and Josh Gordon (Browns, second round of supplemental draft). That might be the most recent “comp.” At this point in the season, though, they didn’t have a particularly high profile (as much as anything, perhaps, because they played in Tennessee and Cleveland).

At any rate, I’m open to suggestions. If you can think of any other wide-receiver pairs from the same college who tore it up as rookies in the same year, by all means pass ’em along. Just thought the subject was worth raising.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Sammy Watkins (2) and Martavis Bryant (1) celebrate a touchdown at Clemson.

Sammy Watkins (2) and Martavis Bryant (1) celebrate a touchdown at Clemson.

The hazards of being a 100-catch receiver

Calvin Johnson is hurt. Again. It’s his ankle this time. Andre Johnson, I see, is also questionable this week with an ankle. And Wes Welker, of course, is a high hit away from another concussion, one that might end his career.

Yes, players get hurt in football. And yes, all these receivers have some mileage on them — a collective 31 seasons and 2,389 receptions. But there’s this to consider, too: The Lions’ Johnson caught 122 passes two years ago, tying him for third most all time, and the Texans’ Johnson and Broncos’ Welker each have had five 100-catch seasons, as many as any receiver in NFL history. We’re talking high-volume wideouts. Really high-volume wideouts.

There’s a price you pay when you’re that kind of player, when you put yourself in harm’s way that often. The receivers of yesteryear, with the exception of a few, weren’t nearly as exposed. Seasons were shorter, for one thing, and the running game was much more prominent. In 1960, when the AFL came into being and began changing the equation with its wide-open play, the record for receptions in a season was 84, by Rams Hall of Famer Tom Fears. At that point, only 11 NFL receivers (a total of 16 times) had caught as many as 60 passes in a season. Sixty! Now we have wideouts who are doubling that figure — and then some.

Still, it’s just in the last 20 years that the 100-reception season has become commonplace. Even when the schedule was expanded to 16 games in 1978, only one receiver in the next decade had 100 grabs: the Redskins’ Art Monk in ’84 (a record 106). But then there were eight 100-catch guys in ’95, led by the Lions’ Herman Moore with 123 (another record), and that was the tipping point. Last year, five wideouts had 100 or more; the year before, six did. Yawn.

SEASONS WITH THE MOST 100-CATCH RECEIVERS*

Year No.
1995 8
2012 6
2009 6
2007 6
2001 6
2013 5
2002 5

*tight ends included

(Note: Through 1994, there were 10 100-catch seasons in all of NFL-AFL history.)

The receivers aren’t yawning, though. They’re too busy picking themselves off the ground, checking to make sure they aren’t missing any body parts and telling the trainer how many fingers he’s holding up. Think about it: In Calvin Johnson’s 122-reception season, he was targeted 204 times. That means there were 82 other occasions, aside from his catches, when he had a chance to be hit. No wonder his knee was bothering him last year. He had more targets in 2012 than the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy had rushing attempts (200 in 12 games).

Speaking running backs, for the longest time coaches seemed to be conducting a laboratory experiment with them: How much can the human body endure? (See James Wilder’s 492-touch exercise in excess with the 1984 Bucs.) But in recent seasons they’ve stopped putting so much of the load on one back, opting instead for a by-committee approach. This might not be as good for the back’s numbers, but it’s probably better for his long-term health. McCoy’s 314 carries last year, for instance, were the fewest by a league leader since 1990 (and the second-fewest in a non-strike season since the advent of the 16-game schedule).

Further evidence: Only once in this decade has a back had as many as 350 rushing attempts in season (Arian Foster, 2012 Texans, 351). In the first four years of the previous decade, a back reached that level 10 times. And you can’t just attribute it to teams passing more, because the number of rushing attempts per team in 2000 (441.2, on average) was pretty comparable to last year (433.5).

Maybe it’s time for coaches to come to the same conclusion about receivers: that perhaps there are limits, that it might not be the greatest idea for a wideout — many of whom aren’t exactly the biggest players on the field — to catch as many passes as some of today’s wideouts are catching. Never mind whether or not it might shorten a guy’s career. How about the possibility it might shorten his life — or at the very least, affect the quality of his life in the not-too-distant future?

Let’s face it, pro football is a demolition derby — vroom, vroom, crash, crash. And teams have always looked at players as very disposable commodities. When one breaks, you move on to the next name on the depth chart. But maybe, with a little restraint, they don’t have to break quite so often.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Steve Smith makes the Panthers miss him

For the second straight NFL Sunday, a well-known wide receiver topped 100 yards in his first game against his former team. Last week it was the Redskins’ DeSean Jackson renewing acquaintances with the Eagles; this week it was Steve Smith exchanging pleasantries with the Panthers.

