On this date: Cowboys are finally “this year’s team”
Greetings from Columbia, a place I haven’t passed through in 18 months and haven’t stayed in 27 months.
I’m at the Springhill Suites, the hotel I lodged at when I was in Columbia in October 2020 for Missouri’s football game vs. LSU, one which wasn’t supposed to be played at all in 2020, and certainly not at Faurot Field.
In a nutshell, LSU and Missouri were paired when the Southeastern Conference scrapped all non-conference football games in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To make up the lost games, the SEC added two conference games per team. Not all would be played.
Missouri was originally scheduled to make the trip to Baton Rouge, but the approach of Hurricane Delta to the Louisiana coast prompted SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey to move the game to CoMo 72 hours before the scheduled kickoff.
Mizzou won 45-41. This October, LSU is scheduled to make its return, a game which has been on both teams’ dockets since 2014.
I’m not staying in Columbia. By noon tomorrow, it’s eastbound and down to St. Louis, a place I have not been in far too long.
Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl VII, where the Dolphins completed their 17-0 season by defeating the Washington REDSKINS. The final was 14-7, but the game was never that close; the only reason the REDSKINS got on the board was because Garo Yepremian didn’t have the sense to fall on the ball after recovering a blocked field goal attempt.
Instead, Yepremian batted the pigskin in the air like a volleyball, and REDSKIN safety Mike Bass–a teammate of Yepremian’s during Garo’s brief time with the Lions–returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Miami probably wanted to play Dallas, which lost the NFC championship game to Washington, after the Cowboys emasculated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. Instead, Don Shula’s club got to face the original paranoid coach himself, George Herbert Allen.
I don’t have enough space right now for all the bad things I have to say about George Herbert Allen. I wasn’t old enough to remember him coaching the REDSKINS (1971-77) and certainly not the Rams (1966-70), but from all I’ve seen on NFL Network, he was the blueprint for Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and every other coach who would be a perfect employee for the CIA.
Today is the 51st anniversary of Super Bowl VI, when the Cowboys, derisively called “Next Year’s Team” after playoff losses in each of the previous five seasons, destroyed the Dolphins in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. The final was 24-3, but it easily could have been 54-3.
Dallas began the 1971 season 4-3, including a loss to the Saints on the very same field. Following New Orleans’ 24-14 victory that October day, few could have believed the Cowboys would be back three months later.
Tom Landry finally saw the light after a 23-19 loss to the Bears at Solider Field which saw the Cowboys alternate quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on nearly every play.
A few days before going to St. Louis and facing a Cardinal team which defeated Dallas 20-7 and 38-0 the previous season, Landry named Staubach as his starter.
The Cardinals were in the midst of the first of three consecutive 4-9-1 seasons, but they gave Dallas all they could handle before a late field goal by Toni Fritsch pulled it out for the Cowboys 16-13.
Dallas’ Super Bowl express was revved up, and it gained steam by winning its next six games to close the regular season, followed by impressive wins over the Vikings and 49ers in the playoffs.
Yes, the Cowboys needed to defeat the Dolphins to officially win Super Bowl VI.
In reality, Dallas clinched the championship as its plane returning from the Christmas Day playoff at Minnesota was somewhere over Oklahoma.
At approximately 1835 that evening, the only team with a realistic chance of defeating the Cowboys, the Chiefs, were shocked 27-24 by the Dolphins in the longest game in professional football history, lasting 82 minutes and 40 seconds of playing time.
Ironically, the Dolphins-Chiefs game of 1971 was SHORTER than the Dolphins’ loss to the Bills yesterday which ended in regulation. By 20 minutes.
The Chiefs, who went from Super Bowl IV champion in 1969 to 7-5-2 in 1970, bounced back nicely in 1971 despite an opening day loss to the Chargers. Their season gained momentum when they rallied from a 17-6 halftime deficit to defeat the 5-0 REDSKINS, and overcame November losses to the Jets and Lions to defeat the 49ers in San Francisco on Monday Night Football, followed by a scintillating 16-14 victory over the Raiders at Kansas City to win the AFC West and keep Oakland out of the playoffs for the only time between 1967 and 1977.
After the Chiefs lost, there was no way the Cowboys would lose to any of the five remaining teams.
They hammered the REDSKINS in Washington in November, and if Washington won at San Francisco, the NFC championship would be in the Cowboys’ new palace in Irving. The 49ers had a strong defense, but their offense was inconsistent, not to mention San Francisco spit the bit in the 1970 NFC championship game, losing 17-10 to Dallas in the last game in Kezar Stadium.
In the AFC, the Dolphins had a premier passer in Bob Griese, premier runners in Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, and a suffocating defense led by Nick Buoniconti, Manny Fernandez and Dick Anderson. However, Miami lacked big game experience.
The Colts defeated the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, but Johnny Unitas (and backup Earl Morrall) were not getting younger. Also, there’s no telling what kind of revenge Dallas would have in store for Baltimore if there was a rematch.
Cleveland? Yes, Leroy Kelly, Bill Nelsen and many of the others who contributed to humiliating Cowboy defeats in the 1968 and ’69 NFL Eastern Conference championship games were still around. But Paul Warfield was in Miami. Not only that, but the Browns had an untested coach, Nick Skorich, and a lineup which was either too young (Jack Gregory, Doug Dieken, Clarence Scott) or too old (Kelly, Nelsen, Erich Barnes).
San Francisco got a second chance at Dallas with the Super Bowl on the line, defeating Allen’s REDSKINS 24-20 at under-construction Candlestick Park. The Colts won the rubber match of their three-game playoff series in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (aka The Mistake by the Lake) by leaving the Browns stuck in the mud in a 20-3 win.
In their first playoff game in Irving, the Cowboys put the 49ers on ice early in the second quarter when defensive end George Andrie inserted himself between John Brodie and Ken Willard on a screen pass at the San Francisco 7-yard line. Andrie intercepted, and two plays later, Calvin Hill scored to make it 7-0.
San Francisco only mustered a field goal against Doomsday, and Duane Thomas swept into the end zone in the fourth period to finalize the score at 14-3.
In the Orange Bowl, Griese’s 75-yard bomb to Warfield in the first quarter was a body blow to the Colts’ hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champion.
In the third, Anderson’s 62-yard interception return was the death knell for the Colts, who did not play for another AFC championship until 1995, and did not return to the Super Bowl until 2006.
Miami’s 21-0 win was sweet for the Dolphins and their fans, but they would have been better off not getting on the plane to New Orleans.
In the 28 years between Super Bowl VI and his death at age 75, Tom Landry said time and again he never saw the Cowboys more confident of victory than they were the week in New Orleans. Landry and his staff were also loose and relaxed. They knew they had the better team, and it would take Miami playing a near-flawless and game and Dallas playing a C-minus game for the Dolphins to have a shot.
Instead, Dallas played the near-flawless game. Miami played something much less.
Larry Csonka’s fumble on Miami’s second drive was an omen. Dallas fell just short of the end zone, but the time-consuming drive which ended in Mike Clark’s 9-yard field goal (the goalposts were on the goal line until 1974) was the blueprint the Cowboys would use to bludgeon Buoniconti and his mates, who were gifted the “No-Name” sobriquet by Landry the week leading up to the game.
With just over a minute remaining before halftime, Staubach fired a bullet to Lance Alworth, the Chargers legend who was deemed expendable by Sid Gillman only a few months prior. Alworth hauled in the pass just inside the flag and in front of Dolphins cornerback Curtis Johnson for the touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Miami drove downfield to a 31-yard field goal by Yepremian following Alworth’s TD, but all it did was allow the Dolphins to avoid being shut out.
Dallas came out in the second half and made Miami look silly, driving 71 yards on eight plays to a 3-yard sweep around left end by Thomas for the touchdown which put the game away once and for all.
Even though it was 17-3 at that point still more than a quarter and a half remained, the Dolphins knew they were doomed.
Chuck Howley, the veteran Cowboy linebacker who became the first–and to date, only–player from a losing team to be named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player the previous year in Miami, added an exclamation point early in the fourth quarter by stepping in front of Kiick on a screen pass and returning it 41 yards to the Dolphins’ 9.
Staubach threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Mike Ditka three plays later.
