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Classic Team Logo of The Day

01 Feb

UMASSMinutemen4

Logo of an independent college football team that plays in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. They began play in 1879 and have sent a number of players on to pro football, including John McCormick, Milt Morin, Greg Landry, Victor Cruz, Vlad Ducasse and James Ihedigbo.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

01 Feb

68toppshickerson

1968 Topps football card of former Cleveland Browns’ guard Gene Hickerson, who enjoyed a solid 15 year career in the NFL, all with the Browns. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and lead blocker on the Browns’ line for 3 different 1,000 yard rushers, all of whom are Hall of Famers – Bobby Mitchell, Jim Brown and LeRoy Kelly. Hickerson was voted to the NFL’s All Decade team for the 1960s, played on the Browns’ 1964 championship team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. He passed away in 2008.

 

NFL – Five Super Bowl MVPs That Never Were

30 Jan

Sometimes the choice of a Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl is an obvious one, like Nick Foles in last year’s game or Terry Bradshaw in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1970s dynasty’s last win in Super Bowl XIV. More often than not, though, the choice is controversial, a lot of the time with the winning team’s quarterback being picked instead of another player who really deserved it more, as in Super Bowl LI, when New England’s Tom Brady won over his teammate who had a dominating performance, running back James White. There are so many unfair choices over the years that it was hard to pin it down to 5, but here are our choices for the Super Bowl MVPs who never were:

maxmcgee

  1. Max McGee (Super Bowl I) – technically it wasn’t a Super Bowl, it was called the AFL/NFL Championship Game in the beginning, but even in the first one ever played their was a controversial choice. The Packers won over the Kansas City Chiefs handily, 35-10, and the team’s stellar quarterback, Bart Starr, was named MVP. Starr played brilliantly so it wasn’t a bad choice, but McGee may have been even better. He was a little-used past his prime veteran at the time and didn’t expect to play, and was hung over on game day after partying with a couple of stewardesses the night before. McGee was forced into action when Boyd Dowler separated his shoulder early in the game, and wound up catching 7 passes for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.

 

matt-snell

2. Matt Snell (Super Bowl III) – since Joe Namath had guaranteed that his New York Jets would defeat the highly-favored Baltimore Colts and then delivered on his guarantee, there was no way anyone but Broadway Joe was going to win the MVP Award in Super Bowl III. But running back Matt Snell had a strong case to be the game’s top player also. He rushed for 121 yards on 30 carries and his team’s only touchdown as the Jets ran a ball control offense to shock the Colts 16-7.

 

clarencedavis

3. Clarence Davis (Super Bowl XI) – this Super Bowl was a shining moment for the Oakland Raider franchise as they won their first championship after being one of pro football’s most winning teams for a decade, yet failing to “win the big one”. They manhandled the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 to give coach John Madden his first title. Running back Davis could easily have been picked as the game’s MVP. He rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries as the Raiders crushed the aging Vikings with a bruising run game. It wasn’t even a case of Davis being overshadowed by a quarterback. Ken Stabler played a fine game also in leading the Oakland attack but he wasn’t chosen as MVP either. The honor went to wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, who made a series of key receptions during the game among his 4 for 79 yards, not exactly overwhelming statistics.

 

thurmansb25

4. Thurman Thomas (Super Bowl XXV) – the precedent was set in Super Bowl V, when the Colts defeated the Cowboys but Chuck Howley of the losing team was chosen as the game’s MVP. Super Bowl XXV, between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, was one of the most exciting ever played, and Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas, with 135 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and another 55 yards on 5 pass receptions, was the dominant player in the game. When Scott Norwood’s last second field goal went wide right, giving the Giants a 20-19 victory, MVP voters decided that the Giants’ Ottis Anderson deserved the award instead. Giants’ coach Bill Parcells had employed a grinding rushing attack to eat up time on the clock and keep the Bills’ high-powered offense off the field, and Anderson was the main guy doing the damage, with 102 yards rushing and a TD. Still, Thomas’ performance was dynamic and one for the ages.

 

dwightsmith

5. Dwight Smith (Super Bowl XXXVII) – there’s no question the MVP of this Super Bowl should have been a defensive player. For one thing, the quarterback duel was between a pair of journeymen, Oakland’s Rich Gannon and Tampa Bay’s Brad Johnson, not exactly a marquee matchup. For another, the Buccaneer defense absolutely dominated Gannon and the Raiders, forcing 6 turnovers, with 5 of them being interceptions, in a 48-21 rout. So Tampa safety Dexter Jackson, who had a pair of picks, was named MVP. Deserving, I guess, but not when you consider that his secondary mate, Smith, also had a pair of interceptions, but he returned both of his for touchdowns. The reason for the snub is that the second of Smith’s pick-sixes came with just a few seconds left in the game, when the MVP voting was likely already completed.

