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Repeating History? Cooper Kupp Conjures Memories of Bucky Pope 0

Posted on December 09, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Bucky Pope caught 10 touchdown passes and averaged 31.4 yards per catch during his rookie season in 1964.

Bucky Pope caught 10 touchdown passes and averaged 31.4 yards per catch during his rookie season in 1964.

Even though Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp was a third round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and a third-generation NFL player, his emergence as a star receiver for the Rams conjures comparison to another small school player who made an immediate impact more than 50 years ago.

With a 5-7-2 overall record, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t have a lot to celebrate during the 1964 campaign. However, one bright spot was the emergence of eighth round draft pick Bucky Pope. Known as the “Catawba Claw” because he played his collegiate football at tiny Catawba College in North Carolina, Pope proved to be one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history.

He emerged as a deep threat with a 65-yard touchdown reception from Bill Munson against Detroit during the second week of the season and over the year caught 10 touchdown passes, including six touchdowns of 48 yards or greater.

In a 42-14 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in week six, Pope caught four passes for 141 yards, including touchdown catches of 48, 68 and 18 yards from Roman Gabriel.

Twice facing Vince Lombardi’s Packers, Pope had a 55-yard touchdown reception in their first meeting and a 95-yard score in the final week of the season.

Overall, Pope caught 25 passes for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 31.44 yards per catch were the second highest single season total in NFL history.

Unfortunately, Pope’s amazing rookie season proved to be something he could not repeat. He hurt his knee during a preseason game in 1965 and didn’t play at all that season.

He caught one pass, a 14 yard touchdown pass, during the 1966 season. In 1967, he caught eight passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Included in that total was a 48-yard touchdown catch against the Eagles that would prove to be the final touchdown catch of his career.

Clearly no longer the player he had been in 1964, Pope was released by the Rams and spent a brief period of time in camp with the Atlanta Falcons before playing in three games, with no catches, for the Green Bay Packers in 1968. Read the rest of this entry →

Preston Pearson: The Ultimate Third-Down Back 0

Posted on November 17, 2018 by Dean Hybl

Preston-Pearson-Cowboys-2The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month played in five Super Bowls with three teams during a 14-year NFL season, but is likely best known for being the ultimate third-down situation back during his time with the Dallas Cowboys.

When Preston Pearson was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 12th round of the 1967 NFL draft out of the University of Illinois, there was no expectation that he would develop into one of the most versatile backs in the NFL. In fact, given that Pearson was a two-year starter in basketball and never played a snap of college football, he was a long-shot to ever play a down in the NFL. Read the rest of this entry →

What All Goes Into a Super Bowl Halftime Show? 0

Posted on October 08, 2018 by Scott Huntington

This year’s upcoming Super Bowl Halftime headliner was recently announced, and Maroon 5 will take their place on that iconic stage. While not everyone is happy about this announcement, it does lead us to another question — what really goes into creating those massive halftime shows?

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Planning Comes First

The planning stage takes the longest. The Superbowl is usually played in February, and the planning stage will start the June before the big game starts. This is what experts call the “nuts and bolts” stage — figuring out how to put together a massive show and get it all on the field in six minutes.

Yes, you read that right — in just six minutes the entire stage gets set up. This is when the show planners figure out the technical side of things, such as where to put the broadcast trucks, where to position the speakers to create the most optimum sound and how they’re going to plug in all the toys.

Read the rest of this entry →

NFL Network’s A Football Life Has Jumped the Shark 0

Posted on September 30, 2018 by Dean Hybl
NFL Network's show A Football Life debuted in 2011.

NFL Network’s show A Football Life debuted in 2011.

In case you are not familiar with the term “Jumping the Shark”, it refers to the great 1970s TV Show Happy Days. Towards the end of its run on ABC, they had an episode when “The Fonz” somehow ended up on water skis and actually jumped a shark (or at least a mechanical shark). To fans, it signaled the moment when they knew the show was out of realistic plots and was on its way towards the end.

Given that the first three episodes of season eight of A Football Life have included a pair of shows about quarterbacks with a combined total of one conference championship appearance during their careers, I think it is clear that this once great show has passed its “Jump the Shark” moment.

When A Football Life first came on the air in 2011, it provided a fresh and innovative approach for telling about the football journeys for some of the great figures in recent NFL history. Most of those highlighted were living at the time they were featured, though that has not always been the case.

After starting with a two-part episode about New England Coach Bill Belichick, they followed up with a fresh look at a pair of former teammates whose lives ended early, Reggie White & Jerome Brown. Other tales from the opening season focused on the cinema worthy stories of Kurt Warner, Walter Payton, Ed Sabol, Mike Ditka, Tom Landry and Al Davis.

