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Old 04-06-2013, 12:15 PM    (permalink
Eazy Picks
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Originally Posted by Babylon View Post
If i had to rate Ray Lewis with the alltime greats at MLB i'd probably have him 5th behind:

Dick Butkus
Jack Lambert
Curly Culp
Harry Carson
Lol...Ray Lewis hands down best MLB of all time. None of those guys compare to him. His on-field production over the course of his long career and the way he carried the Ravens to the first SB already earned him that distinction. The way he came back early from a triceps injury that he was supposed to miss the season b/c off and motivated his team to play their best football and never quit and led his team on a SB run that nobody gave them any chance of making cemented his legacy. Arguably the greatest motivator of men in the history of professional sports. His work ethic was second to none. The Ravens have been a force for the entirety of his career and he has been the one constant. Ive been watching Ray Lewis his whole career and watch every game of his that I can when hes on TV cuz hes so much fun to watch and Im thinking Ive seen him make about 1000 tackles and miss about 5 total tackles over those years.
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Old 04-06-2013, 11:22 PM    (permalink
JordanTaber
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Here we go again with inventing intangibles to justify a guy who played like utter trash this year. The Ravens won in spite of Lewis, not because of him. He was the worst player on the entire team this year...you can't play the position much worse than he did in the playoffs. It was Derek Smithesque.

Football players don't need some turd like Lewis to motivate them. If you're not self-motivated, no jackass flapping his arms around is going to motivate you.

Mike Singletary was a better linebacker than Lewis, period.
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:08 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by Babylon View Post
If i had to rate Ray Lewis with the alltime greats at MLB i'd probably have him 5th behind:

Dick Butkus
Jack Lambert
Curly Culp
Harry Carson
Curley Culp wasn't a MLB. He was a NT in a 3-4 with the Chiefs, and then the Oilers.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:14 PM    (permalink
Eazy Picks
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Here we go again with inventing intangibles to justify a guy who played like utter trash this year. The Ravens won in spite of Lewis, not because of him. He was the worst player on the entire team this year...you can't play the position much worse than he did in the playoffs. It was Derek Smithesque.

Football players don't need some turd like Lewis to motivate them. If you're not self-motivated, no jackass flapping his arms around is going to motivate you.

Mike Singletary was a better linebacker than Lewis, period.
That is the stupidest thing Ive ever heard. The Ravens have a great start to their season, looking like SB contenders. Ray Lewis goes out midway through the year, they play uninspired the rest of the reg season, looking like they are sure to be one and done. Ray Lewis comes back, they play their most inspired football of the season, and win the the SB. I should be able to rest my case right there.

And all this, they won in spite of Ray is BS...Okay, he wasnt playing at the level were accustomed to seeing throughout his career, especially in coverage, but he still made plenty of game-changing plays. He is still the best there is at sniffing out plays and plugging gaps or making the play himself to make a running play result in a loss...Oh, and HE HAD 51 TACKLES IN THE 4 PLAYOFF GAMES!!!! SO ****!!!!!! cant play the position much worse. Considering his age, and the injury he was playing through, I dont think he could have played the position any better.

And LMAO players dont need to be motivated!!! You clearly havent watched many Raider games over the past decade!!!!

Then again, why do I even bother talking to someone who would have the audacity to call one of the greatest players to ever step foot on the gridiron a turd?
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:53 PM    (permalink
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A solid critique. Thank you very kindly. It was a very uncomfortable decision to make and I knew it would stir up dissenting opinions, but that is the aim of this thread and I'm happy I could stir some up before we get to the modern era.
First off let me say this is fascinating work you are doing , very enjoyable.

Anyway, some notes;
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1. The comparison between Waterfield and Aguirre/Poilon is sort of flawed for the following reasons; first, Waterfield's numbers are kind of skewed mainly because the Rams attempted an astonishingly low 3 FGs during the '45 season. Take that away and you find Waterfield attempted and MADE more Field Goals per year than Poilon/Aguirre did. Second, out of the remaining four years, Waterfield, with those same averages of FGs attempted and made, only went below fifty percent once, an efficiency that no one else actually managed in my research.
That really does not make much sense. You cannot take away the worst for whatever reason. I could say well if you take away the 46 season, Poilon hit 65% of his FG's. My overall point was that in the grand scheme of things the sample size of FG's across the league is too small to be a determining factor as a reason to pick Waterfield. If he was making 15/16 FG's a year I would agree that it was a real defining factor.

If I say OK lets ditch the 45 numbers we are talking 20 FG's for the Skins, 28 for Rams, we are talking a difference of 24 points. I would say that the fact the skins scored 19 less TD's over the period was a far greater determining factor especially in 1946.

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2. Actually, I can give you the statistics right now. Through '45 to '49;

Samy Baugh: 755/1267- 10272, 84-73
Bob Waterfield: 533/1119- 8088, 70-94

Statistically and purely by passing prowess alone, I openly concede Baugh is the superior passer. However, this isn't the specialist era just yet. Versatility dumps Baugh here in this period because he ceased to be a defender after '45. (This is where I could admit a platoon system of Baugh at QB and Waterfield at S would be viable, but I could only really attempt that in the AAFC with Graham and Lewis because they really did play that style and I know there was no chafing whatsoever in that department.)

So that leaves the Sammy Baugh in the first half of the decade, in a period where he didn't run the T-Formation until '44. A flimsy excuse considering I spent that two prior decades forcing round pegs into square holes (Benny Friedman and Cecil Isbell were Tailbacks remember, and I repeatedly used the T-Formation because of a bias towards the unimaginitive Single Wing.), but at the times there were no exceptional 'T' Quarterbacks to be found. This decade there were three if you rely on the Hall of Fame inductions.
My problem with the specialist argument as you lay it out is you don't seem to take into account a couple of things. Were the Skins any worse off because Sammy Baugh was no longer a two way player during this period. Judging by the overall performance of the Skins D, I would say it was inconclusive 2 decent seasons in 45,46, an average one in 48 (they were better against the pass than the run) and two poor ones in 47,49. This may seem an irrelevance because of the way you are trying to build your team, but we are looking for the best at his position in the period and I think a tandem of Waterfield/Baugh makes a lot more sense than Waterfield/Christman/Thompson. You get better play at all positions from the former and given the strength of Halas as coach I think he would have got the best out of that combination.

Furthermore I would counter that Baugh elevated himself so much in the passing game that the fact he was no longer a two way player mattered little in the scheme of things to the Skins, would it have mattered to Halas. I don't think so. I look at the stats you layout above and see a clear and significant difference between the two players, cartainly enough of one where you can discount Waterfields exploits as a kicker.

It may come down to conjecture but I think you have to take into account that in 1945 Baugh was that rarest of thing an 8 year veteran. I am pretty sure had Baugh entered the league in 45 like Waterfield he would have starred as brightly as a 2 way player and punter.

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Originally Posted by Zycho32 View Post
As a passer it was one of his best seasons in efficiency, but the numbers pale to the eye-popping stats produced in the late eighties. And his punting numbers are inflated by an abnormally larger amount of punts attempted, and his yard averages are actually lower than the preceeding years where he almost reached FIFTY yards per punt. And again, he was still a Tailback during that time.
Three points. Comparing the early 40's to the late 80's seems strange. what Baugh did in his day put him in a very elite group.

Not sure you really mean his numbers were inflated by the number of punts if anything the more he punted the lower his average naturally became. Given that his league position in terms of number of punts and punt yardage seems pretty consistent throughout his career.

You simply cannot ignore that he was number one in punt average in 5/8 seasons and Top 3 in 7/8 seasons as a full time punter. This includes 45,46 and 47.

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Originally Posted by Zycho32 View Post
4. Could '43 Baugh have been a better overall fit for the starting roster, and could have a kicker substitute been found? It's possible. Ted Fristch made the starting roster as the Fullback and he was one of the kickers who came close to Waterfield's consistancy but he was still one of the pack. Though it does lead to an issue of how well Baugh would be utilized by George Halas; the Bears teams he ran were run oriented even with Sid Luckman at the helm, which is gravy for a running corps. headlined by Steve Van Buren but would drastically cut down on Baugh's stats. It's really unfair to base any sort of rejection on that speculation because so little information is out there one way or another, especially in regards to Baugh taking on a diminished role.

In the end, that's all the defense I can muster. Now I gotta go and see if Vince Lombardi is a good fit for 50's Offensive Assistant.
Once again I applaud what you are trying to do, it requires a lot of deep thought with a lack of tape to view and systems that are long gone.Funnily enough I see a lot of systems over here in the UK that never see the light of day in pro football and it makes them no easier to understand.
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Old 04-07-2013, 05:30 PM    (permalink
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That is the stupidest thing Ive ever heard. The Ravens have a great start to their season, looking like SB contenders. Ray Lewis goes out midway through the year, they play uninspired the rest of the reg season, looking like they are sure to be one and done. Ray Lewis comes back, they play their most inspired football of the season, and win the the SB. I should be able to rest my case right there.
Right, it must have been because of Ray Lewis. Him missing tackles all over the place and making no positive impact with his play whatsoever was so inspirational to his teammates. It's not like any teams in recent memory have looked unremarkable going into the playoffs and then gotten hot at just the right time to emerge as surprise Super Bowl champions, or nearly do it...*cough* 2005 Steelers, 2006 Colts, 2007 Giants, 2008 Cardinals, 2011 Giants, *cough*

Ray Lewis must have been motivating other teams, too. After all, Ray is a man of GAWD.

What would the Ravens' offense, which was the main reason they won in the postseason, have done without Ray Lewis motivating them from the sidelines?

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And all this, they won in spite of Ray is BS...Okay, he wasnt playing at the level were accustomed to seeing throughout his career, especially in coverage, but he still made plenty of game-changing plays.
No he didn't, he made no game changing plays whatsoever. Period. The only thing he did was miss tackles and hurt his team.


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He is still the best there is at sniffing out plays and plugging gaps or making the play himself to make a running play result in a loss
No, he isn't. Not even close. He's not even a starting-caliber linebacker anymore. He's been washed up for a few years, now.



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...Oh, and HE HAD 51 TACKLES IN THE 4 PLAYOFF GAMES!!!! SO ****!!!!!! cant play the position much worse. Considering his age, and the injury he was playing through, I dont think he could have played the position any better.
Writers who actually were paying attention noted how he was getting credit for numerous phantom "tackles." He didn't even make half of that. And the ones he did make were about 7-20 yards down field.


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And LMAO players dont need to be motivated!!! You clearly havent watched many Raider games over the past decade!!!!
Yeah, because the problem with the Raiders is they need someone to motivate them. They don't just have a lousy roster or anything. Oh, no, they need some guy to yell in their face, dance around like a ******, and miss tackles out the wazzu...that'll make them all play better. They just don't want to win badly enough, and Ray Lewis, with the power of Gawd and Jesus Christ, will make them all want to win.


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Then again, why do I even bother talking to someone who would have the audacity to call one of the greatest players to ever step foot on the gridiron a turd?
I might ask myself a similar question: Why am I bothering with some dude who is probably a teenager, based on his liberal use of exclamation points!!!!!...who clearly has Ray Lewis's balls in his mouth?

Last edited by JordanTaber : 04-07-2013 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 04-07-2013, 06:46 PM    (permalink
Eazy Picks
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Right, it must have been because of Ray Lewis. Him missing tackles all over the place and making no positive impact with his play whatsoever was so inspirational to his teammates. It's not like any teams in recent memory have looked unremarkable going into the playoffs and then gotten hot at just the right time to emerge as surprise Super Bowl champions, or nearly do it...*cough* 2005 Steelers, 2006 Colts, 2007 Giants, 2008 Cardinals, 2011 Giants, *cough*

Ray Lewis must have been motivating other teams, too. After all, Ray is a man of GAWD.

What would the Ravens' offense, which was the main reason they won in the postseason, have done without Ray Lewis motivating them from the sidelines?



No he didn't, he made no game changing plays whatsoever. Period. The only thing he did was miss tackles and hurt his team.




No, he isn't. Not even close. He's not even a starting-caliber linebacker anymore. He's been washed up for a few years, now.





Writers who actually were paying attention noted how he was getting credit for numerous phantom "tackles." He didn't even make half of that. And the ones he did make were about 7-20 yards down field.




Yeah, because the problem with the Raiders is they need someone to motivate them. They don't just have a lousy roster or anything. Oh, no, they need some guy to yell in their face, dance around like a ******, and miss tackles out the wazzu...that'll make them all play better. They just don't want to win badly enough, and Ray Lewis, with the power of Gawd and Jesus Christ, will make them all want to win.




I might ask myself a similar question: Why am I bothering with some dude who is probably a teenager, based on his liberal use of exclamation points!!!!!...who clearly has Ray Lewis's balls in his mouth?

Look d-u-m-b-f-u-c-k,

Im a grown man. I work my ass off 60 hours a week. Its really not worth my time to argue football with someone who clearly doesnt know a damn thing about it. Look at the rep next to your name. Look at the rep next to mine. I dont post on here a lot, when I do, I come and make insightful points, when you come on you troll and make idiotic statements. Ray Lewis is among the best players in football history. And he didnt earn that reputation by dancing around and talking about god. He did it by working his ass off and leading by example. He is a very passionate person, and thats how he expresses it, and his teammates respond to it. Go ask his teammates how much he meant to the team. Go ask any number of the pro-bowlers and starters litterered throughout this league how much his tutelage has meant to their development. Whetever your grudge against Ray Lewis, I really dont give a ----, your statements are so ridiculous, they dont warrant a reasoned response, because trying to use reason with a moron like you would be a waste of time
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:42 PM    (permalink
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Look d-u-m-b-f-u-c-k,

Im a grown man. I work my ass off 60 hours a week. Its really not worth my time to argue football with someone who clearly doesnt know a damn thing about it. Look at the rep next to your name. Look at the rep next to mine. I dont post on here a lot, when I do, I come and make insightful points, when you come on you troll and make idiotic statements. Ray Lewis is among the best players in football history. And he didnt earn that reputation by dancing around and talking about god. He did it by working his ass off and leading by example. He is a very passionate person, and thats how he expresses it, and his teammates respond to it. Go ask his teammates how much he meant to the team. Go ask any number of the pro-bowlers and starters litterered throughout this league how much his tutelage has meant to their development. Whetever your grudge against Ray Lewis, I really dont give a ----, your statements are so ridiculous, they dont warrant a reasoned response, because trying to use reason with a moron like you would be a waste of time
Look, I gotta admit, the whole notion about how Ray Lewis motivates others, that whole notion with players, is borderline stupid. A player shouldn't need motivated to play well, its his job, and if he doesn't do it well, he's going to need to find a new job. Having Ray Lewis on the team didn't help Flacco throw up a prayer to Jacoby Jones on a ball horribly misplayed by the Broncos that sent the game to overtime. Ray Lewis didn't do jack against the Broncos in that game, it was the Ravens offense and other guys making plays.
If you want to say Ray was one of the best MLB's ever because of his instincts, his playing ability, okay sure, but to throw in "Well he made other guys play better by motivating them" No, thats impossible to justify and like I said before, if a player needs to be motivated, they will be out of the NFL and looking at selling used cars.
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Old 04-07-2013, 11:17 PM    (permalink
Eazy Picks
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Look, I gotta admit, the whole notion about how Ray Lewis motivates others, that whole notion with players, is borderline stupid. A player shouldn't need motivated to play well, its his job, and if he doesn't do it well, he's going to need to find a new job. Having Ray Lewis on the team didn't help Flacco throw up a prayer to Jacoby Jones on a ball horribly misplayed by the Broncos that sent the game to overtime. Ray Lewis didn't do jack against the Broncos in that game, it was the Ravens offense and other guys making plays.
If you want to say Ray was one of the best MLB's ever because of his instincts, his playing ability, okay sure, but to throw in "Well he made other guys play better by motivating them" No, thats impossible to justify and like I said before, if a player needs to be motivated, they will be out of the NFL and looking at selling used cars.
Gotta say I disagree.

Ray Lewis is an all-time great based on his own personal ability. His instincts, his football IQ, his athleticism, his hard-hitting, his sure-tackling...As he got older, he had to rely more on his brain and less on his body, of course.

But Ray Lewis' impact goes so far beyond the contributions he made with his physical body on the football field.

1. Just listen to the testimonials of so many players about the effect Ray Lewis has had on them. Bear in mind that the young players in this league are in their early 20s, usually very cocky, and have become instant millionaires. it is so easy to be distracted and not handle the situation properly. And you have to approach not only the game, but your whole life, a certain way, to really be succesful in the NFL. And ask any of the young players that has come up in Baltimore how much effect Ray has had. How he has not only helped them improve their games, but instill the proper work ethic, and all of those things. Ask Ed Reed if he'd be the HOFer he is if not for Ray's influence. You hear it over and over again, how much effect Ray has on guys' personal and proffesional lives. And this isnt me shooting my mouth off about the impact I believe Ray has, i hear it come out of players' own mouths, how much they owe their success to Ray's influence.

2. He is a coach on the field. He has been the QB of that defense for a long time. Any great QB calls audibles, makes hot reads, makes changes to protection schemes pre-snap. Ray does exactly the same thing. He gets his guys lined up, he reads what the offense is trying to do and he makes quick reads. And hes maybe the best there ever was in terms of that. Even if he isnt making any plays personally, he is making an impact on the game by putting his teammates in position to make plays.

3. Of course Ray didnt guide the ball over the fingertips of Rahim Moore. But he had a pretty damn good game. 17 tackles. He was all over the place. So what hes slow, he knows where the balls going. Of course hes only a shell of his former self, but he still made his mark on the game. And the Ravens D honestly played pretty damn good in that game. Denver scored 35, but two of those touchdowns came on special teams. The Ravens picked off Peyton twice, and came up with a lot of clutch stops. Peyton made some brilliant throws in that game, that TD to Stokley was just wow. But in the end, the Ravens made the stops when they needed to, and Flacco was able to make the necessary plays to win them the game.
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Old 04-08-2013, 03:26 AM    (permalink
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I think it is fair to say that Ray Lewis was one of the great linebackers of all time. I also think that it is fair to say that he has been much more of a leader than a player the last several years, and his skills had diminished significantly. That being said, even if you took out the last 4 years he still played 13 seasons at the top of the league.

The truth is, though, that comparing players from different eras is completely pointless. There is no way to take into consideration the differences in size and speed. There are few players from the distant past that could really be effective in today's game simply because the average player today is so much bigger and faster than his counterparts from 30 years ago. Could Lawrence Taylor play in today's game? Probably, but I doubt he would be anything super special. There are many linebackers in the league today that are as big and fast as LT was. Deacon Jones was a man among boys at 6'5" and 275 pounds, at a time when the average offensive tackle was 6'2" and 250. To put that in perspective, in order to have the same size/speed advantage in today's game, a DE would have to be 6'9" and 375 and run in the 4.5 range.

Conversely, if you were to take any decent player in today's game and insert them into the NFL 30 years ago they would absolutely dominate. Take a guy like Felix Jones. He has been very average in his pro career, and has not really lived up to many of the expectations that people had for him coming out of college. Yet if he were playing in 1983 he would absolutely destroy defenses. He would blow through holes faster than any defensive lineman had ever seen, there wouldn't be a linebacker around that could keep up with him, and he would elude every defensive back, save for a few special ones like Darrell Green. Today's backup guards could easily be starting left tackles back then.
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Old 04-08-2013, 07:37 PM    (permalink
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I think it is fair to say that Ray Lewis was one of the great linebackers of all time. I also think that it is fair to say that he has been much more of a leader than a player the last several years, and his skills had diminished significantly. That being said, even if you took out the last 4 years he still played 13 seasons at the top of the league.

