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Old 01-01-2015, 05:49 PM    (permalink
Zycho32
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Default NFL All-Time Teams, Decade by Decade (REVISED and RETURNED)

If this Topic Subject sounds familiar... it is.

Back in the beginning of 2013 I created the original All-Decade thread as a means of selecting All-Time teams, and I used methods other than pure merit to determine the best possible team constructed. Mostly it was me fan-wanking because I said I was- and to some extent still am- broken in the head about All-Time teams. Things progressed rather well and I got up to the 1970's, where as bad luck would have it, I petered off by around October. Then things got worse. Y'see, at Christmas I had received a brand-new computer system to replace my old one, and in the process of transferring my files, I made a critical error; I had actually forgotten one specific folder of files, these files included pretty much everything I had saved up to that point which had to do with All-Time teams. NFL, NBA, MLB, even some Olympic stuff. The All-Decade material was contained in that same folder.

All my work wiped right out. I still had the original thread, but it broke my back and I had been in hiding ever since.

Until now anyways. With the new year, I thought I would push up my sleeves and take a crack at re-doing(or mostly re-submitting) these All-Decade teams and try to actually get the job finished this time around. You can still find the original thread if you go far enough back (about 13 or 14 pages if not further), but I will have a few changes here and there.

And just to be properly accurate, we'll go over the basics;

-We are going on a Decade by Decade basis for the following reasons; the innovations in play-calling and athletic standards shifted far too frequently to impose a tier system based on mere eras. I mean, where do you put the early 70's Dolphins? In the 60's with Lombardi's Packers? Or in the late 70's with the Steelers? Does anyone from the 80's and back make it into a modern setting? Can you condense the first thirty years of the NFL into some simple Golden Era? Bracketing by Decades, despite some fluctuation midway, gave a much crisper idea of who was more important than whom in the grand scheme of things.

-We are going by 'Wine Cellar' rules, a term coined by Bill Simmons from his Book of Basketball. This involves a fictional 'Battle for the Planet', something called the Martian Premise. In it, alien invaders attack our planet, then offer us a win-or-die ultimatum in a game of our choosing. We choose the sport, and we get access to a time machine which permits us to pick out the best athletes of said sport in our collective history (only backwards in time, unfortunately) at their best peaks. Only one version of a person per team. The Invasion aspect offers a gut-check that you never really get in a mere All-Time roster based entirely on merit; Since you are assembling a team that can save the world, you have to factor individual intangibles and chemistry into the mix. This means you cannot stack your roster from top to bottom with Hall of Famers without risking some awful Alpha Dog skirmishes and general discontent over PT.

-Further expanding the 'Wine Cellar' rules, you take a player from a year after said season has ended for him. Again, why we use specific years is due to context; Red Grange suffered an injury in 1927 that made him vastly different to what he was in 1925. This is actually less apparent in football than in basketball, but the premise is still sound.

-Like before, everybody is free to offer their own lists and critiques in this thread. I claim to value enlightenment, no matter how much it makes me cringe, and I have gotten some quality insight in the past thread so I know this benefits me.

...it's nice to be back. The 1920's Squad will be up real shortly- albeit with precious few changes if any.
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Old 01-01-2015, 07:02 PM    (permalink
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1920's NFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart




1920's All-Decade Team:


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Old 01-01-2015, 08:08 PM    (permalink
Ravens1991
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Nice post. I don't think anyone can really help you with these until you get to the 1960s
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Old 01-02-2015, 06:22 AM    (permalink
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Dude, nobody gives a damn until about 1950 something. 1920s NFL is irrelevant.
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I heard that Sylvester Stallone wrote The Expendables with The Alex in mind. He had to keep it realistic though and split The Alex's abilities into multiple characters. Stallone thought that critics would pan it for being too far-fetched if he just had one character effing everyone up.
The end. Cut to black. Audience goes ****ing ape****.
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Old 01-03-2015, 05:54 PM    (permalink
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1930's NFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart



1930's All-Decade Team:



And by the way, check this site out; http://www.profootballresearchers.com/coffin-corner.htm

That right there contains the Coffin Corner issues, which delve into these uncharted historic waters of Professional Football, and I cannot tell you how freaking VALUABLE stumbling onto these articles was for me when I started this project so long ago. And for a brief moment I thought they were truly dead and gone until I found the main site and... well, I would've conducted the forum equivalent of a Viking Funeral in some shape or form had they truly been dead. But seriously, give them a browse if you want a wealth of knowledge.

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Old 01-13-2015, 05:32 AM    (permalink
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1940's NFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart



1940's NFL All-Decade Team:


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Old 01-13-2015, 06:23 AM    (permalink
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Considering that George Halas bugged the visiting team's dressing room, there might be some question about his victory totals. He was the BB of his generation and was smart enough to use everything and anything to win.
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Old 01-18-2015, 08:46 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by Iamcanadian View Post
Considering that George Halas bugged the visiting team's dressing room, there might be some question about his victory totals. He was the BB of his generation and was smart enough to use everything and anything to win.
Believe me, he could be quite the bloody scoundrel when it game to dredging up even the slightest advantage in a game. And like it or not, you do want that kind of edge if the fate of the planet was on the line.
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Old 01-18-2015, 08:50 AM    (permalink
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1940's AAFC All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart



1940's AAFC All-Decade Team:


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Old 01-19-2015, 07:06 AM    (permalink
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Alrighty, 38 players and a mess of coaches. Sometimes I dunno what I got myself into... (Doesn't help that I'm doing this so soon after watching Green Bay [BLEEP] the bed and I'm revising this in a red haze)

1950's NFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart



1950's All-Decade Team:


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Old 01-19-2015, 10:30 PM    (permalink
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I watched a lot of pro football in the 50's and you are missing a heck of a lot of the best players from that era and have included a bunch of nobodies in some cases.

You'll notice that nobody is commenting on your selections, because there aren't a lot of people on this site that are old enough to know any of these players.

It should get more interesting as you approach the modern era, but could you please list your starters and backups in a depth chart before going into their pros and cons, because the format your using is very confusing.
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Old 01-20-2015, 01:54 AM    (permalink
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I really like it. I read almost the whole '50s thing earlier today. I think the selection rationale, the "game" of putting this together, is really interesting and puts an interesting dynamic into the project. Thinking about who the best backups of an era were is really interesting, and more interesting to the history of the league than just listing the All-Pro players.
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Old 01-23-2015, 02:36 AM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iamcanadian View Post
I watched a lot of pro football in the 50's and you are missing a heck of a lot of the best players from that era and have included a bunch of nobodies in some cases.

You'll notice that nobody is commenting on your selections, because there aren't a lot of people on this site that are old enough to know any of these players.

It should get more interesting as you approach the modern era, but could you please list your starters and backups in a depth chart before going into their pros and cons, because the format your using is very confusing.
For your first point, are you simply mentioning those I mentioned but discarded from the lineup, or have I outright missed players entirely? I'd be very interested to learn from you about those I've missed and the 'nobodies' I went with.

For the second, I was well aware of this fact going in the first time I tried this two years ago (the best debate in that thread while I was slogging through Professional Football's Stone Age was about the merits of Ray Lewis as a Middle Linebacker) so I'm mostly a knowledge dispenser(and everybody else is free to offer their own teams and lineups as well, so there's that).

EDIT: As for the third, I've added those depth charts on those posts directly, above the actual 'descriptions' in its own separate spoiler for added convenience.

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Old 02-10-2015, 02:52 PM    (permalink
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Breaking News: A SEVERELY DRASTIC change has been implemented to the roster.

1960's NFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart



1960's All-Decade Team, NFL Squad:


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Old 02-10-2015, 04:33 PM    (permalink
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1960's AFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart



1960's All-Decade Team, AFL Squad:




Now that the dual league mess is over and done with, it's time to move onto the 70's. Unfortunately this is where I stopped last time, so now we are venturing into truly Vague territory for me.

