Choudhry's Chronicles

By: Saleem Choudhry

Saleem Choudhry - Researcher
Saleem spends his days gathering, interpreting, and disseminating information about the game of pro football. He now shares in his blog some of the more unique stories and facts that he has uncovered while working with the Hall’s vast collection of more than 18 million pages of documents.

Hardly predictable

Dec 09, 2011

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has taken a great deal of heat from the media and from Cowboys fans after his team’s 19-13 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals last weekend. Much of the furor has been over Garrett’s decision to call a timeout right before his kicker Dan Bailey booted a 49-yard field goal and what would have been the game-winner at the end of regulation. The timeout essentially “iced” his own kicker. Baily then missed the game-winning kick after the controversial timeout and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of the things that I love about the NFL is that something crazy happens every week. Think about it, would the game be as popular as it is if every game played out as predicted or planned each week? No way.

Garrett’s timeout actually reminded me of one the wildest endings in NFL history. The New Orleans Saints were trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars by a touchdown with only seven seconds remaining in the game on Dec. 21, 2003. Backed up on their own 25-yard line, many thought that the Saints would attempt a deep “Hail Mary” pass. Aaron Brooks, the Saints quarterback, thought otherwise and completed a pass to Donte Stallworth at the 50-yard line.

The Saints obviously needed to advance further than the 50. A desperate Stallworth broke a few tackles and cut across field and then lateralled to Michael Lewis at the Jaguars' 33. Lewis ran a few yards before shoveling the ball to Deuce McAllister, who again lateralled to Jerome Pathon, who caught the ball in stride and raced the final 21 yards for an incredible touchdown. All the Saints had to do was kick the extra point and the game would move on to overtime.

Can you see where this is going? As you might have guessed, the Saints kicker John Carney missed the extra point and Jacksonville was able to preserve a 20-19 victory.

You never know what is going to happen in an NFL game. I cannot wait to see what will happen this weekend.

Canada is on the Raid

Nov 11, 2011
Last week I wrote about Kellen Winslow's "Fantasy Hall of Fame" performance when he pulled in five touchdown receptions in one game against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 22, 1981. That receiving showcase actually only tied the NFL record for most TD catches in a game. The first person to accomplish the feat was Bob Shaw of the Chicago Cardinals who pulled in five scoring grabs against the old Baltimore Colts (a different franchise than current day Baltimore/Indianapolis franchise) on Oct. 2, 1950.

The story of Shaw is rather interesting. I will use this blog to briefly tell his story. He was coached by the legendary Paul Brown at Ohio State where he earned All-American honors in 1941 and '42. After graduation he enlisted in the Army where he was awarded a Bronze Star with the 104th Infantry in World War II, seeing service in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.

Upon his discharge in 1945 he immediately joined the Cleveland Rams where he saw only spot duty for the next two seasons as a receiver and played mostly on defense. A spell of bad luck sidelined him in 1947 and '48 when he cracked a vertebra and suffered a severe neck injury. He battled back, however, to have a respectable year in 1949 with 29 receptions for 535 yards and 6 TDs. He was then traded to the Cardinals for the 1950 season.

It was that year that Shaw really made a name for himself. To go along with his record 5-TD performance against the Colts, he finished the season with 48 receptions for 971 yards (which equated to an eye-popping 20.2-yard average) and a league-leading 12 scoring grabs. His efforts earned him second team All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl selection.

All of a sudden, Shaw was a highly-touted commodity. At the same time the Canadian Football League began to raid players south of their border. Many NFL stars such as Frank Filchock and Jack Jacobs began to travel north for the promise of greater money. Shaw, who had initially resigned with Cardinals to play with the team in 1951, was a target of the Calgary Stampeders. The club's promise to Shaw was to have him become player-coach. The offer apparently was too much for Shaw to turn down and he jumped on his contract with Chicago. The Cardinals were stunned. A great deal on legal wrangling followed but the move stuck.

Shaw remained with Calgary for two seasons before he retired as a player to focus solely on coaching where he enjoyed a fairly distinguished career. Shaw served as the ends coach for the Baltimore Colts in 1958 when the team won what many refer to as the "Greatest Game Ever Played" against the New York Giants in that year's title game. He was Roger Staubach's head coach during the quarterback's time at the New Mexico Military Institute. He also served as head coach with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders, Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats where he was named CFL Coach of the Year in 1976.

Remembering a “Fantasy” Hall of Famer

Nov 04, 2011

I have played Fantasy Football every year since the 1991 NFL Season. Each year one of the positions I fret the most about is tight end. There really are only a few players at that position that you can rely on week-in and week-out. As such I usually get stuck with someone that will give me a steady "two-catch, 24-yard performance" each Sunday or Monday. So, having my tight end actually score a touchdown is like winning the lottery.

Why am I telling you this? Recently, Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winlsow visited Canton to participate in our "Heart of a Hall of Famer" character education series. The popular program provides students the opportunity to learn first-hand what it took beyond athletic ability for legendary Hall of Famers to achieve success on and off the football field. Winslow did an excellent job but while he was visiting the Hall of Fame I recalled one of the most incredible performances of his career and in NFL history.

No, I am not writing about his legendary performance against the Miami Dolphins in the 1981 divisional playoffs where he battled heat stroke to pull in 13 catches and one TD as well as block a possible game-winning field goal. I am referring to his 13-catch, 144-yard, and five-TD game against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 22 earlier that season.

Yes you read that correctly, FIVE touchdowns. When will my fantasy tight end deliver five TDs in a game? Winslow's performance that day actually tied an NFL mark held by end Bob Shaw of the Chicago Cardinals who pulled in five scoring grabs against the old Baltimore Colts on Oct. 2, 1950. The only other player to match that effort was Jerry Rice who torched the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 14, 1990.

In that game Winslow scored four of his touchdowns on passes of 15, 25, 4 and 5 yards from quarterback Dan Fouts. He scored his fifth on a three-yard option pass from running back Chuck Muncie that put the finishing touches on the Chargers' 55-21 blowout of the Raiders. The win, which lifted San Diego to a 7-5 record, put an end to a two-game losing streak and seemed to recharge (excuse the pun) the team for the rest of the year. San Diego would go on to win the AFC Western Division title with a 10-6 record and advanced all the way to the AFC championship game.

As for Winslow, he finished the year as the league's leading receiver for the second-straight season and earned consensus All-Pro honors. His numbers that year alone - 88 catches for 1075 yards and 10 TDs – equal the combined sum of the last three years of fantasy effort by my tight ends…UGH.

Welcome to Kansas City

Oct 24, 2011
On Sunday night the New Orleans Saints set a franchise record when they scored 62 points in a drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts. The next morning we profiled on the high-water mark for each National Football League team in terms of most points scored in a game. All of the point totals are impressive and not surprisingly each team won handily in each game.

The one note that I did find extremely interesting was the point total registered by the Kansas City Chiefs. Why? The team's 59 points against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium happened to be the team's first-ever game as the Chiefs.

The Chiefs started as the Dallas Texans in 1960 in the American Football League and won the AFL championship in 1962. Team owner and founder Lamar Hunt however did not think the Dallas market could sustain two professional football teams (the NFL's Dallas Cowboys also began play in 1960) and quietly began talks to move the team to Kansas City. On May 22, 1963 the move was official.

In that first game on Sept. 7, 1963 future Hall of Famer passer Len Dawson did all he could to showcase his team's talents to his new community. The All-Pro signal caller put on a masterful performance by completing 12 of 15 passes for 278 yards and five touchdowns. Dawson's main target that day was wide receiver Frank Jackson who hauled in seven passes for 149 yards and two TDs including an 81-yard scoring strike in the third quarter.

The 59-7 final score that day still represents the largest margin of victory (52 points) in franchise history.

Passing History

Oct 05, 2011

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on a masterful performance in the National Football League's Week 4 this past weekend. The signal caller, in his seventh year, passed for 408 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for a pair of TDs in the Packers' 49-23 win over the Denver Broncos. In doing so he became the first player in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and two rushing TDs in the same game.

His dominating performance also launched him to the top of the very small and elite fraternity. Since 1960 Rodgers is only the fifth quarterback to have four passing TDs and two rushing touchdowns in a game. The last player to do this was Michael Vick who basically had his own "Welcome to Philadelphia" party against the Washington Redskins on a Monday Night game last season.

I find the first quarterback on this list, Eric Hipple of the Detroit Lions, to be rather fascinating, only because the performance came during the first start of his career. Even more impressive is that Hipple started the 1981 season as the team's third-string thrower. Detroit's starter leading into that year was Gary Danielson but he dislocated his wrist in the fourth game of the season. That made way for backup Jeff Kolmo but he played so poorly that the team finally handed the ball to Hipple for the team's Oct. 19 Monday Night match-up against the Redskins.

I imagine Hipple, who was in his second year out of Utah State, was excited about his opportunity to play but he faced a daunting task. Not only were the Lions desperate for a win with a 2-4 record, but the team would be without All-Pro running back Billy Sims who injured his toe in the previous week's game.

Hipple however played magnificently as he led the Lions to 48-17 rout of the Bears. The Lions' point total was actually the highest the team had scored since 1957. Hipple completed 14 of 25 passes for 336 yards and four TDs, including a 94-yarder to Leonard Thompson. He also rushed for two also to account for all six of Detroit's touchdowns and led the club to 485 yards in total offense.

Not surprisingly, Hipple remained the Lions' starter for the rest of the season and guided Detroit to six wins in the last ten games. His 2,358 yards and 14 TDs on the season helped him earn the team Offensive MVP nod by his fellow teammates

Date Player Team Opp. Passing Rushing Result
Oct. 2, 2011 Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Denver 408 yards, 4 TDs 9 for 36 yards, 2 TDs W, 49-23
Nov. 15, 2010 Michael Vick Philadelphia Washington 333 yards, 4 TDs 8 for 80 yards, 2 TDs W, 59-28
Dec. 7, 2003 Jeff Garcia San Francisco Arizona 252 yards, 4 TDs 5 for 32 yards, 2 TDs W, 50-15
Nov. 27, 1983 Bill Kenney Kansas City Seattle 311 yards, 4 TDs 3 for 7 yards, 2 TDs L, 48-51
Oct. 19, 1981 Eric Hipple Detroit Chicago 336 yards, 4 TDs 4 for 13 yards, 2 TDs W, 48-17

Kicking it around

Sep 27, 2011
Monday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins made history. It may not have been the most exhilarating type of football but it was still one for the record books. Both teams combined for an NFL record-tying nine field goals during the Cowboys' 18-16 win at Cowboys Stadium.

Rookie Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey booted six field goals, including the go-ahead 40-yarder with 1:52 left in the game, while the Redskins Graham Gano connected on three field goal attempts. A new NFL record would have been established had Gano's 36-yard attempt not been blocked in the second quarter.

A total of nine field goals in one game has been accomplished on three other occasions in NFL history. The first time was on Sept. 29, 1996 when San Diego Chargers kicker John Carney (5) and the Kansas City Chiefs Pete Stoyanovich (4) battled in a show of kicking strength. The total would have been 10 but Stoyanovich's fifth attempt was blocked with 28 seconds remaining in the game. The failed kick preserved a 22-19 win for San Diego.

The next nine field goal game came on Oct. 17, 1999 when Miami Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare set a club record with six field goals and Adam Vinatieri chipped in three field goals for the New England Patriots. The Dolphins escaped Foxboro Stadium with a 31-30 victory.

Before last night, the most recent time two teams combined for nine three-pointers was on Oct. 7, 2007 at Reliant Stadium. The Houston Texans' Kris Brown helped lift his team to a 22-19 win over the Dolphins thanks in part to his five field goals. A.J. Feely contributed four three-pointers to bring the total to the record-tying sum.

Key indicator

Sep 13, 2011

Week 1 Win Equals Long-Term Success

Finally, we're "back to football." There has been much speculation leading into this past weekend's games as to which teams will make the playoffs, win their division, and win the Super Bowl. Now with Kickoff Weekend under our belt we can take a look at the first true litmus test of the entire league's chances for the postseason.

Since 1978 when the NFL went to a 16-game schedule (not including the strike-shortened '82 season) 251 of the 474 teams which won their opener went to the playoffs. A total of 147 of those teams actually won their division. Conversely, of the 474 teams who lost the first game of the season only 106 advanced to the playoffs and a mere 63 won their division.

There is a popular saying that "one game does not make a season," but analyzing the Kickoff Weekend efforts of all NFL teams seems to prove otherwise.

How about all the Super Bowl teams? How many of them won their season-opener? Let's take a look both teams that made it to the yearly big game.

Super Bowl Winner Opener Result Loser Opener Result
I Green Bay win Kansas City win
II Green Bay tie Oakland win
III N.Y. Jets win Baltimore win
IV Kansas City win Minnesota loss
V Baltimore win Dallas win
VI Dallas win Miami tie
VII Miami win Washington win
VIII Miami win Minnesota win
IX Pittsburgh win Minnesota win
X Pittsburgh win Dallas win
XI Oakland win Minnesota win
XII Dallas win Denver win
XIII Pittsburgh win Dallas win
XIV Pittsburgh win Los Angeles loss
XV Oakland win Philadelphia win
XVI San Francisco loss Cincinnati win
XVII Washington win Miami win
XVIII L.A. Raiders win Washington loss
XIX San Francisco win Miami win
XX Chicago win New England win
XXI N.Y. Giants loss Denver win
XXII Washington win Denver loss
XXIII San Francisco win Cincinnati win
XXIV San Francisco win Denver win
XXV N.Y. Giants win Buffalo win
XXVI Washington win Buffalo win
XXVII Dallas win Buffalo win
XXVIII Dallas loss Buffalo win
XXIX San Francisco win San Diego win
XXX Dallas win Pittsburgh win
XXXI Green Bay win New England loss
XXXII Denver win Green Bay win
XXXIII Denver win Atlanta win
XXXIV St. Louis win Tennessee win
XXXV Baltimore win N.Y. Giants win
XXXVI New England loss St. Louis win
XXXVII Tampa Bay loss Oakland win
XXXVIII New England loss Carolina win
XXXIX New England win Philadelphia win
XL Pittsburgh win Seattle loss
XLI Indianapolis win Chicago win
XLII N.Y Giants loss New England win
XLIII Pittsburgh win Arizona win
XLIV New Orleans win Indianpolis win
XL Green Bay win Pittsburgh win

When looking at the numbers it is quite evident if you want to make it to the Super Bowl, you want to win the first game of the season. Of the 45 Super Bowl winners, only seven lost in Week One. Interestingly, one less or six of all the Super Bowl runners-up lost the first game of the season.

