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NFL 100 – Slingin’ Sammy Baugh

19 Nov

Last week for one of our NFL 100 features we went back to the league’s roots in the 1920s to highlight Red Grange, an early gridiron star. This week, we’ll travel back again to the leather helmet era, but not quite as far, as we feature a player who began his pro career in 1937 and played into the early 1950s, Sammy Baugh. His contribution was instrumental in the development of the modern game, as he is widely recognized as the player who perfected the art of the forward pass. As the quarterback of the Washington Redskins from ’37 until 1952, he earned the nickname “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh as he set passing records and was consistently ranked among the top quarterbacks. Technically, he was lined up as a tailback or halfback in the Redskins’ offensive backfield formation for the first few seasons, but made his name with his passing prowess and later became the quarterback as the position evolved. He led the Redskins to championships in 1937 and 1942, and led the league in pass completion percentage 8 times, while also being named an All Pro 8 times. He was NFL Player of The Year in 1947 and ’48. In an era where players commonly played both ways, he was no slouch either. He was the team’s punter and also played defensive back. He led the league in punting 5 times and still holds the NFL record for yards per punt average (51.4), a mark he set in 1940. As a defensive back, he had 31 career interceptions and the led the league in that category in 1943 with 11.

 

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Slingin’ Sammy Baugh looks for an open receiver

Baugh was somewhat of an enigma in the era he played in that was mostly known for featuring the ground game almost entirely with his passing prowess. He pretty much ushered the NFL into the modern era with his successful use of the forward pass, but as stated above, he was a complete football player. Besides being a prolific passer, punter and defender, opponents praised his ability as a runner also. In 1943 he had a season that no other player in history could match as he led the NFL in passing, punting yardage and interceptions. In his rookie year of 1937 he led Washington to the NFL Championship game against the powerhouse Chicago Bears and threw for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns to guide his club to a 28-21 victory. The 335 yards passing in a playoff game was a record that stood until 2012 when Seattle’s Russell Wilson finally broke it. Another memorable day for Baugh came in 1947 when the team declared it “Sammy Baugh Day” in his honor, with the Washington, D.C. Touchdown Club presenting him a new station wagon. He promptly owned the day, lighting up the Chicago Cardinals for 355 yards passing and 6 touchdowns. Baugh retired after the 1952 season and was rightly included in the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame class in 1963. He resurfaced as a coach, first for 4 years in college in the late 1950s and then as the first head coach of the New York Titans when the American Football League was born in 1960. He only lasted 2 seasons but was hired for the same job with the Houston Oilers in 1964, with limited success in both spots.

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Hall of Famer Slingin’ Sammy Baugh

 

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