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Old 02-11-2015, 05:45 AM    (permalink
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1960's All-Decade Team, NFL Squad:

So... last time I did this and got to this point, I introduced a weird twist; I would not include anyone from the Green Bay Packers for this decade. Not players, not coaches. My reasoning was something along the lines of forcibly opening my eyes to what the rest of the league offered. It's not untrue per se, but it's more appropriate to say that I was hard-pressed to think of anyone who could unquestionably be superior to an option on the Packers. Think how thoroughly Pro-Bowl rosters for the AFC were dominated by Pittsburgh Steelers in the 70's- at least on the defensive side- to understand.

But even if nearly three-forths of the roster end up being Packers, this time around I am going to include them. Knute Rockne help us all.

Head Coach: Vince Lombardi- 1965

The coach is a no-brainer. You would think anyone who knows about the NFL at least knows about THIS guy as far as the 1960's are concerned. But to be thorough, Lombardi's greatest strengths were in preparation and execution. His playbooks were never complicated, nor were they extensively innovative. Effort and talent was the key behind the success of the plays they did run, and the efficiency his Packer teams would demonstrate on the gridiron showcase his emphasis. Those guys just made few mistakes, even though by all accounts they should've been predictable enough to stop cold. It's easy to see clips of him screaming in anger over something going wrong and listen to stories about running his troops ragged during training camp and deduce that he was an utter tyrant and that a more easy-going coach should be the more appropriate choice, but the vast majority of the Packers, if they didn't outright love Lombardi for his devotion, they at least came to terms with his philosophy and how it made them winners.

The year however, is a bit of a surprise. In fact, I would go with the '62 version if I wasn't unsure about how far, if at all, the game changed between those three years. The reason is Lombardi's relentless drive to win- absolutely PERFECT for this scenario by the way- led to a gradual breakdown of physical health, especially in the historical Three-Peat years that closed out the Packer Dynasty. This makes '67 all but untenable, and even '66 bears some added strain that makes '65 more appealing.

Defensive Coordinator: Phil Bengston- 1966

Rule of thumb now that we are firmly in the age of coaching staffs, your Head Coach will very typically be better served with his own staff members, provided that not only are they highly competent at their jobs, but that the best available alternatives are not unquestionably superior.

The Green Bay coaching staff is very largely unnoticed by most people because their success after Lombardi is either hidden or they bombed as Head Coaches. Bengston had the insufferable luck to be the actual successor to Lombardi after the great one stepped down, and quickly proved that he was better off as a compliment rather than the primary cog. He was every bit the student of the game as guys like George Allen and Don Shula were, and Green Bay's defense was never unprepared for anyone, but he was too low-key and too much of a compensation for the more firey Lombardi to effectively lead the troops (this incidentally would've been the case even if the team had not started aging to the point of breakdown around this time, by the way). But as your defensive gameplanner, he's both highly competent and too valuable as a contrast to Lombardi to discard.

Offensive Assistant: Johnny "Red" Cochran- 1965 (Backfield)
Offensive Assistant: Tom Fears- 1965 (Receivers)
Offensive Assistant: Bill Austin- 1964 (Offensive Line)
Defensive Assistant: Bill Arnsparger- 1968 (Defensive Line)
Defensive Assistant: Jerry Tubbs- 1967 (Linebackers)
Defensive Assistant: Norb Hecker- 1965 (Defensive Backfield)

Red Cochran, unlike most of the assistants, never climbed the coaching ranks. He was either a Backfield Coach or a talent scout, the majority of his years spent with the Packers. He was notable for being the first assistant hire Vince Lombardi made and had actually been part of Detroit's '57 Championship team in that same capacity. His credentials are perhaps a step or two below Ermal Allen in terms of overall brilliance, but he was apparently good enough to coach the likes of Starr, Hornung, Taylor, and the other host of QBs and RBs during his time there- even with Vince looming over his shoulder. But what really gets Cochran on the staff in this case is that he's the designated 'fall guy' of the staff. If there was someone who would take and endure Lombardi's occasional outbursts in order to set the disciplinary tone, it was usually Red who took the brunt of it. As surprisingly warm and loving as Lombardi could be, you needed guys who could set an example and demonstrate that no half-arsing would be tolerated.

Tom Fears might have been better off if he tried to remain a lowly assistant like Cochran. His playing days with the Rams were the stuff of legend, as he demonstrated to be an excellent route runner who was fearless over the middle. (Did not include him because Barry had the Unitas connection and Billy Wilson was a safer pick as the backup) He might have spent the majority of the Lombardi Dynasty as End Coach for the Packers if not for California connections which dictated coaching for the Rams for two years. After '65 he tried to become a Head Coach for the Cardinals, lost out, then joined Norb Hecker's staff for the Expansion Atlanta Falcons. After THAT bombed, he finally got his Head Coach gig... for the Expansion New Orleans Saints. Snare Drum, please. In short, Fears just about lost his career trying to make something out of the Saints, but as an End Coach, there were few better equipped to teach the finer points.

Bill Austin actually played under Lombardi for the New York Giants during the 1950's. And from there secured a spot on the staff when Lombardi went to Green Bay. Like Fears he had the misfortune of bombing when he got the Head Coach gig at Pittsburgh and had the infamous notoriety of preceding Chuck Noll(and everybody knows what he did with the Steelers). But he did rebound with Lombardi in Washington, and kept going as a positional coach into the 80's. But really, talent aside, you want a Lombardi guy to run a Lombardi Offensive Line scheme. Not to say Austin's a talentless hack, far from it.

Bill 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 discernible 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, and in this case it helps since the overall talent pool for the defensive line will be more diverse than anything Green Bay could put together by itself.

Jerry 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. Now, this isn't the Landry system by any means, but it IS a 4-3 Defense and so far he's still the only Linebacker Coach that can be seen. Plus, given the versatility of the linebackers in the Landry system, he seems capable of handling the diversity the player pool also offers this section of talent.

Norb Hecker is like Tom Fears in that he was the first Head Coach for an expansion franchise, in this case the Atlanta Falcons. The funny part is Lombardi didn't recommend Hecker at all. Atlanta's owner, a Ranklin Smith Sr., thought Lombardi was hiding something and pursued Hecker. The results you can look up, but somehow Hecker wasn't washed out of the league the way Fears was. He managed to somehow rebound at Stanford in the 1970's and actually pair up with Bill Walsh, of the 1980's San Francisco 49ers. He followed Walsh to good ol' Frisco from Stanford as a Linebacker Coach, and the way I've read it, the 49ers always had a top ten defense during that decade, so Hecker earns accolades for that one, as it speaks volumes about his ability.

With our coaching staff decided, it's time to move on to the starting lineup. At Quarterback, we have THE obvious choice.

Starting Quarterback: Bart Starr- 1966
-6'1 197. Green Bay Packers, 1956-71

It's probably THE Cardinal Rule when it comes to Quarterbacks and Head Coaches, especially in this era moving forward. Unless there is a real serious conflict that threatens to manifest itself, your chosen Head Coach is nearly always paired with his Quarterback. There's no other way about it; the Quarterback knows the Coach's system and can execute it, guiding the other members of the offense whether they come from the same team or not. It's a connection that does wonders for team chemistry AND the smoothness of the offensive attack. If there are no tension marks in the relationship, then any QB who would replace the incumbent had better be one heck of an immortal specimen, or the incumbent in question lesser than expected.

Most wouldn't label Starr as an Elite QB. If anyone has knowledge of Lombardi's Packers, they think of the Lombardi Sweep and the relentless meat grinder of a rushing attack that often won the games for them. Using that, they would label the QB of the offense, and Starr especially, as just a robot to take up space and complete a pass here and there. A job, in other words, that a journeyman could fulfill with no difficulty.

Starr is the equal of Johnny Unitas when it comes to his gametime intelligence. He was absolutely ruthless in dissecting and destroying opposing defenses, and in his prime, he made so few mistakes in both playcalling AND passing that the offense as a consequence was like the Marauding Hun Army pillaging through Europe. He was so blasted proficient at his job despite the supposedly limited athleticism and even arm strength that there ARE no tolerated second options to choose from.