Ditka nearly scored on a tight end reverse just prior to the two-minute warning. When Hill attempted to go up and over for another touchdown, the ball was popped loose, and Fernandez recovered. Mercifully, the clock soon ran out.
Most Dolphins ignored Landry’s gadget play near the end, but one did not.
Mercury Morris, the speedy running back who had yet to escape Shula’s doghouse due to injury and lackadaisical effort, blasted Ditka’s run as “bush league”.
It should be noted in 1971, the victory formation was still years away. Sure, most teams ran simple plays when trying to kill the clock and protect a lead, but the concept of the quarterback kneeling immediately after taking the snap did not come into vogue until the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” in 1978.
Morris also harshly criticized Shula in the locker room at Tulane Stadium for not using him during the game. The next morning, Shula ordered Morris to meet him in his hotel suite so the two could clear the air.
That meeting was part of the foundation for the undefeated season, as Morris beat out Kiick for the starting position next to Csonka in the Dolphin backfield in 1972. Morris’ speed and Csonka’s power have rarely been matched in an NFL backfield since.
I watched the first three plays of the Cowboys-Buccaneers playoff game. Dallas went three-and-out. The announcers are kissing Tom Brady’s ass so much that all the Chapstick in the world won’t help them. GOAT this, GOAT that, GOAT this, GOAT that.
Yes, Brady has won more Super Bowls than any other quarterback. That is a fact which cannot be refuted.
The greatest of all-time? If the rules giving the offense every advantage had been in place when Unitas played, Landry and other defensive-minded coaches would have been out of jobs. Conversely, if Brady played under the rules Unitas did, the whiny baby would have no tears left because he would have cried them all out after two seasons.
I dread another Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl. San Francisco and Buffalo, it’s up to YOU to prevent this.
November 18–don’t save the date
For the first time since a lost weekend 13 1/2 months ago, I am in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In fact, I’m at the same hotel in St. Peters, about 50 kilometers west of the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River.
I had no intentions of stopping in Kansas City this time. I thought about dropping anchor in Columbia, but felt good enough to keep going. I made sure not to eat after breakfast so I had the proper appetite for White Castle.
I went to two different grocery stores in St. Peters, Schnucks and Dierberg’s. Selection is much better than anything in Kansas City, except for the bread, and certainly better than anything in Hays, Salina or Wichita. I still cannot find the poppy seed hot dog buns. I bought the last pack in Columbia last week, but struck out in St. Peters tonight. Try again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have to stop in Columbia to see if they’re restocked at Schnucks.
November 18 holds bad memories for a lot of people.
On November 18, 1997, I got into a very petty and very ugly argument with Rebecca Borne (now Brennan), whom I had a crush on throughout my time at LSU. It was over class presentations, and I got very upset with Rebecca when her group wasn’t able to make their presentation on time. Her group wanted to go before my group, and I told her I wouldn’t do it. The instructor, Laura Klaus, tried to calm me down, but I was over the edge. I skipped my 0900 class and hurried to the athletic department, where I lost it.
There were two historical events on November 18 which are best forgotten.
Sunday was the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, when Marxist cult leader Jim Jones ordered 900 followers in Guyana to drink Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide. Those who refused to drink the deadly cocktail had the cyanide injected into their veins. Prior to the mass suicide, Jones’ henchmen murdered U.S. Representative Leo Ryan (D-California) and members of an NBC News crew.
Jones was enabled by Harvey Milk, the infamous homosexual member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and San Francisco mayor George Moscone. Milk and Moscone shared Jones’ radical leftist views, and through Milk and Moscone, Jones charmed his way into the inner circle of President Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Vice President Mondale, future San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, who was then the Speaker of the California Assembly, as well as Hollywood elite, namely Jane Fonda and her anti-war zealots.
Just how far to the left were Jones, Milk and Moscone? Their leading opposition on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors came from Diane Feinstein. Yes, THAT Diane Feinstein. Apparently, Feinstein was too “conservative” for the likes of the grossly corrupt Milk, who lied about his service in the U.S. Navy (he claimed he was dishonorably discharged for his homosexuality, which was totally false; he was honorably discharged) and demonized anyone who dared oppose gay rights ordinances in San Francisco and legislation in Sacramento.
Before Milk could be humiliated for his close association with Jones, he and Moscone were assassinated nine days after the Jonestown massacre by former Supervisor Dan White, who was forced to resign from the board due to financial difficulty and was denied renomination, thanks to Milk’s badgering of Moscone.
Seven years after Jonestown, Joe Theismann’s football career ended in horrific fashion when he suffered a grotesque broken leg when his Redskins hosted the Giants on Monday Night Football.
On the fateful play, Harry Carson grabbed a hold of Theismann’s arm, but missed. As the Redskins quarterback sighted his Hall of Fame wideout, Art Monk, Lawrence Taylor caught him from behind.
Taylor’s knee crushed’ Theismann’s tibia and fibula. LT was so horrified he frantically motioned to the Redskin bench that Theismann was really, really hurt.
Theismann’s career ended right then and there at RFK Stadium. The Redskins recovered to win Super Bowls XXIII and XXVI under Joe Gibbs, whom I regard as the best NFL coach I’ve seen, since he won three Super Bowls with four different quarterbacks: Theismann in XVII, Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams in XXII, and Mark Rypien in XXVI. Can you imagine if Gibbs would have had Dan Marino or John Elway for his entire tenure, at least after Theismann? It wouldn’t have been fair.
Thirty-three years to the day after Theismann’s career ended, Alex Smith’s career might well have come to a screeching halt.
Smith suffered an injury described as bad as Theismann’s in the Redskins’ loss to the Texans Sunday. If I were him, I would retire; he’s set financially, and he will do a tremendous job as an analyst should he choose that path.
There was happier news Sunday.
Leslie Edwin Miles is once again a college football coach. Miles was introduced Sunday as the new leader of the Kansas Jayhawks.
The best thing about this? Besides Miles coming to Lawrence, it’s we didn’t hear too many idiots wanting to bring back Mark Mangino. Mangino is a steaming pile of feces as far as I’m concerned.
I’ll have more on Miles in an upcoming post. Right now, I’m beat. Good night.
Lots of questions and answers
For the second time in the last three Fridays, I have executed my “trivia trifecta”, playing at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek (near Liberty), Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa, and Minksy’s on Barry Road. I’m playing my first round at Minsky’s after spending four and a half hours at both Buffalo Wild Wings location. That’s right, save for the drive on Missouri Highway 152 from Shoal Creek to Zona Rosa, I have been playing trivia non-stop since 11 a.m.
At Shoal Creek, there was a question which listed five famous people, and I had to pick the one who was not born in Missouri. One of the choices was Walter Kronkite.
I know Walter CRONKITE was born in St. Joseph. However, it was embarrassing that nobody at Buzztime proofread this. Yes, Cronkite has been dead since July 2009, but he is one of the most famous men to ever report news in any country. How can they not know how the man spells his name? I made sure to let Buzztime know on Twitter.
I am hungry. Really hungry. Larry bought me lunch at Shoal Creek, and I had a large order of cheese curds. I’m trying to avoid meat on Fridays for the next two weeks, since Lent starts on Valentine’s Day and I won’t be able to eat meat on Fridays until the end of March. I did not eat at Zona Rosa, since I did not want to eat B-Dubs twice in the same day. A pizza at Minsky’s sounds good right now.
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Vince Lombardi’s retirement as coach of the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi led Green Bay to five NFL championships, including victories in Super Bowls I and II, in nine seasons in Wisconsin. Lombardi retired as coach in order to focus on his duties as general manager, but he became quite bored during the 1968 season. He did all he could to not bother his successor, Phil Bengston, the assistant coaches, most of whom worked under Lombardi, and the players. Green Bay went 6-7-1 in 1968, its first losing season since 1958, and it began a long, dark period in “Titletown USA”.
From 1968 through 1991, the Packers made the playoffs just twice, and one of those came in the strike-shortened season of 1982. Many Packer teams lost double digit games, bottoming out by going 4-12 in 1986, 1988 and 1991. Fortunately, Green Bay made massive changes after the ’91 season, hiring Ron Wolf as general manager and Mike Holmgren as coach, then trading with Atlanta to acquire Brett Favre, who was really hated by Falcons coach Jerry Glanville.
