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Sports Then and Now



NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 50-26 1

Posted on February 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl

There have been many great players in the 100 year history of the NFL, but who are the greatest of the great? As part of our celebration of the NFL at 100, we have been sharing our picks for the top 100 players in NFL history.

We are breaking the selections into four groups of 25. You can read our players 100-76 and 75-51 in previous articles. This article is looking at players 50-26. We will be posting our top 25 picks in a subsequent post.

Below is a look at our picks 50-26 (the team listed is the one they were most associated with during their career).

Willie Lanier

50. Willie Lanier – Kansas City Chiefs – 8 Pro Bowls; 3 time 1st Team All-Pro: Much like was the case on offense with the quarterback position, for many years there was a perception that African American players couldn’t handle the defensive equivalent leadership position of middle linebacker. That inaccuracy was crushed in the 1960s when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Willie Lanier from Morgan State. After playing outside linebacker as a rookie in 1967, Lanier became the starting middle linebacker during his second season and immediately earned first team All-Pro honors. In 1969 the Chiefs were number one in the AFL in rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense and reached Super Bowl IV. Lanier had an interception in the game as Kansas City held the Minnesota Vikings to only seven points in a 23-7 victory. Dominant against both the run and pass, Lanier completed his 11 year career with 27 pass interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.

49. Emlen Tunnell – New York Giants – 9 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: Though not drafted out of college, Tunnell made an immediate impact at defensive back for the New York Giants. He intercepted seven passes as a rookie and 10 during his second season. A key component of the dominant Giants’ defense of the 1950s, Tunnell intercepted at least six passes in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Giants win the NFL Championship in 1956 and then after moving to Green Bay in 1959, helped the Packers win the Championship in 1961.  Tunnell finished his career with 79 interceptions for 1,282 yards and four interceptions. At the time of his retirement, Tunnell was the NFL’s career leader in interceptions and still ranks second all-time. He was the first African American member of the New York Giants and first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

48. Dutch Clark – Detroit Lions – 0 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: A member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dutch Clark was a six-time NFL All-Pro and a three-time NFL scoring champion. He rushed for 2,772 yards and passed for 1,501 yards during his career. He also served as a kicker and finished with 369 career points. He scored on a 40-yard touchdown run to help the Detroit Lions win the NFL Championship in 1935.

47. Junior Seau – San Diego Chargers – 12 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of the dominant defenders of his era, Junior Seau played 20 years in the NFL and was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection. He recorded more than 1,800 career tackles, 56.5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries. Seau helped the Chargers reach Super Bowl XXIX and was also a member of the New England Patriots team that was 16-0 in 2017 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

46. Roger Staubach – Dallas Cowboys – 6 Pro Bowls; 0 time 1st Team All-Pro: Known as “Captain America” during his decade as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances (won two) and six NFC Championship Games during his career. Famous for his late-game comebacks, Staubach had a career record of 96-35 (74%) as a starter. An elusive runner, he gained 2,264 yards with 20 rushing touchdowns during his career. At the time of his retirement, Staubach was the NFL’s career leader in passer rating.

Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Video: The Magic of Roger Staubach 0

Posted on October 08, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Roger Staubach led the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins and 23 fourth quarter comebacks during the 1970s.

Roger Staubach led the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins and 23 fourth quarter comebacks during the 1970s.

It seems like just about every week at least one NFL quarterback leads his team to an exciting comeback victory.

Of course, exciting comebacks are nothing new. In the 1970s, Dallas Cowboys star Roger Staubach became known as Captain Comeback for his many late miracle comeback wins.

As part of our Vintage Videos series we look back at the career of Staubach, including some great YouTube videos of one of the iconic quarterbacks in NFL history.

During his nine seasons as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach seemed to always have the uncanny knack of making the big play needed to lift his team to victory. He led the Cowboys to 23 fourth quarter game-winning drives during his career, including 15 times with his team trailing.

The Cowboys reached the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons as the starting quarterback and advanced to the Super Bowl five times.

He was named MVP of Super Bowl VI and also led Dallas to the title in Super Bowl XXII.

Staubach was a winner even before joining the Cowboys.

He spent three seasons at the Naval Academy and as a junior in 1963 won the Heisman Trophy while leading the Midshipmen to a 9-1 record and a number two national ranking.

