Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Best Outside Linebackers Not In The Pro Football Hall Of Fame

Chris Hanburger
Washington Redskins
6'2" 220
1965 - 1978
14 Seasons
187 Games Played
19 Interceptions
5 Touchdowns
9 Pro Bowls
1972 NFL 101 NFC Defensive Player of the Year

Chris Hanburger was an 18th round draft choice of the Redskins in 1965. He played right away and was in the Pro Bowl by his second year in the league. Hanburger would then begin a string of Pro Bowl appearances until 1969. He then resumed that string in 1972 until 1976. Ever the complete player, he returned 3 fumbles for touchdowns, the fourth most in NFL history, in his career to go with 2 more on interceptions.

In 1972, Hanburger captained the Over The Hill gangs defense to a Super Bowl appearance and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year. Hanburger was known not only for good speed, but his exceptional quickness. He had the innate ability to diagnose a play before the ball was hiked.

Chris Hanburger's nine Pro Bowl appearances are still the most by any player in the entire history of the Washington Redskins, and his four First Team All-Pro nods are tied with Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh as the most in team history.

There is NO DOUBT that Chris Hanburger SHOULD BE in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sign my petition if you agree :

Matt Blair
6'5" 232
Minnesota Vikings
1974 - 1985
12 Seasons
160 Games Played
16 Interceptions
20 Fumble Recoveries
20.5 Blocked Kicks
6 Pro Bowls

Blair was drafted in the second round of the 1974 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and would go on to appear in Super Bowl IX that year, where Blair would block a punt leading to the Vikings only points in their 16-6 defeat.

He earned the starting left outside linebacker job in 1976. He had a career high five fumble recoveries and had two interceptions that year, as the Vikings made it to Super Bowl XI before losing. In the NFC Championship Game two weeks earlier, he had helped block a field goal attempt that Vikings cornerback Pro Bowl Bobby Bryant took 90 yards for a touchdown that accounted for the first points of the game.

The 1977 season saw Blair make the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. His penchant for the big play was widely known throughout the league, as was his solid, steady play backed by great fundamentals. The entire defensive personnel around him changed at every position except his. He was named the captain of the defense in 1979 and held that position until he retired.

He was named the 1980 Most Valuable Linebacker of the NFC. Blair was also was named the 1981 NFL Man of the Year. He also was the Top 10 Outstanding Young Men of America by the Jaycees in 1983. His work with the homeless and hungry has raised millions of dollars as well.

The Vikings have never had a linebacker better than Matt Blair. His 1,452 career tackles still ranks second in team history. No other Vikings linebacker has intercepted more passes than him either.

His athleticism was on display in the 1975 season. The Vikings could not find a consistent punt returner that year, and used six different players that year. One of them was Blair, who took two punt returns that year. He may be the last linebacker ever in NFL history to be asked to field a punt.

His ability to block kicks was amazing. It didn't matter if it was a field goal, extra point, or punt, because he was a force each time the ball was snapped. His 20.5 blocked kicks in the regular season is a Vikings record, and this stat becomes even more spectacular when you factor in the fact Page blocked 16 more as well. In all, counting post season, he blocked 23.5 kicks. It is the second most in NFL history.

His 20 career fumble recoveries is tied as the 11th most by any defender in NFL history. What makes this statistic more impressive is the fact his teammates (Jim Marshall, Alan Page, and Carl Eller) all had more in their careers. It is a testament to the Vikings defense being able to create multiple turnovers, and Blair's abilities around so many teammates who shared his proclivity to jump on loose footballs.

He is a member of both the Vikings Silver and the 40th year anniversary teams, and soon will be inducted into the teams Ring of Honor. It should be quite apparent that Matt Blair deserves to be inducted into Canton.

Maxie Baughan
6'1" 227
Philadelphia Eagles
Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins
1960 - 1970, 1974
12 Seasons
147 Games Played
18 Interceptions
9 Pro Bowls

Maxie Calloway Baughan was a second round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960, the 20th player chosen overall. He joined the Eagles and was inserted into outside linebacker on the right side of the defense as a starter immediately.

He played alongside future Canton inductees like Chuck Bednarik, Norm Van Brocklin, Sonny Jurgensen, and Tommy McDonald, as well as Eagles Legends like Pete Retzlaff, Bobby Walston, Tom Brookshier, Timmy Brown, Don Burroughs, and future Eagles head coaches Marion Campbell and Ed Khayat that year. The Eagles would go on to win the NFL Championship, the last the franchise has seen since.