The backfield by contrast cannot have such an assurance. Make no mistake, the combination of Paul Hornung- a bigger and perhaps better version of Frank Gifford- and Jim Taylor- a relentless battering ram of a line plunger who sometimes played a little TOO hot- was exquisite to watch. However, neither of them are the gems of the 1960's. How many runners in the previous decades have genuinely World Class? Red Grange and Beattie Feathers had the potential had injuries not robbed them of their peaks. Cliff Battles had the potential but walked away because he was getting short-changed. Steve Van Buren probably was. George McAfee was used sparingly but he had the talent. Joe Perry and Marion Motley were arguably better than Van Buren. Frank Gifford and Lenny Moore were more vital cogs than truly elite. Ollie Matson had abiliy but couldn't drag his teams to respectability.

This decade, there are two that tower over everybody else. At Fullback, the incomparable Jim Brown. At Halfback, the Comet-Streaking Gale Sayers.

On paper, the Brown-Sayers combination murders defenses with the intensity of a back-alley clubbing. But on the gridiron... who's blocking?

It sounds stupid, except for the fact that Lombardi teams utilized a genuine two-back system, and both backs cooperated with one another. They shared running duties, they shared receiving duties, they even shared blocking duties. And both of those guys had lead blockers. In fairness to Brown, his capacity as a blocker is more unknown than underdeveloped, for as he put it, "do you ask Liberace to carry his piano?". He was utilized as a primary load carrier, often a safety valve on pass plays. Rarely a blocker. The one supposed time he showed improvement was in '64, and THAT was after former QB Otto Graham barbed him about his overall commitment. Sayers meanwhile was more willing and more often used as a blocker- he DID play for Chicago after all, and if one team respects the rushing fundamentals, it's the Bears- but he was never a great one due to his more dimunitive size. And besides, he was too exciting a weapon to leave toiling in the trenches for very long anyways. So one has to take a back seat or so... or both go, since you can't automatically dismiss Hornung or Taylor.

Starting Halfback: Paul Hornung- 1960
Special Team Position: Kicker (Reserve)
-6'2 215. Green Bay Packers, 1957-62, 64-66

Starting Fullback: Jim Taylor- 1961
-6'0 214. Green Bay Packers, 1958-66/ New Orleans Saints, 1967

This won't be a popular choice.

The breakdown went like this; Jim Brown ran more like a halfback(I had him as a starter at halfback last time), and his willingness to block on a more consistent basis was unknown. A little too unknown to break up a key duo. Sayers like last time has much more value as a returner and change-of-pace backup. Lombardi had too much of a connection to Hornung and his utilization of Taylor is something Brown wouldn't be as effective in implementing. (I'm not kidding about the halfback bit; apparently Brown used outside runs and sweeps more often than not, while Taylor typically ran through walls on inside plunges.) So the starting backfield are all Packers. Can you understand WHY I did 'No Packers' last time!?

But seriously, neither Hornung nor Taylor have excellent physical attributes- quick rather than fast, tough rather than strong. However, they were both 'smart' runners who always ran under control and knew which way to cut into an opening, a key facet of Option Running, or 'Running to Daylight'. For a precision running attack that thrives on ball control and persistent yardage gained, this means more than freelancing. Both are adept pass catchers and were used thoroughly by Starr on key 3rd and 4th down plays. Their blocking was both cooperative and versatile, something Lombardi appreciated.

Hornung could double as a placekicker and since he was a Quarterback back in Notre Dame, he could throw the ball. So he was tailor-made for that Frank Gifford role. Taylor's best attribute was the punishing sting of his plunges; no less an authority than San Huff himself expressed terms of admiration for Taylor's bruising style- and this was the same guy Taylor grappled with for sixty minutes during the '62 Championship. The only reason we don't use the '62 version is that Taylor lost treads after his team record-setting year.

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?

To prove yes, I'll turn to the Packers once again. For the first half of the 60's, the mainstays were Boyd Dowler and Max McGee. Dowler was about 6'5 in height and if you believe conventional wisdom, the Split Ends are typically the biggest and strongest- simply because there was close proximity to the cornerbacks and they were allowed to jam you. McGee by contrast was smaller though not by too much, but at the same time, his athletic ability was a shade or two under Dowler... which is why Dowler was listed as the Flanker every year he was paired with McGee. This didn't change until the smaller but speedier Carroll Dale arrived in 1965. With the exception of some shuffling here and there, Dale was largely the Flanker, while Dowler shifted to Split End.

So with that helping ease the bottleneck of talent to some extent, here are the top wideouts of the roster;

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.

Lombardi would love him because of all those qualities on top of his preparation and willingness to do the little things. Starr 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, even after the smaller and potentially more explosive Bobby Mitchell faded out of the lineup at the flanker spot. This really seems unconventional, since Taylor has been described as 'slower than most of the cornerbacks who tried to cover him'. But Taylor was a master at working his defender throughout the game with a dizzying array of moves to achieve separation and a fantastic ability to run after the catch- stemming from his collegiate career as a Halfback where he attempted to imitate Jim Brown. In addition his body was both big and strong enough to take the punishment up the middle, attributes which also helped to make him a highly effective blocker- another key plus in a Lombardi offense.

As to the positioning, it would seem to make more sense to have Warfield as the 'Flanker' and Taylor as the 'Split End', except that Warfield was incredibly terrorizing on the line, and the precious few extra yard of cushion at the flanker spot my enable the defender to play off of him a little better. Taylor, again not the breakaway threat Warfield is, isn't bothered by the cushion, as that defender will likely be left on an island and in fact will have to exert himself harder to chase Taylor those few extra yards every play.

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. Against Linebackers already trying to resist the meat grinder of the running game and the Secondary having their hands full with Warfield and Taylor? That's the backbreaker right there.

Starting Left Tackle: Bob Skoronski- 1965
-6'3 249. Green Bay Packers, 1956, 1959-68

The pool at Left Tackle is... well, lacking in overall notoriety. Roosevelt Brown, the mainstay from the 50's, is the biggest 'star' of merit at this position, but a chronic phebitis problem, potentially brought about from the after-effects of a knee operation after the '61 season wrecks him. Bob Vogel was noted as a master technician for the Baltimore Colts- a smaller version of Forrest Gregg. Then there's Dick Schafrath of the Cleveland Browns. Like Skoronski, he's an often overlooked stalwart on the blind side of the line, who did his job with unwavering proficiency throughout the decade, and resigned to exist in the shadows.

But here I'm going with the Packers Incumbent for one vital reason; Bart Starr endorsed him as deserving of a Hall of Fame nomination- the ACTUAL Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the Packers version. (As a plus, Skoronski can fill in at Center.) That level of endorsement trumps all, though the field of candidates are not especially noteworthy. Well, there's one we left out, but...

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

I would consider Fuzzy Thurston- the guy at Left Guard for Green Bay- to be the most expendable of the front five, mostly because of Parker. Jim is quite possibly the very best of the Guards from this era, something that can trump even Unit solidarity.

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: Jim Ringo- 1961
-6'1 232. Green Bay Packers, 1953-63/ Philadelphia Eagles, 1964-67

So... this position comes down to Ringo or Mick Tingelhoff of the Minnesota Vikings(Tingelhoff was the obvious pick last time when no Packers were allowed). The sickening part is these two guys may as well been Twins; both were comparatively undersized centers who used their quickness and intelligence to great effect when blocking, both were Iron Men of the highest order, both had an affinity with Vince Lombardi even though only one of them played for him, both were elite snappers, especially for the kicking units... I mean, you have to nit picks in order to choose one over the other.

So nit picks I did. And I find that Ringo might have been a shade faster, but it's his direct experience as part of the Lombardi offense which gets him this job- according to Vince, it was possible a bigger center couldn't make the blocks on the sweep that Ringo had to- and did- make. It does offer an Achilles Heel of sorts however, as you can line a big guy on Defense directly over Ringo (and if any team would do this, it'd be the AFL team) to overpower him directly.

Starting Right Guard: Jerry Kramer- 1966
Special Team Position: Kicker (Reserve)
-6'3 245. Green Bay Packers, 1958-68

Ask who the best Guard of the 60's is and it'll typically be a battle between Jim Parker and Jerry Kramer. Parker was athletically superior, but Kramer could match the intangibles. Thankfully, they work on different sides of the line so this is one debate I could happily avoid. I do think he's a step above Gene Hickerson though, and it's going to take a REAL expert on the matter to set me straight if the truth is otherwise.

