Warren Moon agrees with Rush Limbaugh on this much, at least. The progress of African-American quarterbacks in the NFL has been a media-driven issue.
“It’s a story we didn’t necessarily ask for,” Moon said Thursday afternoon. “In a thousand interviews, we were asked about being black quarterbacks.”
The screaming match that followed Limbaugh’s ill-conceived September remarks about the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb drowned out any more thoughtful discussion about this. Maybe that’s possible now that things have calmed down.
…Just as it was important to note that Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play major-league baseball, it has been important to mark the milestones of African Americans in the signature position of quarterback. That’s why Moon and a handful of others, including former Eagle Randall Cunningham, formed an organization called the Field Generals.
…Moon was joined by living links in the chain: Marlin Briscoe, the first black QB to start in the league during modern times; James Harris, the first to start a playoff game; Doug Williams, the first to start (and win) a Super Bowl; and Daunte Culpepper, one of the league’s current stars.
Briscoe, now 59, is the perfect of example of why this story is worth telling and repeating. He is best remembered as a wide receiver, a position he played in Buffalo and for two Super Bowl championship teams in Miami, including the 1972 team that went 17-0.
But Briscoe was a quarterback at the University of Omaha. As a 14th-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos (then in the AFL), Briscoe signed his contract after getting one promise from coach Lou Saban.
—Phil Sheridan, The Philadelphia Inquirer “Black quarterbacks have long, controversial history in NFL”
After a long touchdown run for Wisconsin in 1942, Elroy Hirsch was described as looking like a “demented duck,” whose “crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions all at the same time.”
From then on, he was known as “Crazy Legs,” who went on to become one of the NFL’s most exciting players and earn a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On Wednesday, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch died of natural causes. He was 80.
Hirsch died at an assisted living facility where he lived in Madison, said Wisconsin assistant athletic director Steve Malchow.
“There has never been a more loved and admired ambassador for Wisconsin sports than Elroy Hirsch,” Wisconsin AD Pat Richter said. “He loved life, loved people and loved the Badgers.”
Best known for his unorthodox running style, Hirsch starred at Wisconsin for one season, played nine years in the NFL and led the Los Angeles Rams to the league title in 1951, had a brief movie career, and eventually returned to Madison as the Badgers’ athletic director from 1969-1987.
—JR Ross, The Associated Press “NFL star ‘Crazy Legs’ Hirsch dies at age 80″
John Elway and former Detroit running back Barry Sanders are locks for Canton. The 62-year-old Brown, one of two Senior Committee nominees, is among the remaining 13 finalists not sure what to expect.
Voters can induct no more than six nominees, and only one Senior Committee candidate. The other is the late Bob Hayes, a former wide receiver and Olympic gold-medal sprinter. “I have been on tender hoofs since being told I was a finalist (Jan. 14),” said Bob Brown, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles (1964-68), Los Angeles Rams (’69-70) and Raiders (’71-73).
“I’m not being blase about this. I’m not one of those guys who will be on the golf course when the class is announced. I’ll be staring at the phone, as anxious as a 16-year-old on prom night.”
—Tom Reed, The Akron Beacon Journal ”Elway, Sanders considered locks for Canton”
Elway, Sanders and Brown were all elected, along with former Viking defensive end Carl Eller.
A year ago this week, Callahan was in San Diego as head coach of the AFC champion Oakland Raiders, the fourth first-year coach to take a team to the Super Bowl.
Today, three weeks after Raiders owner Al Davis fired him following a 4-12 second season riddled by injuries and in-fighting, Callahan, 47, has a new dream.
“My goal,” he said, “is to be the first coach to go from having an NFL team in the Super Bowl to winning a national championship.”
If that sounds like his ambition has diminished, a growing number of marquee college coaches would beg to differ. Call it a trend, if you will, but more control, sometimes more money and the prospect of a type of adulation that elevates a football coach to state emperor status has made Nick Saban, Bob Stoops and others reaffirm their commitment to college football.
Throw in the fact that this year’s rash of NFL firings included the coaches of teams in two of the last three Super Bowls—Callahan and Jim Fassel, late of the New York Giants—and maybe the Show isn’t quite so enticing anymore.
—Melissa Isaacson, The Chicago Tribune “Callahan leaves NFL behind for job at Nebraska”
Callahan spent four years as head coach of Nebraska before returning to the NFL as assistant head coach for the New York Jets. He has been the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys since 2012.
When Nebraska struck a deal with Callahan, it never needed to follow up with the Broncos regarding Kubiak, the next candidate on the Big Red’s list.
“I didn’t know that,” Kubiak said last week, two weeks after he nearly got the call to be Frank Solich’s successor. “I got the second-place trophy, huh?”
That’s the problem these days. Kubiak has got way too many second-place trophies. Or no trophies at all.
Five years ago, Kubiak was one of the hottest head coaching candidates out there – that year’s Nick Saban or Romeo Crennel.
The Cleveland Browns called. The New Orleans Saints called. The Houston Texans called. The New England Patriots called. The University of Colorado called. Just about anyone with a head coach opening did.
Kubiak lost out to Butch Davis in Cleveland, Jim Haslett with the Saints and Dom Capers with the Texans, and declined to interview with the Patriots.
He backed out of the Colorado deal at the last moment, uneasy with going to work for a college at a time he was trying to help the Broncos win their second straight Super Bowl. Smart move on Kubiak’s part. A considerate move.
Yet we now see what it was worth. Not much.
Since then, interest in Kubiak has waned. Calls have stopped. Kubiak is the trend, like Rainforest Cafe, that no longer is in.
This year there were seven NFL head coach openings. No one contacted Kubiak, who was ready, willing and able for any of the jobs that were available.
—Adam Schefter, The Denver Post “Kubiak ripe, ready to be picked as coach”
Kubiak left the Broncos to become the head coach of the Houston Texans beginning in 2006. He was let go with three games remaining in the 2013 season.
The biggest story of Super Bowl XXXIV was former NFL Europe quarterback Kurt Warner, who led the St. Louis Rams to victory.
Super Bowl XXXVIII has a story that might be even more improbable. Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was Warner’s backup for the Amsterdam Admirals in 1998.
Delhomme will be the starter when the Panthers face the New England Patriots on Feb.1 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. There is sure to be plenty of stories comparing Delhomme’s rise to Warner’s.
But Delhomme wasn’t always so thrilled to follow in Warner’s footsteps.
“You talk about a blow to your ego,” Delhomme said. “I mean, if you can’t start in NFLEurope, how are you going to make (an NFL) roster?”
—Pat Yasinskas, The Charlotte Observer ”Delhomme rode bench in Amsterdam while Warner prospered”
What, no football?
For the first January weekend in three years, the NFL has put the helmets, balls, pads and pregame shows in cold storage. The two-week break between the NFC/AFC finals and the Super Bowl is back.
Not that you are champing at the bit for Pats-Panthers, but a Sunday sans football is cruel and unusual punishment.
Can’t we convene the Colts and Eagles for a revival of the old Playoff Bowl (a game matching runners-up in the NFL before the league merged with the AFL in 1970)? Or, maybe a little ol’ intersquad scrimmage involving Southern Cal and LSU?
—Mike Tierney, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “NFL Takes Rare Weekend Off”