Lombardi eventually left the Packers in 1969 to become coach and general manager of the Redskins. He led Washington to a 7-5-2 record that year, the first winning record for the Redskins since 1955. Sadly, he would be dead of colon cancer by September 1970.
Washington abruptly changed course under George Allen, who was hired in 1971. Save for Larry Brown and a few others, Allen gutted the Redskin roster in 1971 and ’72, trading for as many veterans he could find. The Redskins made Super Bowl VII, where they lost to the Dolphins.
The Packers have pretty much been consistent winners for the last quarter century, adding two more Super Bowl championships in 1996 and 2010.
I’m hungry. I had better eat or I might collapse.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, NFL style
If you’ve listened to Kansas City sports talk radio today, read the Kansas City Star, or looked at posts from Chiefs fans on Facebook and Twitter, you would believe Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has made the greatest deal in franchise history, better than anything Jack Steadman, Carl Peterson, Scott Pioli and John Dorsey could ever have hoped to accomplish.
The accomplishment is the end of Alex Smith’s tenure as the starting quarterback of the Chiefs.
Last night, a few minutes after I sat down in my hotel room to devour a large ribeye (rare, thank goodness) from Outback on Barry Road, I learned Alex Smith was heading to the Redskins, allowing the Chiefs to save $17 million against the salary cap for the 2018 season. The Redskins sent a third-round draft pick this season to the Chiefs, along with cornerback Kendall Fuller, Washington’s third-round pick in 2016 out of Virginia Tech.
Fuller was very angry to learn he was leaving Washington. Blacksburg is not that far from the nation’s capital, and his family is from Virginia, so I can understand why he would be reluctant to head to Kansas City. Many Redskins ripped the move on Twitter.
Meanwhile, one influential Chief was none too happy Smith was heading east.
All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce tweeted out that Smith was a “class act” and he would be sorely missed.
Chiefs fans are overjoyed Smith is out of Kansas City, even though all Smith, the #1 overall draft choice of the 49ers in 2005 (instead of some guy named Aaron Rodgers) did was lead the NFL in passer rating in 2017. Smith led the Chiefs to back-to-back division championships for the first time in franchise history and the team’s first playoff victory since 1993.
The fans have been clamoring for Patrick Mahomes II, who was selected 10th overall in the 2017 NFL draft after the Chiefs shipped their first round pick in this year’s draft to Buffalo to select the Texas Tech gunslinger, one selection before the Houston Texans took Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, who guided the Tigers to the 2016 national championship.
The Chiefs have one of the worst track records in the NFL of developing their own quarterbacks. Nobody will ever forgive the club for drafting Todd Blackledge seventh overall out of Penn State in 1983 instead of Jim Kelly or Dan Marino. Blackledge could not beat out Bill Kenney, who was plucked off the waiver wire after he couldn’t make it with the Dolphins, and by 1989, Blackledge was not with the Chiefs anymore, replaced by ancient veteran Steve DeBerg.
DeBerg began a trend of the Chiefs picking up the 49ers’ leftovers. Joe Montana, Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac soon followed, and while Kansas City was a consistent winner in the regular season, it only reached the AFC championship game once, in 1993, when Montana’s team beat the Steelers and Oilers in the playoffs before losing in Buffalo, allowing the Bills to go to the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year and lose.
The Chiefs drafted Steve Fuller, Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen in later rounds, but none made it big at Arrowhead.
Kansas City’s best quarterback of all-time, Len Dawson, was a Steelers reject. Few people under the age of 55 realize that, since Lenny the Cool has been a Kansas City institution since the Dallas Texans moved to the city in 1963.
The Cardinals have a pretty bad track record, too, but at least two of their best, Jim Hart and Neil Lomax, were home-grown. But since Lomax was forced to retire in the late 1980s with an arthritic hip, the only drafted quarterback to enjoy any success in Arizona was hometown hero Jake Plummer, and I don’t consider him to be that good.
The Redskins have struggled mightily at quarterback since Joe Theismann’s gruesome broken leg in 1985, although that was mitigated by Joe Gibbs coaching Washington to Super Bowl championships in 1987 with Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder, and again in 1991 with Mark Rypien.
Some of the Redskins’ quarterback busts since Theismann have included Heath Shuler, Jason Campbell and Robert Griffin III. Those are just three of the THIRTY-FOUR quarterbacks to start for the Redskins since November 18, 1985, Theismann’s last game.
Many people say the Redskins got fleeced. I say the Redskins got the better end of the deal. He will be a very serviceable signal caller for the next four to five seasons for Jay Gruden and whomever may succeed him until Washington can find a young quarterback it likes, whether it be Baker Mayfield in this year’s draft or someone else.
Kansas City’s hopes now rest on a quarterback who never took a snap from center in Lubbock, who played in a gimmick offense which has no idea how to run the football, and for a school whose track record of developing quarterbacks is awful.
Can you name an NFL quarterback from Texas Tech? If you can’t, join the party.
The most accomplished NFL quarterback to ever emerge from Lubbock may be Billy Joe Tolliver, who was a journeyman throughout the 1990s, gaining the most notoriety with the Chargers and Saints. Kliff Kingsbury, who is the Red Raiders’ current coach, played for Mike Leach and later won a Super Bowl ring serving as Tom Brady’s clipboard holder during the 2003 season.
If Mahomes does anything in the NFL, he will become the greatest Texas Tech QB in history.
But I’m not convinced Mahomes can succeed in a professional offense, where he has to take the snap from center and will have to make check downs and fast reads in order to succeed. He didn’t have to do that nearly as much at Texas Tech, and his mastery of Andy Reid’s complex offense will determine the Chiefs’ fate for the foreseeable future.
Kansas City sports fans got one of their wishes by getting Smith out of town. Now they’re hoping Eric Hosmer will come back to the Royals. If that happens, there may be a parade.
State of the Union? No thanks
President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address. Article II, SEcti0n 3 of the United States Constitution requires the president to periodcally report to Congreses on the State of the Union.
The first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, delivered speeches to Congress in the early years of the republic following ratification of the Constitution. However, the next 24 presidents–Thomas Jefferson through William Howard Taft–did not deliver a single State of the Union speech to Congress, instead delivering it as a written report to the House and Senate.
In 1913, Woodrow Wilson became the first president since John Adams in 1800 to address the Congress to deliver the State of the Union in person. Every president since has followed the tradition of personally delivering the State of the Union to Congress. Presidents in their first year in office do not officially issue a State of the Union, but every one since George H.W. Bush in 1989 has addressed a joint session of Congress early in their terms.
I did not watch the State of the Union. Trump probably talked a good game, but honestly ,will anything substantial get done? I doubt it. Nearly every member of Congress is only concerned about one thing, and that is saving his or her own ass. Getting re-elected is the only rule of politics which matters today, and most of the 535 members of Congress (435 in the House, 100 in the Senate) couldn’t care less about their constituents. They only care about getting back to Capitol Hill and collecting enough years to qualify for a full pension, which is more in one month than what the average Social Security recipient receives in a year.
I followed politics religiously throughout high school. My seventh grade social studies teacher, Lydia Gattuso, a very close friend of my mother, got me interested, and that interest piqued during my senior year at Brother Martin with my civics teacher, Eileen Depreo.
By time I got to LSU, I was still interested in politics, but that began to wane as I got more and more involved working with the athletic department. I just didn’t have time to follow what was going on on Capitol Hill or even at the state capitol, which is two miles north of the LSU campus.
Today, I’m so disillusioned I can’t take it anymore. I used to listen to the political talk channels on SiriusXM on my long drives across Kansas, but today, I’m either playing music from my iPod or listening to the sports talk radio stations out of Kansas City.
Robb and Dawn are progressives, and they have opened up my horizon. There was a time when I was very conservative and could not be persuaded to listen to the other side, but now, I’m willing to consider everything in play. I still consider myself more conservative than progressive, but I am much more pragmatic than I was 20 to 25 years ago.
Today marked two historic events, both of which had serious repercussions.
The first was in 1948, when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi by right-wing Hindi nationalists who believed Gandhi had capitulated to Muslims during India’s fight for independence, which was achieved in 1947.
Such a shame that a man committed to non-violence met a violent death. Sadly, history repeated itself 20 years later in Memphis.
The second anniversary was one many American would rather forget.