The truth is, though, that comparing players from different eras is completely pointless. There is no way to take into consideration the differences in size and speed. There are few players from the distant past that could really be effective in today's game simply because the average player today is so much bigger and faster than his counterparts from 30 years ago. Could Lawrence Taylor play in today's game? Probably, but I doubt he would be anything super special. There are many linebackers in the league today that are as big and fast as LT was. Deacon Jones was a man among boys at 6'5" and 275 pounds, at a time when the average offensive tackle was 6'2" and 250. To put that in perspective, in order to have the same size/speed advantage in today's game, a DE would have to be 6'9" and 375 and run in the 4.5 range.

Conversely, if you were to take any decent player in today's game and insert them into the NFL 30 years ago they would absolutely dominate. Take a guy like Felix Jones. He has been very average in his pro career, and has not really lived up to many of the expectations that people had for him coming out of college. Yet if he were playing in 1983 he would absolutely destroy defenses. He would blow through holes faster than any defensive lineman had ever seen, there wouldn't be a linebacker around that could keep up with him, and he would elude every defensive back, save for a few special ones like Darrell Green. Today's backup guards could easily be starting left tackles back then.
IMO, when comparing across generations, the only fair way to assess is to compare them to their peers. Compare how much they dominated their era, how much effect they had on their teams success. And in terms of that, I believe Ray Lewis is unparrelled.

And I also think that Ray Lewis on-field play in his twilight years is greatly underrated. Yea he couldnt do what he once did, but he was still an excellent linebacker. And what he did as a leader and on-field coach in combo with his on-field production still made him one of the most valuable players in the game.
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Old 04-09-2013, 05:53 AM    (permalink
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Default Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis came over to the UK and spent a few days with the London Warriors football team. It was clearly inspirational day and the knowledge and positivity he imparted in that week was more than any have received in the years we have played and coached the game here.

I was not a fan of the guy, mainly because I hate the Ravens, but in the flesh he was an awesome guy. I can absolutely see how important he would be in the locker room. It is these kind of intangibles that seperate the great from the very good.

Videos are below of the visit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xFZVznYziU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA4WB1pW3QU
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Old 04-12-2013, 04:29 PM    (permalink
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3. Of course Ray didnt guide the ball over the fingertips of Rahim Moore. But he had a pretty damn good game. 17 tackles. He was all over the place.
The only reason you think he was "all over the place" is you looked at the ridiculous nfl.com game logs and saw "17 tackles."

You want to know how you can tell when a "tackle" figure is complete BS?

When the player in question is credited for 7 assists. And he was credited for 8 assists against the Patriots.

Assists are generally a BS statistic to begin with, but most of the time, a player is credited with no more than 3 per game.

In those 4 bogus postseason game totals, Ray Lewis was credited with 22 assists. That projects to 88 for a full season. 88 assists.

Lewis's career high assist total for a season on nfl.com is 49. Most years he was under 40.

Brian Urlacher's career high is 49, which was the only time he was credited with more than 40 assists.

Patrick Willis's career high is 39. He was credited with only 3 assists in the playoffs this past season.


Was Ray Lewis, despite clearly playing like utter trash in the playoffs in his swan song, somehow also playing the most active football of his entire career all of a sudden? To the tune of doing a pace that would lead him to about twice as many assists as any other top ILB's best season? Give me a break.

BS statistic is BS. The NFL "statisticians" were padding his numbers because of who he is and the story involved.
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Old 04-13-2013, 10:20 PM    (permalink
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The only reason you think he was "all over the place" is you looked at the ridiculous nfl.com game logs and saw "17 tackles."

You want to know how you can tell when a "tackle" figure is complete BS?

When the player in question is credited for 7 assists. And he was credited for 8 assists against the Patriots.

Assists are generally a BS statistic to begin with, but most of the time, a player is credited with no more than 3 per game.

In those 4 bogus postseason game totals, Ray Lewis was credited with 22 assists. That projects to 88 for a full season. 88 assists.

Lewis's career high assist total for a season on nfl.com is 49. Most years he was under 40.

Brian Urlacher's career high is 49, which was the only time he was credited with more than 40 assists.

Patrick Willis's career high is 39. He was credited with only 3 assists in the playoffs this past season.


Was Ray Lewis, despite clearly playing like utter trash in the playoffs in his swan song, somehow also playing the most active football of his entire career all of a sudden? To the tune of doing a pace that would lead him to about twice as many assists as any other top ILB's best season? Give me a break.

BS statistic is BS. The NFL "statisticians" were padding his numbers because of who he is and the story involved.
honestly, I watched every raven playoff game in its entirety. I dont need a statistic to tell me what Ray's effect on the game was, I sat there and watched it. He got beat in coverage some and there were some moments where you could see he was a step slow, but he was still always around the ball. And I remember him making quite a few nice plays. I bring up the stats as evidence against you when you say ridiculous stuff like hes the worst player on the field and he was hurting his team. But I dont need those stats to know everything your saying is nonsense, I know that just from watching games and having a reasonable amount of common sense.

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Old 04-13-2013, 10:57 PM    (permalink
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Ray Lewis must have been motivating other teams, too. After all, Ray is a man of GAWD.
^ Are you mocking GOD there?
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:39 AM    (permalink
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Sorry, no update today. Will be in Green Bay for the draft and having a ball. Be back to researching by Sunday.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:12 PM    (permalink
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Wow, it has been some good debating I feel like I am almost too late to the party. I think stlouisfan made some good points in trying to compare players from previous decades to players of now. As far as the whole Ray Lewis debate, I have to side with Ray being the best Mike backer. I know most of the debate that has been going on has been his focus on his play of recent in the past playoffs but this guy we seen in his last go round in the 2012-2013 playoffs was a horrible shell of the once great player. What do you expect though? Not only was he in his 17th season but he was also coming off a injury that would probably sideline most 37 year olds. Now back in his prime he was a BAAAAD man, and the ravens smartly kept some good big guys in front of him to let him do what he did best dissect plays and react quickly. To his credit he was and still is a great film guy, Ed Reed commented once on he picked up his great studying technique because Ray brought him to his house when he was drafted as a rookie and showed him the dedication and focus needed to pick up on players.

I really think Ray should have won more DPOY awards but I think my own bias gets in the way sometime. Back to the Ray Lewis we saw in the playoffs, I don't think I can't count on both hands how many times the 49ers in the Super Bowl through to Vernon Davis because this shell of Ray Lewis is not the man we became familiar with back throughout the late 90's and 00's decades. I am not old enough to remember what the other greats were like towards the end of their career so we should also take that into consideration. How did Mike Singletary play in his last few seasons? We know he was a bad man in his prime but I also remember that Monday Night Football game against the Dolphins, only because they still show it from time to time every blue moon, and he was a liability in coverage. I remember and love how Butkus played and delivered hits but he played in a predominantly run league. Does not make him less great by the way. All these players are human and even though they play at superhuman levels when they are younger and in their prime father time always catches up with you. You shouldn't let the now taint or let you forget the was.

One more quick note, it is highly unfair to compare LT to Ray Lewis, which happened early in the discussions. Lawerence was a modern day Linebacker playing against really slow Lineman and he simply dominated in a way that we really may never see again. It still gives me chills watching him blow people up and clobber quarterbacks, but for those who think he is a one trick pony he fly through the back field and destroy the RB before you could blink. Love watching his highlights.

Can we move the talk from LB's to DE's now. Deacon jones was not only a man amongst boys but I think the NFL should go back and review the nfl seasons and give guys like this the credit they are due. He probably has like 4 or 5 20 + sack season which has to be a record itself. Plus do not even get me started on the great late Reggie White.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:31 PM    (permalink
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Can we move the talk from LB's to DE's now. Deacon jones was not only a man amongst boys but I think the NFL should go back and review the nfl seasons and give guys like this the credit they are due. He probably has like 4 or 5 20 + sack season which has to be a record itself. Plus do not even get me started on the great late Reggie White.
A guy by the name of John Turney did some research into this and (IIRC) his work suggests that Deacon Jones had three seasons with 20+ sacks and another season with 18 sacks, and he had 173.5 sacks for his career. Keep in mind, this guy was playing 14 game seasons. That's just insane.

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Old 05-02-2013, 07:23 AM    (permalink
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A guy by the name of John Turney did some research into this and (IIRC) his work suggests that Deacon Jones had three seasons with 20+ sacks and another season with 18 sacks, and he had 173.5 sacks for his career. Keep in mind, this guy was playing 14 game seasons. That's just insane.
Yes I think I read the same article but misread it, 22, 22, 21, and 18. Although Deacon by his account claims he had like 26 in one season.
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:07 PM    (permalink
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Alrighty, 38 players and a mess of coaches. Sometimes I dunno what I got myself into...


1950's All-Decade Team:

Starting with the Coaches.

To anyone who has rudimentary knowledge of the 50's and 60's, they can sum up their Dream Coaching Staff for this decade in three names; Brown, Lombardi, Landry.

At first glance, it's a slam dunk. Paul Brown led the Cleveland Browns to six straight NFL championships, winning three. All in the first six years of the team's NFL existence. This coming AFTER four years of thoroughly dominating the AAFC and creating an almost limitless amount of innovation which drove the NFL through the 50's. Lombardi and Landry are much more well known for their exploits in the 1960's and beyond- Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packer dynasty in the 60's and collected five titles, including the first two Super Bowls. Landry meanwhile coached the Dallas Cowboys for nearly thirty years and earned two Super Bowls as well as numerous title appearances. In the 50's, both cut their teeth as assistant coaches for the New York Giants, and both took the baton of innovation from Paul Brown and furthered the progress that Professional Football was taking to sophisticated and crowd-pleasing play. Just by that merit alone, it should be a foregone conclusion that those three would be the key people in any All-50's Coaching Staff.

This is where context jumps in and clubs the dream to death with the baseball bat that is reality.

Starting with the Head Coach, Paul Brown has one definite strike against him, and one potential strike. The definite problem is his disciplinarian manner. It wasn't as much of a problem with the AAFC Squad of the 40's because, against the NFL you needed virtually every advantage you could get and at the time, Brown's innovations more than made up the difference. However in the 50's, with numerous other options available, his abrasive conduct has to be given greater scrutiny, especially when you read that his players began turning on him and his over-controlling style by the early 60's. There's a reason why Brown was chased out of Cleveland by '62, and it didn't have everything to do with Art Modell.

The questionable problem is control. Put simply, Brown controlled the entire aspect of game-planning and strategy for his club. He called the plays as opposed to his Quarterback. He ran the majority of the club, his assistants mostly working within their assigned positions. The lone exception seems to be Blanton Collier, who had a strong enough ability to break down the opposition to give him some control over the gameplan, at least until he went to coach Kentucky in the mid 50's.

As for the rest, these are the following coaches who won Championships in the 1950's; Weeb Ewbank, Buddy Parker, Jim Lee Howell, Joe Stydahar, and George Wilson.

Wilson makes a list practically by accident. He coached the Detroit Lions when they won their last ever title in '57, which was the first year he spent as Head Coach. He had been a Key Assistant for Buddy Parker throughout the fifties, and got his shot because his predecessor inexplicably quit before the '57 Season started. Beyond that, Wilson was a disciplinarian in his own right (this is the same Wilson who played End for the Chicago Bears of the 40's, after all) who inherited a solidly built ballclub. I wouldn't call him an innovator, as far as I know.

Stydahar is a peculiarity. He inherited a revolutionary offense created by Clark Shaughnessy in '50, the Pro-Set. The Pro-Set is much like a T, except that the right halfback is 'flanked' out right like a Split End. In essence becomes a Flanker, a pure receiver. This three-end style of attack served as the next transistional piece and would replace the T fully by the time the 60's arrived. The peculiarity is that Stydahar was a former lineman for the Chicago Bears, but he took Shaugnessy's concepts and refined them, leading to the Los Angeles Rams exploding on the scene in '51, taking the title. But then he was either resigned or fired after an opening day loss in '52. Presumably it was due to a battle of control between him and Backfield Coach Hamp Pool (Pool had a history of 'controversial' Head Coach resignations both before and after this).

Buddy Parker has to his credit an exceptionally good Detroit squad in the 50's, headlined by Bobby Layne and one of two 'historically first' innovators of the 'Two-Minute offense'. The other is the Johnny Unitas-led Colts. There doesn't seem to be a clear idea of who was the true innovator, even though Layne and the Lions came first. Odds are the Lions invented it, but the Colts made it mainstream with the 'Greatest Game Ever Played' in the '58 Championship. Either way, Parker's inexplicable resignation during the '57 pre-season raises serious questions. He wasn't a disciplinarian by any stretch, which gives some credence to his explanation that he couldn't control his players, but also raises major concerns about his capacity to coach under these conditions. As a pure coach he ran a rather simplistic style that didn't get overcomplicated and utilized his assistants surprisingly well.

Jim Lee Howell isn't usually regarded as a quality Head Coach. This is mostly because he ran the Giants teams that had Lombardi and Landry as the key facilitators of game-planning. Howell for the most part mainly played diplomat between the highly competitive offensive and defensive platoons. However, this experience really works out for the best if you decide to go with Lombardi and Landry as the key assistants.

Then there's Ewbank. Going by information On-Line, Ewbank is a bit of a enigma. Having coached in the '58 Championship AND Super Bowl 3, the glare of those two victories often overshadows any meager info concerning his coaching style and camradery with the players. By many accounts that could be found, Ewbank was an avid believer in preparation and found ways to get along with his players, mostly. As a go-between for assistants, he has potential but was never really tested with the kind of situation the Giants had during his tenure with the Colts and Jets. Whether or not he can get out of the way of his assistants in terms of game-planning is another matter. Still, a guy who could get along with players of two eras that seemed to contrast is nothing to sneeze at in terms of intangibles.

Anyhow...

Head Coach: Jim Lee Howell- 1956

This was originally going to go to Weeb Ewbank, then I stumbled upon an article while I was looking up Alan Ameche, where Gino Marchetti essentially exposed some of Ewbank's more unforgiving flaws. As Gino put it, Ewbank had double-standards and Ameche was one of the unfortunate players who Ewbank NEVER liked. And if you believe the text, Weeb drove Ameche out of the league in 1960, and lost the balanced offense as a result, which is why Ewbank was fired two years later. As Gino put it to the coach himself, Weeb was a great mind, great at almost everything that was required for coaching, except that he was a weak leader. That is NOT a good thing under this criteria.

As for the rest, Brown's innovations were no longer at the forefront in the 1950's, especially once everyone caught up. Had he still been at the top of the food chain in that department, maybe his non-conductive relation to his players could've been tolerated. Parker's lack of disciplinary control is the opposite extreme to Brown, and it's probable that he lost control of the Detroit club prior to leaving in '57 because of that. Wilson has little that distinguishes him, other than a strict approach. Stydahar had a weird falling out and a bottomed-out career after he left Los Angeles.

Howell as already described lacks anything that would've made him stand out amongst the crowd, but in truth there was nobody better at playing 'Diplomat' to everything that could've been non-conductive in the Locker Room, Film Room, on the field, you name it. With the innovation no doubt coming from the Assistants and a melting pot of players more volatile than just on the Giants roster, you need a Diplomat more than a Strategist. Howell is it.

Before we go on, a few words about Assistant Coaches. I bet you don't really think of any of them beyond the Offensive and Defensive Coordinators throughout the NFL, and maybe the key position coaches for your own team- and even then usually when the guy sucks at his job. They are often so anonymous that unearthing their existance, much less any detailed dirt, is about as fun as pulling one of your teeth out with a pair of pliers. The funny thing is, on Wikipedia you can find historical coaching staffs ONLY when said team has won the championship. Anything less, than your only chance is to go through every last freaking Head Coach that ever existed in the NFL and hope they have a detailed enough bio to indicate what jobs they had prior to getting the big gig.

Assistants who made it to Head Coach often share one characteristic; they bounce around. They move to multiple teams, take on multiple and ever-changing roles with each stop or promotion. Essentially, they get promoted so fast that you don't quite have an idea of how effective they were at their particular jobs, especially when you've already picked out a Head Coach and now you're just culling the ranks looking for valued experience someplace obscure.

The alternative is the longtime assistant, the guy who holds down a steady role or a team or two or maybe several in a span of decades. Harder to find because they almost always have no Head Coaching experience and are therefore more hidden. If a coach was part of a Super Bowl winning team, you're likely to find him at least once and work from there. If he never took part in a Super Bowl, then welcome to the void. This makes searching for the best possible assistants torturous.

So why do it? Most just list players and leave it at that, probably assuming some Uber-God will come down from the heavens, a Hybrid containing all the key strengths of famous coaches and no weaknesses. He can control all 53 players, take on all positions, never sleep, never eat, never take an emergency dump when the players spike his food with laxatives. And never EVER make the wrong call in gametime. But while drudging through coaches will slow this decade-by-decade climb even further, I do believe in being thorough.

Key Assistant: Vince Lombardi, Offensive Coordinator- 1958

This also looks like a slam-dunk, but then you dig deeper. While his Green Bay offenses were run out of the Pro-Set, Vince ran a pure T during his years in New York. In addition, he always ran a more conservative style of attack, based more upon ground control and surprise airstrikes. As for his innovations, he brought his primary revolution to the running game and the blocking.

Zone Blocking and Option Blocking were first developed by a famous Army coach by the name of "Red" Blaik. The concept of Zone Blocking, or rather Blaik's version of it, consisted of every lineman having a specific area to cover, and any defender in their area was to be blocked. If there were none, he would be instructed to cross the line of scrimmage and seal off the nearest defender, depending on where the play was to be run (this was developed before passing became mainstream, by the way). Option Blocking came next. A lineman was instructed not to block his mark in a specific direction, but rather to read what direction his mark wanted to go and ride him in that direction. With Option Blocking came Option Running, where the runner would read the given block and run for the gap, 'Running to Daylight', in other words. As amazing as it sounds, Lombardi introduced those concepts to the NFL at a time where defenses became too good at stopping the run. With Option Blocking/Running, ground-gaining became as sophisticated as passing.

With all that said, I don't forsee Lombardi actually having a problem with switching to a Pro-Set offense. If you get him the right personnel to run it, and an assistant who can instruct him on the formation...

Key Assistant: Tom Landry, Defensive Coordinator- 1959

Landry's 4-3 Defense was as groundbreaking as Lombardi's blocking schemes were. Perhaps even more so. Beforehand, Defenses simply ran towards where they thought the ball was headed. Very unsophisticated. Not as neanderthalic as the 1920's, but not too far off. The 4-3 was an off-shoot of Greasy Neale's 5-2-4 and Steve Owen's Umbrella defense, emphasizing area coverage as opposed to just reading the play. In Landry's formation, all eleven guys had a pre-determined area they were supposed to cover, regardless of where the ball was going. This meant unit integrity. Defensive Linemen wouldn't open up giant holes by making the wrong gamble going after the ball, linebackers frequently covered gaps and made plays, and the secondary kept a tight perimeter. By itself the formation is rather rudimentary when compared to today's formations, and would likely be ordinary without an exceptional play-caller.

And play-calling was Landry's major strength, even when he was hoofing it as a defensive back early on in the 1950's. He learned methodically how offenses would attack and create gameplans to counter them. As a coach, he turned New York's Defense into the first truly famous unit on that side, a forerunner to all the fancy nicknames from the 60's and onward.

Assistant: Ed Kolman- 1959
Assistant: John Bridgers- 1958
Assistant: Charley Winner- 1959

Kolman was the Line Coach for New York, and as such deserves partial credit for the innovations Lombardi made to the blocking/running schemes. That's largely the entire reason to select Kolman over a number of other candidates.

Bridgers and Winner are somewhat enigmatic in that they don't have a specific coaching job- at least not one that an easily be pinned down. For instance, Bridgers seems to have been a Defensive Line coach for Baltimore in the scarce amount of time that he spent in the professional ranks, but turned into an Open-Style offensive juggernaut when at the helm of Baylor. One wonders whether Bridgers shouldered any offensive burden on the Colts, as his Wikipedia article claims. If he had, then he's probably the go-to assistant Lombardi could lean on to properly teach the Pro-Set.

