Tag Archives: NFL

Is the NFL throwing the ball more, but getting less out of it?

The answer is yes. The NFL passing game now dominates offensive strategy, but the excitement has gone out of the game as the short pass, or as we used to derisively call it back in the seventies, the dump pass, has taken over the game.

A dump pass is a short throw designed for an easy completion and guaranteed to pick up no more than 5 or 6 yards. In the seventies, the recipient was a running back coming out of the backfield. Today, it’s the slot receiver.

It’s a high percentage throw that’s about an exciting as a fullback diving up the middle of the line and it has supplanted much of the running game in the NFL. It’s also taken away a lot of the excitement from the game. No one throws the long bomb anymore. No one takes a chance unless it’s a Hail Mary at the end of a game.

Bart Starr was famous for throwing the bomb on third and one and faking the defense out of its shoes. Though the 1960s Packers threw the ball less than anyone in the NFL, when they did put it up, they got big numbers.

The result of today’s ultra-conservative passing game has resulted in incredibly high completion percentages, ridiculously low interception rates and made the game, all too often, a yawn. Here’s  a chart that demonstrates the decline of the downfield passing game using the number that tells it all, yards per completion. We begin in 1946, the decade the passing game began to emerge in professional football. The number cited is the yards per completion by the top, qualifying quarterback in the NFL every ten years through 2016.

Year       Yards Per Completion
1946       16.6
1956       17.4
1966       15.8 NFL
1966       17.5 AFL
1976       15.1
1986       14.9
1996       13.3
2006       14.7
2016       13.3

And here’s the entire league average for those same years.

Year       Yards Per Completion
1946       15.0
1956       12.8
1966       11.9 NFL
1966       13.5 AFL
1976       11.1
1986       11.5
1996       10.8
2006       10.7
2016       10.7

The decline of .8 yards per completion from 1986 to the present day may not seem like much, but it points out a steady decline that began in the Dead Ball Era of the seventies. Hiding within that current number is the fact that far fewer throws are being made downfield while the safety valve throw to a running back, another name for the dump pass, has also all but disappeared from the NFL. Consider this, in the seventies, quarterbacks on bad teams relied on the dump pass due to the bump and run defense which basically allowed defensive backs to mug wide receivers and racked up miserable numbers in the process, bringing the overall league average down.

On the other hand, teams with receivers able to get open deep like Cliff Branch in Oakland or Isaac Curtis in Cincinnati, gave those teams a more wide open attack which put them head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL. So that 11.1 average from 1976 consists of an inordinate number of 5 and 6 yard throws to running backs balanced by deep throw to wide receivers.

Today’s NFL has virtually eliminated the traditional dump pass, replacing it with 7 and 8 yards crossing patterns to wide receivers, but eschews the deep throw, meaning that today’s average is composed of fewer bombs. It would take a PHD with a Supercomputer to sort it out, but it goes something like this:

1976
Throws to RB average 7 yards
Throws Downfield average 15 yards
League average 11 yards

2016
Throws to Slot WR average 9 yards
Throws Downfield average 13 yards
League average 11 yards

Downfield throws average in the seventies were likely the result of 20 plus yard bombs combined with 10 yard possession catches while in 2016, completions downfield are much rarer and the average is the result of a higher percentage of intermediate throws.

I know, it’s a bit of tortured logic which I can’t back up and I doubt anyone can refute either, but it’s how I remember the game and tapes of contests from the seventies backup what I’m saying.

Examples of the long ball throwers

Joe Namath of the New York Jets had 2,816 yards on 162 completions for a 17.4 average in 1972 including a record setting 496 yards on only 15 completions with 6 touchdowns in a  44-34 shootout against Johnny Unitas in game two of that season. If you exclude the last two, miserable, years of Namath’s career, over his first 11 seasons he averaged an astonishing 15.1 yards a completion picking up 25,967 yards. Namath paid for this with one of the highest interception percentages and a completion average of barely 50%, though neither were terribly bad numbers in the AFL-NFL of the era. Namath took the Jets to the playoffs twice during those years and won Super Bowl III.

Bart Starr’s prime years from 1959 to 67 under Vince Lombardi saw him average 14.2 yards a completion with 20,099 yards while winning 5 NFL Championships. But while Namath was a true gunslinger and interception prone, Starr was also accurate, completing a league high 57.9% of his passes during those same years with the lowest interception rate of quarterbacks with comparable numbers.

By comparison, Tom Brady has averaged 11.7 yards a completion during his career in New England while winning 5 championships and has topped 13 yards a completion only once, in 2011 with 13.1. Drew Brees has averaged 11 yards a completion during his long career, with his best season 12.4 yards.