Besides, his pairing with our next selection can be considered a trump card.

Starting Right Tackle: Forrest Gregg- 1966
-6'4 249. Green Bay Packers, 1956, 1958-70/ Dallas Cowboys, 1971

"The finest player I've ever coached."

That's straight from Vince's mouth. What more needs to be said? Iron Man, First Class Technician, Superior Effort... maybe he's not the absolute pinnacle of athleticism but everything else is too top notch to even warrant a debate. And on the plus side, he did emergency duty at BOTH Guard positions.

So, eleven starters on offense... and SEVEN are Green Bay Packers. On paper it makes sense; the Offensive Line as a whole was probably the best in the league but could be upgraded, and the detail to the running game dictated a Green Bay backfield, but the receivers could be upgraded en masse with no problems. Defense is probably another matter. Lombardi never dabbled in the defense the way he did in the offense, which gives more leeway to Phil Bengston, our DC. And Bengston wasn't a fool. Green Bay played a conservative 4-3, with the left side more pass rushers and the right side more run stoppers, the linemen handled virtually all of the trench duties and let the linebackers get to the ballcarrier or ambush the passing lanes. But this time around, you can presume the defense will be adjusted to better fit the selections.

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.

So finally an elite Packer has been sidelined; Willie Davis was said to possess an all-around blend of speed, agility, and strength. But Jones outclasses him in every category. But it does express an overall concern; the Fearsome Foursome, or the Rams variation of it, prided itself on an all-out four-man rush for the Quarterback. Can such an approach be contained, and can a defense still plug all the holes with that mindset? That remains to be seen.

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."

There truly is no better selection here. Now, as to his inside partner...

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, Bengston, Arnsparger, and even Merlin Olson playing alongside him would make full-use of that ability in terms of gameplanning.

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. The first one is, according to Doug himself, overblown. Mostly because he kinda-sorta took some edge off during games when he played with serious injuries. Playing hurt like that should endear him to Lombardi because the second one is a real concern. It seems George Halas couldn't coach the guy, not so much about strategy but he was such a wild guy. Here's hoping Lombardi is the 'people maestro' his mythology makes him out to be.

Starting Left Linebacker: Dave Robinson- 1967
-6'3 245. Green Bay Packers, 1963-72/ Washington Redskins, 1973-74

So, of the candidates, two others make this list. Dave Wilcox of the 49ers- who was a high quality linebacker for the 49ers and known as 'The Intimidator' for his jamming style, and until very recently the ONLY Hall-of-Famer candidate in this part of the pool. And then Chuck Howley of the Cowboys- who was the genuine starter of this unit last time with a Non-Packer philosophy. It went to Howley over Wilcox because Howley had the greater coverage ability and speed- he was presumably 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. No less a figure than Tom Landry called him the greatest linebacker he ever had. Of course, he's best known as having one of the supposedly weakest Super Bowl MVP awards in the history of the event- a linebacker nabbing the award for the losing team says everything about how sloppy and crap that contest 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.

By contrast, Robinson is more easily hidden in the shadows. You think of Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Herb Adderly, Willie Wood... you think of several names on that unit before you come to the likes of Robinson. And since this was a comparatively nondescript unit in terms of publicity- they never had a cool nickname for the press to drool over, y'know?- it's easy to gloss over all but the brightest leaders. And that's where Robinson gets the short end because as crazy as it sounds, he had a higher ceiling than Howley did.

Just about as fast, probably stronger, could and DID jam the Tight Ends on the line as well as cover them in the open field, could handle backs coming out of the backfield... but even with all that, the biggest trump card would be his connection to other Packers who are going to make this squad on Defense.

Now it's time for a massive head-ache; Middle Linebacker. Only two names. Butkus and Nitschke. One of the greater debates of this whole exercise, and one of the BIGGER reasons I deviated from having Packers last time. Makes me wish I wasn't a teetotaller, because I am gonna NEED a couple shots of hard liquor for this one.

Starting Middle Linebacker: Ray Nitschke- 1966
-6'3 235. Green Bay Packers, 1958-72

I would like to make one thing clear; the projection between Butkus and Nitschke went down to the wire. A lot of their attributes, especially the intangibles, were so closely similar in description that they cancelled each other out. Name something; aggression, power, tackling, pass defense, ability to knife through the line and get the ball carrier, ability to diagnose plays... all of it came about as dead or near-dead even. There's one advantage Butkus for sure had over Nitschke; his mobility was at least a shade better, especially in a 20-yard bubble. But Nitschke had two advantages; healthier knees- even before Butkus got into the NFL he had bad knees- and he knows the Green Bay system. Remember, you need a play-caller on Defense as well, and it's typically the Middle Linebacker. Not that Butkus couldn't do it; Nitschke knows the system and that irons out the overall unit kinks faster. But at the end of the day, I'm not completely guilt-ridden about leaving Butkus off at Middle Linebacker.

Why?

Starting Right Linebacker: Dick Butkus- 1965 (Off-Position)
-6'3 245. Chicago Bears, 1965-73

That's why.

In truth, it's a greater amount of wishful thinking than Joe Schmidt back in the 50's because unlike Joe- who did play linebacker positions that WEREN'T in the Middle- Butkus has no such help. He's completely untested as an outside linebacker, but the same skills and intangibles that made him such a freaking excellent middle linebacker should serve him well here. It certainly does not hurt that we're taking Butkus at the earliest possible time, after his rookie season. This should reduce the overall wear and tear in his legs and maybe sharpen the edge of his running skills in the process.

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 receivers 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, even though this thought process is now obsolete. 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.

The secondary plays to near-default strategies. Man-to-Man coverage for the Cornerbacks, and seeing as how that counts nearly everybody in the NFL(The Colts being a precious exception) there's no issue here. However, it requires a sentence or several to briefly discuss the alternative; Zone Coverage.

You see, Zone Coverage had become in vogue over at the upstart AFL, mostly due to a lack of pristine 'talent', especially in the secondaries. In Man Coverage you have your defender line up and directly follow the man he's coverage. Straight and simple, but it also leaves you at the mercy of the physical skills and some intangibles of the cornerback in question, so an inferior defender is going to get burned repeatedly. Zone defense by contrast is having your defenders cover a given stretch of field exclusively. On the one hand, playing off the receivers tends to leave them open to do whatever. But on the other, it allows those same 'inferior' defenders a fighting chance of anticipating and jumping those routes. This was more important in the AFL, both because of that aforementioned 'lesser' talent and the subsequent wide-open innovative play that had to develop because of said lack of overall talent. So it was probably surprising to see how the Zone could actually succeed in the 'established' NFL which did not tolerate gimmicks for long and should have had 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.

The safeties deserve some mention, mainly because their designations have yet to change. 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 transition 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.

Granted, the Left Safety on this team, whether by a lack of a really strong stopper or really major talent overall, will probably operate more like the Right-side counterpart regardless. It certainly seemed to play that way in the Green Bay system, where the left side DE and LB handled the really bruising aspects of the job and allowed the LS to be more of an anticipator. It's worth noting because the three main LS for Green Bay during the Lombardi years were a washed-up Emlen Tunnell, Hank Gremminger(a converted cornerback), and Tom Brown(considered the weakest link of the Packer secondary). All three of them played more like ballhawks than stoppers.

But I'm getting carried away. Starting off with the obvious choice;

Starting Left Cornerback: Herb Adderley- 1965
Special Team Position: Kick Returner(Reserve)
-6'0 205. Green Bay Packers, 1961-69/ Dallas Cowboys, 1970-72

So, a Zone permits a defender the space overall to compensate if his footspeed is not adequate to the task. Reasonable, as only the fleetest of cornerbacks could be expected to play universally tight on his receiver. Adderley probably played the tightest out of everyone in the pool of cornerbacks, due to his fantastic speed. Given that he actually came into the NFL as an elite College Halfback gives you some idea as to his physical skills.