After graduating, he spent five years in the U.S. Navy, including a tour in Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the Greatest Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History: 50-26 2

Posted on February 03, 2016 by Dean Hybl

Joe Montana was supposed to be the "other quarterback" in Super BOwl XIX, but instead led the 49ers to a dominant victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Joe Montana was supposed to be the “other quarterback” in Super Bowl XIX, but instead led the 49ers to a dominant victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Since Super Bowl I in 1967, the “big game” has become the premier stage for NFL players to either create or cement their legacy. The first 47 Super Bowls are full of special Super Bowl performances. Some were by familiar names that used the Super Bowl to either put a stamp on a Hall of Fame career or propel them into a spot in Canton. But not every Super Bowl hero was a household name before their performance on the big stage. There have been several players whose otherwise unspectacular career includes one shining performance in front of one of the largest television crowds of all-time.

In this article and the second part (which will be posted later this week), we are looking specifically at the 50 best individual performances on offense in a Super Bowl.

To develop the list we did take into account game statistics, but also looked at game situations when analyzing which players and moments were worthy of inclusion. For example, though Joe Montana tossed five touchdowns as the 49ers routed Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, he actually was ranked higher in other Super Bowls because his performance in critical moments was instrumental to their victory.

In ranking performances whether the team won the game was considered, but there have been some Super Bowl performances by players on losing teams that were clearly among the most important. One thing that received little consideration was who was awarded the Super Bowl MVP as there have been numerous occasions when the MVP award has gone to someone other than the player who seemingly provided the best performance.

So below is a countdown of performances 50-26.

50. Kurt Warner – Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII – 31-43, 377 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
For a fleeting moment, it appeared that Kurt Warner was going to be the first quarterback to lead two different franchises to Super Bowl victory. He and the Cardinals played well enough to win, but a late Pittsburgh drive denied them of victory. Interestingly enough, Warner holds the record for the top three passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history with his 377 yards in Super Bowl XLIII ranking second.

49. Rod Smith – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 5 rec., 152 yards, 1 TD
While Terrell Davis and John Elway are the best remembered offensive players from their back-to-back Super Bowl wins, receiver Rod Smith also played an important role in their win over the Falcons. His 80-yard reception in the second quarter helped break the game open and he finished with 152 receiving yards.

48. Michael Pittman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl XXXVI – 29 rushes, 124 yards, 0 TD
While the defense garnered all the headlines during the Buccaneers victory over the Raiders, Michael Pittman was the workhorse for the offense. He rushed for 124 yards, including 75 in the first half as the Buccaneers established control of the contest.

47. Thurman Thomas – Buffalo Bills – Super Bowl XXV – 15 rushes, 135 yards, 1 TD; 5 rec., 55 yards
While the Buffalo Bills didn’t win Super Bowl XXV after missing a last second field goal, Thurman Thomas certainly did everything he could to put them in position to win. He rushed for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Bills a lead early in the fourth quarter and then trailing by two in the final minutes he rushed for 33 yards in the final drive that ultimately ended in the famous Scott Norwood wide right field goal. Read the rest of this entry →

Sorry Michael Vick, You Are Not A Pioneer 14

Posted on June 22, 2014 by Dean Hybl

Randall Cunningham showed that quarterbacks could be weapons both throwing and running with the football.

Randall Cunningham showed that quarterbacks could be weapons both throwing and running with the football.

It always amuses me when contemporary athletes act like there is no sports history before they bestowed their presence on their particular game.

The most recent athlete to proclaim his own place in sports history is New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick.

Even though he didn’t come into the league until 2001, the 82nd year of the NFL, Vick is certain that he “revolutionized” the game and “was the guy who started” the era of athletic, mobile quarterbacks.

Evidently Vick had never heard of Fran Tarkenton, Roger Staubach, Randall Cunningham or Steve Young, all of whom used both their legs and their arm to forge great NFL careers long before Vick ever took a professional snap.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. Vick is a gifted talent and has been a dynamic running quarterback for more than a decade, but to suggest that he started the trend of athletic quarterbacks just isn’t correct.

Whether the motive of his recent assertions stem from a true lack of historical knowledge or if they are more related to his desire to create his own legacy as his career is winding down, Vick needs to realize that that though he holds the NFL record for rushing yards in a quarterback, he is just one of many quarterbacks in NFL history to use both his arm and legs to achieve success.

Interestingly enough, while Vick has been a solid NFL quarterback, he really isn’t near the top of the list among quarterbacks who combined running and passing to create a dual threat.