On January 30, 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army attacked South Vietnamese and American camps during Tet, the lunar new year. The United States believed there would be no fighting during Tet, but Hanoi, desperate to hang on after taking heavy losses throughout 1967, launched the surprise attack.
Although the anti-Communist forces were victorious eventually, it was reported throughout the United States that the Communist forces were successful. Near the end of the Tet offensive, CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite stated the Vietnam war was
“unwinnable” and the best the Americans could hope for was a “stalemate”.
When he watched Cronkite’s report on February 27, 1968, President Johnson stated “if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America”. Thirty-three days later, LBJ announced he would not seek the Democratic nomination for president that year.
The Washington Redskins have agreed to acquire Alex Smith in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Coincidentally, one of the Redskins’ greatest days was 35 years ago today.
On this date in 1983, John Riggins rushed for 166 yards as the Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII. It was Washington’s first NFL championship since 1942, and the Dolphins were denied their first title since they won Super Bowls VII and VIII in 1972-73.
That Miami got to the Super Bowl in the first place is a tribute to the late Bill Arnsparger, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator who constructed two outstanding units during his time with Shula.
The first was the No-Name Defense, the backbone of the team which went 17-0 in 1972. That unit featured future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti, safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott, the latter of whom was the MVP of Super Bowl VII, and a stout defensive line anchored by tackle Manny Fernandez, who was part of 17 tackles in the 14-7 victory over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
In 1982, Arnsparger’s latest creation, the Killer Bees, were the NFL’s best defense. That unit featured nose tackle Bob Baumhower, inside linebacker A.J. Duhe, and defensive backs Lyle and Glenn Blackwood, who were not related.
Duhe was an All-SEC performer at LSU as a defensive tackle. Arnsparger tried Duhe at tackle and end before successfully converting him into an inside linebacker in the Dolphins’ 3-4 defense.
Miami’s offense was great rushing the ball (3rd in the NFL), but putrid passing it (27th, as in next to last). The Dolphins were in a quarterback black hole following Bob Griese’s retirement, with Shula forced to alternate David Woodley and Don Strock (“Woodstrock”), because neither was good enough to win the job full-time.
Thanks to the Killer Bees and a strong running game led by Tony Nathan and Aundra Franklin, Miami went 7-2 in the strike-shortened regular season, then ousted the Patriots, Chargers and Jets in the expanded playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.
Woodley was named the starting quarterback on media day, making him the first–and to date, last–LSU alum to become a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl.
Few expected the Redskins to get to Super Bowl XVII, considering the turmoil the team suffered through only two years prior.
In 1980, Riggins held out for the entire season in a contract dispute with owner Jack Kent Cooke, who in 1979 was ordered by Judge Joseph Wapner, later the star of The People’s Court, to pay $42 million in a divorce settlement to his wife of 45 years, Barbara. The settlement forced Cooke to sell the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings to Dr. Jerry Buss, who developed the former into an NBA dynasty in the 1980s.
Washington went 6-10 in 1980 and fired coach Jack Pardee. His successor was Joe Gibbs, a 40-year old career assistant who gained fame as the architect of the “Air Coryell” offense in San Diego which featured Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson, and later Chuck Muncie and Wes Chandler.
Gibbs flew to Centralia, Kansas to meet Riggins on his farm, and convinced “The Diesel” to return to the NFL. However, Gibbs at first did not make Riggins the focal point of his offense, instead choosing to install the full Air Coryell package, with Art Monk filling the role Joiner did in San Diego.
Gibbs also did not believe Joe Theismann was the right man to run the offense. The Redskins tried backup Tom Owen in the preseason, but the experiment failed miserably. Theismann got his job back when the regular season began, but the Redskins lost their first five games under Gibbs, thanks to a leaky defense.
Gibbs saw the light and realized he had the plowhorse running back he didn’t have for most of his tenure in San Diego. The Redskins became more balanced, and won eight of their last 11 games of 1981.
In 1982, the Redskins’ offense was the most diversified in the NFL, with Riggins and Theismann protected by a massive offensive line known as “The Hogs”. In addition to Monk, Washington struck gold with tiny receivers Charlie Brown and Alvin Garrett, nicknamed “The Smurfs”.
Meanwhile, Washington’s defense was vastly improved under coordinator Richie Pettitbon, an All-Pro defensive back during his playing days with the Bears, Rams and Redskins. The Redskins had a fearsome front four, led by Dave Butz and Dexter Manley, a solid linebacking corps anchored by Neil Olkewicz, and a ball-hawking secondary featuring Mark Murphy, Tony Peters and Jeris White.
However, the Redskins’ Most Valuable Player was its straight-ahead kicker, Mark Moseley, who set an NFL record at the time by converting 23 consecutive field goals. The 1982 season was so strange that Moseley was named the league’s MVP by the Associated Press, the only time a specialist has won the honor.
The 1982 Redskins won all but one of their nine regular season games, losing in week five to the Cowboys. In the playoffs, Washington steamrolled the Lions and Vikings before ousting Dallas 31-17 in the NFC championship game, the third consecutive year the Cowboys fell one win short of the Super Bowl. Following its loss in ’82, Dallas did not get that far again until 1992, when Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII.
Washington was clearly the superior team throughout Super Bowl XVII, but somehow the Dolphins led 17-10 at halftime. Miami got both of its touchdowns on big plays, a 76-yard pass from Woodley to Jimmy Cefalo and a 98-yard kickoff return by Fulton Walker, the first kickoff return TD in Super Bowl history.
The Redskins used a 44-yard gain on a reverse by Garrett to set up a field goal in the third quarter. Theismann was intercepted twice in the period, and a third pass was almost picked off.
Late in the quarter, Theismann found himself under siege from Duhe, Baumhower and Kim Bokamper. Theismann attempted to pass, but Bokamper batted the ball high in the air. The Dolphin end caught the ball at the Redskins’ 1-yard line, but before he could secure the pigskin, Theismann knocked it away.
That play turned momentum permanently in favor of Washington.
With a little over 10 minutes to go, the Redskins had a fourth-and-inches at the Miami 43. Gibbs did not hesitate, keeping his offense on the field and sending in extra tight ends for the short-yardage play.
The call: 70 chip.
The Redskins lined up a tight I formation, with two tight ends, Rick “Doc” Walker and Don Warren, and a third, Clint Didier, in as a wingback. Didier motioned from left to right, stopped in front of Walker, then came back left.
Miami cornerback Don McNeal attempted to follow Didier in motion, but as Didier cut back, McNeal slipped. He quickly regained his feet, but the slip was enough to alter NFL history.
Theismann handed to Riggins, who followed massive left tackle Joe Jacoby. The Diesel broke through the line and was met by McNeal, who could only grab a hold of Riggins’ jersey.
Riggins easily busted through McNeal’s attempted tackle and outran Glenn Blackwood to the end zone.
Touchdown, Redskins. Game, set and match.
Even though Miami was down only 20-17, it was finished. The defense had been on the field too long, and the offense was totally impotent. Shula pulled Woodley for Strock, but it did no good. The Dolphins could not move, and when the Redskins got the ball back, they bled seven minutes off the clock before scoring on a touchdown pass from Theismann to Brown.
Fortunately for Shula and Dolphins, most of the rest of the NFL–the Redskins excepted–did not believe Dan Marino could be a starter in the NFL. When he was still sitting there at the 27th overall selection, Shula pounced. That turned out well for the most part, although Marino only played in one Super Bowl, losing to Joe Montana’s 49ers in Super Bowl XIX after Marino’s second season.
The Redskins were even better in 1983, scoring 541 points, but they were destroyed 38-9 by the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. Theismann would never play in another Super Bowl, suffering a gruesome broken leg in a 1985 Monday Night Football game vs. the Giants which ended his career. Gibbs, however, would lead the Redskins to victories in Super Bowls XXII and XXVI with different quarterbacks, Doug Williams in the former and Mark Rypien in the latter.
Thank you for reading yet another novella. Have a good night and a better tomorrow.
Day of memories
A lot of things happened on January 22 in the past.
Three of those came before I was born.
On January 22, 1973, the following occurred:
- The Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in Roe v Wade. Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion, although much of it was crafted by William Brennan, the leading progressive on the court for over 30 years. Byron White and William Rehnquist dissented. If you’re looking for my opinion on this case, keep waiting. Not here. Not now.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, died of a massive heart attack at his ranch in Johnson City, Texas. LBJ was in poor health throughout his post-presidential life, and it was only a matter of time before his bad habits caught up with him.
