Celebrating the life of Don Shula (1930 – 2020)

By Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND

I happened to be flicking through a 2000 NFL Record and Fact Book the other day, and as the league looked forward to a new century of statistical achievements I stumbled upon a table that listed head coaches with over 100 career wins. 

Picture credit: Hoylosangeles.com

Atop the table was the former Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula with an all-time leading 328 regular season victories and 347 overall, including playoffs. 

As the league headed into a new millennium Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had just 36 wins, just over 10% of Shula’s total wins. 

Fast forward 20 years, and as we hopefully enter the 2020 NFL season in September, I took another look at the all-time wins for an NFL head coach. 

Whilst Bill Belichick has now moved into third all-time with 273 wins, the man he still trails by 55 games remains Don Shula. If Belichick wins 11 games a season for the next five years, which is going to be a fascinating watch without Tom Brady at the helm, then he will tie Shula’s record at the end of the 2024 regular season. That’s how impressive Shula’s coaching record is in NFL history. 

Picture credit: CREDIT AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Shula sadly passed away in May 2020, aged 90, with a resume that may be light in Super Bowl trophies, but is undeniably outstanding; 

  • Two Super Bowl wins with the Miami Dolphins (VII and VIII) 
  • An NFL Championship in 1968 with the Baltimore Colts (prior to the NFL/AFL merger) 
  • Four time NFL Coach of the Year (1964, 67, 68 and 72)
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year 1993 
  • A place on the NFL 100th Anniversary all-time team
  • The only coach to go an entire season (plus playoffs) undefeated (1972)
  • 33 seasons coaching in the NFL – 31 of those ending as winning seasons
  • And most importantly the most wins by a coach in NFL history 

The raw numbers say one thing, but it was the man behind the victories that made Don Shula such a remarkable person.

Shula was roaming the Dolphins side-line in 1988 when I attended my first ever NFL game at Wembley Stadium. The Shula led Dolphins won the game against the 49ers thanks in huge part to a single coaching call, a David Woodley bootleg touchdown run in the final period sealing the win. 

By the late 80s Shula had been coaching the Miami Dolphins for 18 full seasons, after moving from the Baltimore Colts in 1970. 


Shula as an NFL player

You have to go back almost a further 20 years to 1951 to mark the occasion that Shula and the NFL first came together. 

Picture caption: morning journal.com

Following a successful college career as a running-back at John Carroll University, a private Jesuit school in Cleveland, Shula got the attention of NFL scouts.

Shula was drafted by the Browns in the 9th round of the 1951 draft, joining a Cleveland team that was the reigning NFL champion and featured Hall of Fame players Otto Graham and Marion Motley. Shula was one of only two rookies the Browns drafted that year to make the Week 1 roster. 

In the NFL Shula was moved to the position of defensive back, and as a rookie had four picks in 12 games. The Browns lost the NFL championship in Shula’s first season, giving him a very early taste for finals.

Despite some military service time in 1952 Shula returned to the Browns, and lost in a second NFL championship game. 

The following season Shula got traded as part of a behemoth 15-player trade with the Baltimore Colts. 1953 also saw Shula complete a Master’s Degree in PE. 

Shula suffered four consecutive losing seasons with the Colts, from 1953-56, which included an eventful 1955 season when Shula had five interceptions and one broken jaw. 

After being released before the start of the 1957 season by the Colts Shula was picked up by the Washington Redskins, where he played his final season as a DB. 


Shula as a head coach

Johnny Unitas and Coach Shula – Picture credit: touchdownactu.com

Shula began his coaching career between 1958 and 1959 with two one-year stints at college teams. He was DB coach at the University of Virginia and then the same job at the University of Kentucky. His college career saw him on teams that won just five games in two seasons. 

In 1960 Detroit Lions head coach George Wilson welcomed Shula back into the NFL family, recruiting him as a defensive backs coach. In three seasons with the Lions (1960-62) Shula was part of a Detroit team that had winning records, somewhat aided by a legendary defensive line called the ‘Fearsome Foursome’.  

1963 saw Shula return to the Baltimore Colts, but this time in his first role as an NFL head coach. Colts owner at the time Carroll Rosenbloom made the bold move to hire Shula, who was aged just 33, and the youngest head coach ever. 

The 1963 Colts went 8-6 under Shula’s leadership on the side-line and Johnny Unitas on the field. The Colts followed with a four game improvement to finish 12-2 in 1964, but they suffered a heart-breaking 27-0 loss to the underdog Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game. Shula did gain some redemption as he was given the Coach of the Year moniker.

In 1965 the Colts again did well, finishing 10-3-1 but again failed to cap off the season with any silverware after a defeat to the Packers in a playoff contest prior to the NFL Championship. In 1966 the Colts went 9-5, and improved to 11-1-2 in 1967 but failed to gain a playoff berth. Shula won a second Coach of the Year award although he did not reach the final. 

Finally the Colts managed to gain revenge on the Browns and in 1968 they dismantled them in the NFL Championship game before reaching the third ever Super Bowl. 

Shula’s Colts, a heavy favourite against the upstart New York Jets from the AFL, again failed to pick up all the marbles as Joe ‘Willy’ Namath ‘guaranteed’ victory and delivered on his proclamation with a 16-7 win that shook the professional sports world to its core. 

Shula saw out the 1960s with the Colts, with 8 wins in 1969, and a total of 71 wins in seven seasons, averaging over 10 wins a year. 


Shula and the Dolphins

As the 60s faded into the sunset and the 70s rose, like a crocus in the dawning of a new spring, Shula got snapped up by the Miami Dolphins, to become just their second ever head coach. 

What you may not know was the decision by Dolphins owner Joe Robbie to recruit Shula cost his team a first round draft pick. As negotiations occurred before and after the NFLs merger with the AFL it was seen as tampering. 

Shula valued a dominant running game and an intimidating defensive line as the foundations of his winning recipe and those ingredients helped him and the Dolphins to nine winning seasons in the 1970s, along with five AFC East division titles. 

In 1970 Shula led the Dolphins to 10 wins but Miami got dumped out of the playoffs in the divisional round by the Oakland Raiders. For you history buffs the first touchdown scored in the Shula Dolphins era was a 5-yard scramble by QB Bob Griese 

Miami repeated 10 wins in 1971 and won two playoff games before Shula suffered a fifth finals defeat as a player and coach in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. 

Super Bowl VII – Picture credit: i.imgur.com

Having accrued enough bridesmaid dresses to start a small boutique in a leafy part of Surrey, Shula finally lifted a Super Bowl trophy at the end of the 1972 season, with a team that remains the only one to ever complete an entire NFL season and playoffs without a loss. The 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII cemented Shula’s legacy as a great head coach.

Not to rest on his laurels Shula showed the rest of the NFL that his Dolphins were not in any way lucky, as Miami went 12-2 and won their second Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 24-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings. 

Looking to three-peat  in 1974 the Raiders again proved to be the Dolphins nemesis in the playoffs, and to somewhat of a surprise the Dolphins failed to win a playoff game for the rest of the decade, despite four of their last five seasons of the 1970s culminating in 10 or more regular season wins. 

In the 21st century it’s doubtful Shula would have kept his job going into the next decade, but back in the 80s Shula was seen as untouchable in Miami. 

An inauspicious start to the decade, an 8-8 dud, was followed by five consecutive division wins, and 11 playoff games between 1981 and 1985. 

More heartbreak followed for Shula as his Dolphins lost not one, but two Super Bowls (XVII to the Redskins in 1982 and XIX to the 49ers in 1984). 

It’s not often that you lose a Super Bowl and then the following Spring draft your starting quarterback for the next 17 seasons, but canny Shula snagged Dan Marino at pick 27 in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft. 

Much like the 70s Shula only had one losing season in the entire 1980s, reaching three AFC Championship games. Between 1986 and 1989 the Dolphins ownership stuck with Shula despite no playoffs and no more than eight wins. 

Picture credit: si.com

The 1990s saw Shula game-planning in his fourth decade as an NFL head coach, and in his final six seasons Don won two more division titles, three more playoff games and had one trip to a Conference championship in 1992, where they were outclassed by Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills. 

Shula’s final NFL game was another playoff loss to the Bills, this time in the wild-card round. The Dolphins were 27-0 down after three quarters before scoring 22 in the final period. The final points scored in the Shula era was a Dan Marino two-point conversion to WR O.J. McDuffie.   


Shula legacy

Shula’s 328 regular season victories stand as a record that at the start of the 21st century seemed impossible to ever be beaten, but Patriots Dark Lord Belichick has a chance to eclipse this by the end of the 2020s, but it will be one almighty challenge. 

Picture caption newsday.com

For me I spent over 20 seasons watching Don Shula on tv, adding to his leather faced tan in the Florida sunshine, and I even went to one of his steak houses on a trip to Miami around 10 years ago. I was simply not brave enough to try his 48oz steak challenge, but I clearly recall the menu being painted on an authentic NFL ball. I also remember being served the best French onion soup I have ever eaten. 

The history of the NFL cannot be written without including a jam-packed chapter about Donald Francis Shula, son of Hungarian immigrants, who had to fake his parents signature to play High-School football.

I would normally say rest in peace when an NFL legend passes away, but I hope Shula has a headset on up in heaven and is barking out orders as his team drives down into the red-zone to get good field position for the game-winning field-goal. 

Join me for more blasts from the past @F10YRetro 

Taking it all the way back to 1980 (Part 1)

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro @NFLFANINENGLAND)

When you are as old as I am (45) and you fell in love with the NFL in the mid-1980s then you will always have fond memories of a time that was dominated by Joe Montana, Da Bearz, and the likes of the outstanding Cleveland Browns secondary, consisting of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield (below).

Photo credit: Cleveland Browns YouTube

Back then NFL highlights were on Channel 4, and merchandise was everywhere in England, from replica shirts (I owned an Art Monk #81 burgundy one) to plenty of different books, and even NFL Films special programmes such as ‘Football Follies’ on VHS video tape.

With time on our hands caused by the Coronavirus pandemic I wanted to take a deep dive into the decade that gave birth to a sporting phenomenon in the UK, changing the  lives of thousands of impressionable fans. 

I play a game called Action PC Football, which is visually about as much fun as watching some eggshell matt paint dry, but as in-depth tactically and statistically and as having a January Saturday night dinner with Bill Belichick. 

Having loved the 1980s more than any other decade (nothing to do with my team winning two Super Bowls) I decided to try and get 15 more retro NFL addicts together to each draft an entire franchise (50 players), and then replay the entire decade, season by season. 

I was fortunate to find some committed 80s super fans from around the globe (well Scotland, Wales, Italy, England, USA and Canada) and we set about each drafting 50 players from the entire database of everyone who played in the NFL in 1980 (or before if injured for all of 1980). 

Using random.org we set a draft order that was then reversed every even round (a snake draft) and off we went, drafting the cream of the start of the 1980s. Don’t forget this is not fantasy as such, this was building and entire team, offense, defense, special teams, ensuring all positions are filled to a minimum and maximum requirement. For instance you cannot have more than three quarterbacks and you need at least four outside linebackers. 

Rules and ratings

To give a further bit of context it’s worth explaining how the players are rated in the game. 

The obvious ones such as quarterbacks, running backs, wideouts are governed by their real life stats such as attempts, rushes, catches etc.. The likes of fullbacks and tight-ends have an additional blocking rating (ranging from 2 up to 7). 

Offensive and defensive linemen are rated out of a total of 10 (min 3 max 10) and the absolute superstars may have a ‘+’ added so they are rated 10+. The overall rating is broken down to run and pass blocking for offensive linemen and run defending, pass defending and pass rush for all defensive players. 

All defensive players also have all their real life stats used, so their tackles, sacks, interceptions, passes defended etc are included. Special teams is the same so kickers, punters, and anyone who returns punts or kicks has their real life stats used. 

If you are still with me there are a few more factors that the GMs needed to factor in, namely durability, usage, and who you will be keeping for the following seasons as we replay all 10 1980s seasons up to 1989.

All players have a real life durability rating, so if you pick someone who in 1980 played all 16 regular season games they have a 10 durability rating. They play only 8 regular season contests their durability rating is 5 (out of 10). 

Many leagues that folks set up where they replay seasons or decades they have a salary cap (all players have a salary in the game) but I did not want this level of complexity with just 16 teams picking. Instead I set a rule that you can only keep a player for the next season if you use him for 50% of his real stats. So, for instance if you pick a player who had 50 catches in 1980 he would need to have 25 catches in 1980 to be kept on the roster for the 1981 season.

Picture credit: Gloriousa.com

The final rule for all teams is that you have to cut 10 (20%) of your roster at the end of each season to then be able to draft either rookies for the next season or any remaining veteran free agents. For anyone who remembers, the absolute monster rookie in 1981 was Lawrence Taylor (above), the once in a lifetime pass-rushing sensation, and star in both the Blind Side (real life) and Any Given Sunday (fiction). 

So with all teams named, mine being the Four Oaks Krakens, named after the mythical sea beast that Perseus has to defeat in Greek mythology, we hunkered down in our war rooms, got out the giant white-boards and bag of magnetised players names and began a 50-day draft, which was somewhat of a reassuring daily ritual during peak global lockdown. 

I bet you are wondering now who went first, and how the first few rounds played out, as teams grabbed their franchise studs for the decade, and revealed glimpses of how they would be building their team – an offensive masterclass? A defensive dynasty or a balanced team with no real weaknesses? 

The 1980 Draft – Round 1 to 5

Without further delay here is the results of Round 1: 

Picture credit: Cleatgeeks.com

ROUND 1 Results 
1.1 Boston Tea Baggers – Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton RB
1.2 Pine City Dragons – Joe ‘Joe Cool’ Montana QB
1.3 Washington Huskies- Earl Campbell RB
1.4 Detroit Silver-Rush- Tony Dorsett RB
1.5 Four Oaks Krakens – Art Monk WR
1.6 Conroe Crushers – Anthony Muñoz T 
1.7 Mount Dora Hurricanes – James Lofton WR
1.8 Sierra Madre Axemen – Steve Largent WR
1.9 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Dwight Clark WR
1.10 West Whiteland Wyrm- Randy White DT
1.11 Da Bru Cru – Lester Hayes CB
1.12 Dashwood Freeze – Dan Fouts QB
1.13 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Kellen Winslow TE
1.14 Wales Whales – Otis (OJ) Anderson RB
1.15 Montreal Alouettes – Danny White QB
1.16 Yakima Yaks – Mike Webster C

Round 1 Analysis

Nobody can deny running back Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton going number one, but it was a small surprise for those who expected quarterback Joe Montana (the person who this league is named after) to be the very first pick. 

Of all available RBs in 1980 Payton ended the decade with the most rushing yards (9800) and only trailed Eric Dickerson (11,226) in terms of all running backs in the entire 1980s. 

It took until pick 10 before a defensive player was selected, in the form of beastly DT Randy White who went to six consecutive Pro-Bowls and was named All-pro five times in the 80s. 

Art Monk – Photo credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

My own pick (1.5) was a tough call between two players – a head v heart decision. As a lifelong Redskins fan I wanted the person that led the entire decade in catches or the best offensive tackle of the 80s. I went heart as Art Monk’s 662 catches in the 80s were simply going to be more fun to replay on my team than the dominant blocking of Anthony Munoz, who as it turned out was selected with the very next pick. 

14 of 16 picks were on offense in Round 1 but just three quarterbacks.

Round 2 Results

2.1 Yakima Yaks – Fred Smerlas DT
2.2 Montreal Alouettes – Billy Sims RB
2.3 Wales Whales – John Hannah G
2.4 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Joe Theismann QB
2.5 Dashwood Freeze – William Andrews RB
2.6 Da Bru Cru – Dan Hampton DE
2.7 West Whiteland Wyrm – Mike Kenn OT
2.8 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Jack Lambert ILB
2.9 Sierra Madre Axemen – Ozzie Newsome TE
2.10 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Wes Chandler WR
2.11 Conroe Crushers – Gary Johnson DT
2.12 Four Oaks Krakens – Mark Gastineau DE
2.13 Detroit Silver-Rush – Jackie Slater G/T
2.14 Washington Huskies – Pat Thomas CB
2.15 Pine City Dragons – Randy Cross G 
2.16 Boston Tea Baggers – Mike Haynes CB

Round 2 Analysis

A lot more of a balanced round with seven defensive players, four offensive linemen and just one quarterback selected. 

I had a huge amount of choice, and like 75% of the league I realised I could wait a little bit longer before grabbing my franchise signal-caller. I decided to go defense, and by the time I picked it was going to be a big named defensive lineman or cornerback. Mark Gastineau was part of the ‘New York Sack Exchange’ of the early to mid 80s and his mullet and #99 shirt number are too hard to resist. Gastineau was in fact married to Brigette Nielsen. 

Picture credit: Independent.co.uk

Half of Round 2 was an offensive or defensive lineman, proving that the owners in large part know that if you are to build a quality team you have to have rock solid line play. Already you can see that this is not like a standard fantasy draft, this tests all your GM muscles more than a Joe Wicks workout on a wet Tuesday morning. 

The first member of the Bears famed 1985 ‘4T6’ defense went this round as Dan Hampton the DE became the first edge rusher to get picked in the draft. 

ROUND 3 Results
3.1 Boston Tea Baggers – Kent Hill G
3.2 Pine City Dragons – Jacob Green DE
3.3 Washington Huskies- Nolan Cromwell S
3.4 Detroit Silver-Rush- Al Baker DE
3.5 Four Oaks Krakens – Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski QB
3.6 Conroe Crushers – Gary Green CB
3.7 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Lynn Dickey QB
3.8 Sierra Madre Axemen – Dave Krieg QB
3.9 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Joe Cribbs RB
3.10 West Whiteland Wyrm – Steve Bartkowski QB
3.11 Da Bru Cru – Donnie Shell S
3.12 Dashwood Freeze – Mike Pruitt RB
3.13 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Pat Tilley WR
3.14 Wales Whales – Marvin Powell T
3.15 Montreal Alouettes – Stanley Morgan WR
3.16 Yakima Yaks – Clay Matthews OLB 

Round 3 Analysis

Round 3 and a quarter of teams decided enough was enough and grabbed a quarterback, myself included. Half the league have QBs by now and half are still hanging on for a bargain.

Many of you may know the rather chipmunk looking Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski as a member of the NFL media collective, who worked for many years on ESPN in various guises. Jaworski remains in the top 10 all-time for consecutive starts. His 116 game streak is the ninth most by a QB in NFL history, so you can see why I made the pick. For the first half of the decade I would not have to think about QB in a big way. 

Picture credit: Owen C, Shaw/Getty Images

You may have spotted Clay Matthews (above) went at pick 3.16. Yes this is the father of Clay Matthews Jr, who is still playing in the NFL today. 

Nolan Cromwell, a hard hitting quality tackling Rams veteran became the first safety to come off the board. Remember Ronnie Lott did not join the NFL until 1981. 

ROUND 4 Results
4.1 Yakima Yaks – Raymond Clayborn CB
4.2 Montreal Alouettes – Ted ‘Mad Stork’ Hendricks OLB
4.3 Wales Whales – Dwight Stephenson C
4.4 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Louis Wright CB
4.5 Dashwood Freeze – Alfred Jenkins WR
4.6 Da Bru Cru – Herbert Scott G
4.7 West Whiteland Wyrm – LeRoy Selmon DE
4.8 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Joe Ferguson QB
4.9 Sierra Madre Axemen – Tony Hill WR
4.10 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Ted Brown RB
4.11 Conroe Crushers – Charlie Joiner WR
4.12 Four Oaks Krakens – Harry Carson ILB
4.13 Detroit Silver-Rush – Ray Donaldson C/G
4.14 Washington Huskies -Brian Sipe QB
4.15 Pine City Dragons – Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones DE
4.16 Boston Tea Baggers – Gary Fencik S

Round 4 Analysis

Some delightfully named defenders went in Round 4, from the ‘Mad Stork’ to Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones (below), who stood at a towering 6ft 9 (206cm). 

Photo credit: Theundefeated.com

I wanted to keep my balanced approach and draft another defensive player here, one that would serve me well throughout the decade, with maximum games played at a high level from 1980-89. There were higher rated players to draft in 1980 but few had the complete decade consistency of inside linebacker Harry Carson, who went on to win a Super Bowl ring for the Giants. What you ay not know is that Carson was one of the inaugural ‘Gatorade shower’ instigators, having dumped the sticky stuff on head coach Bill Parcells.

The selection of Centre Dwight Stephenson was done with the future in mind. As a rookie Stephenson was rated just 4 (out of 10) but he goes on to play in 5 Pro Bowls and was an All Pro from 1984 to 1987. 

A second member of the 85 Bears went here with S Gary Fencik getting selected at 4.16. 

ROUND 5 Results
5.1 Boston Tea Baggers – Joe Klecko DT
5.2 Pine City Dragons – Rod Martin OLB
5.3 Washington Huskies- Lemar Parrish CB
5.4 Detroit Silver-Rush- Terry Bradshaw QB
5.5 Four Oaks Krakens – Ed Newman G
5.6 Conroe Crushers – Curtis Dickey RB
5.7 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Art Still DE
5.8 Sierra Madre Axemen – Rulon Jones DE
5.9 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Gary Barbaro S
5.10 West Whiteland Wyrm -Randy Gradishar ILB
5.11 Da Bru Cru – Robert Brazile OLB
5.12 Dashwood Freeze – Charlie Johnson DT
5.13 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Bob Baumhower DT
5.14 Wales Whales – Chuck Muncie RB
5.15 Montreal Alouettes – Matt Blair OLB
5.16 Yakima Yaks – Scott Studwell ILB

Round 5 Analysis 

12 defensive players go in Round 5, including 5 linebackers. One of those, Rod Martin (#53 below), had an incredible 3 interceptions in Super Bowl XV in 1981. 

Picture credit: Tony Tomsic via AP

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls in the 1970s went at pick 5.4. Bradshaw, who many of you will know from Fox TV’s NFL coverage, played 39 games in the 1980s but never replicated his monumental success from the Seventies.

I decided to start building my offensive line, grabbing former Dolphins G Ed Newman. Newman was a Pro-Bowler from 1981-84 and blocked for Dan Marino in his only Super Bowl appearance in early 1985. 

As you can see the league owners were all looking to build solid teams, with five more defensive linemen selected, including another member of the ‘New York Sack Exchange’ Dan Klecko. 

If people like this I will continue to analyse the top 20 rounds of the draft? 

Hit me up at @F10YRetro

One love or one big mistake? The first 10 years of the NFL Draft’s #1 pick (1936-1945)

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)


PART 1 – The First Ten Years


What do Chunk from ‘The Goonies’, O.J. Simpson, Myles Garrett and Peyton Manning all have in common? 

The fact they are memorable characters, or that they have created headlines for a plethora of different reasons, good, bad and downright mind-boggling?

Nope these four individuals are part of an unmistakable piece of NFL folklore as they all share the accolade of being the number one overall pick of an NFL draft. 

With the 2020 NFL Draft in jeopardy as a televised spectacle, still currently due to take place under the bright lights of Las Vegas, we could see a more ‘virtual’ draft, delivered by a series of satellite links. This would be eerily reminiscent of how it all began back in 1936, in front of absolutely no media. 

So how did it all begin? 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Sam Myers)

Funnily enough the team that won the Super Bowl a mere three seasons ago, the Philadelphia Eagles, were responsible for the introduction of a draft system, as opposed to a simple case of who had the largest cheque book and best sales patter. 

Eagles owner Bert Bell (above), tired of losing out on star College players to bigger teams, and sick of collusion whereby teams would give rights to players directly to other ‘chosen’ teams, decided there must be a way to make the signing of NCAA players much fairer. 

After protests from the then Boston Redskins owner George Preston-Marshall about an ‘exclusive’ deal between the Steelers and the Giants it was agreed in late 1934 that any player released in a season could be picked up in the order of worst to first records. 

This was taken one step further in 1935 when Eagles owner Bell proposed a drafting system for College players turning professional. The innovative idea was immediately and unanimously agreed upon, but not institutionalised until 1936. 

Rather coincidentally the 1935 Eagles finished with the NFL’s worst record, 2-9, and as if by magic they held the first pick in the inaugural NFL draft.

In fact the first NFL Draft took place at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, using 90 names scrawled on a blackboard, consisting of team recommendations, newspaper or magazine articles or lists and team visits to nearby colleges. 


Who was the first ever NFL Draft pick?

Photo Caption: News.medill.northwestern.edu

There have been 84 overall #1 picks in the NFL, going all the way back to 1936, when the inaugural honour went to Jay Berwanger, the gifted Iowa born running back. 

Berwanger was the star of the University of Chicago Maroons (now a Division III NCAA team). He was the first winner of the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy in 1935, an accolade that just 12 months later became the Heisman Trophy. Berwanger got the most votes, beating fellow Notre Dame back William Shakespeare to the trophy. 

Also a gifted track and field star during his college days, Berwanger held his Alma Mater’s decathlon record for over 70 years. 

Perhaps his most famous moment in college occurred in 1934, when he scarred Michigan opponent #48 just under his left eye. Nothing unusual considering the crude uniform of the day, but the recipient of the gash was none other than the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford. 

Selected number one in the first ever NFL Draft (1936) by the Philadelphia Eagles, Berwanger unfortunately never played a down in the NFL. The Eagles, fearful they could not pay the $1,000 game cheques, traded Berwanger to the nearby Chicago Bears. 

Berwanger, keen to represent the U.S.A as a decathlete at the upcoming 1936 Summer Olympic Games, to be held in Nazi ruled Germany, opted to leave his Bears contract unsigned so he could keep his ‘amateur’ sports status. 

His aspirations to emulate football and Olympic legend Jim Thorpe were dashed when he was not selected to travel to Europe that Summer, and subsequent negotiations with Bears owner George Halas never found a mutually agreed salary, so Berwanger never played a down in the NFL. 

He went on to become a manufacturer and journalist and famously gave his Heisman Trophy to his Aunt, who used it as a doorstop. Thankfully the trophy was recovered and is now in the University of Chicago Hall of Fame. 

Berwanger’s case was not at all unusual for the time as he was one of 57 of 81 draft selections in 1936 to elect not to play in the NFL. 


What happened in the first ten drafts (1936-1945) ? 

Photo Caption: Notre Dame Media Relations

Here are some fun facts about the first 10 years of NFL Drafts: 

  • Despite the Second World War taking place during this time (1939-45) a draft took place each year. 
  • The first 8 #1 picks were not quarterbacks. It wasn’t until 1944 that the first QB was taken, when the now defunct Boston Yanks, took Angelo Bertelli (pictured above). Angelo served as a Marine during and after WWII, and never played a down in the NFL, instead playing for two AAFC teams in the late 40s. 
  • 8 of the first 10 NFL #1 picks were running backs (6 halfbacks and 2 fullbacks)
  • Only one non skill player went #1 – Centre Ki Aldrich in 1939 to the Chicago  Cardinals. Aldrich was a two-time NFL All-Star. 
  • No defensive players went #1 in the first 10 NFL drafts.
  • In 1943 and then 1945 half-backs from Georgia went #1 overall. 

Who were the successes from the first 10 overall #1 picks? 

Aside from Centre Ki Aldrich there were two outstanding #1 picks, Bill Dudley, a running back chosen by the Steelers in 1942 and Charley Trippi, another backfield dynamo, selected by the Chicago Cardinals in 1945. 

Both Dudley and Trippi are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dudley enshrined in 1966 and then Trippi in 1968. 

in 1942 Dudley led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, and he added to his legend by passing for two scores, punting 18 times, and returned a total of 31 kicks, including going to the house on a kick return. 

Following two years of military service, including a remarkable 12-0 record for the 1944 Army Football team, Dudley returned to the NFL for 9 more season, accruing just under 4,500 total yards, 36 tds, 23 interceptions and made 50% of his 66 field goal attempts. 

Trippi left the NFL having accrued the most total yards in league history. He was also the first #1 pick to also become and NFL champion. In the 1947 NFL Championship he had a 44 yard rushing td and a 75 yard punt return td. 

His 5.1 yards per carry career average sits above the likes of Barry Sanders (5.0) and Adrian Peterson (4.7). 

One statistic above all about Trippi tops any yardage metric, as of March 2020 Charley is still alive, at the ripe old age of 98. 

True talent it seems can almost live forever. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the NFL’s #1 Pick F10YRetro recap. 

F10Y Retro Feature – Tom Rathman – The original #44

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

When the San Francisco 49ers scored their first touchdown in Super Bowl 54, it wasn’t mega-stud TE George Kittle, red-hot RB Raheem Mostert or even mid-season acquisition WR Emmanuel Sanders who broke the plane of the end-zone, it was a guy with a name that features two z’s, and we are not talking Buzz Lightyear. 

Photo credit: NBCSports.com

Kyle Juszczyk the premier fullback (FB) in the NFL was the scorer of that TD. Resplendent in a #44 shirt Juszczyk could have gone on to score a second, but even if he had it would not have won the game for his beloved 49ers. 

Exactly 30 years prior to Juszczyk’s heroics the 49ers were in the Super Bowl, their fourth, and coincidentally their fullback wore #44 too. In fact that #44, a Mr Thomas Dean Rathman, went on to eclipse Juszczyk’s feat by scoring not one, but two touchdowns of his own.

The game, Super Bowl XXIV, ended up at the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history as the 49ers destroyed the John Elway led Denver Broncos 55-10. 

Turned out for Tom Rathman that in his 14 career playoff games he never again had two scores, and never topped the 11 bone-shattering carries he was given by Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana on that remarkable day in New Orleans. 

So who exactly was Tom Rathman? 


Photo credit: ksnblocal4.com

Born in 1962 in Grand Islands, Nebraska, a city of under 50,000 residents, Tom went to his local high school, Grand Island Senior High. This was an honour he shared with another boy who went on to become the 10th heaviest recorded human being in history. 

Rathman was an excellent high-jumper, once clearing a distance of 6 feet 7 inches, but he was most at home in high-school running the football for the Islanders, so much so he earned a place at the University of Nebraska.

Rathman joined the Cornhuskers in 1981, but only saw limited action as a freshman, gaining 20 yards on four carries. A power running team, Nebraska’s backfield in the early 80s was led by Roger Craig (more to come later) and Mike Rozier, who went on to play in the USFL and then the NFL for 8 seasons. 

After redshirting in 1982 Rathman benefitted from a fortunate proverbial bounce of the ball a year later when the team’s starting fullback Doug Wilkening quit the team, allowing Tom to avoid the possibility of being converted to a tight-end. 

The 1983 Cornhuskers had a remarkable season, Rathman was lead blocker for Mike Rozier, who as a senior rushed for 2,148 yards and went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Nebraska reached the College National Championship Game, losing 31-30 to ‘The U’ – the Miami Hurricanes. 

Rathman averaged 5.5 a carry that season on his rare handoffs and scored his first college TD (a catch), and like most fullbacks he spent most of the season blocking, in fact in the College Championship he didn’t touch the ball. 

With Rozier gone Rathman entered his junior season in 1984, and again his carries went up, gaining 381 yards on 75 carries with 4 scores, but 0 catches. 

Photo credit: Richard Voges/Nebraska Football

The Cornhuskers lost two games, but won the Sugar Bowl against LSU, running the ball 59 times for 280 yards. Rathman had 2 carries for 8 yards in the victory. 

In his senior season (1985) Rathman’s draft stock shot up, and he was billed as the top fullback in the country after gaining 881 yards, at 7.5 a pop, plus 8 scores. Nebraska lost in the Fiesta Bowl to Michigan to cap off a 9-3 season. Behind the blunt force trauma blocking by Rathman, Nebraska ran for 304 yards in the Bowl game, Tom himself gaining 47 yards in the showcase contest. 

RATHMAN REACHES THE NFL

The 49ers 1986 Draft was one of the best negotiated and choreographed masterpieces of tactical execution in NFL history. 

San Francisco head coach Bill Walsh, who had won Super Bowls following the 1981 and 1984 season was reeling after a 1985 Wild-Card loss to the Giants. 

Walsh wanted to come out of the ’86 draft with an improved secondary, a devastating pass-rusher and blocking fullback, to lead the way for Roger Craig, who was fresh from becoming the first RB in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a regular season. 

Moving around the draft like a chess grandmaster Walsh traded away an acquired first round pick to the Buffalo Bills to pile up picks in the middle rounds, including the first pick of the 3rd round. With that 56th pick the 49ers selected Tom Rathman. 

Despite only watching footage of Rathman once Coach Walsh said:

“I saw Rathman take a screen pass, break two or three tackles physically and run 60 yards. He was an absolutely terrific blocker, and the thing we’d never had was the massive blocking fullback. I knew Rathman could be that player.”

The 49ers draft class of 1986 included DE Charles Hayley (4th Rd) who is now in the Hall of Fame, CBs Tim McKyer (12 season is the NFL) and Don Griffin (11 seasons in the NFL), WR John Taylor, and T Steve Wallace. Between just these six (including Rathman) their careers combined for 18 Super Bowl winners rings. 

As a rookie Rathman suffered from some training camp fumbles, and feared he would be cut, however by the time his nine-year NFL career was concluded he only lost the pigskin 7 times. 

Picture credit: 49ers.com

Now reunited with former college backfield team-mate Roger Craig, Rathman was going to become a significant feature in Bill Walsh’s final three seasons coaching. 

Tom’s first two NFL seasons ended in crushing playoff defeats, firstly a devastating 49-3 loss to the Giants and then in 1987 a huge shock defeat to the visiting Minnesota Vikings. 

In his first two seasons Rathman ran for just under 400 yards, and although big and bruising, it was found he had soft hands, catching 43 passes in a West Coast offense that would not simply carry a blocking back. He missed 4 games in 1987, but would not miss a start over the next four years. 

The 1988 49ers finished the regular season a rather middling 10-6, but went on to win their third Vince Lombard Trophy, a second win over the Bengals. Rathman led the way for Roger Craig to go All Pro with 1,502 rushing yards – Craig’s career best. 

Photo credit: 49ers.pressdemocrat.com

Rathman himself had 427 yards rushing and 42 catches for just under 400 yards in ’88. He touched the ball six times for 39 yards in Super Bowl XXIII, and narrowly missed scoring a second quarter rushing touchdown, a David Fulcher tackle preventing end-zone glory. 

Following the emotional retirement of Coach Walsh, the 1989 49ers, under recently promoted defensive coordinator George Seifert, and offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, gained revenge against the Vikings from 1987, blowing them away in the playoffs en-route to their fourth Super Bowl title, a blow out beatdown of the Denver Broncos.

Rathman led all NFC running backs with 73 catches, but just one TD, adding a second score on the ground alongside 305 rushing yards. Tom had 11 carries in the Super Bowl and turned them into two scores. 

His first came in the second quarter, a 1 yard dive to cap a 14 play drive where he caught three Joe Montana passes for 39 yards, as well as converting a 4th and 1 at the Broncos 3-yard line. 

Photo credit: Focus On Sport, Getty Images

Rathman’s second score in the final period extended the 49ers lead to 36, a three yard dive, in what would turn out to be his final touch of a ball in a Super Bowl. 

An unsung hero, Rathman went on to play a further 55 games for the 49ers, winning a grand total of 7 division titles in 8 seasons. Whilst his trophy cabinet was bulging as a valued team-mate he never gained any individual recognition in his playing days, failing to make a Pro Bowl roster or an All Pro team. 

Rathman played his final season in 1994 for Art Shell and the Los Angeles Raiders, failing to find paydirt for the only time in his 9 seasons in the NFL. 

What happened after Rathman retired? 

Having sacrificed his body for almost a decade Rathman hung up his helmet and immediately went into coaching, spending 1995-96 as an RB coach at high school level and then OC for the Menlo College Oaks in California. 

The 49ers came calling in 1997 and Rathman was reunited with the red and gold colours as RB coach, a role he served until 2002. Rathman coached RB Garrison Hearst to three 1,000+ yard rushing seasons, including a team record 1,570 in 1998, to eclipse Roger Craig’s 1988 team record (where Rathman paved the way). 

Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Following two seasons out of the league due to a potentially career ending medical condition Hearst returned in 2001, and thanks in part to Rathman became the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. 

Rathman accompanied 49ers coach Steve Marriuchi (yes that crazy one on NFL Network) to Michigan and the Detroit Lions in 2003. With minimal talent Rathman helped RB Kevin Jones have his only 1,000 yard season as a rookie in 2004. 

Missing the West Coast Rathman spent 2006-08 with the Raiders, still as RB coach. With an equally inept roster as the Lions Rathman helped Huggy Bear’s (character from the original Starsky and Hutch TV series) son to lead the Raiders in rushing three seasons in a row, including his only 1,000 yard season (2007). 

Rathman then moved up the road and back to the 49ers for a second stint with the 49ers, from 2009-16, surviving four head-coaching moves (Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly). 

In the 2012 season Rathman coached in his first Super Bowl, a 3-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens. This was Frank Gore’s only Super Bowl and Rathman coached Gore to 110 yards rushing and a touchdown to lead all players in the game. 

Photo credit: Matt Kryger/Indy Star

Following the arrival of Kyle Shanahan in 2017 Rathman was cut loose by the Niners, and after a year out he was hired as RB coach by the Indianapolis Colts just under two years ago. Colts RB Marlon Mack had his first 1,000 yard season under Rathman’s tuition in 2019. 

2020 and beyond for Rathman 

Having spent 30 seasons playing and coaching in the NFL, 23 for the 49ers, it’s time for Rathman to move into a more senior coaching role, as a head coach or offensive coordinator at the very least. 

Maybe Rathman has been offered promotions but just loves to coach running backs, somewhat symbolic of the sacrificial role he had on the field, one where his reward was not so much glory, rather executing a pancake block or helping to find a tiny crease for a star half-back to get that crucial first-down. 

Millennial 49ers fans will only recognise Kyle Juszczyk as their favourite #44, but before him, paving the way for his team-mates, putting his body on the line against octopus-armed speed rushers, sledgehammer safeties and missile focused middle linebackers was San Francisco’s original #44 – Tom Rathman. 

Photo credit: 49ers.com

I’ll leave you with a recent intense quote from Coach Rathman, who was inducted to the 49ers Hall of Fame in 2017 (above):

“If you have the ball in your hands, you’re not only carrying yourself and your family, but the whole organization. The entire franchise is in your hands.” 

Follow Lawrence at @F10yRetro on Twitter for more blasts from the NFL past.

Season in review – New York Giants

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

In a decade that included earning their fourth Vince Lombardi trophy the New York Giants only won a single NFC East crown and had 4 winning seasons. How would they finish the 2010s? 


Entering the season


Having finished dead last in their division in 2017 and 2018 it was time for some significant changes if Big Blue was going to emulate its predecessors. 

Photo credit: Anthony J. Causi (N.Y. Post)

In possession of the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkey, a top three fantasy pick, the Giants were looking to begin the NFLs 100th season in a much better way than 1-7 (as they did in 2017 and 2018). 

The Giants bid farewell to a number of big names, WR Odell Beckham Jr and LB Olivier Vernon going to Cleveland by trade and S Landon Collins departing in free agency to divisional rivals Washington. The only veteran names of any significance coming into the team were WR Golden Tate and G Kevin Zeitler.

Without doubt the biggest offseason transaction for the G-Men was their first round draft pick (#6) Daniel Jones. Ridiculed by draftniks across the globe for selecting the former Duke standout so early, head coach Pat Shurmer and GM Dave Gettleman knew the writing was already on the wall for veteran QB Eli Manning. 

Ending up with three first round selections, the Giants made two more conventional early picks, grabbing DT Dexter Lawrence at #17 and CB Deandre  Baker at #30 to try and immediately improve a weak defense. They also picked up WR Darius Slayton in the 5th round. 

Reggie White Jr, son of legendary Hall of Fame DE Reggie White was signed as an UDFA but was cut before the season started, before earning a place on the Giants practice squad. 

Photo credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Would this be the final season we would see double Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning suiting up in the Big Apple? Could Saquon move onwards and upwards? Could the Giants find some defensive consistencey? 


During the season


Despite going undefeated in the Preseason the Giants began the 2019 regular season in familiar fashion with two consecutive losses. In both defeats Saquon rushed for over 100 yards. 

With the season outlook already starting to turn dark Coach Shurmer made the bold move to bench Eli Manning for only the second time in his career (the first being for Geno Smith in 2017). 

Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In Eli’s place was rookie Daniel Jones, who despite harsh criticism, managed to win his first two NFL starts against Tampa Bay and Washington. Jones threw for 336 yards and two scores in his debut, but had a tougher outing against the Redskins, tossing two picks. 

The small taste of success was then turned into as much fun as licking an Amazonian tree frog for Giants fans as the team went on a nine-game losing skid, a franchise record defeat streak, last performed in 1976 when the team introduced the word ‘Giants’ on the sides of their helmets. 

Saquon Barkley missed Weeks 4-6 with an injury, and didn’t have his third 100+ yard rushing performance until Week 14, which coincidentally happened to be the next time the Giants won a a game, having not won a single contest in October or November. 

The two December wins, against the Dolphins at home and then on the road in Landover, Maryland was enough to leave the Giants with a 4-12 record, and the smallest of moral victories, having finished the season 3rd in the NFC East.


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A few side notes on another season without a sniff of the postseason included Eli Manning, in his final contest of the season, and his career, leaving the league on a winning note, a week 15 triumph against Miami, and the cutting of CB Janoris Jenkins for calling a fan a ‘retard’ on social media. 

After their 12th loss, a Week 17 defeat to the Eagles, Giants brass sacked head coach Pat Shurmer, who accumulated a poor 9-23 record in two seasons in charge. 

Team leaders for the Giants included Markus Golden (10 sacks), Janoris Jenkins (4 interceptions), and rookie Darius Slayton (receiving yards – 740 and touchdowns – 8). Kicker Aldrick Rosas did himself no favours missing 29% of his field goal attempts and failing on 4 point after touchdowns.


Offseason outlook 


Photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran

Much in the same way that NFL experts were scratching their dandruff ridden scalps after the Giants selected QB Daniel Jones at 6 overall in the 2019 draft there were similar flake inducing moments when they announced Joe Judge as the new head coach. 

Judge, only 38, has an astonishing track record, winning two College championships with Alabama (2009 and 2011) and three Super Bowl winners rings as a special teams coach with the New England Patriots. This will be his first ever head coaching job. 

In other franchise altering news Eli Manning retired in late January 2020, ending 16 seasons of NFL gameplay, taking with him two rings, the same number as his big brother Peyton.

The Giants have lots of work to do everywhere in 2020 having failed to muster a single Pro-Bowl player for the 2019 season, the first time they failed to send someone somewhere sunny since the mid-90s. 

Photo credit: Newsday.com

Building blocks will include QB Daniel Jones, who rode out a torrid rookie season with three wins and over 3,000 yards passing and DT Dexter Lawrence (pictured above), who made the PFWA All-Rookie starting lineup.

This is a very young team, with no big names on defense, no 1,000 yard receivers, no Pro Bowlers and no big prospects in 2020. 

They do pick high again, this time at #4 overall and will likely be targeting a playmaking speed rushing defender or the best CB or S available. The team need to target WR, CB and LB in free agency.

The jury is out already and the verdict is not good for Coach Judge in 2020.

Season in review – Washington Redskins

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

The three time Super Bowl winners finished the decade without a single playoff victory and only three post-season games. 2019 turned out to be yet another disaster, as Chucky’s little bro had the locks changed when he wasn’t looking.


Entering the season 


This was not going to be an easy season for the Redskins to do anything meaningful. Two previous 7-9 seasons and 3rd place NFC East finishes were no great cause for optimism, and head coach Jay Gruden was many tipsters favourite as the first HC to get the axe after just 35 wins and one playoff appearance in five full seasons in charge. 

The team traded back up into the 1st round of the 2019 draft to acquire DE/OLB Montez Sweat after selecting their fourth 1st round QB this century, in the form of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Haskins would be competing with veteran free agent acquisition Case Keenum, who came from the Broncos for a 6th round pick this year. Veteran QB Alex Smith was still recovering from a horror leg break and was a huge outside shot to play a single snap. 

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Elsewhere the ‘Skins brought in FA safety Landon Collins (above) from divisional rivals the New York Giants, and moved on from some big, but not superstar names, including WR Jamison Crowder (Jets) and Preston Smith (Packers). 

The running back situation was filled with optimism as second year back Derrius Guice managed to survive the pre-season intact and was hoping to make a big impact ahead of future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, who signed a two-year deal.

Wide receiver was the team’s huge weakness, having released former first rounder Josh Doctson, carrying an injured and inconsistent but expensive Paul Richardson along with zero impact free agent signings, leaving the likes of Trey Quinn, and two rookies, Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon, to try and make some sort of impact. 

The biggest single issue in Washington, as the 2019 season was about to begin, was the holdout of stud 7-time Pro Bowler OT Trent Williams, who fell out with the team following surgery he had on his head to remove a cancerous growth, claiming the team medical staff did not take his concerns seriously. 


During the season 


Up 17-0 in Week 1, on the road against the 2018 Super Bowl champion Eagles, and Redskins fans were in a state of euphoria, but the defense, much as it would be for the entire season, collapsed, as former star WR Desean Jackson scored on two bombs as Philly pulled off a 32-27 win. 

Picture credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Things got worse as the Redskins slid to 0-5, including three home losses, under Coach Gruden and Case Keenum. Keenum was benched Week 4 for rookie Dwayne Haskins (above), but he too failed to create a spark, throwing three interceptions in his first game action against the Giants.

The big but inevitable move then happened as Jay Gruden was fired before Week 6, replaced by former Raiders Super Bowl losing coach Bill Callahan, who took the job on an interim basis. In a battle between to 0-5 teams Callahan and the Redskins eeked out a 17-16 win in Miami against the Fitzmagic led Dolphins. The Redskins stopped a 2-point conversion with six seconds left to get win number one. 

The single win was not built on as four consecutive losses followed, with just 35 points scored in the four contests, including a 0-9 home shutout to the San Francisco 49ers in a quagmire. 

Standing at 1-8 after 10 weeks the Redskins somehow managed to put together a two-game win streak, under rookie QB Dwayne Haskins in just hs third and fourth career starts. The victories against the Lions and Panthers turned out to be the last notes in the win column for the 2019 Redskins. 

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Bizarrely entering Week 14 the Redskins were still in playoff contention at 3-9, due to the ineptitude of the rest of the NFC East, but that dream died in a 5 point loss to the Green Bay Packers. 

The season ended with three consecutive divisional games, three consecutive divisional defeats, including a 47-16 humiliation by the Dallas Cowboys to end a miserable season. 

Finishing 3-13 the Redskins managed to rank 31st in the NFL, finished bottom of the NFC East and the NFC as a conference, and as a result ‘won’ the 2nd overall pick in the 2020 draft. Redskins OT Trent Williams didn’t take a snap, the team lost all six divisional games, and they ended the season without a permanent head coach. 

Photo credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In a grave season there were few signs of life, with the exceptions being punter Tress Way (above), who became the NFC Pro Bowl starter and second-team All-Pro, and rookie 3rd Round pick Terry McLaurin having an outstanding year (58-919-7tds) and a place on the PFWA All-Rookie team.    


Offseason outlook 


The Redskins made a lightning quick move to get a new head coach in place, hiring former Panthers boss Ron Rivera to lead the team on New Years Day. Accompanying Rivera as defensive coordinator was another former NFL linebacker, in the form of Jack Del Rio, who served time as the Jaguars head coach. Bill Callahan is now back coaching the offensive line, and will be with the Cleveland Browns in 2020.

With the number two pick in the draft many experts are projecting Ohio State’s EDGE Chase Young as the obvious pick to make, after the 20 year old set a team record with 16.5 sacks in 2019. The Redskins will be hoping to emulate the success the 49ers had drafting a Buckeye at number two, namely Nick Bosa. 

After round one the Redskins need to target a tight end and secondary upgrades. With TE Vernon Davis retired, and TE Jordan Reed about as stable as a polystyrene statue, Washington need a blocking and receiving playmaker in the mould of former h-back Chris Cooley. 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The quarterback situation is not locked in. Dwayne Haskins will be entering his second offseason, under his second head coach, and therefore no loyalty. With an absolute plethora of free agents available the Redskins will likely avoid a big name as they kick the tyres very gently on Alex Smith (above) who will be 36, but still under contract. 

The strength on paper, the defensive line, is not living up to it’s draft position as Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have been gashed by running backs and need to go back to basics to tackle harder. 

In a division with Saquon Barkley, Zeke Elliot and rising star Miles Sanders, the Redskins need to beef up the front seven. One name to look out for that may finally get some award recognition in 2020 is DT Matt Ioannidis, who ended 2019 with 8.5 sacks. 

Even the most optimistic Redskins fan will only be reaching for mediocrity in 2020. 8-8 would be an acceptable finish, and in the NFC East that could win a division crown. 

Full10Yards – 54 facts for Super Bowl LIV

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

Some known, some unknown and some complete random facts for you to consume during Super Bowl weekend.

The 49ers and Chiefs have met only 13 times. The 49ers lead the series 7-6, but they have only won one of the last four meetings. 

The teams last met in Week 3 of the 2018 season, the Chiefs winning 38-27. Mahomes and Garoppolo combined for 5 TD passes, 0 ints and 565 passing yards. 

In 2006 the Chiefs beat the 49ers 41-0, the only time either team was shutout in a H2H matchup. The 49ers leading rusher that day was Frank Gore, who is still active with the Buffalo Bills. 

Picture credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

#54 for the San Francisco 49ers is LB Fred Warner who had 89 regular season tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and a pick. 

#54 for the Kansas City Chiefs is LB Damien Wilson who had 7 tackles in the AFC Championship win over the Tennessee Titans.

The 54th ranked all-time passing yard record holder is Brad Johnson with 29,054 yards. Johnson won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the day he passed for 215 yards and two TDs. 

Green Bay Packers legendary QB opened up the scoring in Super Bowl XXXI with a 54 yard bomb to WR Andre ‘Bad Moon’ Rison. 

The first Super Bowl MVP to wear the #54 shirt was the Dallas Cowboys LB Chuck Howley, winning Super Bowl V to conclude the 1970 season.

The only other Super Bowl MVP to wear #54 was another Cowboys defended DT Randy White. White was also the only joint MVP winner, sharing the honours with DE Harvey Martin in Super Bowl XII

Photo credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Two teams with predominantly red uniforms have never faced each other in the Super Bowl. The 49ers will wear white on Sunday and the Chiefs keep their Pantone PMS 186C red shirts on. 

In the past 15 Super Bowls the team wearing the white jerseys has won 13 times. The only exceptions have been the 2018 Eagles (green) and the 2011 Packers (also green). 

Exactly 11 players in NFL history have scored exactly 54 touchdowns. Active players with this number are WRs DeAndre ‘Nuke’ Hopkins and Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had 109 yards receiving and a score for the 49ers the last time they went to the Super Bowl (in 2013).

Super Bowl XIX was won by the 49ers over the Dan Marino led Miami Dolphins. The total amount of points scored…….54. 

The Philadelphia Eagles shocked the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LII. The two teams combined for a record number of first downs….yes you guessed it 54. 

54 seasons ago The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers in the first ever Super Bowl. They scored only 10 points. The lone field goal they scored was with 0:54 seconds left in the first half. They were shutout in the second half. 

Picture credit: Chiefs.com

The greatest Chiefs player to wear the #54 jersey was OG Brian Waters, who played between 2000 and 2010. The undrafted free agent earned 5 Pro Bowl nods and two All-Pro selections. 

The greatest 49ers player to wear #54 was LB Lee Woodall who won Super Bowl XXIX, was selected to two Pro Bowls and had 88 career starts.

Whilst he spent the majority of his career in Oakland winning two Super Bowls, LB Matt Millen won a third ring for the San Francisco 49ers (XXIV) wearing the #54 shirt. 

In a Super Bowl XXXVIII loss to the Dallas Cowboys the Buffalo Bills K Steve Christie kicked the longest big game field goal – 54 yards. It is still the record for a Super Bowl game.

Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2018 AFC Championship Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins burned the New England Patriots All-Pro CB Stefon Gilmore for a……54 yard catch. The Chiefs lost the game. 

1973 was the 54th NFL season. O.J. Simpson (the 1969 number one draft pick) became the first 2,000 yard rusher that season. 

Chariots of Fire won the Best Picture Oscar at the 54th Academy Awards. It is a sports film based on two highly skilled athletes competing against each other to become a world champion. 

The 54th largest country in the world is Cameroon. Former Eagles linebacker Moise Fokou was born in Cameron. 

If you are in Miami for the Super Bowl you can head to 54th Street for some tasty Haitian food at Chex Le Bebe. 

Picture credit: Michael Reaves / Getty Images

The Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (right) led all TE in catches and yards in 2019 – 97-1229. His 49ers rival TE George Kittle (left) was one of only two other TE to go over 1k (1,053). Both TE had 5 TDs a piece

The 49ers have 5 Super Bowl wins, and a win on Sunday will see them join the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots with six Vince Lombardi trophies. They would become the first NFC team with six Super Bowls. 

The largest gap between playing in two Super Bowls is 50 years – held by the Chiefs, who’s last appearance was in Super Bowl IV. 

In their only Super Bowl win the Kansas City Chiefs QB Len Dawson completed just 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and one 46 yard 3rd quarter touchdown. 

Joe Montana won four Super Bowls as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. In all four games, four wins, he did not throw a single interception. 

Montana in fact went on to end his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, losing the 1993 AFC Championship agains the Buffalo Bills. Montana suffered a concussion in the game and was replaced by Dave Krieg. 

Picture credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

If Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win he would be the second youngest winner in 54 seasons, only trailing ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger who won SB XL aged just 23. 

The most passing yards in a players first 8 career games is 2,507 by Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Surprisingly the fourth all time yardage is 2,277 by 49ers current backup QB Nick Mullens. Mullens 2019 stats – just 3 rushes for -3 yards. 

Chiefs backup QB Matt Moore wen 1-1 in relief of Patrick Mahomes in 2019. Moore has made one playoff start for the Miami Dolphins, an 18 point loss to the Steelers, in January 2017. 

Chiefs late 2019 acquisition EDGE Terrell Suggs and P Dustin Colquitt, along with 49ers K Robbie Gould are the oldest players to enter Super Bowl LIV – All aged 37. 

For Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt, in his 15th season as a Chiefs starter, it will be a chance to emulate the achievement of his father Craig, who won two rings punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The youngest player at Super Bowl LIV will be rookie WR and return ace Mecole Hardman who will not be 22 until March 12. He is the only 21 yard old playing in Miami. 

The Chiefs name came from a public naming competition, set by owner Lamar Hunt after he moved the team from Dallas where they we know as the Texans. 

The 49ers, named after the West Coast 1849 gold rush, were the first professional sports franchise to be based in San Francisco. They began life in 1947 in the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC). 

The 49ers have 27 players, coaches or officials in the Hall of Fame. The Chiefs have 22. 

The Chiefs have had one NFL MVP in their history, Patrick Mahomes in 2018. The 49ers have had five winners, split between three QBs – John Brodie (1970), Joe Montana (1989 and 1990) and Steve Young (1992 and 1994). 

Super Bowl 54 will be the 10th Super Bowl hosted by Miami. Five took place in the Orange Bowl and the more recent five in the stadium that has changed its name 4 times. 

On Sunday Katie Sowers becomes the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl. Katie, an offensive assistant for the 49ers, is already a world champion having lifted the IFAF Women’s World Championship in 2013 as a player. 

Picture credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid delivered the best quote of the Super Bowl week when asked about his relationship with his nine grandchildren. He said “They keep you young and at the same time make you feel old. It’s kind of like sweet and sour pork.”

Only one player has ever won three consecutive Super Bowls. That honour goes to LB Ken Norton Jr, who won his third ring with the 49ers in 1995 after gaining two with the Dallas Cowboys. 

The most Super Bowl TD passes scored in a half is 4. The record is held by the Redskins Doug Williams and the 49ers Steve Young.

The most career Super Bowl receptions (33) and yards (589) is held by 49ers legend Jerry Rice. Rice played in 3 finals for San Fran and one for the Oakland Raiders. 

With only two previous visits the Chiefs own very few individual Super Bowl player records. One they do hold is punting average, set by P Jerrel Wilson, standing at 46.5 a boot in 11 kicks

The 49ers have allowed the Super Bowl’s longest ever scoring play, a 108 yard kickoff return by the Ravens Jacoby Jones in SB XLVII. 

In fact the 49ers have allowed three kickoff return touchdowns in Super Bowls (Andre Coleman, Jacoby Jones and Stanford Jennings). 

Photo credit: Mike Powell

The most combined points in a Super Bowl is 75, as the 49ers put up seven touchdowns in a ’49’ 26 win against the San Diego Chargers. Steve Young threw six touchdown passes.

The most converted field goals in a Super Bowl is 4. This has been done twice, once by Ray Wersching for the 49ers in SBXVI and once by the Packers Don Chandler in SBII. 

Before their Super Bowl loss to the Ravens the 49ers owned the lowest Super Bowl win streak with 5 consecutive victories. 

The 1989 49ers set the Super Bowl record for points with 55. They scored 13, 14,14,14 by quarter. The game featured six future Hall of Famers, five on the 49ers roster. 

In the Chiefs only Super Bowl win they did not allow any first half or fourth quarter points. The team they beat, the Minnesota Vikings totalled 67 rushing yards. 

F10Y Retro – The 1981 49ers – The season that launched a dynasty

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

Sometimes legacies begin with a big bang, sometimes however they start without even a fizzle. 

Back in the Spring of 1977 Eddie De Bartolo Sr bought a present for his 31 year old son of the same name. It wasn’t a car or even a house, it was an NFL franchise – the San Francisco 49ers team in fact. 

From 1977 to 1979 the 49ers won just 9 of 46 games as they went through four different head coaches, finally settling on former Stanford College coach Bill Walsh. 

James Lofton in Canton – Picture credit: Raiders.com

Walsh was given the opportunity with the 49ers in part for his outstanding job nurturing offensive talent at Stanford including future 10-year pro RB Darrin Nelson and future Hall of Famer WR James Lofton, who caught two TD passes for the Cardinals in their 1977 Sun Bowl victory over LSU. 

The 1977 49ers started their season 0-5 and finished 5-9 with QB Jim Plunkett, a 1976 trade acquisition from the New England Patriots. Plunkett would go on to be released by the Niners in the 1978 preseason, before being picked up as a backup by the Oakland Raiders. Plunkett would go on to win not one but two Super Bowl rings as the Raiders starter in the early 1980s. 

San Francisco 49ers Jim Plunkett (16) right, and O. J. Simpson (32) Photo credit: AP

After jettisoning Plunkett, San Francisco made the bold move to sign the 70s biggest named running back, none other than O.J. Simpson, a West Coast native. The Simpson move was a disaster as he only scored one rushing TD in 1978 and he had his career low YPC of 3.7. The team set a then record of 63 turnovers in a season, not surprisingly a record that still stands today. 

In 1979 the 49ers repeated their paltry 2-14 record as they had achieved the season before, but there were good signs, as the team set an NFL record as the only team to lost 12 games in a season where they had the lead. Somehow the incredible patience the 49ers owner Eddie De Bartolo Jr showed, by keeping head coach Bill Walsh with the team, was soon to be rewarded.  

1979 was also the year the 49ers took a QB in the 3rd round of the draft to back up their starter. After trading their 1st round pick to Buffalo for O.J. Simpson, a pick that turned out to be the #1 overall pick, they went with Cowboys 1977 10th round pick Steve DeBerg as their starter, and he ended up leading the league in attempts and completions. Like Plunkett, DeBerg would go on to complete a prolific NFL career, passing for over 34,000 yards, playing his last game aged 44 for the Atlanta Falcons. 

DeBerg (17) and Montana (16) in 1979 – Pic credit: Pinterst

The rookie QB drafted by Walsh in 1979 made one start as a rookie, in a Week 14 loss to the St Louis Cardinals. He would go on to wrestle the seating job away from DeBerg in the middle of his second season in 1980. The QBs name – Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. 

Montana started 7 games in 1980, winning only 2 games, but his cool play, and high completion rate was enough to convince Coach Walsh that he had a future star commanding his teams huddle. A 64.5% completion rate 40 years ago was quite remarkable. 

After improving to 6-10 in 1980 and beginning to play a new breed of short passing possession sustaining football opposing teams got a taste of the next decade but no-one was prepared for what was to happen just one season later. 

Picture credit: Newsmax.com

With Joe Montana installed as the starter from Week 1 the 1981 49ers looked to be reverting to type, losing two of their first three games, including defeats on the road to the Lions and the Falcons. The Niners then tore off a 7 game win streak to enter Week 11 at 8-2. 

A 15-12 Week 11 defeat to the Cleveland Browns, where the 49ers failed to score a touchdown, turned out to be their last defeat of the entire season. 

The 49ers, led by a fresh but impactful rookie secondary of Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Willamson, went on the rampage to finish off the regular season 13-3, forcing a season high 6 turnovers agains the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.

In the divisional playoffs Montana and Co. beat a New York Giants team led by the lesser known QB Scott Brunner, in what turned out to be Brunner’s second and last post-season game of his career. 

A second home playoff game ensued, the NFC Championship against the Dallas Cowboys, made remarkable by the fact it was the the first time in franchise history they hosted two consecutive playoff contests.

The game itself is part of NFL folklore as it featured ‘The Catch’, a Joe Montana touchdown hookup to fellow 1979 draftee WR Dwight Clark to tie up the game in the final period. The Ray Wersching extra point making the ultimate difference in a 28-27 thriller. 

Two weeks later the 49ers met up for a second time with the Cincinnati Bengals, as both teams, playing in their inaugural NFL title game met in Super Bowl XVI in the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. 

Personifying the West Coast ‘1,000 paper cuts’ offense Montana remained patient after leading the Niners to a first quarter 7-0 lead, capped by his 1 yard rushing score. In the second Montana found prolific pass catching full back Earl Mitchell for an 11 yard score. Two more Wersching field goals later and San Francisco had a commanding 20-0 half-time lead. 

The Bengals fought back to 20-14 behind Ken Anderson’s rushing score and 4 yard hookup to TE Dan Ross in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but the 49ers offensive machine went back to work and Wersching kicked his third and fourth field goals, before Anderson found Ross to bring the game within 5, but it was in vain, as the 49ers took the victory and began a dynasty that would dominate the 1980s. 

Picture caption: 49ers.com

Montana won the MVP, courtesy of his 157 passing yards, one rushing score and zero interceptions. Ken Anderson for the Bengals almost doubled Joe’s passing output and threw one more score, but he was picked off twice, once by rookie Eric Wright and once by 4th year safety Dwight Hicks. 

In a strike shortened 1982 season the 49ers went 3-6, but they more than made up for it by the end of the decade, winning a further three Vince Lombardi trophies, all with Joe Montana at QB. 

In an era where teams can transform their fortunes in a 12 month period it was the 49ers who showed that with patience, precision passing and some exquisite drafting anything is possible. 

Fast forward 40 seasons, from when Montana was drafted, and the 49ers are back for their seventh crack at a Super Bowl title. 

Can the 49ers strike gold and join the Steelers and Patriots on Sunday as the only teams to start their Super Bowl ring collection on a second hand? Can’t wait to find out.