 

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

30 Jan

tulane04now2

Logo of a college football team that currently plays in the American Athletic Conference, the University of Tulane Green Wave. The program began in 1893 and has played in various conferences and as an independent, winning 9 conference titles and 5 bowl games over the years. Tulane alumni who have played pro football include Max McGee, J.P. Losman, Warren Bankston, Bubby Brister, Steve Foley, Matt Forte, Rodney Holman, Ed Khayat, Dub Jones, Don Joyce, Tommy Mason, Eddie Murray, Richie Petitbon and Lionel Washington.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

30 Jan

61fleermcgee

1961 Fleer football card of former Green Bay Packer split end Max McGee, who played 11 seasons, over a 13 year period from 1954 to 1967, missing the ’55 and ’56 seasons while serving as a pilot in the Air Force. He was the team’s punter early in his career, but saw more time as a receiver after Vince Lombardi took over as coach in 1959. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and a member of 5 Packer championship teams. McGee suffered from Alzheimer’s disease late in life, and died from injuries he sustained from a fall from the roof of his home, while using a leaf blower to remove leaves, in 2007 at the age of 75.

 

NFL – Five Forgotten Super Bowl Winning Coaches

29 Jan

It’s officially Super Bowl week and we here at Rayonsports  wonder, on media day, how many more new questions can reporters have for the New England Patriots after 9 appearances in the Belichick/Brady era? We like to look at different angles having to do with the big game, so for starters we’ll revert to a staple of our site, the “list” post. Here is our list of five head coaches who in the 53 years of the game’s existence, despite winning football’s ultimate prize, have largely been forgotten:

 

mccafferty

  1. Don McCafferty, Baltimore Colts – the Colts’ loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III was so shocking and embarrassing to the old guard NFL that it led to the firing of Don Shula as Colts’ head man. McCafferty, the loyal assistant coach, was promoted into the top job and in his first season rewarded team management with a win over Dallas in Super Bowl V. He guided the Colts to the playoffs again the next year but lost to the Miami Dolphins, coached by Shula, in the conference championship game. His third season started out badly, however, and McCafferty was fired. He had a short stint as coach of the Detroit Lions but passed away of a heart attack in 1974. It was a relatively short head coaching career but one that left him with a shining moment that a lot of successful coaches never achieve-a Super Bowl win.

 

2. Barry Switzer – when Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and fired legendary coach Tom Landry, there was an uproar among Cowboy fans. That quieted down when Jones’ hand-picked replacement, successful college coach Jimmy Johnson, won a pair of Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Jones and Johnson both had huge egos, however, and the pair clashed to the point where Johnson left to coach the Miami Dolphins. Jones replaced him with another former successful college coach in Switzer, who guided the Cowboys for 4 seasons, including a win in Super Bowl XXX, giving Dallas their third championship of the decade and sealing them as the team of the ’90s. The Dallas dynasty of that decade is largely remembered as a product of Johnson’s “genius”, with Switzer’s success largely forgotten.

 

billick

3. Brian Billick – after a very successful run as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, Billick was hired as the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach in 1999. He lasted 9 seasons and won the franchise a championship in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens’ success that season was largely due to their dominating defense, however, and that success landed the team’s defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis, a head coaching job. Despite being a Super Bowl winning coach, when Billick was eventually fired by the Ravens he never was given another opportunity to coach again in the NFL, even though he interviewed many times for multiple organizations over the years. He works in broadcasting for the NFL Network these days, apparently giving up on trying to coach again.

 

seifert

4. George Seifert – this is a coach that was part of 5 Super Bowl winning teams in San Francisco, including 2 as head coach in 1989 and 1994. It’s hard to imagine a guy who won multiple championships as a forgotten coach, but unfortunately Seifert’s accomplishments are marred by 2 things: 1. He was overshadowed by the genius of his predecessor with the 49ers, Bill Walsh, and even though Seifert won 2 titles, it was largely assumed that he just inherited a team built by Walsh and that anybody could have won with those players. 2. He coached the Carolina Panthers after leaving the Niners and had a mediocre 16-32 record there, including a 1-15 season in 2001.