When you take away the chance of an interception by playing it ultra-safe, some of the adventure goes out of the game. The more high percentage throws you make, the less exciting the passing game becomes.

The NFL in the seventies could be a stifling bore with the dominance of defenses and the running game, but when they did put the ball up, it could be a blast as it was in the 1968 AFL Championship Game between the Jets and Raiders or when Roger Staubach bombed the Vikings in the first round of the 1975 playoffs. In the end, it’s just an observation and nostalgia, but it’s worth remembering.

Buy Stanton Greene’s Book Lombardi’s Men on Amazon Kindle and Paperback

The Rooking Of America By The NFL

We shall let the facts speak for themselves.

Eminent domain is the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use. However, this power can be legislatively delegated by the state to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations, when they are authorized by the legislature to exercise the functions of public character. Read More

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles, CA

Eminent domain abuse for sports stadium is no recent fad. The “Battle of Chavez Ravine” was fought in the 1950s. The entire Mexican-American community in Chavez Ravine, which had thrived in the L.A. neighborhood for generations, was removed over a ten-year period to make way for the proposed construction of public housing. The entire community was torn apart as part of this “urban renewal” effort. However, after taking over ownership of the properties, the Los Angeles city government instead decided to construct the 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium on the recently cleared land.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta, GA

This project included the demolition of two churches, one of which—the Friendship Baptist church—wasAtlanta’s oldest African-American Baptist church. Six property owners resisted the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s takeover. But the GWCCC made it very clear that eminent domain lay at the end of the road if “negotiations” were not successful. Ultimately, that threat was enough to force five of the six property owners to accept the city’s “deal” and walk away. The last property, which had been passed down in the owner’s family since 1902, was eventually taken through eminent domain.

AT&T Stadium, Dallas Cowboys, Arlington, TX

Also in Arlington, former Mayor Robert Cluck acquired 162 properties on approximately 134 acres for the Cowboys. When some property owners refused to make way, America’s Team simply asked the city to useeminent domain to condemn and then take over the land. Tenants, homeowners, and small business owners found their lives turned upside down to benefit yet another privately-owned sports team. Read More

Jerry Jones’s New Stadium

“The mayor sold out and the council went right along,” said James Runzheimer, a local lawyer who opposed the tax increase passed in November 2004 during better economic days. “We don’t provide basic infrastructure, yet we subsidize a team.”

Jones says Cowboys Stadium will be its own stimulus package that will help “the country and this world” dig out of the recession. Meanwhile, most studies show little economic impact from new stadiums.

“The mayor sold out and the council went right along,” said James Runzheimer, a local lawyer who opposed the tax increase passed in November 2004 during better economic days. “We don’t provide basic infrastructure, yet we subsidize a team.”

Jones says Cowboys Stadium will be its own stimulus package that will help “the country and this world” dig out of the recession. Meanwhile, most studies show little economic impact from new stadiums. Read More

Viva Las Vegas – The NFL Sells Out Again

Why don’t we just let the record speak for itself.

1963 Pete Rozelle suspends the two stars indefinitely for betting on league games and associating with gamblers or “known hoodlums. While Hornung says his bets were made with friends, for $100 or $200, Rozelle says the player bet as much as $500 on NFL games from 1959-61.  Rozelle says Karras made at least six bets of $50 or $100. Karras is bitter about the suspension.

Rozelle also fines five other Detroit Lions – Joe Schmidt, Wayne Walker, John Gordy, Gary Lowe and Sam Williams – $2,000 each for betting $50 on the Packers in the 1962 championship game against the Giants. Since the Packers covered the six-point spread in beating the Giants 16-7, the players are $1,950 losers. Hornung and Karras were reinstated after a year. Hornung was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. Karras was passed over by the Hall despite a standout career. Read More

1969 Part of Broadway Joe’s legend was the Manhattan nightclub he owned, Bachelors III, which the NFL believed was a hangout for mobsters. Life magazine said that investigators tapped the phone lines at Bachelors III and found “a full squad of hoods … was operating in Joe Namath’s nightclub.” There were 13 of them, Life said, including 11 operating in gambling rackets, one a bank robber and another “a bigtime jewel thief.” The bar’s phones were reportedly used for bookmaking purposes. Namath said he knew nothing about any of it, but Rozelle demanded Namath sell his interest because of the “unsavory Mafia types who frequented the place,” Sports Illustrated said then. He was given a choice to sell or be suspended. Read More

2017 Bill Foley, who paid $500 million for a new N.H.L. franchise that will be the first major pro team in Las Vegas when it begins play this year in a privately built hockey arena, rained on the Raiders’ parade when he questioned the wisdom of spending so much money to lure a football team.