In the free-agent era, such made-for-TV reunions have become commonplace. They didn’t happen nearly so often in the old days. Consider: Don Hutson played for only one club his entire career: the Packers. The same goes for Raymond Berry (Colts), Charley Taylor (Redskins) and Steve Largent (Seahawks). Don Maynard had all but six of his 633 catches for the Jets, Art Monk all but 52 of his 940 for the Redskins. And each of them, I’ll just remind you, held the all-time receptions record at some point.

Now you have wideouts — in their later years, particularly — bouncing from team to team and basically playing as long as they’ve got two legs to run routes with. What was Jerry Rice’s last known address again? Oh, yes, the Broncos (though he had second thoughts and retired before playing for them).

So expect to see plenty more of these scenes in the seasons ahead — a celebrated wideout crossing paths with his old club. It’s kind of the football equivalent of bumping into your ex-wife, and, as we’ve seen, can make for very good theater. Smith, with touchdowns of 61 and 21 yards vs. Carolina, and Jackson, with an 81-yarder vs. Philadelphia, had two of the best Revenge Games (if you want to call them that) in modern times. One man’s Top 10:

BEST “REVENGE GAMES” BY WIDE RECEIVERS SINCE 1960

Date Receiver, Team Former Team Rec Yds TD Result
10-30-11 Anquan Boldin, Ravens Cardinals 7 145 0 W, 30-27
9-18-05 Terrell Owens, Eagles 49ers 5 143 2 W, 42-3
9-28-14 Steve Smith, Ravens Panthers 7 139 2 W, 38-10
9-21-14 DeSean Jackson, Redskins Eagles 5 117 1 L, 37-34
10-18-09 Torry Holt, Jaguars Rams 5 101 0 W, 23-20
11-15-64 Tommy McDonald, Cowboys Eagles 7 99 0 L, 17-14
11-21-93 Irving Fryar, Dolphins Patriots 4 97 1 W, 17-13
9-23-62 Bobby Mitchell, Redskins Browns 3 94 1 W, 17-16
9-12-93 Gary Clark, Cardinals Redskins 6 93 0 W, 17-10
12-24-94 Henry Ellard, Redskins Rams 5 81 0 W, 24-21

Note: Mitchell caught the winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes, a 50-yarder. . . . Ellard’s game was the last one the Rams played in Los Angeles before moving to St. Louis.

OTHERS WORTHY OF MENTION

Date Wide Receiver, Team Former Team Rec Yds TD Result
11-3-02 Jerry Rice, Raiders 49ers 6 74 0 L, 23-20
9-23-12 Randy Moss, 49ers Vikings 3 27 0 L, 24-13
9-13-87 James Lofton, Raiders Packers 2 32 0 W, 20-0
11-5-72 Lance Alworth, Cowboys Chargers 1 8 0 W, 34-28
11-24-13 Wes Welker, Broncos Patriots 4 31 0 L, 34-31
9-24-00 Keyshawn Johnson, Bucs Jets 1 1 0 L, 21-17

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Bengals novelty Mohamed Sanu: He, too, shall pass

A wide receiver who can throw the ball. What football coach wouldn’t want one of those? In Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals have one of the best ever — and we’re not prone to historical hyperbole around here.

Sanu is in just his third season, so it might seem early to be making such pronouncements. But his stats say otherwise. After his 50-yard strike to Brandon Tate in a Week 3 win over the Falcons, the numbers look like this: 3 attempts, 3 completions, 148 yards, 1 touchdown, 158.3 rating. (That’s as high, of course, as ratings get.)

Put it this way: Only two wideouts in NFL history have thrown for more yards than Sanu, and both played a lot longer than he has. Heck, a mere nine have thrown for as many as 100 yards. The group Sanu has joined:

WIDE RECEIVERS WITH 100 CAREER PASSING YARDS

Years Wideout Team(s) Att Comp Yds TD Int Rating
2002-10 Antwaan Randle El Steelers, Redskins 27 22 323 6 0 156.1
1973-83 Drew Pearson Cowboys 7 5 192 3 2 113.7
2012-14 Mohamed Sanu Bengals 3 3 148 1 0 158.3
1952-59 Bill McColl Bears 6 2 138 1 2 81.9
1999-09 Marty Booker Bears, Dolphins 10 3 126 2 0 118.7
1992-96 Arthur Marshall Broncos 2 2 111 2 0 158.3
1969-76 Marlin Briscoe Bills, Dolphins, Lions 9 4 108 0 1 49.5
1998-12 Randy Moss Vikings 8 4 106 2 1 95.8
1981-92 Jim Jensen Dolphins 7 4 102 2 0 141.4

Note: A team is only listed if the receiver threw a pass for it. Briscoe broke in as a quarterback with the Broncos, so only his passing statistics as a wideout are included.