- George Foreman battered Joe Frazier in Jamaica, winning by TKO in the second round to claim the World Heavyweight Championship. Referee Arthur Mercante, also in charge of Frazier’s epic 15-round unanimous decision over Muhammad Ali in 1971 in New York City, mercifully stopped the fight after Frazier was knocked down for the sixth time. Howard Cosell shouted “DOWN GOES FRAZIER” after the first knockdown, the most iconic line uttered by the man who always bragged he “Tells It Like It Is”.
January 22 just happened to be one busy day in one of the most hectic months of the last 50 years. To wit:
- January 7–Mark James Robert Essex went full commando in downtown New Orleans, killing seven–including three members of the New Orleans Police Department–and wounding 19 others in a siege at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel. It was discovered later that Essex killed two other NOPD members on New Year’s Eve and also was the probable culprit for the Rault Center fire of November 29, 1972, which killed six.
- January 14–The Dolphins defeated the Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete their 17-0 season. Also that day, Elvis Presley performed in Honolulu to a worldwide audience over over one billion (none in the United States and Canada; the concert was not aired until April in those countries).
- January 27–The Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
Two events of January 22 in the 1980s I remember much better.
The first Super Bowl I recall watching from beginning to end was Super Bowl XVIII, January 22, 1984 in Tampa.
The Redskins were the defending champion, having beaten the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. Washington went 14-2 in 1983, scoring a then-NFL record behind a dynamic offense led by quarterabck Joe Theismann, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, and running back John (The Diesel) Riggins, who scored a then-NFL record 24 touchdowns. Theismann had one of the NFL’s best receivers in Art Monk, who would be healthy for Super Bowl XVIII after missing the 1982 playoffs with a leg injury. Washington’s defense was overshadowed by its offense, but the Redskins had a stout unit, led by tackle Dave Butz, end Dexter Manley, linebacker Neal Olkewicz, and safety Mark Murphy, as well as a rookie cornerback from Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) named Darrell Green.
The Raiders were in their second season in Los Angeles. They had a superstar running back of their own in Marcus Allen, as well as speedy receiver Cliff Branch and sure-handed tight end Todd Christensen. Jim Plunkett did not have the big numbers Theismann had, but he was a fearless leader who had survived terrible stints in New England and San Francisco. Oakland’s defense was powered by a secondary led by cornerback Lester Hayes and safety Mike Haynes, acquired from the Patriots during the season. Up front, Oakland had a pair of studs at end, Lyle Alzado and Howie Long, while linebacker Ted Hendricks was still going strong in his 15th–and final–NFL season.
Washington defeated the Raiders 37-35 at RFK Stadium in week five, rallying from a 35-20 deficit in the fourth quarter to do so. The Redskins’ only losses were each by one point on Monday Night Football, at home vs. the Cowboys in the opener and at Green Bay two weeks after the game with the Raiders.Washington blew away the Rams 51-7 in the divisional playoffs, but barely beat the 49ers 24-21 in the NFC championship. San Francisco coach Bill Walsh (he will be mentioned later in this post, and with good reason) was incensed over two very marginal penalties called against the 49ers on the drive which led to the Redskins’ game-winning field goal, and he would use those calls as a rallying point for 1984, when San Francisco tore apart the league by going 15-1 in the regular season and winning Super Bowl XIX.
Los Angeles lost twice to division rival Seattle and suffered an inexplicable December loss at home to the Cardinals, but came on strong in the playoffs, routing Pittsburgh 38-10 and Seattle 30-14.
Many of the scribes who considered themselves experts on professional football felt Super Bowl XVIII had the potential to be one of the best Super Bowls ever.
Instead, it was a super rout.
The Raiders scored following Washington’s first possession when Derrick Jensen blocked a Jeff Hayes punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. A touchdown pass from Plunkett to Branch early in the second quarter made it 14-0. The Redskins got a field goal later in the period, but one of the most disastrous plays in the history of championship football was about to occur.
The Redskins had the ball inside their own 20 with 12 seconds to go in the first half. The smart play would be for Theismann to take a knee and for Joe Gibbs and his players to regroup during the long halftime.
Instead, Gibbs sent in a play called Rocket Screen.
During the October game with the Raiders, Theismann and Joe Washington executed it to perfection. Theismann dumped off to Washington in the right flat, and the ex-Oklahoma speedster took it for 67 yards to set up a Redskin touchdown as part of the Redskins’ 17-point rally in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner believed Gibbs might call the play even though very little time remained in the half, and made an important substitution.
Sumner sent in 6-foot-4 reserve linebacker Jack Squirek, a second-year player from Illinois, in for Matt Millen (yes, THAT Matt Millen). Millen was angry that Sumner removed him, but Squirek was a better pass defender than Millen, who was a defensive tackle at Penn State before becoming a linebacker when he was drafted by the Raiders in 1980.
Squirek was asked to play man-to-man coverage against Joe Washington. If Washington caught the screen pass and broke contain, he would have a chance to gain enough yardage to set up Moseley for a field goal attempt to end the first half.
Rocket Screen did lead to a score.
Theismann dropped back and looked left for Joe Washington. Instead, Squirek caught the ball in stride at the 5 and pranced into the north end zone of Tampa Stadium.
Game, set, match, Raiders. It was 21-3 at halftime, and the Redskins’ reign as champion had 30 minutes to run.
Washington scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half, but it was far too little, too late.
Later in the third quarter, Allen gobbled up huge chunks of real estate on his way to a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards. He scored two touchdowns during the stanza, the second on a remarkable 74-yard run on the final play of the period.
On the play, 17 Bob Trey O, Allen started out as if he would sweep left end, but reversed his field when confronted by Redskins strong safety Ken Coffey. Allen found a crease up the middle and avoided a diving tackle attempt by Olkewicz near midfield. Green and Anthony Washington gave chase, but were hopelessly behind the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner from USC.
The 74-yard jaunt sewed up MVP honors for Allen and was the icing on the cake of the Raiders’ 38-9 victory.
However, to many who watched, Super Bowl XVIII is not remembered for Allen, Squirek or Theismann, but instead for a commercial which aired during the third quarter.
In honor of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949, Apple Computers aired a commercial where its new product, the Macintosh, would free the human race from the sinister grip of Big Brother and allow for the continued free will of man and the free exchange of ideas.
The commercial, created by famous movie director Ridley Scott, never aired again, but it is remembered by many not only as the greatest Super Bowl ad ever, but the greatest ad ever, period, regardless of air time or air date.
Five years later, the second–and last–Super Bowl played on January 22 produced one of the great championship games in NFL annals.
Super Bowl XXIII, played on January 22, 1989, marked the return of the big game to South Florida after a ten-year absence. This was the first Super Bowl played in the Dolphins’ palatial new facility, known then as Joe Robbie Stadium, in honor of the Miami owner, who built the $115 million stadium without a dime of taxpayer assistance.
The stadium now known as Hard Rock Stadium is a much better facility for football today than it was when it opened in 1987.
Robbie built the stadium with baseball in mind as well, thinking the area would receive a Major League Baseball expansion team in the near future, which it did when the Marlins joined the National League in 1993.
When the Marlins received their own stadium in 2012 (that’s another story for another post), the NFL required the Dolphins to make major renovations to the facility in order to host another Super Bowl. Current owner Stephen Ross complied, and the Super Bowl returns to South Florida in February 2020.
Super Bowl XXIII was a rematch of Super Bowl XVI, with the Bengals taking on the 49ers.
Some of the same players who were part of the 49ers’ first championship team in 1981 were still with the squad seven years later, most importantly Joe Montana. However, Montana had gone through a dip in his career following the victory over Miami in Super Bowl XIX after the 1984 season. He had a major back injury in 1986 which required surgery, and although he led the 49ers to an NFL-best 13-2 record in 1987, he struggled in a divisional playoff loss to the Vikings and was pulled from the game in favor of Steve Young, who had been acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay before the 1987 draft.
In 1988, Walsh could not make up his mind between Montana and Young through the first half of the season. San Francisco was wildly inconsistent, one week defeating Minnesota when Young scored the game-winning touchdown on a 49-yard scramble around left end on which Young somehow kept his balance, then losing the next week to the Cardinals by blowing a 23-0 lead and losing 24-23.
With the Niners 6-5 and two games behind the Saints in the NFC West, Walsh made Montana the full-time starter. The move paid off, as San Francisco won its next five games, including a 30-17 victory over New Orleans in week 15, to clinch the division championship.
In the playoffs, the 49ers blasted the Vikings 34-9, then went to Chicago and pummeled the Bears 28-3 despite a minus-18 wind chill factor.
This would be the first Super Bowl appearance for Jerry Rice, who had already established himself as one of the NFL’s all-time great receivers in just his fourth season. The Mississippi Valley State product set the league on fire in 1987 when he caught a record 22 touchdown passes in only 12 games. That record would stand for 20 years, when Randy Moss took advantage of the full 16-game slate to haul in 23 scoring passes from Tom Brady.
San Francisco’s underrated defense still featured Ronnie Lott in the secondary, but had a new star in pass rushing ace Charles Haley, who had the freedom to roam and line up at either end or linebacker. 0
The Bengals were a vastly different bunch from the 1981 team which lost to the 49ers in the Pontiac Silverdome, save for veterans Cris Collinsworth, Eddie Edwards and Reggie Williams.
In 1984, Boomer Esiason took over the quarterback duties from all-time Bengals passing leader Ken Anderson. By 1988, the left-hander from Maryland was the NFL’s leading passer, triggering a no-huddle attack which featured fleet receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee, plus bruising tight end Rodney Holman. Esiason was protected by an offensive line anchored by Anthony Munoz, one of the NFL’s all-time best offensive tackles.
The Bengals’ running game was led by the versatile James Brooks and a tough fullback from UNLV named Elbert Woods, who became famous as Ickey Woods. The Ickey Shuffle, Woods’ dance after touchdowns, became a national fad as the Bengals began the season 6-0 and went on to a 12-4 record, a far cry from the 4-11 mark of 1987.
Cincinnati defeated Seattle and Buffalo to win its second AFC championship and send coach Sam Wyche, a former Bengals quarterback, into a matchup against his mentor. Wyche was an assistant to Walsh in 1981. Walsh was also a longtime Bengals assistant under Paul Brown before becoming the coach at Stanford in 1977.
The expected offensive explosion didn’t happen in the first half. Each team could muster only a field goal, and each team saw a player suffer a horrific injury.
First to go was 49ers offensive tackle Steve Wallace, who suffered a broken ankle. A few plays later, Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie also broke an ankle, but his injury was even more gruesome than Wallace’s.
The first touchdown did not come until late in the third quarter, and it was on a kickoff return by the Bengals’ Stanford Jennings. The 49ers went to the final period down 13-6.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Montana hit Roger Craig for 40 yards to the Bengal 14. Monata’s next pass was almost disastrous for San Francisco, for it hit Cincinnati defender Lewis Billups in the hands.
Had Billups hung on, it might have been curtains for the 49ers.
Instead, Montana made the Bengals pay dearly. He found Rice in the left flat, and #80 did the rest, battling his way past the Bengals secondary to the pylon for the touchdown which tied the game at 13.
With 3:20 to go, Jim Breech nailed a 40-yard field goal which put Cincinnati up 16-13. The 49ers could only return the ensuing kickoff to their own 15, but were further backed up by an illegal block in the back.
With 3:10 remaining, San Francisco was at its own 8-yard line. It would take at least 60 yards to get into field goal range, but that was no sure thing, as Mike Cofer shanked a 19-yard attempt in the second quarter.
Before the first play of the drive, Montana added some levity to the situation when he pointed to the big television screen in the west end of the stadium and said “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”.
Montana led the 49ers on a drive for the ages, as 10 plays moved the ball 82 yards to the Cincinnati 10 with 39 seconds to play. Now the Bengals had to stiffen and hope they could force the 49ers to try a field goal.
With everyone expecting Montana to look for Rice, who finished with 11 receptions for 215 yards, both Super Bowl records, Joe Cool instead found the other wideout, John Taylor, in the middle of the end zone.
Montana’s dart nestled snugly in Taylor’s hands as the clock showed 34 seconds to play.
San Francisco was Super Bowl champion for the third time, 20-16. Walsh announced his retirement in the locker room immediately after the game. Rice, of course, was named MVP.
It’s almost January 23, so that’s it for now.
12 days and less than 3 hours left in 2016…
My long day is finally winding down. I’m done with Buffalo Wild Wings, and I’m back in my room at the Fairfield Inn near the Kansas City Airport.
I’m watching Hallmark Channel yet again. Fitting I am, because Hallmark’s headquarters are in Kansas City. I’ve got most of my work for tomorrow already done, so I can get a good night’s sleep and not have to rush it. I want to get to Buffalo Wild Wings by 1:30 tomorrow. It’s half-price wing day, and Robb and Dawn said they would try to make it.
The Redskins are stinking it up right now. They trail the Panthers 20-9 just over a minute into the third quarter. Carolina cannot make the playoffs, but if Washington loses, its hopes will be hanging by a thread. Then again, all of the left-wing politicians and their sympathizers want nothing more than for the Redskins to be out of the playoffs, simply because they hate the name Redskins.
The NFL is sick these days. Really sick. I’ve now heard about people throwing tampons at Sarah Thomas, the NFL’s only female official. Disgusting. And the message boards have bashed Thomas with all sorts of sexist comments. No need to repeat them. You can figure out what they are.
Today’s Miami Beach Bowl was a shining example of why there are way, way, WAY too many bowls.
Tulsa 55, Central Michigan 10.
First, Central Michigan didn’t belong in a bowl in the first place, because it was 6-6 to start with–no 6-6 team should be in a bowl anyway–and one of those six wins was illegitimate, since the Chippewas received an extra play it should not have against Oklahoma State, scoring the winning touchdown on that play.
Second, the American Athletic Conference is nauseating. I’ve had it up to here with commissioner Mike Aresco claiming the AAC belongs with the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC). No, Aresco, the AAC doesn’t. Let’s not forget on Saturday, Houston led San Diego State 10-0 and lost 34-10, and Central Florida lost AT HOME to a mediocre Arkansas State team.
Third, does Central Michigan really belong playing at the top level of college football? NO. I’m sorry, but the NCAA needs to weed out the Central Michigans of the world and leave the big time to the programs which can actually afford it without $3 million in red ink every year. There are only two programs in Michigan which can ever dream of competing at the highest level. Sorry, Western Michigan, it isn’t you, despite your 13-0 record so far. Last I checked, one of those programs was in Ann Arbor, the other in East Lansing.
As for Tulsa, let’s be real. The Golden Hurricane will NEVER, EVER be on the same plane as the Sooners and Cowboys. Tulsa is a private school with very selective admission, and that hamstrings them. Oklahoma doesn’t have a large population to begin with, and you know the top prospects are going to be heading to Norman or Stillwater unless (a) their ties to Tulsa are so strong they don’t want to leave or (b) they leave the state for Texas schools.
Tulsa could probably be an elite team year in and year out at the lower level. The Golden Hurricane will have a fine season every now and then at the top level, but never consistently.
Tomorrow is another bowl game I could care less about. Memphis vs. Western Kentucky in the Boca Raton Bowl. It’s in the same stadium where Lane Kiffin will lead the Florida Atlantic Owls beginning in September. Yawn. I am rooting big time for the Hilltoppers because (a) the prep editor at The Advocate, Robin Fambrough, is a WKU alum and (b) I cannot stand Memphis or anyone else in the AAC, Tulane and Navy excepted.
My Christmas cards to Peggy, Clark and Caitlyn arrived in Norton today. The others are making their way to other parts of the country. I’m most worried about a few going to Louisiana and another to Connecticut.
Another NFL draw
For the second time in eight days, a National Football League game has ended in a draw.
Yet this time, the fans were not unhappy.
The Redskins and Bengals began the day’s NFL slate with a 27-27 deadlock in London’s Wembley Stadium.
It’s the first time since 1997 where there have been ties in the NFL on consecutive weekends. The last time it happened, the Eagles and Ravens finished 10-10, then the Giants and Redskins ended 7-7. The latter game was the infamous contest where Gus Frerotte, then the Redskins’ quarterback, head-butted a wall after scoring Washington’s only touchdown and jammed his neck.