“I felt like there were a lot of better ways to spend $750 million than bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas,” he told Vegas Hockey Hotline, a radio show. “We could spend it on police, firefighters and teachers and have them all be the best in the country. But I guess we’re going to spend it on the Raiders.” Read More

Shaking down cities and sticking in the shiv is a patented move for the league. It’s not personal; it’s strictly business. In the N.F.L.’s world, displays of principle and common economic sense are for chumps. Las Vegas and Nevada adopted the league’s preferred stance: They rolled belly up. Politicians raised taxes to provide a historic $750 million public subsidy.

This led to unremarked-upon cognitive dissonance in Las Vegas. Even as politicians increased taxes for stadiums, Clark County school officials voted last spring to increase public class sizes and to close a school for at-risk students. There was simply no money. “This is the last thing we ever want to do,” Linda Young, president of the school board, said at that time. It’s a shame the school board did not build a football stadium, perhaps with a public school annex. Read More

Upholding The Morals Of The NFL In 2017

The National Football League says they will looking to an arm wrestling contest at the MGM Grand Hotel and casino in Las Vegas that took place last weekend that reportedly featured more than 30 current and former players.

Those who participated in the event could be disciplined by the NFL because league personnel are not allowed to make promotional appearances at casinos or any other gambling-related establishments. Read More

Commentary: If the arm wrestling contest bothers the NFL, what will happen when a Raiders player goes to a casino, blows all his money and has a bad game? If even the hint, let alone the scandal of a player on the take hits the NFL, its rep will be ruined forever. Peter Rozelle was terrified of it happening, which is why he was so overboard with Hornung, Karras and Namath. The new NFL is about to embrace Vegas and everything that goes with it.

Eddie Lacey is gone to Seattle

Eddie Lacey is gone to Seattle. What a shame. In another era, Eddie would have been a Packer for life with a shot at becoming one of the team’s all-time leading rushers. Congrats to him for landing a decent contract in Seattle. It was almost inevitable that GM Ted Thompson would not resign him after the ankle injury last season. But at the same time, one of the top organizations in the NFL has confidence in his recovery and durability.

Eddie departs Green Bay as the tenth leading rusher in team history in only four seasons. Only Ahman Green and John Brockington had more 1,000 yard seasons. One more year would likely have seen him move into fourth place on the all-time Packer rushing list behind only Green, Jim Taylor and Brockington. Oddly, there seems to be a ceiling in Green Bay in that only five rushers in team history have topped 4,000 career rushing yards. Eighties rushing leader Gerry Ellis retired after seven seasons with 3,826 and Hall Of Famers Clark Hinkle with 3,860 and Paul Hornung 3,711 to name only two others who were stopped short of the mark. Other standouts who plateaued below 4,000 include Donny Anderson, Eddie Lee Ivery and current Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett who was part of the 96 Super Bowl team. Overlooked is the fact that Aaron Rodgers has been steadily moving up the list and is now at number 14 with 2,544 yards. He may be the next Packer to top 4,000 yards rushing.

On the other hand, fifteen Packers have topped 4,000 yards receiving. Despite the classic image of the Packers as a run happy team from the Lombardi and Dan Devine eras, the passing game has usually taken precedence in Green Bay.

Anyway, good luck to Eddie. We wish him well and wish he could’ve remained a Packer for life, but that’s not how today’s NFL works. The players benefit, and rightfully so, from free agency, but it’s tough to see a guy like Eddie head down the road to a conference rival.

Lombardi’s Men – A Biography Of Every Green Bay Packer From 1959 To 1967 & Their Lives After Football Now Available in Paperback

The best selling Lombardi’s Men is now available in both Kindle ebook and paperback on Amazon.

It’s the cult of Lombardi. When writers talk about the men who played in Green Bay from 1959 to 67, they’re usually cast as supporting players in the life of Vince Lombardi with the asterisk that all of their success as professional football players and after was due to their association with the legendary coach, to which the players themselves would readily agree. But Lombardi himself would not be happy with this distorted history. He knew that once his men took the field, it was all on them. He prepared them, physically and emotionally, but the men on the field won the games and they continued winning after they left Green Bay.

We’ve all heard the stories of Bart Starr and Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg, Willie Davis. Among the accomplishments of just those few are bestselling author, Super Bowl Head Coach and board member of MGM Studios. But there were 108 men who played football for Vince Lombardi and each one of them contributed to the success that built the legend of St. Vincent and the Green Bay Packers. This book attempts to tell the story of all of those men. Among them are physicians, attorneys, nuclear engineers and a federal marshal. Two ended up homeless and battling to recover their lives.