Winner meanwhile is either the Defensive Coordinator, or the End Coach, or simply all over the place. As a defensive coach he makes a reasonable assistant to Tom Landry.

With our staff in place, it's time to pick the players.

Right away the headaches start with the Quarterback position, where no less than THREE Hall of Famers headline the key competition for the top spot, with a handful juuuuuuust below them with a snowball's chance in Hades of pole-vaulting the trivumrate.

Otto Graham, Bobby Layne, and Johnny Unitas. Time to break this down.

First off is Layne, who actually comes in with the most holes of the threesome. His passing was actually of a lesser grade overall than Graham or Unitas, even when you took the stats out of the equation. His lifestyle off the field is rife with potential exageration, but it's well documented he lived it up to a good extent. However, Layne's leadership abilities were through the roof. He displayed all the cliche qualities of a clutch player, to almost Tebow-like proportions. Unlike Tebow however, he won Championships at the professional level.

Graham has the pedigree of being in Championship games for his ENTIRE career, which is worth mentioning if only because the 'All he does is WIN' argument totally overshadows that fact he was a highly proficient passer with an athletic scrambling ability. His accuracy is perhaps the best of the trio, and his only real flaw is that his coach called the plays for him, and all he had to do was execute them.

Then there was Unitas. Look to his 47 straight games with a touchdown pass, or his Championship titles in '58 and '59 BEFORE Lombardi's Packers stormed the scene and took all the thunder. They don't tell you the full story. They don't tell you his remarkable intelligence, his sterling ability as a playcaller- he called his own plays- his uncanny decision-making which actually looked like gambling to the layman (including me before I got to this point), and his toughness and intangibles were on par with anything Bobby Layne had (Bubba Smith once said Unitas ran a play twice specifically for a defender who buried his face in the ground on the first play, just to break his nose with the football on the second, then he called Unitas his hero from that play alone. And when you look at Bubba Smith that just sells the point even harder). And then there's this exchange all the way forward to the '64 Pro Bowl Game;

"People talk about Manning’s mind for football – and it’s well-documented. But like I said, he was Manning before Manning. Here’s a great example. In the 1964 Pro Bowl, Lenny Moore tells a story of when the All Stars were having a team meeting to review the game plan. Lombardi said he’d have the team run a 4-3 and run sweeps for the most part, which was a staple in the Packers offense for years. He explained a specific play where the tight end was on the right, yet they would run either an off tackle or an around-end, on the left side. When he asked for questions, Unitas raised his hand. Lenny Moore explains the story to the author of “Johnny Unitas: Mr. Quarterback”, Mike Towle.

JU: “Coach, where do you want the halfback lined up? I’m thinking we can do it both ways. We can put the right half back on the right hand side and put the fullback behind the quarterback.”

VL: “But, John, if we do that, we’re showing our strong side.”

JU: “Well, coach, we’re already showing it with the tight end over there. Tell you what, why don’t we take the tight end and flex him three or four yards out from the tackle, and this way we can isolate the tight end, on the linebacker and be able to still pass or run, where this way we are basically tied down to the run?”

VL: “John, we’ve been going over run plays, but I like the idea. We can do that.”

And as Lenny Moore pointed out: “This is Vince Lombardi that John’s talking to.”"

Starting Quarterback: Johnny Unitas- 1959 (Special Exemption- 4 Years)
-6'1 194. Baltimore Colts, 1956-72/ San Diego Chargers, 1973

That exchange right there tells you a number of things; Unitas was intelligent enough that he could work with Lombardi's offense (this is admittedly something I DIDN'T think he could do when I started this project), Unitas was not about rampant passing statistics, which eases the worry about whether the run or the pass will be dominant in the gameplan. It's also worth noting Lombardi didn't call plays the same way Paul Brown did when he had Bart Starr; Starr was capable of dissecting defenses on his own, and Unitas is cut from the exact same cloth as far as his smarts go. And Ewbank NEVER got in Johnny's way. Your lone concern may be that even in the midst of winning titles in '58 and '59, Unitas wasn't quite at the peak of his powers, but he's close enough, and there are precious few holes that will spell trouble.

Going into the backfield, it's important to note how Lombardi utilized his backs in any offense he ever run. He emphasized Option Running, which we covered. He also emphasized Blocking, not just for the Fullback but for the Halfback as well. So if you're running a two-back system, or even three-back, you need a complementary unit that doesn't shy away from the dirty work in any capacity. That said, we are still in an era where the running back was considered the most versatile player on the offense.

Left Halfback has what appears to be a distant ancestor to the Barry/Emmitt argument; Ollie Matson and Frank Gifford. Athletically speaking, Matson is the superior player, and his fans will helpfully point out that Gifford became the more famous player because he was a key part of a dynamic power(the New York Giants) throughout his career, while Matson unfortunately toiled for a series of bottom-feeders. This is a sub-plot that you will see over and over and over again in a great many positions; Player B was better than Player A even though Player A won championships because Player B had to carry a bunch of bums on his back, etc. After a while you want to neglect those in the 'Player B' pool just to spite their fans, because they'll NEVER give you any slack over your decision. And this doesn't even include the third contestant in Doak Walker, a somewhat under-represented player in terms of stats and longetivity (like Barry, he left well before he had broken down), but apparently drew raves for his versatility and achievements.

Starting Left Halfback: Frank Gifford- 1956
-6'1 197. New York Giants, 1952-60, 1962-64

The breakdown went like this; Gifford was the superior pass receiver, Matson could return kicks, both could play defense in a pinch, both had great intangibles, Gifford could throw the ball as an effective trick play.

Frank Gifford was really who Vince Lombardi based his Giants offense around- for pretty much the same reasons he put Paul Hornung at Halfback when he got to Green Bay in '59. Gifford was all-around versatile, but as a College Tailback he had the capacity to throw the football for a surprise touchdown pass, something that Matson was never required to do. In addition, Gifford was also one of the key threats in the air attack, a quality which doesn't diminish even if the formation changes to a more pass-oriented Pro-Set (Gifford was such a good pass receiver that when he came back in '62, he was made a pure Flanker, and did good enough in three years to still earn Pro Bowl selections. Matson by contrast could not do the same.

Starting Fullback: John Henry Johnson- 1957
-6'2 210. San Francisco 49ers, 1954-56/ Detroit Lions, 1957-59/ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1960-65/ Houston Oilers(AFL), 1966

The field of candidates for this position was fairly extensive. The closest competitors to Johnson were 'Tank' Younger and Alan Ameche, both all-around talents for the position. Others of note were Marion Motley (fading after '50), Joe Perry(still more of a halfback with slightly questionable blocking ability), Rick Casares(no real word about his blocking ability), and Dan Towler(excellent runner, but a NIGHTMARE because he just didn't focus on the dang plays. You just can't do that on this team).

Johnson took the spot simply because he was the unquestioned best blocker of the entire bunch. But he wasn't just a nameless headhunter like the Lead Blocker position has devolved into nowadays. Johnson was a highly effective runner in his own right, when he had the touches. The fact that the majority of his stats were gained in the 1960's for a comparatively mediocre Steelers team does nothing to disuade his merits, mostly because he did produce at several places during the previous decade. In San Francisco he was one of the 'Million Dollar Backfield' players, alongside Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, and QB YA Tittle- this in turn led to diminished numbers. Detroit was somewhat the same, but he had a good solid year during the championship run in '57. He could run the ball, and in a pinch catch it, which at least keeps him from being a liability, but really it's his devastating blocking (broken jaws anybody?) which gives him rave reviews. Think of how Lombardi raved about Jim Taylor over Jim Brown in the 60's. He'd have raved about John Henry Johnson in the exact same way.

And as an aside, many people still regard Jim Brown as the greatest Running Back to ever play the game. I say if Jim Brown had John Henry Johnson's Blocking Instincts, then it truly would be no contest.

Starting Flanker/Right Halfback: Lenny Moore- 1958 (Special Exemption- 4 Years)
-6'1 191. Baltimore Colts, 1956-67

Where you stand on the argument versus the T-Formation or the Pro-Set, and by now you probably have that argument in your head because of Lombardi's use of the T and your probable belief that offenses turned to the 3 wide 'Pro' Set wholesale during this decade, is rendered effectively irrelevent by Lenny Moore. You see, Baltimore's version of the Pro-Set would often have Moore lined up in the backfield about as often as they would have him flanked out on the edge. The reason is Moore was devastating in both roles.

As a Halfback in the T, Moore was adept and capable of running inside and blocking. That's more than enough to make him acceptable as a running option in Lombardi's offense. As a Flanker out wide, Moore possessed a truly frightening ability in the open field to go along with his capable hands. Elusive and electrifying, Moore was the home-run hitter for the Colts during their ascendance to the top of the league.

About the very worst problem you might have with Moore is strictly off the field, mostly because of the racial problems actually inherent in Baltimore during this time, an ugly and hidden part of the team's history. As tight-knit as the team was on the field, it just wasn't off it. In all fairness, I don't think Lombardi's going to help much here, even though his standards for inter-racial tolerance were surprisingly good in the 1960's, but maybe it'll be enough to get by for this one key theoretical game.

Starting Left End: Raymond Barry- 1959
-6'2 187. Baltimore Colts, 1955-67

I found a little tidbit while looking up Lenny Moore that listed the blockers who helped him make big gains in the open field. Barry was one of them. It was notable for my purposes because Lombardi also demands the Ends be capable blockers- the Ends who came and went in New York reflect this. It's also a potential legit reason why Lombardi traded away arguably the best player from the Packers when he arrived in '59 (Billy Howton). So knowing that Blocking is important, and knowing at least on a vague level how important Raymond Barry would be to the offense, it was vital that he be found to be at least competent. And while excessive word has been written about Barry being used majorly as a route-runner, there was evidence he blocked.

Then I read about his incredible- almost psychotic- emphasis on detail and preparation and planning and I stopped worrying. Because Barry personifies the 'Self-Made Football Player' to a T.

After a miserable rookie season, Barry devoted his entire off-season to preparation, learning as many fakes and moves as he possibly could (lacking the athleticism to separate naturally from defenders), getting his body into great shape (to endure training camp), and went so far as to devote as much time as possible to training with a quarterback in order to develop timing on his routes (Johnny Unitas, who at the time was just one of those second-chance warm bodies fighting for his own spot, was willing to work with him. The incumbent, George Shaw, was not). By the '58 Championship, his preparation had gone to obsessive levels, levels that were unthinkable then, but given today's playbooks and game planning, would've made him right at home in the modern day.

So it's not unthinkable to presume Barry would take that relentless preparation and turn it to blocking, if he hadn't done it already. And that's really good for this team because it's his connection with Unitas that makes him the best option at End by far. This is in fact another valued guideline when you pick All-Time teams, Wine Cellar rules or not; when you have a Quarterback in mind, pay special attention to his top receiver, because more often than not that connection is too valuable to replace. You don't really see this in previous decades because the passing game didn't open up very much. Now it becomes a reality.

Starting Right End: Pete Pihos- 1953
-6'1 210. Philadelphia Eagles, 1947-55

A member of the 1940's NFL Squad, Pihos could be considered the predecesor to the Tight End position. That's a much needed distinction in this case because with Lenny Moore's capability to flank out wide, the Right End will likely be drawn inward as opposed to the Left End who will remain split out. Baltimore had plenty of experience in this department, and had a capable player in Jim Mutscheller who could play the 'Tight' role rather well. He's just not Pete Pihos though.

Pihos is also remarkable in that so far he's the first player selected from the first half of the decade as opposed to the last. It's kind of an unfortunate by-product of going by decades, as the forward progress of innovation favors the latter years over the former. This is unlikely to change in the ensuing decades to come.

Onto the Line. Option Blocking aside, it's still not Rocket Science. I will say this though; Lombardi had a rather unique gimmick during his time with the Giants; his running sweeps were a real key part of his arsenal, and those plays functioned with pulling guards. Only his left Tackle, Roosevelt Brown, was out-distancing the guards on a frequent basis. So Lombardi had him pull instead of the guards. An interesting wrinkle, even more so because Rosey is one of the major candidates for Left Tackle.

Starting Left Tackle: Roosevelt Brown- 1956
-6'3 255. New York Giants, 1953-65

This was between him, Lou "The Toe" Groza, Lou Creekmur, and George Connor. Connor and Creekmur were quick to be discarded. Groza hung on because he was also the greatest kicker of the decade. Personally, my headache would be a lot less if Rosey ever freaking played Left Guard. Then it would be over without a fight. Alas...

Anyways, Roosevelt was from an athletic AND all-around standpoint the better of the two when it came to purely playing Tackle, and we've already touched briefly upon his fluidity and speed. But while pulling out on sweeps may have been his really big strength- as in 'No Tackle has EVER done that before'-type strength- he was far from a one-trick pony. His blocking in both passing and running situations was excellent. In short; during his time he was perhaps the best lineman in the NFL, period.

Starting Left Guard: Duane Putnam- 1957
-6'0 228?. Los Angeles Rams, 1952-59, 1962/ Dallas Cowboys, 1960/ Cleveland Browns, 1961

Here's an annoying tidbit. Putnam has the most accolades out of all the available Left Guards on the list. It's not even close. And yet personal data on the guy is next to nil. The most revealing article I could dig up? Second-Hand reference in a Coffin Corner issue about Stan Jones. It states that Jones' emphasis on bodybuilding and weightlifting soon extended to several over contemporaries, including Putnam. At the time he was considered undersized, and after Jones made his appearance, Putnam would bulk up by about twenty pounds in muscle and save his career. So I don't know if he started out at about 200 and made it to 220, or if he started at 220 and bulked up to 240. But I do know this coincided with the All-Pro honors he gobbled up during the latter half of the decade.

As for his ability on the line, it stands to reason he's competent in most if not all of the aspects of the game. Or maybe that's desperate wishful thinking because the pool behind him is iffy at best and there's not likely to be a backup or anyone who had experience playing Left Guard on the roster.

Oh, for the record the top competitors were Abe Gibron- lacking height but little else- and Dick Berwanger.

Starting Center: Chuck Bednarik- 1953
Defensive Position: Left Linebacker (Starter)
-6'3 233. Philadelphia Eagles, 1948-62

When I was just a little whelp, when I could remember first being genuinely obsessed with football, I hated Chuck Bednarik. It was for a totally selfish and illogical reason; I had just discovered he was principally responsible for beating the Packers in the 1960 Championship. Nevermind that it was decades after the fact, or that Bednarik wasn't the spawn of satan. He beat the Packers, and for a kid my age, it was probably answer enough. Then the 90's came along and I found a new hated enemy in the Dallas Cowboys. But in time that hate for Bednarik faded away, replaced with the appropriate logic and reason. I dunno, I thought that little tidbit something that could pad the paragraphs, because there's really nothing striking about a guy dubbed 'Concrete Charlie' in terms of personality.

You'll note Chuck plays two positions. That's basically what he did for the majority of the 1950's. Then he primarily played Center until 1960, when injuries forced him back into Double-Duty. He just went and did it, with about the same sort of fan fare and posturing that he had when he served as part of a Bomber crew in WW2- basically, none whatsoever. He was probably already a bit of a grump over the specialists during his playing days, only it dialed up to eleven as he retired and grew older. It actually gets worse when somebody does a brief stint on both sides of the ball and gets fellated by the media for his 'courageous' efforts. Then he gets merciless in his criticism.

As a Center, he shows no real weakness in his game. As for playing Linebacker, he comes with a small issue. He played Left Linebacker, which at first glance isn't a problem because the pool for Left Linebackers is very shallow, and the 4-3 needs all the good linebackers that can be found. The problem is Bednarik played LLB when Philadelphia ran the 5-2-4. The Eagles didn't switch to a 4-3 until Bednarik went to playing primarily Center. When he briefly came back, he became the Middle Linebacker, suggesting he was worth more on the inside than on the outside.

My answer to that is in a 5-2-4, the Linebackers were expected to cover a bit more ground due to having one less member in the group on the field. It won't be too much of an issue, especially if he adheres to Landry's strategies.

Starting Right Guard: Dick Stanfel- 1953
-6'3 236. Detroit Lions, 1952-55/ Washington Redskins, 1956-58

Between him and Stan Jones, Stanfel accumulated more All-Pro honors, was actually named team MVP during Detroit's 1953 Championship season, and was the greater pulling guard of the two. Yet Jones is in the Hall of Fame and Stanfel is not. Maybe if Stanfel hung around into the 60's he would've gotten in, but he's another one of those players who bolted because of money- in Stanfel's case, he had a coaching offer waiting for him when he left. Bears fans SHOULD know Stanfel as one of the assistant coaches during the 1980's Monsters of the Midway teams.

Going back to his playing days, Stanfel was consistently rated the best lineman in Detroit, and was described as so steady people failed to realize how good he was. His apparent strength was run blocking, and with his pulling talents would be a major boon for the likes of Lombardi. And given that Detroit was apparently known more as a passing team than a running team, it stands to reason Stanfel was capable of pass blocking.

Starting Right Tackle: Mike McCormack- 1957
-6'4 246. New York Yankees(NFL), 1951/ Cleveland Browns, 1954-62

Paul Brown called McCormack "The finest lineman I ever coached." It's partially familiar; Lombardi called Forrest Gregg "the finest player I ever coached." Incidentally, both played Right Tackle.

It's really the reason McCormack is taken over Bob St. Clair, who has five inches and twenty-plus pounds on McCormack and has proven to be just as capable of a blocker with the added benefit of blocking field goals. McCormack was a significantly steady presence on a Cleveland line in desperate need of it by the latter half of the decade. His protection was balanced, his execution often without fault. And while St. Clair paved the way for the Million Dollar Backfield, McCormack was equal to the task of blocking for Jim Brown.

Onto the Defense. In Landry's system, you need coordination and discipline above all else. Wouldn't matter if you have the greatest athletic talent; if you can't adhere to the system in place and perform your designated role, then you don't have a place here. There is one freelancer permitted; the Middle Linebacker, who plays a bit of a rover role and inserts himself where the team needs him. The rest cover their own responsibilities. It's rather obvious that a lot of non-Giants players will be heavily scrutinized based upon their projection playing under such a system.

Starting Left Defensive End: Gino Marchetti- 1957
-6'4 244. Dallas Texans, 1952/ Baltimore Colts, 1953-64, 1966

At first glance, this is a no-brainer. After all, Marchetti has been at times labeled as the greatest Defensive End of his era, and is most certainly the best on the left side by a wide margin. He has been described as an all-around defensive talent and a capable run stopper but a nigh-unstoppable pass rusher who commanded double and triple-teams. Any questions of his intangibles end with his broken ankle in the '58 championship, sustained while making a key 3rd down tackle against Frank Gifford... then demanding to stay on the sidelines rather than seek immediate medical attention. He simply has everything you want in this spot.

But that means hamster farts when compared to one key question; could he play Tom Landry's system?

All signs point to yes.

Nothing indicates that he was a loose cannon who was out for the stats (not that they had stats in those days for the defense). He didn't play with such aggressiveness that he'd jepordize the discipline of the unit as a whole. He wasn't a pure rusher who cared little for stopping the run. He wasn't obsessed with being the one guy on the line to get to the QB time and time again, even though that happened a lot in Baltimore. And there's absolutely nothing that indicated he was uncoachable.

Descriptions of his play are often cliched, but also show no glaring holes, nothing which makes him an undesirable fit. Besides, while the D-Line for Landry's teams had set gaps to cover, they also got to rush the passer too.