Maxie would be named to the Pro Bowl that year, after picking off three passes and returning them for 50 yards. He went back to the Pro Bowl the next year after intercepting a ball and returning it 22 yards. Philadelphia won five games over the next two years, and Maxie went back to the Pro Bowl in 1963.

The teams roster turnover continued, as did the coaching staff, in 1964. Maxie went back to the Pro Bowl in each of the next two seasons. Baughan was 27 years old, and had been to the Pro Bowl in 5 of his 6 years, but felt that the Eagles wanted to keep cleaning house, and he was part of the guys they wanted out. He asked to be traded close to home, or to New York.

Little did he realize that Hall Of Famer George Allen was beginning his first year as a head coach of the Los Angeles Rams and had his eye on Maxie. Allen traded three players to the Eagles for his services. Baughan and Allen formed an immediate bond. The two would spend hours dissecting opponents game plans and films. Baughan is on record to have said he learned more about football from Allen than anyone he had ever met in his life.

The trade paid off handsomely for the Rams, as Baughan would go to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four years with the team. In 1970, he was injured and was only able to play in 10 games, and did not start in two of the games. They were the first two games that Maxie did not start in his entire career. He then retired from the NFL.

About this same time, Allen had taken over as head coach of the Washington Redskins. He wanted certain players on his team, and many were still employed by the Rams. He persuaded Maxie to return to the NFL in 1974. Allen made Baughan a player-coach, and Maxie got in on two games that year. He then retired permanently as a player.

Baughan was as solid and consistent a player as they come. He only missed five games in his first ten years in the league, and started every game he was able to play in. He was equally adept at playing the strong side linebacker as he was on the weak side. He played on the right side his whole career, and was a tackling machine. Statistics for tackles were not kept in those days, so his true impact escapes the younger fans, and voters, of these days.

It is simply disrespectful that the voters in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame have not put Maxie into Canton yet. He went to 9 Pro Bowls in his first ten years in the league, which is utterly amazing. You MUST realize that players EARNED their Pro Bowl bids back then, much more than they do today.

It wasn't a popularity contest then, where fans would vote you in based on shenanigans perpetrated on and off the field, like it is these days. Players and coaches did the voting, and they would only vote in the best of the best. Maxie's amazing run of Pro Bowls certainly shows he was one of the best ever in any era of NFL history.

Baughan himself has no idea as to why he isn't in Canton. He isn't alone in that thought. It is quite clear that Maxie Baughan should have been inducted into the Professional Football Hall Of Fame decades ago.

Robert Brazile
6'4" 244
Houston Oilers
1975 - 1984 (10 Seasons)
147 Games Played
13 Interceptions
7 Pro Bowls
1970's NFL All-Decade Team

Robert Lorenzo Brazile, Jr. was a first round pick by the Houston Oilers in 1975. He was the 6th player picked overall. He was part a deal former Oilers coach Sid Gillman had made at the end of 1973. The Oilers acquired Kansas City's 1975 first round selection, along with nose tackle Curley Culp, for defensive end John Matuszak.

New head coach/general manager Bum Phillips switched Houstons base defense from the from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Brazile is credited by many to be most important in making the 3-4 popular by his ability to rush the quarterback from his outside linebacking position.

He was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1975. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons. Brazile was a key member of Oilers teams that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 1978 and 1979. In 1984, Braziles wife died in a car wreck. He retired immediately from the NFL. Brazile was chosen on the 1970's NFL All-Decade Team. He is the only linebacker from that team not in Canton.

Many may remember his moniker in the NFL. Brazile was nicknamed "Dr. Doom" by his team mates after being tossed out of a game in his rookie year for hitting Washington Redskin quarterback Billy Kilmer in the head. Some may recall the time he bulldogged Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett by the facemask.

Brazile was a viscious hitter. He was equally excellent is pass coverage and run support as he was rushing the passer. He didn't always play on good teams, so he wasn't given the nation wide notice, during that era, he deserved.

Since the NFL did not record sacks as a statistic until 1982, his impact on the game may not be fully realized by newer fans. Those who saw him play knew he was always one of the better defensive players in the NFL in his era year in and year out. Robert Brazile deserves to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ask his peers.