Airing it out

Kickoff Weekend 2011 also set a new bar in terms of passing yardage. There was a total of 8,419 gross passing yards logged by all 32 NFL teams during this past weekend's action which represents an all-time high for any single week in NFL history.

NFL offenses have become more and more pass oriented since the league was founded in 1920. Anyone can easily see proof of that by looking at the total yards compiled by all teams each decade.

Decade Passing Yards
1920s Unavailable
1930s 69,444
1940s 159,117
1950s 269,009
1960s 660,967
1970s 677,888
1980s 951,087
1990s 1,025,543
2000s 1,135,331

Reflection on 9/11

Sep 07, 2011
The opening weekend of the 2011 NFL season will mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In honor of that moment, the NFL, its players and fans will take time to remember the courage and resilience that followed the events of that tragic day with special tributes in all its games on Sunday, September 11.

Ten years does not seem like a long time ago, but it is incredible when looking back at how much our country has changed since that dreadful day. It really goes without saying that our entire way of living was altered with that horrendous event. Instantly gone were the seemingly carefree days we enjoyed in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ten years ago I was excited and looking forward to a new NFL season. Kickoff Weekend 2001 had just concluded and the big thought in my mind on the Tuesday after was how the Denver Broncos were going to rebound after losing wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. The Pro Bowl receiver had just suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 31-20 Monday night victory against the New York Giants.

That day, instead of reporting to my office at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I assisted in the Hall's efforts at our annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Charity Golf Classic at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Glenmoor County Club in Canton. The event, which is an important fundraiser for the Hall of Fame, is always a nice break from our everyday routine and a great opportunity to interact with our Hall of Fame members. Each year about 25 of the game's greatest come back to Canton to play in the event and support the Hall.

Group photo before the start of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Golf Classic on Sept. 11, 2001
The Hall of Fame staff performs a variety of duties to help pull off the function each year and one of my early duties that day was to stand guard at hole number seven, which is an intimidating 185-yard par 3 over water. My job was to watch the hole from 9 to 11:00 AM to serve witness in case one of the players hit a hole-in-one. If someone was lucky enough to pull off that type of shot they would win a free car. I guess my role was to guard against any chicanery.

Just as the event was about to start, which was around 8:55 AM, an attendant at one of the vendor stations located around the course told me that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. My initial thought was that the plane must have lost control and steered into the building. That was all I heard for the next two hours. None of the players I chatted with as they were playing through made any mention of the incident.

At 11:00 AM I headed back to the clubhouse. While on my way I crossed paths with John Muhlbach who at the time was the Chairman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Trustees. I casually asked him if he had heard about that "small plane" that hit the World Trade Center. He proceeded to throw me into a state of shock when he detailed what had occurred. Two separate commercial jets had flown into each tower at the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. Both towers had collapsed and the entire country was in a state of emergency.

I didn't believe him. I couldn't. How could all of that have occurred in the short time I was sitting near a putting green on a golf course? It wasn't until I went inside the clubhouse and saw on television all of lower Manhattan immersed in smoke that the painful reality of what he just told me was confirmed. The rest of the day seems like a blur as I and most of the staff stared in horror at the nonstop coverage on TV.

It took great amount of time for the county to get back on its feet again. I think that the healing process was aided immensely by the sport of professional football. It is one of the few things that can bind all walks of life. No matter what a person's age, gender, race or income is, all can easily unite over their love and passion for football. This unique thread helped seamlessly stitch a weary nation back to great standing.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has several items in the collection that were worn by players and officials in that first game after 9/11. They have been proudly exhibited in the Hall's traveling display Pro Football and the American Spirit for close to 10 years.


Hutson’s loss in WWII

Aug 26, 2011

I have written several times on this blog about the National Football League’s involvement during times of national crises such as World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. It is a very popular and well researched subject here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so much so that we have an exhibit concerning the topic traveling around the United States. If you attend a Washington Redskins game during the upcoming 2011 season you will see Pro Football and the American Spirit on display in FedExField. The exhibit tells the story of professional football players and personnel who served our nation in the armed forces from WWII to Desert Storm to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I recently came across an interesting bit of information concerning World War II that had to do with Don Hutson the great Pro Football Hall of Fame end of the Green Bay Packers. Hutson, who rewrote the NFL’s record book during his 11-year career with the Packers from 1935-1945, did not serve in the military. However, just like millions of other Americans he was deeply affected by the cost of war.

Hutson was the older brother of two twins, Robert and Ray, who were arguably the most talented members of his family. Both earned All-State and All-Southern honors at Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas and led the team to the state championship their senior year. Like their older brother, Robert and Ray decided to attend the University of Alabama where they played on the football team as freshman in the fall of 1940.

Robert Hutson and Ray Hutson (Photo Courtesy of the Paul W. Bryant Museum)

The twins gained a great deal of media attention as their athletic abilities were quickly recognized at the university. Ray was an outstanding runner, receiver and punter, while Robert was a very gifted passer and runner. But as war raged in Europe and around the world, the brothers felt compelled to enlist in the Army Air Corps in 1941 rather than return to Alabama for their sophomore year. After basic training Robert was shipped to the South Pacific while Ray was stationed stateside.

Tragedy struck the Hutson family on September 5, 1943 when word came to them that Robert was killed when his plane crashed after takeoff near the Himalayan Mountains in India. To make matters worse, R.B. Hutson the father of Don and the twins died at the age of 56. He passed away presumably from the shock just days after the telegram detailing Robert's demise arrived. Don, who was in Wisconsin preparing for the upcoming 1943 season, returned to Arkansas to grieve with his family in the days before his team’s first game.

Ray continued his service until his discharge in January of 1946. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters after he logged 77 aerial missions over the same terrain where his twin brother perished. After his service he chose to forgo his college eligibility and joined his brother Don in the automobile business in Wisconsin where he continued to work for more than 50 years.

Random thoughts from the 2011 Enshrinement

Aug 09, 2011

We successfully completed this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival and a good time was had by all, especially the Class of 2011. Congratulations again to Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, and Shannon Sharpe.

This was my 21st Enshrinement while working at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Every year there seems to be something new and exciting that happens. Here are a few interesting notes from this past weekend.

The general fan may not have realized this, but many of us on the Pro Football Hall of Fame staff were seriously sweating the weather in the days and the hours leading up to the Enshrinement Ceremony. Going into the week the forecast called for showers and thunderstorms and that outlook seemed to grow ever more likely as the big day grew nearer. For those of you that don’t know, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has a very detailed plan in the event of severe weather. Luckily, we were prepared but didn’t have to implement alternate plans for the Enshrinement as the storm fronts missed us. Thanks to many for helping us including meteorologist Mark Johnson from local ABC affiliate WEWS in Cleveland who was texting us updates every half hour.

We all know that that the game was canceled this year. Personally, that meant my normal chaotic day of preparing for the game was not to be. So, for the first time I was able to attend the GameDay Roundtable on Sunday. It was a great event. If you have a chance to attend this event in future I highly recommend it. It really is the only chance a fan has to observe the incoming class having a candid, unscripted conversation about their careers, lives and the Enshrinement Weekend. In my opinion Chris Hanburger stole this year’s show. He is a very funny man and has a unique, straight forward way of looking at the world and professional football. He is built out of the “old school” and his interaction with guys like Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk were, I found, fascinating.

I think that Sanders really took a liking to Hanburger and made mention during the show of how he wanted to keep in touch with him after the weekend was over. Sanders told a story of how he asked the Redskins linebacker for his cell number. After Hanburger graciously gave it to him, a satisfied Sanders entered the number into his phone. The zinger came when Hanburger informed Deion that he only turns the phone on when he needs to make a call. The crowd at the Luncheon erupted in laughter and Sanders was relegated to pleading with Hanburger’s son and presenter Chris to help with the cause.

The enshrinement brings many “A-list” guests to Canton. As such we do our best to roll out the red carpet for them. Many of these guests were treated with a special VIP tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a behind the scenes look at our archives before the Enshrinement Ceremony. Among the guests getting “back stage access” to the Hall were: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a large contingent from the Chicago Bears’ McCaskey family; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his family; Kurt Warner and his son; and rapper/actor Ice Cube and his family. Warner was looking at many of the photos is in the Hall of Fame’s collection when he crossed paths with Ice Cube. Both men seemed really excited about the opportunity to meet one another.

Now it is back to the grindstone. The Class of 2012 Enshrinement Ceremony may be a year away but there is already work to be done in preparation for that. The Seniors Committee meets in just a few weeks to nominate two senior candidates for next year’s class.

I bet you didn't know…

Jul 30, 2011
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is knee-deep in preparation for the Class of 2011’s Enshrinement this coming week. At this point there is not much that hasn’t been said about this impressive group of men – Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, and Shannon Sharpe – who will be formally inducted into pro football’s most elite fraternity on Aug. 6.

With all the football information out there (well, almost - keep checking back to for more football), I thought I would point out a few lesser known facts about each member of the Class of 2011.

Richard Dent

While at Tennessee State, Dent studied the pass rushing techniques of fellow alum Claude Humphrey who played 13 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons (1968-1974, 1976-78) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1979-1981).  Dent was amazed at Humphrey’s quick hands and feet combined with the way he could overpower blockers.
Dent was one of four “high-profile” free agents signed by the San Francisco 49ers to improve the team’s defense in 1994.  The others were linebackers Ken Norton, Jr. and Gary Plummer, and fellow Class of 2011 inductee Deion Sanders.

Marshall Faulk

Faulk seemed to do everything at Carver High School in New Orleans.  On the football team he played running back, quarterback, wide receiver, and cornerback.  He also worked with the school’s engineer in the boiler room to help keep the area clean in effort to prevent fires.
In just his second college game at San Diego State, Faulk set a NCAA freshman rushing record with 386 yards and 7 touchdowns on 37 carries versus Pacific on Sept. 14, 1991.    

Chris Hanburger

Hanburger has a great deal of military ties in his history.  He served two years in the Army before he enrolled at the University of North Carolina.  His father, Chris Hanburger, Sr. was an Army Colonel.  He also once visited US troops during the Vietnam War on NFL sponsored USO tours during his playing career.
Hanburger once had a thoroughbred horse race named in his honor. On July 6, 1977 Laurel Raceway in Maryland honored the linebacker during the seventh race of that night’s card. Hanburger was present to deliver a trophy to the winner.

Les Richter

It was once reported that Richter, who was listed at 6-3, 236 pounds, had calves which measured 19½ inches in circumference and a chest expansion of 46 inches. 
It was once rumored that Richter was in line to take over as the head football coach at his alma mater the University of California in place of future Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy who resigned from the school in 1963.  The rumors persisted so much that he had to issue a statement to the contrary from Riverside International Raceway where he served as general manager and executive director.

Ed Sabol

Sabol wanted his game crews at NFL Films (these crews usually numbered between two to four photographers) to capture everything possible at NFL games. With a film crew at every game, NFL Films would use 15 miles of 16mm color motion picture film each week during an NFL season.
Besides the love of film photography, Sabol’s other passion is flying. For many years he owned a Cessna airplane. When needed he would shoot film while flying his plane to incorporate aerial footage into an NFL Films production.

Deion Sanders

Deion, being the master of all traits that he is on the sports field, once tried his hand as a musician.  Check out one of his videos if you dare.


Including his professional baseball career, Sanders played for a total of 18 professional sports teams.

Shannon Sharpe

Sharpe’s eye-hand coordination and quickness was developed in his early years when he and his brother Sterling were hired to chase and catch chickens for local farmers in the Georgia area where they grew up.
Sharpe played in the 2005 World Series of Poker.

Take it to the house!

Jul 20, 2011

Class of 2011 enshrinee Deion Sanders’ penchant for flair and the dramatic earned him nicknames such as “Prime Time” and “Neon Deion” during his 14-year National Football League career.  I contend that those nicknames are well deserved. As a cornerback, return man and occasional receiver, he always seemed to deliver. Deion scored an incredible 22 touchdowns during his career and most of them came in exciting fashion.

Let’s take a look at just his interception returns for TDs. Deion retired after the 2004 NFL Season with 9 career TDs which tied him for second in the NFL’s record book. The only man ahead of him at the time was Class of 2009 inductee Rod Woodson with 12. Glaringly impressive about all of Deion’s “pick-sixes” is that not one was shorter than 48 yards. In fact, he accumulated 617 yards on his nine TD returns for a staggering 68.6-yard average per return. The yardage total on those nine returns equates to 43 percent of his career interception return yardage total (1,331).

Below is a chart of all of Deion’s interception returns for a TD.

Career TD Game Opponent Distance Quarterback Time Remaining in Game Score After Return Final Score
1 Sept. 9, 1990 Houston Oilers 82 Warren Moon 0:13 - 4th quarter 47-27 47-27, W
2 Dec. 30, 1990 Dallas Cowboys 61 Babe Laufenberg 8:26 - 4th quarter 26-0 26-7, W
3 Dec. 15, 1991 Seattle Seahawks 48 Dave Krieg 8:56 - 3rd quarter 19-0 26-13, W
4 Sept. 25, 1994 New Orleans Saints 74 Jim Everett 0:32 - 4th quarter 24-13 24-13, W
5 Oct. 16, 1994 at Atlanta Falcons 93 Jeff George 1:32 - 2nd quarter 28-3 42-3, W
6 Dec. 11, 1994 at San Diego Chargers 90 Stan Humphries 0:32 - 4th quarter 38-15 38-15, W
7 Nov. 23, 1997 at Green Bay Packers 50 Brett Favre 1:19 - 2nd quarter 10-7 17-45, L
8 Sept. 21, 1998 at New York Giants 71 Danny Kanell 2:25 - 4th quarter 31-7 31-7, W
9 Oct. 24, 2004 Buffalo Bills 48 Drew Bledsoe 1:15 - 1st quarter 10-3 20-6, W

I find it interesting that five of the interception returns occurred in the fourth quarter and served as the final nail in the coffin against the opposing team (they were also the final score for Sanders’ team in each game). The interception against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 25, 1994 secured a victory for the San Francisco 49ers. The Saints were down 17-13 late in that game and were driving in hopes of a go-ahead TD or at the very least a game-tying field goal.  Sanders’ 74-yard return with 32 seconds remaining put that issue to bed. 

Deion Sanders had two INT returns for 90+ yards during the '94 NFL season.

