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Sports Then and Now



The Top 5 Biggest Draft Busts in NFL History 1

Posted on May 27, 2014 by Scott Huntington

With the 2014 NFL draft now in the books, it makes sense to look at some of the worst mistakes made by teams at the draft. Of course, scouts, general managers and head coaches work hard in the months leading up to the draft, trying to acquire the best possible player at their draft position. Every season, however, there are players drafted in the first round who do not work out for whatever reason, and these picks set their franchises back for years to come.

The following are some of the worst selections in recent memory.

Tim Couch

Ravens v Browns

The 1999 NFL draft was supposed to have a very special quarterback class, and Tim Couch was the first one selected. The Cleveland Browns, who were returning to the NFL after their original franchise moved to Baltimore, took Couch first overall, ahead of players like Donovan McNabb, Edgerrin James, and Champ Bailey.

The result was disastrous, as Couch would only start 59 games over his five-year career. While Couch did have potential, the Browns put the fate of the franchise on his shoulders, and he failed to live up to the hype. Read the rest of this entry →

Perfection in the NFL: The Teams That Came Closest and the One That Did 8

Posted on April 30, 2014 by Scott Huntington

It’s the dream of every player, coach, owner and fan to witness their team go undefeated and lift the Lombardi Trophy after a perfect season. However, one of the greatest characteristics of the National Football League—its parity—is the reason the fleeting dream is so rarely realized. The only evidence necessary to see the truth in the difficulty of achieving a perfect season is the fact only one team has done it. We’re talking no losses and no ties — including playoffs. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain able to crack open the champagne bottles every year to celebrate their distinct achievement, although several teams before and after that Dolphins team have so nearly joined them in the most elite group in football’s history.

The Only Perfect Season

ap_barack_obama_1972_miami_dolphins_ll_130820_16x9_608

Under the great Don Shula, the ’72 Dolphins achieved immortality by obtaining a perfect 14-0 in the regular season before defeating the Browns, Steelers and Redskins in the playoffs to finish 17-0-0. Although they boasted the NFL’s top-ranked offense by scoring an average of 27.5 points per game, the Dolphins’ defense carried the team through the playoffs. Miami never scored more than 21 points in a postseason game, but their opponents were held to 17 points or fewer thanks to the top-ranked defense in the league, which averaged 12.2 points allowed per game. The prowess of the Dolphins’ 4-3 defense was obvious in the Superbowl, where it held the NFC Champion Redskins to just seven points.

Read the rest of this entry →

First-Round Draft Woes of the Raiders over Past Ten Years 0

Posted on April 08, 2014 by Scott Huntington

The news that Johnny Manziel has recently been on a two-day visit with the Oakland Raiders has raised some eyebrows around the NFL. It has also brought back memories of some of the Raiders’ terrible first-round draft picks. And with the likes of JaMarcus Russell in Oakland’s recent history, it’s easy to wonder if Johnny Football with be the Raiders’ next big bust. No matter what happens with Manziel, Oakland won’t be rid of its terrible draft record anytime soon, so let’s look at who the Raiders picked first over the last ten drafts and who they looked over.

JaMarcus-Russell

2013: D.J. Hayden

Although it’s far too early to decide what sort of player Hayden will ultimately turn out to be, it’s worth noting that he is one of only three players on an NFL roster out of the eight first-round picks that the Raiders have had over the past ten years. Another note that may be of importance is that Sheldon Richardson was taken directly after Hayden. Richardson’s impressive rookie campaign points in the direction of potential dominance in the future, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Read the rest of this entry →

The History of Fantasy Football 13

Posted on February 04, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Since the explosion of fantasy football into modern sports culture, it’s hard to imagine a time when Sundays during football season weren’t accompanied by millions of people constantly checking their lineups. Young or old, man or woman, it seems like almost every football fan is involved in a fantasy league come kickoff each NFL season. Since the very first fantasy football draft in downtown Oakland, fantasy football has grown far more than the game’s inventor could ever had imagined.

fant-foot

The Beginning

As a branch off from a fantasy golf system, fantasy football was the invented in a bar called the Lamppost by a limited owner of the Oakland Raiders and businessman Bill Winkenbach. In his home, Winkenbach and seven other men held the inaugural draft in 1963 for their league, the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League, or GOPPPL.

With the scoring based solely on touchdowns, the GOPPPL began with each roster consisting of two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four offensive ends, two returners, two kickers and four defenders. As the very first fantasy football selection, George Blanda was chosen by Andrew Mousalimas in the now 50-year-old league.

How The Game Has Changed

From players to league sizes to scoring and more, fantasy football has drastically changed over its lifespan. For starters, the number of participants has grown from the original eight to an estimated 24 million. The greatest change of all to the game—the internet–helped the game gain incredible popularity and encouraged a number of modifications. Instead of the one league in Oakland, there are now countless leagues on countless websites, including ESPN, Yahoo, NFL and CBS to name the most prominent.

