NFL – Five Players Who Changed The Game

13 Jun

This particular list is not a “best of” or a list ranking anything or anybody. It is a list of 5 NFL players whose contributions to the game of professional football were so unique that they actually changed the sport. There were 4 players considered but not included that deserve mention. Two of them are quarterbacks – Slingin’ Sammy Baugh and Joe Montana. I never saw Baugh play so he wouldn’t have made the list anyway, but he deserves credit for being an innovator in the passing game. He basically introduced the forward pass as a major weapon in the game. Montana perfected the offense that is a major part of today’s game, the West Coast offense.  Montana’s San Francisco teammate, Jerry Rice, revolutionized the wide receiver position, and Chuck Bednarik, as the last of the great two-way players, deserve mention also. Here are the five players, in no particular order, who changed the game of pro football:


1. Joe Namath – Broadway Joe did a couple of things to move the game into the modern era. He signed a $400,000 contract with the upstart AFL, which pushed the 2 leagues into merger talks, then solidified the credibility of the new league by first guaranteeing, then delivering, a shocking upset win over the Colts in Super Bowl III.

2. Deacon Jones – David “Deacon” Jones revolutionized the way defense was played in pro football during his career. He was the first to use the term “sack” to describe tackling the opposing quarterback for a loss while attempting to pass. During his playing days, the “sack” wasn’t kept as an official statistic, but in the 1967 and 1968 seasons he recorded 50 of them, an unbelievable total never matched since the stat has been kept officially. Jones, nicknamed “The Secretary of Defense”, also used the “head slap” on opposing offensive linemen trying to block him, a tactic that has since been outlawed from the game. He is, in my opinion, the greatest defensive player in the history of the game.

3. Jim Brown – Brown, as an NFL running back in the late ’50s and ’60s, was a physical freak of nature. His combination of size and speed had never been seen before, and he was a dominant force in the pro game during the 9 seasons he played, changing the way the game was played. Brown actually played the fullback position, which in today’s game is pretty much relegated to nothing more than a blocking back. Brown, with his size, is one player from his era who, if transported through time and dropped into today’s NFL, could easily not only thrive, but dominate. There is no question that he changed the game.

4. Pete Gogolak –  when he entered the pro game by joining the AFL’s Buffalo Bills in 1964, no one had any idea how much of an impact the Hungarian-born Gogolak would have on the future of the game. He was pro football’s first soccer-style placekicker. Before he arrived on the scene, kickers in pro ball were straight-on kickers, and usually played another position on the team, like George Blanda (quarterback) and Lou Groza (tackle). Gogolak introduced specialization to the placekicker position, and the game was changed forever.

5. Steve Tasker – in the late 1980s, Tasker joined the Buffalo Bills, became a terror on kick coverage teams, and revolutionized the “gunner” position on those teams. Tasker’s coach, Marv Levy, was a former special teams coach and made special teams just as important of a unit on those Bills’ teams as the offense and defense. It’s because of how Tasker revolutionized playing the “Bomb Squads” that today, a special teamer is added to the Pro Bowl teams every year, and for the first time ever, special teamers are being discussed seriously as Hall of Fame-worthy players.


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