The most impactful return (and longest), however, may be the strike Deion scored against the Atlanta Falcons a few weeks later when he picked off quarterback Jeff George and returned it 93 yards to help the 49ers to a dominating 42-3 victory.  I remember a tremendous amount of animosity between the two teams due to that fact that Deion had shunned his former team to sign as a free agent with the 49ers in 1994. The Oct. 16th match-up at the Georgia Dome was the first meeting between the two teams since the Sanders and Falcons “divorce.”  The tension came to a head in the second quarter when Sanders and Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison exchanged blows on the field.  Shortly thereafter is when Deion delivered his career-long return down Atlanta’s sideline, all the while jarring at his former teammates and eventually dancing into the end zone.

Due to a retirement that did not stick, Sanders had a three-year interruption in his career from 2001 to ’03.  I wonder how many more interceptions and TD returns he would have had if he suited up during those seasons.

History uncovered

Jul 11, 2011
As a researcher at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I find it really exciting when an interesting nugget of history pertaining to professional football is discovered.  Part of the mission here at the Hall of Fame is to preserve the game’s history and we take a great deal of pride in doing that while we peel away the different layers of the sport’s past. 

A few interesting tidbits came to light recently. The first really is not a discovery but more of reminder of a forgotten but important moment.  It pertained to defensive back Don Doll (below) who played six seasons (1949-1954) in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams. He was actually one of the most effective defenders during his era as he racked up an incredible 41 interceptions (including three seasons in which he had double-digit picks) during his short career. The interesting note about him however occurred before his pro career.  Let’s rewind a bit.

In 1944 Doll was a freshman phenom whose ball-carrying skills helped the University of Southern California to an undefeated season and a whipping of Tennessee in the 1945 Rose Bowl.  Shortly after that victory, he was drafted into the United State Marine Corps where he found himself serving on the USS Missouri.  It was while aboard that ship in Tokyo Bay that he stood witness to one of the greatest moments in world history, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945 which ended World War II.

I recently visited Hawaii and had the chance to tour the USS Missouri. The retired vessel is now docked in Pearl Harbor and open for the public to tour.  A plaque on the deck of the ship marks the spot where the ceremony took place. Check out my great photography.

After Doll’s’ honorable discharge he returned to Southern California in 1946 where he played out his college career before being drafted by Detroit in 1948.  Doll had a long coaching career with several pro teams after his playing days were over.  He passed away on September 22, 2010, a little more than 65 years after he witnessed that great moment on the Missouri.

Another interesting side note to NFL history I came across in recent days involves an NFL player who I would be surprised if anyone knew. His name is Harry Marker (photo below) and he played one game for the Pittsburgh Pirates (today known as the Steelers) in 1934.  Marker was a defensive back out of West Virginia when Pirates owner Art Rooney signed him in ‘34.  After his (very) short career Marker went on to a career in the Army where he served during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

Why is this significant?  For many years it was believed that Colonel Ralph Heywood of the USMC, who played four seasons with the Detroit Lions, Boston Yanks and New York Bulldogs from 1946-49, was the only former NFL player to serve our country during all three of those conflicts. Well, new light has been shed on that fact. Special thanks go out to pro football historian David Neft who brought this to our attention.  From this point on we will always note Marker’s service when we document the NFL’s impact and contributions during times of national crisis and military conflicts.

Son of a…

Jul 06, 2011

I had a random thought the other day. Aside from when the NFL lockout would end, I began to wonder who were the most successful sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame members. Now of course by success I mean on the football field. It can’t be all that easy for a son to follow in the footsteps of a father who has been enshrined in Canton. It’s hard enough to make a name for yourself in the National Football League. I would imagine doubly hard if you were raised by one of the game’s best.

Not that it would be easy for anyone, but I think being the son of a Hall of Famer would be most difficult. That stated, let’s take a look at all the sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame members who have made it to the National Football League.

The Winslow family at 1995 Enshrinement (Can you pick out Kellen Winslow, Jr.?)

Bobby Bell, Jr. – son of Bobby Bell
LB – 1984 New York Jets, 1987 Chicago Bears
2 seasons; 18 games; 3.5 sacks

Anthony Dorsett – son of Tony Dorsett
CB – 1996-99 Houston-Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans, 2000-03 Oakland Raiders
8 seasons; 118 games; 3 interceptions for 108 yards, 2 TDs; 2 sacks

Brian Griese – son of Bob Griese
QB – 1998-2002 Denver Broncos, 2003 Miami Dolphins, 2004-05 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2006-07 Chicago Bears, 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11 seasons; 93 games; 1,752 completions, 2,796 attempts, 19,440 yards, 119 TDs, 99 Ints; 82.7 passer rating
Pro Bowl: (1) 2001

Cody Grimm – son of Russ Grimm
S – 2010-present Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 season; 11 games; 2 interceptions for 24 yards, 1 TD; 1 forced fumble

Chris Long – son of Howie Long
DE - 2008-present St. Louis Rams
3 seasons; 48 games; 17.5 sacks; 4 passes defensed; 5 forced fumbles

Ryan Nece – son of Ronnie Lott
LB – 2002-2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2008 Detroit Lions
7 seasons; 101 games; 5.0 sacks; 3 interceptions for 22 yards; 10 passes defensed

Kevin Matthews – son of Bruce Matthews
C- 2010-present Tennessee Titans
1 season; 3 games

Jarrett Payton – son of Walter Payton
RB – 2005 Tennessee Titans
1 season; 13 games; 33 attempts for 105 yards; 2 TDs; 6 receptions for 30 yards

Kellen Winslow, Jr. – son of Kellen Winslow
TE – 2004-08 Cleveland Browns, 2009-present Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8 seasons; 76 games; 362 receptions for 4,073 yards; 21 TDs
Pro Bowl: (1) 2008

Matt Slater – son of Jackie Slater
WR – 2008-present New England Patriots
3 seasons; 43 games; 1 rush for 6 yards; 22 kickoff returns for 424 yards

Josh Wilcox – son of Dave Wilcox
TE – 1998-99 New Orleans Saints
2 seasons; 11 games; 7 receptions for 71 yards

Now let me say this: it takes a tremendous amount of talent, ability, drive, dedication, perseverance and any other quality you want to add to make it to the NFL. Whether a person played a single season or 10 years in the league, they should fell a great deal of pride and accomplishment to able to play up to the professional level. To be one of approximately 21,000 men who have inhabited an NFL roster since 1920 is no small task.

That being said, if I had to analyze the list of sons for the top spot, four men would be included in the argument – Anthony Dorsett, Brian Griese, Ryan Nece, and Kellen Winslow, Jr. Two of the men, Dorsett and Nece, have appeared in at least 100 games which is quite impressive. Also noteworthy is that Dorsett scored on two interception returns for TDs off of only three picks. Both Griese and Winslow have earned Pro Bowl honors. What may push Griese over the top is the fact that he played 11 years in the league. That argument may not last long, however, as Winslow still has a few years left in him and may rack up a few more honors before it is all said and done. Griese also had the added challenge of not only having to live up to the expectations of having a Hall of Famer for a dad; he was also a quarterback, but to make matters worse, he was anointed as the heir apparent to John Elway in Denver. Four of the men on the list (Grimm, Long, Matthews, and Slater) are too early in their careers to fairly assess.

The Grieses appeared at a Hall of Fame autograph session in 2000.

So as it stands right now, and not that it means anything at all, I would have to say that Brian Griese is the top Hall of Fame son. I wonder who the next Hall of Famer son to make it to the NFL will be. What do you think?

Listen to Bob Griese's enshrinement speech>>>

Remnants of Kezar Stadium

Jun 24, 2011

I recently traveled to San Francisco on vacation. I must say that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. While there I took the opportunity to visit Golden Gate Park which is on the west side of the city. Upon entering the park I was thrilled to see the remnants of old Kezar Stadium. For those of you who don’t know, Kezar Stadium was the home of the San Francisco 49ers from 1946-1970.

The stadium was built in 1925 on a narrow strip of land with a picturesque setting in the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park. Built for a sum of $300,000, in part with funds accepted from the estate of Mary E. Kazan, the stadium was a quirky high school venue which had undergone multiple additions and “improvements” when the 49ers arrived in 1946. Most players abhorred the stadium and the amateurish accommodations that it offered.

“It was the worst (stadium) in the league,” Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Perry once commented. “The locker rooms were built for high school teams. It was horrendous really. We just became accustomed to it.”

It was also cramped. Many of the 59,952 seats were located in the first twelve rows of the stadium. As such, many players (neither team was immune) were within earshot of fans hurling verbal jabs at them and well within range of the garbage that was occasionally thrown in their direction. At one point the 49ers erected a wire cover over the players’ tunnel to protect the team from flying debris.

Like any stadium, there were many unique, famous, and infamous moments and games that took place at Kezar Stadium.

San Francisco’s first regular season game was a 21-7 loss to the New York Yanks in front of 35,000 fans on Sept. 8, 1946 (the 49ers were a member of the All-America Football Conference from 1946-49 before joining the NFL in 1950). The lowlight for 49ers fans in this game was the punishing running by Yanks backs Ace Parker and Spec Sanders which kept the Bay team off balance for most of the game.

The 49ers would go on, however, to be one of the more dominant teams in the AAFC. During the four years San Francisco played in the league they compiled a 21-5-1 record at home. Their last AAFC game at Kezar was a playoff against the New York Yanks on Dec. 4, 1949. That day Verle Lillywhite led a 49ers ground game that churned out 164 yards to help San Francisco win 17-7 and advance to the AAFC title game.

On Oct. 27, 1957 49ers team owner, Tony Morabito died of a heart attack in Kezar Staduim as he watched his team play the Chicago Bears. The squad learned of their owner’s passing while trailing 17-7 in the third quarter. The emotionally charged group of men rallied in honor of their leader to win the game 21-17.

The 49ers ended that season in a tie for the NFL Western Conference crown. A playoff against the Detroit Lions determined who would advance to the NFL title game. San Francisco started the game firing on all cylinders as quarterback Y.A. Tittle threw three TD passes to lead the 49ers to a 24-7 halftime advantage. The close quarters in Kezar Stadium, however, proved to be a disadvantage for the 49ers in this game. The Lions became enraged after they heard the 49ers celebrating in the locker room during the halftime. The incensed Detroit squad returned to the field and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to stun the Niners 31-27.

The 1957 season also featured the introduction of the famous “Alley-Oop” pass which helped the 49ers win many of their games during the season. On multiple occasions Tittle would toss the football into the end zone as if it was a jump ball. Receiver R.C. Owens, who possessed tremendous leaping ability, would simply out jump the opposing defenders and catch the ball for a touchdown. The play became one of the most exciting and popular techniques in pro football for many years to come.

One of the most comical missteps in NFL history, the “Wrong-Way Run” by Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall, occurred in Kezar Stadium on October 25, 1964. Marshall scooped up a fumble by 49ers quarterback Billy Kilmer and raced 66 yards to the end zone. Unfortunately for Marshall, he had run to the wrong end zone and the play resulted in a safety for the 49ers.

The 49ers’ final game in Kezar was a tough one. The team lost to the Dallas Cowboys 17-10 in the 1970 NFC Championship Game. Two interceptions by San Francisco quarterback John Brodie proved to be too much to overcome for San Fran.

Kezar Stadium stood mostly idle in the years after the 49ers left for Candlestick Park. In 1989 it suffered a great deal of damage in the earthquake that devastated much of the Bay area. As a result it was torn down and reconstructed into a 10,000-seat venue.

It doesn’t look exactly as it did back in the day (see the current-day), but is a great tribute to the history of the area and all of the great moments that occurred in the stadium. I would love to say the same thing about the Polo Grounds, Cleveland Stadium or even Three Rivers Stadium but no remnants remain from these historic stadiums.

Coaching carousel in ‘63

Jun 07, 2011
Many times throughout a normal work week I get calls from a wide range of people in need of information regarding professional football. Recently, a call really piqued my interest when a media outlet called to confirm a simple fact about one of our Pro Football Hall of Fame members. They were calling to check that coach Weeb Ewbank was fired from his position as head coach with the Baltimore Colts.

Yes, Ewbank was fired by the Colts following the 1962 season. It’s really incredible when you think about it. Ewbank took over the coaching reigns of a Colts franchise that was just one year old in 1954 and quickly transformed them into one of the best teams in the National Football League. It was Ewbank who identified a diamond in the rough named Johnny Unitas and gave him a chance to play quarterback. How incredible was that find? Unitas was playing semi-pro ball for $6 a game when Weeb brought him to the Colts in 1956. In 1958, Weeb was at the helm when he guided the Colts to victory in what many consider to be the “Greatest Game Ever Played.” Ewbank’s Colts won the 1958 NFL championship against the New York Giants. The Colts then repeated as champions with another win over the Giants in the 1959 NFL Championship Game.

Despite Ewbank turning the Colts into one of the NFL’s elite teams, Baltimore owner Carroll Rosenbloom decided to hand him a pink slip on Jan. 8, 1963 after the team finished with a pair of .500 records and one season of an 8-6 mark from 1960-62. Rosenbloom let Ewbank go in favor of a relatively unknown commodity named Don Shula who was the defensive backfield coach for the Detroit Lions. Hindsight is always 20/20, but at the time this was a pretty courageous move. The Colts had not had a losing season since 1956. Rosenbloom stated that the move was entirely his own decision and that the change would “help them win” and did not reflect on the coaching abilities of Ewbank. I speculate that Rosenbloom (and probably the fans too) had become spoiled after the team’s tremendous success in late-’50s and as such grew impatient with anything less than a division title.

The 1962 season was an up-and-down ride for the Colts and Ewbank. Although the team started the season with two straight wins, an injury to halfback Lenny Moore and an aging offensive line began to take its toll on the team. The Colts went through a very rough patch during the middle of the season in which they saw only three wins against seven losses. They hit rock bottom after an embarrassing 57-0 loss at home to the Chicago Bears on Nov. 25. It was after this loss that rumors began to swirl regarding Ewbank’s status as head coach. The Colts rebounded, however, to win their final two games and finished with a respectable 7-7 record.

Following the season Ewbank, who was no doubt aware of that his job with the Colts hung in the balance, offered an optimistic yet cautious statement.

“Right now I’m looking forward to next season,” stated the 55-year-old coach. “I did my best. They (the Colts) haven’t said anything to me. As far as I’m concerned, I’m alright.”

Nonetheless Ewbank was indeed shown the door. It was not an easy decision for Rosenbloom who commented about how difficult the announcement was for him.

“Letting Ewbank go was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do,” lamented the owner after the decision. “I mean this with regret and from the bottom of my heart."

Rosenbloom even offered Weeb a chance to stay with the Colts organization in an unspecified role. Ewbank declined the offer.

