If you are a regular visitor to Profootballhof.com, 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.
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