One player who isn’t on the list is Hall of Fame end Bill Hewitt, who tossed three TD passes for the Bears — all in the 1933 season. The play Hewitt ran was dubbed the Stinky Special, not because George Halas was a stinker to call it but because Stinky was Bill’s nickname.

Years ago, I asked Ray Nolting, a teammate of Hewitt’s, where the nickname came from. “If we won a ballgame,” he told me, “he’d wear the same jockstrap until we got beat. Wouldn’t wash it. Our

Helmetless Bill Hewitt

Helmetless Bill Hewitt

trainer, Andy Lotshaw, would complain about how much he smelled. One time we were on a six-game winning streak, and Bill hopped up on the trainer’s table on Monday and asked Andy for a rubdown. ‘OK,’ Andy said, ‘turn over.’ So Bill turned over, and Andy took the scissors and cut the jockstrap off. Boy, was Bill mad. He chased Andy all around the locker room. Busted our luck, too. We lost the next one.”

Hewitt also was famous for playing without a helmet, as you can see in the accompanying photo.

Getting back to Sanu, he’s a natural for such trickery because he was an option quarterback in high school and, when he wasn’t catching passes Rutgers, ran coach Greg Schiano’s wildcat offense. “As a receiver, defenses can do things to take you out of the game if they want to,” Schiano said in 2009. “By putting him in the wildcat, we know he’s getting the touch. He may hand off to somebody, but when we want him to keep it, he’s keeping it.”

The Bengals have gotten the ball to Sanu a variety of ways. The first time he threw it, in his second NFL game, he gave the defense a wildcat look by lining up in the shotgun, then faked to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and fired a 73-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green. Redskins DBs DeAngelo Hall (23) and DeJon Gomes (24) are still wondering what happened. You can watch the video here.

On his second attempt, Sanu was flanked wide left. He caught a lateral pass from Andy Dalton and completed a perfect cross-field throw to running back Giovani Bernard down the right sideline. The play set up his own 6-yard TD grab that put the Bengals ahead to stay against the Browns. You can watch that video here.

On attempt No. 3, Sanu again lined up left (though not as wide), took an end-around pitch from Dalton and hit Tate in stride along the right sideline. Another QB-quality heave. You can watch that video here.

(Sorry for the commercials. The NFL must need the dough for its defense fund.)

People would probably be more excited about this — well, some people would probably be more excited about this — if Sanu weren’t following so closely on the heels of Randle El, the gold standard among Throwing Receivers. Randle El, you may recall, was a dual-threat quarterback for Cam Cameron at Indiana. If you look at his NFL passing stats (27 attempts, etc.) they’re kind of what a QB might put up in a game — a really, really good game. Indeed, only three times since 1960 has a quarterback had that good a game: at least 6 TD passes and a rating of 156.1.

QUARTERBACKS WITH 6 TD PASSES. 156.1+ RATING IN A GAME SINCE 1960

Date Quarterback, Team Opponent Att Comp Yds TD Int Rating
9-28-03 Peyton Manning, Colts Saints 25 20 314 6 0 158.3
10-21-07 Tom Brady, Patriots Dolphins 25 21 354 6 0 158.3
11-3-13 Nick Foles, Eagles Raiders 28 22 406 7 0 158.3
Career Antwaan Randle El, Steelers/Redskins All 27 22 323 6 0 156.1

That’s how terrific a passer Randle El was. But let’s not forget: For Sanu, the future is not written.