It was not long before Ewbank found work again. Almost instantly the New York Titans of the American Football League began to eye Weeb as the team’s replacement for Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, who had been relieved of his duties. The only hang-up was that Ewbank still had two years remaining on his existing contract with the Colts. Things worked out however when Colts general manager Don Kellett released Ewbank from his contract. On April 15, 1963 (the same day that the Titans changed their name to the Jets) Ewbank signed a three-year deal with the AFL’s New York franchise and the rest is history.

Ewbank would go on to lead the Jets to an upset victory in Super Bowl III to become the only coach in pro football history to win championships in both the AFL and NFL. He finally left coaching in a more dignified fashion when he retired from the Jets head post following the 1973 season. He took a job as vice president with the team. In 1978 Ewbank was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As a side note, the day after Ewbank was fired by the Colts, the Cleveland Browns and owner Art Modell shocked the football world and fired Weeb’s long-time mentor Paul Brown. That meant that the two coaches responsible for five NFL championships in previous 13 seasons were let go in a span of 24 hours.

Imagine that type of news in today’s football crazed climate.

Cam Newton to Canton?

Apr 27, 2011

Spring is a great time of year. I definitely don't say this because of the mounting yard work that I continually ignore but because springtime means that the NFL's annual player draft is just around the corner. Pardon the pun but hope springs eternal and that is exactly the case for each NFL team leading into the NFL Draft. Teams and fans alike salivate at the possibility of improving their team with an infusion of new players, all in the quest for one thing – the Vince Lombardy Trophy.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you should know that the Carolina Panthers own the first pick in this year's draft. With every player on the board available for the plucking, I sometimes wonder whether it really is a good thing to have the first overall pick in the draft. Let alone that fact that the team with the first pick most likely went through a rather hellish season to earn the right to go first.

Let's take a look from a historical perspective.

How many members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been selected with the first overall pick in the draft? Well, if you're are looking for a Hall of Famer, the first overall pick is a great place to find one, 13 members of the Hall were chosen with the first selection, more than any other position in the draft. Next is the second and sixth picks with 10 Hall of Famers each. The third and fourth overall picks round out the top three positions with eight Hall of Fame selections. Only two draft positions from picks one through 32 have not resulted in a Hall of Famer, 24 and 25. Sorry Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens fans, your teams own those two picks in this year's draft -- start thinking trade.

Except from 1947 through 1958 when the first selection of the NFL draft was awarded to the winner of a random draw, the team with the worst record in the previous season is awarded the first overall pick. This is obviously an attempt to boost that team's performance on the field. Sometimes trades occur where a better team moves up to the top of the draft, but regardless, you have to ask the question. Is a team with the first overall pick guaranteed to improve on the field the next season?

A quick look at the previous season records of the teams with the first overall pick since 1936 (this includes the AFL Draft in the 1960s) show that 52 of 73 teams (71%) improved their record. Okay, I know what you are about to say. How hard is it to improve your win-loss record after having what was most likely the worst record in the league?

Alright then, how many teams improved in the win column by at least four games? That number is drastically smaller with 14 of 73 teams (19%) with an increase of four or more wins. The greatest improvement was not long ago. The Miami Dolphins, who turned in a 1-15 record in 2007, selected Michigan tackle Jake Long with the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and improved to 11-5.

Let's get back to the players themselves. We already know how many Hall of Famers were selected with the first pick (13), but that doesn't mean owning the first selection is a lock for a quality player. Looking at the men drafted from 1936-2000, (I figured 2000 was a good cut-off as most of those picks are still playing) 20 players (25%) played five years or less in the pros. The average playing career for a first overall pick from that time frame is 8.6 years.

If the length of the first overall pick's career is a litmus test for the quality of scouting in the pros, it has certainly improved. The average playing career of the first overall pick has increased in each 10-year period from the 1930s to the 1980s where it topped out with an average of 12 seasons. Watch the average for the 1990s, however. If quarterback Peyton Manning, the 1998 first overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts, plays at least seven more seasons, the average for the 1990s would equal 12 seasons as well.

Average playing career of first overall pick by decade:

1930s – 4.0 average
1940s – 5.8 average
1950s – 7.3 average
1960s – 8.75 average
1970s – 10.0 average
1980s – 12.0 average
1990s – 10.2 average

If you want my prediction of who the Panthers will take with their first pick, here it is -- Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Although he is not as refined as most teams with the first overall pick would like, he has too much upside potential to pass up. For the record, if Newton or another quarterback is selected first on Thursday night, that person would be the 30th quarterback selected first overall, more than any other position.

Number-one draft choices by position

Quarterbacks: 29
Running Backs: 23
Defensive Linemen: 13
Offensive Linemen: 6
Wide Receivers: 6
Linebackers: 3
Defensive Backs: 1

Here is PDF of some of the data I compiled to create this blog>>>

Enjoy the draft!

Rough draft

Mar 22, 2011

What would the National Football League be like if there were no trades or free agent transactions?  The only way a team could stockpile players on their roster would be through the annual player draft. That would mean that Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, and John Elway would all be in the mix of a present-day debate as to who was the greatest Colts passer in NFL history.  Elway was drafted number one overall by the Colts in the 1983 draft but was soon traded to the Denver Broncos.

How about the Cleveland Browns? Although they were one of the more dominant teams in the NFL in the 1950s and 1960s, how much better would they have been if they had three more Hall of Famers on their roster? Yes, the Browns gave up on three future greats that have bronze busts in Canton – Doug Atkins, Willie Davis, and Dick LeBeau. All three of them were sent packing by Cleveland early in their careers. Atkins and Davis were traded but LeBeau was released.

Luckily for the Browns, however, the greatest quarterback in their franchise history did not play with the team that drafted him. Otto Graham was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 1st round of the 1944 draft.  But, he didn’t join the Lions rather signed with the Browns in the rival All-America Football Conference in 1946. Graham led the Browns to 10 championship game appearances in 10 years.

Quarterbacks and the Lions just didn’t seem to mix in the late-1940s. The team also drafted Y.A. Tittle in the 1948 NFL Draft.  Tittle opted to sign with the Baltimore Colts of the AAFC.  The Lions finally got their quarterback when they traded for Bobby Layne in 1950.

Class of 2011 inductee Les Richter was drafted by the New York Yanks in the first round of 1952 draft. Two days later the franchise folded and his rights went to the Dallas Texans. He went on to be a part of one of the largest trades in NFL history when he was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams for 11 players. Richter is now the third player drafted by the Yanks (Mike McCormack and Gino Marchetti are the others) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I wonder how great that team would have been had it not folded.

Most of the players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame stuck with the team that drafted them.  There are a few surprises, however, when looking at a list of Hall of Famers and the teams that drafted them.  It is particularly interesting to see the number of players who were drafted by multiple teams, most notably during the 1960s when the NFL and the American Football League were battling for players. The Denver Broncos were the biggest losers in that category. They lost out on five players – Dick Butkus, Bob Hayes, Bob Brown, Merlin Olsen, and Paul Krause – who were eventually enshrined in Canton. No doubt that Broncos fans would not have had to wait 18 seasons until the team’s first playoff appearance had Denver landed that impressive bunch.

Hall of Famers drafted by Team

Arizona Cardinals

Charley Trippi - 1st Round (1st overall), 1945
(Also drafted as special selection in 1947 AAFC draft by New York Yankees.)
Ollie Matson - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1952
Larry Wilson - 7th Round (74th overall), 1960
(Also drafted in 1960 AFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.)
Jackie Smith - 10th Round (129th overall), 1963
Roger Wehrli - 1st Round (19th overall), 1969
Dan Dierdorf - 2nd Round (43rd overall), 1974

Atlanta Falcons
Deion Sanders – 1st Round (5th overall), 1989

Baltimore Colts (AAFC)
Art Donovan - Selected in 3rd Round of special selection draft, 1950.
(A year later, after Colts disbanded, he was selected by Cleveland Browns in 4th round (50th overall) but was traded to New York Yanks before the 1951 season began. Also selected in 22nd round (204th overall) of 1947 NFL draft by the New York Giants and in the 17th round (131st over-all) in the 1949 AAFC draft by the Buffalo Bills)

Boston Yanks
Doak Walker - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1949
(Also drafted in 5th round (35th overall) of 1963 AFL draft by the New York Titans.)

Brooklyn Dodgers
Clarence “Ace” Parker - 2nd Round (13th overall), 1937
Frank “Bruiser” Kinard - 3rd Round (18th overall), 1938

Brooklyn Tigers
Arnie Weinmeister - 17th Round (166th overall), 1945

Buffalo Bills
Billy Shaw - 2nd Round of 1961 AFL Draft
(Also selected in the 14th round - 184th overall - of 1961 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.)
O.J. Simpson - 1st Round (1st overall),  1969
Joe DeLamielleure - 1st Round (26th overall), 1973
Jim Kelly- 1st Round (14th overall), 1983
Bruce Smith - 1st Round (1st overall), 1985
Thurman Thomas - 2nd Round (40th overall), 1988

Chicago Bears
Joe Stydahar - 1st Round (6th overall), 1936
Dan Fortmann - 9th Round (78th overall), 1936
Sid Luckman - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1939
Clyde “Bulldog” Turner - 1st Round (7th overall), 1940
Bobby Layne - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1948
(Also selected in 1st round - 2nd overall - of 1948 AAFC Draft by Baltimore Colts.)
George Blanda - 12th Round (119th overall), 1949
(Also drafted in 2nd round - 9th overall - of 1949 AAFC Draft by the Chicago Hornets.)
Bill George - 2nd Round (23rd overall), 1951
Stan Jones - 5th Round (54th overall), 1953
Mike Ditka - 1st Round (5th overall), 1961
(Also drafted in 1st round of 1961 AFL Draft by the Houston Oilers.)
Dick Butkus - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1965
(Also drafted in 2nd round of 1965 AFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.)
Gale Sayers - 1st Round (4th overall), 1965
(Also drafted in 1st round of 1965 AFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.)
Walter Payton - 1st Round (4th overall), 1975
Dan Hampton - 1st Round (4th overall), 1979
Mike Singletary - 2nd Round (38th overall), 1981
Richard Dent – 8th Round (203rd overall), 1983

Anthony Muñoz - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1980

Cleveland Browns
Doug Atkins - 1st Round (11th overall), 1953
Willie Davis - 15th Round (181st overall), 1956
Jim Brown - 1st Round (6th overall), 1957
Henry Jordan - 5th Round (52nd overall), 1957
Gene Hickerson - 7th Round (78th overall), 1957
Bobby Mitchell - 7th Round (84th overall), 1958
Dick LeBeau - 5th Round (58th overall), 1959
Paul Warfield - 1st Round (11th overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 4th round - 28th overall - of 1964 AFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.)
Leroy Kelly - 8th Round (110th overall), 1964
Ozzie Newsome - 1st Round (23rd overall), 1978

Dallas Cowboys
Bob Lilly - 1st Round (13th overall), 1961
(Also drafted in 2nd round of 1961 AFL Draft by the Dallas Texans.)
Mel Renfro - 2nd Round (17th overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 10th round - 79th overall - of 1964 AFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.)
Bob Hayes - 7th Round (88th overall), 1964
(Also drafted as future choice in 14th round - 105th overall – of 1964 AFL Draft by Denver Broncos.)
Roger Staubach - 10th Round (129th overall), 1964
(Also drafted as a future selection in 16th round - 122nd overall - of 1964 AFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.)
Rayfield Wright - 7th Round (182nd overall), 1967
Randy White - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1975
Tony Dorsett - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1977
Michael Irvin- 1st Round (11th overall), 1988
Troy Aikman - 1st Round (1st overall), 1989
Emmitt Smith - 1st Round (17th overall), 1990

Denver Broncos
Floyd Little - 1st Round (6th overall), 1967
Shannon Sharpe – 7th Round (192 overall), 1990

Detroit Lions
Alex Wojciechowicz - 1st Round (6th overall), 1938
Otto Graham - 1st Round (4th overall), 1944
Y.A. Tittle - 1st Round (6th overall), 1948
Lou Creekmur - Selected in the second round of a special draft, 1950
(Originally drafted in 1948 by the Philadelphia Eagles in 26th round (243rd overall) and the AAFC’s Los Angeles Dons in 28th round - 197th overall. He opted to complete his college eligibility.)
Jack Christiansen - 6th Round (69th overall), 1951
Yale Lary - 3rd Round (34th overall), 1952
Joe Schmidt - 7th Round (85th overall), 1953
Lem Barney - 2nd Round (34th overall), 1967
Charlie Sanders - 3rd Round (74th overall), 1968
Barry Sanders - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1989

Green Bay Packers
Tony Canadeo - 9th Round (77th overall), 1941
Jim Ringo - 7th Round (79th overall), 1953
Forrest Gregg - 2nd Round (20th overall), 1956
Bart Starr - 17th Round (200th overall), 1956
Paul Hornung - 1st Round (1st overall), 1957
Jim Taylor - 2nd Round (15th overall), 1958
Ray Nitschke - 3rd Round (36th overall), 1958
Herb Adderley - 1st Round (12th overall), 1961
(Also drafted in 2nd round of 1961 AFL Draft by the New York Titans.)
James Lofton - 1st Round (6th overall), 1978

Indianapolis Colts
Raymond Berry - 20th Round (232nd overall), 1954
Lenny Moore - 1st Round (9th overall), 1956
Jim Parker - 1st Round (8th overall), 1957
John Mackey - 2nd Round (19th overall), 1963
Ted Hendricks- 2nd Round (33rd overall), 1969
John Elway - 1st Round (1st overall), 1983
Marshall Faulk – 1st Round (2nd overall), 1994

Kansas City Chiefs               
Buck Buchanan - 1st Round (1st overall) 1963 AFL Draft
(Also drafted in 19th round - 265th overall - of 1963 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.)
Bobby Bell - 7th Round (56th overall) 1963 AFL Draft
(Also drafted in 2nd round - 16th overall - of 1963 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.)
Jan Stenerud - 3rd Round of the 1966 AFL Red Shirt Draft
Willie Lanier - 2nd Round (50th overall), 1967
Derrick Thomas - 1st Round (4th overall), 1989

Los Angeles Don (AAFC)
Len Ford - 3rd Round (14th overall), 1948

Miami Dolphins
Bob Griese - 1st Round (4th overall), 1967
Larry Csonka - 1st Round (8th overall), 1968
Dwight Stephenson - 2nd Round (48th overall), 1980
Dan Marino - 1st Round (27th overall), 1983

Minnesota Vikings
Fran Tarkenton - 3rd Round (29th overall), 1961
(Also drafted in 5th round of 1961 AFL Draft by the Boston Patriots.)
Carl Eller - 1st Round (6th overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 1st round – 5th overall – of the 1964 AFL Draft by Buffalo Bills.)
Alan Page - 1st Round (15th overall), 1967
Ron Yary - 1st Round (1st overall), 1968
Randall McDaniel - 1st Round (19th overall), 1988

