RSS
 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

12 Nov

vermont8197

Logo of a defunct college football team, the Vermont Catamounts. They started play in 1886 but discontinued their football program in 1974. They were members of the Yankee Conference at that time. They have a very short list of players who went on to play pro football, the last being Frank Triglio in 1946. The only others to play more than a single season in the pros are Art Harms and Lou Little.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

12 Nov

33goudeysportkingsgrange

1933 Goudey Sport Kings Gum football card of former pro back Harold “Red” Grange, one of the earliest star players to help put the pro game on the map. He signed with the Chicago Bears after an All American college career and was the star attraction as the team went on a barnstorming tour of the country, in the days before the NFL was an organized league. “The Galloping Ghost” played for 9 years and was a two-time All Pro, a member of 2 Bear championship clubs and was named to the NFL’s All Decade team for the 1920s. After retiring as a player, Grange was the Bears’ backfield coach for 3 seasons, starred in a few Hollywood movies and broadcast Bear games for CBS television. He was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, inducted with the inaugural class in 1963.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Battle of New York

07 Nov

The National Football League’s two New York franchises will do battle this weekend on the league’s schedule, and we’ll highlight the first ever meeting between the 2 teams for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature. It was an innocuous game played at Shea Stadium on November 1st, 1970. There was nothing extraordinary about the game, except for one large detail – it was the first ever game played between the two New York franchises in history. 1970 was the first year of the merger of the NFL and AFL, and the climate between the 2 leagues, which now were together as one, wasn’t exactly a climate of togetherness. The old guard NFL still felt that they were superior, but evidence pointed to the contrary. The AFL had won the 2 previous Super Bowls by upsetting heavily favored NFL teams. The Jets, behind a brash guarantee from Joe Namath, had stunned the football world by upsetting the Baltimore Colts following the 1968 season, and to prove that game was no fluke the Kansas City Chiefs, who had been soundly defeated in the first Super Bowl by Green Bay, followed up with a surprisingly easy win over the Minnesota Vikings in ’69. So this was much more than just any old regular season game. Pride was on the line for the NFL and AFL people, who still harbored some bitterness toward each other. The Jets, only 2 years removed from their shocking title, were at a big disadvantage on this day. Their star quarterback and undisputed leader, Namath, was sidelined for the season with a broken wrist and the signal calling duties went to journeyman backup Al Woodall. The Giants, on the other hand, had future Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton at the helm.

The Jets, who had won only one game going into this matchup, were still a proud club. They battled through a scoreless first quarter and broke the ice in the second stanza when Woodall hit running back George Nock for an 8 yard touchdown to give his club a 7-0 lead. Pete Gogolak added a field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 at halftime but the Giants took control in the third quarter. The Jets added a Jim Turner field goal to up their lead to 10-3 but the G-men would do all the scoring from that point on. The Big Blue defense entered the fray when they tackled a former teammate, fullback Chuck Mercein, for a safety to cut the lead to 10-5. Then Tarkenton took over, finding Bob Tucker and Clifton McNeil on short scoring throws to open a 19-10 lead. Gogolak put the finishing touches on with another field goal, the only scoring in the fourth quarter, and the Giants won by a final count of 22-10 to restore a small slice of old guard pride to the NFL and claim Big Apple bragging rights for the time being over the team that had embarrassed the league just a couple of seasons earlier.

 

Fran-Tarkenton-Tucker-Frederickson-New-York-Giants-November-1-1970

Giants’ Fran Tarkenton surveys the Jet defense

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

07 Nov

duke4854

Used from 1948 until 1954, this is an early logo of a college football team from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Duke Blue Devils. The team, whose program began play in 1888, plays in the conference’s Coastal Division. They won unofficial national championships in 1936 and 1941, and compiled a 6-8 record in bowl games over the years. Blue Devil alumni who have had success in pro football include Sonny Jurgensen, Brian Baldinger, Wray Carlton, Bill Bryan, Dave Brown, Mike Curtis, Al DeRogatis, Bob Matheson, Ed Newman, Ace Parker, Chuck Walker and current players Daniel Jones, Jamison Crowder and Breon Borders.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

07 Nov

72toppsgeorgenock

1972 Topps football card of former pro football running back George Nock, who had a short four career in the AFL and NFL with the New York Jets and Washington Redskins. His pro career didn’t amount to much, but he was a team captain in college at Morgan State, where he earned a degree in psychology. He also is a bronze sculptor, and created “Legends Plaza” on the Morgan State campus.