Someday he might even catch a touchdown pass and throw one in the same game. (He came close Sunday with his 76-yard scoring reception and 50-yard completion.) The last 10 receivers to accomplish the feat (which takes us back to 1983):

THE LAST 10 RECEIVERS WITH A TD CATCH AND A TD PASS IN THE SAME GAME

Date Wideout, Team Opponent TD catch (Yds, QB) TD pass (Yds, Receiver)
11-11-12 Golden Tate, Seahawks Jets 38 from Russell Wilson 23 to Sidney Rice
11-30-08 Mark Clayton, Ravens Bengals 70 from Joe Flacco 32 to Derrick Mason
12-18-04 Antwaan Randle El, Steelers Giants 35 from Roethlisberger 10 to Vernon Haynes
11-9-03 Rod Gardner, Redskins Seahawks 14 from Patrick Ramsey 10 to Trung Canidate
10-06-02 Kevin Lockett, Redskins Titans 23 from Patrick Ramsey 14 to Stephen Davis
10-21-01 David Patten, Patriots Colts 91 from Tom Brady 60 to Troy Brown
10-7-01 Marty Booker, Bears Falcons 63 from Jim Miller 34 to Marcus Robinson
11-13-88 Louis Lipps, Steelers Eagles 89 from Bubby Brister 13 to Merrill Hoge
10-30-83 Harold Carmichael, Eagles Colts 6 from Ron Jaworski 45 to Mike Quick
10-9-83 Mark Clayton, Dolphins Bills 14 from Dan Marino 48 to Mark Duper

Source: pro-football-reference.com

About Adrian Peterson . . .

As you’re pondering the child-abuse charge brought against the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, check out this passage from a story that ran in Sports Illustrated in 1964. The speaker is Hall of Fame wide receiver Tommy McDonald, who grew up on a farm in Roy, N.M.


“If I needed a whipping, Dad would let Mother whip me. But when he really wanted to get a point over to me, he would take me out himself. He used to just grab me by one hand, and we would go in a little circle, and I would get the old strap.”


File this one, I suppose, under: Times Sure Have Changed. (And aren’t we all glad they have?)

Cordarrelle Patterson and the Snowflake Theory

A snowflake fell in St. Louis on the first Sunday of the NFL season. Not the shoveling kind; the Dave Kindred kind. “At every game, if you’re paying attention, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before,” the esteemed sportswriter once wrote. “It’s my Snowflake Theory. Every game is somehow different from every other game ever played.”

Often, of course, these snowflakes are barely visible to the naked eye, of little consequence in the course of human events. Sometimes, though — when we get lucky — they’re big, fluffy things, happenings that are discussed, analyzed, marveled at and even laughed about long after the clock hits zeroes.

Which brings us to Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings’ multi-purpose wide receiver. Patterson, you may have heard, rushed for 102 yards in the Vikes’ 34-6 win over the Rams. No wide receiver — in the modern era, at least — had ever had a 100-yard rushing game. Before that, the best rushing performance by a wideout was 86 by the Seahawks’ Joey Galloway. (He got them all on one play, a touchdown run against the Jaguars as a rookie in 1995.)

Patterson had a quiet offensive day otherwise, though — three catches for 26 yards — so we’re still waiting for a wideout to rack up 100 yards receiving and 100 yards rushing in the same game. That’s the Holy Grail — like 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick flirting with an unthinkable 300 yards passing/200 yards rushing game against the Packers in the 2012 playoffs. (He settled for 263 and 181, which is ridiculous enough.)

Here’s some Stat Candy for you:

WIDEOUTS WITH 100 YARDS RECEIVING, 50 RUSHING IN A GAME SINCE 1960

Date Player, Team Opponent Rec Rush
11-12-95 Joey Galloway, Seahawks Jaguars 5-114-2 1-86-1
9-20-82 James Lofton, Packers Giants 4-101-0 1-83-1
11-5-06 Javon Walker, Broncos Steelers 6-134-2 1-72-1
1-16-83 James Lofton, Packers Cowboys 5-109-1 1-71-1
10-11-87 Kelvin Edwards, Cowboys Eagles 6-100-0 1-62-1
12-5-76 Freddie Solomon, Dolphins Bills 5-114-1 1-59-1

Note: Figures are receptions (or rushing attempts), yards and touchdowns.

Kind of thought Percy Harvin would be in this group. But Harvin’s top rushing total in a 100-yard receiving game is 45 in ’09 vs. the Bears. In fact, he’s rushed for as many as 50 yards just once — on a day he was held to 42 receiving.

Still, Percy strikes me as the kind of player who has a snowflake or two in him. He and Cordarrelle both. This gets me thinking about other snowflakes, other singular single-game events — or, at the very least, exceedingly rare events. The list I came up with:

● Intercepting a pass and scoring a safety. In modern times, the only player who has this double on his resume is James Harrison. Against the Chargers on Nov. 16, 2008, the Steelers linebacker sacked Philip Rivers in the end zone, caused a fumble that was recovered by tackle Marcus McNeill, then tackled McNeill in the end zone for the two points. Later Harrison picked off a pass and ran 33 yards to the Pittsburgh 43. I don’t remember anybody making a big deal of this. And in addition to being highly unusual, it happened in a single quarter (the second). What got more attention — for whatever reason — was that the game produced the first 11-10 final score in NFL history. (Thanks to James’ heroics, Pittsburgh eked it out.)