Then there are other outside linebackers to strongly consider because they are certainly worthy of induction.

Isiah Robertson
6'3" 225
Los Angeles Rams
Buffalo Bills
1971 - 1982
12 Seasons
168 Games Played
25 Interceptions
15 Fumble Recoveries
4 Touchdowns
6 Pro Bowls
1971 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

Chuck Howley
6'3" 228
Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys
1958 - 1973
15 Seasons
180 Games Played
25 Interceptions
18 Fumbles Recovered
3 Touchdowns
6 Pro Bowls
5 First Team All-Pro
Super Bowl V MVP (The Only Super Bowl MVP on a losing team)

Joe Fortunato
6'1" 225
Chicago Bears
1955 - 1966
12 Seasons
16 Interceptions
22 Fumble Recoveries
5 Pro Bowls
1950's NFL All-Decade Team

Andy Russell
6'2" 225
Pittsburgh Steelers
1963 - 1976
14 Seasons
168 Games Played
18 Interceptions
7 Pro Bowls

Cornelius Bennett
6'2" 237
Buffalo Bills
Atlanta Falcons
Indianapolis Colts
1987 - 2000
206 Games Played
27 Fumble Recoveries (Second Most by a Linebacker in NFL History)
5 Pro Bowls
1988 AFC Defensive Player of the Year
1991 AFC Defensive Player of the Year
1990's NFL All-Decade Team

Larry Grantham
6' 210
New York Jets
1960 - 1972
13 Seasons
175 Games Played
5 Pro Bowls
5 First Team All-Pro
AFL All-Time Second Team

Mike Stratton
6'3" 224
Buffalo Bills
San Diego Chargers
1962 - 1972
11 Seasons
156 Games Played
21 Interceptions
5 Pro Bowls
AFL All-Time Second Team

Friday, May 14, 2010

Impotent Hypocrisy : The Associated Press Limps Away From Brian Cushing

When Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was found to have had the hormone hCg in his bloodstream, controversy soon ensued. The hormone is a banned substance for players in the National Football League because it can be used as a masking agent for steroid users. It is also used to increase fertility amongst men.

Cushing had a 2009 rookie season that saw him named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. The AP also named him AFC Defensive Player of the Week and Month twice each, as well as tabbed him as a Second Team All-Pro.

He had tied for the lead of most tackles in the AFC Division with Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis, and had four sacks and interceptions along with a safety. It led him to being voted as a also starter for the AFC in the Pro Bowl.

The AP expressed rage and disappointment in Cushing, a player suspected of using steroids since high school. They took it so far to attempt to revoke his Rookie of the Year Award by calling for a re-vote. When he still retained the award by winning the second vote, it made the AP look even more ridiculous an entity.

This is the same organization that voted Bill Belichick NFL Coach of the Year in 2007 after being accused of cheating himself. He was fined $500,000, the largest amount ever levied on a coach in league history, after admitting his guilt. His team was fined an additional $250,000. It is a moment of NFL history that still creates much debates and brings out the ire of many football fans.

The sudden interest of fair play by the AP must be dealt with the scrutiny of a raised eyebrow. It also brings into question the real intent, as "publicity stunt" appears to be written all over the Cushing case. Though the acts of Cushing and Belichick vastly differ, the common thread is that they both broke the rules.

Though Cushing still maintained his Rookie of the Year Award, the AP still rescinded his Second Team All-Pro honor. It was perhaps a petulant act of a child feeling they suddenly were empowered to justify what they felt was right for the game. Yet Belichick's award remains unscathed and unquestioned.

The writers who participated in this fraud just made a stronger case as to why only the players and coaches, the people who truly know and understand the game, should be involved in the voting of all of their awards.

This includes induction into Canton, a voting process severely mired in politics as inferior players get in ahead of superior players because they got along with the voters better. Favoritism is the mission of the writer for both the players and their own image and ego, not for the betterment of the game itself.

Cushing, instead of keeping his mouth closed in quiet relief, felt it necessary to continue this circus. He recently held a press conference and stated, “I want to make it known that I did not inject or ingest any illegal substances that would enhance my performance. The question of how it got into my body is still unclear.

“It’s something I’m very concerned about, just the fact of how it’s there and what’s going to deter it from happening again. And that’s something that we’re going to have to medically investigate.”