 

NFL 100 – Broadway Joe Namath

06 Nov

When he entered pro football as a much ballyhooed rookie from the University of Alabama, he was simply Joe Willie Namath from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. But when he signed what was then an outrageous 3 year/$400,000 contract with the New York Jets of the American Football League, the subject of this NFL 100 post turned the pro football world on it’s ear. The AFL, attempting to compete with the older, established NFL, manipulated the draft to ensure Namath would wind up in the country’s largest television market. He was the perfect person to give the league some star power. Television was becoming the engine that drove pro football into massive popularity during this time, the mid-1960s, and Namath became the toast of the town in the Big Apple. His career got off to a rocky start in his rookie season of 1965, as he split time at QB with Mike Taliaferro and the team lost it’s first 6 games. Namath took over as the full time starter after that and turned the team’s fortunes around, as they won 5 of their last 8. Namath’s play earned him the AFL’s Rookie of The Year Award.

 

Namath_1965

Publicity photo of Jets’ rookie QB Joe Namath

When Namath appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine in ’65, teammate Sherman Plunkett was the first to anoint him “Broadway Joe”, a moniker that has stuck with him to this day. He parlayed his playing success into a massive amount of advertising opportunities, hawking everything from pantyhose to shaving cream to Ovaltine drink mix, and began to appear as a guest on television shows and in starring roles in movies as his career went on. Broadcaster Howard Cosell used to call him “Joe Willie” and also touted him as a new breed of sports superstar, showing a personality rather than being an unknown robot hidden beneath a helmet. He set himself apart from all other players, with his cocky persona, his signature white spikes and an appearance on the sideline wearing a fur coat. Namath’s playing career reached it’s zenith when he led the Jets to a 27-23 win in the AFL Championship game over the defending champion Oakland Raiders in 1968. That win propelled the Jets into Super Bowl III against the mightiest of the mighty NFL clubs, Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts. The Colts were made heavy favorites, while the Jets were ridiculed as an inferior team from the “Mickey Mouse” AFL. Namath, growing tired of the jokes and ridicule, announced at a banquet prior to the contest that “we’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” When he delivered on that guarantee with a 16-7 Jet upset, his popularity grew even more. He was considered the savior of the AFL, and many of the league’s players, subjected to the same scorn as the Jets, said that the upset was a win for the upstart league. After the big Super Bowl win, Namath purchased a night club, the Bachelor’s III, which got him into trouble with commissioner Pete Rozelle when it was revealed that the club was regularly visited by organized crime figures. Namath threatened to retire rather than give up the club but eventually gave in and sold it.

namathfurcoat

Broadway Joe on the sideline in his fur coat

Namath is largely regarded as one of the most influential figures in pro football history, and rightfully so. But there is a group of people who question his credentials to be a Hall of Famer, which he became in 1985. His overall career numbers do bear out that argument. In his 13 year career, his teams posted a losing record of 68-71-4. He threw for 173 touchdowns and 220 interceptions, hardly stellar numbers. His career didn’t end well, as he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1977, looking like a shell of his former self as his injury-ravaged knees couldn’t hold up. He may have ridden a single victory, the Super Bowl upset, to his HOF stature, but the fact remains that that single game changed the course of professional football forever. It validated the AFL as they became equal partners in a newly merged NFL a couple of years later. Incidentally, Namath’s star power is still strong today at age 76, even if the products he endorses have changed. He was recently seen in an ad for the Medicare Coverage Helpline.

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

06 Nov

sacgoldminersCFL9394

Logo of a defunct football team that once played in the Canadian Football League, the Sacramento Gold Miners. They were the first American team to be added to the CFL when they began play in 1993, but unfortunately only lasted 2 seasons before relocating to San Antonio. Their head coach was Kay Stephenson and former NFL player Jack Youngblood served in their front office. Their roster included some players who had NFL success, like Mike Oliphant, James Pruitt, David Archer and Bobby Humphery.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

06 Nov

64toppstaliaferro

1964 Topps football card of former pro quarterback Mike Taliaferro, who played 8 seasons of pro ball with 4 different teams. He played in 3 different leagues-the AFL, NFL and World Football League. He was drafted by the New York Jets in 1964 but fell out of favor there the next season when the team drafted Joe Namath. He stuck around as Namath’s backup until moving on to the Boston Patriots, where he played for 3 years and was an AFL All Star in 1969.