Starting Left Defensive Tackle: Art Donovan- 1957
-6'2 263. Baltimore Colts(AAFC/NFL), 1950/ New York Yankees(NFL), 1951/ Dallas Texans, 1952/ Baltimore Colts, 1953-61

The template for this selection is Dick Modzelewski, Left Defensive Tackle for the Giants. Andy Robustelli described him as not only the steadiest and most dependable player, but also the funniest. He went on to explain how 'Mo' totally believed in Landry's system and had a work ethic that fully reflected the coal mine country he grew up in. Basically a stalwart of stalwarts.

So when I say Art actually outdoes 'Mo' in everything including the humor part of it, don't take the comment lightly.

'Fatso', as Art was known due to a few issues with weight fluxuation, embodied a complete package of talent that you wanted in a Defensive Tackle, and combined it with a priceless Locker Room presence. His ability to build morale probably counts for a LOT when under a hypothetical situation- in case you forgot, this is supposed to be a team you want when their performance means the survival of this planet.

And much like Gino Marchetti, there's nothing that indicated Donovan could not work under Landry's system.

Starting Right Defensive Tackle: Ernie Stautner- 1957
-6'1 230. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1950-63

Stautner was really the third best 'talent' for this position.

First was Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, who thrived as a member of the Colts in the late 50's and was regarded as the original prototype for what Defensive Linemen in today's game are expected to possess. Unfortunately, he also came with one of the more troubling amounts of baggage that any star could expect to have, which turned Big Daddy into a sort of a litmus test- do you value Talent above any glaring flaws in the intangibles factor?

It's actually much harder to justify going intangibles over talent in football than in a sport like basketball. In the hoops game, it LOOKS like talent wins above all else, then you look deeper and realize that there are dozens of head cases who could be the best in the league- or even just valuable contributors- had their heads been screwed on properly. Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins are a valuable compare and contrast to this scenario, especially if you buy into the ideas that Nique was pretty much about scoring and dominating offensively and the baggage that went with it included a disregard for defense- other than the occasional crowd-shocking blindside block- and off-ball movement. Meanwhile you can make a lot of arguments over Jordan's ball-hogging except he tried his arse off on defense and did a heck of a lot more little things in the span of his career. Football however hides those flaws by virtue of its specialist roles. Unless you're a QB, you'd have to have some shockingly bad flaws in order to be exposed because a specialist position permits you to never be required to surpass your assigned tasks... but also allows you to exceed them anyways. In short, specialization is a safety net of sorts.

None of this excuses the fact that Lipscomb's career was a big fat mess off the gridiron, which culminated in a tragic death in 1963. As great as he was on the line, his extensive partying and carousing and shocking mood swings simply are too much of a distraction here.

Roosevelt Grier is the second-best talent on the list, and actually a vital component on the Giants defense. And unlike Lipscomb, Grier's off-field antics were far more positive in every respect- he was actually the bodyguard for Bobby Kennedy's wife on the night he was assassinated, and while he couldn't prevent the murder, he could wrestle the gun away AND turn back a potential lynch mob. This along with a solid acting career, especially for an athlete, and even a book on embroidery for men. No, that's not a joke.

Grier's exclusion is perhaps more unforgiveable than Lipscomb's- a weight problem. To hear Andy Robustelli describe it, Grier frequently fluctuated his weight on the wrong side of 300 pounds during the season, often ruining what the workouts did for his fitness. Often that problem showed up on the field, leaving the poor fellow gassed and every now and then begging for time-outs. Again, workable under the right conditions, but that's still a bit of a lack of mental discipline.

Hence we come full circle to Stautner, the only one of the three in the Hall of Fame despite always anchoring the defense of a mediocre team. Also, like many other linemen of his era and previously, his description of his talents is often a walking cliche of intangibles. Safe and unremarkable, in other words. Going away from that, Stautner was comparatively undersized for his era- about the size of linebackers- but made up for lack of bulk in quickness. And then there was his strength, perhaps only third to the other two people we've just mentioned. In short, Stautner just doesn't make waves or have any potential holes that might make him a detriment in a do-or-die situation.

More to the point, his post-playing career as an assistant under Landry gives the impression that he could in fact work under Landry's system as a player, which is always a plus.

Still, if I could be sure that Grier would keep his weight in check- or even if Lipscomb could turn off the crazy- I would happily put Stautner on the bench as a very vital backup- he spent time as a guard and as a defensive end, and with so few bench spots behind the starters, versatility is everything.

Starting Right Defensive End: Andy Robustelli- 1958
-6'1 230. Los Angeles Rams, 1951-55/ New York Giants, 1956-64

It's rather likely that Len Ford was greater in talent than Robustelli. It's also likely that not only was Doug Atkins possibly a greater talent than Robustelli, but that his 6'8 250-plus frame was much better suited partnered alongside the comparatively small Ernie Stautner.

Robustelli makes this for one real reason above all the others, even though he also was supremely talented and an excellent pass rusher in his own right. He was the leader of the Giants defense, which in turn makes him absolutely priceless when it comes to 'coaching' players about the Landry system. While it's not a complicated defense to learn, the need to be disciplined and coordinated forces you to consider as many players who played in the system as possible. You can likely expect at least one Giant on the defensive line, in the linebacking corps, and in the secondary. They will be considered the lynchpins of the defense, for better or worse. Andy's the lynchpin of the line, with the intelligence and drive to command the others.

The partnership with Stautner in the right side does come with some misgivings, given that Andy is Ernie's size. Robustelli worked with the likes of Rosy Grier protecting him on the inside with his bulk, after all. Still, Landry's system is not prevalent upon the size of the players manning it, supposedly.

Moving on to the linebackers, the left side is already covered; Chuck Bednarik plays double-duty no matter how much you think it silly. That leaves the vital Middle Linebacker spot.

Starting Middle Linebacker: Sam Huff- 1959 (Special Exemption- 4 Years)
-6'1 230. New York Giants, 1956-63/ Washington Redskins, 1964-67, 1969

I should imagine if there was a defensive player from the 50's you know about, it would be Huff. (I said 50's, so those of you wanting to interject with the likes of Butkus and Deacon need to go give yourselves a swirly)

Anyhow, the Middle Linebacker position was one of the relatively new ones created in the fifties along with the Flanker. In a transition from the standard 5-2-4 to a 4-3-4, the Middle Guard would be pulled out of the line and would be between the two standard linebackers. A Middle Linebacker in the Landry 4-3 isn't all that much different from a traditional 4-3 MLB who behaves as a sideline-to-sideline rover who takes on runners and covers passes. However, the Landry MLB is unique that it still plays the rover role while the other positions keep their coordinated tasks. And since Huff was the hub of the linebacking corps when he was inserted into the starting lineup, it makes sense he'd be the designated MLB.

Huff fit all the attributional demands of the new position. He was fast enough to range across the field of play and to cover the pass routes. He was strong enough to shove his nose into the scrimmage melee and pop some of the toughest runners this sport has ever known. And he was smart enough to be a quality tactician capable of diagnosing plays. In short, he was more than just an attention hound. Ever watch "The Violent World of Sam Huff'? It's pretty much the first real 'Reality Programming' even shown on television, and this was back when he was just a youngster.

In truth, there are two other contemporaries at Middle Linebacker who could take this spot from Sam. Bill George is one, another claim to 'creating' the 4-3 in principle, and also having all the athletic talents to thrive in it. Huff still wins out because you need those Giant lynchpins in key positions. As for the other...

Starting Right Linebacker: Joe Schmidt- 1957
-6'1 220. Detroit Lions, 1953-65

Fun fact; Joe Schmidt was originally a Left Linebacker, then a Right Linebacker, then finally moved to Middle Linebacker. So he could conceivably play an outside role. (I should note that Detroit utilized a 5-2-4 while Les Bingamen was their Middle Guard, so this isn't as great a relief as you would want, but much like Bednarik, we're hoping that the difference of playing linebacker in the two formations isn't all that different. Besides, you already know my 'integrity' went down the crapper when I made Bronko Nagurski an END on defense in the 30's.)

The learned bookworms among you would argue that Schmidt carried a stronger reputation as a Middle Linebacker than Huff. He certainly possesses equal attributes in the intelligence part, if not greater. Huff may have had the better all-around talent. But Schmidt's here on the right side because he played there, and the pool of actual linebackers on the outside, both right and left, is shockingly unremarkable. It might be a bit of a cheat, but you can't say no to playing two equals on the same starting lineup if you can find a conceivable loophole- if Schmidt never played anything other than Middle Linebacker, then I couldn't make this move per se.

Going into the secondary, it's a little harder to determine which players fit, since the best statistical indicator of elite ability for a Defensive Back is interceptions, and those are often perceived as the positives of a gambling nature- the exact sort of nature you would never match with a Landry-themed defense. And with that said there was a shocking number of hall-of-famers that were part of the pool, but did they mesh with what their roles would be on this team?

Starting Left Defensive Halfback: Richard "Night Train" Lane- 1956
-6'1 194. Los Angeles Rams, 1952-53/ Chicago Cardinals, 1954-59/ Detroit Lions, 1960-65

There's a number of stories as to how Night Train got his nickname. Some say Rams teammate Tom Fears took it from a 50's song from the time and gave it to him. Others say it was because he hated to fly and took night trains to where his team would be playing. Others say he got it just for the hellacious way he tackled opponents. I don't care either way, but I'd go with number three, simply because he freaking HIT you like a midnight express special.

Lane claimed he never gambled on the ball when it was in the air, just the angles he played on the receivers he covered, and even that was the end result of lots of studying of their tendencies. So in other words he presents himself as a student of the game, which if it holds water makes him an excellent selection. Outside of his mental intangibles, Night Train was an excellent specimen of an athlete. Fast and strong and even tall (probably the first genuine defensive back above six feet in height), Lane could close ground in a shocking hurry. And depending on what rules are in place for this game, you may shudder at the sight of a 'Night Train Necktie', which is as gruesome as it sounds.

As an added bonus, at times he could moonlight as a receiver (he had originally came onto the Rams trying out for Right End, or rather, Tight End in the 3-End Pro-Set. However, too many great players were in the way and Night Train wound up on defense)

Starting Left Safety: Emlen Tunnell- 1956
-6'1 187. New York Giants, 1948-58/ Green Bay Packers, 1959-61

Tunnell is the lynchpin of the secondary, the third behind Huff and Robustelli. With him comes a second coach to teach the 'Umbrella' style of play the secondary ran. That doesn't mean Tunnell is past his prime here. He was still an all-around ballhawk by '56 though his once quality ability to return punts has diminished with age. Considered 'Offense on Defense', he would be the leader in interceptions for the decade. And his veteran presence was valued enough that Vince Lombardi traded for him when he went to Green Bay in '59, and was counted upon to help build a winning atmosphere in a then-decrepit foundation.

He was also one of the least afflicted players facing descrimination in his time. Not that he recieved precious little of it; but rather he had the most low-key manner of facing it- just going out and winning the home crowd over (fans of the opposition would still boo him, but that comes with the territory of being a football player).

Starting Right Safety: Jack Christiansen- 1953
-6'1 205. Detroit Lions, 1951-58

With Tunnell already taking on the 'Veteran Leader' role in the secondary, we can afford to have a younger and more dangerous Christiansen partnered up at safety. As far as secondary skills went, Jack was Emlen's equal, and as an added bonus he was such a devastating punt returner than teams were forced to adjust their coverages in order to contain him. The rule of thumb when playing against Detroit at the time was "Don't pass in his area, don't punt to him." Then again, you wouldn't have wanted to pass to anybody on this lineup.

Jack led the first nicknamed secondary unit, called "Chris' Crew" in honor of his leadership. That credential, and the fact it changed how secondary units were assembled, says it all.

Starting Right Defensive Halfback: Jack Butler- 1957
-6'1 200. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1951-59

Outside of Night Train, I think Butler has the most inauspicuous entrance into the NFL. Undrafted, he was picked up by the Steelers as a favor to the Athletic Director of St. Bonaventure- who was no less than Art Rooney's freaking brother. Originally a Wide Receiver, he failed at first because this was the 'Jurassic' period of Steeler's football- they were the LAST team to run a pure Single Wing. Then he stuck on as a Defensive End, but that only lasted until he was substituted in as a Defensive Halfback. The rest is history.

From a purely athletic standpoint, Butler is the worst of the starting foursome, possessing good but not great measurables. However he compensated for this by having great instincts, and has been labeled as a 'Defensive Genius'. Even with that, however, he will probably be targeted the most because the rest are more 'Elite' in their physical talents.

Butler is kinda sorta out of place- by '57 he was firmly entrenched as a Safety after spending the first few years of his career as a Defensive Back- but he has experience with the position above all else and there's nothing about his career that indicated he could no longer do the job there. And much like Night Train, Butler occasionally moonlighted as a wideout.

Onto the backups.

Like we've discussed as length, you want your Backup QB to be good enough to take over the reigns in a pinch, but not good enough to cause a controversy over who should be starting. It sounds rediculous, but history is full of examples where two competing QBs of undistinguishable talent grapple for a starting job. The media devours the subject, the fans scream obscenities, the locker room becomes divided, and heaven forbid the selected incumbent doesn't prove mediocre. You'd think it wouldn't be a problem on an All-Time team, but if you add in the 'Save the Planet' factor it's a terrifying new level of tension for all involved. Under those circumstances, you want the best Starting QB possible, then you want the best Backup QB possible. #1 and #2 rather than #1a and #1b.

Backup Quarterback: Tobin Rote- 1957
-6'3 211. Green Bay Packers, 1950-56/ Detroit Lions, 1957-59/ San Diego Chargers(AFL), 1963-64/ Denver Broncos(AFL), 1966

Why Rote?

As stated, you can't have controversy under any circumstances as far as your Quarterback is concerned. That's why Otto Graham and Bobby Layne are out- enough jokers will gripe that they should start over Unitas and the snowball effect is on. Norm Van Brocklin may be a step behind those two, but he still carries significant question marks as to whether he could be a backup. YA Tittle is perhaps the best of all the talent at QB who could conceivably co-exist as a backup, but is left off for a peculiar reason- he doesn't run. A stupid criteria for a QB with all these weapons at his disposal, but a QB who can run as well as pass offers a little more flexibility, and we already know Unitas could scramble in a pinch. Going beyond that you have the incumbent for the Lombardi offense of this decade in Charley Conerly, an otherwise unremarkable passer to acted more as a caretaker. Following that you have a collection of starters who are a run below Conerly and a few Backups of some note including George Ratterman and George Shaw. Rote by contrast is between Tittle and Conerly on the rankings but makes it as the Backup mainly because he has genuine experience as a Backup, and his time in Green Bay was nothing short of a crucible.

The litmus test for 'Great' players on bad teams is to transplant them onto good teams and see how much they stand out. Most players never make it onto good teams to begin with. Others just fade back into obscurity, victims of the 'SOMEBODY has to generate stats' rule which created their artificial greatness. In Rote's case, he was traded to Detroit to back up Bobby Layne in '57... only Layne broke his leg and Rote had to run the offense the rest of the way. He had a fine performance in the '57 title game, and proved he could lead a team if called upon.

Going back to his hapless Green Bay years, he didn't have much help. Billy Howton was his best receiver, and a collection of #2s in his career were serviceable (Bob Mann, Max McGee, Gary Knafelc) and the backfield usually was a bunch of underachievers, which is why he led the team in rushing for three seasons and ran for 11 touchdowns in '56. To top it off his Offensive Line was below average and the defense stunk to high heavens. Basically he was getting crapped on, and by all rights should've been a broken shell of a man by the time he moved to Detroit. You can only be a one-man show for so long before it kills you (John Grigas, remember him? Prime example.)

Backup Left Halfback: Ollie Matson- 1956
-6'2 220. Chicago Cardinals, 1952, 1954-58/ Los Angeles Rams, 1959-62/ Detroit Lions, 1963/ Philadelphia Eagles, 1964-66

Unlike QBs, you can get away with allowing a little controversy at Halfback. In this case, it's playing Matson as the backup to Gifford even though it was a very close race for the starting job. As far as Ollie is concerned, his many gifts are worth the risk. For instance, he can be every bit the all-around players that Gifford and Lenny Moore are, enough to actually spell them for stretches at a time. Second, his open field mobility and track-speed made him a fundamentally dangerous kick returner (I don't think anyone in the 50's got more Touchdowns via Kick Returns than Ollie). And third, Matson early on in his career performed in the Defensive Backfield, and would most likely be able to be called upon in an emergency. Frankly, anybody who could conceivably play two-way on these rosters is worth their weight in gold.

Backup Fullback: Paul "Tank" Younger- 1955
-6'3 225. Los Angeles Rams, 1949-57/ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1958

Apologies to Alan Ameche, who was the running workhorse for the Colts team and was the exact kind of all-around talent this offense would've craved. However, Younger had the same all-around talent with one crucial difference- he could and did play Linebacker at the NFL level. Much like Matson, that level of versatility is especially valued among the reserves.

Of interesting note; Younger was part of what was called the Elephant Backfield while in Los Angeles. Basically it was a group of running backs who had fullback size (220 pounds or heavier) who could run like Halfbacks. And for a time, it was effective when paired up with the wacky air attack the Rams employed. The modern equivalent would probably be a 3 RB system where you employed three Fullbacks on the starting lineup. I've actually only seen it once in this day and age- it was the Green Bay Packers when they had John Kuhn, Korey Hall, and Quinn Johnson at the same time and they attempted a play on the Goal Line. I don't think it actually worked though. I certainly have a soft spot for the idea though.

Backup Right Halfback: Lynn Chandnois- 1952
-6'2 198. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1950-56

Who?

It's a fair question to ask. Ollie Matson is largely forgotten today, as is John Henry Johnson, but all had extensive careers of over a decade and gained enough statistical merit to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. Chandnois spent his career in Pittsburgh and because of the woeful period of offensive innovation, or lack thereof, had less opportunity than most to show off his talents. Then he suffered a series of injuries which cut said career short.

The time spent in Pittsburgh shouldn't be disregarded. Matson toiled for some bad teams in Chicago and Los Angeles, but they at least ran modern systems and only suffered for a lack of quantity in good players. Pittsburgh lacked that and had a most difficult time transistioning from the Single Wing to the T-Formation. In addition, their lone capable coach during that time was a man named Joe Bach, who from 1952 to 53 actually used the T to increasing success. Then he stepped down due to health reasons and longtime assistant Walt Kiesling stepped in. The rest is history.

Michigan State historians know Chandnois as one of the finest all-around players they ever knew. NFL Junkies only know him as the guy so effective at Kick Returns that only GAYLE FREAKING SAYERS was better than him. And in fact, that's exactly why he's here. In the 1950's he had no peer in terms of return production (Ollie Matson was more dangerous by virtue of his athleticism) which off-set the average production you saw on the offense. Though make no mistake, Lynn was no slouch when it came to running and receiving.

That said, you don't want to cover kickoffs when Chandnois and Matson are on the receiving end.

Backup Left End: Billy Wilson- 1957
-6'3 190. San Francisco 49ers, 1951-60

Wilson was actually a Right End- Gordie Soltau was on the left side. However, it looks more like the 49ers played a standard T Formation but with both wideouts split, or at the very least split Wilson out as much as they kept him tight inside. That makes a kind of versatility which offers not only a backup role to Raymond Berry, but also to Lenny Moore as a flanker.

Billy is perhaps considered the best wideout of his era NOT to be in the Hall of Fame. No less than famed Coach Bill Walsh had led a campaign to get recognition for the former wideout, but with no real success. Still, you can't easily discount his words when he says Billy was one of the best blocking receivers he ever saw. This on top of his extensive abilities catching the ball. Among the praise; he's noted for being especially effective going up for a ball in traffic, having hands like glue, an amazing ability to run after the catch, and all the intangibles of being an intense competitor and great teammate.

If I knew beyond a doubt he was a genuine 'Tight End' as far as blocking ability went, I'd have gone with him over Pihos.

