October 31, 2014

Hang Time Outside The Hash Marks

Peyton Manning is trying to come back from neck surgery. When a football player starts having issues with their neck, you have to start wondering how much longer their career will last. I always thought Manning would just keep on playing until he decides it is time to go. He may not have that choice. His body may make that decision for him.

If he does line up behind the center in week one of the regular season, he will continue his consecutive starts streak. Brett Favre holds the record with 297 consecutive regular season starts at quarterback. Manning is second at 208. So Manning needs to start 90 more consecutive games over the next six seasons to break the record.  That would be the tenth game of the 2016 season.

Besides the streak, Manning has the potential to break most of Favre’s other records. Here is what he would have to do in the next 90 games to break Favre’s passing marks for attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions:

  ATT   COMP    YARDS   TDS   INT
2,960  1,619   17,011   110   139

 

In terms of breaking all these records within these 90 games, Manning’s season averages would look like this:

  ATT   COMP    YARDS   TDS   INT
  527    288    3,025    20    25

 

These would be subpar seasons for Manning. However, with injuries and Father Time creeping up on him, these averages would be acceptable, providing his next few seasons are better than his last few. So to break the completion mark, he would just have to complete 54.7 percent of his passes; a percentage not good in today’s game but not too shabby in the 1970s. His current career mark is 64.9%. He has never had a percentage as low as 54.7 so it would be un-Manning like, or should I say, un-Peyton like if that was his percentage over the next 90 games. He has had only one season under sixty percent and that was his rookie campaign in 1998 when he completed 56.7% of his passes. Archie, his dad, completed 55.2% for his career, and his brother Eli has completed 58% thus far in his career.

To be fair to Eli, his completion percentage has improved. He has gone over 60 percent the last three seasons, with a career-best 62.9 mark in 2010. BTW, Eli has a chance to move to the third spot in the all-time consecutive regular season QB starts list. He is currently in the sixth spot with 103 starts. With sixteen more starts in 2011, he would be at 119, three better than the current number three guy, Ron Jaworski. As a Giants fan, Eli can drive me nuts. However, the guy comes and plays week in and week out, giving it his all. If you look at his career numbers, they are pretty good and getting better each year. No matter what Eli does the rest of his career, he has already brought a championship to New York. I remember saying out loud during Super Bowl XLII, “If Eli brings us a championship, he gets a free pass the rest of his career.” I remind myself of that statement every time he throws an interception or fails to get the job done in the red zone.

It is interesting to note that if Peyton goes 45-45 in his next 90 games, he would have the same win-loss record as Favre. Favre has the most career wins at QB with an 186-112 regular season record. Peyton is currently at 141-67. Besides Favre, only John Elway (148-82-1) and Dan Marino (147-93) have more wins than Peyton. There is no guarantee he will pass both of them this season.

 

Don Chandler passed away on Thursday at the age of 76. He was among the best special teams players of his generation. After leading all major college punters with a 44.3 average for the University of Florida in his senior season, Chandler became a New York Giant in 1956.  He was the Giants’ punter for the next nine seasons. He also became their placekicker in 1962. His last three seasons (1965-1967) were with the dynasty Green Bay Packers. He played on four championship teams; his rookie season and his seasons with the Packers. He also played on teams that went to the NFL Championship Game in 1958, 1959, and 1961 through 1963, which included two loses to the Packers.

Chandler was the NFL All-Decade punter of the 1960s. He punted for 28,678 yards with a 43.5 average. His yardage total was number one all-time when he retired. As a placekicker, he connected for 94 field goals with 530 points scored. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has not been too generous to special teams players. If they were, Chandler would be a good candidate to be enshrined.

 

Here is a list of the only players to kick 50 or more field goals and punt for 20,000 yards:

PLAYER            GAMES   FG   FGA    PCT  PUNTS   YARDS   AVG   YEARS
Don Cockroft       188   216   328   65.9    651  26,262  40.3   1968-80
Sam Baker          195   179   316   56.6    703  29,938  42.6   1953,56-69
Tommy Davis        138   130   276   47.1    511  22,833  44.7   1959-69
Don Chandler       154    94   161   58.4    660  28,678  43.5   1956-67
Danny Villanueva   110    85   160   53.1    488  20,862  42.8   1960-67
Dennis Partee      111    71   121   58.7    519  21,417  41.3   1968-75

 

Special teams players have had a difficult time getting into the Hall. To me it seems unfair. I know they play less demanding positions, but special teams is a huge part of the game. If you are the best at your position in your era, you should be honored for it.