● 100 rushing yards and 100 punt-return yards. Bears Hall of Famer Gale Sayers did this the same day he tied the NFL record by scoring six touchdowns against the 49ers (Dec. 12, 1965). He was 9 for 113 rushing (long: 50) and 5 for 134 running back punts (long: 85). No one else has managed it since.

● Throwing an interception and intercepting a pass. A Steelers rookie named Tony Dungy chalked up this exploit on Oct. 9, 1977. At safety, the future Bucs and Colts coach picked off a Dan Pastorini throw for the first interception of his pro career. As if that weren’t enough, he also served as Pittsburgh’s emergency quarterback in the fourth quarter — after Terry Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek got hurt — and threw a pair of INTs. (He’d been a QB in college at Minnesota.) Maybe Bill Belichick could let Julian Edelman try this. Edelman, the all-purpose Patriot, has seen action at DB in addition to playing receiver and was a quarterback at Kent State.)

● Three touchdown catches and a punt-return TD: Az-Zahir Hakim, Rams, vs. Bengals, Oct. 3, 1999. TD receptions (all from Kurt Warner): 9, 51 and 18 yards. Punt return: 84. Five players since 1960 have had three (or more) touchdown grabs and also scored a rushing TD — all backs — but only Hakim has accomplished this particular combo. And it’s getting harder to do with all the specialization now.

● 100 punt-return yards with a punt-return TD and 100 kickoff-return yards with a kickoff-return TD. Walter Payton’s younger brother, Eddie, had a game like this for the Vikings against the Lions on Dec. 17, 1977. Kick returns: 5 for 184 with a 98-yard score. Punt returns: 3 for 105 with an 87-yard score.

● 150 yards from scrimmage and 150 yards on punt and kickoff returns. Since 1960, it’s been done as many times in the playoffs (2) as in the regular season. Go figure. The postseason guys:

Darren Sproles, Chargers, Jan. 3, 2009 vs. Colts: 150 yards from scrimmage (105 rushing, 45 receiving), 178 return yards (72 on punts, 106 on kickoffs). He also scored the winning touchdown in overtime on a 22-yard run.

Ed Podolak, Chiefs, Dec. 25, 1971 vs. Dolphins: 195 yards from scrimmage (85 rushing, 110 receiving), 155 return yards (153 on kickoffs, 2 on punts). This was the famous Christmas Day game, the one that went into the sixth quarter. Snowflakes (single-game division) that haven’t fallen yet:

● Catching a touchdown pass and returning an interception for a TD. Or to put it another way: Scoring on a pass on both sides of the ball. Nobody in the modern era (read: since 1960) has done it. Surprised? So am I — a little. Especially since Deion Sanders and Roy Green (among others) swung between defensive back and receiver and Mike Vrabel snuck out for 12 TDs as a goal-line tight end when he wasn’t backing up the line (and picking off 11 passes).

● 100 yards rushing, 100 receiving and 100 returning. Again, nobody in the modern era has done it. The Browns’ Greg Pruitt came closest on Nov. 23, 1975 against the Bengals (121 rushing, 106 receiving, 77 returning). A snowflake that hasn’t fallen in decades, but seems bound to with all these quarterbacks running around:

● 50 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving. The only player to do it in the last 50 years is Walter Payton, who had 50 passing, 81 rushing and 55 receiving against the Lions on Dec. 22, 1985. Nowadays, though, one of the Mobile QB Brigade — Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III — seems more likely to pull it off. Somebody just needs to catch the defense napping.

Now, you can question the significance of some of these feats, and I respect that. But regardless of how you feel, you have to admit: We’re not talking about walking and chewing gum here. If we were, players would do this stuff a lot more regularly.

Fear not, by the way. Pro Football Daly will keep an eye peeled for any future snowflakes and dutifully report them. It’s one of our hobbies.

Or to put it another way: Snowflake Fever — catch it.

1 Which reminds me: In Week 1 of that First Sack Season, the Browns’ Chip Banks began his NFL career with a three-sack day against the Seahawks. No rookie in the 31 years since has made a better Week 1 debut, sack-wise (though the Titans’ Carlos Hall tied Banks with three against the Eagles in 2002).

Sources: pro-football-reference.com, The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia.