|Posted by TheBEEZER 3 Hours Ago
Well, so far we have done the best All-time HR hitter...Pitcher...SS...and Catcher....
So today, we'll discuss who is the best all-time MLB...Read More
This is the first installment of NFL Lucubrations
in 2011, and most likely the only one.
Ain't That A Kick In The Head
Ndamukong Suh is a throw back player stuck in a sad time in the NFL, otherwise known as the Goodell Valley. First he got screwed out of the Heisman Trophy, and award that is supposed to go to the best player but goes to the most popular quarterback, running back or wide receiver, two years ago.
He destroyed NFL offenses in his rookie season in 2010, quickly gaining respect and fear from his opponents. Suh hits hard and often, thus drawing critics who have been brainwashed by Goodell to worship just the offensive side of the football.
Suh isn't producing as much this year, most likely the infamous sophomore jinx being the culprit, but he is still producing at a good rate. He isn't going to match last years tackles and sacks totals, and that will be helped by the fact he is going to serve a two game suspension for stomping an opponent out of frustration on Thanksgiving.
Part of the frustration is the fact that the Detroit Lions defensive line has not met expectations this season. Suh, the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year, was surrounded by more talent than he had ever played with before. He is spending his second season lined up next to Corey Williams, but the veteran is having maybe the worst season of his eight-year career.
Defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril have combined for 13 sacks so far, but they have offered little in run support with just 37 tackles. Linebackers Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch were two veterans signed as free agents before this year, but the duo has only 107 combined tackles. Pat Angerer, of the Indianapolis Colts, and Pro Bowler London Fletcher, of the Washington Redskins, have at least that many tackles by themselves.
Detroit used their first round draft pick this year on defensive tackle Nick Fairley, only to get just six tackles in six games so far. Dreams of this unit being Detroit's second "Fearsome Foursome" have not come about, with Suh and Fairley reminding no one of the great Roger Brown or Alex Karras in the 1960's.
Suh plays with a mean streak, one that recalls historians of "Mean" Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Greene, a member of both the pro and collegiate Hall of Fame's, also was the Defensive Rookie of the Year as a defensive tackle. Suh may not match the streak of 10 consecutive Pro Bowls to start out his career like Greene did, but there are other similarities between the pair.
Like Suh, Greene hated to lose and would often explode if frustrated. During a game against the Cleveland Browns in 1975, Greene repeatedly kicked the opposing center in the groin. "Mean Joe" would also bat the ball away from centers during games where his team was losing.
Not only does he own four Super Bowl rings as a player, he has earned two more as a coach and consultant since retiring. A two-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, there are few players in the history of professional football more respected and beloved.
Yet Suh is getting scorn for the same types of actions. Matt Slauson, a guard for the New York Jets, went to reporters to let them know he did not like Suh while the two were teammates at the University of Nebraska. Slauson then tried to say few of his fellow Cornhuskers liked Suh as well, yet not one of those teammates have corroborated these claims.
Some think Slauson's real issue is that he spent most of his time under performing in an injury-riddled collegiate career, which caused him to drop all the way to the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Others believe the cause of his ire was from being thrashed around by Suh continuously in inter-squad scrimmages during practice.
Slauson and others believe Suh's foot stomp of Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Green Bay Packers was not unintentional, which Suh initially claimed it was. The star defensive tackle later apologized for the incident, but still garnered a suspension because he currently is carrying the tag as the dirtiest player in football.
Most of the media, many who never have played football or sports of any kind, claim Suh crossed the line of sportsmanship. While that may hold some truths, the game of football is bereft with emotions that can sometimes be borderline psychotic. As the legendary Jack Tatum, a Pro Bowl safety, once said, " I like to believe my best hits borderline on felonious assault".
That attitude of the game has been castrated by Goodell and rules he has invented like "putting too much weight on the quarterback". It is a game biased in offense and geared to carry the quarterback, one where defenses are now merely temporary obstacles at best.
After the incident on Thanksgiving, reporters were quick to run and get quotes from current and former players. Yet these came from offensive players, men who are basically the enemy of the defense. An outraged is expected from these types.
Playing in an atmosphere as antiseptic as a hospital, the modern defender must watch now only how high, low, or hard he hits a player holding the ball. They must engage an offensive lineman with kid gloves because blockers today are allowed to extend their arms and basically hold on each play, making it extremely difficult for a defender to get near the football.
Suh will have to go the rest of his career carrying the burden of an unjust label that comes from him playing the game with passion. He may have the respect of those who paved the NFL path to get get this game a multi-billion dollar empire, but Suh now has to carry the ire of the current leadership intent on making the game plush and cozy for quarterbacks and other offensive players.
This isn't his first fine, and it may not be his last suspension. If it is, we may soon see a docile Suh playing out the string of his career for a paycheck, something often witnessed in the game today, instead of striving for greatness.
Greatness that has made men like "Mean Joe" Greene and others some of the most recognizable and respected people in all of sports. If Suh wants to attempt to match that type of success, people like Roger Goodell need to get off of his back and let the man play this child's game with all of the zest he can muster. True gridiron legends are made by the man, fans and game, not meddling bores sitting in a posh office on Park Avenue in New York City.
Losing Isn't For Everyone
Cleveland Browns star Josh Cribbs was recently lamenting how he has experienced just 38 victories in the 107 games he has played with the club since joining them in 2005. With a new coach this season, his third with Cleveland, the results have been pretty much the same as they have been his entire NFL career.
The 2007 season was the best the Browns have had in his time there, where they went 10-6. Not only is it the only winning season he has experienced, but Cribbs also made the first of his two Pro Bowls that year after leading the league in all-purpose yards, kickoff return yards, and an average of 30.7 yards per kickoff return.
After setting a NFL record with eight touchdowns via kickoff returns in 2009, his last Pro Bowl year, Cribbs' production on special teams fell off in 2010. He has had a resurgence this year, but he is not satisfied because the new kickoff rules have made opportunities lessen for him.
He doesn't just return kicks or punts, but he is also does a bit of everything on offense. Cribbs was a quarterback in college, so Cleveland has had him rush the ball 121 times and toss 12 passes with them. He is also a productive pass catcher who is used in multiple wide receiver sets. Cribbs has snagged 88 passes so far, but his role has increased in the offense this year and he already has a career high mark in receptions with 29.
Despite the fact he is tired of losing, Cribbs will most likely spend 2012 in Cleveland. His contract will expire after that year, but the market for 30 year old return men may not be as desirable in the free agent market as he may hope.
Yet Cribbs harkens back memories of other legendary Browns return specialists. Men like Eric Metcalf, Greg Pruitt, Dennis Northcutt, Gerald McNeil, Hall of Famers Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Kelly are just a few greats who spent years exciting Browns fans through the years.
Some will say this current Cleveland franchise isn't the same one that ties into the fantastic Browns teams that won eight championships between 1946 and 1964. That team went to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens. This version of the Browns was born in 1999 and has had just two winning seasons since.
This may not be the Browns that sent 16 men to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the fans of Cleveland's Dawg Pound just want a few more wins. It is refreshing to see a guy like Cribbs, a real leader of the team, say what is obvious.
It is also heartening for Browns fans to know they have players whose desire to win is that immense. Many men have been in Cribbs situation of being with a franchise in an era of losing, but there are also many stories where perseverance was later paid off by championship victories.
It will take some time for team president Mike Holmgren to show results in his attempt to rebuild the team, but Cribbs realizes his window as a productive player shrinks with each contest that passes by. The team is young, but there has been sporadic signs in 2011 that the Browns will improve sooner or later.
Sooner is not soon enough for Cribbs, so Cleveland can expect him to fight until the end. It has been what Cribbs has done since he joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
Blame The Coach For My Tears
Many Philadelphia Eagles fans have called for the firing of Andy Reid, the winningest head coach in franchise history, for years despite the fact his teams have won 122 out of 202 games since he was hired in 1999. That rage in helped by the fact the Eagles haven't won a championship since 1960.
Reid even has a winning record in the playoffs, but his teams only reached the Super Bowl once. He smoothly transitioned the squad from the Donovan McNabb Era last year, but the squad has hit a few bumps this season despite spending millions in the free agency market.
When fans saw the Eagles load their roster with Pro Bowlers like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cellen Jenkins, Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ronnie Brown, everyone expected the team to be headed for at least a division title in the NFC East. Many saw a Super Bowl ahead, which included yours truly.
But it hasn't worked out that way. Much like many other teams in professional sports history that doled out millions of dollars and got undesirable results, the Eagles have fallen flat on their faces in 2011. Things have fallen so far that Philadelphia was dealt their eighth loss already after getting stomped 31-14 by a young and rebuilding Seattle Seahawks team that has spent this season struggling themselves.
Owner Jeff Lurie is known for his loyalty, so there is hope he won't bow to a few fickle fans who starve for a trophy despite not knowing much about the game. Reid has made a few gambles that ended up being mistakes, like putting Juan Castillo in charge of the defense after the assistant had worked the offensive side of the ball the last 16 years with the team.
Trying to fill the shoes of Jim Johnson has been impossible since the guru died of cancer in 2009. Sean McDermott was fired after replacing Johnson, but he quickly found work with the Carolina Panthers. Yet fans need to realize the defense of 2011 is about the same as last year as far as yards and points allowed.
With the addition of Asomugha, Bryant, Babin, Rodgers-Cromartie, as well as retaining Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel, fans expected a huge improvement. The offense is also scoring four points less per game than they did last year, which reflects on Reid.
Quarterback Michael Vick, the man who replaced McNabb, looks like a $100 million mistake. He still remains injury-prone, but he has also regressed from last year when he looked like he finally adjusted to passing in the pocket. Young, who has filled in a few times after Vick went down, has also played erratically in his place.
Brown played so poorly that the Eagles looked to trade him weeks ago. But it isn't just the money Lurie has tossed that has hurt this team. It is the cash he hasn't yet passed out that ultimately became an issue.
DeSean Jackson had made two Pro Bowls in his previous three years with the team. An all-purpose wide receiver, the diminutive Jackson has been a threat catching, running, or returning punts for Philadelphia.
With his output, Jackson wanted a raise in pay. Lurie and his staff seemed more inclined to discuss this after 2011, considering the owner spent a fortune in free agency. Since this moment, Jackson has been a petulant child more inclined to be clubhouse cancer rather than a productive player.
What is confusing about his behavior is the fact Jackson went to the prestigious University of California, Berkeley., a school noted for their scholastic endeavors. All Jackson has done is lower his value with his behavior, so he wont be getting the cash he once sought.
Reid might catch the blame of Jackson's histrionics by some, but the coach has been trying to appease an ego while trying to get his 2011 to learn how to win. It is a juggling act that has not fared well for the team.
Coaches like Jack Del Rio have been fired already, even though that head coach was destined for this result after the owner forced him to cut his starting quarterback to save money. Men like Norv Turner and Tony Sparano should soon follow him to the unemployment line once this season concludes.
But Reid deserves a better fate. Some will say his players laid down on him this year, which should necessitate a change, but the unfamiliarity of a roster loaded with stars might need more time to gel. A squad in need of a real training camp, something the NFL was not afforded this year because of the players lockout.
After all of his productive years of service, Reid deserves one more season. A real season where he is afforded time to instill his philosophies into the newcomers, and possibly get rid of some distractions.
Every head coach is hired to be eventually fired because nothing lasts forever in the NFL other than legacy. Fans of Philly might be tough critics, but what is one more season to a group that hasn't seen a trophy in over 40 years?
Punches Hurt At Any Age
Many know how Canadian Football Hall of Famers Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca brawled a week ago at a luncheon to discuss a cheap shot Mosca put on a teammate of Kapp's during a title game in 1963. Many may not know that the history of these men have NFL ties that still reverberate today.
When Kapp was drafted in the 18th round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, he basically was forced to the Canadian Football League because the Redskins never even bothered to contact him. Kapp is Hispanic and the Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate in 1962.
He was coaxed to join the Calgary Stampeders by legendary general manager Jim Finks. Two seasons later, he was traded to the B.C. Lions for four players, soon turning the team into a winner.
Leading them to the Grey Cup in 1963, the Lions faced Mosca's Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Mosca, whose nine Grey Cup appearances is a record, was a defensive tackle who was known as the meanest man in the CFL.
Kapp had a teammate named Willie "The Wisp" Fleming, a star halfback who would later be inducted into Canadian Football Hall of Fame himself. Fleming, who still holds the record for the longest play from scrimmage in CFL history, was tearing up the league during this time. Not only is Fleming the first 1,000-yard rusher in Lions history, he averaged 9.7 yards per carry in 1963.
Fleming went out of bounds after a carry, Mosca barreled into the prone player and knocked Fleming out of the contest. The Lions lost that game, but got revenge the following season by defeating Hamilton in the Grey Cup.
Kapp joined the NFL in 1967, thanks to Finks. Several franchises wanted his services, including teams in the American Football League, but Finks worked out a deal where his Minnesota Vikings waived a little-used halfback named Jim Young so that the Lions could sign him. Young would spend the next 13 seasons with the Lions and be named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Despite spending just three years with the Vikings, Kapp's Vikings made the first playoff appearance in franchise history. He made the Pro Bowl in 1969 and led Minnesota to the last NFL Championship Game ever. After winning that game, the Vikings went on to Super Bowl IV before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL.
He had played that year without a contract, thanks to an option in his contract. Despite having tied a record by tossing seven touchdowns in a single game, the NFL would not allow teams to contact the free agent until late September of 1970.
Kapp signed with the Boston Patriots, which caused the team to give the Vikings a pair of first-round draft picks, and struggled with a team that had just two wins that year. The newly renamed New England Patriots then drafted Heisman trophy winner Jim Plunkett, who also happened to be a quarterback with Hispanic heritage, and turned Kapp away at their facilities when he reported to camp.
After deciding to retire after that encounter, he spent the next decade acting in television and movies. He returned to football in 1982 by becoming the head coach of the University of California, his Alma mater.
Not only is he the last coach to lead Cal to the Rose Bowl, Kapp oversaw his squad make "The Play". This is when the Golden Bears lateraled the ball five times on a kickoff return as the clock expired to defeat rival Stanford University.
After being fired in 1986, Kapp went back to the CFL in 1990 and became the general manager of the Lions. Though he he lasted just 11 games on the job, Kapp was the man who brought star quarterback Doug Flutie to the CFL.
Yet with all of that success, he did not forget what Mosca did to Fleming in 1963. Kapp was close with the halfback and had coaxed Fleming out of retirement in 1968 to try to play with Minnesota. Mosca became a Hall of Fame professional wrestler after he retired from the gridiron.
The popular video of Mosca swinging his cane and Kapp pounding his fists has been seen by many. Some have dubbed it a "geezers brawl" because both men are 74 years old. Yet there is much more respect to be had than humor.
These men played the game for passion, not cash. They had successes beyond that time, but the passion surely still burns in souls not nearly as withered and damaged as their bones. It beckons to the heart as to why a true football fan loves the game, as well as to past participants as to why they played it.
No one is calling for a re-match, but no one wants or expects these gridiron greats to ever lose their love for their teammates, fans, or the game itself. We need more of this passion to touch us all.
Yoooooooo! Dis iz 7thStoneFromTheSun again. OK, I struck out in da afternoon games las weak and only went 7-6
. I is now 104-67 overall. I knead two dew better dis time cuz it iz holidaze time.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I got dis sneeky feelin da Panthers will win hear, cuz da Bucs just have let down demselves in 2011. Dey mite rebound dis weak,but I tink Cam will get er dun.
27 Buccaneers 24
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
Da Pats are in da middle of a run dat will sea dem win dere final eight games. I tink dat defense gets dem bounced from da playoffs, but a 13-3 record will look good.
34 Colts 20
Denver Broncos @ Minnesota Vikings
Da Teblow legend continues, but it is more an indictment of da crappy fundamentals of da NFL today. It is revoltin a NFL defense can't stop an option quarterback who can't throw da ball at all. Da Broncos defense is da reel savior of da teem.
17 Vikings 14
Tennessee Titans @ Buffalo Bills
Both teems 2011 playoff hopes iz on life support, but da Bills showed me a little sumfin las weak. I tink dey will build off dat big victory las Sunday.
28 Titans 24
Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins
Da Raiders iz cummin off a big win las weak,while da Dolphins are just playin four pride. Oakland kneads two seel da deel by winnin games like dis.
27 Dolphins 21
Atlanta Falcons @ Houston Texans
Game of the Week
Houston rules dere divishun wif a too game leed, but dey got quarterback issuez and is stuck havin two start a third-string rookie. Dey even went too a retirement community and brought Jake Delhomme back to be da reserve.
Da Texans will knead to rely on dere excellent runnin game and underrated defense two win hear. Lawrence Vickers, an excellent blocking fullback, mite miss da game and put more stress on Arian Foster and Ben Tate two be big.
Atlanta has been incunsistent and mediocre all yeer. But dere run defense is ranked second best in da NFL in yards alloud. Wif a rookie Texans quarterback expectin to see eight or nine defenders in da box Sunday, Atlanta will need to refrain from giving up big plays while controlling the line of scrimmage.
Da Falcons offense has not been as good as expected dis yeer, mainly because quarterback Matt Ryan has played poorly much to often. Halfback Michael Turner, just 52 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards, will need to be big against a Texans defense that is the best in the NFL in yards alloud and happens to bee forth best in rushin yards given up.
Who wins da line of scrimmage will prevail hear. Atlanta is a game behind New Orleans in da NFL South, so dey must stay pace. Dis iz why I iz rollin wif dem hear.
23 Texans 14
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Dese teems faced each other too weaks ago, wif Pittsburgh winning by a touchdown in a very closely contested battle. Even tho da Steelers gained more yards and had one less turnover, Cincinnati took it two dem.
I expect a replay really, but da Bengals are a game behind da Steelers in da AFC North and a loss hear will drop them in the Wild Card playoff quagmire with such average teems like da Jets, Broncos, and Titans.
I tink it goes to da wire.
21 Bengals 17
New York Jets @ Washington Redskins
Yeah, Mark Sanchez was a mistake to draft. Yeah, Rex Ryan ran his toe sucker much two much as his teem true frailties was exposed. Yeah, dis average teem only gets press cuz dey iz in New York.
Still, dey are very much in da AFC playoff race and should beet Washington two stay adrift in it. Dese too teems have faced each other just nine times before, and da Jets only win over da Redskins was a 3-0 barn burner in 1993.
23 Redskins 21
Kansas City Chiefs @ Chicago Bears
A battle of backup quarterbacks who knead a good rushing attack and defense too win. Da Bears.
24 Chiefs 10
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns
Da Ravens have had a habit of playin down to lesser oppossition in 2011, while da Brownies almost pulled off a big upset over da Bengals las weak. PLUS da Dawg Pound will never forgive Art Modell and will have extra venom four Baltimore.
24 Browns 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals
Now dat da Cowboys sit alone on top of da NFC East, dey knead to win deez type of games to stay dere.
27 Cardinals 17
Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants
Remember las weak how I told ya'll da Jints defense would get steamrolled by da Saints? What do yous tink da Pack iz gunna do? Capeesh?
35 Giants 20
Saint Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
At da beginning of dis seesun, most taught da Rams would be 9-2 and da Niners 2-9 now. Dat iz why dey play da games.
27 Rams 14
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints
I was one of dem who had Detroit goin two da playoffs dis yeer, but a loss hear will have dem drop another notch down on da ladder. Da Saints have to get dis two stay ahead of Atlanta in da NFL South.
I expect a high scoring affair, but I tink da Saints just got a few more weapons. If Detroit runs da ball well, dey got a shot.
38 Lions 31
San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Da Jags fired dere head coach dis weak, somethin da Chargers should have dun two dere head coach befour dis yeer even began. Why San Diego hasn't canned Norv Turner yet iz a question I have asked since 2009.
31 Jaguars 17
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. New Orleans Saints
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. New England Patriots
7. Houston Texans
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Atlanta Falcons
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Chicago Bears
13. Detroit Lions
14. New York Giants
15. New York Jets
16. Tennessee Titans
17. Denver Broncos
18. Buffalo Bills
19. Philadelphia Eagles
20. Washington Redskins
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
22. Seattle Seahawks
23. San Diego Chargers
24. Kansas City Chiefs
25. Arizona Cardinals
26. Cleveland Browns
27. Carolina Panthers
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Miami Dolphins
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. Saint Louis Rams
32. Indianapolis Colts
Welp,dat iz dat. I knead to get da fuck outta hear two do sum xmas shopping cuz yous alls knows dat dis goomba has a lot of hunnys to spread da mistletoe on in da cummin weeks. As dey say in Ol' Mexico= A.M.F.
Becoming the poster child for the current version of the "All-American Boy" almost never happened for the big kid with the goofy smile and "Aw shucks" attitude. His mom was ill while pregnant with him and doctors urged her to abort a child that could be stillborn.
Ignoring medical advice, she carried out a pregnancy that gave the media someone to talk about at every turn on the hype highway. Tim Tebow has more reasons for them to like him besides cheating death before even being born.
Home-schooled by a family with Christian beliefs, Tebow soon incurred some controversy as a home-schooled student when he played football for a nearby high school. Though he started out playing linebacker and tight end, he soon became Florida's Player of the Year twice and his legend began to grow by playing a game on a broken leg.
ESPN began following him at this time and even did a show featuring Tebow and labeled him "The Chosen One". A top recruit, he decided to attend the University of Florida.
The media kept following him, this time in greater numbers. Not only did they have Tebow confess he was a virgin, they printed and recorded the question and answer that had nothing to do with football. The purpose of the question was to add to the mystique that was often found on an ESPN broadcast somewhere seemingly daily.
All of this publicity came despite the fact he was a backup, something that would come about again in five years. Tebow played as a freshman, and even played a key role in helping the Gators win the 2006 National Championship.
He started from his sophomore year on and became the first home-schooled athlete to win the Heisman Trophy Award. Tebow was also the first underclassman ever to win the award.
Though he was never able to tie Archie Griffin's record of winning the Heisman twice, he did lead Florida to another championship in 2008 and won the Maxwell Award twice. Many media members would be so bold to call Tebow the greatest college football player ever.
Yet critics would say that he would never have success as a quarterback in the NFL. Tebow ran the position kind of like a mix of a throw-back player and fullback in college, opting to run over defenders and toss jump passes more often than any other contemporary quarterback.
The Denver Broncos did not care to listen to the critics. They traded up in the 2009 Draft to use the 25th overall selection to grab Tebow. While many in the media had been wondering incessantly throughout the draft why Tebow hadn't been drafted yet, critics expected him to keep falling to possibly even the third round.
Now a Bronco, the cameras keep a few feet away constantly recording every Tebow move. The most popular reserve in the NFL, his jersey was a hot-selling item that set records. It had been the top-selling jersey every month since he was drafted for many months.
While spotted in six games in the beginning of his career, the Broncos lost their starting quarterback and were forced to start Tebow for three games. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for a touchdown in each of his first three career starts.
While his passing numbers were far from gaudy, they were certainly better than the critics expected. The 82.1 quarterback rating he had as a rookie was impressive for a kid no one thought would ever be an effective professional quarterback.
Now in his second season, the hype highway has intensified with more bodies and pressure in the way. His name is mentioned constantly on television and the Internet is strewn with tons of articles discussing if this is the year Tebow begins his career as a starter.
The problem is that last years starter, Kyle Ortin, has outperformed Tebow in camp by a pretty wide margin. Tebow's fans will say practice is unimportant, that the play on the field during a game matters most.
In the Broncos first 2011 preseason game, Orton was not sharp in his few plays. Tebow was sharp with one incompletion against backup defenders on the Dallas Cowboys. Still, Tebow's head coach John Fox called the youngster a work in progress who made a few bad reads.
With his unconventional release and style of play, Tebow is a unique player. Some think his style best works as a spot player. One reporter compared Tebow to 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie.
Flutie, about eight inches shorter than Tebow, lasted 11 rounds before being drafted. After a season in the United States Football League, Flutie joined the NFL as the USFL folded.
He soon found himself on the field playing, but the results were not as hoped. Flutie then bolted for the Canadian Football League and became a star. He played in the CFL for eight years and won three titles. He was also named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player six times.
Flutie then returned to the NFL in 1998 and became a Pro Bowler. He played to the age of 43 and became the first NFL player in 65 years to convert a successful drop kick.
While a trip to the CFL is an unlikely route for Tebow, it may take some time before the Broncos are ready to let him lead the team. But his teammates will tell you Tebow displays a an obvious burning desire to win.
With his religious beliefs, humble attitude, and desire to fulfill his childhood dream to becoming a great NFL quarterback, the media has bought in full force. There have been stories of him quoted as saying his Broncos starting job was “grabbed back away” when Orton was not traded recently.
But the negative press rolls off his back like water on a duck, leaving him unscathed. Well
insulated with a huge fanbase, the loyalty of the press will stay persistent no matter how much of Tebow's 2011 season is spent on the bench.
It appears Tebow can do no wrong to a group of writers, which reminds some of Brett Favre. Favre, who retired last year after 20 years as a player, still gets brought up in stories for a possible return this year.
While Favre won one Super Bowl and set several records as a player, he also left the game with the most fumbles, times sacked, and interceptions thrown in an era of football where the NFL constantly bent the rule in a quarterbacks favor to ensure success.
Tebow hasn't thrown a teammate under the bus yet for holding out while being the highest paid player in team history like Favre did. Nor are there any reports of purported sexual harassment either.
Yet there are similarities that extend beyond the fact both men play quarterback. Favre also lived under the media microscope and was trumpeted as the greatest player ever innumerous times.
Favre could do no wrong himself, even if reports of wrong doing were running rampant. He was given a pass at every turn and ESPN dropped his name seemingly every ten minutes on all broadcasts for many years.
With him now away from the game, the mantle has been filled by the kid who has had a media shadow since he was 17-years old. Tebow handles the things well, but has also lamented the constant process of being interviewed repeatedly and practically daily.
He will be only 24-years old soon, but the target is set firmly on his back. Opponents have stated they will try to hit Tebow with all of their abilities. That pressure alone would buckle most, let alone the constant attention he receives from a large group of reporters following him.
While appearing bashful at being given the throne Favre reigned for so many years, Tebow appears to understand the perks that go with it. Whether all of this hype gets him on the field with a successful career remains to be seen, but the media will make sure we witness every second of it.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is not just built by drafted players. There is a plethora of gridiron legends representing the building that found their way onto teams in various ways.
The free agent is surely represented in Canton. The number of free agents inducted figures to greatly increase thanks to shorter contracts with clauses, as teams basically just rent players for short periods of time.
Yet signing the right free agent can lead a franchise to championship glory and sports immortality. While some signings are sound moves, others can be gambles and no one knows how they will pay off until all is said and done.
Here are the very best free agent signings in professional football history since the draft was created in 1936.
Unitas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ninth round of the 1955 draft. He was cut in camp, as the Steelers decided to go with Jim Finks, Ted Marchibroda and Vic Eaton at quarterback.
Finks would later go on to be a legendary general manager who built the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and New Orleans Saints into winners. Marchibroda became an offensive guru who coached several teams. Eaton, drafted two rounds after Unitas, was out of football after 1955.
Unitas hitch-hiked back home to save money, then worked construction. He kept in shape by playing semipro football for $6 a game.
Weeb Ewbank, the Hall of Fame head coach, asked Unitas' semipro teammate Jim Deglau to try out for the Baltimore Colts. Hearing the Cleveland Browns were interested in Unitas, he asked Deglau to bring the quarterback with him.
Despite the objections of family members, Unitas went to Baltimore. He made the team, backing up George Shaw and Gary Kerkorian. He soon passed Kerkorian, now in his third year of backing up Shaw, on the depth chart.
During camp, Unitas would stay after practice was over and throw balls all night to a wide receiver, Raymond Berry, who had caught just 13 catches the year before after making the team as a 20th-round draft pick. This bond between Unitas and Berry would soon have a tremendous impact on the NFL.
Shaw, who was the Colts first-round draft pick in 1952, broke his leg in the fourth game of the year. Unitas was plugged in and showed some promise.
His next 10 years saw him go to the Pro Bowl and win the NFL MVP Award three times. Baltimore also won the championship twice with maybe the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
The 1970 season was his last as a starter, where the 37-year old Unitas led the Colts to a Super Bowl win. He played until the 1973 season before retiring.
Unitas left with a ton of records. Many have been equaled or passed as quarterbacks play longer season with rules that help them succeed, but his 47-games streak of a touchdown pass in each game still survives.
College football hands the top senior quarterback of each year the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The name of the award is fitting, because Unitas is more than the greatest quarterback in Colts history.
He is the best free agent signing in NFL history.
Dick "Night Train" Lane
A story that the movie "The Natural" may have gotten inspiration from.
Lane was found as an abandoned infant in a dumpster, then raised by a kind-hearted lady. After going to a community college for one year, Lane joined the United States Army for four years and fought in both World War II and the Korean War.
After serving, he got a job at an aircraft factory. He disliked the job, so he walked onto the training camp of the Los Angeles Rams seeking a job.
He wanted to play wide receiver, but the Rams already had a set of Hall of Famers there named Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch and Tom Fears. He was switched to cornerback and found his calling.
Lane was a monstrous hitter who could blanket any receiver in the game. In a matter of months, he came from nowhere and was the top defensive back in all of professional football.
Though just 12 games were played in his rookie year, Lane had 14 interceptions. This is a record that still stands today for the most interceptions in a single season.
Yet Lane was dangerous once he got the ball. He returned the interceptions for 298 yards and two touchdowns, while still finding time to record a safety. Despite such incredible numbers, he was somehow left off the Pro Bowl squad even though he had almost twice as many interceptions combined over the players that were chosen.
He did get to the first of his seven career Pro Bowls in 1954. After having been traded to the Chicago Cardinals that season, Lane had 10 interceptions for 181 yards.
After six years with the Cardinals, he was dealt to the Detroit Lions and took part in some of the greatest secondaries in NFL history. Lane played with Hall of Fame safety Yale Lary and Hall of Fame cornerback Dick LeBeau.
When he hung up his cleats in 1965, Lane had 68 interceptions in 14 seasons. It still ranks the fourth most in NFL history, but it is still the most ever by a cornerback. Rod Woodson, who had 71 career swipes, got 24 as a safety.
Lane had 1,207 yards returned off of interceptions, still the sixth most ever. Deion Sanders is the only cornerback who had more.
He loved to hit receivers and often sought out contact. His favorite way to tackle was a clothesline shot, which was legal in the NFL then. It was dubbed a "Night Train Necktie."
There may be no free agent signing on defense more special or important than the day Lane decided to try and play professional football.
Original Cleveland Browns
When the Browns were formed in 1946, head coach Paul Brown had a plan. The fledgling All-American Football Conference would soon get steamrolled by these plans.
Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, Lou Groza and Bill Willis are all Hall of Famers that Brown signed as free agents that year. Along with many other great players like Mac Speedie, Lin Houston, Horace Gillom, Frank Gatski and Lou Rymkus who were just a few others that helped Cleveland dominate.
After winning all of the AAFC titles, they jumped to the NFL in 1950 and promptly won a title. Graham, Groza, Gatski, Gillom and Lavelli were all on the 1954 and 1955 teams that won it all.
Several great coaches came from those Browns rosters. Rymkus and Lou Saban won American Football League titles as head coaches and Ara Parseghian won a title with Notre Dame University.
When it comes to free agent signings, the original Cleveland Browns are on a level all by themselves.
Wood went undrafted in 1960 after a collegiate career where he was the first African-American quarterback for the University of Southern California and the Pacific-10 Conference. He signed with the Green Bay Packers, who moved him to free safety.
While mainly returning punts, a duty he did much of his career, the rookie was mentored by Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnel. Tunnel retired at the end of the season, so Wood was named starter and held that spot the next 11 years.
He played on teams that went to the championship six times, winning five. Not only was he excellent at returning punts, he became a ball hawk. In 1961, he scored twice off of 14 punt returns.
He led the NFL with a 16.1 yards per return average. Wood led the NFL with nine interceptions in 1962, while becoming one of the best free safeties of his era. Green Bay relied on him as their last line of defense, and he seldom ever let them down.
When he retired after the 1971 season, Wood had intercepted 48 passes, scored four times, and went to eight Pro Bowls. Only Forrest Gregg and Brett Favre have gone more for the Packers.
After having been a finalist nine times, Wood was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
He is easily the best free agent signing Green Bay ever made.
LeBeau was a fifth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 1959 draft. He was the 58th player picked overall, but did not make the Browns team and was cut in training camp. He would then be picked up by the Detroit Lions as a free agent and played six games in his rookie year, mostly on special teams.
He did recover the first fumble of his career that season. In 1960, LeBeau earned the starting job at cornerback opposite newly acquired Hall of Famer Dick "Night Train" Lane.
The Lions defense also had Hall of Fame MLB Joe Schmidt, Hall of Fame Safety Yale Lary, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Alex Karras and Pro Bowl safety Terry Barr. LeBeau picked off four passes. The next three seasons, LeBeau and Lane formed the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.
LeBeau picked off three passes in 1961, then four in 1962. He scored the first two touchdowns of his career that year, by interception and fumble recovery. In 1963, LeBeau picked off five passes and returned them for 158 yards. He also returned one interception 70 yards for a touchdown.
LeBeau would then make his first of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1964. That season also marked Lary's last in the NFL, and Lane played only seven games. LeBeau still managed five interceptions that year. The 1965 season was the last year for both Lane and Schmidt. LeBeau picked off seven passes and returned one for the last touchdown of his career.
The 1966 season would be LeBeau's last Pro Bowl season, when he intercepted four passes. LeBeau stayed steady the next several years. He picked off four passes in 1967, opposite of Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney under new coach, and former teammate, Joe Schmidt.
LeBeau and Barney would then team up for the next three years as one of the best CB tandems in the league. LeBeau had 20 picks over that time. At 34-years old in 1971, LeBeau would intercept six passes.
The 1972 season would be the last year as a Detroit Lion for LeBeau and Schmidt. LeBeau was moved to free safety that year, and would not intercept a pass for the first time since his rookie season. He did recover the last fumble of his career that year.
LeBeau only retired from the NFL as a player after 1972. He went into coaching in 1973 for the Philadelphia Eagles as their secondary coach. He stayed with the team until 1975. He then held the same duties with the Green Bay Packers from 1976 to 1979.
In 1980, he moved to the Cincinnati Bengals. He served as a secondary coach, and as defensive coordinator with the Bengals until 1991. LeBeau then served as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992 to 1996.
This is when LeBeau would gain notoriety for inventing the now commonly used "Zone Blitz" defense. The Steelers defense featured such greats as Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson, Pro Bowl linebackers Greg Lloyd, Hardy Nickerson, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon and strong safety Carnell Lake. They would go to the Super Bowl after the 1995 season.
In 1997, LeBeau returned to the Bengals as a defensive coordinator. He would then be named head coach of the Bengals in 2000 and held that job until 2002.
LeBeau then worked for the Buffalo Bills in 2003. He returned to the Steelers in 2004, and is still the defensive coordinator of the Steelers today. In 2005, the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh also won Super Bow XLIII in 2008.
Dick LeBeau is one of the most respected coaches in NFL history, obviously, and is called "Coach Dad" by his players. He is a member of the Detroit Lions Legend and his 62 interceptions are the most in the history of the Lions.
Maynard was drafted by the New York Giants in the ninth round of the 1957 draft, but did not make the team.
He tried again the next year and made it, mostly being used as a punt returner. The Giants cut him again, so he played in the Canadian Football League in 1959 for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
He left the CFL to become the first player signed by the expansion New York Titans of the fledgling American Football League. He caught a career best 72 balls his first year. Yet he also teamed up with Art Powell to be probably the best wide receiver duo in the AFL.
The tandem became the first professional football players to gain over 1,000 yards on receptions in a season. They duplicated that feat again in 1962. Despite this dynamic duo, the Titans attracted few fans and were struggling financially.
They changed their name to the Jets in 1963, but business did not pick up until 1965. That year saw them draft, then outbid the NFL for the services of a brash quarterback named Joe Namath.
The future Hall of Famer had a chip on his shoulder, but an arm to back it up. Maynard quickly bonded with Namath and the team started to get better each year.
New York reached the AFL title game in 1968, where Maynard would carry the Jets to victory. Facing the Oakland Raiders and Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, Maynard caught six balls for 118 yards. He scored the Jets' first and last touchdowns, and the last one sealed a 27-23 win.
It capped off a wild series between the Jets and Raiders that year. Six weeks earlier, the teams made history in the infamous "Heidi Game" incident. The game was taken off the air by television executives with 65 seconds to play and the Jets leading 32-29. Oakland then stormed back and won 43-32.
The Jets went into Super Bowl III as tremendous underdogs. No one expected much from them outside of the Jets organization and fans. This led to Namath's now famous guarantee of victory.
Maynard was covered by Johnny Sample, an extremely tough player who knocked many men out of many games in his career. Maynard got shut out, but his bookend George Sauer caught eight balls for 133 yards.
That, along with a stingy defense and 121 rushing yards by Matt Snell, led the Jets to a 16-7 win over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. It is the game that convinced the NFL to merge with the AFL. Maynard and Sauer both had 1,000-yards receiving together twice.
While a precision route-runner, Maynard was incredible at getting deep and stretching defenses. When he retired at the end of the 1973 season, he had an excellent career average of 18.7 yards per reception. His 88 touchdown receptions over 15 years show he was also a threat in the end zone.
Don Maynard, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, was the Jets first and best free agent signing.
It still is an amazing fact that Moon went undrafted in 1978. Despite leading his college team to a Rose Bowl win the year before, some NFL teams wanted him to switch positions. His refusal was followed by an apparent blacklisting.
Instead, he joined the Canadian Football League and stayed there until 1983. He led his team to an unprecedented five titles and is now a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
The NFL couldn't keep on their blinders any longer, and a bidding war began for his services.
Bud Adams, the owner of the Houston Oilers, gained an upper hand by hiring Hugh Campbell as head coach. Campbell had coached Moon in the CFL.
Moon started setting team records for the Oilers almost as soon as he donned their uniform. Houston had an explosive offense, led by Moon, but always seemed to just fall short of reaching a Super Bowl.
After 10 years and six Pro Bowls, Moon was traded to the Minnesota Vikings before the 2004 season. He lasted three years there, making the Pro Bowl twice.
At 41-years old, Moon signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. He went to the Pro Bowl again. He joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999, retiring after two years at 44-years old.
Moon was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, making him the first Canadian Football Hall of Famer, first undrafted quarterback, and the first African-American quarterback to achieve this.
His free agency signing wasn't just great for the Oilers, NFL or football, but society as well.
Randle went undrafted in 1990, so he tried to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because his brother Ervin was entering his fifth season with them. The Buccaneers though he was too small, so they declined. The Minnesota Vikings then gave him a try out and was impressed.
Randle made the team and earned a starting job midway into his second season. He was a quick player who was excellent at rushing the passer.
Starting in 1992, he had eight straight years of double-digit sacks. From 1993 to 1998, he went to the Pro Bowl.
His 1997 was probably his best. Randle led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and had a career high 58 tackles.
He became a free agent after the 2000 season, so he joined the Seattle Seahawks. He scored the only touchdown of his career, off a fumble recovery, in his first season in Seattle. He also had 11 sacks, but missed the first game of his career in what would be his final Pro Bowl season.
Randle missed four games the next year. His five games missed with Seattle were the only games he missed in a 14-year career. He would retire after the 2003 season.
His 137.5 sacks are the sixth most ever, and the most ever by a defensive tackle. Steve McMichael is second with 95.
For a player nobody wanted, the Vikings sure were lucky and blessed to sign this free agent that got inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Zimmerman was selected in the first round of the 1984 Supplemental Draft by the New York Giants, but he chose to join the United States Football League instead. When the USFL folded two years later, he was a free agent.
The Minnesota Vikings signed him and plugged him in at left tackle right away. Zimmerman stayed with the Vikings for seven years, going to the Pro Bowl four times. At the end of the 1992 season, he became a free agent again.
He signed with the Denver Broncos, who needed someone to protect Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway's blind side. Though still mobile at 33-years old, Elway was slowing down some after years of hits.
Zimmerman was the glue of an excellent offensive line, and one of the most important pieces to the Broncos attack. In his five years with Denver, he was a Pro Bowler three times.
He made his last Pro Bowl in 1996 despite missing the first two games of his career. He missed two games again the next year, but Denver would go on and win Super Bowl XXXII. He retired after that.
Zimmerman is on both the 1980s and 1990s NFL All-Decade Team, one of just a few players to make two teams. He is also on the USFL All-Time Team.
Inducted into Canton in 2008, Zimmerman is one of the very best free agent signings for both the Vikings and Broncos.
The Philadelphia Eagles made him their first draft pick in the 1984 Supplemental draft. Steve Young, Mike Rozier and Gary Zimmerman were selected ahead of him.
All decided to go play in the United States Football League. White was named the USFL Man of the Year in 1985, and he is a member of the USFL All-Time Team.
When the USFL folded after 1985, he joined the Eagles. He played eight seasons for them, going to the Pro Bowl each season except his first.
He was widely known as the best defensive end in all of football, and he was dubbed the "Minister of Defense" because he was also an Evangelical minister.
He became a free agent after the 1992 season, and a bidding war started to attain his services. The Green Bay Packers won by giving him an airplane to use whenever White desired.
In his six seasons as a Packer, White went to the Pro Bowl every year. He led them to Super Bowl XXXI, where the Packers defense and special teams carried them to victory.
After being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, he retired. But the Carolina Panthers coaxed him out of retirement in 2000, the only year of his career he was not a Pro Bowler except for his first year. He retired for good after that.
His 198 sacks are the second most ever since the stat started to get recorded in 1982. He retired as the Packers leader in sacks, but now ranks second. He still heads the Eagles list.
Not only was his free agent signing good for the USFL, but Green Bay's signing him won them a championship.
Inducted into Canton in 2006, almost two years after his unexpected death, White is one of the truly great free agent signings in NFL history.
This is a team of the best Chargers who are not, and may be never will be, members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Quarterback : John Hadl
Hadl was drafted in the third round of the 1962 AFL Draft by the Chargers. He was also drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions that year, the tenth player chosen overall.
Having been an All-American player at both halfback and quarterback in a collegiate career that ended up with induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Detroit told Hadl they were going to use him much like the Green Bay Packers used Hall of Famer Paul "Golden Boy" Hornung.
The Lions had just acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Milt Plum in a trade and had Earl Morrall as his backup. They also drafted quarterback Eddie Wilson in the second round, though Wilson opted to sign with the AFL's Dallas Texans and backup Hall of Famer Len Dawson.
San Diego had Hall of Famer Sid Gillman as their head coach, the man called the father of the modern day passing game by many. Though Hadl was a running quarterback in college, he wanted the challenge of transitioning into a drop-back passer over being used in a variety of ways like Hornung was as a halfback.
Jack Kemp was a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Chargers, so the thought was Hadl would sit and learn. It did not end up that way because Kemp broke fingers on his throwing hand in the second game of the year.
Gillman attempted to hide Kemp on the waiver wire because they had just acquired quarterback Dick Wood, but the Buffalo Bills quickly grabbed him and Kemp finished the season as a Pro Bowler. Kemp would later become an AFL MVP while leading the Bills to a pair of championships.
Wood, who later became the first starting quarterback in Miami Dolphins history, was name the starter the next two games. Both times saw Hadl come off the bench to lead the Chargers to comeback wins and outplaying Wood. Gillman then decided to go with Hadl.
Though he struggled from that point on, as did the team by losing eight on their last nine games, Hadl showed a knack for throwing a beautiful deep ball to a rookie wide receiver named Lance Alworth in the four games they played together.
Gillman decided Hadl wasn't quite ready, so he signed Tobin Rote. Rote hadn't played in the NFL since the Lions released him in 1959 despite his being a Pro Bowler for the Packers in 1956 and leading Detroit to a title in 1957. He went to play in the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts and set several CFL records in his three seasons.
While Rote was named First Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler that year, which saw the Chargers win the only championship in their franchise history, Hadl played sparingly. In their 51-10 win over the Boston Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship Game, Hadl ran for a touchdown and threw another.
Rote got off to a rough start in the first five games in 1963, so he was replaced by Hadl. The young quarterback led the Chargers back to the title game, but was hurt in the first quarter on their 20-7 loss to Kemp and the Bills. He was still named to the Pro bowl that year.
San Diego had lost punter Paul Macguire to the Bills before that season, so Hadl took over. He attempted a career high 62 punts that year, which included a career long 72-yard boot. After punting 38 times the next year, he attempted just three punts the rest of his career.
Now firmly entrenched as the starter in 1965, Hadl led the league in passing yards, yards gained per passing attempt and completion, as well as yards gained per game. He made his second Pro Bowl, but San Diego would end the season losing to the Bills again in the AFL title game.
During this time, he and Alworth had established themselves as a deadly combination. Hadl was masterful throwing the deep ball, and players like Alworth, Gary Garrison, and Jacque MacKinnon all averaged 19 yards or more a reception in 1968. Alworth averaged 19.6 yards in his AFL career.
Between 1966 and 1968, Hadl had streaks of 19 and 16 consecutive games he threw a touchdown pass. That means he had just seven games over three years he failed to toss a score.
The 1968 season may have been one of his best. He led the AFL with a career best 3,473 yards, 27 touchdown passes, and 440 attempts. Hadl also led the AFL with 208 completions that year. He was named to the Pro Bowl that year, an honor he would duplicate the following season and be named MVP of the last AFL All-Star Game ever played.
After having a rough 1970 season where the mobile quarterback was sacked a league leading 42 times, he rebounded the next year. The 1971 season saw Hadl lead the NFL with a career best 233 completions. He also led the league in attempts, passing yards, touchdown passes, and passing yards per game. He was also named NFL Man of the Year, now known as the Walter Payton Award.
After being named a Pro Bowler in 1972, the Chargers traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for running back Bob Thomas and Pro Bowl defensive end Coy Bacon. While Bacon was effective in his three years before being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals for Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner, Thomas lasted two uneventful season with the Bolts before retiring.
One of the reasons for the trade is because San Diego had just acquired Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas. Unitas did not play as well as hoped and was replaced by rookie Dan Fouts, whose career would end with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The trade revitalized Hadl. The Rams lost just two games all year behind his leadership. He was named the teams MVP by his teammates and won the NFC Player of the Year Award. He was also named First Team All-Pro and given his final Pro Bowl nod.
The Rams traded him to the Packers five games into the 1974 season for two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks, and two third-round draft picks. Though he led the team to three wins in his six games, Hadl mostly struggled.
The 1974 season did not go well for him or the Packers. While playing on a team not deep in talent, he tossed just six scores against 21 interceptions while Green Bay won just four of his 13 starts.
The Packers were in a massive rebuilding mode, so they traded Hadl to the Houston Oilers for quarterback Lynn Dickey before the 1976 season. He spent the next two years backing up Dan Pastorini before retiring.
Hadl later became Hall of Famer John Elway's first NFL quarterback coach and Hall of Famer Steve Young's first professional football coach. He has since returned to his Alma mater as an assistant athletic director.
His five Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Chargers quarterback, one behind Fouts. Hadl is also one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, as well as having been inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Though he was a gifted athlete, Hadl worked hard to become a great quarterback. He wore No.21 in his career, the last NFL quarterback to wear a jersey with a number that high numerically.
Many AFL observers and players believe he should have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame long ago. Not just because he was a proven winner with the necessary accolades for induction, but because of the passing attack he was in charge of.
Most of Alworth's career receptions came off his arm, and the Hall of Fame receiver has often stated Hadl belongs in Canton. Factor in the career of Garrison and all of the other weapons who excelled under his leadership, John Hadl should be inducted into Canton.
Jack Kemp, Tobin Rote, and Stan Humphries deserve mention.
Fullback : Keith Lincoln
Lincoln was the Chargers second round draft pick in the 1961 AFL Draft. The Chicago Bears also drafted him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, but he chose to join San Diego.
He was not not used a lot as a rookie, but he did set a then-team record with a 91-yard reception for a touchdown. It still is the longest touchdown catch ever by a Chargers running back and is the second longest reception in team history.
San Diego had him return seven punts that year. One was returned 57 yards for a score. He would return only 18 punts the rest of his career, but the Chargers did ask him to return kickoffs frequently the next two seasons.
The 1962 season was his first as Pro Bowler. He was used as a halfback and averaged 4.9 yards on 117 carries. One run went a career long 86 yards, which led the AFL that year. He also led the league with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. This is still a Chargers record, though Darren Sproles tied it in 2008.
Lincoln's best season was probably in 1963. He ran for a career high 826 yards. The 6.5 yards on 128 carries from the fullback position is impressive in any era and led the league, as did his 76-yard run. He ran for a career best five scores that year while returning seven punts and a career high 17 kicks.
San Diego reached the AFL Championship Game that year and Lincoln exploded. He piled up 329 total yards on offense by gaining 206 rushing yards, on just 13 carries, and 132 yards on seven receptions. He scored on a 67-yard run in the first quarter and a 25-yard reception in the fourth as San Diego won 51-10.
He was again named to the Pro Bowl that year, as well as First Team All-Pro. He won the AFL All-Star Offensive MVP Award in both 1963 and 1964. He is the only player in AFL history to win the award twice by himself. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath also won the award twice, but shared it in 1967 with Hall of Fame receiver Don Maynard.
Lincoln is still the only Charger to win this award by himself. Hall of Fame quarterback is the second and last Charger to win it, but he shared the award with Green Bay Packers wide receiver John Jefferson in 1982.
While making the Pro Bowl in 1964, San Diego asked Lincoln to kick too. He made 16 of 17 extra point attempts and five of 12 field goal attempts. He also completed two of four passes, one of which resulted in a 53-yard score. Lincoln would never be asked to kick again.
San Diego reached the title game in 1964 and 1965, but mysteriously did not give the ball much to Lincoln in both losses. He touched the ball nine total times. Despite running for 47 yards on three carries in the 1063 title game, San Diego decided to pass the ball most of the game.
The 1965 season was his last as a Pro Bowler for San Diego despite missing four games due to injuries. They were the first games of his career he failed to play in. Gene Foster was named the starting fullback in 1966, so Lincoln left to join the Buffalo Bills.
He beat out 1966 AFL Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler Bobby Burnett for the starting job at halfback that season. He carried the ball a career high 158 times that year, while being used heavily in the passing game. Lincoln caught a career high 41 balls that year, averaging an impressive 13.6 yards per reception, while hauling in a career high five scores.
Buffalo was the worst team in the AFL in 1968, winning once. Lincoln was hurt early, able to appear sparingly in five games. He asked for his release, then signed again with the Chargers. He suited up for one game, then retired.
His three Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers fullback and he still ranks seventh in team history with 2,698 yards rushing. His 86-yard run is still the second longest in team history. Though he never had a year where he averaged more than 11.1 carries per game, his big play ability had him often run for 100-yards on just a few attempts.
He was a rare fullback. Besides kicking, Lincoln completed eight of 17 passes for 240 yards and five touchdowns with the Chargers. He still has the most receptions ever by a Chargers fullback despite having to share the ball with many weapons in San Diego's arsenal.
Lincoln is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, and has been inducted into both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. He is easily the best fullback in team history.
Lorenzo Neal, Brad Hubbert, Bo Matthews, Hank Bauer, and Jacque MacKinnon deserve mention.
Halfback : Paul Lowe
Lowe signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent rookie in 1959. He did not make the team, so he took a job in a mail room of a company owned by the Hilton family. Barron Hilton would found the Los Angeles Chargers in the fledgling American Football League in 1960.
After being coaxed to try out for the team, Lowe became an instant star. The first time he touched the ball, he exploded for a 105-kickoff return for a touchdown in the teams first ever preseason game.
He was named First Team All-Pro as a rookie after averaging an league leading 6.3 yards on 136 carries. The Chargers made it to the first AFL title game but lost, despite 165 rushing yards and a score by Lowe.
Lowe led the AFL with nine rushing touchdowns in 1961, a career high total. One was on a 87-yard run that is still a team record. It set the stage for perhaps the finest season of his career in 1963.
He made his first Pro Bowl after churning out 1,010 yards and eight scores, while catching a career best 27 balls. The Chargers would win the only championship in franchise history that year. Lowe ran for 94 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown, in the title game.
The 1965 season saw Lowe named the AFL MVP by both the Sporting News and UPI. He led the league with a career best marks of 1,121 yards and 80.1 yards rushing per game. He also led the AFL with six rushing touchdowns and a five yard per carry average on a career best 222 attempts.
It was the last year he was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. He led the Chargers in rushing the next year, but suffered through in injury-riddled 1967 season. He appeared in just seven games while missing the first seven games of career.
Dickie Post took over as the primary halfback, and Lowe still had not recovered from his injury. He played in one game for the Chargers in 1968, then was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. He appeared in just one game for them, but returned the next season as a backup. The Chiefs would win Super Bowl IV that year and Lowe then retired.
The 4,972 rushing yards Lowe had with the Chargers was a team record until LaDanian Tomlinson passed him in 2004. It still ranks second best. Lowe's 1,202 rushing attempts is the third most by any player in AFL history.
His 38 touchdowns on the ground is still third best in team history. His two First Team All-Pro honors was a record for a Chargers halfback until Tomlinson passed him in 2007.
Paul Lowe is a member of the AFL's All-Time First Team, one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, and the Chargers Hall of Fame. The Chargers have had a ton of excellent halfbacks play for them for a few years. The best is Tomlinson, who is headed to Canton when he retires. Yet Lowe is probably the second best halfback in team history.
Dickie Post, Lionel James, Natrone Means, Mike Garrett, Marion Butts, Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, James Brooks, Mike Thomas, Eric Metcalf, Ronnie Harmon, Ricky Young, Earnest Jackson, Lydell Mitchell, and Don Woods deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : John Jefferson
The Chargers first-round draft pick in 1978, "J.J." blew into the league with a force that is often remembered by those who saw him play. He was a Pro Bowler in each of his first three years, as well as being named First Team All-Pro twice.
"The Space Age Receiver" averaged 17.9 YPC in each of his first two seasons.
He caught over 1,000 yards of balls in each of his first three seasons. His catch total went from 56 to 61 to 82 in those years. Jefferson also snared 36 touchdowns those three years.
He led the NFL in touchdown catches as a rookie with a career best 13. Sports Illustrated called him the "Touchdown Man". Jefferson led the league with 13 more in 1980, as well as leading the NFL with 1,340 receiving yards and 83.8 receiving yards per game.
A prevalent theme for the Chargers in that era was disgruntled players wanting a raise in pay and having their requests denied. Jefferson was amongst these players. He was traded to Green Bay after a contract dispute in 1981.
Though he averaged about 16 YPC in his first three years as a Packer, he also battled injuries. His Packer highlights was being named the 1982 Pro Bowl MVP and in 1983, when he caught seven touchdowns on 57 receptions for 830 yards.
He played one more year there before finishing his career with the Cleveland Browns. Perhaps if Jefferson had stayed in the warm weather of San Diego and confines of Air Coryell, he would be with the legends of Canton.
His two First Team All-Pro nods are the most ever by a Chargers wide receiver. His 1,340 yards in 1980 is still the third most receiving yards for a single season in team history.
Jefferson was a key ingredient of the famous "Air Coryell" passing attack. He had two seasons where he teamed with Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner to both having at least 1,000 receiving yards. Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow joined them in 1980, becoming the first trio in NFL history to have 1,000-yards each.
Though he was a Charger just three years, John Jefferson is one of the best receivers in their franchises history. Jefferson made the greatest catch I have ever seen, a grab in the back of the end zone with one finger, while he was with the Chargers.
Not only is he inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Jefferson is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers.
Wide Receiver : Gary "Ghost" Garrison
Garrison was drafted in the sixth round of the 1965 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He did not make the team, as the Eagles ended up losing two rookie receivers who later became Pro Bowlers that year. The other was their fifth round selection Otis Taylor, who would become a star with the Kansas City Chiefs.
After not playing that year, Garrison joined the Chargers in 1966 because he had a legendary collegiate career at San Diego State University under future Chargers head coach Don Coryell. Garrison still holds the school record for career touchdown receptions.
He earned a starting job as a rookie, getting to bookend Hall of Famer Lance "Bambi" Alworth. He caught 90 passes in his first two year before earning his first Pro Bowl nod in 1968 after having perhaps the finest year of his career.
Garrison set career best marks of 52 receptions for 1,103 yards. He averaged an impressive 21.2 yards per catch and caught 10 touchdowns. One went for a career long 84 yards. He would average over 20 yards a reception in four of his next five years as well.
Nicknamed "Ghost", he averaged a career best 22.9 yards on 44 receptions in 1970, to go with a career best 13 touchdowns catches. It was the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and the last time he has over 1,000 receiving yards in one season.
After matching his career high total of 52 catches in 1972, his 1973 season was filled with injury. Garrison missed half of the season but rebounded strong the next year. The Chargers passing attack in 1975 struggled, tossing just seven scores against 15 interceptions. The 27 receptions Garrison had that year were the lowest total of his career with the exception of his injury filled 1973 season.
Garrison caught two passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers first game of the 1976 season. He got injured in the second game, causing him to miss the rest of the season. San Diego then dealt him to the Houston Oilers. He suited up three times in 1977, then retired.
The Chargers have has a lot of incredible receivers wear their uniform. Two wide receivers and a tight end are inducted in Canton. Garrison ranks sixth best in franchise history in receptions and third in both receiving yards and touchdown catches. His 18.6 yards per catch is only surpassed by Alworth for a Charger with 113 receptions or more.
The"Ghost" is certainly one of the greatest Chargers receivers ever. He is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. His four Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers wide receiver.
Wes Chandler, Anthony Miller, Tony Martin, Kassim Osgood, Jeff Graham, Curtis Conway, and Don Norton deserve mention.
Tight End : Dave Kocourek
Kocourek was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 19th round of the 1959 draft. He didn't make the team, so he joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League that year. He then left the CFL to join the Chargers in 1960.
He stepped in as a starter right away and became an important member of the Chargers exciting passing attack. Kocourek was excellent at getting deep, stretching the seam of the defense. He averaged 16.6 on 40 balls as a rookie, which was a prelude of things to come.
The 1961 season was his best. Kocourek set career high marks of 55 receptions for 1,055 yards at an average of 19.2 yards per catch. One reception went for a career long 76 yards. He was named to the first of his four consecutive Pro Bowls that season.
When the Chargers won the AFL Championship in 1963, he caught a career high five touchdowns. He matched that total again the next year while averaging 18 yards on 33 receptions. After a down year in 1965, Kocourek joined the expansion Miami Dolphins in 1966.
He then reunited with Al Davis, his receivers coach the first three years of his career, with the Oakland Raiders in 1967. He stayed with the team two years as a reserve before retiring. He was rarely used as a receiver over this time.
In his nine seasons as a player, Kocourek played in the AFL Championship Game seven times. He is the only person to ever accomplish this feat. He won a championship with both the Chargers and Raiders.
Mysteriously, Kocorek is not a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame yet. He left owning every record for a Chargers tight end. Most have been broken by Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, but his 17.1 yards per reception average is still team records by a tight end with 113 receptions or more, and his and 76-yard catch is a record for Charger tight ends.
He has the fourth most receptions ever by a Chargers tight end, which ranks 14th best. His 3,720 yards is the third most ever by a Chargers tight end, and it ranks 11th most in franchise history. Kocourek also ranks third in touchdown receptions by a Chargers tight end, which ranks 12th best in team history.
Though Winslow is the best Chargers tight end ever, and Antonio Gates ranks second, Cockerel was a special player who had a lot of speed for a man of his size in that era. He was a big reason his teams played in so many title games. His four Pro Bowls was a record by a Chargers tight end until Winslow passed him by one.
Willie Frazier, Jacque McKinnon, Reggie Carolan, Pete Holohan, Eric Sievers, and Freddie Jones deserve mention.
Tackle : Russ Washington
Washington was drafted in the first round of the 1968 draft by San Diego. He was the fourth player chosen overall. He was first used as a defensive tackle, where he stood out for two seasons.
Ron Mix, the Chargers Hall of Fame right tackle, had retired after the 1968 season. The Chargers wanted to protect Pro Bowl quarterback John Hadl while being teamed with Pro Bowl right guard Walt Sweeney. They decided to move Washington into the position.
He made the move look seamless, stepping in and earning a starting job right away. The 6'6" 290 lbs Washington wasn't just a road grader who flattened defenders when San Diego ran the ball, he was nimble and athletic enough to shut down the NFL's best pass rushers.
Helping Mike Garrett gain over 1,000 yards in 1972, Washington began to gain notice despite playing on a struggling team. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1974 when Don Woods won the Rookie of the Year Award on nine starts. The blocking of Washington was a critical element in Woods' success.
Washington made the Pro Bowl again in 1975, then three straight years starting in 1977. He was considered one of the best at his position. Big, strong, and tough, he had gone 12 years without missing a single game.
That changed in 1980, when he got hurt in the sixth game and had to miss the rest of the year. Though he returned the next year, Washington missed 13 games. Those 13 contests are the only games he missed in his entire career.
He retired after the 1982 season having played 200 games in 15 seasons, which includes his 28 games as a defensive tackle. His 200 games was a team record until long snapper David Binn passed it in 2006. It still is the second most ever, tied with linebacker Junior Seau.
Russ Washington is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers. He is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. There have been few Chargers as great as him.
Tackle : Ernie Wright
Wright joined the Los Angeles Chargers in their inaugural 1960 season. He earned a starting job at left tackle right away and would stay there the next eight years. The Chargers reached the first ever AFL Championship Game, but lost to the Houston Oilers.
Bookending Hall of Famer Ron Mix, the duo soon garnered respect throughout the league. Chargers head coach Sid Gillman called them "the best pair of offensive tackles in professional football".
He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1961. The Chargers, now in San Diego, were known for their explosive and innovative offense. Wright and Mix helped this by frequently dominating their opponents, allowing the Chargers to appear in five title games in their first six years of existence.
The 1963 season is the only year the Chargers franchise won a championship. Wright was named to the Pro Bowl, helping pave the way for the most productive offense in the AFL that season.
After returning to the Pro Bowl in 1965, Wright missed the first game of his career the next year. It would be the only game that he would miss in his Chargers career. San Diego left him exposed to the Cincinnati Bengals 1968 expansion draft.
Cincinnati grabbed him right away and plugged him into the starting lineup. He started there the next three games, but got hurt for the year midway through the 1971 season. He rejoined the Chargers in 1972 as a backup, then retired at seasons end.
Not only is Wright named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers ever, but he is amongst just twenty men to have played an all 10 years that the American Football League existed. He was an important part of an offensive machine that will probably never be seen again.
Jim Lachey and Billy Shields deserve mention.
Guard : Walt Sweeney
Sweeney was a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 1963 American Football League draft. He was the second player picked overall.
He did see action in his rookie year, mostly as a reserve. He got his hands on one kickoff and returned it 18 yards. The Chargers would end up winning the 1963 AFL Championship.
Sweeney was fully entrenched as the starting right guard in 1964, and finish that season being named to his first AFL All-Star Team. Sweeney would earn this distinction every year until the AFL merged with the NFL after the 1969 season.
Sweeney would then earn a Pro Bowl berth the next two seasons up to the conclusion of the 1971 season. His blocking opened up holes for such Chargers legendary ball carriers like Keith Lincoln, Jacque MacKinnon, Paul Lowe, and Dickie Post.
He also protected great quarterbacks like John Hadl, and Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Dan Fouts. He mostly played guard, but versatile and smart enough to play anywhere along the offensive line when injuries would knock out the other starters.
After the 1973 season, he was traded to the Washington Redskins. He started the next two seasons for the Redskins before retiring after the 1975 season. Sweeney is a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers ever.
Sweeney is one of the finest lineman to have ever played professional football. He is a member of the AFL's All-Time Team. He has been an immense success from college to the pros. He was part of an exciting Chargers offense that was one of the best units to ever have played the game.
He was a sound technician who was very athletic. He was equally adept at pass blocking or pulling in front of some of the best rushers to have ever suited up in pads. His exclusion from Canton can only be attributed to his AFL ties.
He went to the name number of Pro Bowls as his teammate, Hall of Fame Tackle Ron Mix, but still waits to be called. Hall of Fame center Jim Ringo is the only Syracuse alumni to have played in more Pro Bowls than Sweeney. He is tied with Hall of Fame fullback Jim Brown as having the second most.
I find it amazing to see that this man has not had his long overdue induction into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame yet. This is obviously another case of being snubbed because of the NFL's hatred and envy of the AFL, though some theorize Sweeney upset a lot of football brass by once having sued the NFL over their failure to supervise coaches giving drugs to players.
As time marches on, many of the newer voters will be those with little knowledge of the AFL. Sweeney's case may get more faint as these events transpire. I suggest all real football fans to wake up the Canton voters in their represented areas. Walt Sweeney most certainly deserves induction.
Guard : Doug Wilkerson
Wilkerson was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the first round of the 1970 draft. He spent his rookie season on the bench, appearing in nine games. Houston then traded him to the Chargers before the 1971 season.
The trade became one of the biggest steals in Chargers history. Wilkerson earned a starting job immediately and held it for the next 14 years.
San Diego struggled the first half of the decade, but fortunes began to change when the hired Don Coryell as the head coach during the 1978 season. They were a run oriented offense before his arrival, and Wilkerson's blocking helped NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Don Woods gain 1,162 yards despite just nine starts in 1974.
Now it was the age of "Air Coryell", an offense that is one of the most exciting in NFL history. A big reason for the incredible production of the offense was the excellent blocking Wilkerson provided.
Wilkerson was the steadiest on the line, as well as the most reliable. He played in 126 straight games until missing four because of injury in 1979. He would miss four games in 1983 as well, but started and played in 195 of 203 possible starts in his career.
His excellence was rewarded in 1980 with the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl nods. He was also honored as First Team All-Pro in 1982. Wilkerson played until 1984, retiring at 37-years old.
He and Walt Sweeney are the only guards in Chargers history to earn a First Team All-Pro honor. His three Pro Bowls is the third most ever by a San Diego guard. There have been few offensive linemen in the teams history as good or durable as Doug Wilkerson.
Wilkerson is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is inducted into both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Ed White and Dennis McKnight deserve mention.
Center : Don Macek
Macek was drafted by the Chargers in the second round of the 1977 draft. He started right away at right guard and stayed there two years. When San Diego traded for Pro Bowl guard Ed White, he slid over to center.
After splitting starts with incumbent Ralph Perretta that year, he got hurt in 1979 and started just six games as Bob Rush, San Diego's first-round pick in 1977, started the rest of the year.
Macek came back in 1980 to reclaim his starting job and would hang onto it the next eight seasons. The Chargers were the most explosive offense at that time, and their excellent offensive line was a big ingredient to their attack.
While he was the starter, Macek was also often banged up and forced to miss games. In his 14 seasons, he was able to start every game in just three. From 1980 to 1987, Macek missed 18 games.
He got hurt in the fifth game of 1988, forcing him out the rest of the year. San Diego then drafted Courtney Hall to supplant the 35-year old Macek in 1989. He sat on the bench mentoring Hall that season and then retired.
Macek has been named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is also a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame. Not only was he a masterful technician, but he was a leader on some of the most exciting Chargers teams in NFL history.
Courtney Hall, Sam Gruneisen, and Carl Mauck deserve mention.
Defensive Tackle : Gary "Big Hands" Johnson
Johnson was San Diego's first pick in the 1975 draft, selected eighth overall. That 1975 draft might be the best in franchise history. The Chargers had two picks in the first, second, fifth, sixth, eighth, 11th, and 13th rounds.
Ten players from the draft played in the NFL, but San Diego got a Hall of Famer, a pair of Pro Bowlers, and eight solid starters from it. Five were defensive players.
San Diego tried to bring him along slowly as a rookie, starting John Teerlink for the first five games. Teerlink, now a noted defensive line coach who has won three Super Bowls, could not keep Johnson on the bench and soon was replaced after six games.
San Diego had an exciting defensive line of Pro Bowler Coy Bacon with three rookies, Johnson, Fred Dean, and Louie Kelcher, that year. Yet they acquired Leroy Jones and then traded Bacon to the Cincinnati Bengals for future Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner before the 1976 season.
The mammoth Jones fit in nicely and soon the Chargers had the best defensive line in the NFL. Not only was it nearly impossible to run up the middle of the San Diego defense, bit their defensive linemen were very athletic. Johnson took an interception 52 yards for a touchdown in 1978.
The 1979 season was the first of his four consecutive seasons being named to the Pro Bowl. Though sacks were not an official statistic, the Chargers piled them up in great numbers.
San Diego's front four was called the "Bruise Brothers". The quartet had 60 sacks themselves in 1980, and Johnson got 17.5 of them. He was named First Team All-Pro that year and the next season. He also intercepted another pass and ran for a touchdown in 1981.
The 1982 season was his last as a Pro Bowl player, and he recorded a safety. After the 1983 season, Johnson and Kelcher were looking to get a raise in pay. The Chargers owner, Eugene Klein, was not willing to acquiesce.
Klein had the same issue with Dean in 1981, where he ended up trading the future Hall of Famer to the San Francisco 49ers. He had already let Billy Shields, who had started at left tackle the last eight seasons, go to the 49ers along with Kelcher before the season began.
After four games with the Chargers in 1984, Johnson was traded to the 49ers and joined Dean, Kelcher, and Shields. All three happened to be drafted with him by San Diego in 1975. The ex-Chargers contributed mightily to the 49ers cause that year.
Johnson had five sacks, a safety, and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery in his 12 games. When San Francisco got to the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears, "Big Hands" had two sacks in the Niners win.
San Francisco faced the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, Johnson had a sack as the Niners won. He played 11 games for San Francisco the next year and then retired.
His four Pro Bowls is tied as the most ever by a Chargers defensive tackle. His 17.5 sacks in 1980 is still a team record and he was credited with 67 in his Chargers career.
He, Kelcher, and Dean once all started in a Pro Bowl game. It is the only time in NFL history where three defensive linemen from the same team accomplished that feat.
Sacks were not officially recorded until 1982, so he will never be given the full credit he deserves. But Chargers fans lucky enough to have seen "Big Hands" dominate know how great he truly was. He was also one of the most beloved teammates in the Bolts locker room.
Johnson is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame, the San Diego Hall of Champions, and College Football Hall of Fame.
Defensive Tackle : Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd
Ladd was a 15th round draft pick of the Chargers in the 1961 AFL Draft. The Chicago Bears drafted him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. At 6'9" 300 lbs, he was the biggest man in professional football at the time.
He chose to join the Chargers and stood out right away, being named First Team All-Pro as a rookie. After being named to the Pro Bowl the next year, San Diego moved him from right defensive tackle to the left side to line up next to Pro Bowler Earl Faison.
The moved paid off as the Chargers had the top defense in the league and won the AFL Championship. Ladd was one of 11 Chargers to go to the Pro Bowl that year. He went to the Pro Bowl the next two years, as well as being named First Team All-Pro.
San Diego had Ladd and Faison both wanting more money. They traded Ladd to the Houston Oilers in 1966, where he played one season. After four games with them in 1967, the Oilers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the Chiefs, Ladd was reunited with Hall of Famer Buck Buchanan. Both had played together at Grambling State University. Buchanan was 6'7" 270 himself, giving the Chiefs the largest defensive tackle duo in pro football history. He stayed with Kansas City until 1968 before retiring.
During his rookie year, Ladd got involved with professional wrestling. He won several titles as both a singles and tag team competitor, building rivalries with some of the greatest in the business. He was a heel typically, known for his excellent oratory skills on the microphone.
He would antagonize and feud with legends like Andre the Giant, the Junkyard Dog, and Paul Orndorff. Ladd is inducted in several wrestling Hall of Fame's such as the WWE and WCW.
His four Pro Bowls is tied as the most ever by a Chargers defensive tackle.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is inducted into both the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Ernie Ladd was so big that Boston Patriots center John Morris said facing Ladd was like playing football in a closet. "It was dark because he blocked out the sun he was so big. I couldn't see the goalposts."
Not only has professional football not seen a character like him since, the Chargers haven't had the excellent play he brought since he left.
Louie Kelcher, Jamal Williams, Bill Hudson, Shawn Lee, and John Parrella deserve mention.
Defensive End : Earl Faison
Faison was the Chargers first-round draft pick in 1961 AFL Draft. Despite being an All-American two-way player at Indiana University, where he he is inducted into their Hall of Fame, he wasn't drafted until the fifth round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
He started immediately for San Diego and quickly became a star. A stunning athlete at 6'5" 270, Faison had a propensity of intercepting passes his entire career. He intercepted two passes as a rookie and was named AFL Rookie of the Year, First Team All-Pro, and a Pro Bowler.
Faison began to face multiple blockers each down because he was often harassing the opposing quarterbacks. It did not slow him down, but he missed six games his second year due to a knee injury. He still was named an Pro Bowler after intercepting a ball.
The 1963 season was the only year Faison failed to intercept a pass in his career, but he was still one of the best defensive ends in pro football. San Diego won the only title in their franchise history that year and Faison was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro.
He was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro in each of the next two years as well. Faison also picked off a pass each year and ran for touchdowns. He then asked for a pay raise and almost bolted to the Canadian Football League.
He was traded to the Houston Oilers because of these contract differences, but the trade was nullified when Oilers owner Bud Adams was found guilty of tampering. Faison then injured his back after three games and was released.
The Miami Dolphins signed him right away and he played six games with them. Faison intercepted a pass and took a fumble recovery for a touchdown.. Despite this, Miami tried to trade him to the Denver Broncos, but his back issues made Denver send him back to Miami.
The Dolphins then cut him, so Faison decided to retire. After a few acting stints, he got into coaching high school football. Hall of Famer Marcus Allen was his most famous student at a school that has sent 12 men to pro football.
His five Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers defensive end. No other Chargers defensive lineman has scored as many touchdowns off interceptions than him, and his five interceptions with San Diego is the most by a Chargers defensive lineman ever.
His four First Team All-Pro nods are the fourth most in Chargers history. Only Hall of Famers Ron Mix and Lance Alworth, along with future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, have more.
Faison is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and has been inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Amazingly, he was left off the AFL All-Time Team despite having more First Team All-Pro nods than all of the four defensive ends selected, and he went to more Pro Bowls than three of them.
Sacks were not recorded in his era but Faison put up accolades worthy of induction into Canton in his six seasons. Critics who point to his 73 games played only need to look at the 68 games Hall of Famer Gale Sayers played as a rebuttal. Faison went to one more Pro Bowl than Sayers and had one less First Team All-Pro nod.
He is easily the best defensive end in Chargers history.
Defensive End : Leslie O'Neal
O'Neal was the Chargers first-round draft pick in 1986, the eighth player chosen overall. He exploded onto the NFL scene in his rookie year despite missing three games.
He intercepted two balls, returning one for a score. The 82 tackles he had were the most he ever accumulated playing defensive end, and he also tallied 12.5 sacks. O'Neal was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the first Charger defender to win such an award since the 1961 season when Earl Faison won AFL Rookie of the Year.
He was unable to play the entire 1987 season because of injury. San Diego spotted him in nine games during the 1988 season, where he had a career low four sacks. They then decided to move him to outside linebacker.
O'Neal played outside linebacker for three years. He went to the Pro Bowl twice over that time and had 35 total sacks. The 96 tackles he had in 1989 was the best of his career.
San Diego had been playing a 3-4 defense. They switched to a 4-3 defense in 1992 and improved greatly on defense. O'Neal went back to defensive end and Pro Bowler Junior Seau replaced him at linebacker. Ranked 21st in scoring defense in 1991, San Diego improved to fourth best in 1992.
The 1992 season was also one of his best seasons as a player. O'Neal piled up a career best 17 sacks and was named to his first of four consecutive Pro Bowls as a defensive end.
He was the Chargers sack master over this time. He had 54 sacks over those four seasons. When his contract expired after the 1995 season, the Saint Louis Rams signed O'Neal to a free agent contract.
Though O'Neal lasted just two year with the Rams, his 1997 was excellent. He had 10 sacks, an interception, and scored off of a 66-yard fumble recovery return. Despite this, Saint Louis let him sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998.
The Chiefs lined him up at both linebacker and defensive end the next two years, where he had 10 total sacks before retiring at the end on the 1999 season.
Of his 132.5 career sacks, which is eighth best in NFL history, 105.5 came with the Chargers. It is the best in team history and O'Neal is one of 24 NFL players with at least 100 sacks in a career. He ranks fourth in tackles for a Charger, but first amongst all defensive linemen.
Not only was Leslie O'Neal named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers, he is one of the best defensive players in team history.
Lee Williams, Steve DeLong, Marcellus Wiley, Ron Nery, Bert Grossman, Chris Mims, Raylee Johnson, and Coy Bacon deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Woodrow Lowe
The Chargers somehow lucked into Lowe in the fifth round of the 1976 draft. It was amazing the three-time All American, who is now in the College Football Hall of Fame, lasted that long.
Lowe earned a starting job immediately and held onto it the rest of his career. While stout against the run, Lowe was an expert blitzer, lock down pass defender, and big-time playmaker who was always around the ball.
The 1979 season was one of his best. Lowe swiped a career best five balls and returned them for 150 yards. He led the NFL with two touchdowns off of interceptions. Despite an excellent year, he was left off the Pro Bowl roster.
He followed up that year with a solid 1981 season. Lowe picked off three balls and took one in for a touchdown. He was one of the top outside linebackers of the game, but Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Ted Hendricks, along with the great Robert Brazile, typically went to the Pro Bowl over that time.
The 1984 season saw him miss one game because of injury. It was the only game he missed in his 11-year career. He scored the last touchdown of his career by taking one of his three picks for a score. Lowe retired at the end on the 1986 season.
His four touchdowns is a Chargers record by a linebacker. Only three linebackers in NFL history have scored more touchdowns off interceptions than Lowe.
His 21 interceptions are the ninth most in team history, and is the most by any Chargers linebacker ever.
Lowe is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and should one day find himself in the Chargers Hall of Fame.
There were few players more underrated than him in his era. Sacks were not recorded until 1982, so the 15 he has officially recognized are not a true indication of his greatness. Tackles were not recorded his entire career, but he was almost always in on the play.
Though he was never invited to the Pro Bowl, Woodrow Lowe is definitely one of the best linebackers in Chargers history.
Middle Linebacker : Chuck Allen
Allen was drafted in the 28th round of the 1961 AFL Draft by the Chargers. The Los Angeles Rams tabbed him in the 17th round of the NFL Draft, but he wisely chose San Diego because the Rams had Hall of Famer Les Richter at middle linebacker.
San Diego tried to bring the rookie along slowly, but Allen won the starting job for the final nine games in what was one of his best seasons. He had career best marks of five interceptions and 111 return yards. One pick was taken 59 yards for a touchdown.
He made his first Pro Bowl in the Chargers 1963 title year. Allen picked off five balls and returned a fumble 42 yards for the last touchdown of his career. He was moved to outside linebacker the next year, but was still named a Pro Bowler.
The Chargers moved Allen back to middle linebacker in 1965, where he would stay the rest of his career. While he was tough against the run, the cerebral Allen was also solid against the pass.
He missed 13 games over his last four seasons in San Diego, because of injury, after not missing a game the previous four years. San Diego traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 1970 season,
After two solid seasons in Pittsburgh, where he snagged seven interceptions, Allen joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972. Though he started eight games, he spent most of his time mentoring young linebackers like Steve Zabel and John Bunting.
Allen retired after the 1972 season and later became the Vice President of Football Operations for the Seattle Seahawks. His 20 interceptions are the most ever by a Chargers middle linebacker. Allen is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.
The two Pro Bowls he went to is the most ever by a Chargers middle linebacker and he might be the best to have ever played the position for the team.
Rick Redman, Gary Plummer, and Donnie Edwards deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Emil Karas
Karas was drafted in the third round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He played 11 games, starting four, and intercepted a pass. He then bolted to the Los Angeles Chargers of the fledgling American Football League in 1960.
The Chargers had him play middle linebacker in their first year. They moved him to the outside the next year, and the move paid off. The Chargers had the top defense in the AFL and made it to the title game before losing 10-3.
He had a career high three interceptions that year and made the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls. He got hurt in 1964 and missed 10 games. The injuries lingered into the next season and Karas played just two games before retiring.
Karas is one of the few Chargers to have been on all five teams that made it to the AFL title game. His three Pro Bowls is the second most by an outside linebacker in Chargers history.
He was one of four men inducted into the inaugural class of the Chargers Hall of Fame and is certainly one of the best linebackers in franchise history.
Frank Buncom, Paul Maguire, Don Goode, Linden King, Pete Barnes, Bob Laraba, and Billy Ray Smith deserve mention.
Strong Safety : Kenny Graham
Graham was drafted in the 13th round of the 1964 AFL Draft by the Chargers. The Baltimore Colts drafted him in the 12th round of the NFL Draft. He joined the Chargers, fresh off winning the AFL title.
He won the starting job in training camp and held onto it the rest of his Chargers career. Graham quickly became known for always being around the ball and delivering jarring tackles.
After four interceptions as a rookie, he made his first Pro Bowl the next year after getting a career high five picks. He scored a touchdown off an interception, a feat he would accomplish the next two years as well.
Though he did not go to the 1966 Pro Bowl, he was named First Team All-Pro after getting five more picks and scoring once. He went to the Pro Bowl every year with the Chargers except for his rookie season and the 1966 year.
The 1969 season was one of his best. Graham led the AFL with two touchdowns off his four interceptions. He also forced four fumbles and recovered four fumbles.
Despite being one of the greatest strong safeties in AFL history, the Chargers let him join the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970. Graham got hurt in the third game and was released. The Cincinnati Bengals signed him for the final five games and he picked off three balls.
Graham then retired at 29-years old because of his injuries. His four Pro Bowls are the most ever by any defensive back in Chargers history.
His 25 interceptions are the fourth most in team history, and his five interceptions returned for touchdowns is tied as the most in franchise history.
San Diego also asked him to field punts on occasion. As a punt returner, his 38 career fair catches is a AFL record as is the 24 he had in the 1969 season.
Kenny Graham is a member of the AFL All-Time Team, but has amazingly been left out of the Chargers Hall of Fame so far. His exclusion from the 50 Greatest Chargers Team is beyond disgraceful.
Emerson Boozer, the great running back of the New York Jets, said no one hit harder than Graham. It is obvious he was dangerous around and with the ball. He is the best strong safety in Chargers history.
Rodney Harrison, Mike Fuller, Darren Carrington, and Bryant Salter deserve mention.
Free Safety : Joe Beauchamp
Beauchamp joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 1966. Halfway through the year, he found himself supplanting veteran Bud Whitehead for starts at free safety and swiped a pair of passes.
The Chargers moved him to cornerback the next year and he picked off three balls. San Diego moved him back to free safety in 1968 and he led the team with five interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Two interceptions were returned for touchdowns, which led the AFL that year.
Despite that success, the Chargers moved him back to cornerback the next three seasons. He began the 1972 season at cornerback, but was moved back to free safety, where he had a career high six interceptions and scored the last touchdown of his career off a pick.
Beauchamp stayed at free safety the next two years but was bitten by injuries. He missed nine games over that time. The Chargers moved him back to cornerback in 1975, but was only able to play eight games. He retired at the end of the year.
His 23 interceptions with the Chargers is still the sixth most in team history. The three touchdowns he scored off of interceptions in the fourth most in Chargers history.
Joe Beauchamp has not earned any accolades, but his versatility should not be forgotten. He played wherever he was told to help the team.
Charlie McNeil almost got this slot based on his amazing 1961 season where he had 9 picks for a whopping 349 yards and two scores. He still owns the record for 177 yards off interceptions in a single game. But it was his only full season played in five years, and he missed 28 games.
Though his 14 interceptions as a free safety is less than the 19 McNeil had, the fact he played three different positions in the secondary over a decade for San Diego gets him the nod here.
Charlie McNeil, Glen Edwards, Vencie Glenn, Stanley Richard, Bud Whitehead, Bob Zeman, Hanik Milligan, Pete Shaw, and Chris Fletcher deserve mention.
Cornerback : Gill Byrd
When the Chargers made Byrd their first-round pick in 1983, they asked him to be their top cornerback almost immediately because San Diego had a pair of rookies starting that year.
He showed that he was up to the task especially in 1984. Byrd picked off four balls and returned them for a career best 157 yards. He scored twice off of interceptions, including a 99-yarder.
The Chargers were starting three rookies in the secondary in 1985, so they moved Byrd to strong safety to help the defense out. They moved him to free safety the next year for seven games. Rookie Vencie Glenn showed improvement, so they moved Byrd back to cornerback for the rest of his career.
The 1987 season was shortened four games because of a players strike. It is also the only season in Byrd's career he failed to intercept a pass. He rebounded strong by getting a career high seven interceptions in each of the next three seasons.
Byrd got his first Pro Bowl honor in 1991. After getting his second Pro Bowl nod in 1992, as well as being given the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award, he retired. He has been coaching defensive backs for the Chicago Bears since 2006.
His 42 interceptions are the most in team history and Byrd is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.
San Diego has had quite a few excellent cornerbacks play for them and Gill Byrd might be the best of them all. He was also tough, missing just seven games in his ten seasons. The fact that he played every position in the defensive secondary shows how excellent he was.
Cornerback : Dick Harris
Harris joined the newly formed Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent rookie in 1960. He was placed in the starting lineup right away. The Chargers also asked him to return 13 punts that year, a chore they would ask him to do just 14 times the rest of his career.
Where Harris excelled was on defense. The AFL did not have an All-Star game in 1960, but Harris was named First Team All-Pro after intercepting five passes and returned one for a touchdown. It set the stage for perhaps the best year of his career.
The 1961 season saw Harris grab seven picks. He returned three for touchdowns, which led the AFL and still is a Chargers record for the most touchdowns off interceptions in a single season. It is also an AFL record, though Miller Farr of the Houston Oilers matched it in 1967.
Harris was named to the first AFL All-Star game and given another First Team All-Pro honor. He followed that up with five the next year. In the Chargers 1963 championship season, Harris had a career best eight interceptions and scored the last touchdown of his career.
He got off to a fast start in 1964, picking off three balls for 82 yards in just six games. He then got hurt and missed the rest of the year. They would be the only eight games of his career that he would miss. Harris returned the next year, but found himself backing up Speedy Duncan. Harris intercepted one ball that year then retired.
His 29 interceptions are the second most in team history, and his five interceptions returned for touchdowns is tied as the most in franchise history. Those five touchdowns off of interceptions is tied with four others as the second most in AFL history.
His two First Team All-Pro nods are the most ever by a Chargers defensive back. San Diego has had several excellent cornerbacks, and the legendary Speedy Duncan was almost put in this slot. I chose Harris because he helped a young team get off the ground to excellence fast by standing out far apart from most others.
Speedy Duncan, Mike H. Williams, Willie Buchanon, Joe Beauchamp, Claude Gibson, Danny Walters, Donald Frank, Bob Howard, and Dwayne Harper deserve mention.
Kicker : Rolf Benirschke
Benirschke was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 12th round of the 1977 draft. He was traded to the Chargers and supplanted veteran Toni Fritsch, who had taken over from Ray Wersching with five games left in the 1976 season.
Fritsch went on to be a Pro Bowl kicker for the Houston Oilers, and Wersching won two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.
When Benirschke joined San Diego, the famous "Air Coryell" offensive attack was a year away. After attempting 24 extra points as a rookie, it increased to 43 in 1978 after Don Coryell was named head coach six games into the season.
He also began experiencing ulcerative colitis in 1978, but was able to finish the season. Benirschke tied to play through the pain in 1979, but collapsed on an airplane after the Chargers played their fourth game.
He was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and lost 50 pounds after having his large intestine removed. He came back later to a home game that year to cheer his team on, to the surprise of many. It inspired the team to a 35-7 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The disease did not hold him down. Benirschke came back strong in 1980, making a career best three field goals of over 50 yards. He also made 46 extra points for the high scoring Chargers.The 118 points he got that year was the best of his career.
San Diego was unstoppable in 1981. Benirschke led the NFL with 61 extra point attempts and 55 extra points converted. He scored 112 points that year, and his field goal against the Miami Dolphins at 13 minutes and 52 seconds in overtime sealed a Chargers win in a game famously called "The Epic in Miami".
The 1982 season is best known for being shortened to nine games because of a players strike. The strike hurt what was becoming the best year of Benirschke's career. He had 80 points in his nine games and led the NFL in extra points attempted and made. It was also his only Pro Bowl year.
Benirschke was also known for his charitable work as a player. He was honored as the 1983 NFL Man of the Year, now known as the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
He got hurt in the first game of the 1986 season, missing the rest of the year. He returned in 1987, but the season was shortened because of another players strike. Benirschke retired after that year.
He ranks first in Chargers history in extra point attempts and second in extra points made. Nick Kaeding passed him in 2010 in made extra points and is eight away in attempts.
Benirschke ranks second in Chargers history in field goal attempts and third in made field goals. His 766 points, which was a team record when he retired, still ranks fourth best.
The 61 extra points he attempted in 1981 is still a team record. His 55 conversions was a record until Kaeding passed it by three in 2006. His three field goals made of over 50 yards in 1980 is still a Chargers record.
He is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Rolf Benirschke is not only probably the toughest kicker in Chargers history, he may the best ever.
John Carney, Dennis Partee, George Blair, and Dick Van Raaphorst deserve mention.
Punter : Darren Bennett
Bennett joined the Chargers as a 30-year old free agent rookie in 1995. He became the only Chargers punter to ever be named First Team All-Pro in his rookie year, and he was named to the Pro Bowl as well.
He became a big part of the team immediately. Bennett never averaged less than 43.9 yards per punt in his first six seasons. This includes the 1998 year where he attempted a career high 95 punts.
The 2000 season was his last as a Pro Bowler. Bennett led the NFL with a career high average of 46.2 yards per attempt. He had one of his most difficult season in 2002. The 37-year old had two punts blocked while averaging 40.7 yards per attempt. It was his lowest average with the Chargers.
He signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004 at 39-years old. He got hurt in the preseason of the 2005 season and was replaced by current Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe had to miss a game that year because of injury, so the Vikings called on Bennett. He played one game and punted eight times. One included a 53-yarder. Kluwe then returned, so Bennett retired.
His journey to the Chargers was a special one. Born in Australia, he had previously player 12 years of Australian Rules Football. He retired from the game because of injuries, but led that league twice in goalkicking and is considered a legend of the game.
Bennett got married and decided to honeymoon in California. He stopped by the Chargers offices asking for a tryout. The Chargers brass was impressed enough to have him play that spring in NFL Europe. He earned all-league honors and then joined the Chargers.
One of his career highlights came in 1999 when the Chargers traveled to Australia to face the Denver Broncos in the NFL's first American Bowl.
At 6'5" 235, he loved to tackle return specialists. He knocked one unconscious in his rookie year. He also brought a new style of punting to the NFL.
He used the "drop punt", which is common in Australian Rules Football. The NFL calls it a "pooch punt". Bennett was so good at it that other teams scored Australia looking for punters.
In 2005, the New York Jets signed Ben Graham, who had been playing Australian Rules Football for 12 years and is the same size as Bennett. Graham, now punting for the Arizona Cardinals, has been to the Pro Bowl and tied a record for 49 punts inside the 20-yard line in 2009.
Darren Bennett is a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. His two Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers punter and he is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers. No other Charger has more punts or punt return yards than he does, and he is probably the best punter in team history.
Ralf Mojsiejenko, Jeff West, Dennis Partee, and Paul Maguire deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Andre Coleman
Coleman was drafted in the third round of the 1994 draft by San Diego. He spent his rookie year just returning kickoffs, which he did well at. Coleman scored two touchdowns on 49 attempts while averaging a career best 26.4 yards per return.
The Chargers made it to the only Super Bowl in their franchise history that year. They were trounced by the San Francisco 49ers, but Coleman played well. He set Super Bowl records with eight returns for 244 yards. His 244 total yards was also a record.
His highlight came when San Francisco was ahead 42-10. Coleman returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
His second season was the best of his career. Coleman returned 62 kickoffs for 1,411 yards. Both are career highs. He also returned two for touchdowns and was asked to return 28 punts for 326 yards. He took one punt 88 yards for a score. It is tied for the third longest in Chargers history.
The 1996 season was his last as a Charger. Not only did he return 55 kickoffs, but he caught a career best 36 balls for 486 yards and two touchdowns. He left the Chargers at the end of the year to join the Seattle Seahawks.
Coleman played just three games for Seattle before being released. He signed later that year and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He lasted with Pittsburgh for four games in 1998 before being cut. He then retired.
The four career touchdowns off kickoffs in tied for 16th most in the history of the NFL. It is also the most in Chargers history. He ranks second in franchise history in kickoff returns and third in kickoff return yardage.
Though Andre Coleman lasted just three years with San Diego, he had a huge impact and helped his team reach the Super Bowl. Though San Diego played poorly in the Super Bowl, he did not. He could be the best kickoff return specialist in Chargers history.
Ronney Jenkins, Speedy Duncan, Anthony Miller, Tim Dwight, Nate Lewis, Gary Anderson, Keith Lincoln, and James Brooks deserve mention.
Punt Returner : Leslie "Speedy" Duncan
Duncan was an undrafted rookie who was signed by the 1964 San Diego Chargers. He only got to play five games as a rookie, but did manage to intercept a pass and return one of his nine kickoff returns for a career best 91 yards.
Speedy got on the field more the next year and lead the league in punt return yardage with a career best total of 464. He also led the AFL with a career high 15.5 yards per return average and two touchdowns scored off punt returns. Duncan also excelled at cornerback, grabbing four interceptions, which helped garner his first Pro Bowl honor.
Duncan was a Pro Bowler again in 1966, when he picked off a career best seven balls. He also scored on a league leading 81-yard punt return, and led the league with a 13.2 yards per punt return average.
He went back to the Pro Bowl once again in 1967, when he averaged 12.1 yards per punt return, and picked off two passes and took one interception for a league leading 100 yard touchdown return. This was a team record until 1987.
Duncan scored his last punt return TD in 1968. He took a punt for a career long 95 yards, which led the league. It is also a Chargers record. In 1969, he had six interceptions for a career best 118 yards while scoring a touchdown on a 72-yard jaunt.
He then was injured in the sixth game of the 1970 season, and missed the rest of the year. Duncan joined the Washington Redskins in 1971, and made his last Pro Bowl team after leading the NFL with a 10.6 yards per punt return average.
Washington used him as an extra defensive back, but he also scored his last NFL touchdown when he took his lone interception for a 46 yard score.
Duncan was an important member of the 1972 NFC Champion Redskins while sharing return duties with Herb Mul-Key and backing up cornerbacks Pat Fischer and Mike Bass.
He retired after the 1973 season with a 10.9 career average on 202 punt returns and four punt return touchdowns. He also had 24 career interceptions for three touchdowns, and a 25.2 average on 180 kickoff returns.
Duncan leading the league in punt return average three times is tied for an NFL record. He has the most punt returns in AFL history and is the one of three players to lead the league twice in returns.
Duncan has the most punt return yards in AFL history, as well as having the longest punt return ever. His four touchdowns is tied as the most in AFL history, as is his two in one year.
His 25.9 yards on 115 kickoff returns is the second best in AFL history for a career. His 248 combined returns is the most ever by an AFL player, and his 4,617 total combined is the second most.
The four touchdowns off punt returns is a Chargers record and he ranks second in career returns and return yards on punts. He also ranks fourth in kickoff returns and yards and his 25.3 return average is the best in Chargers history by anyone with more than 50 returns.
Besides being probably the best return specialist in Chargers history,he was a great cornerback. His 21 interceptions with San Diego still ranks seventh best in team history. His two touchdowns off interceptions is tied with 11 others as the fifth most.
His three Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Chargers cornerback.
Duncan is one of the 50 Greatest Chargers and a is member of the Chargers Hall of Fame.
Mike Fuller, Lionel James, Darrien Gordon, Eric Parker, James Brooks, Tim Dwight, Ron Smith, Kitrick Taylor, Andre Coleman, Nate Lewis, Keith Lincoln, and Eric Metcalf deserve mention.
Think I'm the only Redskins fan on the Gab, but here is a mock for them
10. Robert Quinn, DE/ OLB, North Carolina
Quinn came into the draft with a past of character issues and a benign brain tumor. He started crawling up the draft board at the combine and shot up even higher after his pro day.
Linebacker is one position the Redskins are woefully thin at, and their leader will be 36 years old if the 2011 season goes on as scheduled.
London Fletcher will be asked to possibly plug the middle of a defense with unproven Perry Riley since Rocky McIntosh is an unrestricted free agent. Andre Carter has been released, though he never really did fit in the defensive scheme as an outside linebacker. Defensive end in a 4-3 is his best position, yet his departure opens the slot for Quinn.
Quinn is a lot like Redskins Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo in that he can get after the quarterback and has some ability to play defensive end. He adds options off the edge and is also athletic enough to improve upon his pass defense, an area Orakpo has also been trying to improve on. Neither is really stout against the run, but their athleticism and first step are exceptional.
With the Redskins' "Amoeba" defense, which is run by ex-NFL Pro Bowl linebacker and current defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, Quinn offers flexibility and options.
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley could slip to the Redskins, but the Tennessee Titans have a defensive line coach who could prevent this from happening. Tracy Rocker is an ex-Redskin who is the first person in SEC history to win both the Outland and Lombardi Awards in the same year. He coached Fairley in college, so Tennessee has a good chance of grabbing the defensive tackle here.
It is possible that Washington will try to improve the offense by drafting a quarterback, especially since that is Shanahan's area of expertise. Jake Locker might be too tempting to pass up.
Prince Nakamura is a cornerback with a lot of upside to him. Starter Carlos Rogers and his backup, Phillip Buchanon, are unrestricted free agents. Both are older players too, so now might be the best time to get someone groomed.
Buchanon has been erratic at best, but Kevin Barnes has shown little since being drafted in 2009. Most of what Barnes has given the team came from the safety position so far.
Nnamdi Asomugha may get a look since Redskins owner Dan Snyder likes to make a big splash in the free agency market and Asomugha is the best player available.
If Washington ignores the cornerback position in the first round, then getting more linebackers is a good direction, especially if they lose the versatile McIntosh and DE/OLB Chris Wilson in the free agency market.
Plus the thought of Orakpo and Quinn coming off the edge brings images of havoc-wreaking play for a defense looking to turn over the ball more.
41. Torrey Smith, Wide Receiver, Maryland University
Even if the Redskins bring back free agent Santana Moss, Washington needs help at receiver.
The Vinny Cerrato Era saw Washington strike out in their attempts to draft players with Malcolm Kelly spending his time on the bench and Devin Thomas now with the New York Giants.
Smith is a player who can make the big play. He has excellent speed and is a hard worker who has improved his game each year in college.
Smith has all the makings of being a starter in the NFL. The one area he needs work in is his route-running, but he loves to block. He is also a great return specialist, an area in which the Redskins need a lot of help. If Moss returns, Washington could bring Smith along as a third receiver and have him return kicks.
Phil Taylor is a nose tackle who could possibly fit here. If he's available, Washington should think about grabbing the big man. A 3-4 defense is generally only as good as the nose tackle, and the Redskins really have no one special at this position.
Taylor is a mammoth man with incredible strength. While he has better speed than expected for a man his size, Taylor does have durability concerns and had a tendency to give up on plays during his collegiate career. He also had character issues early in his college career.
It is highly doubtful Taylor lasts long in the second round, and there is a chance he could go earlier. Even if Taylor turns out to be just a plugger, it is an upgrade over what the Redskins have right now.
But Torrey Smith has the ability to be special..He also went to nearby Maryland University where the Redskins have gotten some good players the last few seasons.
144. Will Hill, Free Safety, Florida University
This is Washington's first pick in three rounds, so it has to count.
Kevin Barnes was forced to play free safety last year when injuries destroyed the Redskins' already-dubious secondary, so Hill adds much needed depth.
Hill is extremely raw, but is an exceptional athlete. He has good size and speed for the position, but will need a lot of time in the film room to develop the next year. Until then, he will help a lot of special teams.
Though he is physical run-defender, consistency has been his issue. He needs to improve his read/reaction time, thus the need for more time in the classroom. He closes in on plays fast and has good hands.
If he puts in the work, Hill could be a productive starter because he has all the necessary physical tools.
With very few safety prospects at this position, probably the weakest in an already-mediocre draft, Washington grabbing Hill here would be a good move.
155. Marcus Gilbert, Offensive Tackle, Florida University
Gilbert has good size (6'6", 330 pounds) and is a good athlete who faced top-flight opponents at Florida.
He is a mauler who excels at run-blocking, but needs work at pass protection. He is not quick or really athletic, and will need to refine his footwork, but he is versatile enough to play guard.
Veteran Jammal Brown is an unrestricted free agent who dealt with nagging injuries in 2010. Even if Washington brings Brown back to man the right tackle position, they need depth there and at guard.
Gilbert has the ability to be an NFL right tackle. Some think he can play guard in the NFL too, so that type of swing-man is always needed on every roster.
213. Taylor Potts, Quarterback, Texas Tech
At 6'4", Potts has good size for the position and offers Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan a quarterback to groom.
He stood out at the NFLPA game, but still has work to put in; footwork and getting rid of the ball faster are the two biggest areas.
He comes from Texas Tech, a school that loves to toss the ball. He needs to show he can take a snap under center and be effective though. Potts has shown good arm strength, but is a project at this point.
224. Da'Rel Scott, Running Back, Maryland University
Washington needs running backs in camp to push the unproven position. Scott comes from their own backyard having played at Maryland University.
Scott is a tough player known to play through pain, but he does have a past with injury concerns. He displays good moves and vision with the ball. Maryland did not throw him the ball much, but he had soft hands when given an opportunity.
Scott could add depth while helping on special teams, but will have to have an excellent training camp to supplant the veterans in front of him.
253. Blaine Sumner, Nose Tackle, Colorado School of Mines
Sumner comes from a small school called Colorado School of Mines, so the level of opponents he has faced is questionable. But he is 6'1", 335 pounds and very strong, which has the nose tackle position beckoning him.
There are very few nose tackle prospects in the 2011 draft, so Washington might not want to risk trying to sign him as a free agent because he will get offers.
Sumner is a power-lifter who set a combine record with 52 reps at the bench-press. Redskins defensive line coach Jacob Burney will need to put extra work into this kid though because Sumner is not a great athlete.
He is a three-year starter who shows good awareness, despite being very raw. With his awesome strength, the Redskins should take a flier on Sumner.
REMEMBER : This Is A Team Of Greats Who Are Not, And Maybe Never Will Be, Inducted into The Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Quarterback : Archie Manning
In the very first nationally televised college football game ever in 1969, Archie Manning gained 540 yards. It is still a SEC record and Manning would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The Saints used their first round draft pick, the second overall selection, in 1971 to attain his services. New Orleans was entering into their fifth season of professional football, and most experts considered them severely undermanned in talented players.
Manning was looked upon to be the savior of a franchise that did not seem interested in getting enough talent surrounding him by putting together terrible drafts yearly. Manning would spent much of his time running for his life in New Orleans.
While he led the NFL in passing attempts and completions in his second year, Manning was also sacked more than any other quarterback in three of his first five seasons. What made the statistic even more astonishing was the fact that Manning was extremely mobile and not easy to tackle.
With seemingly 11 defenders jumping on his back virtually every time he dropped back to pass, the Saints lost more games than they won. Manning was only able to suit up for every game in an entire season once up until 1978 because he was getting destroyed on the gridiron weekly.
Things got so bad that defenders like Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood were telling reporters that they were trying to take it easy on Manning because he was so poorly protected. Manning's toughness and desire to keep lifting his carcass off the turf every play garnered the respect of every NFL player.
With New Orleans losing so much, fans called the team the "Aint's". They wore paper bags over their heads as the team seemed to lose on a weekly basis. The team won more than five games only twice in Manning's career.
He made his first Pro Bowl in 1978 after New Orleans set a franchise record with seven wins. He was named the NFC Most Valuable Player by the Sporting News and UPI. Manning went back to the Pro Bowl the next season after the Saints posted their first non-losing season in franchise history.
After the Saints won one game in 1980 and three games in 1981, they traded Manning to the Houston Oilers during the 1982 season. Like the Saints, Houston had fallen on hard times and were in the process of rebuilding. He started in eight games over two seasons, failing to win once. He was then traded to the Minnesota Vikings during the 1983 season and retired at the end of 1984.
When the novice fan sees that he win just 35 of 139 starts, they may fail to realize the talented quarterback never had the chance to prosper with the teams he played with. Manning was sacked 340 times in his 11 seasons in New Orleans.
He has two sons, Peyton and Eli, playing quarterback in the NFL and both were also first round draft picks who have gone to the Pro Bowl. Unlike their father, they have been surrounded by exceptional talent and both have won a Super Bowl. Their father never appeared in even a playoff game.
While Peyton is headed for Canton one day, and Eli still has an outside chance of accomplishing this as well, their father had the stronger throwing arm and was much more athletic than either child. He did not get to enjoy the rules heavily slanted in the offenses favor like his sons have.
He and his favorite passing target, Danny Abramowicz, were the very first players inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame. He has stayed in New Orleans and is an ambassador of the team and community, much beloved and respected by all in the Big Easy.
Not only is he probably the greatest quarterback in Saints history, but he could be the very best Manning to play in the NFL.
Billy Kilmer, Bobby Hebert, Jim Everett, and Aaron Brooks deserve mention.
Fullback : Tony Galbreath
Galbreath was the Saints second round draft pick in 1976. New Orleans had drafted Chuck Muncie in the first round and the pair was called "Thunder and Lightening". While Muncie got the majority of the carries, Galbreath was used in many different ways.
He led the team with seven rushing touchdowns and 54 receptions, which was the sixth most in the NFL that year. He also returned a team leading 20 kickoffs and a pair of punts.
Though the roles remained the same the next year, Galbreath continued to be an excellent blocker and pass catcher. He snagged a career best 74 balls in 1978, which was the second most in the NFL that year. He followed that up with 58 more receptions and a career high 708 rushing yards the next season.
The Saints were decimated by injuries in 1980, causing them to win just one game all year. Galbreath caught 57 passes, but was then traded to the Minnesota Vikings at the end of the year. Though he didn't carry the ball much for the Vikings, he caught 45 passes one year.
A free agent in 1984, Galbreath signed with the New York Giants in 1984. Mainly used as a blocker for Pro Bowl halfback Joe Morris, he did average 32 receptions over four seasons before retiring at the end of the 1987 season. The highlight of his career came in 1986 when the Giants won Super Bowl XXI.
Galbreath wasn't just a great blocker and pass catcher, he was a versatile athlete. He made two of three field goal attempts, as well as an extra point, when called upon i an emergency situation during the 1979 season. He also threw seven career passes, completing three.
When he left the Saints, he was the second leading rusher and pass catcher in team history. He is currently ranks sixth in receptions and seventh in rushing. Galbreath is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and the greatest fullback in franchise history.
Wayne Wilson, Lorenzo Neal, and Tony Baker deserve mention.
Halfback : George Rogers
After a Heisman Trophy winning collegiate career that eventually got him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Rogers was the first draft pick of the 1981 draft and the Saints leaned on him heavily.
He was named Rookie of the Year, First Team All-Pro, and to the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL with a whopping 378 carries for 1,674 yards at an average of 104,6 rushing yards per game. He also scored 13 times
Rogers was on his way to duplicating his rookie year when a players strike derailed his 1982 season. He was named to the Pro Bowl. He gained 1,144 yards the next year despite missing three games. After 914 rushing yards in 1983, he was traded to the Washington Redskins.
He shared carries with Hall of Famer John Riggins and halfback Keith Griffin in his first season with the Redskins, but still gained 1,093 yards and scored seven times. Washington made him the primary ball carrier the next year, after Riggins retired, and he led the NFL with a career high 18 rushing touchdowns while gaining 1,203 yards.
His last season was in 1987, which was marred by a players strike and nagging injuries. Rogers still led the team in rushing as Washington went on to win Super Bowl XXII.
Though he still ranks second on the Saints all-time rushing yards list for a career, his 1,674 yards in 1981 is still the best in team history. His 13 rushing touchdowns that year is tied with Deuce McAllister and Dalton Hilliard as the most for a single season in Saints history. The 83.7 yards he averaged per game with New Orleans is also a team record.
Though Rogers lasted just four years with the Saints, his impact lasted much longer. New Orleans spent many years in last place in their division before his arrival. The team steadily improved and the previous losing culture that had dogged the franchise soon became a thing of the past.
He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and Rogers is the only Saints running back to be named First Team All-Pro. His two Pro Bowls is still tied as the most in franchise history by a running back. On a franchise that has had many excellent running backs, Rogers may be the best.
Deuce McAllister, Rueben Mayes, Chuck Muncie, Dalton Hilliard, Andy Livingston, Fred McAfee, and Ricky Williams deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : Eric Martin
Martin was drafted by the Saints in the seventh round of the 1985 draft. He was initially used as both a return specialist and wide receiver, but he stopped being the primary punt returner after his third season.
The 1988 season was his best, making his only Pro Bowl after catching a career high 85 passes. He gained a career best 1,090 yards and caught a career high eight touchdown passes the next year. He caught 63 or more passes between 1989 to 1993.
Martin joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1994, but was seldom used. He retired at the end of the season. His 532 receptions for 7,854 yards are still the most in Saints history, and his 48 touchdowns and 18 100-yard receiving games are the second most in team history.
He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and there are several New Orleans fans who consider him the best wide receiver in team history.
Wide Receiver : Joe Horn
Horn was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after having played a year in the Canadian Football League. He was rarely used in his first three seasons with the Chiefs, catching 18 balls total, but the Saints signed the free agent after a promising fourth season that accrued 35 receptions.
New Orleans put Horn to work immediately in 2000, having him catch a career best 94 balls in the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl years. He duplicated that reception total in 2004, his last Pro Bowl season, but added a career high 11 touchdowns and 1,399 receiving yards.
His next two years saw his production decline greatly, as Horn dealt with nagging injuries along the way. He was cut by New Orleans, but signed a big contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Soon he was not producing and asked to be traded. Atlanta cut him and no other team was interested in his services, so Horn retired.
Fans either loved or hated him for a style of play and clothing that earned Horn the nickname "Hollywood". He once hid a cell phone in the padding of a goalpost during a nationally televised game, pulling it out upon scoring to call his children to share in the celebration. He was fined heavily by the league for his antics.
Horn caught 50 touchdowns in his seven years with New Orleans, which is a team record. He is tied for the most touchdown receptions in a season with Marques Colston, and his 1,399 yards in one year is also a team record. Horn also ranks second in Saints history in catches and receiving yards.
Inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2010, his four Pro Bowl appearances is a franchise record for wide receivers. No other Saint receiver has gone to the Pro Bowl more than once. It is safe to say that Joe Horn is one of the best wide receivers in Saints history.
Wes Chandler, Jeff Groth, Quinn Early, and Danny Ambramowicz, a Saint Hall of Famer who is the only New Orleans receiver to be named First Team All-Pro and once held the NFL record for consecutive games with at least one catch. deserve mention.
Tight End : Hoby Brenner
Brenner was drafted in the third round of the 1981 draft by New Orleans. Though he was used sparingly as a rookie, Brenner became the primary starter from his second season on for the Saints.
While he was very good at stretching the seam, especially in the first seven years of his career, blocking was something Brenner was exceptional at. He refined this skill in college blocking for two Heisman Trophy winning running backs named Charles White and Marcus Allen on the 1978 National Champion USC Trojans.
He caught a career high 42 passes in 1985, but he exceeded 34 reception just three times in his career. He was such a respected blocker that Brenner was named to the Pro Bowl in 1987. Brenner and Henry Childs are the only Saints tight ends to go to the Pro Bowl.
Brenner retired at the end of 1993 having appeared in 1975 games, the most in team history by a Saints pass catcher.. He still ranks fifth all-time in team history with 267 career receptions, the most ever by a Saints tight end. He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and may be the best tight end in team history.
Henry Childs and John Tice deserve mention.
Tackle : Willie Roaf
With the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 1993 draft, New Orleans selected Roaf. They started him immediately at left tackle and he would remain there the rest of his career. He made the first of seven consecutive Pro Bowls in his second season, including two straight First Team All-Pro nods in his second and third seasons.
While he was considered amongst the very best left tackles in the NFL, Roaf hurt his knee in 2001 and missed nine games. New Orleans made the mistake of thinking Roaf was in decline, so they traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional draft choice.
Roaf showed immediately that he had lost nothing to his game, and he went to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons with the Chiefs. He was honored with his final First Team All-Pro nod in 2004, then retired at the end of the 2005 season.
Not only is he a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, but he is a member of the NFL's 1990's First Team All-Decade Team and a member of the Second Team on the 2000's All-Decade Team.
It is a matter of time before he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 11-time Pro Bowler was a finalist in the 2011 vote, and it seems likely he will go in the next year.
His seven Pro Bowls with the Saints is the most in franchise history, as is his two First Team All-Pro honors. He is the best blocker to ever wear a New Orleans Saints uniform.
Tackle : Stan Brock
Brock was the Saints first round draft pick in 1980. He played college football for head coach Chuck Fairbanks, who coached his older brother Pete with the New England Patriots.
He earned the starting job in the fifth game of his rookie year at right tackle and held onto it for the rest of his Saints career. Though he missed 11 games in two years, because of injury, Brock started and played in every game for 10 years.
Brock became a free agent after 1992, then joined the San Diego Chargers for three years. The highlight of his career was playing in Super Bowl XXIX for San Diego. He retired after the 1995 season.
Brock was dependable, playing in 186 games over 13 seasons for New Orleans. He is considered by many to be one of the finest blockers in team history and he is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame.
Kyle Turley, Don Morrison, and Jammal Brown deserve mention.
Guard : Jim Dombrowski
The Saints used the sixth pick of the first round to draft Dombrowski in 1986 after a collegiate career that was so outstanding that Virginia University retired his number and he would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
After playing just three games as a rookie, the Saints put him in as the starting left tackle. for almost three years before deciding guard might be his best position. He stayed entrenched there until 1993, where he spent most of the season as a reserve due to injuries.
Starting every game the following two season, Dombrowski was forced to miss six games in 1996 because of an injury. They were the first games he missed since the strike-shortened season of 1987, which caused him to retire at seasons end.
Dombrowski is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame. His versatility, toughness, and durability helped make him play a team record 147 straight games and become one of the best blockers the Saints ever had.
Guard : Jake Kupp
Kupp was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the ninth round of the 1964 draft. He earned a starting job for the last ten games of his rookie season and held the job until he was traded to the Washington Redskins before the start of the 1966 season.
He was a reserve for the Redskins, but they like Kupp's athleticism enough to toss him four passes for 28 yards that year. He joined the Atlanta Falcons the next year, but was released after six games. New Orleans grabbed him and Kupp spent the last five games on the year with them.
Earning the starting job in 1968, Kupp became a top blocker for the team. He became the first Saints offensive lineman ever to go to the Pro Bowl in 1969. He continued to start until the end of the 1975 season when he retired.
Not only is Kupp a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, he is one of the very best offensive guards in tam history.
LeCharles Bentley, Del Williams, Emanuel Zanders, and Brad Edelman deserve mention.
Center : Joel Hilgenberg
Hilgenberg was drafted in the fourth round of the 1984 draft by the Saints. He spent his rookie year as a reserve, but started five games the next year. He earned the starting job in 1987 then was moved to guard for the 1988 season. He went back to center the next year and stayed there for the rest of his career.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1992, marking the eighth consecutive year a Hilgenberg played for the NFL in a Pro Bowl. His older brother, Jay, had went the previous seven times as a member of the Chicago Bears. Jay Hilgenberg joined the Cleveland Browns in 1992, opening the way for Joel to get honored.
The Hilgenberg brothers were both members of the Saints in 1993. When Joel was injured after nine games, his older brother finished the season in his place. Both Hilgenberg brothers retired together at the end of the year.
Though the Saints have had many fine centers in the history of their franchise, including Saints Hall of Famer John Hill, Joel Hilgenberg was the first to ever go to the Pro Bowl. LeCharles Bentley is the only other one to have accomplished this. Hilgenberg is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and may be the est center the team has ever employed.
John Hill, Jerry Fontenot, and LeCharles Bentley deserve mention.
Defensive Tackle : La'Roi Glover
Glover was a fifth round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1996. Oakland had a pair of productive 27-year old Pro Bowlers named Chester McGlockton and Russell Maryland as their starting defensive tackles, so Glover appeared in just two games that year and was released just before the season ended.
The Saints grabbed him in the off season and had him play in NFL Europe. He stood out as his team, the Barcelona Dragons, won World Bowl V. He then returned to New Orleans to come off the bench and collect 6.5 sacks.
He earned the staring job by his third season and remained entrenched there the rest of his career. He quickly became a star, getting 10 sacks, an interception, forced a career best three fumbles, and had a career high 67 tackles in 1998. After an excellent 1999 season, Glover was considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
The 2000 season was the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl nods for Glover, and it was the best of his career. He led the league with 17 sacks, the second most ever in a single season by a defensive tackle, and matched his career high totals on forced fumbles and tackles. He also earned his only First Team All-Pro honor.
Despite another productive season that had him named a Pro Bowler in 2001, New Orleans released Glover instead of picking up the option of his contract. The Dallas Cowboys quickly signed him. He played four years in Dallas and went to the Pro Bowl each year.
Dallas went to a 3-4 defense in 2005, forcing Glover to play nose tackle. Though he made the Pro Bowl, his 6'2" 285 pound frame was not thought to be conducive to play that position. He became a free agent and was signed by the Saint Louis Rams. He lasted three years with the Rams before retiring.
Only seven defensive tackles have more sacks than the 83.5 Glover had in his career. The 50 he had with the Saints is the seventh most in franchise history and the most by a defensive tackle. His two Pro Bowls as a Saint are the most by a defensive tackle in team history, and he is the only Saint defensive lineman ever to be named First Team All-Pro.
New Orleans lucked into signing him in 1996, and obviously made a mistake letting him go in 2002. He was superb in his short time with them and might be their best defensive tackle ever.
Defensive Tackle : Derland Moore
Moore was a walk-on player at Oklahoma University who stood out enough to be drafted in the second round by the Saints in 1973. He was the highest drafted walk-on in NFL history at the time.
He played all over the defensive line as a reserve, during his rookie season, and picked off the only pass of his career. He was named a starter the next season and would remain there the rest of his Saints career.
Moore was a tall, rangy player who was athletic enough to start at defensive end the entire 1981 season after New Orleans switched to a 3-4 base defense. Moore was plugged in at nose tackle the next year. After collecting six sacks in 1983, Moore went to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement.
Playing in just 18 games the next two years, New Orleans cut him at the end of the 1985 season after he appeared in only six games. He suited up for one game with the New York Jets the next season then retired.
The 170 games Moore played with New Orleans was a team record at the time by a defensive player, and it is still the fifth most. He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and is considered one of their finest defensive lineman ever.
Bob Pollard, Elex Price, Tony Elliott, and Norman Hand deserve mention.
Defensive End : Wayne Martin
New Orleans used their first round draft pick, 19th overall, by selecting Martin in 1989. After spending his rookie year coming off the bench, Martin started in every game he played in the rest of his career. He missed five games in 1990, then never missed a game again.