 

kubiak

5. Gary Kubiak – after a successful career as an assistant coach at various stops, Kubiak served as head coach of the Houston Texans in their formative years for 8 seasons, producing mostly mediocre results. He revived his reputation as offensive coordinator in Baltimore after Houston fired him, and that led to his hiring as head coach of the franchise he had spent a large part of his career with, as both a player and assistant coach, the Denver Broncos. He was blessed with the addition of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning to his roster, and guided the Broncos to a Super Bowl win in the game’s 50th anniversary contest in 2015. Health issues forced him to step down as coach after only 2 seasons, however, and although he has returned to the game on a limited consultant basis, he will likely not be able to handle the stress of a head coaching position again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

29 Jan

westlakeHS

Logo of a high school football team located in Austin, Texas – the Westlake High Chaparrals. Football and athletics in general are a big part of life in all of Texas, but Westlake boasts a pretty large amount of successful athletes. They include baseball’s Kelly Gruber and Huston Street, a couple of Olympic athletes, and more pro football players than some colleges produce. That list includes Seth McKinney, Ryan Swope, Kyle Adams and 3 players who have played in Super Bowls – Justin Tucker and a pair of quarterbacks who won Super Bowl MVP awards, Drew Brees and Nick Foles.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

29 Jan

72toppsjimobrien

1972 Topps football card of former pro football placekicker Jim O’Brien, who had a short and mostly uneventful 4 year career in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions. Playing in the tail end of an era where kickers also played other positions (the early 1970s), he was also a wide receiver. O’Brien made only 60 of 108 field goal attempts in his career, but in his rookie season of 1970, he booted a 32 yarder with 5 seconds left in Super Bowl V to give the Colts a championship victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

 

NFL – Bills’ Season Review – Part 4

10 Jan

The fourth and final edition of our Buffalo Bills’ 2018 season-ending review is our favorite section of the series, where we play general manager and explore what the team needs to add, position-by-position for areas of need, in order to improve and truly become “playoff caliber”, as coach Sean McDermott likes to preach, in 2019. The Bills have 10 picks in the college draft and lots of cash to spend in free agency now that they’ve cleared room under their salary cap, so they should have an active off-season. Here is our list of possibilities, not necessarily in order of the most need:

 

Running Back

 

Whether they keep LeSean McCoy around or not, the Bills have to upgrade their running back stable for next season. GM Brandon Beane has already stated that he plans to spend the large amount of cap money he has wisely, and that he doesn’t expect to go after the “big splash” free agents. That would rule out any attempt to lure Le’Veon Bell, who wouldn’t be a locker room fit anyway since coach Sean McDermott preaches a “team first” mantra and Bell appears to be a “me first” player. New Orleans’ Mark Ingram is also a free agent, but with McCoy expected back, the Bills would be more in the market for a complementary back who is reasonably young. A few possibilities who fit that description are Detroit’s Zach Zenner, Jacksonville’s T.J. Yeldon and Seattle’s Mike Davis. NFL teams today seem to have a “dime a dozen” attitude toward running backs, so the Bills could look to the middle rounds of the draft for one. Keeping in mind that they would expect the drafted player to be the heir apparent to McCoy, as opposed to a free agent complementary back, they could go as early as the third round for a back. Players expected to be available in the mid-round range include Stanford’s Bryce Love, Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. and Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic. L.J. Scott of Michigan State and Cal’s Patrick Laird are late round possibilities.

 

Wide Receiver

 

Buffalo is in dire need of what is considered a “#1” wide receiver, and if that is truly what they are targeting, the free agent pickings are slim. However, they need more than just a single addition to the receiving corps and a possible gem in free agency, who fits the “fairly young” and “team first” requirement of the Bills, is Adam Humphries of Tampa Bay. Another possibility is Carolina’s Devin Funchess, given the Beane/McDermott Panther connection, but the team’s fan base would see him as another Kelvin Benjamin fail. In the draft, this isn’t considered a banner year for receivers, but there are quality guys available in the early rounds who could help the Bills, including J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from Stanford, Hakeem Butler of Iowa State and Deebo Samuel of South Carolina. In the later rounds, Collin Johnson of Texas is a large, red zone target at 6’5. Would the Bills consider drafting the University at Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson? He has fallen as far as the fifth round on some draft boards, and Buffalo should have a good inside scouting report on him.

 

Tight End

 

Charles Clay’s days are numbered in Buffalo, and he never was the top tier tight end they thought they were getting when the Rex Ryan regime signed him. The Bills desperately need help at this position, and it would behoove them to find a consistent, play-making “security blanket” for Josh Allen. The top free agent TE available is Oakland’s Jared Cook, but he is 32 years old and will require overpaying, so the Bills should avoid him. In the 2 years he’s been here, Beane has rolled the dice on a particular type of free agent – one coming off a major injury who could possibly have a huge upside if healthy. Jordan Poyer worked out tremendously as he has stayed healthy and provided stability at safety. Last year, it was edge rusher Trent Murphy, and although he never was fully recovered from various injuries, the jury is still out on him now that he will have a full year of recovery time. If Beane decides to go this route again, a perfect target would be Bengals’ tight end Tyler Eifert. He is a former first round talent from Notre Dame who hasn’t made it through a full season healthy in about 3 years. If the Bills’ staff is comfortable that he is fully recovered from his latest injury, a broken ankle, he would be a great addition at only 28 years of age. In the draft, if Iowa’s Noah Fant or Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. somehow slip into the second round, the Bills would certainly grab either one. Possible mid-rounds diamonds in the rough are Kentucky’s C.J. Conrad and Josh Oliver of San Jose State.