Last Sunday, the Cardinals and Seahawks played to a 6-6 draw.
Arizona would gladly take a tie right now. The Cardinals look like pure shit in Charlotte, where they are losing 24-0 to Scam Newton and the Panthers. What is it about Charlotte which turns the Cardinals into something worse than a pee-wee outfit? It happeend the last two seasons in the playoffs, and it’s happening again today.
It’s an outcome which English sports fans are quite accustomed to. Draws have occurred in one of every four Premier League matches this season. William Hill, the leading bookmaker in the United Kingdom, offers odds on draws for every football (the one with the round ball) match it puts on the board.
England’s most popular football team, Manchester United, played to a scoreless draw yesterday vs. Burnley at Old Trafford. United fans were upset, given their side’s dominance of Burnley, but Burnley fans weren’t complaining, since their team more often than not has left Old Trafford in defeat.
Again, I do not see why a draw in an American football game is a negative. It’s not a playoff game.It’s not life or death. It’s the asinine American obsession with having a winner and a loser in anything and everything which makes most Americans averse to such an outcome.
I am not most Americans. I believe a draw is a fine outcome of a sporting event. Those who can’t stand draws can watch something else.
If association football, the world’s most popular sport, is okay with a draw, why isn’t American football? NOT EVERYTHING CAN HAVE A WINNER. Get over it!
One score and 13 years ago…
The 97th season of the National Football League kicks off tonight when Denver hosts Carolina in a rematch of Super Bowl 50.
I began following the NFL in 1983. That season kicked off a month before my seventh birthday. The Washington REDSKINS were the dominant team at that time, having won Super Bowl XVII following the strike-shortened 1982 season, and setting a then-NFL record by scoring 541 points in 1983 behind Joe Theismann and John Riggins, who set the NFL record with 24 touchdowns, since bettered by Emmit Smith in 1995 and LaDanian Tomlinson in 2006.
The 1983 season also saw the Saints, my hometown team at the time, make their biggest push for the playoffs in franchise history up until that point. New Orleans could have made the postseason if it defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Louisiana Superdome in the final week of the regular season, but lost 26-24 on a last-second field goal by Mike Lansford. The Rams won that game despite not scoring an offensive touchdown, returning two Kenny Stabler interceptions for TDs, returning a punt for another TD, and adding a safety when Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood sacked Stabler, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month.
New Orleans embarrassed itself on national television, too. In their first Monday Night Football game in three years, the Saints led the Jets 28-14 going into the fourth quarter, only to watch in horror as New York scored 17 unanswered points in the final period. The crusher was a 76-yard punt return TD by Kirk Springs to complete the comeback as the Jets escaped, 31-28.
The Raiders, playing their second season in Los Angeles, won Super Bowl XVIII by routing the Redskins 38-9. The Silver and Black avenged a 37-35 loss at Washington in week five, and that was after the Raiders defeated the Seahawks in the AFC championship game. Strangely enough, Seattle won both regular season games.
The Raiders went 12-4 during the ’83 regular season. The team responsible for the fourth loss? The St. Louis FOOTBALL Cardinals. That’s right. A team which ended the year 8-7-1, having to win four of its final five to nose above .500. A team which played what was called the worst Monday Night Football game EVER, a 20-20 tie against the Giants in late October, a game in which Neil O’Donoghue missed THREE field goals in overtime, including a 19-yard chip shot. YEESH.
The more amazing thing about the Cardinals-Raiders game of 1983–only the second between the clubs all-time–was L.A. led 17-0 early in the second quarter, only to get steamrolled the rest of the way as St. Louis went on to a 34-24 triumph, easily one of the best games the Cardinals played during their 28 seasons (1960-87) in the Gateway City. The loss may have stoked the Raiders’ anger, because their last four games–the regular season finale vs. the Chargers, then three playoff games vs. Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington–were all blowouts.
The Cardinals were in the chase for the NFC East championship in 1984, only to lose the finale at Washington 29-27 when O’Donoghue missed a long field goal. Three years later, St. Louis had a chance to make the playoffs, but again, it lost the final game of the regular season, this time 21-16 at Dallas. Three months later, the Cardinals officially moved to Arizona.
The ’83 Cardinals also beat the Seahawks, but lost 38-14 at Kansas City, which finished last in the AFC West. Had St. Louis been able to win that game, it would have made the playoffs at 9-6-1. Losing by wide margins twice each to the Cowboys and Redskins didn’t help.
This season, Arizona is attempting something the Cardinals franchise has never achieved–four consecutive winning seasons. In fact, the Cardinals have a chance for four consecutive 10-win seasons. WOW. Remember, this is a franchise which has lost over 700 games since the NFL began in 1920.
I can truly consider the 1983 NFL season the beginning of my obsession with sports. By the end of ’83, I was watching all four major sports leagues and college football.
Redskins trounced in Tampa
Okay, I dropped the ball Thursday by not pontificating on a pair of Super Bowls played on January 22. However, since no Super Bowl has ever been played on January 23–and none will ever be played on that date unless the NFL pushes the start of its season into August, and that’s not happening–I still have some time to be relevant.
First up: Super Bowl XVIII. January 22, 1984 at Tampa Stadium (aka “The Big Sombrero”).
This was not only the first Super Bowl to be contested on January 22, it was the first to be played in Tampa. The city was awarded the Buccaneers in 1974, and they began play in 1976. The city was awarded Super Bowl XVIII by the owners in 1980, becoming the second city in Florida and sixth metropolitan area overall to host the game, joining Los Angeles, MIami, New Orleans, Houston and Detroit.
At the time Tampa was awarded Super Bowl XVII, there was legitimate hope the Bucs would be playing in the game. Under coach John McKay, who won four national championships coaching at the University of Southern California, Tampa Bay reached the 1979 NFC Championship game, won the NFC Central division again in 1981, and reached the playoffs in the strike-shortened season of 1982.
In early 1983, the Bucs unraveled.
Starting quarterback Doug Williams refused to sign a new contract, feeling owner Hugh Culverhouse was lowballing him.
In most cases, i would side with the owner, but in this case, Williams was 100 percent dead on. Culverhouse was a cheap bastard who never played his players truly what they were worth. As long as he owned the franchise, the Bucs would be a laughingstock, not only in the NFL, but among all the major professional sports. The Tampa Bay Bucs were synonymous with losing and gross mismanagement. In the 1980s, the Bucs were one of the sorriest teams in any sport. In fact, about the only parallel I can draw in any of the major sports is with the NBA’s Clippers under Donald Sterling.
Ironically, a former assistant under McKay had built the NFL’s most powerful team in 1983.
Joe Gibbs was a 40-year old unknown when he was tabbed by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to bring Washington the championship it had not won on the gridrion since 1942. Gibbs worked under some of football’s biggest names: Frank Broyles at Arkansas, Don Coryell with the Cardinals and Chargers, and McKay in Tampa Bay.
Gibbs convinced John Riggins to return to the Redskins after he sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute. In fact, Gibbs flew to Centralia, the tiny Kansas town where Riggins and his brothers became high school legends. Gibbs also built a powerful offenisve line, led by massive tackle Joe Jacoby, guard Russ Grimm, and center Jeff Bostic, which became known as “The Hogs”.
At first, the Redskins implemented the Air Coryell offense Gibbs helped design in San Diego. Washington scored points in bunches, but they also gave up points in droves, and Washington began the 1981 season 0-5.
Gibbs adjusted his offensive focus, shifting from the pass-happy attack to a more balanced game plan, one which featured heavy doses of John Riggins.
Washington won 8 of its final 11 games in 1981, and then became the NFL’s powerhouse of 1982, winning 8 of 9 games in the strike-shortened campaign. Mark Moseley set an NFL record by making 23 consecutive field goals and earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Moseley would become the last straight-ahead kicker to play in a Super Bowl.
Behind Riggins, The Hogs, quarterback Joe Theismann, a fleet but tiny group of receivers known as “The Smurfs”, and a defense led by All-Pros Dave Butz, Dexter Manley, Mark Murphy and Jeris White, the Redskins steamrolled through the playoffs, routing Detroit, Minnesota and Dallas to reach Super Bowl XVII, where RIgigins ran for 166 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown with 10 minutes remaining to subdue the Dolphins, 27-17, and exact revenge for the 14-7 loss Washington suffered to MIami’s undefeated team in Super Bowl VII.