Though the second season began with a nod to the “flavor of the moment” by featuring Tim Tebow, the remainder of the season was excellent with every episode telling a unique, behind the curtain, story about an NFL Legend.

As a fan of NFL history, if there has been anything significant to criticize about the choices of former players to feature, it would be that they have almost totally ignored players from the pre-Super Bowl era and in reality, have focused disproportionately on players from the 1980s to today.

The term "Jumping the Shark" refers to an episode of Happy Days where "The Fonz" jumped a shark.

The term “Jumping the Shark” refers to an episode of Happy Days where “The Fonz” jumped a shark.

Not counting shows on former players who became coaches or broadcasters, through the first seven seasons there have only been four shows featuring players whose primary years in the league occurred prior to 1970 (Jim Brown, Joe Namath, the Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome and Chicago Bears greats Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus).

To me that is really a shame. I understand maybe not going back to the beginning of NFL history to feature former greats who have been gone for generations, but given that NFL Films originated in the 1960s, I cannot understand why they have basically ignored that great era of the NFL and AFL.

Off the top of my head, I can name 10-20 players who were active in the 1960s and either are still alive or were alive when the series started that would be great to feature. Players like Bart Starr and Willie Davis from the great Packer teams, the first Dallas Cowboy draft pick Bob Lilly, Sam Huff, Alex Karras, Y.A. Tittle, Sonny Jurgensen, Len Dawson, John Brodie, Lenny Moore, Hugh McElhenny, Fran Tarkenton and the recently deceased Tommy McDonald are just a few of the many players from that era that had amazing NFL journeys and would have been great to feature in the series.

Though the bias to the post-merger era has always been there, in the early years there was at least a balance with some shows featuring players from the 1970s and early 1980s.

However, in recent years, the show seems to have become more of a vehicle for current broadcasters and recently inducted Hall of Famers.

Read the rest of this entry →

5 Predictions for the 2018 NFL Season 1

Posted on September 08, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a huge season in 2018.

Expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a huge season in 2018.

It is finally that time again, can you say “Are You Ready for some football?”

The 2018 NFL season should be an interesting one as the Philadelphia Eagles are the defending champions, the New England Patriots may finally be coming back to earth and the Cleveland Browns seem likely not to go 0-16 again.

For anyone looking to make a killing at 10 Bet Football below are five predictions for the 2018 season.

Buy Ezekiel Elliott and Sell Le’Veon Bell

Last year Le’Veon Bell was one of the best players in the NFL and Ezekiel Elliott suffered through a rough sophomore year that included a six game suspension.

After a full training camp, watch for Elliott to be focused on returning to the elite running back status he displayed during his first NFL campaign in 2016.

Conversely, Bell sat out training camp for the second straight year and after returning before the first game last year, he is not playing in the 2018 opener and could be out for a while.

Given that the prime performance years for running backs is historically short-lived, Bell is determined to get a large guaranteed payday while still at his highest level.

Last year he touched the ball more than 400 times, which is usually one of the major reasons that running backs don’t last. Knowing that the Steelers are not going to use him wisely once he joins the team, Bell and his representatives have decided that they need to take control by sitting for what appears to be multiple games.

So, my prediction for 2018 is that Elliott will be an All-Pro while Bell will not have a special season, but will likely position himself for a pretty good payday in 2019.

Watch Out For the Browns

I am tempted to predict that the Cleveland Browns will win more games than the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, but that might be just a little too bold.

What does seem likely is that the 2018 Cleveland Browns will win more games than has been won in Cleveland over the last two seasons. Granted, they just need two wins to exceed that total, but I do believe the Browns have elevated their talent level and will be competitive this season.

Heck, even though they were the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 last year, head coach Hue Jackson had them playing hard almost every week. They just lacked enough talent to make enough great plays to win games. Read the rest of this entry →

Billy Kilmer: Hard-Nosed Quarterback 1

Posted on September 02, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Kilmer

Billy Kilmer

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month began his NFL career as an athletic running quarterback, but he endured a near fatal car accident to completely change his game during a career that spanned nearly two decades.

Anyone who is familiar with former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer probably remembers him as the portly, un-athletic, but very tough quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s. However, during his first two NFL seasons, Kilmer was primarily used as a running quarterback and running back for the San Francisco 49ers. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Tony Oliva: Hall of Fame Worthy
      April 21, 2019 | 5:18 pm
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      Cuba is known for producing great baseball talent and there has arguably been no one from the island better than the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

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