 

NFL 100 – 1960s NFL Quarterbacks

05 Nov

In an earlier post celebrating the NFL’s 100th Anniversary, we featured the quarterbacks who helped grow the fledgling American Football League into an entity on par with the NFL that led to the merger of the two leagues. Most of those QBs, who kept the AFL afloat throughout the 1960s, were players who were shunned by NFL teams at some point. They flourished when given an opportunity and proved they belonged on the same field as the supposedly superior NFL signal callers. This week’s NFL 100 post will take a look back at the quarterbacks who starred in the established NFL in that same era of the ’60s. Surprisingly, the most successful field generals of that decade in the NFL traveled similar paths to stardom as the guys who toiled in the AFL. Green Bay’s Bart Starr for example, who won 5 championships in the ’60s and was MVP of the first 2 Super Bowls, began his NFL career as a little known 17th round draft choice of the Packers in 1956. He languished there as a backup until Vince Lombardi arrived as head coach in 1959. Under Lombardi’s tutelage Starr developed into the Hall of Famer he became. Known as perhaps the greatest passer of the decade and easily an equal of Starr was John Unitas of the Baltimore Colts. He was a ninth round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955 but didn’t make the team out of training camp. He worked in construction and played semi-pro ball in the steel city that year. In 1956 one of his semi-pro teammates was invited to try out for the Colts and Unitas joined him. They had no idea at the time, but the Colts had stumbled upon a player who would go on to lead them to 3 NFL titles, win 3 league MVP awards and be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There were a number of quarterbacks during the decade who fashioned successful careers with their teams but failed to deliver when it came to winning championships. Y.A. Tittle, who started in the 1950s guiding a high-powered offense in San Francisco and had even greater success after being traded to the New York Giants, is the best example. He was a Pro Bowler in 3 of his 4 seasons with the Giants and won NFL MVP in 1963. He also guided New York to the NFL championship game his first 3 seasons there, but lost in all 3 attempts to win the ultimate prize. Fran Tarkenton is another player who had an amazing career, but never reached the top of the mountain. He played for both the Giants and Minnesota Vikings in the ’60s and established himself as a future Hall of Famer, well into the 1970s in fact. Unfortunately, the Viking teams he played on were expansion outfits and his Giant tenure was when the iconic franchise was suffering through one of it’s worst periods.

unitastarkprobowl

Unitas, Tarkenton with coach Shula at the Pro Bowl

 

Out west, a pair of gladiators led their teams for most of the decade and were competitive but never reached the ultimate goal. San Francisco’s John Brodie and Roman Gabriel of the Los Angeles Rams are both borderline Hall of Famers but as of today haven’t been given that honor, despite having Hall-worthy credentials. A couple of underrated QBs of the era are Don Meredith of Dallas and Charley Johnson of the old St. Louis Cardinals. Meredith took over the Cowboys’ reins  from Eddie LeBaron in 1962 and guided the franchise through most of the rest of the decade, reaching NFL title games in consecutive years in the mid-60s. Unfortunately, his Cowboy teams suffered the same fate as many other squads of the era, losing both times to Lombardi’s Packers. Johnson served 2 years of active duty in the Army while playing for the Cardinals but still remained their signal caller for almost the entire decade. There was a lot of musical chairs among the quarterbacks of the 1960s NFL also, as teams looked for the right winning combination. The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns found the right answers when they turned to former Ram backups. Bill Wade for the Bears in ’63 and Frank Ryan for the ’64 Browns delivered titles for those franchises. Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Snead were traded for each other after the 1963 season. After quarterbacking the Eagles for 7 years Jurgensen went on to play 10 more for the Washington Redskins and although he never got his team close to the playoffs, he earned Hall of Fame recognition. Snead finished out the decade with the Eagles but never got them anywhere either, and wound up as a journeyman QB with 3 other teams into the mid-’70s. When the Browns turned to Ryan as their starter in the early 1960s, Detroit acquired Cleveland’s old starter, Milt Plum, to lead their team for most of the rest of the decade. He had some success there but the Lions always wound up playing second fiddle to the Packers in the Western Division. The Pittsburgh Steelers were a mess in the 1960s. They started the decade trying to squeeze some life out of Bobby Layne, who had led Detroit to NFL titles in the 1950s but was playing out the string in Pittsburgh. They followed up the Layne era with names like Rudy Bukich, Ed Brown, Ron Smith, Bill Nelsen, George Izo, Kent Nix and Dick Shiner. Nelsen would have relative success in the NFL but only after being traded from the Steelers to Cleveland, where he finished out the decade upon the retirement of Ryan. Overall, the 1960s delivered similar results to the AFL as far as quarterback play was concerned. A few Hall of Famers, a couple of borderline HOFers, some backups who got opportunities and made the most of them, and a lot of journeymen keeping their careers afloat with different franchises.

 

sonny-jurgensen-eagles

Sonny Jurgensen (9) in his early Eagle days

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

05 Nov

newmexst07now

Logo of an independent college football team, the New Mexico State Aggies. Their program began in 1893 and they have been members of various conferences in the past, most recently the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. The school is undefeated (3-0-1) in bowl games. Aggie alumni who have gone on to play pro football include Duriel Harris, Charley Johnson, Pervis Atkins, Leo Barker, Andy Dorris, Roy Gerela, Walter Johnson, Fredd Young, Joe Pisarcik and  Danny Villenueva.