Although the prize for the winner of any fantasy league—money–has remained roughly the same, the consequence for the loser has evolved from the original football with a dunce cap on it, called the Dunce Trophy, to anything from buying the winner dinner to carrying out embarrassing chores to even getting a tattoo of the winner’s choosing.

A far cry from the GOPPPL having to get statistics and research from one magazine, fantasy football owners can now rely on websites and programs, like Scout Pro Fantasy Football Software. Sites like Scout Pro provide readers with player analysis, rankings, fantasy tools and more. Software from Scout Pro can even take stats and expert analysis and create fantasy point predictions that can be customized to fit the website that you play on.

By The Numbers

As a whole, fantasy sports are estimated to now have an economic impact of more than $2 billion a year. Of the estimated 32 million fantasy sports players, over 75 percent are from fantasy football. Some fantasy football leagues have buy-ins of up to $10,000 while others are completely free.

For fantasy football, committed owners are estimated to spend an average of nine to 12 hours per week on their respective teams. Although men dominate the fantasy sports landscape, an estimated 20 percent of participants are women.

Thanks to a few men in an Oakland bar, watching football has been forever changed. The game of fantasy football continues to grow, and its 50-year history doesn’t appear to be coming to an end any time soon.

Can Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Keep Their Winning Streak? 1

Posted on February 01, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Will this be the year that five-time Super Bowl champion Charles Haley adds the Hall of Fame to his resume?

Will this be the year that five-time Super Bowl champion Charles Haley adds the Hall of Fame to his resume?

It is that time of year again, when some of the great players we enjoyed watching on the gridiron receive their much-deserved place in pro football immortality.

With very few exceptions, the players considered each year are all among the NFL all-time elite and worthy of Hall of Fame induction. So, to me judging whether the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee does a good job has become less about which players, coaches or contributors they select, but more about how many they allow into the Hall of Fame each year.

Though the rules say that up to seven worthy candidates can be selected into the Hall of Fame each year, between 1988 and 2009 the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the maximum number of candidates only twice (1990 and 2001) while on six occasions choosing only four candidates, the minimum number allowed in a year.

The thing you must understand is that it isn’t like keeping the Hall of Fame classes so small for all those years was in some way preserving the elite status of the HOF.

Between 1988 and 2009 there were a total of 113 players, coaches and executives inducted into the Hall of Fame. Only 36 (31.9%) were inducted in their first year of eligibility. That means nearly 70% of all those who were eventually inducted were passed over at least once.

What this horrific and totally unnecessary display of incompetence did was create a back-log of worthy candidates. It also meant that some players whose careers were eventually recognized as Hall of Fame worthy were deprived of that honor until either after their death or far later in their life than necessary.

While the Baseball Hall of Fame selection process has some major problems, with only a few exceptions through their veteran’s program, most of those who are going to be honored as Baseball Hall of Famers receive the recognition no more than 20 years after their retirement.

In just the last five years there have been eight Pro Football Hall of Famers inducted more than 30 years after their retirement. Heck, Jack Butler, who was inducted in 2012 and passed away in 2013, finished his playing career in 1959.

I am not at all suggesting that these players should not have been inducted into the HOF, but rather that had the Hall of Fame selection committee been doing their job more efficiently for more than two decades these players would have received that honor earlier and thus would have been able to enjoy the recognition longer.

Fortunately, beginning in 2010 the Hall of Fame committee seemed to start understanding the mess they had made and since then have done a good job starting to reduce the backlog.

In the last four HOF voting cycles the HOF class has included the maximum seven members three times and six members once. Read the rest of this entry →

Were Early NFL Uniforms Safer Than What Is Worn Today? 0

Posted on January 22, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Imagine a time in the history of American football when helmets were completely optional. That was the reality for early NFL football. In fact, helmets and face guards were not mandatory until 1943 — four years after they became mandatory for collegiate football. Even after the change, older players were allowed to play without a helmet. The last player to do so was Dick Plasman, whose career spanned from 1937 to 1947.

Looking back to a time when players preferred to play the game with no helmet whatsoever, it’s clear that such a policy would be unthinkable today. Odds are better of finding hydroponic nutrients at a local McDonald’s. Was this lax behavior due to ignorance about safety or was the game much different then? Were the NFL’s early uniforms so different that they actually made the game safer?

The Uniform Materials Of Yesteryear

Early American football uniforms were rather simplistic. Taking a look at vintage uniforms, much of the padding was reinforced with leather, at least what little padding there was. Early gridiron veterans resented all the padding. In their eyes, the focus on safety was making the game more “effeminate.” The mental image back then was similar to “A Christmas Story” where your mother didn’t let you out the door unless you were bundled up in layers to the point you couldn’t move.

antique-football-leather-shoulder-pads

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

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