Of course, raw speed is one thing. Here's what else Adderley had; the capacity to tackle and deliver hard hits(he sorta was a successor to Night Train Lane the way he would rope down open field runners by making running horsecollar tackles. You should see it, it looks brutal the way he flies in and lashes that arm across the facebar and ropes the carrier down.) excellent instincts for anticipation and prediction, great leaping ability in the air and laterally(making him very effective as an edge rusher against Placekicks), and the mindset that did NOT crumble the moment he got beat and burned. He was a foxhole type of ballplayer, one of the first true Shutdown Corners. He locks down the Flanker without a question.

Moving across the field to the safeties, I already know the right-side starter, so we're going to focus on the left.

Starting Left Safety: Mel Renfro- 1969 (Off-Position)
Special Team Position: Punt Returner (Reserve)
-6'0 190. Dallas Cowboys, 1964-77

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!!!

To be perfectly fair, he was the last competitor with Renfro for this spot. Amongst the others in contention were Paul Krause, Yale Lary, Eddie Meador, Jimmy Patton, and Rosey Taylor. Patton, while a stalwart of the New York secondary in the early 60's, comes with precious little info in regard to his skills, though he played the safety spot straight up. Lary's vale is more in line with Pure Punting, as he was like Patton an early 60's product just before an evolution started taking shape. Rosey comes darn close- some might argue he was superior to someone like Willie Wood, and had some experience playing in a Zone defense in '63- which offers some idea of his capacity to work within a defense. Many know Krause as a Hall of Famer for Minnesota, but he was a true Center Fielder almost to the point of being passive. Meador was a hard hitter and a ball-hawk almost to the extent Wilson was, and had both a level of versatility(Cornerback coming in) and some unique traits(he would hold for Placekicks, able to run off fakes if needed).

Last time, I deducted points from Wilson because I didn't think he could function in a Zone Defense, primarily because he was used so much as a Safety Blitzer. In a Man-on-Man defense, with some capacity for adjustment, that concern is negated. And certainly people have raved about him. Guys like Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg and Bobby Mitchell alike have heaped great praise for his skills and his intangibles.

Renfro however headlines the bunch for two reasons. In the first, his athleticism. A legit 4.6 in the 40, fantastic lateral movement- side to side- and even running backwards. He was skilled enough that he came in from college as a running back but a loaded Dallas offense dictated a switch to the secondary. Against potential opponents like the AFL club or even Space Aliens, that kind of coverage ability means a lot.

The second reason has to do with his Brain. 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. This helped a great deal on a complicated defense like Dallas, where the Free Safety couldn't just be a pure free-ranger, and it helps here because not only can he take on the more assignment-responsible Left Side, he's the top choice to switch over should anything happen to his Deep Partner.

(He was good enough to STAY at Safety, mind you. He switched to cornerback because Dallas needed superior cornerbacks.)

Starting Right Safety: Willie Wood- 1966
Special Team Position: Punt Returner (Reserve)
-5'10 190. Green Bay Packers, 1960-71

Willie played Quarterback in College. A 5'10 Black Quarterback in a day and age where that should've been in the realm of Science Fiction. And he went to a prospective pro career with two unfair strikes on his record (and it didn't help that a broken collarbone in his final year sealed the deal) and only got one invitation to Green Bay. So he had to claw his way onto a roster and then onto a Starting Spot. It takes different strokes, I suppose. Willie's time at QB allowed him to adjust relatively fast to playing Safety, where his smarts and great anticipation made him one of the best Free Safeties of the time. His leaping ability was fantastic, his tackling disciplined and sure. He was given more freedom to roam than most, if only because he had the skills to make it work- and given how Elite the defense was overall, you had to imagine he made it work really well.

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

A word about 'Shutdown Corners', if I may.

Typically, these guys are players who, thanks to their comparatively superior ability, are rarely thrown to. In these modern times, when you think of Shutdown Corners, the likes of Darrell Revis or Richard Sherman come to mind. Here's another; Nmadi Asomuga. 'Aso' as I'm gonna call him, spent the first part of his career on a mediocre Oakland team, played entirely on one side, and displayed an adept enough cover ability one-on-one to deter passers from throwing in his area. So he was given the label, and he acquired enough of a reputation that he got a good contract with Philadelphia... then the wheels came off.

Aso was part of the dark side of the 'Shutdown Corner' label; the players who earned that label for being the best defenders on unremarkable defenses. More often than not, they get burned when they accept another spot elsewhere. Like in Philly, where he inherited a more complicated coverage scheme AND a great deal more pressure and just couldn't live up to his contract. That fits in with the typical opinion on talent as a whole; the cream rises to the top, while the turds sink.

Johnson was one of the rare cases who didn't sink over the years. Staying in San Francisco might've helped, but not by much, since during his time the 49ers transitioned from also-ran to contender and back again and he still did the same job day in and day out. As a man-to-man defender, Johnson was more passive than most, but he was also more reactive, having the smooth athleticism to keep up with the great receivers of his day and the smarts to not get suckered by their moves. He made few mistakes, he was a willing and able tackler, and his attitude was both totally lunch-pail and very easygoing. What can you really say about a Cat who enthusiastically learned Zone Defense at 38 and once barbed his coach's 'Coat and Tie at all times' dressing rule by showing up ONLY wearing those garments?

Speaking of his coach, Dick Nolan 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. The 60's were a strange bird, starting out with everyday players still inhabiting the kicking duties with maybe a handful of pure specialists. A couple did double-duty. But by the time the end of the decade rolled around and specialists became common, so too did the kicking roles. Suddenly there were Placekickers and Punters, whose jobs never really mixed. Before we go into our selections, we really need to acknowledge the candidates from last time around.

Placekicking went down to Fred Cox and Jim Bakken. Both were infuriatingly similar in terms of production, both had relatively vague details, both were failed punters... Bakken however was about as mysterious as the Malboro Man while Cox offered some juicy tidbits, like a good rep in cold weather, a working relationship with the snapper(Mick Tingelhoff), and actually running the Scouting teams on BOTH sides during practice(a skill I DON'T relish losing).

Amongst the nondescript punters, two names stood out. Yale Lary was the best candidate available. Billy Lothridge was more 'infamous' than exceptional. 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?

(But that doesn't mean anything, you say. We're not too far removed from when kickers did double-duty. Heck, Lary did the same thing for longer!)

...er, did I mention that he did this for a 2-12 team, WITHOUT a kidney?

(And now I just hear crickets chirp)

However, none of them make the cut this time, because...

Starting Placekicker/Punter: Don Chandler- 1963
-6'2 215. New York Giants, 1956-64/ Green Bay Packers, 1965-67

Chandler started out as a Punter(Pat Summerall was the Kicker). Then he pulled double-duty as a placekicker in the early 60's. That in itself was rather inverse to the typical story. Even more remarkable was that Chandler was still very effective in both roles. He had cold weather experience (New York AND Green Bay) and experience with Lombardi (which won't matter THAT much as a kicker, but still). He also offers a value far greater than that of his boot; he opens up an extra roster spot compared to last time. (There would be even more if we discarded the kicking specialist entirely, but none of the candidates are that much good to be the primary choice).

23 Spots out of 40 covered... 12 of them are Packers. Hoo boy. I know Dynasties get the lion's share typically but...

Anyhoo, onto the bench. Starting as always, with the backup Quarterback. And the concept comes with a riddle; actual backup Quarterbacks are starting to show up in the results, albeit typically as guys thrust into starting situations brought about by injury or incompetence. And that poses a dilemma; do I go with the usual concept of picking a starter who can accept the backup role, or do I try and find a true backup with the skill to adequately play the position, and more importantly, the offensive system?

The answer is, you go with the genuine backup unless the talent level is profoundly inferior. Thankfully, this time around we have two genuine candidates. One is a true practitioner of the Lombardi system. The other might just be the best backup QB in the history of the game. I'm referring to Zeke Bratkowski and Earl Morrall.

Morall's story is that he was a journeyman with an extensive 'Employer' list that would've rivaled someone from the 1920's. So what happened? 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.