New England Patriots
Ron Mix - 1st Round of 1960 AFL Draft
(Also drafted in 1st round of 1960 NFL Draft - 10th overall - by the Baltimore Colts.)
Nick Buoniconti - 13th Round (102nd overall), 1963 AFL Draft
John Hannah - 1st Round (4th overall), 1973
Mike Haynes - 1st Round (5th overall), 1976
Andre Tippett - 2nd Round (41st overall), 1982

New Orleans Saints
Rickey Jackson - 2nd Round (51st overall), 1981

New York Giants
“Tuffy” Leemans - 2nd Round (18th overall), 1936
George Connor - 1st Round (5th overall), 1946
(Also selected in 15th round (145th overall) of 1945 draft by Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL ruled the pick to be ineligible and thus voided the selection.)
Frank Gifford - 1st Round (11th overall), 1952
Roosevelt Brown - 27th Round (321st overall), 1953
Sam Huff - 3rd Round (30th overall), 1956
Don Maynard - 9th Round (109th overall), 1957
Harry Carson - 4th Round (105th overall), 1976
Lawrence Taylor - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1981
Gary Zimmerman - 1st Round (3rd overall) in 1984 supplemental draft

New York Jets
Joe Namath - 1st Round of the 1965 AFL Draft
(Also selected in 1st round - 12th overall - of 1965 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.)
John Riggins - 1st Round (6th overall), 1971

New York Yanks
Mike McCormack - 3rd Round (34th overall), 1951
Les Richter – 1st Round (2nd overall), 1952
Gino Marchetti - 2nd Round (14th overall), 1952

Oakland Raiders  
Jim Otto - 1960 AFL Draft
Lance Alworth - 2nd Round (9th overall) 1962 AFL Draft
(Also drafted in 1st round - 8th overall - of 1962 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.)
Fred Biletnikoff - 2nd Round of the 1965 AFL Draft
(Also drafted in 3rd round - 39th overall - of 1965 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.)
Gene Upshaw - 1st Round (17th overall), 1967
Art Shell - 3rd Round (80th overall), 1968
Dave Casper - 2nd Round (44th overall), 1974
Howie Long - 2nd Round (48th overall), 1981
Marcus Allen - 1st Round (10th overall), 1982

Philadelphia Eagles
George McAfee - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1940
Steve Van Buren - 1st Round (5th overall), 1944
Pete Pihos - 5th Round (41st overall), 1945
Chuck Bednarik - 1st Round (1st overall), 1949
(Also drafted in 1st round of 1949 AAFC secret draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers.)
Tommy McDonald - 3rd Round (31st overall), 1957
Sonny Jurgensen, QB, Duke - 4th Round (43rd overall), 1957
Bob Brown - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 1st round – 1st overall – of the 1964 AFL Draft by Denver Broncos.)
Reggie White - 1st Round (4th overall) in 1984 supplemental draft

Pittsburgh Steelers
Bill Dudley - 1st Round (1st overall), 1942
Ernie Stautner - 2nd Round (22nd overall), 1950
(Also selected in 1st round of 1949 secret two-round AAFC draft by the San Francisco 49ers.)
John Henry Johnson - 2nd Round (18th overall), 1953
Johnny Unitas - 9th Round (102nd overall), 1955
Len Dawson - 1st Round (5th overall), 1957
Joe Greene - 1st Round (4th overall), 1969
Terry Bradshaw - 1st Round (1st overall), 1970
Mel Blount - 3rd Round (53rd overall), 1970
Jack Ham - 2nd Round (34th overall), 1971
Franco Harris - 1st Round (13th overall), 1972
Lynn Swann - 1st Round (21st overall), 1974
Jack Lambert - 2nd Round (46th overall), 1974
John Stallworth - 4th Round (82nd overall), 1974
Mike Webster - 5th Round (125th overall) , 1974
Rod Woodson - 1st Round (10th overall), 1987

St. Louis Rams
Bob Waterfield  - 5th Round (42nd overall), 1944
Elroy Hirsch - 1st Round (5th overall), 1945
Tom Fears - 11th Round (103rd overall), 1945
Dante Lavelli - 12th Round (103rd overall), 1947
Norm Van Brocklin - 4th Round (37th overall), 1949
(Also drafted in 11th round - 78th overall - in 1949 AAFC Draft by the Chicago Hornets.)
Andy Robustelli - 19th Round (228th overall), 1951
David “Deacon” Jones - 14th Round (186th overall), 1961
Merlin Olsen - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1962
(Also drafted in 1st round - 2nd overall - of 1962 AFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.)
Tom Mack - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1966
Jack Youngblood - 1st Round (20th overall), 1971
Jackie Slater - 3rd Round (86th overall), 1976
Eric Dickerson - 1st Round (2nd overall), 1983

San Diego
Dan Fouts - 3rd Round (84th overall), 1973
Fred Dean - 2nd Round (33rd overall), 1975
Kellen Winslow - 1st Round (13th overall), 1979

San Francisco 49ers
Leo Nomellini - 1st Round (11th overall), 1950
Hugh McElhenny - 1st Round (9th overall), 1952
Bob St. Clair - 3rd Round (32nd overall), 1953
Jimmy Johnson - 1st Round (6th overall), 1961
(Also drafted in 4th round of 1961 AFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers.)
Dave Wilcox - 3rd Round (29th overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 6th round - 46th overall - of 1964 AFL Draft by Houston Oilers.)
Joe Montana - 3rd Round (82nd overall), 1979
Ronnie Lott - 1st Round (8th overall), 1981
Jerry Rice - 1st Round (16th overall), 1985

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lee Roy Selmon - 1st Round (1st overall), 1976
Steve Young - 1st Round (1st overall) in 1984 supplemental draft

Tennessee Titans
Ken Houston - 9th Round (214th overall), 1967
Elvin Bethea - 3rd Round (77th overall), 1968
Charlie Joiner - 4th Round (93rd overall), 1969
Steve Largent - 4th Round (117th overall), 1976
Earl Campbell - 1st Round (1st overall), 1978
Mike Munchak - 1st Round (8th overall), 1982
Bruce Matthews - 1st Round (9th overall), 1983

Washington Redskins
Wayne Millner - 8th Round (65th overall), 1936
Sammy Baugh - 1st Round (6th overall), 1937
Charley Taylor - 1st Round (3rd overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 2nd round - 9th overall - of 1964 AFL Draft by the Houston Oilers.)
Paul Krause - 2nd Round (18th overall), 1964
(Also drafted in 12th round - 89th overall - of 1964 AFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.)
Chris Hanburger – 18th Round (245th overall), 1965
Art Monk - 1st Round (18th overall), 1980
Russ Grimm - 3rd Round (69th overall), 1981
Darrell Green - 1st Round (28th overall), 1983

Wrong “layne?”

Mar 14, 2011

Aside from the attention the ongoing NFL/NFLPA labor negotiations are receiving there is an intense interest amongst fans and media alike about the NFL Draft in April. While many teams rely heavily on the draft to build out their rosters, there are other methods to successfully obtain players. One such way is through free agency. In fact, there are 14 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who started their playing career as undrafted free agents. The most recent of these players is Class of 2010 inductee John Randle who was signed as a free agent rookie by the Minnesota Vikings in 1990.

Another method of acquiring players is via trades with other teams. A few men on the Hall's all-time roster were traded early in their careers such as Henry Jordan, Steve Largent, Willie Davis and John Elway.

Has a Hall of Famer ever been traded twice before he made a significant impact in professional football?

Yes. Bobby Layne.

Layne was an All-American quarterback at the University of Texas when he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1948 NFL Draft. However, his pro career did not start off as he wanted, however, when he was relegated to third string behind future Hall of Fame thrower Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack during his rookie season. He did receive some playing time though. In fact he threw a TD (a 34-yard pass to George McAfee) in the Bears hard-fought 7-6 win against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 14, 1948.

In the end Layne was expendable and the Bears shipped him to the New York Bulldogs for a large, undisclosed sum of cash and two players to be named later. So excited was Ted Collins, the owner of the Bulldogs, about the transaction that he declared the deal as the biggest in the history of the National Football League.

Bobby was instantly handed the ball and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He started every game of the 1949 season. The team he played on, however, was not very good. Layne took a great deal of pounding by opposing defenses and the team limped to a 1-10-1 record and a last place finish in the NFL's Eastern Division. Despite the team's record, Layne showed a great deal of promise in his play, especially in how he exhibited the "never-say-die" playing style that he would become famous for in his later years. Layne's best game in 1949 turned out to be the Bulldogs lone win of the season. On Nov. 6, Layne completed 23 of 39 passes for 333 yards and two TDs against a New York Giants team that at the time had a 4-2 record.

As promising as Layne's play may have been, things again got complicated for him when George Ratterman, a strong-armed quarterback out of Notre Dame who had played three years with the Buffalo Bills in the All-America Football Conference, joined the squad. With two talented quarterbacks on the roster and a running game that ranked last in the National Football League, New York traded Layne to the Detroit Lions for fullback Camp Wilson.

Score one for the Lions on that trade. Wilson never played another down of professional football while Layne went on to lead the Lions to three NFL championships while racking up numbers that ultimately led to his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. To this day, he remains the Lions all-time leader in passing yardage.

One of best football quotes ever in my opinion was about Layne (#22 below). His longtime friend and fellow Hall of Famer Doak Walker (#37 in photo below) once admiringly said of his teammate: "Bobby never lost a game. Some days, time just ran out on him."

So when you are watching the NFL draft next month, ask yourself if the next great star on your team will come through the draft, or perhaps he is a diamond in the rough already on another team's roster.

Jane Russell's husband

Mar 01, 2011
Iconic Hollywood actress Jane Russell died yesterday at the age of 89. The screen legend earned fame from roles in many successful motion pictures, most notably the The Outlaw (1943) and Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953). She was also the wife of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield.

The two were high school sweethearts at Van Nuys High School in Los Angeles, CA. After graduation Russell went on to work as a receptionist and Waterfield matriculated to UCLA to play football. It was while working as a receptionist that Russell was discovered by Hollywood film producer Howard Hughes and her film career was off and running. 

Russell and Waterfield were married on April 23, 1943 in Las Vegas. Here's a shot of them shortly after nuptials.

They remained together for 24 years until their divorce in 1967. During that time Russell became one of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses while Waterfield shot to the top of the pro football world as the star quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams. During their marriage they also formed a successful movie production studio named the Russelfield Corporation.

In 1965 Russell accompanied Waterfied to Canton, Ohio when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A historic Super Bowl

Feb 04, 2011

The Super Bowl is almost here! I will give you my prediction of the big game shortly, but first I want to touch on a few points. To start, this has been an incredible 2010 season. It seems like a lifetime ago that we started off the NFL season with the enshrinement of the Class of 2010 and the first NFL preseason game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game. Since that weekend in Canton to now, there have been so many memorable moments that have occurred this year. We at the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been fortunate enough to acquire artifacts from some of the greatest moments of the season. Like this jersey…click on the image below to find out why we now have Arian Foster's jersey on display in Canton.

The match-up in Super Bowl XLV is a fascinating one from a historical perspective. A game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers is about as classic as it gets. Never before have two teams so steeped with history and tradition battled it out in pro football's biggest game.

Here are a few notes to support that claim.

Super Bowl XVL now holds the record for most combined seasons played by the participating teams. The Packers started in the league in 1921. Pittsburgh got their start in 1933. That is a combined total of 168 years of play in the NFL.

To have a team in the league for that long of time, you can be sure that many spectacular players have inhabited the rosters over the years. The teams vying for the Super Bowl title this Sunday have a combined total of 39 Pro Football Hall of Fame members who have made their primary contribution to professional football as either a Packer or a Steeler. Green Bay has 21 Hall of Famers while Pittsburgh has 18. That's also a Super Bowl "record." The total could increase if Jerome Bettis and/or Dermontti Dawson are elected to the Class of 2011 on Saturday.

The Packers and the Steelers combined championship total is the most in Super Bowl history. The Packers have topped the league 12 times (including three Super Bowls titles) while the Steelers have a total of six championship rings. That's a grand total of 18, a hefty amount of championship hardware.

Here are some photo galleries featuring these title teams. Packers | Steelers

Power of Three
If the Packers win on Sunday, they will become just the third franchise to win three or more Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks at the helm. The others are:

Super Bowl   Opponent Score Starting QB
XVII Miami Dolphins 27-17 Joe Theismann
XXII Denver Broncos 42-10 Doug Williams
XXVI Buffalo Bills 37-24 Mark Rypien
Super Bowl   Opponent Score Starting QB
XXI Denver Broncos 39-20 Phil Simms
XXV Buffalo Bills 20-19 Jeff Hostetler
XLII New England Patriots 17-14 Eli Manning
Super Bowl   Opponent Score Starting QB
I Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 Bart Starr
II Oakland Raiders 33-14 Bart Starr
XXXI New England Patriots 35-21 Brett Favre
XLV Pittsburgh Steelers ? Aaron Rodgers


Opening Drive Forecast
I was really impressed with the Steelers and Packers opening drives in both conference championship games.

In the NFC Championship Game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers came out firing on all cylinders and connected on three passes of more than 20 yards while leading Green Bay 84 yards to pay dirt in only seven plays that took four minutes, 10 seconds. The drive ended with Rodgers scoring on a one-yard touchdown run. After that opening score, Green Bay never trailed in the game.

The Steelers methodically chipped away at the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game. Although the Jets won the opening coin toss, they elected to defer and kicked the ball away to the Steelers. Pittsburgh then proceeded to chew nine minutes, six seconds off the clock en route to a one-yard touchdown plunge by Rashard Mendenhall. The drive, which started on the Pittsburgh 34-yard line, included 15 plays, covered 66 yards, seven first downs, and featured 10 runs and five passes. The opening score certainly set the tone of the first half. The Steelers dominated the time of possession category with a figure of 21:04.

I wonder who had some of the longest opening drives in Super Bowl history. Let's take a look.

Below is a list of Super Bowl participants whose first drive of the game totaled more than five minutes.