The Redskins’ offense was unstoppable in 1983. RIggins scored a then-NFL record 24 touchdowns. Theismann threw for over 3,700 yards and earned NFL Most Valuable Player honors. Rookie Darrell Green began what would become a 20-year career in the secondary. Butz was the league’s premier defensive tackle. Jacoby, Grimm and Bostic were road graders up front, blowing wide holes in opposing defenses.
Washington went 14-2, falling TWO points short of an undefeated regular season. The Redskins lost 31-30 in week one to the Cowboys at home on Monday Night Football, blowing a 23-3 lead. The other loss also came on Monday Night, a 48-47 shootout in Green Bay, when Lynn Dickey outdueling Theismann.
The Redskins routed the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in the week 15 rematch, 31-10. They annihilated the Rams 51-7 in the divisional playoffs, but the NFC Championship vs. the 49ers was nowhere near as easy.
Washington led 21-0 early in the thrid quarter, but Joe Montana flashed his comeback magic, leading San Francisco to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Just when it appeared Bill Walsh’s team would pull it out and head to Tampa, the 49ers were done in by the zebras.
The officials, led by referee Jerry Markbreit, called pass interference against 49er cornerback Eric Wright on a play where the ball was clearly uncatchable. The NFL Rule Book clearly states pass interference is not to be called on an uncatchable pass, and as Walsh said afterward, “The ball could not have been caught by a 10-foot Boston Celtic”.
Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Fame safety, was the next to feel the wrath of the zebras. He was flagged for holding receiver Charlie Brown far, far away from the ball.
The Redskins gleefully accepted the gifts, trading them in for a Moseley field goal to win the game 24-21.
Heading into the 1983 playoffs, the experts unanimously favored the Redskins to win the NFC. That wasn’t the case in the AFC.
The Raiders, playing their second season in Los Anglees following 22 seasons in Oakland, and Dolphins each finisehd 12-4. The Silver and Black, champions of Super Bowls XI and XV, had home field advantage thanks to a 27-14 victory in week three.
At the time of the regular season meeting, the Dolphins’ quarterback situation was highly unstable. Don Shula stuck with David Woodley at the beginning of the 1983 campaign, despite Woodley’s putrid performance in Super Bowl XVII, save for a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Cefalo; and the presence of a rookie from the University of Pittsburgh who would change the Dolphins, and the NFL, forever.
Dan Marino enjoyed spectacular success during his first three seasons at Pitt under the leadership of coach Jacke Sherrill. However, Marino had a down year in 1982, when Sherrill left for Texas A&M and Foge Fazio succeeded to the top spot.
Marino was ranked second among quarterbacks available in the 1983 NFL Draft, trailing only John Elway. However, many teams were not enamored with Marino, believing ridiculous rumors that he was on drugs during the ’82 season.
Team after team passed on Marino. Shula didn’t, taking him 27th (next to last) in the first round.
In week five, the Dolphins’ offense was horrid in a loss at New Orleans. Woodley, a Shreveport native who played collegiately at LSU, was yanked in favor of Marino. Woodley would never play another down fro the Dolphins.
The Raiders had no such offensive worries. Their vertical passing game featured the aging but effective Jim Plunkett, throwing to the still speedy Cliff Branch and the tough Todd Christensen, the free agent tight end who surpassed Kellen Winslow as the game’s most dangerous target at that position. The Raider running game, usually an afterthought to the vertical passing game favored by Al Davis, had a stud in 1981 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen. The defense featured grizzled veterans Ted Hendricks and Lyle Alzado, complemented by young stars Howie Long and Matt Millen, plus a secondary featuring All-Pros Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, the latter acquired in an October trade with New England.
The Raiders suffered their first loss in week five, blowing a 35-20 lead with six minutes to go and falling 37-35 to the Redskins in Washington. Little did anyone know these two teams were destined to meet again.
The Seahawks, which never made the playoffs in its first seven seasons, swept the two-game season series from the Raiders. In the second meeting, a 34-21 victory at Los Angeles, Seattle coach Chuck Knox made the difficult decision to replace Jim Zorn, the only starting quarterback the franchise had known up until that point, with Dave Krieg, who had a goofy motion but an uncanny knack for finding the open man.
After the second loss to Seattle in week nine, the Raiders got rolling until they tripped up in week 15 at home to the Cardinals. Say what?
The Cardinals were 6-7-1 going into the L.A. Coliseum. They fell behind 17-0, but did the unthinkable and scored 34 unanswered points.
The Raiders bounced back from the loss to the Cards very well. After defeating the Chargers in the regular season finale, the Silver and Black destroyed Pittsburgh 38-10 in what would be the last NFL games for Mel Blount and Terry Bradshaw (the latter was injured and did not play), and the last game in a Steelers uniform for Franco Harris.
Seattle came to the Coliseum for the AFC Championship game and found out beating the Radiers in the playoffs is a far more difficult task than it is in the regular season. The Raiders won 30-14 in a game which wasn’t that close.
The majority of experts favored the Redskins going into Super Bowl XVIII, although a sizable minority liked the Raiders, sensing they were hungry for revenge after blowing the October game.
I expected Washington to win. I certainly didn’t expect what happened following the Redskins’ first possession.
Washington was forced to punt. The snap to Jeff Hayes was on the money, but Derrick Jensen was in his face before he kicked the ball.
Jensen blocked the punt and ran it down int he end zone for a stunning touchdown. Just like that, the Raiders were up 7-0.
Gibbs and defensive coordinator Richie Pettitbon made the grave mistake of assigning Anthony Washington, and not Green, to cover Branch one-on-one. Plunkett picked apart Anthony Washington twice early in the second quarter, first for 50 yards to the Redskin 15, and then again for a 12-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The Redskins could only muster a field goal in the first half. A 14-3 deficit would be the largest the Redskins had faced at halftime in over two years, but it was by no means insurmountable, thanks to a Redskin offense which set a then-NFL record by scoring 541 points in 1983.
Too bad the Redskins didn’t go to halftime trailing 14-3.
With 12 seconds left, Gibbs sent in “Rocket Screen”, Theismann would roll either right or left and throw a short pass to Joe Washington. The former Oklahoma All-American would hopefully use his speed to pick up enough yards to allow Moseley to attempt a field goal on the final play of the first half.
In the regular season game at Washington, Theismann and Joe Washington ran the play to perfection, gaining 67 yards to lead to a Redskin touchdown.
Raiders assistant coach Charlie Sumner felt the Redskins might break out Rocket Screen. To combat this, he sent in reserve linebacker Jack Squirek, a second-year man out of Illinois who excelled at pass coverage. Matt Millen was taken out of the game, fuming to Sumner.
In one stroke, Charlie Sumner became a genius.
Squirek shadowed Joe Washington. Theismann dropped back and lobbed the ball towards No. 25, only to see it stolen out of the air by No. 58 in the black jersey. Squirek sauntered into the end zone from five yards out.
Raiders 21, Redskins 3.
It was bad enough for Gibbs and company, but it would get worse. Much worse.
The Redskins scored on their first possession of the second half, but the Raiders came right back, with Allen scoring on a 5-yard run to make it 28-9.
Washington was stopped on downs at the Radier 26 with under 30 seconds remaining in the period.
Raider coach Tom Flores sent Plunkett into the huddle with 17 Bob Trey O.
Allen took the handoff and went left, but he was encountered by Redskins safety Ken Coffey. Allen cut back to his right and found a gaping hole up the middle.
Redskins middle linebacker Neil Olkewicz dove at Allen, but came up empty. Green and Anthony Washington gave futile chase.
Allen’s 74-yard touchdown removed any remaining doubt as to the game’s outcome.
Final: Raiders 38, Redskins 9.
Allen rushed for 191 yards, a Super Bowl record, and was the game’s MVP. Riggins gained only 64 yards on 26 attempts, and Theismann was sacked six times.
The most memorable feature of this Super Bowl was the highlight film produced by NFL Films.
It was the last NFL Films feature narrated by John Facenda. He passed away eight months after Super Bowl XVIII from lung cancer.