Backup Right End: Jim Mutscheller- 1957
-6'1 205. Baltimore Colts, 1954-61

So how many Right Ends in the NFL at this time could play a genuine 'Tight End' role? Well, as near as I can tell there's Pihos- who we already covered- and several options from the Giants, including guys such as Bob Schnelker and Ken MacAfee. Then there's Mutscheller, who genuinely played as a Tight End whenever Lenny Moore was spread out as a Flanker, and was considered one of the best linesmen on the club. As a blocker, it is said, Mutscheller had few peers. That's more than enough to endear him to Lombardi's preference for Ends who block.

Granted, Mutscheller was never all that fast, but his hands were good and he wasn't afraid of the rough and tumble lifestyle that is the NFL Gridiron. As a third receiver to Berry and Moore, he still made his fair share of catches. Nowadays he'd probably be referred to as a 'safety valve' on offense, a guy who can move the chains if nothing else is available. Heck, even his Baltimore Career is a positive to making this squad, since he can be inserted in a pinch and give Unitas even more familiarity with his targets.

Backup Left Tackle: Lou "The Toe" Groza- 1953
-6'3 240. Cleveland Browns, 1946-59, 1961-67

If Groza refuses to take a backup role, I just don't know what I'll do. Actually, I'll grit my teeth and cut Roosevelt Brown. As a placekicker, there was NO ONE better than him during this time. And if he was the undisputed best Left Tackle in existence, then I absolutely would sleep well at nights, but alas Rosey Brown is the best out there, which leaves THIS quaint little issue to fester in my brain until it rots.

Backup Left Guard: Abe Gibron- 1955
-5'11 243. Buffalo Bills(AAFC), 1949/ Cleveland Browns, 1950-56/ Phialdelphia Eagles, 1956-57/ Chicago Bears, 1958-59

'Joy to the World...'

Those of you who watched Football Follies know EXACTLY what scene I'm talking about. And that's really the one and only thing you're likely to know Abe Gibron from, and that's only from his days as a largely unsuccessful Head Coach and utterly one-of-a-kind character. As a football player, Gibron may as well be buried in the Triassic layers of the ground. Anyways, we NEED a Left Guard because there's really nobody on this roster who could shift over to it in a pinch, and out of the meager offerings, Abe is the best we have.

Not to say he's a bum. During a time when Paul Brown used his guards as play messengers- remember, the Quarterback didn't call the plays in the Browns' offense- Gibron was thought TOO good to be used in such a way. His lack of height and ample mass look like giant warning signs, but Abe was shockingly fast for his size and his position, annually one of the three or four best guards in the league during his career. I can't imagine him being that mobile but not mobile enough to pull out on sweeps.

Backup Center: Ray Wietecha- 1958
-6'1 225. New York Giants, 1953-62

I just threw away two Hall of Famers in Jim Ringo and Frank Gatski. Packers fans know Ringo. Gatski was almost literally the ONLY Center on the roster for the Browns throughout his career in the 50's. Both have more impressive athletic ceilings than Ray, as well as significantly more championships.

In short, I picked Wietecha for the Lombardi connection, which Ringo doesn't have yet and Gatski never had. Wietecha is a reasonable facsimile to how Ringo played- undersized, with more emphasis on quickness, and superb line-calling throughout the game. He also, by virtue of being a 'lesser' player, does not distinctly threaten Chuck Bednarik for the starting spot at Center. He also drew raves for his perfect snaps on field goals and punts. And if you have to play him due to injury, you can do much worse than a guy with all those attributes and a total familiarity with the Lombardi-style offense.

Backup Right Guard: Stan Jones- 1956
-6'1 252. Chicago Bears, 1954-65/ Washington Redskins, 1966

As a starter, Jones wouldn't be out of place, even on this roster. Always a highly respected and dependable guard, adept at pulling as well as brute strength, Jones is actually good enough to be a starter over Dick Stanfel. But he ends up here, and so far nothing indicates he can't hack a backup role. All the better because while he was considered too short in length to take on pass rushers as a Right Tackle, he does have experience at the position- versatility which may come in handy. More importantly, he brings his own weight lifting program to the team, which given how his career turned out, as well as the careers of contemporaries who followed him (Duane Putnam being one) can only be a positive.

Backup Left Defensive End: Gene Brito- 1956
-6'1 226. Washington Redskins, 1951-53, 1955-58/ Los Angeles Rams, 1959-60

Outside of Marchetti, Brito is really the only Left Defensive End to gather significant accolades during his playing career. It's also worth noting that no one else on the roster has experience playing on that position in the line. Meanwhile, Brito was thought to be good enough at Defensive End to be one of four selected on a list of the 70 Greatest Redskins in 2002. And while his abilities may be somewhat vague, the all-pro selections justify how good he must've been.

It also doesn't hurt that he spent a couple of seasons early on playing as a receiver.

Backup Left Defensive Tackle: Leo Nomellini- 1954
-6'3 259. San Francisco 49ers, 1950-63

'Indestructible' was how Leo's contemporaries described him after he finally retired, and the description is quite apt. Fourteen seasons, never missed a game, played on the line and earned raves for his seemingly impossible strength and bull-rushing ability but also was a highly competent tackle on the offensive side. He was so valuable on either end that the coaches apparently had trouble deciding which side he'd be best for.

Probably a good thing they ultimately decided on defense. Nomellini provides the strength and size in replacement of Ernie Stautner, should the Stautner-Robustelli side be ultimately too small to hold up at the point of attack. And even with backups at both Offensive Tackle spots, Leo is an emergency replacement should something bad happen.

I'm not exactly describing his abilities here, but apparently he had the complete and total package. Which is a nice way of regurgitating all the strengths you want in a defensive tackle. About the most interesting thing about the man- aside from moonlighting as a wrestler- is that he only started playing football while in the marines- he worked through high school and never had the time to join up, or even show an interest.

Backup Defensive Lineman: Les Bingaman- 1953
-6'3 272?. Detroit Lions, 1948-54

Two things of note.

First, Bingaman is actually a Middle Guard- the exact center of the five-man defensive line. These days you call the center man in an odd-line a 'Nose Tackle'. The idea of shifting him to a Defensive Tackle position in a four-man line is completely untested, but it doesn't seem that difficult to accomplish. And if nothing else, you have a genuine options for when you want to switch to a five-man line, like in Goal Line situations.

Second, his weight is listed as 272, but apparently he had ballooned above 300 pounds by the tail-end of his career, though his short-range mobility didn't suffer from it. No idea yet if his weight cost him precious stamina on the gridiron, like it did for Rosey Grier, but I know he didn't have the baggage of 'Big Daddy' Lipscomb, which is why 'Bing' is the quote-unquote 'Designated Big Man' in the group.

Bingaman's retirement is the reason Detroit transistioned from a standard 5-2-4 to the 4-3-4 with Joe Schmidt taking on the newly created MLB role.

Backup Linebacker: Chuck Drazenovich- 1956
-6'1 225. Washington Redskins, 1950-59
Backup Linebacker: Bill Svoboda- 1956
-6'0 210. Chicago Cardinals, 1950-53/ New York Giants, 1954-58

Sadly, I couldn't get Hardy Brown on this roster. Certainly not with only two backup slots tabbed for Linebackers. If Hardy had much of anything beyond that beautiful 'Humper' move, it would be a slam dunk, but unfortunately Hardy was really a 'flier' type of Linebacker who wasn't big enough to plug holes, or fast enough to truly cover recievers. He just had the hitting ability in the open field- which would make him a Special Teams kamikaze if we had the roster space for it.

Drazenovich is apaprently yet another claim to the invention of the 4-3 MLB, the story being he was shifted to that spot in '55 from his traditional position of Middle Guard. The problem is all his accolades prior to and after that season have ALL been at linebacker. In fact, if you go by Pro Football Reference, he was all over the linebacking positions in his career, with not a mention of being a Middle Guard. This in fact makes his selection something of a risky venture, since he's being selected for his all-around variance behind the line- even early on serving as a part-time Fullback in short-yardage situations. He was also described in Bednarik-esque terms, actually known as a Heavyweight boxing champ in college. And this was back when Boxers were still brawlers.

Svoboda is here for more specialist reasons; he's the best that could be found whose prime was fully spent as a Left Linebacker. In addition, the first half of his career was spent in the secondary for the Cardinals, which lends some credibility to his coverage skills.

Backup Defensive Halfback: Jim "The Hatchet" David- 1956
-5'11 178. Detroit Lions, 1952-59

There are a small number of players from the secondary in the 50's who haven't achieved a berth in the Hall of Fame but deserve one. Talk to Lions historians, and they'll say Jim David is one of them. They'll also say he was one of the hardest-hitting players in the NFL at the time (I would guess top three for most devastating). But that's not to say David was a one-trick pony like Hardy Brown was. Much like Night Train Lane, David was also a highly competent cover corner who got his licks in primarily because the rules ALLOWED the secondary to dish out the punishment, unlike these days when the rulebook gives massive advantages to the passing game because it puts butts in the seats and glues eyes to the television screens.

David has more value here because he was primarily on the left side throughout his career; Night Train by contrast went to the left side after starting out on the right. This is notable, because if anything happens to either Lane or Jack Butler, David can slide right in on the left.

Backup Safety: Yale Lary- 1959
-5'11 185. Detroit Lions, 1952-53, 1956-64

I won't lie; the main reason Lary is here, above other contemporaries such as one-eyed Bobby Dillon (who wasn't blind but had a GLASS FREAKING EYE when he played) is his punting ability, which finally took off in '59, justifying him over Horace Gillom which would've weakened the receiving corps.

Not to sniff at his accomplishments as a vital part of 'Chris' Crew' in Detroit. He was by all accounts a great coverage safety who simply gets pushed aside by Christiansen and Tunnell in this lineup. Which is why his primary contribution, excluding injury, is as a punter. So far there's nothing which indicates he would've pitched a fit about his diminished role.

Tune in next time for the 1960's, where we give out NFL and AFL squads, and one particular twist.

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Old 05-08-2013, 08:49 PM    (permalink
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Wondering if there is any way Bobby Mitchell/Charley Taylor make it onto the 60's squad.
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Wondering if there is any way Bobby Mitchell/Charley Taylor make it onto the 60's squad.
Right now they have a puncher's chance. Because really, nobody is genuinely standing out amongst the wideouts right now.
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Right now they have a puncher's chance. Because really, nobody is genuinely standing out amongst the wideouts right now.
Reading Vince Lombardi on Football right now and if he is an indication of the time, the run game was the foundation of everything. With Hornung and Taylor in the backfield you can understand why.

Not sure there was anyone better at Split End than Taylor in the 60's, Del Shofner's career was clearly hit by injury once he hit his 30's, three great seasons followed by limited playing time.

As for Mitchell, as far as I can ascertain no Flanker had more yards and receptions than Bobby Mitchell in the 60's, add in his rushing ability should be interesting.

Also interested to see how you go at QB, Bart Starr was a born winner but not standout statistically. Look forward to it.
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You thought I was dead, DIDN'T YOU!?!

1960's All-Decade Team, NFL Squad:


Before we get started, I said there was going to be a twist. Said twist has to do with the NFL Squad. It also will make you feel that I've deliberately sabotaged the whole thought experiment with one too many restrictions.

There will be no Green Bay Packers in this roster.

No coaches, no players. Anyone who has spent a year with Green Bay in the 1960's is exempt from the pool of candidates.

The reason is that I've spent pretty much my entire 'comprehending' lifetime with a rather clear understanding of the Lombardi-era Packers and that by excluding them, I am forcing myself to open my eyes and see what the rest of the league had during this decade. In short, I'm combating my Homer-ness by pretty much practicing censorship. Rest assured, at the end of the roster I will add a little bit about which Packers would likely make this roster if I absolutely wanted to be fair.

Anyways, like always we start off with the Head Coach, and since good ol' Vince is not available, and he takes half of the NFL Titles from the decade with him, we're left with slim pickings by comparison. In any case, I've narrowed it down to three candidates.

Don Shula made his reputation first as a player for the Colts back in the 50's being the only defensive halfback to call plays for the defense (if I ever get around to submitting 'revisions' I am probably going to consider putting Shula in over Jim David just for that very reason). Most people know him for his highly extensive career as Head Coach for the Miami Dolphins, but here we're more concerned about his tenure with the Baltimore Colts. Shula won one NFL Championship in '68 and lost one in '64 (I say he won the NFL Championship in '68 because the NFL/AFL merger had not taken place yet), though had the misfortune of losing Super Bowl 3 to the underdog Jets as well as playing second-fiddle to a number of clubs in that time- not just the Packers either. It's also worth noting that Shula inherited a reasonably stable foundation in '63 after the firing of Weeb Ewbank. Nevertheless, Shula has been noted as a firm disciplinarian who guided a very professional outfit and if nothing else proved to be adaptable to what his roster could give him.

Blanton Collier stepped in as Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns in '63 after Paul Brown was quasi-fired over differences with owner Art Modell, but that's stuff we've already covered in the past couple of decades. Collier was an utter contrast to how Paul Brown operated the team, essentially low-key and well liked. He was also a great student of the game, which would make him an excellent assistant as a backup option. He had the distinction of winning the '64 Championship and having the good fortune to withstand the loss of Jim Brown after the '65 season thanks to Leroy Kelly. If Shula is a defensive specialist, then it stands to reason Collier is an offensive specialist.

Tom Landry doesn't need as much introduction as the rest. Inheriting an Expansion franchise in Dallas, he doesn't have the pedigree of the other candidates in the 60's simply because it took him half the decade to build the Cowboys into contenders, but when they were ready, they smashed their way to two separate title appearances in '66 and '67. You know the second one as the Ice Bowl, but both were played against the Packers. Landry was just as much of an innovator in this decade as in the last, re-designing his defense to defeat the revolutionized ground-gaining offense Lombardi came up with, then designed an offense that could BEAT said defense. Still, a somewhat unfair knock is that his Cowboy teams didn't have the spine to win the big games, having come up short twice then dropping a lousy Super Bowl in overtime in '70.

As if that weren't enough, all three coaches were part of an era which typically had them running both sides of the team, with assistants still working on individual positions. Only Collier had a genuine assistant in Defensive Coordinator Howard Brinker. Landry and Shula had an array of assistants but ran the playcalling with a comparative iron fist.

Head Coach: Don Shula- 1968

The idea of 'adaptability' wins out over strategy. Whether it is a viable thing at this early stage of Shula's career is open to debate; it's certainly not as extensive as separate periods of offensive virility book-ended by the Run-em-down-their-throats backfield of Csonka, Morris, and Kiick in the early to mid 70's and the Dan Marino blitzkriegs from the 80's onward. However, there is ample evidence that Shula learned to adapt on the go whenever his veteran Colts teams were beset by injuries- most famously relying on running back Tom Matte in emergencies and making it to Super Bowl III with a backup Quarterback under center.

What does adaptability mean on an All-Time Team? In terms of Football, it means that whatever strengths the available player pool gives, the coach can mold a strategy to better work with what he's given. A comparatively stubborn coach married to his own strategy is more apt to ram a square peg through a round hole, and will often have his legacy defined by the precious few years of his career where the stars align and his strategy catches fire against the league and he becomes idolized by the media (think Mike D'Anatoni for the most recent example).

As for Landry, the lack of fortitude is probably a lie, but it stands to reason he's more married to his strategy than he is to working with what he's given.

Offensive Coordinator: Blanton Collier- 1964

The addition of Collier is much less likely to ruffle feathers, simply because not only did Shula initially work under Collier back in Kentucky before jumping up to NFL Coaching, Collier was also one of the few coaches Shula essentially admired. This at least provides a cooperative foundation upon which a partnership can be established. It's also beneficial in that Collier's reputation as a well-liked coach and as a student of the game makes him an ideal contrast with the firmer and more disciplined Shula.

Collier also has extensive experience running an offense more geared to the running game, an admittedly lacking part of Shula's teams during this time.

Offensive Assistant: Ermal Allen- 1967 (Backfield)
Offensive Assistant: Don McCafferty- 1964 (Receivers)
Offensive Assistant: John Sandusky- 1968 (Offensive Line)

Pretty straightforward, two-thirds of this trio worked with Shula. It tends to make sense; unless you have a competitor in a coaching position who is completely and totally better, your selected Head Coach will probably be more comfortable with the staff he has worked with in his career. Now that assistants are much more prolific and easier to find, that principle carries genuine weight.

Ermal Allen is the lone offensive assistant not to come from the Colts organization- he had been a part of the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry, and apparently was so intelligent at his job that he became the Research and Development coordinator from the 70's onward- which basically gave him responsibility for scouting opposing teams. As for his work, the overall production of the Dallas RBs wouldn't hint at his brilliance, until you realize that Allen essentially had to keep up with the 'Multiple Offense' versatility Landry designed and employed. It mainly gives the backs a level of responsibility not unlike that of Paul Brown's system, complicated by the fact there isn't a full-time Fullback shouldering the rushing/pass blocking burden the way Marion Motley played it. In short, Allen had to teach up a versatile aspect of the offense and for the most part did very well with what he had to work with.

Don McCafferty has a small footnote in history- he's the last 'rookie' Head Coach to win a championship. In this case, Super Bowl V, an otherwise dreary affair. Otherwise he's almost totally forgotten. However, he's much like Collier in that his easygoing personality made him a much-needed contrast to Shula. He worked with the likes of an established Raymond Berry and newcomers in Jimmy Orr, John Mackey, and Willie Richardson. Don was also considered bright, though he never went out of his way to mention it. Small wonder he was named "Easy Rider" during his lifetime.

John Sandusky is NOT related to Jerry Sandusky. I shouldn't even have to mention it, but there you go. Much like the prior two assistants, Sandusky was an exceptional teacher. This is even more important than you think, because Sandusky ended up being so important to Shula that he followed him to Miami in the 70's and stayed around for almost the entire remainder of Shula's career. And it wasn't just a case of 'Good Ol' Boy' syndrome- he molded an offensive line in the 80's made out of mostly unremarkable prospects (Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson were the lone exceptions) and turned them into an elite pass protection unit, surrendering the least amount of sacks for nine straight years. Small wonder Dan Marino cracked 5000 yards and nearly 50 Touchdowns in '84. But really, Sandusky's real strength was that he made good use of an individual player's talents, designing protection schemes which didn't make the linemen do anything they really couldn't do.

Defensive Assistant: Bill Arnsparger- 1968 (Defensive Line)
Defensive Assistant: Jerry Tubbs- 1967 (Linebackers)
Defensive Assistant: Chuck Noll- 1968 (Defensive Backfield) (Special Exemption)

Arnsparger is unfairly forgotten as a coach, a likely fate for anyone who didn't have a substantial career as a Head Coach when they got the chance, if they got the chance at all. In Bill's case, he was unfortunately at the helm for the Giants in the mid 70's, when they were deep into a proverbial tailspin which wouldn't crash to the ground until the infamous 'Miracle at the Meadowlands' in the late 70's. So he gets chalked up as a great assistant, but a lousy Head Coach. Then again, given his track record it's not a bad thing.

The 'No-Name' and 'Killer B' defenses of Miami Dolphins fame were all attributed to Arnsparger. Both of which had the distinction of being unremarkable units with no discernable names among them (Nick Buoniconti is virtually the ONLY member of either unit enshrined in the Hall of Fame). They also had the distinction of having playstyles adapted to their level of talent and ability, very much like how Sandusky ran the offensive line. It's really a no-brainer.

Tubbs, like Ermal Allen, is an alumni of the Cowboys. Unlike Allen, Tubbs spent the first half of the 1960's as the first true Middle Linebacker for the Cowboys until he eventually became a player-coach, then finally just a coach. Both evolutions of his responsibilities said much about his ability to teach his position, even more so because he was a Linebacker for the Landry system of defense. Granted, it's not the same overall system, but Tubbs is still capable- and so far the only Linebacker coach that can be seen.