“When everything first came out, I was completely unfamiliar with hCG,” Cushing claims. “I was told that the only way it can get into your body, and, obviously, everyone having their different opinions, was that it was either through injection or through a tumor.

“I know that I didn't ingest or inject anything. I played the whole season thinking I had tumors and this could not only be my last season but my last year.”

His agent, former NFL player Tom Condon, then supported his client by stating Cushing had been seeing experts last season about possibly having cancer. Experts, though they agree hCg can cause cancer, say it would be surprising for someone who tested positive in October not to have felt some sort of abnormal mass in his testicles.

The Texans offered no comment to the recent Cushing press conference, which can be construed as damning by their silence. Even with Cushing's claims. His need to hold a press conference was a baffling move, considering history will still show him as the winner of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.

History will also show how the Associated Press went from backing one rule breaker to turning against another in two short years. Their credibility holds about much sound footing as Cushing himself right now. Perhaps it is best both parties go back to where they came from and stay silent from now on.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bruce Allen Almost Follows His Fathers Footsteps With The Washington Redskins

George Allen is a Hall of Famer known for a few things. Not only was he an excellent motivator, head coach, and defensive coordinator, but he also invented the special teams coaching position.

He was also known as the leader of the "Over The Hill Gang", which was a ensemble of veterans put together on his Redskins teams in the early 1970's. These were mostly players he had worked with while coaching with the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams.

George Allen was not only the the head coach of the Washington Redskins then, he also happened to be the fifth general manager in franchise history. In his seven years at the helm, the Redskins did not experience a losing season under him, made the playoffs five times, and appeared in a Super Bowl.

Now his son Bruce Allen is the eighth general manager in Redskins history. He is being paired with new head coach Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as head coach with the Denver Broncos. Before Denver, he had been head coach of the Oakland Raiders for 20 games between 1988 and 1989. He won just eight games before being fired.

Six years later, the Raiders hired Bruce Allen. He worked his way up the organization, culminating in his being named the winner of the George Young Executive of the Year award in 2002, the year the team reached the Super Bowl. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005, but did not enjoy the same level of successes as he tried to get the team younger by releasing established veterans.

Now, with the Redskins, it appears he is taking the opposite approach. An approach made famous by his father. He has signed or traded for 12 players who will be over 3o years old by the time opening kickoff approaches for the 2010 season. He signed two wide receivers recently, Joey Galloway and Bobby Wade, who will be 39 and 30 by the time the season concludes.

One of the criticisms Vinny Cerrato faced while calling the shots, before being replaced by Allen, was he wasn't getting the team young enough. He had a propensity of signing veterans who were viewed to having seen the best playing days behind him.

Men like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and Jason Taylor are just a few veterans who came into Washington with graybeards and contributed next to nothing while wearing the burgundy and gold. This has helped the team swim in mediocrity for the most part since they last won the Super Bowl in 1992. Washington has made the playoffs just three times since then, and had just five winning seasons over that time.

The new duo of Allen and Shanahan are being counted on to reverse these lack of fortunes. Trading for quarterback Donovan McNabb, who enters his 12th season and will soon be 34 years old, was considered a great move to start things off.

McNabb, who has not been a Pro Bowler since 2004 and has played a full season just four times, will have his contract expire at the end of the season. This, combined with the impending players strike before next year, makes the move perhaps a tremendous gamble since the team is not really grooming a blue chip prospect at quarterback for the future.

Signing aged players like running backs Willie Parker and Larry Johnson, along with guys like Galloway, also symbolize gambles. None of these players have had a impactful season since 2007. It is viewed as highly unlikely that they ever will again. Allen is hoping they all find the fountain of youth, but history says that it will not happen.

Though the seemingly inauspicious start of Bruce Allen can be viewed as a mixed bag right now, time will have to play out before history can put a final stamp on his beginning. Using a large group of veterans to try to get this franchise back to winning football can be considered smart, as it is a time tested formula.

The difference between Bruce Allen and his dad was that George knew what his veterans would give him by having coached them. Bruce, however, had just a minuscule contingent of veterans he has worked with before. His knowledge of knowing what they will contribute comes via old game films and reputations from the past.

What he has built is a wobbly ship with a foundation to gamble on. A unit that may have nothing left to pull the team out of their much too long lived mediocrity. Lets just hope dad wont end up rolling in his grave, alongside the Redskins 2010 season, when all is said and done.