Super Bowl Team Opponent First Drive Time Result Win/Loss
III Baltimore Colts New York Jet 5:22 Missed FG L
VIII Miami Dolphins Minnesota Vikings 5:27 TD Run W
XIV Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams 5:33 FG W
XVI San Francisco 49ers Cincinnati Bengals 5:58 TD Run W
XXI New York Giants Denver Broncos 5:24 TD Pass W
XXV New York Giants Buffalo Bills 6:15 FG W
XXXII Denver Broncos Green Bay Packers 5:19 TD Run W
XXXIII Atlanta Falcons Denver Broncos 5:25 FG L
XXXIII Denver Broncos Atlanta Falcons 5:40 TD Run W
XXXIV St. Louis Rams Tennessee Titans 5:20 Fumble W
XLII New York Giants New England Patriots 9:59 FG W
XLII New England Patriots New York Giants 5:04 TD L
XLIII Pittsburgh Steelers Arizona Cardinals 5:15 FG W
XLIV Indianapolis Colts New Orleans Saints 5:53 FG L

Of the 14 instances when a team had a first-drive time of more than five minutes, that team won 10 times, a pretty strong indicator if you are paying attention to the clock at the beginning of this Sunday's game. Interestingly, two Super Bowls (XXXIII and XLII) had opening drives of five or more minutes by both teams. In those occurrences, the team with the longer drive won the game.

My Prediction
I was surprised to see (although not by much) that the Packers are the favored team in Super Bowl XLV. Both teams have great defenses. Green Bay seems to have the more potent offense but I think that Pittsburgh has shown that they can score when it matters and is needed most. My pick: Pittsburgh 28, Green Bay 24.

Enjoy the game. But, first be sure to catch the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 announcement show on NFL Network this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) live from the Super Bowl Media Headquarters in downtown Dallas.

Fast Track to the Top?

Feb 02, 2011

The list of finalists for 2011 included five who are in their first year of eligibility. They are Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf, and Deion Sanders.

One of my thoughts when I first saw the list of finalist was whether or not this was a record number of first-year eligible candidates in the list of Finalists? I was also curious to know if being a finalist in one's first year of eligibility was a sure-fire way to being elected.

Let's take a look.

We start with 1970 because the procedure for naming the Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists was not defined prior to that point. To be eligible for election, modern-era players and coaches must be retired at least five years. However, bylaws from 1970 to 2007 required coaches only to be retired. Contributors need not be retired to earn their way into the Hall so they are not included in my calculations.

From 1970-2010 there have been 109 men who have been a Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist in their first year of their eligibility. Of that sum, only 67 have been elected in that year. That's a percentage of 61. A majority percentage, but certainly does not indicate that a first-year eligible finalist is a "shoo-in" for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The five men who are first-year eligible finalists in 2011 are now collectively tied for most in Pro Football Hall of Fame history. The other group of finalists that included five nominees in their first year of eligibility occurred in 1993, 1990, and 1971. The ones listed in caps were elected that year.

1993 - DAN FOUTS, CHUCK NOLL, WALTER PAYTON, Dwight Stephenson, and Kellen Winslow
1990 - FRANCO HARRIS, JACK LAMBERT, TOM LANDRY, Ken Stabler, and Jack Youngblood
1971 - Roosevelt Brown, JIM BROWN, Dick "Night Train" Lane, VINCE LOMBARDI, and Joe Schmidt

Interestingly, the record for the most first-year eligible finalists to earn election into the Hall of Fame in a single class is three. That's happened eight times 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, and 2006.

And, just once in our history has a group of finalists not included a first-year eligible candidate (1976).

No such thing as “shoo-in”

Feb 01, 2011

A list of 17 finalists (15 modern-era candidates and two senior nominees) will be the topic of discussion when the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Selection Committee meets in Dallas on Saturday to elect the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011. The election results will be announced at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) during a 90-minutes NFL Network special, live from the Super Bowl Media Center.

Earning election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not easy. Since the National Football League was founded in 1920, approximately 21,700 players have competed in the league. There are only 260 members who've been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Take away the coaches and contributors and there are only 229 Hall of Fame players.

What does that mean? A quick tapping of my calculator tells me that an incoming player into the NFL has a 0.0104 percent chance of someday wearing a gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket when his career is over.

How about the lucky few who eventually make their way to being a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? What is their chance of eventually having their likeness cast in bronze?

From 1970, the first year our selection process included the naming of finalists, through 2010, a total of 224 men have been finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of that total, 202 eventually got the call to come to Canton, Ohio. That's a figure of 83 percent of all finalists who have eventually earned election to the Hall of Fame. A little less than half (100) of the men who earned election into the Hall of Fame, however, made it in their first year as a finalist.

Here's a look at the all-time list of finalists>>>

Packers HOF home to our traveling exhibit

Jan 26, 2011

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is currently touring a traveling exhibit titled Pro Football and the American Spirit.

The popular display tells the story of professional football players and personnel who served our nation in the armed forces from World War II to Desert Storm to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been somewhat of a labor of love for me as I’ve performed hours and hours of research on the content for the popular exhibit which is currently showing at the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame which is located at Lambeau Field. It has been on display there since October. We recently extended its showing in Green Bay so that it will remain on display through the end of February.

There are more than 40 artifacts in the exhibit including Hall of Famer Art Donovan's Marine Corps uniform; the career medals of General Ernest Cheatham, the highest ranking former player; and the Cleveland Browns sideline jacket of Don Steinbrunner, one of only two NFL players to lose his life during the Vietnam War.

Another area of the well-received exhibit pays special tribute to former Arizona Cardinals safety and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman. After putting his NFL career on hold in the spring of 2002 to serve his country, Tillman tragically lost his life in Afghanistan while taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom in April 2004. Visitors to Pro Football and the American Spirit can view Tillman's Army Ranger Uniform, his playing jersey, and a maquette of a statue that is on display outside the Cardinals' home at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

New to Pro Football and the American Spirit is a football which Tillman intercepted from then-Packers quarterback Brett Favre during the second quarter of Green Bay's 49-24 victory during the Week 17 of the 1999 NFL season. After the play Tillman celebrated his pick, one of just three in his career, by punting the ball into the stands at Lambeau Field. The ball was retrieved by Mike Janse of Appleton, WI who recently donated the ball to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We immediately added the memento to the exhibit.

If you're traveling anywhere near Green Bay in the near future, you'll definitely want to make a detour and visit the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. It will be well worth your time and you'll also get a chance to take a glimpse at one of our newest artifacts.

Playoffs: The Conference Championships

Jan 18, 2011

What a great set of conference championship games we have to look forward to this weekend. If you want my picks, I like the Pittsburgh Steelers to take care of business at home against the New York Jets to capture the AFC crown. In the NFC, I think Green Bay is going to win and return to the team's first Super Bowl since Brett Favre led them to a return trip to the big game as defending champions in 1997.

The NFC Championship is pretty interesting from a historical perspective as well. The match-up between these NFC North division rivals marks just the 16th time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 that a conference championship featured opponents from the same division.

Both the Packers and the Bears each won their home game during the season. So this conference championship may be the best "rubber match" of all time.

Let's take a look at the past conference championship games which featured division rivals and their season record against each other leading into the game.

1971 AFC – Miami Dolphins 21, Baltimore Colts 0
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1972 NFC – Washington Redskins 26, Dallas Cowboys 3
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1977 AFC – Denver Broncos 20, Oakland Raiders 17
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1978 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 34, Houston Oilers 5
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1979 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Houston 13
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1980 NFC – Philadelphia Eagles 20, Dallas Cowboys 7
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1982 AFC – Miami Dolphins 14, New York Jets 0
Regular season: Miami won both regular season games. Note: the 1982 season was shortened to nine games due to a player's strike.

1982 NFC – Washington Redskins 31, Dallas Cowboys 17
Regular season: Dallas won the lone regular season game. Note: the 1982 season was shortened to nine games due to a player's strike.

1983 AFC – Los Angeles Raiders 30, Seattle Seahawks 14
Regular season: Seattle won both regular season games

1985 AFC – New England Patriots 31, Miami Dolphins 14
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1986 NFC – New York Giants 17, Washington Redskins 0
Regular season: New York won both regular season games

1989 NFC – San Francisco 30, Los Angeles Rams 3
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1992 AFC – Buffalo Bills 20, Miami Dolphins 10
Regular season: Both teams had one win each

1999 AFC – Tennessee Titans 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 14
Regular season: Tennessee won both regular season games

2008 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Baltimore Ravens 14
Regular season: Pittsburgh won both regular season games

Only in five of the 15 match-ups did one team defeat the other twice leading into the conference title. Of those five, the team that won both the regular season bouts took the conference crown four times.

In the other games you really had to wait to see the game to know who was going to win, just like we are going to have to do this week.

A Wild Weekend

Jan 11, 2011

A few weeks ago I wrote about the possibility of an 8-8 St. Louis Rams or a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team making the playoffs as the winner of the NFC West Division. As it turned out, the Seahawks won their division and had the opportunity to host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card game. Not many fans gave the Seahawks a chance, but as I am sure you know, they defeated the Saints by a thrilling 41-36 score at Qwest Field.

I thought this was the best game of the Wild Card Weekend. There is something about the notion that any team can beat another team on any given week that makes the NFL the best league in the world. Sitting here on Monday morning, I still get a shiver down my spine thinking about the tremendous touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch late in the fourth quarter which essentially sealed the game for Seattle.



Lost in the spectacle of this incredible win by the Seahawks, however, was the fact that this was the seventh highest point total scored by both teams in playoff history. The highest scoring game in the postseason occurred just last year when the Arizona Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers in a thrilling 51-45 overtime scorcher.

In that game, both quarterbacks were nearly flawless. Cardinals' signal-caller Kurt Warner threw more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4), and his 87.9 completion percentage (29 of 33) was the third-best in NFL postseason history. Aaron Rodgers, the Packers quarterback, was making his first playoff start and passed for 423 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Warner led the Cardinals to a 21-point lead in the third quarter before Rodgers took over and guided the Packers back to even the game at 45-45 with less than two minutes remaining in the game. The Packers received the ball first in overtime but tragedy struck when the young quarterback fumbled on the third snap of extra play. Cardinals' linebacker Karlos Dansby recovered the ball stripped by cornerback Mike Adams in mid-air and returned it 17 yards for the winning score.



You have to love the sudden-death atmosphere of the playoffs. You never know what's going to happen.

Highest Scoring Games in Postseason History

2009 NFC Wild Card Playoff

Arizona Cardinals 51, Green Bay Packers 45 (OT) = 96 points

1995 NFC Wild Card Playoff
Philadelphia Eagles 58, Detroit Lions 37 = 95 points

1999 NFC Divisional Playoff
St. Louis Rams 49, Minnesota Vikings 37 = 86 points

1992 AFC Wild Card Playoff
Buffalo Bills 41, Houston Oilers 38 (OT) = 79 points

1981 AFC Divisional Playoff
San Diego Chargers 41, Miami Dolphins 38 (OT) = 79 points

1990 AFC Divisional Playoff
Buffalo Bills 44, Miami Dolphins 34 = 78 points

2002 NFC Wild Card Playoff
San Francisco 49ers 39, New York Giants 38 = 77 points

2010 NFC Wild Card Playoff
Seattle Seahawks 41, New Orleans Saints 36 = 77 points

Interesting Reed

Jan 03, 2011

What a tremendous 2010 season by Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed. Not only did he lead the National Football League in interceptions for the third time in his career, but he did so while playing only 10 games. Amazingly, the injury which forced him to miss a large chunk of the season (a nagging hip that required surgery leading into the season) had Reed contemplating retirement at the Super Bowl last year.

Oh, and by the way, Reed's league-leading total just tied him with long-time Dallas Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls for most seasons leading the league in interceptions. Also, his interception return yardage for the 2010 season (183) gave him a career total of 1,438 yards which is now second in NFL annals. Reed now trails only Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, who holds the record with 1,483 career return yards, by only 45 yards.

How spectacular was the 32-year-old's season? Let's take a look.

Here is a chart of NFL interception leaders since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 and the number of games played.

Year Player Team INTs Games Avg/GM
1970 Johnny Robinson Kansas City 10 14 0.71
1971 Bill Bradley Philadelphia 11 14 0.79
1972 Bill Bradley Philadelphia 9 14 0.64
1973 Dick Anderson Miami 8 14 0.57
  Mike Wagner Pittsburgh 8 14 0.57
1974 Emmitt Thomas Kansas City 12 14 0.86
1975 Mel Blount Pittsburgh 11 14 0.79
1976 Monte Jackson Los Angeles 10 14 0.71
1977 Lyle Blackwood Baltimore 10 14 0.71
1978 Thom Darden Cleveland 10 16 0.63
1979 Mike Reinfeldt Houston 12 16 0.75
1980 Lester Hayes Oakland 13 16 0.81
1981 Everson Walls Dallas 11 16 0.69
1982 Everson Walls Dallas 7 9 0.78
1983 Mark Murphy Washington 9 15 0.60
1984 Ken Easley Seattle 10 16 0.63
1985 Everson Walls Dallas 9 16 0.56
1986 Ronnie Lott San Francisco 10 14 0.71
1987 Barry Wilburn Washington 9 12 0.75
1988 Scott Case Atlanta 10 16 0.63
1989 Felix Wright Cleveland 9 16 0.56
1990 Mark Carrier Chicago 10 16 0.63
1991 Ronnie Lott L.A. Raiders 8 16 0.50
1992 Henry Jones Buffalo 8 16 0.50
  Audray McMillian Minnesota 8 16 0.50
1993 Eugene Robinson Seattle 9 16 0.56
  Nate Odomes Buffalo 9 16 0.56
1994 Eric Turner Cleveland 9 16 0.56
  Aeneas Williams Arizona 9 16 0.56
1995 Orlando Thomas Minnesota 9 16 0.56
1996 Tyrone Braxton Denver 9 16 0.56
  Keith Lyle St. Louis 9 16 0.56
1997 Ryan McNeil St. Louis 9 16 0.56
1998 Ty Law New England 9 16 0.56
1999 Rod Woodson Baltimore 7 16 0.44
  Sam Madison Miami 7 16 0.44
  James Hasty Kansas City 7 15 0.47
  Donnie Abraham Tampa Bay 7 16 0.44
  Troy Vincent Philadelphia 7 14 0.50
2000 Darren Sharper Green Bay 9 16 0.56
2001 Anthony Henry Cleveland 10 16 0.63
  Ronde Barber Tampa Bay 10 16 0.63
2002 Rod Woodson Oakland 8 16 0.50
  Brian Kelly Tampa Bay 8 16 0.50
2003 Tony Parrish San Francisco 9 16 0.56
  Brian Russell Minnesota 9 16 0.56
2004 Ed Reed Baltimore 9 16 0.56
2005 Ty Law N.Y. Jets 10 16 0.63
  Deltha O'Neal Cincinnati 10 15 0.67
2006 Champ Bailey Denver 10 16 0.63
  Asante Samuel New England 10 15 0.67
2007 Antonio Cromartie San Diego 10 16 0.63
2008 Ed Reed Baltimore 9 16 0.56
2009 Jarius Byrd Buffalo 9 14 0.64
  Asante Samuel Philadelphia 9 16 0.56
  Darren Sharper New Orleans 9 14 0.64
  Charles Woodson Green Bay 9 16 0.56
2010 Ed Reed Baltimore 8 10 0.80

Reed's eight picks in his 10 games gave him a .80 interceptions per game average. Only two players had a higher interception per game average than Reed. Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas registered a league-leading 12 interceptions in 14 games played in 1974 for an average of .86. In 1980 Lester Hayes stole 13 passes in 16 games for a .81 average.