Vince Lombardi has been the subject of dozens of books, but until now, no author has undertaken the mammoth project of tracking every player who took the field for him in Green Bay or written the narrative drama of every season game by game.

Stanton Greene has followed and written about the Green Bay Packers for five decades. He is the author of The Green Bay Packers The Dan Devine Years 1971-1974 and Brett Favre – Hall Of Fame A Game By Game Chronicle Of A Green Bay Packers Legend, also available on Kindle.

Brett Favre – Hall Of Fame A Game By Game Chronicle Of A Green Bay Packers Legend Now Available in Paperback

The best selling Brett Favre Hall Of Fame is now available in both Kindle ebook and paperback on Amazon.

Jeff Pearlman’s book may have all the dirt, but this book has all the numbers. For the football purist, every touchdown, every game. Relive the glory and the excitement as Brett and the Packers battled from last place to the Super Bowl. In honor of Brett Favre’s election to the NFL Hall Of Fame, this is the first book to cover his entire career, chronicling his record breaking rise to the top of the National Football League. Every one of the 277 games Favre played as a Packer is here in statistical detail, set in a fast paced narrative that takes you back to the rise of the Packers from worst in the league to Super Bowl Champions. Included are all the epic games, from the first come from behind victory versus the Bengals in 1992, through Super Bowls 31 and 32, the Irvin Favre Game, the 2003 playoffs Fourth and 26 and the final overtime battle to the finish against the New York Giants on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in January 2008.
If you love the down and dirty numbers of football, this is your book. A fantasy football fanatic’s bible, covering more than 300 games, the complete statistical guide to Brett Favre’s amazing career.
Stanton Greene, popular sportswriter and author of The Green Bay Packers The Dan Devine Years 1971-1974, is back with another book on his favorite subject, the Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre – Hall Of Fame A Game By Game Chronicle Of A Green Bay Packers Legend is a must read for pro football fans.

The Green Bay Packers The Dan Devine Years 1971-1974 Now Available in Paperback

The best selling Dan Devine years is now available in both Kindle ebook and paperback on Amazon.

Volumes have been written about the Green Bay Packers detailing virtually every aspect of their storied history except one, the two decades of folly that lay between the legendary reign of Vince Lombardi and their resurgence in the 1990s under Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf. The most pivotal of those years were the four presided over by college football Hall Of Fame Coach Dan Devine. During those years, the Packers won what would be their only division title between 1968 and 1994. Their decline from that pinnacle was so inexplicable and precipitous that it has defied pundits for four decades, engendering a mythology in Green Bay that has defamed a brilliant coach.

In his time, Dan Devine was a lightning rod for opinion, generating either intense loyalty or extreme loathing. Some have called him the worst coach in Packer history, but his record belies that. He turned around one of the sorriest teams in professional football in a single season, earning NFC Coach Of The Year honors in 1972. But by the end of 1974, Devine had so polarized the Packers that a group of players had mutinied and threatened to try and forfeit the season closer. Even legendary quarterback Bart Starr had gotten in on the intrigue as he maneuvered to take over the Packers.

Devine also pulled the trigger on perhaps the worst trade in NFL history, giving up five top draft choices to the Los Angeles Rams for a sore armed 34 year old quarterback. Little remembered is his equally brilliant dealing which brought NFL Hall Of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks to the Packers that same year.

In Green Bay, Dan Devine has become the cherished whipping boy of a generation, while even a hint that several Packer icons may have employed less than stellar tactics in plotting to remove him can create a firestorm of opinion. In fact, it’s the ugliest episode in Packer history and that’s saying a lot in light of what happened in the 1980s. Buy it and make up your own mind. It’s not a pretty picture.

Using contemporary sources, the author has pulled together a never before told tale of glory, ineptitude and intrigue that will shed new light on Devine’s tumultuous years in Green Bay. Plus a myriad of facts, trivia and statistics including a full analysis of every regular and preseason season game from 1971 to 1974. A must read for Packer fans.