Zeke is much more laid back by comparison. An unremarkable career in Chicago spanning seven years including time off for stints in the Air Force led to him going to Los Angeles. As a starter he showed awful stats, but he ended up being picked up by Green Bay on waivers in '63, where he found his niche as the 'Super Sub' behind Bart Starr. And aside from a key game in the '65 Playoffs and a brief stretch in '67, Zeke was largely on the sidelines. Still, there was a definite camradery between Zeke and Starr that completely deserves mention.

Backup Quarterback: Zeke Bratkowski- 1966
-6'2 210. Chicago Bears, 1954, 1957-60/ Los Angeles Rams, 1961-63/ Green Bay Packers, 1963-67

I need to preface this; Morrall is the superior Quarterback of the two. Morrall is even the superior BACKUP Quarterback of the two. But the knowledge of the Green Bay system, and the insanely close working relationship between Bart and Zeke, are too good to pass up here. You likely won't see as clear-cut a working tandem at QB again.

Backup Halfback: Gale Sayers- 1965
Special Team Position: Kick/Punt Returner (Primary)
-6'0 198. Chicago Bears, 1965-71

If people are still raging about Paul Hornung being over 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 ground into the dirt by the Green Bay attack. 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: John Henry Johnson- 1962
-6'2 210. San Francisco 49ers, 1954-56/ Detroit Lions, 1957-59/ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1960-65/ Houston Oilers(AFL), 1966

To hear the story be told, Jim Taylor chafed at the idea of a successor to his spot back in '66. Subsequently he made up his mind to play out his option and went to New Orleans the next year. Given that detail, why would you risk the aggravation of bringing in a backup?

There are a few reasons; first, Taylor never chafed at a backup to his job, just someone who was going to take his job. Second, Taylor's presence was so paramount on the offense that those backups rarely had time on the field(the 'incident' that got on Taylor's nerves happened while Green Bay was torturing an expansion Atlanta franchise and all the backups were in by the second half). The third is, Johnson- I think so far our only mainstay from the prior decade- was perfectly capable of either staying on the bench, getting small patches of spot duty, and even shifting over to halfback.

That was the funny thing, the so-called best lead blocker in the business who went to Pittsburgh and became the main running threat instead. But here, it provides a badly needed wrinkle; someone who can back up two positions at once(we are NOT grinding Sayers to the bone) and supply a crucial extension of power.

Backup Flanker/Split End: Gary Collins- 1965
Special Team Position: Punter (Reserve)
-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 who is also penciled in at 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. Couple that with Collins' clutch reputation and excellent hands, and you can imagine the guy learning how to thrive with the Packer offense. Among other talents is his capacity as a punter. Not especially relevant with Don Chandler, 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 Split End: Max McGee- 1960
Special Team Position: Punter (Reserve)
-6'3 205. Green Bay Packers, 1954, 1957-67

This is more of a Locker Room choice than a Gridiron choice. Not to say McGee is a total scrub- he's just, especially when compared to the rest of the pool, unremarkable. There are easily better candidates if you go by football skills alone, even though McGee does possess an unnatural cool and easygoing strategic mind. However, it's McGee's reputation as someone who could loosen up the Packer locker room- and especially Vince Lombardi- combined with his friendship with Paul Hornung, that carry his endorsement on this squad. Given that Collins is more likely to be the backup on either side of the field, you can afford to go with intangibles on the next guy on the depth chart. That suits McGee to a tee.

Backup Tight End: Ron Kramer- 1962
-6'3 234. Green Bay Packers, 1957, 1959-64/ Detroit Lions, 1965-67

One would think that Tight End would be one of those 'miscellaneous' jobs with a description that DIDN'T go beyond blocking and the occasional pass up the middle. One would especially think that such a primitive concept existed in Green Bay. Thankfully, it was a more sophisticated position. The GB TE was expected to play on either side of the line and while he wasn't expected to be the seam-ripper that the elite talents were, his ability to go over the middle and make the difficult catch in traffic and have the size to fight back against the linebackers and safeties meant a lot in the passing game. But lets not gild the lily too much; the best asset was being able to seal off the linebacker during the famed Sweep plays. Kramer excelled at all of this and was stout enough to block defensive ends one on one for the most part.

So really, it's the knowledge of the Lombardi system which benefits Kramer here. Last time I went with Ditka and hoped he wouldn't cause a problem on the bench, and while I think he would thrive just as well under Lombardi, well... a key cog in the actual offense in real life is a plus here.

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.

Backup Guard: Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston- 1962
-6'1 247. Baltimore Colts, 1958/ Green Bay Packers, 1959-67

Unlike Neely, Thurston has no true experience on the opposite side of the line at any point in his Professional career, making him a more 'questionable' candidate. At the same time, him being the other half of the "Guardian Angels" of the Packer Sweep counts for quite a heck of a lot. (The Angels bit was because both Guards pulled and ran lead blocking for the runner on the play, both Thurston and Jerry Kramer were fantastic at the job)

The other useful bit was that Fuzzy was one of the looser players on the team, in direct contrast to the supposed 'super-serious' atmosphere the team played under. Him making quips about the aliens might just offer a psychological advantage.

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

As stated before with Jim Ringo, the weakness he presents is that his below-average size can be exploited directly, one of the best known examples being putting a lineman- or a linebacker- directly over him at the point of attack. This was used against Mick Tingelhoff in Super Bowl IV to great effectiveness. So how do you counter such a flaw? Well, if you're still going with Ringo you can supposedly make adjustments in the overall unit blocking, but if that doesn't work than you simply need a stouter option backing up Ringo, say near the 250-pound range. And out of the short list of candidates, DeMarco stood out the most as the third-best decorated Center of the decade. He could very supposedly do much of the things Ringo could do on the field, and was part of a unit that people kept rating as top-notch despite the Cardinals frequently flirting with 'Should be Contender' status. Solid play, no known negative intangibles, and was considered good enough to help bolster a Miami Dolphins team on the cusp of dominance, though gone before they started winning titles.

Three fourth's of the way there, 31 players in all... 16 are Packers. Where's a bag of dope when you need one...?

Backup Defensive End: Willie Davis- 1966
-6'3 243. Cleveland Browns, 1958-59/ Green Bay Packers, 1960-69

I know I've probably broken this rule numerous times in the past decades, but I really do try and avoid putting Hall of Famers in bench spots, especially bench spots that are deeply unlikely to see playing time beyond the kamikaze units of Special Teams. You can fudge this rule in certain spots like at Running Back- where the second stringers really do have an impact on the field- but we are not at the point where almost all positions can have 'specialists' with important roles. This is much more apparent on defenses, where only injuries guarantee PT on the primary unit.

The reason I went with Davis here is because I'm hoping that all the rave reviews he ever drew as a leader were not full of hot air and that he can be an anchor for this squad. If he can do that, if he can accept being second string and help teach the Green Bay style of defense to the others, then fantastic, because his skills as a DE are way too good to pass up. I'm not kidding when I say I agonized about Deacon Jones versus Willie Davis.

Interestingly enough, Davis, much like Adderley and Wood, came into the pros at differing positions. Remember, Adderley was a running back from Michigan State, and Wood was a QB at USC. Davis was a two-way star at Grambling and spent his time in Cleveland trying to be a tackle on offense until he was traded to Green Bay and switched sides. These days you rarely see that happening, y'know?

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. Brown sorta inhabits the role played by Dave Hanner and Ron Kostelnik, who played the draw and cutback runs first before rushing the passer- hence why I went with size over accolades.

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: 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. Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke are both ideal Playcallers who played Middle Linebacker AND are on this team, but even with that in mind, finding a reserve playcaller is a sound strategy. Two of the best of what's left are Maxie Baughan and 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?)

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

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.

Of course, it raises the question about whether he's a better fit for the starting lineup than Dave Robinson... but then again, I haven't heard any negative stories from Howley so I'll take the risk on this one.

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- 1962
Special Team Position: Kick/Punt Returner (Secondary)
-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 Cornerback: Dick LeBeau- 1964
-6'1 185. Detroit Lions, 1959-72

I'm going to maintain that LeBeau's coaching is what got him into the Hall of Fame as opposed to his playing career. But I'm also going to maintain that LeBeau was no bleeping slouch when it came to being an active participant on the Gridiron..