Reed and his Ravens face the Kansas City Chiefs in a Wild Card match-up this coming Sunday. Reed is already third in NFL history for interceptions in the postseason with seven. The record is nine and is held by three men – Charlie Waters, Bill Simpson, and Ronnie Lott.

Who wants to bet that Reed's name is on the top of that list by the time the playoffs are over?

Season finale could make history

Dec 28, 2010
I have a keen interest on Week 17’s match-up between the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. At first glance, two teams with losing records (the Rams are 7-8 and the Seahawks are 6-9) would rarely register as a game of note among pro football fans.  As it turns out, this game will determine the winner of the NFC West Division and more than just the team’s local markets will be watching. The NFL just announced that the game will be moved into the Sunday Night Football slot on NBC.

One of two very rare things will occur with this game. As stated before, the winner of this game takes the division and in turn will play the following week in the post-season. If Seattle wins, they improve their record to 7-9. This will mark the first time in NFL history that a team with a losing record wins their division. 

If St. Louis wins, they will become just the third team in NFL history to win their division with an 8-8 record. The other two teams to accomplish the feat were the 1985 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 San Diego Chargers.

There is a popular cliché used in the NFL: any team can beat another team on any given week.  Meaning you must respect your opponent, regardless of their record, if you want to come out on top. This will hold true to the teams that faces the winner of Sunday Night’s division battle.

A look at history proves that. The ’85 AFC Central Division champion Browns faced the 12-4 Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs that season.  No doubt, Cleveland put a huge scare into Dolphins fans.  Led by running back Earnest Byner who delivered a 161-yard rushing performance, the Browns roared to a 21-3 lead in the third quarter. Miami, however, was able to regain their composure and battled back to win 24-21. 

The 2008 Chargers, who won the AFC West Division, entered the playoffs on a four-game winning streak while outscoring their opponents 149-73 during that span. They continued that hot streak against the 12-4 Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card Game.  Although the Chargers trailed 17-14 late in the fourth quarter, they were able to win 23-17 in overtime.  The star of the day was Darren Sproles who gained 328 all-purpose yards, third most in NFL playoff history, and scored the winning TD on a 22-yard run in sudden-death. San Diego fell the next week 35-24 in a hard fought battle to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the eventual Super Bowl champions.

I think one of the main ingredients as to why the NFL Playoffs are so compelling is that that anything can happen.  I am sure that we are in few a few surprises this year as well.  I cannot wait. But, first I’ll be tuning into the showdown in Seattle.


Dec 21, 2010

Readers to this blog may accuse me of being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. I am not. I am however, totally intrigued by the team's play this season. Sunday's game against the New York Giants was no exception.

The Week 15 battle between the two NFC East rivals had heavy playoff implications as the winner of the game would be in first place in the division. With a 31-10 lead midway in the fourth quarter, the game looked to be well in the Giants hands.

The Eagles, on the other hand, were not finished. In an electrifying fashion, Philly scored 28 point (a franchise record in the final quarter) over a period of 7 minutes, 28 seconds to steal a victory from the Giants. The final touchdown came on a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by DeSean Jackson as time expired. Incredibly, this was the first time in NFL history that a game was won on a punt return on the final play of the game.

Much has been said of Michael Vick this year, but the same accolades can be heaped towards Jackson as well. In just his third season, Jackson has carved a pretty respectable niche in the history of professional football. He already has a jersey in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's collection when last year he became the first in player in NFL history to score a touchdown of 60-plus-yards in each of the first three games of the season.

With yesterday's game-winning punt return for a TD, Jackson became just the second player in NFL history to score a rushing, receiving and a punt return touchdown in each of his first three seasons. He joins Dick Todd who first accomplished the feat with the Washington Redskins (1939-1941).

Like Jackson, Todd was a key ingredient to his team's performance but possibly more so. While Jackson has played a major role for the Eagles offense and on special teams (he has led the Eagles in receiving yards and punt returns in each of his three seasons), Todd also excelled on defense.

During Todd's eight-year career with the Redskins, which was interrupted by two years of Naval service during World War II (1939-1942, 1945-48), he led the team in scoring once - 1940, punt returns once - 1941, rushing twice -1940, 1946, receiving twice - 1942, 1948, and interceptions twice 1945-46. All the while, he helped lead the Redskins to the NFL championship game in 1940, 1942, and 1945. In the 1942 game, Todd and his Redskins were able to avenge a 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 game.

Is this a good sign for the Eagles' chances in the playoffs this year? How scary would it be for opposing quarterbacks to see Jackson performing just like Todd in the secondary? We still have two weeks left in the regular season. Anything is possible.

Dick Todd's First Three Seasons
Year Team G No. Yds. Avg. TD No. Yds. Avg. TD No. Yds. Avg. TD
1939 Washington 10 57 266 4.7 2 19 230 12.1 3 n/a n/a n/a 1
1940 Washington 11 76 408 5.4 4 20 402 20.1 4 n/a n/a n/a 1
1941 Washington 7 55 138 2.5 1 8 125 15.6 1 14 238 17.0 1
Three-Year Total 28 188 812 4.3 7 47 757 16.1 8 14 238 17.0 3
DeSean Jackson's First Three Seasons
Year Team G No. Yds. Avg. TD No. Yds. Avg. TD No. Yds. Avg. TD
2008 Philadelphia 16 62 912 14.7 2 17 96 5.6 1 50 440 8.8 1
2009 Philadelphia 15 62 1,156 18.6 9 11 137 12.5 1 29 441 15.2 2
2010 Philadelphia 13 45 1,024 22.8 6 15 104 6.9 1 20 231 11.6 1
Three-Year Total 44 169 3,092 18.3 17 43 337 7.8 3 99 1,112 11.2 4


Weather Delay

Dec 13, 2010

This past weekend, heavy snowfall wreaked havoc on the Week 14 match-up between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings.  First, the snowy conditions caused such a delay to the Giants arrival into Minnesota that they were rerouted to Kansas City. Then, the game was postponed until Monday night.  Things took a turn for the worse early Sunday morning when heavy snow accumulation caused the roof at the Metrodome to collapse.  As a result, the two teams will play tonight at Ford Field in Detroit. 

This was not the first instance that extreme weather conditions caused a venue or date change in the National Football League. Here are just a few of note.

Perhaps, the most significant may be the 1932 playoff game between the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans.  An intense blizzard forced the game indoors from Wrigley Field to Chicago Stadium.  The smaller arena caused the field to be shorted to only 60 yards in length along with a laundry list of other modifications to the game’s format. These adjustments served as the catalyst for several rules changes the following season.  You can read more about the 1932 Playoff game here>>>

In 1992 the Miami Dolphins were scheduled to open their season against the New England Patriots at Pro Player Stadium on Sept. 7.  The game was postponed until Oct. 18, 1992 due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Andrew in the South Florida region. The Category 5 storm caused major damages in the entire region and cost an estimated $27 to $34 billion dollars to repair.  When the teams finally played, the Dolphins won 38-17 which turned out to be Miami’s sixth straight win since their delayed start of the season.

In 2003 the National Football League moved the San Diego Chargers Monday night game against the Dolphins from Qualcomm Stadium to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  The reason was due to wildfires which raged through much of San Diego County.  More importantly, the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium served as an evacuation center for thousands of residents who were ordered out of their homes.  Tickets for the game in Arizona were distributed for free at the stadium.  Again, Miami won 26-10.

Not all postponements occur because of extreme weather.  Sometimes there are last-minute scheduling issues.  The Dolphins’ Oct. 26, 1997 game against the Chicago Bears in Pro Player Stadium was delayed until the following day to make way for Game 7 of the World Series. The Bears defeated the Dolphins 36-33 in overtime but not too many fans in South Florida complained. The Florida Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the franchise's first World Series championship. Not a bad trade-off.

Super Vick

Nov 19, 2010

Like most of the football world, I was totally enamored by Michael Vick’s performance this past Monday night as he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a dominating 59-28 victory over the Washington Redskins.  From the moment Vick completed an 88-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson on the first play of the game, I was glued to my TV.

Throughout the game, I was filled with anticipation, waiting to see what Vick would do next.  He never disappointed.  In fact, his performance will go down as one the greatest in NFL history.  Vick became the first player in NFL history to record 300 or more passing yards (333), 50-plus rushing yards (80), four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.  His numbers in the first half alone were enough to put him in the record book; he became the first player in NFL history with three passing TDs and two rushing TDs in the first half of a game. 

Going back to that first play from scrimmage, his 88-yard touchdown pass to Jackson was the longest TD pass in the opening minute of a game in 41 years (Roman Gabriel 93 yards to Wendall Tucker - Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers, November 9, 1969).  Thankful for my DVR, I watched the play at least five times after it occurred.  Vick’s pass traveled an incredible 62 yards in the air. 

The moment I saw the completion, it reminded me of another great Eagles play by quarterback Randall Cunningham back on Dec. 2, 1990 against the Buffalo Bills.  In my opinion, Cunningham was one of the most electrifying quarterbacks of his era.  His passing ability and running skills created the mold for which Vick and other run-savvy quarterbacks are now compared.

Late in the second quarter Cunningham and the Eagles were backed up on their own five-yard line on a 3rd-and-14 situation.  Cunningham took the snap under center and dropped back five steps to pass the ball.   Standing in the middle of his end zone, he soon found that the pocket immediately collapsed around him.  After he evaded several tacklers and ran about 15 yards to his left Cunningham launched a pass that traveled 60 yards into the hands of wide receiver Fred Barnett who then raced for a touchdown.   The 95-yard score remains the second longest from scrimmage in franchise history.

Although the Eagles did not win the game, Cunningham went on to win several MVP and Player of the Year awards that year. His final stats for 1990 were incredible – 271 completion on 465 attempts for 3,466 yards, 30 TDs, 13 INTS and a 91.6 passer rating.  He also bewildered opposing defenses with 118 rushes for 942 yards and 5 TDS.   I remember Cunningham being the talk of the NFL that year as all eyes were focused on him to see what he would do next.

The same can be said of Vick this coming week. Everyone is waiting to see what he will do next.  The only people who probably don’t want to see anything magical are Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants.

Eye on leBron

Jul 07, 2010

Even though I work at the Pro Football Hall of Fame I am a big fan of the NBA. Living in Northeast Ohio all of my life, I have always had a strong allegiance to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Like most Cavs fans, I too am waiting with baited breath for the free agency decision of LeBron James and whether he will stay with his hometown team or begin anew with a different franchise. James is reportedly planning to announce the team with which he will sign during a one-hour television special Thursday night.

The whole scenario reminds me of when the NFL last had a free agent that garnered the attention of the entire pro football world, defensive end Reggie White. Following the 1992 NFL Season the NFL settled on a variety of player lawsuits and signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This resulted in the league’s current free agent structure. Up until that time, the NFL had somewhat of a minor-league version of free agency with what was called Plan B free agency.

White was the most coveted player among the 298 players who were suddenly free to shop their services around the league. At that time, White had just finished his eighth season with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL after a two-year stint in the United States Football League. If he had retired at the time, he arguably would already have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  

His resume of football accomplishments made every team salivate at the chance of obtaining him: a first-team All-Pro selection seven times, seven Pro Bowl selections, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year award recipient, and two-time NFL sack champion. Incredibly, he had recorded more sacks (124) than games played (121) while with the Eagles.

In March of 1993, White began what was known as the “Reggie White Tour Across America.” Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell whisked Reggie and his wife Sara to Cleveland on a private jet and lavished them with stretch limos, a stay at Ritz-Carlton and enough flowers to fill the largest floral shop in Ohio. The Browns went even so far as present White’s wife with a $900 leather coat.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Same Wyche dangled an all-expense paid trip to Disney World for White’s entire family.  Jerry Glanville, the coach for the Atlanta Falcons, promised White could have his picture taken while sitting in the Governor of Georgia’s chair. At the same time, Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders offered to buy him a church if he signed with Atlanta.

Thousands of nervous Eagles fans held a rally in Philadelphia to plead their case to the “Minister of Defense” to stay with the team. When a TV reporter sent a tape to White showing the Eagles fans chanting “Reggie, don’t go,” at the gathering it brought tears to White’s eyes.

Finally on April 8, after weeks of speculation and sales pitches from nearly half the league, White shocked the football world when he signed a four-year, $17 million deal with the Green Bay Packers. Although the Packers had struggled in recent seasons, White was impressed with the team’s young core of talent (namely quarterback Brett Favre) and the team’s head coach, Mike Holmgren.

White’s decision had Packers’ fans feeling “Super” again. The team and the city were able to cash in on the euphoria just a few years later when White helped lead the Packers to a championship in Super Bowl XXXI.

Only time will tell what the affects of LeBron’s free agency decision will be. I personally have my fingers crossed that he stays with Cleveland.  I am curious, however, to know if there will ever be a free agent in the NFL that ever gets as much attention as James and White.  Who’s your guess among today’s young stars?

Ageless wonder

Jun 16, 2010

If you are a regular visitor to, you may have noticed that we have slowly added expanded bios of each Pro Football Hall of Fame members to the site. The larger biographies include almost anything you could think of regarding the Hall of Famer's career. As a Researcher at the Hall of Fame, I have helped compile, write, proof and fact check the information contained in these bios. Some of the Hall of Famers that now have expanded information includes Tony Dorsett, Leroy Kelly, John Hannah, Dave Casper, Bob Lilly, and Bobby Mitchell.

One of the Hall of Famers that I really enjoyed working on was George Blanda. I must say, it took a great deal of time to gather all the data for a player who donned a helmet for 26 seasons while playing two positions – quarterback and kicker.

Here's what his page looks like…you'll have to see the real thing on our site and scroll and scroll and scroll to see what he accomplished in his long career.

Blanda was one of the greatest players in pro football history. He started his career with the Chicago Bears in 1949 but did not become the regular starter as quarterback until 1954. Injuries, however, plagued him with the Bears and he became frustrated by his lack of playing time. As a result, he left the game in 1959.