 

Dan Devine And John Ralston In The NFL

John Ralston and Dan Devine’s career arcs in the NFL were almost identical. Both were Head Coach and General Manager, both had their greatest success in their second season on the job and both faced player rebellions that helped ouster them during their final seasons. Devine coached in Green Bay from 1971 to 74, Ralston in Denver from 1972 to 76. The difference was, Devine left behind an aging, disorganized team, while Ralston left behind a rebuilt organization both on and off the field that went to the Super Bowl for the first time the following season. The foundation of today’s Denver Broncos was laid by John Ralston in the mid-seventies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before Ralston, the Broncos had never posted a winning season in twelve years, winning no more than five games in a season for ten consecutive years, including Ralston’s rookie year in the NFL. But in 1973, he led a ragtag Broncos squad to within one score of upsetting the Oakland Raiders for the AFC West Division Title at 7-5-2. The team slipped backwards in 1974, still competitive, but at 7-6-1 far behind the dominate Raiders who finished 12-2. They fell further in 1975 to 6-8, but rebounded to 9-5 in 1976, but again, well behind the 13-1 Raiders.

Like Devine, Ralston’s undoing was at the quarterback position. A trade before his first season in 1972 acquired veteran Charley Johnson, who had led the Cardinals to several winning seasons before giving way to Jim Hart. Thought to be washed up, Ralston stole Johnson from the Oilers for a third round draft choice. Johnson was a team leader and chief architect of the 73 squad. But hobbled by bad knees, Johnson had lost his effectiveness by 1975 and retired, leaving Ralston with Steve Ramsey, who he had inherited from the previous regime. Ramsey was a subpar quarterback, but in the era before free agency, the best he could find. The Bronco offense staggered under his leadership in 76 and the rock ribbed defense rebelled, demanding Ralston resign at season’s end.

Ralston was especially known for his can-do approach to thinking. A graduate of the Dale Carnegie Course, Ralston had brought his college approach to the NFL with ice cream socials on Saturday nights before games and having the team hold hands in the huddle. But what was inspirational in 1973, had become old hat by 1977. Despite this, Ralston had built an exceptional team that included Linebackers Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson. 33 of his players were on the 1977 team that went 12-2 and won the AFC Title before being defeated in the Super Bowl by the Dallas Cowboys. The difference? New Coach Red Miller had brought in veteran Quarterback Craig Morton.

Listen to this from a Sports Illustrated article from 1977.

Ralston was a great delegator of authority, a trait the players came to construe as a lack of ability. They whispered that the coach could not even diagram the offense. Whether he could or couldn’t, the offense did not work. The rift between the team’s offensive and defensive players grew so wide that they avoided one another on the bench during games. “We were frustrated,” admits Linebacker Randy Gradishar. “The defense was holding teams down, and then the offense would let them up.”

The exact same charge has been leveled against Devine time and again by detractors.

Like Devine, Ralston had and still has his defenders. Quarterback Charley Johnson, who outside football earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, has boundless respect for Ralston, but notes that his taking back the play calling in 1975 resulted in disaster. This should sound familiar to Packer fans who remember the infamous 1972 playoff game with Washington in which Devine and Starr struggled with the same control issue.

Ironically, Dan Devine could have picked up Charley Johnson before the 1972 season as well and in 1974, the Dallas Cowboys had offered him Craig Morton for less than he paid for John Hadl, but Devine had thought Morton over the hill. Devine’s record in the NFL was 25-27-4. Ralston’s was 34-33-3. Both coaches were laid low, to an extent, by relying too much on college inspirational coaching tropes. Devine was accused of being dishonest by his players, Ralston of being corny and out of touch. Both men were enormously successful at the college level. Both proved that coaching methods that worked with 19 and 20 year old college football players, could be successful on a limited basis at the pro level, but wore thin after a couple of years.

Five Time NFL Champions

Congrats to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on winning their fifth Super Bowl win. But amid all the hoopla, there’s one thing missing; an acknowledgement of the men who came before them. While Brady and Belichick have surpassed Terry Bradshaw, Chuck Noll and Joe Montana’s four Super Bowl wins, they have in fact, only equaled Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi’s accomplishment of winning five NFL Championships. To hear all the media blabber, you’d think the NFL didn’t exist before Super Bowl I in 1967 and that is sad.

And it’s not just the NFL, it’s the sports media in general. Whenever Sports Illustrated runs a piece about the history of the game, it usually cuts off its research at the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL. I think it’s pure laziness. In a story about the winningest Quarterback-Coach combinations they ran a couple years ago, their 1970 beginning date conveniently cut out Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr and Hank Stram-Len Dawson who would have both been in the top ten even after half a century.

So while I give a tip of the hat to Brady and Belichick, it would be nice if someone in the media made even a small allusion to the fact that what they have done, has already been done fifty years ago in a little town in Wisconsin called Green Bay.

Read Lombardi’s Men on Amazon Kindle, the true story of every member of the 1960s Green Bay Packers