Chuck Noll is easily the most recognizable name, as Steelers fans will no doubt attest. The truth is, he spent more years in the AFL than in the NFL for this decade, and as such should be a part of the AFL pool. However, I'm playing an Exemption on this one, simply because there is no real Defensive Backfield coach that I can find in the NFL side. The closest is Ed Hughes, who was part of the Washington staff- and his most infamous moment is convincing his head coach to get rid of eventual Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause. Bad mojo right there. So Noll ends up switching over to the NFL. Also, Chuck seems to have been the 'Defensive Coordinator' for the Colts during his time there.

With our coaching staff decided, it's time to move on to the starting lineup. At Quarterback, we revisit our old Player A/Player B conundrum.

To recap, Player A is typically defined as a 'Champion' with multiple titles under his belt. Player B lacks the titles, or at the very least lacks as many as Player A, but is regarded in a lot of circles as the superior player. Those in Player B's camp believe talent should win out in a sport such as football where specialization and a large amount of contributing players seem to diminish one's individual importance. Those in Player A's camp feel the opposite; a proven winner brings a winning mentality to the hypothetical ballclub, and such an importance is even more apparent in a standard leadership position such as Quarterback. The representative in Player A's camp is 1950's incumbent Johnny Unitas. The representative in Player B's camp is Sonny Jurgensen.

Given everything we said about Unitas in the previous decade, one would think the decision is a slam dunk. But we're discussing it in detail because there is admittedly a good difference between the Unitas of the late 50's, and the Unitas of the 60's. Namely, age. You simply do not see as much of a statistical impact as you saw in the championship seasons of '58 and '59. Even his best year- 1964- comes with the suspicion that he played more like a caretaker given the surprisingly low amount of touchdowns AND interceptions. In short, as intelligent and talented as Unitas is, the diminished performance overall leaves him on shaky ground.

Meanwhile, Jurgensen has a textbook career as a 'Player B' candidate. Statistics are through the roof, having logged multiple 3000+ yard seasons during the decade, while shattering the passes attempted by about 100 or more throws. Meanwhile only a 61' Eagles team still relatively intact after their championship in the year before and a 69' Redskins team revitalized by the arrival of Vince Lombardi had enjoyed team-wide success with Jurgensen at the helm. More to the point, his teams typically lacked an effective ground game, especially in Washington. This goes a long way to explain why several seasons have passing numbers that belong in today's modern game rather than the 1960's. Beyond the stat sheet, descriptions of Jurgensen's game typically begin and end with the proclamation that he was the best pure passer of his era. He didn't scramble, holding tight in the pocket, often until the last minute, before he threw lasers to the likes of Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell, and Jerry Smith. Given what he lacked, you can understand why his supporters would say he gives this all-time team a chance to win, provided he has an excellent ground game, pass protection, and a strong defense on the other side to support him.

Hence...

Starting Quarterback: Johnny Unitas- 1964
-6'1 194. Baltimore Colts, 1956-72/ San Diego Chargers, 1973

In a Sports Illustrated article about Vince Lombardi's arrival in Washington in '69, a good chunk was devoted to Sonny and how Vince's arrival led to a renaissance of sorts. He talked endlessly about how Lombardi's approach really really got him psyched up and ready to win, how Lombardi's drive made a totally positive impact on Sonny up to that point. He lamented that he wished he could've collided with Lombardi sometime in the earlier part of his career and not after so much as happened. It's not unlike Paul Hornung, only without the additional residual damage.

And really, residual damage is the key reason we go with the Incumbent over the Golden Arm. Jurgensen spent too many years toiling for mediocre ballclubs with inefficient coaches and maybe lackluster supporting casts and a desperation to bomb because he wasn't getting anything else to help him. You can work with an individual player in other positions under those conditions. Not at Quarterback. By the time he joined up with Lombardi, Sonny was practically on the wrong side of 35, with a solid decade of proverbial gunk to work through.

Unitas by contrast initially suffered from the lack of a supporting ground game- brought about because of the untimely cutting of Alan Ameche in '60. A backfield tandem finally came together in '64, which led to Johnny's best season in a long while. And when he was healthy he could still get the ball downfield.

Onto the backfield, which has a genuinely unique problem. How many runners in the previous decades have there been who were genuinely World-Class? Red Grange had the potential. Beattie Feathers could've been had he not gotten injured. Cliff Battles could've been had it not been for George Preston Marshall. Steve Van Buren probably was. George McAfee was devastating but used less than he ought to have been. Joe Perry and Marion Motley were arguably better than Van Buren. Frank Gifford and Lenny Moore were vital cogs in their offenses, but nothing approaching World Class. This decade there are two. At Fullback, the incomparable Jim Brown. At Halfback, the Comet-Streaking Gale Sayers.

One thing stops a Brown-Sayers backfield that beats defenses with the intensity of a back alley murder. Who's blocking?

Sounds stupid right? Who cares about blocking when you have two devastating runners at the same time? Well crap, both had lead blockers on their teams. Brown's capacity as a blocker was probably serviceable at best, only he was rarely ever utilized in such a manner. The one time where he arguably showed genuine improvement was in '64, and THAT was after former QB Otto Graham barbed him about his overall commitment. Sayers by comparison was a more willing blocker, but never a great one. And sad to say, but Shula won't bend his strategy THAT far to deprive either of them of a lead blocker but also a pass protector for Johnny Unitas. So one has to take a back seat or go.

Starting Halfback: Jim Brown- 1963
-6'2 232. Cleveland Browns, 1957-65

The breakdown went like this; Sayers has so much more value as a returner that it's worthwhile to keep him as a change-of-pace Halfback and have Brown as the workhorse. I really don't need to list Brown's credentials as a runner, since most agree that he was athletically ahead of his time. Punishing and elusive, Brown's contributions also extended to the receiving game, where he was utilized much like a safety outlet if not an actual focal point in the play.

Starting Fullback: John Henry Johnson- 1962
-6'2 210. San Francisco 49ers, 1954-56/ Detroit Lions, 1957-59/ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1960-65/ Houston Oilers(AFL), 1966

Every workhorse at running back needs a lead blocker to hammer that first linebacker in the gap and turn him loose, and even at an advanced age, there was no one better at the job than Johnson. Maybe his lead blocking wasn't emphasized as much in Pittsburgh because he was the main ground gainer in this time there. But his pass protection was still so effective that it drew rave reviews from the likes of Bobby Layne, and really- how hard is it to remember how to lead block?

The backfield tandem of Brown and Johnson is unprecedented in its size and power, a jumbo backfield capable of piledriving defenses into the dirt, then putting on the slick moves to finish them off. I know of two examples from other times. One was the Elephant Backfield employed by the Rams in the 1950's. The other was a John Brockington- MacArthur Lane duo in Green Bay that tore into defenses for a few brief years. Both were especially effective with the introduction of big fullback types on the 'weakside' who could run like halfbacks. No mercy.

Going to the receivers, if you looked up stats in the 1960's, or at least the 1960's on Pro Football Reference, you noticed two things. First, the Tight End position is finally legitimized. And second, the remaining receiver positions were broken down into two groups; Split Ends and Flankers.

For the curious, the main difference between the two is only how they lined up. Football rules dictate seven offensive players on the line of scrimmage. No more, no less. That leaves five offensive linemen, and most likely your tight end. So if you have one more line spot to use and two wide receivers to work with, it will be the Split End who lines up on the line. The flanker will be dropped back however many yards you have to be dropped back to not draw a penalty for too many men on the line. Doesn't matter which side of the field either is on, though conventional wisdom will have the flanker on the same side as the tight end, and the split end on the opposite. But you can switch them around or even put them both on the same side, depending on how your playbook is arranged.

Conventional modern wisdom says the flanker is usually the primary threat from the air, by virtue of having a cushion of several yards from which to escape jams from their marking defenders. In the 60's however, the majority of the stats and accolades went to Split Ends more often than not. As an example, four receivers from the 60's made the Hall of Fame listed as Split Ends in PFR; Charley Taylor, Paul Warfield, Bob Hayes, and Raymond Berry. Meanwhile, only two flankers made it; Tommy McDonald and Bobby Mitchell.

That makes you wonder; can Split Ends play as Flankers and vice versa?

In short, yes. This makes the process less complicated, as players will be left out more from talent than by a bottleneck in his position. As an example of why the position distinctions only matter on the pre-snap formation, I turn back to Green Bay of the 60's. At the end of their reign their main wide receivers were Carrol Dale and Boyd Dowler. Dowler was near 6'5 at the time and if you believe conventional wisdom, the Split Ends typically are the biggest and strongest. Dale by comparison was more average in height. Yet, Dowler is listed as the Flanker.

Starting 'Split End': Paul Warfield- 1968
-6'0 188. Cleveland Browns, 1964-69, 1976-77/ Miami Dolphins, 1970-75

Warfield re-defined the term 'Home-Run Hitter'. He made his living for pretty much his entire career with run-first offenses, from Jim Brown to Leroy Kelly to Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. This in turn gives him less receptions than some of his fellow compatriots like Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell, or "Bullet Bob" Hayes. Yet few, if any of them, can touch his production after the catch. The many years spent averaging around twenty yards per catch? Not an aberration, or a trick of offensive strategy.

Already gifted with great speed, it was his smooth footwork and attention to detail greatly refined during his time with Cleveland which gave him an uncanny ability to trick defenders in the blink of an eye and get in position to catch a long bomb. In addition, he was also considered one of the more devastating blocking receivers of his time- enough so that a particular block he employed, the 'crackback', was outlawed.

Shula would love him because of his preparation and willingness to do the little things. Unitas would love him because of those same qualities, and his partner at the other receiver spot will love him because the inevitable attention devoted to Warfield will open things up for him.

Starting 'Flanker': Charley Taylor- 1966
-6'3 210. Washington Redskins, 1964-77

Taylor played as a Split End during his time in Washington, while the smaller and potentially more explosive Bobby Mitchell played Flanker. Interestingly, it's one of the few times an NFL team in the 60's adhered to the 'modern' convention of which receivers go where. Does it genuinely matter? As a matter of fact, it doesn't. While it looks like Warfield would be a better fit at Flanker with that same explosiveness and smooth footwork, the additional cushion also gives defenders extra room to play passive on him and maybe limit his potential. At the same time, playing Taylor- an all-around talent in his own right- at Flanker gives him the room to make his own moves, and the attention on Warfield will give him better matchups to work against. As far as the dirty work is concerned, Taylor was perfectly willing to block and go inside for the ball, so there are no deficiencies in the passing game here.

Starting Tight End: John Mackey- 1966
-6'2 224. Baltimore Colts, 1963-71/ San Diego Chargers, 1972

Here's a nice thing about the introduction to the Tight End position. You already come in with two world-class talents and an array of quality players behind them. And as far as most are concerned, John Mackey and Mike Ditka are downright equals. Mackey even looked up to Ditka, studying what he did and learning how to play the position. Great receivers, quality blockers, tough sum[BLEEP]s who bulldozed hapless defenders in the open field... they had everything.

The reason Mackey is chosen over Ditka is simple; Mackey did everything Ditka did, but with a greater potential behind it.

'Seam Ripper', that really describes it. Ditka was a threat downfield, but Mackey was really the first Tight End who could run down the 'seam' in the defense and just TEAR it in half with his mobility. That's a whole new dimension in your attack. Add that to Warfield and Taylor and Unitas and Jim Brown and who knows what else. It's hard to find much better than that.

Starting Left Tackle: Roosevelt Brown- 1960
-6'3 255. New York Giants, 1953-65

At Left Tackle there were three definite candidates for the starting job. Brown was the incumbent from the 50's Squad. Dick Schafrath was a mainstay in the 60's for the Cleveland Browns. Bob Vogel was a master technician for the Baltimore Colts, think a smaller version of Forrest Gregg.

The reason I went with Rosey Brown again was mainly, there's nothing that hints he lost his mobility or effectiveness in the 1960's. In fact, it was a chronic phebitis problem, potentially brought about from the after effects of a knee operation after the '61 season, which finally did in his career. But really, I just love that level of mobility on top of his other strengths. It simply makes him unique among the rest.

Starting Left Guard: Jim Parker- 1964
-6'3 273. Baltimore Colts, 1957-67

Here's a good anectdote about Parker's versatility. In 1962, after five high quality seasons at Left Tackle shutting down the most dangerous pass rushers of that time, Parker moved inside to Left Guard- he did it as a favor to new acquisition Bob Vogel, who was also a Left Tackle by trade. And the quality performances did not stop, even though Tackle and Guard were surprisingly different positions with different responsibilities overall. Well, except for protecting Johnny Unitas, that still was top priority. And it stands to reason that when you're known as Unitas' bodyguard, you're easily the best linesman on the team.

Parker came in from Ohio State, which at the time was run-heavy, so he had to learn pass protection virtually on the fly. As a Guard he had to learn how to pull out on sweeps, bulldoze holes for the inside running game, and STILL thrive in pass protection. The fact he made 1st Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors for each and every year he played at Guard says a lot about his talent and intangibles.

Starting Center: Mick Tingelhoff- 1969
-6'2 237. Minnesota Vikings, 1962-78

A few interesting bits about Tingelhoff. First, he played in 240 straight games. Only reason you don't hear about it is because his teammate was Jim Marshall, who had over 280. Second, he's considered one of the greatest Hall of Fame snubs. Only two centers from the 1960's made the hall; Jim Ringo and Jim Otto. Maybe if his name was Jim Tingelo or some crap like that he'd get some love. It probably comes down to the lack of championships which dims the lights a little bit. A winning club can get roleplayers into the Hall, but only the truly elite of the losing clubs sniff it. Fran Tarkenton was the first really great scrambler, and Alan Page and Paul Krause were the greatest defenders on their teams. Anybody else gets overlooked. Much like Mick.

As for his credentials, he was an Iron Man and a Leader, a great blocker with the quickness you want from a center who is either supposed to freelance in pass protection or seal a linebacker to open a hole inside. His All-Pro accolades dwarf everybody else at the position by a comfortable margin.

Starting Right Guard: Gene Hickerson- 1964
-6'3 248. Cleveland Browns, 1957-60, 1962-73

During the 1960's, Hickerson was likely the most athletically talented of all the Offensive Linemen in a twenty-five year span. Whether or not he was the most technically proficient is up to debate (Lou Rymkus is considered the best in that department during the Paul Brown era) but the fact of the matter was Hickerson could give you just about everything you wanted from a Guard. The strength to run block, the speed to pull on sweeps, and quality pass protection. He was considered the primary lead blocker for the likes of Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, and Bobby Mitchell. Depressingly enough, it took over thirty years to put him in the Hall of Fame, which shows you how underappreciated most linemen are.

Starting Right Tackle: Bob Brown- 1969
-6'4 280. Philadelphia Eagles, 1964-68/ Los Angeles Rams, 1969-70/ Oakland Raiders, 1971-73

Funny thing about the Tackle positions in the 1960's. They almost seemed to be flip-flopped in importance. Left Tackles tended to play in more obscurity even though they often protected the blind side of their quarterbacks, while Right Tackles seemed to garner more fame after the fact. Perhaps it was because the right side was traditionally the strong side and therefore the favored side of the running game. Either way, you want a quality juggernaut at this position, and Bob Brown was the quintessential example of it.

Brown was described as having a Defensive Lineman's mentality. By that, he hit first in engagements at the line of scrimmage. It was a means of wearing down the rusher he was supposed to block until he gave in. His game lacked any subtle flavor, as nicknames like 'Boomer' and 'Sledgehammer' would attest, so it's really a surprise that he was actually considered a good enough pass protector that the Raiders had no problem keeping him at Right Tackle early on in Ken Stabler's career- the punchline being Stabler was a southpaw.

In terms of raw physical talent, Brown was head and shoulders above the vast majority of his contemporaries on the line, many of whom ranged from twenty to thirty pounds lighter, if not even more so. His mobility did not suffer from the added bulk, which helped bolster his ability to pass block, but gives you the idea that he didn't just stand in place and pop the rusher once he got close enough. He exploded at the rusher immediately after the ball was snapped. On pass plays this probably wasn't the same; he most likely backpedaled enough to avoid getting penalized as an ineligible receiver, THEN popping him.

Mentally, Brown might've been a bit of an enigma and a moody one at that, but his mental preparation and toughness were not flaky by any means. (Interesting note, Dick Stanfel was his line coach during his time in Philadelphia and encouraged that aggressive mentality. I'm fairly certain John Sandusky won't tinker with that, since he worked to individual strengths rather than try to mold players into a specific shape).

The Defensive formation isn't anything fancy. Standard 4-3 Defense, though not the advanced Tom Landry model, sad to say. However, it does come with a bit of a Zone Coverage scheme in the secondary, which allows better protection against fleet-footed vertical threats (The Colts actually executed this aspect of their defense well against the Jets in Super Bowl III).

Starting Left Defensive End: David "Deacon" Jones- 1967
-6'5 272. Los Angeles Rams, 1961-71/ San Diego Chargers, 1972-73/ Washington Redskins, 1974

Try this. First, get a football helmet. Put it on. Then find the strongest, burliest man (or woman if there are no burly men nearby) and have them swat your helmet- with your head in it- as hard as they possibly can.

Rings your bell, doesn't it? That's called the Head Slap, an eventually outlawed move for defensive linemen, and one liberally employed by Deacon. And he used it to make his blocker blink and lose track of him.

Without question, Deacon is the greatest pass rusher of his era. He also says he's the greatest pass rusher of any era, and unofficially holds the single season sack record with 26 sacks in '67. (Unofficially, because sacks weren't counted until 1982). I'll take his word for it out of a desperate sense of survival.

Putting all the boasting aside- and boy could he boast- Deacon showed off elite athleticism to go with his willingness to cause PAIN. In fact, it was his fantastic speed- about 4.5 in the 40 if you can believe it- which made him frightening to handle as a pass rusher. Not only that, but he revived an old ability that linemen used to have several decades before of being able to go sideline to sideline and make plays. Last time you saw that was probably the 1940's at the latest. As for his intensity, here's one of his lesser quotes;

"I'd made up my mind that I wasn't taking any prisoners and the wounded would be shot."

Starting Left Defensive Tackle: Merlin Olsen- 1967
-6'5 270. Los Angeles Rams, 1962-76

As part of the "Fearsome Foursome", Olsen was the overseer (Deacon was the Battle-Axe). He had the overall responsibility for the entire defensive line, essentially an extension of the line coach. As a stabilizer, he permitted the rest of the line to make plays and wreak havoc. As if that wasn't great enough, by '67 he and Deacon were so much on the same page their partnership was nigh impossible to contain and counter.

As far as talents go, I'll refer you to Jerry Kramer, commenting before the playoff battle between the Rams and the Packers in '67. Keep in mind I'm paraphrasing;

"[Olsen is] very big, very strong, has great speed, great agility, is a very smart ballplayer, gives at least 110 percent on every play, and those are his WEAK points."

Starting Right Defensive Tackle: Bob Lilly- 1967
-6'5 260. Dallas Cowboys, 1961-74

If Olsen is the stabilizer in the interior of the line, then Lilly is the spearhead.

Lilly was the focal point for the Dallas defensive line during the "Doomsday Defense" era- no small feat considering the multi-dimensional focus any Tom Landry defense required. As part of the Flex, Lilly had to play certain gaps at certain times in reaction to what the offense went with, then quickly diagnose the plays and react while preserving the integrity of the overall formation. And he often did this while double and triple-teamed. His agility and instincts were more than enough for that Herculean challenge, and in the process enabled a defensive evolution in terms of strategy and gameplanning.

Does playing in a Flex Defense penalize Lilly if moved to a more conventional one? Honestly no, mostly because his ability to read and react won't get butchered in the translation, and more importantly, the coaching trifecta of Shula, Chuck Noll, and Bill Arnsparger are NOT likely to leave that vital kind of experience on the cutting room floor. Not when Lilly offers such a devastating inside presence.