 

Offensive Line

 

This is the area where Beane and his scouts have the most work to do. The Bills could possibly part ways with up to 6 of their current O-linemen in an attempt to improve, so reinforcements have to be found. If they decide to not bother trying to attempt to re-sign free agent starters/contributors like John Miller, Jordan Mills and Ryan Groy, they have to make sure they’ve done their homework and the replacements they bring in are actually upgrades. On the free agent front, Chicago tackle Bobby Massie is mentioned as a possibility, but he’s 30 years old. Darryl Williams of Carolina, also a tackle, fits the mold of a Beane signee on 2 fronts – he is coming off an injury and is a Panther. Oddly enough, there is also a player named Darryl Williams, a guard from Mississippi State, who is a second round prospect in the draft. There’s a very real chance that the Bills use their top draft pick, # 9 overall, on an elite tackle. Two players, Jonah Williams of Alabama and Greg Little of Ole Miss, fall in the top 10 range. If the Bills wait until the middle rounds to draft linemen, as they did last year with Wyatt Teller, some possibilities are tackles Andre Dillard of Washington State and Jawaan Taylor of Florida, and guards Chris Lindstrom of Boston College and Penn State’s Connor McGovern.

 

Edge Rusher

 

This isn’t necessarily an area of need with Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson on the roster, and they wouldn’t likely pursue a free agent for this spot. However, if an elite one fell into their hands at the ninth pick of the draft, like Josh Allen of Kentucky or Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, they might consider taking him. This could open up a possible trade scenario involving Hughes for either an extra pick or maybe a veteran player who fits a need elsewhere.

 

Cornerback

 

Again, this isn’t a real position of need if the Bills feel Levi Wallace can hold onto the starting corner role opposite Tre White, but I would consider it a possibility for the team to draft one if an elite one is available at the ninth spot, or if they trade down and pick later. Two candidates are Byron Murphy of Washington and DeAndre Baker of Georgia.

 

Defensive Tackle

 

Kyle Williams’ retirement opens up a hole in the defensive tackle rotation, although the Bills may feel like Harrison Phillips, a third round draft choice last year, can fill the void. Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett is an attractive free agent target. He’s only 26 and is a highly productive player, but there will likely be a lot of teams bidding for his services, including the Falcons, who have made it a priority to try to re-sign. A couple other under-the-radar young FA prospects are a pair of Patriots, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton, although Shelton so far in his career has been an underachiever. It’s a long shot considering their many needs on the offensive side of the ball, but the Bills could consider a top defensive tackle with their first round draft pick, like Michigan’s Rashan Gary or Jeffrey Simmons of Mississippi State. It’s more likely they’ll wait until the middle rounds and look at prospects like Daniel Wise of Kansas or Virginia Tech’s Rickey Walker.

 

Linebacker

 

It would seem like a top priority for the Bills to bring back Lorenzo Alexander, a 35 year old starting ‘backer and locker room force who is a free agent. Another possible scenario might be to take a look at an old friend from Beane/McDermott’s Carolina days, the recently released Thomas Davis, to see what he has left in the tank. He’s a past Walter Payton Man of The Year Award winner who would bring the same leadership to the locker room as Alexander and, if he hasn’t slowed down much, would fit into the starting lineup. Buffalo could use some depth here, so they could use a late round draft pick trying to find a diamond in the rough like they did with Matt Milano a couple of years ago. There’s Devin Bush of Michigan and a pair of MAC prospects on that list – Buffalo’s Khalil Hodge and Northern Illinois’ Sutton Smith.

 

It’s worth noting that the “positions of need” for the Bills that we listed this year include every spot except quarterback and safety. That’s the challenge Beane faces this off-season, and will likely put him in the position of drafting the “best player available” in April’s draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

10 Jan

WSSURams

Logo of a Division II college football team, the Winston Salem State University Rams, who play in the South Division of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a conference made up of historically black colleges. Ram alumni who have played pro football include Donald Evans, Anthony Blaylock, Oronde Gadsden, William Hayes, Timmy Newsome, Yancey Thigpen and Donald Frank.