When the American Football League formed in 1960, Blanda jumped at the opportunity to play again and joined the Houston Oilers. The rest, as they say, is history. He excelled with the Oilers before he joined the Oakland Raiders in 1967.

One of the most notable items on Blanda's career resume is how he helped guide the Oakland Raiders to four wins and one tie in a five-game span in 1970 - all at the age of 43. Although he served with the Raiders as the team's full-time kicker, Blanda was only the back-up quarterback. His performance reminds me a lot of today's versions of Brett Favre or Kurt Warner who have succeeded at quarterback well into their late-30s or 40s but at a time when it was not as common as it is today.

Looking into that five-game span is fascinating.

Week 6 – Oct. 25, Pittsburgh vs. Oakland
Heading into the Raiders' Week 6 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 25, Oakland sported a somewhat disappointing 2-2-1 record (the team was coming off a 12-1-1 record the prior season). Oakland's starting quarterback against the Steelers was Daryle Lamonica, but he was benched in the first quarter due to a back injury. Blanda, the oldest player in the game, came in and paced his team to an easy 31-14 victory while throwing three touchdown passes.
Blanda stat line: Passing: 7 of 12, 148 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; Rushing: 1 attempt 0 yards; Field Goals: 27 yarder; PATs: 4

Week 7 – Nov. 1, Oakland at Kansas City
Although Lamonica was healthy enough to return to the field, it was Blanda who provided the late-game heroics to help the Raiders. His 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in the game enabled Oakland to tie Kansas City 17-17 and take the lead in the AFC Western Division on percentage points
Blanda stat line: Field Goal: 48 yarder; PATs: 2

Week 8 – Nov. 8, Cleveland at Oakland
A healthy Lamonica started this game but things began to look bleak when he was again sent to the sideline in the fourth quarter, this time with an injured shoulder. In came Blanda who didn't blink at the team's seven-point deficit. With 96 ticks on the clock, he tied the game up with a 14-yard TD pass to Warren Wells. Then with three seconds remaining in the game, Blanda kicked a 52-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 23-30 victory.
Blanda stat line: Passing: 7 of 12, 102 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Rushing: 1 attempt 4 yards; Field Goals: 43, 9, 52 (Game Winner) yards; PATs: 2

Week 9 – Nov. 15, Oakland at Denver
Nagging injuries can seem to ruin a season for some players and that must have been what Lamonica was thinking after he again had to leave the game. Luckily for Oakland, Blanda was there to move in and make another late-game save. Trailing with less than four minutes remaining, Blanda directed an offensive attack that culminated with his TD pass to Fred Biletnikoff with 2:28 left in the game. Oakland held onto a 24-19 victory.
Blanda stat line: Passing: 4 of 6, 80 yards, 1 TD; Field Goals: 32 yards; PATs: 3

Week 10 – Nov. 22, San Diego at Oakland
Although Lamonica remained healthy and played the whole game at quarterback, Blanda's services were still needed to pull out another victory. The talented kicker converted on a 16-yard field goal in the final four seconds of the game to give the Raiders a 20-17 triumph.
Blanda stat line: Field Goals: 18, 16 (Game Winner) yards; PATs: 2

Blanda's five-game string of heroics was only part of his magnificent 1970 season. He also kicked the game-winning extra point against the New York Jets in Week 12. The Raiders went on to finish the season with an 8-4-2 record and advanced to the AFC championship game. Although the Raiders lost to the Baltimore Colts in that game, Blanda accounted for all 17 of the Raiders points. The Associated Press named him 1970 Male Athlete of the Year for his services.

Blanda finally retired in August of 1976 just one month shy of his 49th birthday as the NFL's all-time career scorer with 2,002 points.

I wonder who the next generation's George Blanda will be, or if we ever will see such a player again.

Pro Football & the American Spirit!

May 28, 2010

In observance of Memorial Day, I thought it would be fitting to write about an exhibit the Pro Football Hall of Fame is currently travelling around the United States – Pro Football and the American Spirit.

The popular display tells the story of professional football players and personnel who served our nation in the armed forces from WW II to Desert Storm to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It currently is showing at The Hall at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts which is a museum that showcases the history of the New England Patriots while providing a permanent home for the franchise's Hall of Fame. I traveled in February to the Patriots Place to install the exhibit. It will run through the end of June.

There are more than 40 artifacts in the exhibit including Hall of Famer Art Donovan's Marine Corps uniform; the career medals of General Ernest Cheatham, pro football's highest ranking former player; the Cleveland Browns sideline jacket of Don Steinbrunner, one of only two NFL players to lose his life during the Vietnam War; and Pat Tillman's Army Ranger uniform.

Donovan was not only a great defensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts but an honored member of the United States military. Here's his Marine Corps uniform that is on display in our exhibit:

Now, while purists remember Art for his football career, who can forget his regular visits to David Letterman.

One of the most amazing sections of the exhibit is the Honor Roll of NFL players, coaches and personnel who delayed, interrupted, or cut short their NFL careers to serve during some of our county's' most trying times. I am always amazed at the number of players who served during times of national crises – the total is close to 1,300.

These men were not just second stringers or journeyman players. They included Hall of Famers like Dante Lavelli and Andy Robustelli who both severed in World War II before they embarked on their pro football careers. Hall of Fame backs Bill Dudley and Clarence (Ace) Parker were among those players who interrupted their football careers to serve in World War II.

Another great story which is chronicled in the exhibit is about Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier. He was drafted into the U.S. Army following his rookie year in 1968. While serving in Vietnam he was seriously injured by enemy rifle fire and then grenade shrapnel. Doctors were concerned that he may not ever walk again let alone resume his football career. Amazinginly he fought his way back to the football field and was later a 1,000-yard rusher for the Steelers.

Rocky Bleier's Purple Heart is on loan to us and included in the exhibit:

Pro Football and the American Spirit really pulls on the emotional strings of the people that have a chance to see the exhibit, especially for those who have served in the military. I have personally seen grown men drawn to tears after immersing themselves in the stories documented in the displays.

After the exhibit's stop in New England, it will travel to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame located near Wichita, Kansas. It will reside there from July through October. Then it is off to Green Bay, Wisconsin where it will show at the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

If you have a chance to visit these facilities where Pro Football and the American Spirit is showing, it will be well worth your time.

If you're in the Boston area, be sure to stop by The Hall at Patriot Place to see our exhibit before it moves on after June 30.

Photo Op

May 14, 2010

As a researcher here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I am fortunate to be in involved in a variety of different ventures and projects throughout the year. Included among my many responsibilities is the planning, organization and implementation of the Hall of Fame’s annual Photo Contest.

{GALLERY}As a huge photography buff, the photo contest is something that I look forward to every year. Our contest, which is in its 42nd year, is one of the oldest and most respected contests in the country. The judging for the 2009 NFL Season occurred in April and we announced the winners shortly thereafter. You may have seen the winning images on our website.

Many people ask me about the process so I thought I would write a short synopsis of what happens each year.

The contest is open to professional photographers on assignment to cover NFL games. Photos taken during the NFL season, including the postseason and the Pro Bowl are eligible for submission.

This year we received around 1,000 submissions for the contest. This number is down a bit from recent years where we have seen as many 1,500-2,000 images submitted for judging. I believe there are several reasons for this decline. The NFL has tighter restrictions in terms of the number of people it credentials for NFL sidelines and the economy which has forced many media outlets to reduce the amount of people they send to cover games.

Nevertheless, the entries entered into this contest are spectacular. Each image that is submitted is carefully vetted and sorted into two categories - action or feature. Action is considered to be any photo during the act of a play while a feature is considered a photo of anything outside of an actual play during a game.

We bring in judges from around the country to perform the difficult task of determining the winners. Each year I personally invite a panel of five people to serve as our judges. They consist of some of the most respected photographers and photo editors in the field of sports photography. This year’s judges included Ron Kuntz, a long-time wire service photographer for UPI & Reuters news pictures; Ben Liebenberg, the Photo Editor/Lead Photographer at; Paul Nisely, the Senior Photo Editor at The Sporting News; Brad Smith, the Senior Sports Photo Editor for The New York Times; and Tony Tomsic, a freelance photographer who has shot every Super Bowl and one of the most well-known names in the business.

Here's a video that I did for our Facebook and YouTube fans giving a behind-the-scenes look at the photo contest.

Before the judging, we all meet for dinner. This is one of the highlights of the contest because conversation with this group is always interesting to say the least. From great stories as experienced from NFL sidelines over the years, to just some general football talk, to a few good jokes, it’s a fun evening. Since many of these shooters/editors have been to Canton before, I always try to pick a different and unique restaurant. So, this year we ventured out to a local place called Ninety One which none of the group had been to before. So, if you ever visit the Hall of Fame, you just might want to try a meal at 91.

I run a tight ship at least in the judges’ minds! We all meet at the Hall of Fame early on Friday morning to begin the judging. Actually, other than Ben who had to fly in from the West coast, most of the other judges didn’t mind the early wake-up call.

The judges carefully scrutinize every image before they trim the entries down to a healthy group of 25-30 in both the action and feature category. From there each photo’s merits are hotly debated until a consensus can be reached as to each category’s first, second and third place winner. Photos that did not place in the top three but are deemed noteworthy are given Honorable Mentions. The hard work is not done, however, as the judges still need to determine the Grand Prize winner between the two first place images.

Observing the judging is always interesting. Each year I try to determine which images will come out on top and invariably I’m wrong. The judges always seem to key in on several factors on each photo that only a trained eye can see.

The judging ended by early afternoon. So, it was off to feed our special guests. This time I took them to one of our local favorites, John’s Bar & Grille, a three-generation establishment that’s a few long football throws away from the Hall. Again, if you’re visiting the Hall sometime be sure to grab a bite there, you won’t be disappointed.

From there, the judges travel back home and I get the pleasure of informing the winners of their award-winning image. I find that each photographer, most notably the grand prize winner, has a different reaction. It’s not often that you call someone out of the blue to notify them that they have won $3,000 and a trip to Canton to be honored during the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival. This year’s winner, Ron Cortes of the Philadelphia Inquirer, seemed to take the news in stride. That may be because he is one of the most decorated photographers ever to win the contest. In 1997 he won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism as a photojournalist.

As this year’s winner of the Dave Boss Award of Excellence, he will be honored this summer at the GameDay Luncheon that takes part on the day of the Hall of Fame Game (Bengals vs. Cowboys).

It is a fitting end to a year-long process which starts all over again when the NFL season begins shortly thereafter.

Best of the 2000s

Feb 17, 2010

A few weeks ago the National Football League released the All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Leading up to that announcement, took an in-depth look at each individual from the previous All-Decade teams. I found it quite interesting to examine and reflect on those teams especially after my role in helping with the 2000s team.

As part of my job here at the Hall, I was very involved in the process of determining this past decade's team. I assisted the NFL in creating the All-Decade ballot that eventually found its way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee. As they have done in the past, the Hall’s Selection Committee was charged with voting on the team.

Much like the vetting process of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, all players who were named to a Pro Bowl or appeared on an All-Pro or All-Conference team from a variety of media outlets were eligible for the team. As you can imagine, this resulted in a list of hundreds of viable candidates which in turn made the decision of the voters a difficult one.

In the end I think the committee did an excellent job. Congratulations are also in order to all of the members of the newest All-Decade team.

Another part of my job was researching information, writing, and proofreading content for the series on our website about the previous eight All-Decade Teams. One thing jumped out at me as I analyzed the past decade teams. Although it’s a distinct honor to be included on a NFL All-Decade Team, it is not necessarily a golden ticket to receive a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But, it sure serves as a good indicator.

Looking at the teams from to 1920s to the 1990s, 314 players and coaches were selected for the honor. Of that total, 189 men eventually found their way to into the Hall. That’s a percentage of 60%. The decade with the highest rate of Hall of Famers was the 1920s with 16 of 18 players (89%). The decade with the least amount of Hall of Famers is the 1990s (31%) but it is not fair to judge this time frame yet due to the fact that many of these players will eventually make their way Canton.

I also found it interesting to compile the colleges that the All-Decade team members attended (see the results of my research). Topping the list was the University of Southern California with 13 All-Decade team members. Second was Notre Dame with 12 and third was Alabama. Michigan and the University of Miami (FL) completed the top five with 10 each.

Not surprisingly, this list looks almost identical to our list of colleges with the most Hall of Famers. Just like the All-Decade list, Southern California stands on top with 11 Hall of Fame members and second is Notre Dame with 10. Michigan stands alone in third with eight Hall of Famers while Alabama, Ohio State and Syracuse round out the list tied at seven.

The All-Decade teams are a great way to summarize each 10-year period in the NFL’s history and serves as a barometer for how the game has changed and evolved since the league’s first season in 1920.

I found the process to be one of the more enjoyable tasks of my job. I had so much fun working on this project that I can’t wait until 2020 for next All-Decade Team!

College 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s Total
Southern California       1 1 3 3 4 1 13
Notre Dame 3 2 1   1 2 1 2   12
Alabama   2     1 2 3 2 1 11
Michigan   1 1 2   1 1   4 10
Miami (FL)           1 1 3 5 10
Wisconsin   2 1 2 1 2 1     9
Minnesota   2   1   4 1   1 9
Syracuse         3   2 1 2 8
Penn State 1     1 1 2 1 1   7
Ohio State     2 2   1   1 1 7
Texas A&M       1 1   1 1 3 7
Nebraska 1   1   1   1 1 1 6
Louisiana State   1 2   1       2 6
Oregon   2   1     2 1   6
Purdue   1   1     1 3   6
Tennessee   1     1   1 1 2 6
UCLA     1 1   1 1 1 1 6
Pittsburgh       1     3 2   6
Illlinois 2       2 1       5
San Francisco   1   4           5
Georgia     1 1       1 2 5
Michigan State         1 1 2 1   5
Florida State               3 2 5
Stanford 1   1       1 1   4
Texas   1   1 1 1       4
Baylor     1   1   2     4
Texas Christian     1   1 1     1 4
Iowa       1 1   2     4
Arizona State         1 1 1 1   4
Louisville         1   2   1 4
Jackson State         1 2 1     4
Kent State           1 1   2 4
Washington State   2         1     3
Oregon State   1 2             3
Arkansas     1       1 1   3
none     1     1   1   3
Utah     1   1 1       3
Colorado     1   1 1       3
Southern Methodist       1 1   1     3
Morgan State       2 1         3
Tulsa       1   1 1     3
Oklahoma         2   1     3
Kansas         1   2     3
Florida         1 1   1   3
Southern University           1 1 1   3
Texas A&I           1   2<