Here is an honor roll of some of my favorite special teams players that have been overlooked by the Hall of Fame to this point (retired before the 2006 season):

Gary Anderson, Kicker (1982-2004)
Sam Baker, Kicker/Punter (1953,56-69)
Jim Bakken, Kicker (1962-78)
Timmy Brown, Running Back/Kick Returner (1959-68)
Gino Cappelletti, Flanker/Kicker (1960-70)
Don Chandler, Punter/Kicker (1956-67)
Don Cockroft, Kicker/Punter (1968-80)
Fred Cox, Kicker (1963-77)
Ward Cuff, Back/Kicker (1937-47)
Tommy Davis, Kicker/Punter (1959-69)
Ted Fritsch, Fullback/Linebacker/Kicker/Kick Returner (1942-50)
Horace Gillom, Punter/End (1947-56)
Bruce Gossett, Kicker (1964-74)
Mel Gray, Kick Returner (1986-97)
Bobby Joe Green, Punter (1960-73)
Ray Guy, Punter (1973-86)
Abner Haynes, Halfback/Kick Returner (1960-67)
John James, Punter (1972-84)
Dave Jennings, Punter (1974-87)
Norm Johnson, Kicker (1982-99)
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Kick Returner/Wide Receiver (1974-80,82-88)
Sean Landeta, Punter (1985-2005)
Pat Leahy, Kicker (1974-91)
Nick Lowery, Kicker (1978,80-96)
Jack Manders, Back/Kicker (1933-40)
Eric Metcalf, Kick Returner/Running Back/Wide Receiver (1989-99,2001-02)
Lou Michaels, Kicker/Linebacker (1958-69,71)
Brian Mitchell, Kick Returner/Running Back (1990-2003)
Mark Moseley, Kicker (1970-72,74-86)
Eddie Murray, Kicker (1980-95,97,99-2000)
Greg Pruitt, Running Back/Kick Returner (1973-84)
Reggie Roby, Punter (1983-98)
Rohn Stark, Punter (1982-97)
Steve Tasker, Special Teams Player (1984-97)
Jim Turner, Kicker (1964-79)
Rick Upchurch, Kick Returner/Wide Receiver (1975-83)
Bobby Walston, End/Kicker (1951-62)
Jerrel Wilson, Punter (1963-78)
Buddy Young, Halfback/Kick Returner (1947-55)
Note: Years only include AAFC, AFL and NFL seasons.

 

It will be interesting to see how Morten Andersen is voted on in 2013. Andersen may have been the game’s greatest kicker and is the all-time points leader in the NFL. With that said, football fans in Canada may argue Lui Passaglia is the greatest kicker in history. In a 25-year Canadian Football League career (1976-2000), Passaglia made 875 field goals and scored 3,991 points. He also punted 3,142 times for 133,832 yards. Bob Cameron (1980-2002) broke his punting yardage mark in 2002, ending his career with 134,301 yards on 3,129 punts.

Speaking of the CFL, are you watching Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo this season? On Thursday, he threw his 400th career touchdown and went over the 70,000 yard mark. Calvillo broke Damon Allen’s CFL touchdown passing record earlier in the year when he tossed his 395th TD. Allen, the brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, was snubbed this year by the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Kind of shocking the CFL’s all-time leading passer (72,831 yards) and third all-time leading rusher (11,920 yards) didn’t make it. I would think the Hall will correct itself next year.

Calvillo’s 400th TD pass makes him just the fourth professional QB to accomplish this feat; joining Brett Favre (508), Warren Moon (435) and Dan Marino (420). Moon played in both the CFL (1978-83) and NFL (1984-2000) to accomplish the milestone (144 in CFL and 291 in NFL). Peyton Manning is next up with 399 TDs entering the 2011 NFL season. Calvillo was also the fourth QB to go over the 70,000 yard mark in pro football history, joining Allen, Favre and Moon.

If you’re a fan of the CFL and love history and statistics, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Canadian Pro Football Encyclopedia. I used to be a member of the Canadian Football Historical Association. When the CFHA was formed in 2003, one of their goals was to create a Canadian football encyclopedia since no definite source existed. Unfortunately, the CHFA folded in 2006 without creating this encyclopedia. To my delight, two of football’s best researchers, Tod Maher and Bob Gill, published The Canadian Pro Football Encyclopedia after the 2010 CFL season. The book covers “Every Player, Coach and Game, 1946-2010” as the front cover states. The book is available from Amazon.com.

 

A final list…Here are the runners with 9,000 career rushing yards in pro football history through 1967, including statistics from the AAFC, AFL, CFL and NFL:

PLAYER           GAMES    ATT      YARDS    AVG   TDS    YEARS
Jim Brown         118    2,359    12,312    5.2   106    1957-65
Johnny Bright     175    1,969    10,909    5.5    70    1952-64
Joe Perry         181    1,929     9,723    5.0    71    1948-63
Cookie Gilchrist  149    1,771     9,204    5.2    65    1956-67
Normie Kwong      184    1,745     9,022    5.2    76    1948-60*

 

Notes: *Totals do not include attempts and yards for the 1948 and 1949 seasons.
Brown played in the NFL. Bright and Kwong played in the CFL. Perry played in the AAFC and NFL.
Gilchrist played in the CFL and AFL.

 

Rams Sign CFL Star Dieter Brock (1985)

On March 26, 1985 the Los Angeles Rams announced the signing of QB Dieter Brock, an 11-year veteran of the Canadian Football League who had played out his option with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It was reported that the 34-year-old Brock agreed to a four-year deal (three years plus option) with the Rams for $2.1 million.

The acquisition sealed the fate of Vince Ferragamo, who had himself signed a four-year contract extension with the Rams a year earlier. Ferragamo had come off the bench to lead LA to the Super Bowl in 1979 after starter Pat Haden went down with an injury, followed up with a 30-TD year in ’80, jumped to Montreal of the CFL in 1981, and, after performing poorly in Canada, returned to the Rams in ’82. He was inconsistent, but kept regaining the starting job, before going down for the year with a hand injury suffered in the third game of the 1984 season. Head Coach John Robinson made it clear, in announcing Brock’s signing, that Ferragamo would be dealt.

While not guaranteed the starting job off the bat, Brock said “I just feel this is an excellent opportunity for me and I’m not afraid of competition. This is a dream come true.”

Brock’s 11 seasons in the CFL included the first 9 1/2 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the last 1 1/2 with Hamilton. He was traded by Winnipeg to Hamilton during the ’83 season for QB Tom Clements after staging a series of walkouts in an effort to get out of his contract. His career numbers in the CFL were 2602 completions in 4535 attempts for 34,830 yards with 210 touchdowns and 158 interceptions; he led the CFL in passing four times and won the Schenley Award in 1980 and ’81 as the league’s MVP.

Brock, from Birmingham, Alabama, had backed up Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan at Auburn before transferring to Jacksonville State. Sensing little interest from the NFL, he signed with Winnipeg before the NFL draft in 1974 (consequently, no team had prior rights to him).

Before signing with Los Angeles, Brock tried out with Buffalo, Green Bay, and Cleveland. Buffalo was rumored to have the inside track, especially since they were looking to replace 34-year-old Joe Ferguson (ironically, they ended up getting Ferragamo). The Packers reportedly made the highest offer, but were committed to veteran Lynn Dickey as the starter.

The club Brock was joining had made it to the postseason in 1984 as a wild card team with a 10-6 record (they lost in the first round). But while RB Eric Dickerson had performed brilliantly in his first two seasons, gaining a rookie-record 1808 yards in 1983 followed by a NFL record 2105 yards in ‘84, the team had not done well through the air. Young QB Jeff Kemp went 9-4 starting in place of Ferragamo, but the Rams ranked at the bottom of the NFC in passing offense.

Kemp was still with the team, as were the untested Scott Tinsley and veteran backup Steve Dils, but it was clear that the starting job was Brock’s to lose. While Coach Robinson preferred a run-oriented attack (going back to his years as a college coach at USC), he hoped that improving the passing game would, if nothing else, make Dickerson even more effective (he also expressed a desire to utilize the star runner, who had caught 51 passes in 1983 but only 21 in ’84, more often as a receiver out of the backfield).

The 1985 Rams, even with Dickerson holding out at the beginning of the season, won their first seven games and ended up at the top of the NFC West with an 11-5 record. Brock set a then-club record by completing 59.7 percent of his 365 passes for 2658 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. However, he played conservatively, rarely throwing long, and, even with one of the best offensive lines in the league in front of him, was sacked 51 times. The Rams still ranked low in passing yards.

In the postseason, Brock’s performance was especially disappointing. While LA beat the Cowboys 20-0 in the Divisional round, it was primarily because of Dickerson rushing for 248 yards – Brock completed only 6 of 22 passes for 50 yards with an interception and no touchdowns. Playing for the NFC Championship against Chicago, Brock was successful on just 10 of 31 throws for 66 yards, again with one picked off and no TDs, and the Bears won handily, 24-0. Chicago Head Coach Mike Ditka remarked afterward that “I’m glad they didn’t play Jeff Kemp.”

Brock returned for the 1986 season, but back and knee injuries, the latter of which required surgery, kept him from playing. Steve Dils and veteran Steve Bartkowski, who had been obtained from the Falcons, handled the starting quarterback duties initially, but an early-season trade with Houston brought highly-touted rookie Jim Everett to the team, and he was the starter by the end of the year – and clearly the first choice to start going forward. Brock chose to retire.

Dieter Brock’s NFL career was brief and undistinguished, but he was recognized for his outstanding play in the CFL by being selected as one of the Top 20 All-Time Greats for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to mark the franchise’s 75th anniversary, and he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

 

Keith Yowell runs the blog Today in Pro Football History where this article was originally published on March 26, 2011.