Starting Right Defensive End: Doug Atkins- 1963
-6'8 257. Cleveland Browns, 1953-54/ Chicago Bears, 1955-66/ New Orleans Saints, 1967-69

Atkins didn't make the 50's roster mainly because Andy Robustelli was a Giant and therefore a vital hub in spreading out the Landry Defense, that and I didn't know how he'd take to being a bench player. And with a somewhat diminished field on the right edge this time around, it's time to rectify that oversight.

Atkins had a blend of size, strength, and speed which made him in his time one of the most feared pass rushers, and this was when he was 'easy going' in his approach to the game. Not that he wasn't dedicated, he just wasn't aggressively angry. He didn't get that heated unless you held him or did something dirty to him... and that's when he'd butcher you all game long. Here's a story to support that. During a game between the Bears and the Rams, a rookie Guard held Atkins on a play, and a veteran tackle told the guard to go and APOLOGIZE for the hold, because it was the tackle who would have to take the brunt of Doug's anger for the rest of the game.

Age didn't even slow Atkins down. He was 33 during the Bears championship in '63 and by all accounts anchored the defense with one of his finest seasons. When he was traded to the expansion New Orleans Saints in '67, he gave the franchise instant credibility by giving them three sterling seasons despite playing on the left side and on the wrong side of 35.

If there are any flaws with Atkins, they are nit-picks with the potential to be made into something bigger depending on the ego of the offended. First, he seemed to take it a bit easier in practices, supposedly. And second, he was quite opinionated, something that greatly rankled Papa Bear George Halas. One wonders if Shula can take it better than Halas could. Surely he couldn't be more opinionated than Deacon Jones, right?

Starting Left Linebacker: Chuck Howley- 1968
-6'3 228. Chicago Bears, 1958-59/ Dallas Cowboys, 1961-73

Howley was voted MVP of the debacle that was Super Bowl V. It wasn't just a Linebacker winning the award, it was a linebacker for the LOSING team that won it. That's how much of a debacle that Super Bowl was. Not that Chuck was sneaking a plastered 'Miss Destiny' out of a bar brawl or anything like that. The truth of the matter is he was one of a handful of defensive players who could have earned such an award by their own skill. No less a figure than Tom Landry called him the greatest linebacker he ever had. And he's NOT the Hall of Famer in this position pool! (That honor goes to Dave Wilcox, who was a high quality linebacker for the 49ers and known as 'The Intimidator' for his jamming style)

Howley was an exceptionally mobile linebacker who specialized in coverage- he was fast enough to have been a running back. He was also one of those 'big moment' players who could take a gamble to generate points from it. Like fellow alumni Bob Lilly, that ability to make freelancing pay off permitted some leeway in the disciplined Flex Defense. On this team you can presume Howley will get more freedom to work with, but like anyone else who lived their careers in the Flex, expect him to respect his assignments more often than not. It provides a stable presence on that side of the defense, at least.

Starting Middle Linebacker: Dick Butkus- 1968
-6'3 245. Chicago Bears, 1965-73

Search the internet and you'll inevitably find a certain picture of Dick Butkus... one that looks like he's in the process of charging through the camera to throttle you. It's probably the same look many a ballcarrier has seen when trying to plow through a hole in the line, and if my ability with HTML was worth a darn, I'd have led this part off by making you imagine you were a running back about to make a game winning touchdown run, only you face that same Butkus in that picture... then I'd make a quip about you cleaning your pants. Alas.

I think the common casual perception of a Chicago Bear linebacker- according to non-Bears fans anyway- is that of a slow-footed testosterone-laced madman frothing at the mouth and screaming like a banshee and tearing helmets off with the heads still in them if he ever gets his mitts on you. Basically, all animal, no brain, no sophistication. And usually, the linebacker they have in mind, if they know anything about the old days, is that of Butkus.

So it's actually rather surprising to find out that not only did Butkus possess sideline-to-sideline speed that enabled him to run down ballcarriers and cover recievers in his area of influence, he also could learn a defensive system. According to a 'Bears in the Hall of Fame' article on Butkus, Chicago at the time of his drafting possessed one of the most complicated defensive alignments in pro football. One wonders just how complicated it could be, because truth be told, the Bears were mediocre-to-bad enough in the late 60's for any truly disparaging articles to come out about such a complicated system. But at any rate, Butkus seemed to have learned whatever he had to be taught once he turned pro, if the accolades are anything to go by.

Now here's a puzzle to consider. Most would consider the MLB to be the brainstem of any 1960's defense. Usually, a team's defense is only as good as the man in the middle, though some exceptions come to mind. So how do you properly rate an MLB whose teams were usually on the deep losing end, yet gains all sorts of individual praise for his play? Do you call his leadership into question, or is his supporting cast simply too low for him to carry?

Here's the answer; except for Quarterback, who has the ball in his hands and decides what to do with it, leaders in other positions can only do so much to help the team. A linebacker for instance can't be expected to plug the holes at the line of scrimmage, blitz the quarterback, cover the flats, and shut down the hottest receivers all at the same exact time. He can do one of those things at a time, just maybe two or three depending on how the play is designed, but all the rest depends on the other ten players alongside him.

So when a man like Dick Butkus comes along, who was a ferocious tackler with great range and quality intelligence, who was widely considered to be a great leader of his unit, who generated turnovers largely by having a unique ability to just rip the ball out of the carriers hands, and was voted by a panel of NFL Coaches in 1970 to be the one player they would want the most to build a new team around... well, you can turn a blind eye to his team's performance overall.

Starting Right Linebacker: Maxie Baughan- 1967
-6'1 227. Philadelphia Eagles, 1960-65/ Los Angeles Rams, 1966-70/ Washington Redskins, 1974

When it comes to defensive playcallers, they are almost always found at the linebacker position, even in this era where linebackers were often perceived as thugs and brutes. But they are not always found at Middle Linebacker, amazingly. While Dick Butkus called plays for the Bears defense in his prime, his aggressive style of play and exceptional range make him more of a designated freelancer provided you have a superior playcaller either in your lineup or on the sidelines. And without Tom Landry as a coach or coordinator, you're better off finding someone in the starting lineup who can take those reigns. And amazingly enough, two of the best happen to play Right Linebacker. The first is Maxie here. The second is Chris Hanburger. The reason I went with Maxie however, is because I'm not convinced Hanburger was at his peak as a playcaller during the 60's- his biggest claims to fame mostly took place in the next decade.

Maxie also serves as a vital lesson of 'Situations Matter'. Maxie is considered one of the stronger Hall of Fame snubs, and the contention is raised that Maxie would've made it had he remained a Philadelphia Eagle his whole career. It's probable; other Hall of Famers made it by sticking to one team even though said team was never consistently good (Dave Wilcox comes to mind). However, Maxie would've had a significantly lesser career in production and reputation had he stuck in Philadelphia.

Consider. In 1965, Maxie headlined on defense for the Eagles, whose head coach was Joe Kuharich. Kuharich's career is basically that of a mediocre coach who committed the ultimate cardinal sin; he thought he was smarter than he was, and controlled his team as such. Essentially, he had the reigns and all the control, only he never fully found a way to harness the talents of those around him. After trading several players, including Maxie, Kuharich would only last three more years, with a surprising 9-5 season in '66 giving way to rock bottom in '68 by going 2-12 and thus Kuharich was out of the league.

The Rams, by contrast, had just acquired a hot coaching sensation in George Allen, who not only made his bones on defense, but had already proven his merit with Chicago's 63 championship. Just by being introduced to Allen and breaking down game film with him, Maxie developed immeasurably as not only a linebacker but also as a playcaller. Small wonder his merits took off almost as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles. And that bond with Allen took him back to the NFL after a four year absence in '74, where he served as a player-coach. He played very little, but apparently ran Special Teams (somebody in a Philadelphia Eagles forum said they had a vivid memory of Maxie in full pads and gear holding a clipboard and going over kickoff/punt coverages with the players on those units- dontcha wish players did that now?)

But anyway, Maxie is the defensive playcaller for the unit and should have no trouble figuring out a way to utilize the likes of Butkus.

Going to the Secondary, here's an intriguing wrinkle; the Colts in the late 60's utilized Zone Coverage as opposed to Man Coverage. At the time, NFL Defenses were heavily reliant upon Man Coverage, which was traditional. However, Zone Coverage had become prevalent in the upstart AFL, perhaps due to a general lack of overall talent and wide-open style of play. Anyway, the surprising bit was that the Zone found success in the 'superior' NFL despite having the talent to expose such a compensating and bendable system. In truth, Zone Coverage was the way of the future, once passing games caught up in sophistication and eventual rule changes and started to brutally expose Man Coverage.

This is speculative, but the reason the Colts went to a Zone had to have been because of their Defensive Coordinator, Chuck Noll. Noll you remember as the famous Steelers coach. Before his time in Baltimore, Noll was in fact in the AFL for the Chargers, which is probably where he learned the system and thus implemented it once he wound up in Baltimore.

Now, the Zone system doesn't have all that much of an impact when looking at Safeties, but the clearly different forms of man marking make a conerback's job almost alien when compared to before. This makes the wide field of cornerbacks on the left side a difficult field to analyze and 'translate'.

It shouldn't even be hard to begin with, because one of the better cornerbacks of the era manned the left side for Baltimore, Bobby Boyd. Boyd was renowned as a ballhawk with a great sense for play diagnosis, perfect for a Zone Cornerback. However, it comes with a drawback. Boyd wasn't the most athletically gifted player in his field, and he could actually be beaten by the sort of speedy fliers he'd be expected to handle. It actually happened once in Super Bowl III. The guy he had responsibility for was Don Maynard, who was injured but Baltimore didn't know it. Still, even as a decoy, Maynard was able to break away from Boyd for one crucial play early on, and though he failed to catch the long bomb, it forced Baltimore to adjust their coverage, exposing their OTHER cornerback to single coverage against the other Jets receiver. That's actually very alarming, since if that could happen against an AFL team, it probably happened in the NFL against comparably speedy receivers too.

That leaves the other candidates.

Jimmy Johnson (NOT the Dallas coach) was highly regarded as a shutdown receiver, someone who opposing quarterbacks rarely threw against. Nmadi Asomuga during his Oakland tenure is a good comparison. However, that reputation didn't start paying dividends until the very late 60's. More to the point, he played for a San Francisco team that wasn't usually that competitive and where the other cornerback usually wasn't that good. Shutdown corners get labeled as such just for being good enough to be avoided on otherwise unremarkable pass defenses, only to get burned if they go elsewhere. Still, when San Francisco started turning the corner in the early 70's Johnson was still highly effective, and would be a surprisingly willing convert to Zone Coverage in his late 30's- which says lots about his intangibles.

Pat Fischer has a fantastic reputation for overcoming his deficiencies, namely his small stature and more 'average' athleticism, by turning into the pioneer of the bump and run style of defensive back play. He became that sort of cover corner when he was with St. Louis, simply because it was a way to make up for the coverage lost when safety Larry Wilson went on one of his patented safety blitzes. Still, none of this makes up for the fact that not only does he have an athleticism problem, playing in a Zone totally negates his strengths.

Erich Barnes is harder to leave off. His style was equally aggressive, though more of the 'Intimidator' variety rather than the 'Bump-and-Run'. However, he came with prototypical cornerback size at 6'2 and 200 or so pounds, and displayed quality coverage ability despite said aggression. (Barnes is one of those players who shifts between 'aggressive' and 'dirty', depending on whose side you're rooting for. Go figure.) And since there is a distinct lack of Zone Corners in the NFL at this time, it comes back down to translation. One of the bigger knocks on Barnes might be that his intimidation style might lend itself better to Man Coverage by far.

Cornell Green had the most peculiar path to the NFL of the whole bunch. Remember the headlines of Antonio Gates becoming an All-Star at Tight End but really only having a basketball background at Kent State? Well, Green never played college football but was a standout point guard for Utah State, and flashed enough elite athleticism for Tom Landry to take a flier on him and convert him into a defensive back (the reason you don't hear as much about this was because later Landry converted a World Class sprinter named Bob Hayes into one of the most devastating receivers the game had ever known). By many accounts Green was one of the better Dallas defenders during his career, actually complimented by Landry personally as the greatest defensive back he coached. High praise. The only distinct flaw Green possessed were bad hands. He's credited with 36 Interceptions in his career. Gil Brandt said he could've had a hundred. Green also gets positive marks for being a part of the Landry Flex Defense, which may not be as important to a conerback as say a lineman or linebacker, but it most likely meant Green had to study a complicated role with multiple variables as opposed to pure man-marking. That means a lot when trying to covert to an equally complicated coverage scheme.

Starting Left Cornerback: Cornell Green- 1967
-6'3 208. Dallas Cowboys, 1962-74

We can live and die with the bad hands, so long as he shuts down receivers.

Now that we know what to expect from Cornerbacks, let's have a look at the safeties. Via Pro Football Reference, these positions are not listed as SS- Strong Safety, or FS- Free Safety. Rather they are just plain jane Left and Right Safety. However, the transistion into the seventies reveals that Left Safety was in fact the Strong Safety, which makes Right Safety the Free Safety. Still following me? Good.

So what's the difference? Well, conventional formations of the time always listed the Tight End and the Fullback on the right side of the offense, which always faced the left side of the defense. So the Left Safety was expected to be taking on tougher players on offense on a consistent basis, whether covering the Tight End with the linebackers or stepping into the box to stuff a rushing play, hence the term 'Strong Safety'. By contrast, the Free Safety's position on the weakside gave the player more freedom to play like a central fielder against the pass and be the last man between a ballcarrier and the goalline more often than not. Going by soccer conventions, the Free Safety was the sweeper of the secondary, swooping in like a ballhawk. The Strong Safety would be a pure Center-Back, a one-on-one marker.

However, the zone will likely emphasize coverage skills just as much as tackling prowess, which is a good thing because precious few Left Safeties during the 1960's seemed to gain notoriety.

Starting Left Safety: Eddie Meador- 1967
-5'11 193. Los Angeles Rams, 1959-73

Most people who know the 60's are wondering, why not Larry Wilson? He pioneered the safety blitz! He intercepted over 50 passes! He once took an interception to the house on TWO BROKEN HANDS!!! IN CASTS!!!

That dang safety blitz ruins the idea. Between the defensive line AND the Linebackers covering them, you don't need an extra blitzer punching holes into your own coverage, and especially not in a Zone. The problem is, could Wilson go without blitzing? Seems unfair to say no, doesn't it? But I'm going to err on the side of caution on this one.

Meador was named the "Rams Little Assassin" for his fierce play on the field. He was also Defensive Co-Captain and unofficially he ranked among the tops on the team in tackles, so ultimately you knew he could take a lick. He also had the range and smarts to get into position to make plays and offered a unique talent of holding for place kicks- I say unique because his athletic gifts made him a threat on fakes.

Starting Right Safety: Mel Renfro- 1969
-6'0 190. Dallas Cowboys, 1964-77

So how does Renfro stand out in a pool that contains fellow Hall of Famers like Larry Wilson, Paul Krause, and Yale Lary not to mention other contemporaries such as Jimmy Patton and Rosey Taylor?

Well, you start with a fantastic athleticism. It's likely Renfro was the most athletic of the whole bunch. Then you see which players had roles that mesh best with this team. Wilson as stated before blitzed frequently. Krause didn't start taking off until he was traded to Minnesota, where he became the deep centerfielder of the secondary. Nice, but too passive. Lary was on his way out by the start of the decade, more valuable as a punter. Patton played a straight up safety assignment in New York. Taylor comes the closest, the Chicago Secondary of '63 actually incorporating the Zone.

The winning factor was that Renfro apparently not only understood his own role in the Dallas defense, but he also would understand the roles of his fellow teammates- as he proved when tested as a rookie. He had the smarts to eat a playbook up and the ability to translate said knowledge into results on the field. That's what you want in the 'Brain' of your secondary.

Starting Right Cornerback: Jimmy Johnson- 1969 (Off-Position)
-6'2 187. San Francisco 49ers, 1961-76

I mentioned the supposed frailty of 'Shutdown Corners' earlier. Mainly, they can be just as much an illusion as the real thing. But I also mentioned Johnson was still highly effective when the 49ers turned the corner in the early 70's. His play-style also helps here; more passive and reactive, he made few mistakes and didn't get into displays of aggression. This probably helped a great deal when he took on the challenge of the Zone very late in his career. Here's a telling sign of his greatness; Dick Nolan, who at the time was the Head Coach, said he coached three great defensive backs. Johnson was one of them, and the best. The other two? All-Decade teammates Cornell Green and Mel Renfro. Sick praise right there.

Now, in the spirit of the increasing importance of Special Teams- and the introduction of pure kicking specialists- we're going to delve into the kickers real briefly.

Ideally, you want a combination kicker-punter, who only takes up one roster spot, allowing you to have more backups in your depth chart. Sadly, that reality has proven unfeasible. Unlike decades past, Field Goals have become widespread and valuable. So too has punting. So if you can't find that one specialist who can do both good enough to carry your team at a crucial moment, then you have to go with two specialists. Welcome to the world of nitpicking.

Anyways, the placekicker battle is between Jim Bakken and Fred Cox. From a statistical level, they are roughly the same. Well and accurate up to a certain range, less than fifty yards. Both are unexceptional punters who dabbled briefly before just being placekickers. Both are straight-line kickers, one of the last of a dying breed. Both have an extensive reputation for clutch kicks- meaning they don't urinate down their trousers. And both are the most accurate out of the decade's kickers by far.

Placekicker: Fred Cox- 1969
-5'11 200. Minnesota Vikings, 1963-77

So what're the key differences? One, Cox kicked in Minnesota, before the Metrodome was ever conceived let alone constructed. That means cold weather in the winter months. Bakken kicked in St. Louis, which is still outdoors but not as brutal. Second, Cox has significantly more detail about him. Jim Bakken's real contribution to this area is "He just kicked it", making him more like the Malboro Man than anything else. Third, the presence of Mick Tingelhoff benefits Cox greatly, as Mick was the snapper for all of his kicks in his career (Paul Krause was the best known Holder, but Cox didn't know him very long in this decade, and it's probable Eddie Meador is capable of being solid at holding anyways). And fourth, Cox offered a surprising benefit in practices; he ran the scouting teams, both offense and defense.

Scouting teams, as you well know, are meant to replicate the opponents you are facing every week. So it stands to reason that you need to know and execute what they run. And Cox ran both sides, which is remarkable enough, but a Kicker? That's subtle, and the kind of quirk the purists drool over.

Punter: Yale Lary- 1962 (Safety)
-5'11 185. Detroit Lions, 1952-64

Before we comment on Lary, we need to make special mention of one of the contenders for this position; Billy Lothridge. As one of the inaugural players for the expansion Atlanta Falcons, poor Billy punted all the freaking time, and was actually good enough to be one of the top punters in average for a couple of years, but did you know that in 1968 he did double duty as a starting Safety?

(Big deal, you're telling me. We're not too far removed from when kickers did double-duty. Besides, Lary did the same thing for longer!)

Did I mention he did this for a 2-12 team, WITHOUT a kidney?

(And now I just hear crickets chirp)

Anyways, Lary offers a verrrrry convenient loophole, as he was still a consistent starter at safety for Detroit in the early 60's. Much like the decade prior, he's being hidden on the bench but can in fact take over for either safety position in the secondary- whether he can learn the intricacies of the Zone Coverage unit is another matter entirely, but one I'm willing to roll with on a bench player.

Onto the bench. Starting as always, with the backup Quarterback. Now, time to pose a riddle; is the best backup in the league better for this spot than the second-best starter in the league? On one hand, usually the best backup in the league is good enough to start at least for sporadic stretches if not whole seasons and do an altogether respectable job, enough so that various cellar dwellers would happily take him in. But on the other, there's usually a reason that backups are rarely starters, or they get promoted to starter and subsequently prove why they were backups to begin with. I say 'Usually' because to my mind I can't see how this guy was overlooked repeatedly.