He exploded with a career best 15.5 sacks in 1992. Martin made the Pro Bowl in 1994, and had double digit sacks in five of six seasons starting in 1992. He was a key component of the famous "Dome Patrol", which saw all four starting linebackers for New Orleans go to the Pro Bowl on a top-rated defense that is considered one of the finest in modern football history.
The Saints moved him to defensive tackle in 1995, and he responded with three consecutive years of double digit sacks and had a career best 88 tackles in 1996. He had a safety in 1998, then retired after the following season.
The 82.5 sacks Martin had is the most by any Saints defensive lineman and is second behind Hall of Fame linebacker Ricky Jackson for New Orleans. His 171 games played are the fourth most by a Saints defender. The 531 tackles he had are the most ever by a Saints defensive lineman and ranks fourth best overall in franchise history.
Not only is he a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, but Martin is probably the best defensive end the team has ever had. His 144 straight starts are the most by any Saints player.
Defensive End : Frank Warren
New Orleans drafted Warren in the third round of the 1981 draft. He was a key reserve of an improving Saints defense until 1987. He could play any position along the defensive line and be productive. When he was named a starter in 1988, Jumpy Geathers also started a few games.
He had perhaps his best season in 1989. Jim Wilks, his bookend, was now starting at nose tackle and Geathers replaced him at defensive end. Warren piled up a career best 9.5 sacks, 50 tackles, and collected a safety. The versatility of the Saints defensive line often gave opponents problems.
Continuing to start, he was moved from the left to the right side the next year and had seven sacks. New Orleans then moved him to nose tackle in 1994. Warren retired at the end of the season. Though sacks were not a recognized statistic until 1982, the 52.5 sacks Warren had ranks fifth best in team history.
Warren is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and the 189 games he played in are the most ever by a Saints defensive lineman. He was athletic, versatile, and durable. He is certainly one of the best defensive linemen the franchise ever had.
Jim Wilks, Joe Johnson, Darren Howard, Bruce Clark, Jumpy Geathers, Willie Whitehead, and Elois Grooms deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Pat Swilling
After a legendary collegiate career that eventually ended with induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Swilling somehow lasted until the third round of the 1986 draft until the Saints selected him.
He spent his rookie year coming off the bench but was named a starter from his second season on. Swilling's specialty was rushing the passer, getting double digit sack totals in five of his seven years with the Saints.
Swilling made the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls in 1989 after getting 16.5 sacks and forcing five fumbles.He had perhaps his best season in 1991 when he led the NFL with a career best 17 sacks. He also forced a career high six fumbles, scored a touchdown off his only interception, and was named First Team All-Pro and NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
He was named First Team All-Pro again the next year, but the Saints traded him to the Detroit Lions at the end of the season. His first with the Lions was his best, as well as the last Pro Bowl year of his career. Swilling picked off a career best three balls and forced five fumbles. He left Detroit after the 1994 season to join the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland put Swilling at defensive end for them and he responded with 13 sacks in his first year with them. He retired after playing two more years with them. Though he played on some very good teams, Swilling is the only player in NFL history to play in six playoff games without ever winning once.
Swilling is the only Saints player ever to have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of his 107.5 career sacks, which is the 17th most in NFL history, 76.5 came with the Saints. That is the third most in team history. He forced 24 fumbles with New Orleans, which is the second most in team history.
Though Rickey Jackson is often the first named mentioned on the famous "Dome Patrol" linebackers corp, Swilling is the only one to be named First Team All-Pro with the team. With a career that had one less Pro Bowl than Jackson, some fans feel Pat Swilling should also be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Middle Linebacker : Sam Mills
Mills went undrafted in 1981, then tried out with the Cleveland Browns and was cut. He then tried out with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and was cut again.
The United States Football League began playing in 1983 and Mills tried out for the Philadelphia Stars. Not only did he make the team, he became an instant success. Nicknamed the "Field Mouse", the 5'9" Mills was known for his leadership and intensity both on and off the field.
The USFL folded after 1985, but it did have many successes. Six members of the USFL are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including four players. Mills played in the USFL Championship Game all three seasons, winning twice. He is a member of the USFL All-Time Team, and was named All-USFL, their version of the Pro Bowl, all three years.
David Dixon created the USFL. He also was instrumental in bringing the Saints to New Orleans. His connections with the USFL proved to be valuable when that league folded as he signed many former USFL personnel.
He hired Jim Mora Sr. as his head coach, Bobby Hebert as his starting quarterback, Chuck Commiskey as a starting offensive guard, Buford Jordan as the starting fullback, Antonio Gibson as the starting strong safety, Mel Gray as the return specialist, and Mills and Vaughn Johnson as his starting inside linebackers. Mora had coached Mills, Commiskey, and Gibson in the USFL.
The Saints already had Hall of Famer Ricky Jackson at one outside linebacker slot, and had just drafted future Pro Bowler Pat Swilling to bookend him. Teamed with Mills and Johnson, New Orleans has one of the best linebacker corps in NFL history. The group was so devastating that they were called "The Dome Patrol".
Mills was the leader of the group and made his first Pro Bowl in his second season. He was always around the ball and averaged almost 100 tackles a year in his nine season with the Saints. He also took two fumble recoveries in for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl four times total.
When his contract expired in 1994, the Saint allowed the 36-year old to leave despite the fact he had just piled up a career high 155 tackles that year for them. Mills signed with the expansion Carolina Panthers determined to show he had a lot of football still in him. He became an instant hero for the Panthers.
The 1996 season was one of his best. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was also given his only First Team All-Pro honor. Mills had a career best 5.5 sacks to go with 122 tackles and became the oldest player in NFL history to recover a fumble and return it for a score.
He retired after the 1997 season and became a linebackers coach for Carolina. He found out he had intestinal cancer and only had a few months to live in 2003, but kept coaching and pleading for his players to "keep pounding". This inspired Carolina to reach Super Bowl XXXVIII that year.
Mills died in 2005 and the Panthers have a statue of him outside of their stadium in his honor. He is a member of the Panthers Hall of Honor, the Saints Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
There is still a good chance Mills will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. Though critics may say his five Pro Bowls with the NFL isn't enough for induction, that means they are discounting what he did in the USFL.
The USFL was professional football, and Mills was a huge star in that league. The building in Canton has the words Pro Football" engraved on their buildings, signs, and letterheads everywhere. The USFL obviously had tremendous impact and influence on the NFL as well.
His is a story of perseverance. The "American Dream" that became reality. Even if Mills never gets into Canton, he is probably the greatest inside linebacker the Saints franchise ever had wear their jersey.
Joe Federspiel, Vaughn Johnson, Charlie Clemons, and Winfred Tubbs deserve mention.
Outside Linebacker : Keith Mitchell
The Saints signed Mitchell as an undrafted free agent rookie in 1997. He was used sparingly as a rookie, but still accrued four sacks. He won the starting job the next year and would remain in the starting lineup the remainder of his time in New Orleans.
Mitchell had a propensity of making the big play. After scoring off a fumble recovery in 1998, he repeated that event in 2000 and scored again on an interception while getting a career high 6.5 sacks. He was named to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
He started to get phased out by Charlie Clemons in 2001, so Mitchell asked to be released. He signed with the Houston Texans but spent one injury filled season with them. Joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, he got hurt for the year early on then retired.
Mitchell was a pass rusher who was quite a find for the Saints. He was productive and became just the fourth outside linebacker, along with Mark Fields, to go to the Pro Bowl representing New Orleans.
Reynaldo Turnbull, Whitney Paul, Mark Fields, Wayne Colman, and Jim Merlo deserve mention.
Strong Safety : Sammy Knight
Knight joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent rookie in 1997. He quickly won a starting job at free safety and intercepted 11 passes over two years. He also scored twice, one coming off a 91-yard interception return.
New Orleans moved him to strong safety in 1999 and he responded with 102 tackles. He had 100 tackles, two sacks, five interceptions, and two touchdowns the next year, which put him amongst the best strong safeties in the NFL.
His 2001 was his lone Pro Bowl year after matching his career high of six interceptions. The Saints moved him back to free safety the next year and Knight piled up a career best 107 tackles.
Now a free agent, Knight joined the Miami Dolphins for two years and recorded a safety. He moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2005 and spent two years as their starting strong safety. Joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, he moved onto the New York Giants the next year for a hefty contract.
He spent much of the year hurt, the first time he missed a game since1998. The Giants released him, so he retired. Not only is Knight the first Saint strong safety to ever go to a Pro Bowl, but his impact was significant.
Knight ranks third in franchise history in interceptions and sixth in tackles. His four touchdowns off interceptions is also a team record. Though some Saint fans might prefer Gene Atkins here, Knight was more productive in a shorter amount of time and may be the best strong safety in team history.
Gene Atkins, Brett Maxie, Jay Bellamy, Benny Thompson, Chuck Crist, and Hugo Hollas deserve mention.
Free Safety : Tom Myers
Myers was drafted by the Saints in the third round of the 1972 draft. He worked his way into the starting lineup by mid-season and held onto that honor the remainder of his career.
The NFL knew of him as a big play artist in 1975, when he took a fumble recovery in for a score. He duplicated that feat the next year as well. He was at the top of his game by 1978.
He intercepted six balls that year for a career best 167 yards. He took one ball a then-team record 97 yards for a score, which was the longest interception return of the year. He followed that up with an even better performance the next season.
Myers became the first Saints safety ever to be named to the Pro Bowl in 1978. He was also the first Saint defender ever to be named First Team All-NFL. Myers picked off a career high 7 passes that season, returning one for a score.
He played two more years before retiring, but his final season saw him attempt two passes. He completed one for an eight yard touchdown. The 36 interceptions Myers had was a Saints record at the time, and it still ranks second. He was inducted into the teams Hall of Fame in the second year it existed.
Though he played on some truly awful teams in his career, Myers still was able to excel and garner a lot of respect along the way. He is probably the best defensive back in team history.
Gene Atkins, Frank Wattelet, and Josh Bullocks deserve mention.
Cornerback : Dave Waymer
Waymer was a second round pick of the Saints in 1980. He started ten games at right cornerback as a rookie, but was switched to left cornerback the next year. He stayed there for eight seasons, becoming the teams top cornerback.
After getting a career best nine interceptions in b1986, he made his only Pro Bowl the following year. The 1987 season saw him play 12 games because of a players strike, but that did not prevent Waymer from swiping five balls.
He made a seamless transition to free safety in 1989, intercepting six passes. Waymer then joined the San Francisco 49ers for the next two years to play mostly strong safety. He then went to the Los Angeles Raiders for the 1992 season, then passes away during the off season at 34-years old.
Of his 48 career interceptions, 37 came with the Saints. It is the most in franchise history. His 149 games in New Orleans are the most ever by a Saints defensive back. Waymer is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame.
The Saints have had three cornerbacks go to the Pro Bowl. Waymer was the second to accomplish this, but he might be the best cornerback the team ever had.
Cornerback : Dave Whitsell
Whitsell was drafted in the 24th round of the 1958 draft by the Detroit Lions. He played in Detroit until 1960, then joined the Chicago Bears. He lasted six years there, intercepting 26 passes.
Joining the expansion Saints in 1967, Whitsell became the first star in Saints history. Leading the NFL with 10 interceptions, returning them for 178 yards and two scores, he became the first player in team history to be named to the Pro Bowl.
New Orleans had him play free safety the next two years mostly, and he responded with nine passes picked off. He then retired and is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame. Not only did he lead the team in interceptions in each of his three seasons, but the 19 Whitsell had as a Saint ranks the fifth most in team history.
When the Saints started out as a franchise, they were not a team full of talent. Of the excellent players they did have, Dave Whitsell stood out perhaps the most.
Fred Thomas, Toi Cook, Johnnie Poe, Ernie Jackson, Ashley Ambrose, Vince Buck, and Mike McKenzie deserve mention.
Kicker : Morten Andersen
Drafted in the fourth round of the 1982 draft by the Saints, Andersen spent the next 13 years with New Orleans becoming the greatest kicker in team history.
He made the first of his seven career Pro Bowls in 1985, then was named First Team All-Pro the next two seasons. He led the NFL in field goal attempts twice, field goals and field goal percentage once with New Orleans. He was known for a very strong kicking leg, once hitting a 60-yard field goal that is three yards short of the NFL record set by Saints legend Tom Dempsey.
After the 1994 season, the Saints felt that the man called "Mr. Automatic" and "The Great Dane" was no longer quite as effective at 34-years old. They let him go into the free agency pool. The Atlanta Falcons would end up signing Andersen.
Named to the Pro Bowl and his final First Team All-Pro in his first year with Atlanta, he showed the Saints he has plenty of leg left by becoming the first player in NFL history to kick three field goals of 50-yards or more against them. Andersen spent six years with the Falcons. His highlight was kicking a game-winning field goal in the NFC Championship Game in 1998 to send the Falcons to their only Super Bowl appearance.
He joined the New York Giants in 2001, then the Kansas City Chiefs the next year. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, then rejoined the Falcons the next season. He stayed with Atlanta for two years before retiring at the age of 47-years old.
Andersen in the leading scorer in NFL history. He is also the leading scorer in both Saints and Falcons history. No one has attempted or made more field goal in NFL history, nor played in as many games. He is a member of both the 1980's and 1990's NFL All-Decade Team.
He holds 22 NFL records four Pro Bowl records, and is the only player to set records for two team, the Saints and Falcons, in both field goals and extra points attempted and made. He is also second in six other NFL records for kicking. When he retired, he was just two days away from passing Hall of Famer George Blanda as the oldest person to play an NFL game in the modern era.
It seems inevitable that he will be in Canton, especially after the great Jan Stenerud broke the barrier for allowing kickers to be inducted. There was little Andersen couldn't do kicking a football. Not only did he possess a big leg, but his NFL record of 103 game winning kicks show nerves of steel. He may be the greatest kicker in NFL history, but he is the best in Saints history.
Tom Dempsey, Doug Brien, Charlie Durkee, and Rich Szaro deserve mention.
Punter : Tommy Barnhardt
Barnhardt was a ninth round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, selected ahead of notable players like Clyde Simmons and Vai Sikahema. Tampa Bay decided to go with veteran Frank Garcia and cut Barnhardt.
He joined the Saints and Chicago Bears for a total of five games the next season, then for four games with the Washington Redskins in 1988. The Saints were dissatisfied with the performance of George Winslow after five games in 1989, so they replaced him with Barnhardt.
Staying with the Saints the next six years, Barnhardt was known for his consistency and leg strength. He led the NFL with 3,743 punting yards in 1991. He joined the Carolina Panthers for just the 1995 season, punting the ball a career high 95 times.
Barnhardt spent the next three seasons with the Buccaneers before rejoining the Saints in 1999. He went back to the Redskins in 2000, then retired at the end of the season His 515 punts for 21,880 yards are the most in team history.
His career average of 42.5 yards per punt with New Orleans shows his leg strength. It is the most by any Saint with at least 228 attempts. Though Brian Hansen and Mitch Berger went to the Pro Bowl for New Orleans, both spent just four and three years respectively with the team as opposed to the eight that Barnhardt did.
Tom Blanchard, Brian Hansen, Mitch Berger, and Russell Erxleben deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Michael Lewis
Lewis was driving a beer truck when he made the team at 30-years old in 2001 after playing semi-pro football for several years. He was rarely used by the Saints as a wide receiver, catching 28 balls over three years, but he did average nearly 20 yards per reception.
Used mainly as a kick returner as a rookie, Lewis exploded on his second year and made the Pro Bowl. He led the NFL in kickoff returns, kickoff return yards, punt return yards, and all purpose yards. His two scores on kickoff returns also led the league, and he scored once more on a punt return..
He returned 114 kicks and punts that year for 2,432 yards, both of which are NFL records. His 625 punt return yards that year are the 12th most in NFL history, and his 1,807 kickoff return yards are the third most ever. His 2,647 all-purpose yards are the second most in NFL history, and his 70 kickoff returns are the fourth most.
Unable to stay healthy enough to play an entire season the next four years, Lewis remained New Orleans' primary return specialist. He joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2007 and was used primarily as a punt returner before retiring at the end of the season.
He has remained popular with the Saints organization since and was given a Super Bowl ring in 2010 after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV. He is most likely the greatest return specialist in team history. Lewis holds the team records in both punt and kickoff returns in attempts and yards gained.
Tyrone Hughes, Mel J. Gray, Eric Guliford, Wayne Wilson, Aaron Stecker, and Rich Mauti deserve mention.
Punt Returner : Tyrone Hughes
Hughes was drafted by the Saints in the fifth round in 1993. He made the Pro Bowl immediately, leading the league in punt return yards, two touchdowns, and a 13.6 yards per return average. He also scored off a kickoff return.
Though the Saints did not use him much on defense, he had the only four interceptions of his career the next two years. He recovered three fumbles in 1994, returning them for a league leading 128 yards and two scores.
He also tied an NFL record that year by returning two kickoffs for scores in one game. He would lead the NFL in kickoff returns and yards in each of the next three years. Hughes left New Orleans after 1996 and then played a season each for the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys the next two years before retiring. He even caught eight balls for the Bears.
Hughes ranks second in Saints history in punt and kickoff return yardage but first in touchdowns scored. Lewis could hold this slot too, but I gave it to Hughes because he was such a productive and exciting player.
Michael Lewis, Jeff Groth, Mel J. Gray, Howard Stevens, and Eric Guliford deserve mention.