LeBeau was a key part of a great Detroit secondary that almost always seemed to have future Hall of Famers and superstars at the corners and saftey positions. Of course, that came with a problem, since LeBeau was the typical target for offenses trying to AVOID those great players. That tends to bury more players than not, but LeBeau was one of the few who rose up and milked everything out his talents to meet that threat. He had to rely on his smarts and intense preparation to fight that constant attention, an attribute that has extended to this present day, as people by now have rated LeBeau one of the greatest defensive coaches in the history of the NFL. So he was doing something clearly right. That same level of preparation not only helps in a pinch as a second-stringer, it also gives him a capacity to help teach what he knows in the locker room.

In addition, LeBeau jumped around on both sides of the corner spots AND played Free Safety in his final year, making his status as an emergency reserve in the middle feasible.

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. Mel Renfro is somewhat out of position though he was a very willing tackler. Eddie Meador may have been the 'Rams little assassin' but he still would've been undersized and again out of position. 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.

40 Players altogether. The official tally is 17 of them were Packers. The non-homer in me feels positively filthy, but then I suppose that's what happens when your decade has a bona-fide dynasty.

Coming next, the AFL Squad, this time much faster! In the meantime, be sure to curb-stomp my dumb [BLEEP] for daring to put Nitschke over Butkus and for kicking Jim Brown to the curb and all the OTHER potential-homer decisions I made.


1960's NFL All-Decade Squad: Depth Chart

Offense: Pro-Style, GB Variant
Defense: 4-3, GB Variant

QB: Bart Starr/Zeke Bratkowski
HB: Paul Hornung/Gale Sayers/John Henry Johnson
FB: Jim Taylor/John Henry Johnson
SE: Paul Warfield/Gary Collins/Max McGee
FL: Charley Taylor/Gary Collins
TE: John Mackey/Ron Kramer
LT: Bob Skoronski/Jim Parker/Ralph Neely
LG: Jim Parker/Fuzzy Thurston/Forrest Gregg
C: Jim Ringo/Bob DeMarco/Bob Skoronski
RG: Jerry Kramer/Fuzzy Thurston/Forrest Gregg
RT: Forrest Gregg/Ralph Neely

LDE: Deacon Jones/Willie Davis
LDT: Merlin Olsen/Roger Brown
RDT: Bob Lilly/Roger Brown
RDE: Doug Atkins/Willie Davis
LLB: Dave Robinson/Chuck Howley/Wayne Walker
MLB: Ray Nitschke/Dick Butkus/Maxie Baughan
RLB: Dick Butkus/Maxie Baughan/Wayne Walker
LCB: Herb Adderley/Dick LeBeau/Abe Woodson
LS: Mel Renfro/Richie Petitbon/Dick LeBeau
RS: Willie Wood/Mel Renfro/Dick LeBeau
RCB: Jimmy Johnson/Abe Woodson/Dick LeBeau

K: Don Chandler/Paul Hornung/Jerry Kramer
P: Don Chandler/Gary Collins/Max McGee
PR: Gale Sayers/Abe Woodson/Mel Renfro/Willie Wood
KR: Gale Sayers/Abe Woodson/Herb Adderley

Anybody who leaves Jim Brown off their All Pro teams is a joke and anybody who says Paul Brown wasn't the greatest HC of the 50's just doesn't know crap about football.

Sorry, but after I read that I realized your lists are worthless and a waste of time reading.
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Old 02-11-2015, 09:57 AM    (permalink
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my goooooood, Canadian... why would you quote the whole thing?

Also, Zycho - I think these are really cool, and actually quite like your rationale for building these. If nothing else, it's a fun exercise. But one suggestion:

Use spoilers! It takes so long to scroll through the page. If you don't know how:

put brackets [ ] at the beginning of your article and again [ ] at the end, and in the first set of brackets write "spoiler" and in the second, "/spoiler".

Looking forward to the rest of them!
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Old 02-11-2015, 11:16 AM    (permalink
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Look, I'm 71 and the 50's and 60's are still quite clear in my head. It's not some period I know nothing about. I was a true fanatic back then and studied every aspect of the game I could.

I find some of his comments quite insulting for a number of players and HC's and totally off base from any reality and not just about the Browns. A lot of what he has to say is just utterly ridiculous.
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????????????

Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker, Adrian Peterson, Eric Dickerson, etc., all the NFL and NCAA's big, fast RBs are compared to this guy.

How is he not on the list???lol
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Old 02-11-2015, 03:51 PM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iamcanadian View Post
Anybody who leaves Jim Brown off their All Pro teams is a joke and anybody who says Paul Brown wasn't the greatest HC of the 50's just doesn't know crap about football.

Sorry, but after I read that I realized your lists are worthless and a waste of time reading.
....y'know, I'm not so angry about getting trashed like this openly.

I'm more angry that you're not offering me anything constructive to work with.

Alright, so you've actually lived in that age and engorged yourself on all the details of that time and in that game. That's great. That's really fantastic. Because that's a WONDERFUL source of information, especially for a time that I'm stuck trying to dig through the bowels of the internet to get anything knowledgeable that I can make use of. Do you have any idea how rare that this!?

I mean, for the record, I never implied Paul Brown wasn't the greatest Head Coach of the 50's, just on success rate alone. I did not select him because I felt he would never let Lombardi or Landry run things on their ends, and that by the end of the decade, those two had actually surpassed him when it came to innovation of the sport. I went into a lot of detail about that, and I'd know to know HOW and WHY I'm wrong there- if I am- as opposed to just being trashed about it.

As for Jim Brown... well crap, here's how it went for me;

JIM BROWN VS. JIM TAYLOR
-Only one 'source' openly talked about the playstyles of both players, and the implication I got- however biased it might be- was that Taylor was more of an inside runner than Brown. Brown was portrayed as more of an outside runner, sort of like a HB a decade or two before his time. More to the point, is there any real definite proof that Brown hit harder than Taylor when taking on defenders with the ball, or are people mostly saying that because his mobility enhanced his impact?
-Apparently other sources noted that Brown was rarely required to block, which I made note of as well. Could be block? I'm pretty sure he could and could do it well. But Taylor's a known commodity in that department.

JIM BROWN VS. PAUL HORNUNG
-Probably a lot more indefensible, if only because Brown's talents are a LOT more enhanced on the weak side. It sounds a lot like night and day. Here are Hornung's supposed 'advantages' in that breakdown;

1. The ability to run an Option Pass (Probably a frill)
2. Again, a willing and able blocker (One can look the other way because Brown's more of an unknown)
3. Unit cohesion with Taylor (Again, potentially overlookable)
4. 'Precision' Runner- follows his blockers to daylight. (Once more, overlookable because for all I know Brown could do the same thing)
5. Relation with Vince Lombardi (probably shouldn't matter for crap, but one shouldn't sneer at Chemistry no matter how 'on paper' the exercise is)

All of those offer nothing that makes Hornung a superior option to Brown, I know. But I also knew how effective the Green Bay ground attack was WITHOUT him, so I went with the known product. At least with Gale Sayers I could use him as a third option and in the return game without a potential PT problem.

That's the other problem; how do I know for a fact that Jim Brown could willingly take a smaller role in an offense, and how do I know he could indoctrinate himself into the Lombardi system?

'But he IS the system!'

That leads to this question; would Lombardi voluntarily change his system for Brown? He's more adaptive than you think, but on HIS terms only. I know Brown has looked back favorably on the idea of playing for Lombardi ("I would have loved Lombardi and Lombardi would have loved me. I practiced the way I played.") but I'm not sure if that would still apply to Brown in his physical prime as a Superstar.

So when it came to Jim Brown I had an established system that WORKED on one end, and the greatest player of his era, if not all time, on the other end representing an unknown factor that could either create Fusion Energy or wreck the engine entirely. And I went for the safer-looking option.


...but seriously, call my views warped all you want. Just show me where it goes wrong. I'd like to learn something if nothing else and you seem like the best candidate right now for that.
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Old 02-16-2015, 12:24 PM    (permalink
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If someone has to make an argument to you about why Jim Brown should be included on your all decade team, there isn't much to talk about.