Backup Quarterback: Earl Morall- 1968
-6'1 205. San Francisco 49ers, 1956/ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1957-58/ Detroit Lions, 1958-64/ New York Giants, 1965-67/ Baltimore Colts, 1968-71/ Miami Dolphins, 1972-77

First time we saw such an extensive amount of teams here since the 1920's. So what happened with Morrall to be such a journeyman? Well, he was drafted in the first round by the 49ers, but would suffer the misfortune of being behind incumbent YA Tittle, and traded to Pittsburgh for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first round picks (John Brodie would be Tittle's eventual successor). After a season still learning the ropes, the Steelers then traded Earl to Detroit, a surprising decision except for the fact that the Steelers got Bobby Layne. It would take five years for Morrall to dig himself out of the backup hole and be a starter in 1963, and the stats he produced were actually very nice for his time. Enough so that he was still the starter the next year... except he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in October. By the time he recovered the following off-season, he had been traded to the Giants, who had just lost YA Tittle to retirement. The first season was rock solid as a starter... then the youth movement kicked in and Morall was once again a backup for two years.

Then the Colts traded for him. And Johnny Unitas went down in the '68 preseason. Morrall took the reigns and had his finest season as a starter, up until Super Bowl III, which simply saw the poor man make costly mistakes. But his impact was profound enough that after a four year stint as a reliever in Baltimore, he rejoined Don Shula in Miami and helped preserve the Perfect Season in '72.

Don Shula had described Morrall as "an intelligent quarterback who's won a lot of ball games for me." Intelligence is valued at Quarterback, but it seems Morrall also had a good enough arm to work the passing games in Baltimore and Miami during his periods of best success. And while one can question his merits in the key moments, there's no one better suited to be in relief of Unitas, either in makeup or in knowledge of Shula's system.

Backup Halfback: Gale Sayers- 1965
-6'0 198. Chicago Bears, 1965-71

If people are still debating 'Jim Brown or Gale Sayers', let me put it this way; I want Sayers young and electrifying. I want him to come in and provide a lightning bolt, a change-of-pace that'll leave opposing defenses gasping in exhausted terror after being bludgeoned by the 'Jimmy John Henry Brown Buttwhuppin' Express.' I want him catching passes in the open field and stretching the linebackers to the breaking point. I want him on punts and kickoffs, bringing extra pressure upon those poor bench scrubs who have to contend with him. And while there's no evidence whatsoever to think his knee injuries in the late 60's were inevitable given his running style, I'm not taking any chances. Whatever decreases the risk, even if it means giving him second or third scraps from touches.

Sayers gets roughly the same role Reggie Bush was pigeonholed into at New Orleans. Given the different eras, Sayers has a greater chance of pulling this off.

Backup Fullback: Ernie Green- 1966
-6'2 205. Cleveland Browns, 1962-68

You don't know who this guy is. But you see the team and wonder, why do you need an understudy for Jim Brown? Well, he's not an understudy. Ernie Green played at Halfback alongside Jim Brown in the same backfield. In short, he was doing the little things while Brown ran over everybody. A blocking Halfback who could get a handful of touches throughout the game. So what happened when Brown retired in 1965? Leroy Kelley moved to Halfback, and Green shifted to Fullback and did the exact same things he did alongside Brown.

For a 4th Running Back, you want that kind of selfless attitude, and if he's in the body of a hybrid HB/FB, all the better.

Backup Split End: Gary Collins- 1965
-6'5 215. Cleveland Browns, 1962-71

I need a paragraph or two about Bob Hayes, who I just gave a Bret Hart-esque screwjob to.

Virtually anyone and everyone who knows the 60's agrees that Hayes was nothing more than revolutionary. Nobody was faster- he had won Gold in the '64 Olympics in the 100m dash- but he actually could run like a football player. Any poor team that took him on with Man Coverage paid for it with one sick burn after another. He not only FORCED defenses to play zone on him, sometimes I think that in his prime he could even stretch those formations to the breaking point. His hands and intelligence were good enough for him to thrive- most track stars fail this when they try to turn pro. And during the period when Dallas finally got over the hump and became champions, he was unquestionably the most lethal threat on the offense.

So why did I leave him out? Blame Tom Landry for the first one, which is Hayes was highly specialized as a receiver, utilized in certain packages and wholly excluded in others. The '66 Championship against Green Bay is the most glaring example, where Hayes was inexplicably left on the field in a Goal Line play, something he had NEVER done while in Dallas. He subsequently failed to block Dave Robinson who pressured Don Meredith into tossing a lame duck that was intercepted in the End Zone. Hayes was supposed to block Robinson but went out on a pass route instead because he wasn't instructed on what his responsibilities were on the Goal Line. The second reason takes us to the Ice Bowl a year later, where Hayes quickly took away whatever unpredictability Dallas had in their offensive game. Here's how he did this; he would keep his hands stuffed down his pants on plays where he knew the ball wasn't coming to him. Lemme repeat that; Bob Hayes gave up whatever big play threat he could've had by giving away his importance on each play because his hands were too cold. Maybe that's way too unfair to criticize him under such an extreme example (If I lived back then, odds are I would've just stayed at home rather than go to the game) but Hayes showed he had a ceiling in his mental fortitude, and you don't want that.

Gary Collins is a flanker playing Split End, though after putting Charley Taylor at flanker I guess that's not as surprising. The reason I did so was because of this; No less than Raymond Berry told him at one time that he was a worthy successor to his elite level of preparation and style. That makes Collins a viable facsimile of Berry, especially to the likes of Unitas. Couple that with Collins' clutch reputation and excellent hands, and you can imagine the Unitas-Collins duo wrecking havoc on a key game-winning drive. Among other talents is his capacity as a punter. Not especially relevent with Yale Lary, but it helps to have a backup wherever possible.

There are some concerns. Depending on what you believe, Collins was a 'angry' player, someone who came out firey due to outside circumstances. This allegedly caused some problems during practices, but others like Paul Warfield vouched for him in defense. So we'll live with whatever we've reaped in that area.

Backup Flanker: Bobby Mitchell- 1962
-6'0 192. Cleveland Browns, 1958-61/ Washington Redskins, 1962-68

Please forgive the racist-sounding pun, but 'Color' me concerned.

Not so much about Mitchell's talents. The man wasn't just one of the greater receivers around during the era, but he had actually held his own as a complementary halfback alongside Jim Brown while he was in Cleveland. It's not completely certain, but Mitchell either genuinely believed he was too small to be a running back, or he didn't look forward to transisitioning to flanker when he was traded to Washington. That's one of the problems that make me apprehensive about Mitchell's selection.

The other is this; unlike the running game, you didn't see receivers substituted all that often in this era- and the day of three and four WRs on the field at once is naught but lost in the fog of the future. Leaving someone like Mitchell on the bench in favor for his fellow teammate Charley Taylor can be risky. The sad part is there's no genuine way to gauge who was better in a one-on-one matchup. The two of them only worked together as receivers for two years, in '66 and '67. And this was when Mitchell was starting to fall due to age. The first three years prior to that were wasted trying to make Taylor an effective halfback in the offense, and then strangely enough Otto Graham decided in '68 to put Mitchell BACK in the backfield, relying on the likes of Pat Richter to pick up the slack. So really, there were two years of this dynamic duo instead of the maximum of six.

But really, who else was there? Tommy McDonald was short at 5'9, which isn't a problem given his elusiveness and insane toughness (he once separated his shoulder after a horrific ground collision when he was run out of bounds, but stayed in for two plays to not let his opponents know about it, and then there's the whole 'No Facemask' thing. Tell some of these elite douchebags to play without a facemask and watch them turn yellow) but he was also one major freelancer who didn't stick to the script. Basically he was a free spirit trying to fit into an offense that can't afford it. Del Shofner was a split end utilized almost entirely as a deep threat in the Giants offense, and could be contained by the inevitable Zone defenses. And Raymond Berry was simply too advanced in age with a genuine successor already in place.

Backup Tight End: Mike Ditka- 1963
-6'3 228. Chicago Bears, 1961-66/ Philadelphia Eagles, 1967-68/ Dallas Cowboys, 1969-72

Since Ditka's game is almost completely like John Mackey's, and I've already gone over that bit when I selected Mackey as the starter, I'm just going to have faith that Ditka is as much of a team player as he's claimed. Because really, when he replaces Mackey, there's precious little lost in the offense.

Backup Tackle: Ralph Neely- 1968
-6'6 265. Dallas Cowboys, 1965-77

Here's a miserable fact of life when trying to assemble backups for the Offensive Line. You will never have enough roster spots to back up every single position. So you'll find yourself trying to pick someone who can potentially play both left and right sides of his position. Ideally, you get yourself a Tackle, a Guard, and a Center.

Here's where it gets tricky. Unless you have a 'Blue Moon' level of luck in your player pool (Jim Parker), the linemen who played multiple positions usually aren't that good. Little more than journeymen. And the genuine backups even less reliable, because by this point offensive linemen were NOT substituted anymore. So now you have to be speculative with the starters you have left.

Like the other candidates remaining, Neely spent the entire decade at one position, Right Tackle. Unlike the others though, Neely switched over to Left Tackle in the 70's. Even though the 70's do not count in this case, they still provide a more solid foundation than pure speculation. In Neely's case, it offers the idea that he could switch over in a pinch if the team needed him to do so. It also doesn't hurt that he was the runner up at Right Tackle behind Bob Brown, so he's no slouch.

Backup Guard: Jim Ray Smith- 1960
-6'3 241. Cleveland Browns, 1956-62/ Dallas Cowboys, 1963-64

Unlike Neely, Smith has to get by on pure speculation as to whether he could play the right side. In those circumstances, you get bonus points for being a quality technician as a blocker. Smith thrived on that and exceptional speed, as well as a unique wrinkle; he communicated with the runners behind him to improve their overall proficiency with the ground attack. His career may have ended with serious knee injuries, but the truth was, Smith was about to retire in '61 to pursue his business interests, only he managed to get traded to hometown Dallas and play for the Cowboys. It was in those two years with Dallas that his knees started giving out on him.

Backup Center: Bob DeMarco- 1967
-6'2 248. St. Louis Cardinals, 1961-69/ Miami Dolphins, 1970-71/ Cleveland Browns, 1972-74/ Los Angeles Rams, 1975

There's actually precious little to say about DeMarco, even though he played for fifteen years and of all the Non-Packers was the second most decorated center behind Tingelhoff. He could do much of the things Mick could do on the field, and was actually large for his position, Centers rarely pushing 250 like he did during his career. Still, there are worse things than somebody who offers solid play behind a starter and has no real record of negative intangibles.

Backup Defensive End: Lou Michaels- 1962
-6'2 243. Los Angeles Rams, 1958-60/ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1961-63/ Baltimore Colts, 1964-69/ Green Bay Packers, 1971

Note: Michaels qualifies here because his time in Green Bay was spent in the 70's.

People may butcher me for this one, mainly because I wanted Michaels as placekicking insurance should anything happen to Fred Cox. You shouldn't want insurance for your dang kickers, but every little bit helps. Besides, between Deacon Jones and Doug Atkins, Michaels will only need to be serviceable on defense should he be called up. To be fair, Michaels did have a lengthy career as an actual Defensive End while he was kicking field goals, but he's mostly known for an altercation with Joe Namath before Super Bowl III, then blowing all his tries in the game.

Backup Defensive Tackle: Roger Brown- 1962
-6'5 300. Detroit Lions, 1960-66/ Los Angeles Rams, 1967-69

It really came down to Roger and Alex Karras, one of the 'shoulda made it' Hall of Fame snubs. And really, Alex had the far greater merits awarded to him in his career, but Roger gets the nod over him purely because of size. I personally didn't know until just now that Alex Karras- one of the most ferocious defensive tackles of this decade- only weighed 248 pounds. And as much as you don't want to rely entirely on weight, the truth is Roger Brown was rather talented as a pass rusher.

Of additional note is Brown's time spent with the 'Fearsome Foursome' in Los Angeles, replacing Rosey Grier in '67. What isn't known is that he considers them the second 'Fearsome Foursome', and that he was in Detroit with the first bunch to be named that.

Backup Linebacker: Joe Fortunato- 1963
-6'1 225. Chicago Bears, 1955-66

First order of business in selecting backup Linebackers is to pick up a backup signal caller, and given that our initial signal caller is an outside linebacker, the backup should at least play the same position in case of injuries. Joe Fortunato may have been overshadowed by the likes of Bill George and Doug Atkins on the '63 Championship defense, but he was the de facto signal caller for that group, and throughout the early to mid 60's until Dick Butkus came along and he retired. As for his style of play, it is simply rock solid. (You can tell I found precious little dirt on the guy, can't ya?)

Backup Linebacker: Tommy Nobis- 1968 (Exemption- Four Years)
-6'2 240. Atlanta Falcons, 1966-76

So Nobis gets drafted first overall in the NFL draft by the Falcons, who at that point were an Expansion club and in those days, Expansion clubs were thrown to the wolves. It would be a done deal except the AFL existed, and Nobis was drafted by the Houston Oilers. By comparison, the Oilers were not only a competitive team in the AFL landscape, they were also in Tommy's home state (Nobis was a Texan all the way through college). And this was when AFL teams were going all-out to secure Blue-Chippers in a war against the NFL, so there was no way Houston was going to low-ball Tommy in a bidding war. So what does that tell you when Nobis picks the hopeless Expansion team over an established Texan ballclub?

Well that and his low-key approach to the spotlight tells me he's a wonderful choice to backup Butkus at Middle Linebacker (and since he's not the signal caller I can weather criticisms about which one should start). That's a great thing considering his talents were every bit as all-around as Butkus. No less an authority on hard hitting running backs than Larry Csonka admitted he'd rather face Butkus than Nobis. High praise.

Backup Linebacker: Wayne Walker- 1965
-6'2 225. Detroit Lions, 1958-72

Walker rounds out the list of backup linebackers by virtue of being one of the most consistent players. Consistent, steady, lunch-pail type. Always counted upon to plug a gap or cover a back going for a pass. Understated stuff, nothing exciting, but with his work rate you like that in a backup- especially when he doesn't make waves for some negative thing that he does. The only negative thing this guy ever did in his career was placekick- he's not here as insurance, though Jack Pardee/ Dave Wilcox fans may make that claim.

Backup Cornerback: Abe Woodson- 1960
-5'11 188. San Francisco 49ers, 1958-64/ St. Louis Cardinals, 1965-66

As a cornerback, Woodson has the speed and reflexes capable of matching up with most opponents in man coverage- which he was tasked to do in San Francisco. In a Zone coverage, that speed is just as valuable and will give him that much more of an edge against any speed demons that may try to lose him in the dust. As a returner, Woodson is one of the best of his time, enough so that he's both the return partner and insurance for Gale Sayers. In other words, you can't kick to this guy in order to avoid Gale.

Backup Safety: Richie Petitbon- 1963
-6'3 206. Chicago Bears, 1959-68/ Los Angeles Rams, 1969-70/ Washington Redskins, 1971-72

The learned bookworms and history nuts of the Bears will ask why Petitbon and not Rosey Taylor? They ask this because Taylor was actually comparable to the likes of Willie Wood, his PFR page is sponsored by someone who said 'Willie Wood got the Press, but it was Rosey Taylor that everybody was watching on the training films.' So why leave Taylor out and keep Richie?

Richie was a genuine Strong Safety and this is a team devoid of them, that's why. As hard-hitting as Eddie Meador may have been, he's still a Free Safety somewhat out of position, even in a Zone. If you need an infusion of size and strength to take on opposing ballcarriers, Richie's the safer bet. Besides, there's nothing that indicates he was a total lunkhead on the field- his coaching career alone is evidence of the intelligence he brought.


Key Question: Which Packers would make the team?

In the first place, if Lombardi is the Head Coach- and why wouldn't he be?- he probably takes his staff with him. At the very least he takes Phil Bengston and Red Cochran with him, maybe others like Dave Hanner or Norb Heckler. Maybe if you wanted to give him a boost you'd add Don McAfferty to coach the receivers, and John Sandusky to coach the Offensive Line (or maybe not. Lombardi had his own views of blocking).

In the backfield, your main candidates are '66 Bart Starr, '60 Paul Hornung, and '61 Jim Taylor (he lost threads after his '62 season). And personally, I think Vince goes with them all as starters. They're not superior players though. Unitas as a game intelligence to match Starr's, as we've well documented already. John Henry Johnson is a hellacious blocker in his own right (and would still make the roster as a backup), Gale Sayers is simply more electrifying than Hornung (but will be the coveted 3rd back and returner anyways), and Jim Brown is simply too good for any of them (but his blocking issues come to the fold here). Taylor and Hornung get the nod because they have a complete partnership in the backfield- they both do what the other does, including blocking. Starr is essentially the 'extension' of Lombardi on the field, who calls the plays and coldly dissects opposing defenses. Unitas can do the same, but Starr is wholly familiar with the Lombardi system, and for QBs that overrides just about everything.

'67 Boyd Dowler is the only candidate able to secure a spot as a backup, though he'd be hard pressed to unseat Gary Collins for his role, or Bobby Mitchell for that matter. If Bobby can't block that makes the decision much easier. Ron Kramer is a complete package player, but not as potentially explosive as John Mackey or Mike Ditka, so he's left on his own.

The offensive line is composed of '66 Bob Skoronski, '61 Fred "Fuzzy Thurston, '61 Jim Ringo, '62 Jerry Kramer, and '62 Forrest Gregg. Of the five, only Gregg is a surefire starter. Given Roosevelt Brown's past time with Lombardi in the 50's, Skoronski is probably left out in the cold, unless his role as Team Captain keeps him on as a backup over Ralph Neely. I'm convinced Jim Parker is superior to Fuzzy Thurston in every way. I am NOT convinced Gene Hickerson is superior to Jerry Kramer, even though Hickerson is the Hall of Famer of the two. Despite Tingelhoff's affinity with Fred Cox as a snapper, he probably gets bumped to second string in favor of Jim Ringo.

The defensive line isn't as lucky but is fortunate enough. '66 Willie Davis isn't unseating Deacon Jones or Doug Atkins, but he is unseating Lou Michaels because Jerry Kramer AND Paul Hornung are capable placekickers. '62 Henry Jordan probably comes down to a Lombardi selection backing up Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen over the 300 pound Roger Brown.

Linebackers are a very unkind cut. '67 Dave Robinson is the most likely Packer to make the cut outright on this unit. He may not replace Chuck Howley but he DOES replace Joe Fortunato (the domino effect results in Wayne Walker being replaced by Chris Hanburger because, signal callers). As for '66 Ray Nitschke, he has to contend with Dick Butkus, and THAT is a debate I want no part of. That one could go either way, especially if you want to believe winners are more valuable as the 'backbone' position of the defense.

With the Secondary likely to remain a Man Coverage unit (assuming Phil Bengston didn't embrace the zone), the entire unit stands to be shaken up... or so you would think. '66 Herb Adderly is partnered up with either Jimmy Johnson or Cornell Green, depending on which one you think is superior to the other. (The loser unfortunately doesn't make the team, since Abe Woodson is too good a returner to discard) '66 Willie Wood occupies the safety spot alongside Mel Renfro (having jumped between Left and Right safety in his career, Wood can handle the difference).

As far as specialists go, Lombardi may just go with '65 Don Chandler simply because he is one man performing two roles. He's a reasonably good kicker and punter, though not a world beater at either spot. But that extra roster spot would go a long way to shoring up another part of the team.

Coming next, the AFL Squad, this time without a gimmick!

Last edited by Zycho32 : 06-15-2013 at 10:19 AM.
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