First off, it must be understood that just because a quarterback racks up a lot of rushing yards doesn’t mean he is a great dual threat. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 50 Greatest Individual Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History: 50-26 2

Posted on January 26, 2014 by Dean Hybl

Despite losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick still had one of the finest performances in Super Bowl history.

Despite losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick still had one of the finest performances in Super Bowl history.

Since Super Bowl I in 1967, the “big game” has become the premier stage for NFL players to either create or cement their legacy. The first 47 Super Bowls are full of special Super Bowl performances. Some were by familiar names that used the Super Bowl to either put a stamp on a Hall of Fame career or propel them into a spot in Canton. But not every Super Bowl hero was a household name before their performance on the big stage. There have been several players whose otherwise unspectacular career includes one shining performance in front of one of the largest television crowds of all-time.

In this article and the second part (which will be posted later this week), we are looking specifically at the 50 best individual performances on offense in a Super Bowl. This list includes only offensive performances and not kickers or special teams players.

To develop the list we did take into account game statistics, but also looked at game situations when analyzing which players and moments were worthy of inclusion. For example, though Joe Montana tossed five touchdowns as the 49ers routed Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, he actually was ranked higher in other Super Bowls because his performance in critical moments was instrumental to their victory.

In ranking performances whether the team won the game was considered, but there have been some Super Bowl performances by players on losing teams that were clearly among the most important. One thing that received little consideration was who was awarded the Super Bowl MVP as there have been numerous occasions when the MVP award has gone to someone other than the player who seemingly provided the best performance.

So below is a countdown of performances 50-26.

50. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XLVII – 16-28, 302 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 rushes, 62 yards, 1 TD
If he has been able to lead the 49ers to a final touchdown and victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Kaepernick’s performance in his first Super Bowl would have certainly been higher on the list. However, even in defeat the first year starter led his team to a near-comeback victory using both his arm and feet.

49. Mark Rypien – Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XXVI – 18-33, 292 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Utilizing a talented receiving corps that included Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, Rypien picked apart the Buffalo Bills with a pair of touchdown passes and time consuming drives to lift the Redskins to their third Super Bowl in a decade (all with a different starting quarterback).

48. Kurt Warner – Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII – 31-43, 377 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
For a fleeting moment, it appeared that Kurt Warner was going to be the first quarterback to lead two different franchises to Super Bowl victory. He and the Cardinals played well enough to win, but a late Pittsburgh drive denied them of victory. Interestingly enough, Warner holds the record for the top three passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history with his 377 yards in Super Bowl XLIII ranking second.

47. Rod Smith – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 5 rec., 152 yards, 1 TD
While Terrell Davis and John Elway are the best remembered offensive players from their back-to-back Super Bowl wins, receiver Rod Smith also played an important role in their win over the Falcons. His 80-yard reception in the second quarter helped break the game open and he finished with 152 receiving yards.

46. Michael Pittman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl XXXVI – 29 rushes, 124 yards, 0 TD
While the defense garnered all the headlines during the Buccaneers victory over the Raiders, Michael Pittman was the workhorse for the offense. He rushed for 124 yards, including 75 in the first half as the Buccaneers established control of the contest. Read the rest of this entry →

Happy 70th Birthday Roger Staubach 17

Posted on February 05, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Happy 70th Birthday to American Hero and NFL All-Time Great Roger Staubach.

Sports Then and Now wants to wish a Happy 70th Birthday to one of our favorite athletes of all-time, “Captain Comeback” Roger Staubach.

Known for his late-game heroics, Staubach was one of the iconic figures of the NFL during the 1970s.

During his nine seasons as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Staubach seemed to always have the uncanny knack of making the big play needed to lift his team to victory. He led the Cowboys to 23 fourth quarter game-winning drives during his career, including 15 times with his team trailing.

The Cowboys reached the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons as the starting quarterback and advanced to the Super Bowl five times.

He was named MVP of Super Bowl VI and also led Dallas to the title in Super Bowl XII.

Staubach was a winner even before joining the Cowboys.

He spent three seasons at the Naval Academy and as a junior in 1963 won the Heisman Trophy while leading the Midshipmen to a 9-1 record and a number two national ranking. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Early Wynn: 300 Game Winner
      August 1, 2020 | 8:37 pm
      Early Wynn

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month pitched in four decades, was a veteran of World War II and is one of only two pitchers to finish with exactly 300 career victories.

      Hall of Famer Early Wynn began his career as a 19-year old in 1939 by pitching three games for the Washington Senators. After spending the 1940 season in the minors, he went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in a brief stint in the majors in 1941.

      Read more »

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