I never understood the thrill people got from these microscopic criticisms of the game's truly elite players.

You put Jim Brown on an all decade team because he's Jim Brown, one of the greatest players to ever play the game from any decade.

Taking such an outlier position makes you seem foolish and not to be taken seriously.
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Old 02-16-2015, 01:04 PM    (permalink
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It is problematic when you try to use a system as a basis for choosing one player over another for this sort of exercise. For one thing, it doesn't make sense to pick an all-decade team that way, as the point of such teams are to select the best players of that decade. It's counter-intuitive to purposely select lesser players for that sort of team.

Second, by using established connections and chemistry as a basis for a player's inclusion, you're selling the exercise short. If I wanted to know that Paul Hornung was a great fit for Lombardi's system, I'd just look at the Packers' record during that time frame. To pick him over a clearly superior player is just an overall odd choice that is going to harm your credibility.
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Old 02-17-2015, 02:57 AM    (permalink
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Well, here I am after a few days of admittedly heated brooding, like if Batman were crossed with a couch potato, and I am back to discuss a few... changes.

In the first place, YES, I went and added Jim Brown to the 60's NFL Roster, starting him at Halfback. Kudos to those who pointed out my utter fallacy in that department.

Second, since just today discovering I can still EDIT my posts even from when I restarted this thread(and boy do I feel like a *HEE HAW HEE HAW*) I went and used Caulibflower's suggestion and marked my prior posts with spoiler tags to lessen the massive clutter on the page- and even took the time to mark the Player Names in the 'rationales' in bold to better see them.

As for the third, we turn to mqtrishfan;

Quote:
Originally Posted by mqtirishfan View Post
It is problematic when you try to use a system as a basis for choosing one player over another for this sort of exercise. For one thing, it doesn't make sense to pick an all-decade team that way, as the point of such teams are to select the best players of that decade. It's counter-intuitive to purposely select lesser players for that sort of team.
Almost all, if not entirely all, of All-Time teams created by other people have one thing in common; they are selected as more of a Merit-Driven honor roll than as a genuine team that could compete. Take the NFL 75th Anniversary team,a collection of the greatest players from all the eras of Professional Football. Then take those players and bring up to modern times and suit them up. At least half the roster would be horribly undersized for even the 90's version of the game, and almost all those same players would have to hurdle multiple decades worth of advances in strategy, rules, and overall development. In short, few people if any try to do more than just name names. I wanted to create All-Time teams that were not only name worthy, but were actually designed to get on the gridiron and compete with the best possible ability and efficiency. In short, I tried to create actual functioning teams.

And when you go beyond just listing names and merits, you have to note the intangibles. If you have players backing up the starting positions, then you need those players to be willing to take lesser roles but still deliver when called upon. If an exceptionally talented player has some serious red flags that you can't easily cross off, and these are bad enough to cause friction in the locker room or even on the field itself, then you may want to take a lesser talent who WON'T make waves (I should point out that Jim Brown did NOT make those kinds of waves, just to clarify).

As for a system, there's a reason it's a valuable part in the selection process; it's basically an unavoidable part of the sport. Take baseball and basketball as comparative alternates. Baseball has clearly defined roles that are rarely crossed except by those on the bench. But the starters are the living definition of 'plug and play' as strategy is quite literally fringe, limited to the occasional defensive shift and batter/runner dynamics. Basketball meanwhile has enjoyed a renaissance of strategic thought in the most recent years, but the common perception is that the athleticism and the skillsets of the players dictate the outcome of the games more than strategy does. Football by contrast is one-hundred percent dominated by strategy, the players assembled before plays as if chess pieces on the board, running devised routes and performing very specific functions on each given play. This isn't a scenario where you can play with backyard rules, letting talent dictate everything- that hasn't existed since the very earliest years of the game. A team without a working 'skeleton' of a gameplan is going to be divided and conquered rather quickly, hence the importance of an overall successful system that the players are familiar with. And unfortunately, reliance on whatever the system may be sometimes dictates certain talents to be utilized and maybe sometimes discarded.

Quote:
Second, by using established connections and chemistry as a basis for a player's inclusion, you're selling the exercise short. If I wanted to know that Paul Hornung was a great fit for Lombardi's system, I'd just look at the Packers' record during that time frame. To pick him over a clearly superior player is just an overall odd choice that is going to harm your credibility.
If you just look at the Packers record during that time frame, you get a vague, incomplete picture. Stats don't tell you everything, sad to say. Look at their record and ask yourself 'how'd they do it?' then look at their stats and ask yourself 'how'd they get those numbers?' then you look at their game footage and all the testimony of past players and coaches and what-have-you, and when you get the overall idea of their strategy and their execution, but then the ideal question you should ask yourself ought to be 'how did each of these guys do their own job?' and then you look up the individuals. It's that simple, and it's actually darn necessary if you're trying to construct an actual team, even if only in theory.

You also can't sell connections and chemistry short. Remember, this is a team being assembled to save the Earth from aliens in a winner-take-all battle on the Gridiron, the ultimate gutcheck. Every little advantage helps. If anything, they greatly enhance the exercise rather than sell it short.

Connections help give the overall gameplan a skeleton with which the players who weren't part of the established system can learn from. Like the connection between a Head Coach and his Quarterback; it's much easier to have a QB running a familiar system, though this can be bypassed under the right circumstances. A Quarterback and his top Wideout is another such 'connection' that's worth a lot- after all, you never know when a do-or-die play is run and you'll need two players utterly in sync with one another (like Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry) to connect and get that desperate winning touchdown.

Chemistry helps in the stress of the moment, enduring the stakes imposed upon you. A dysfunctional unit- baring very FEW exceptions- will crumble in the heat of battle and be vanquished. To that end, you need not just your locker room leaders and forged-in-the-fires-of-hades partnerships, but also the jokesters, the guys who can lighten the mood, the guys who know when to get serious but at the same time know where the breaking point is and do their best to steer everybody from that ledge.

And to FUNBUNCHER for the final words;

Quote:
Originally Posted by FUNBUNCHER View Post
If someone has to make an argument to you about why Jim Brown should be included on your all decade team, there isn't much to talk about.

I never understood the thrill people got from these microscopic criticisms of the game's truly elite players.

You put Jim Brown on an all decade team because he's Jim Brown, one of the greatest players to ever play the game from any decade.

Taking such an outlier position makes you seem foolish and not to be taken seriously.
While the dismissal of Jim Brown WAS a stupid move on my part, you do simplify the idea of justifying him. In addition to giving me NOTHING to be convinced by, you may miss vital details that might bite you on the rear while you assemble your team.

I'll use Don Hutson as an example. In the 30's and 40's, nobody would argue that he was one of THE best players in the league, someone everyone would have on their rosters. Everyone would also just leave it at that and not look any deeper.

But when you look deeper, you see he had to be protected on defense; someone else had to be on the line while he played safety. And this was before the time of true Platooning, so you had no choice but to either let him take his lumps and reduce his effectiveness, or cover for that defensive deficiency elsewhere. Even on offense his game dictated a change- in an era where Ends were still mostly attached to the line, Hutson was at his best split out wide, which negated his capacity to block on run plays and would force your entire offense to compensate for his elite skills as a result. This is why Bronko Nagurski had to play Defensive End and Clarke Hinkle had to play Halfback; because Hutson dictated those changes. And Hutson dictated those changes because he was too dang good as an evolutionary wide receiver to pass up but his shortcomings could not be ignored.

Jim Brown, all 'Greatest of All Time' endorsements aside, needed to be examined under that same level of scrutiny, because doing so allows you to determine the best possible way to either build an offense around him or settle him into an established system.
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Old 02-17-2015, 11:44 AM    (permalink
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Out of curiosity where do you get your information Zycho32?
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Old 02-17-2015, 01:14 PM    (permalink
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The game of football isn't that complicated. Turning it into the Allied attack on Normandy is putting the game on a pedestal it doesn't belong.

Great players figure out a way to make it work, regardless of scheme.

But I do enjoy reading about the history of the game and its greatest players.
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