Roger Goodell Will See You Now, Mr. Blood, I Mean, McNally

How would a free-spirited character like Johnny Blood fare in today’s hypersensitive environment? How often would he befacing fines and suspensions from team and league administrations? How much fun has gone out of the game?

His life was a remarkable celebration of the joys of hearty drinking, convivial women and late night fun.  Paul Hornung, Joe Namath and any other subsequent colorful playboys of note are only pale imitations of the Vagabond Halfback.  He was truly a multifaceted character.  Clarke Hinkle found him oddly literate — reading Chaucer and Shakespeare some times and cheap pornographic fiction others.  McNally graduated from high school at age 14 when he wrote in his yearbook, “Dear God, how sweet it is in spring to be a boy.”

On the playing field, he was a man before his time.  He was the best receiver and defensive back of the early days of the NFL.  Moreover, he was touchdown maker in a low scoring era. When he retired in 1939, he had scored more touchdowns (49 — 38 with Green Bay) than any other NFL player, except his Packer teammate Verne Lewellen who had scored 51.  The 38 touchdown passes he caught (29 with the Pack) were then the league record, but that would be broken within two years by Don Hutson.  Unofficial counts of interceptions list Blood as the league record holder with 40 until Emlen Tunnell passed him in 1953.  He was perhaps the fastest player of his day with sure hands and great leaping ability.  Once he got the ball, he was an elusive runner with a nose for the goal line. On defense he was a hard and certain tackler.  Overall, he was a vibrant, adventurous leader other players would gladly follow both on and off the field.

I wanted a life in which I could do something I enjoyed and still have leisure to do other things I enjoyed.  Football was an escape, certainly, but an escape into something I enjoyed.  In the off-season I would ship out to the Orient as an ordinary seamen and enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Islands.  Or I would winter on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles.  Understand, I was not afraid of work.  I had sufficient energy that work did not bother me at all.  I was a hard worker.  To me, freedom did not mean being able only to do the nondifficult but, rather, to do what I chose to do.  One winter in Catalina I worked three shifts.  I worked in the brickyard all day, making bricks.  I worked the next eight hours in a gambling hall as a bouncer.  And the next eight hours I “honeymooned” with a redhead.

— Myron Cope, The Game That Was

He fought authority at every turn, but always with a smile and not in anger.  He was 6’2″ and 190 pounds in his prime with jet black hair, a handsome face, and a winning attitude.  Furthermore, he was extremely intelligent, ever charming, and never lacking female companionship.  To put this in cinematic terms, he was the classic antihero rebelling against societal norms who is so often seen on the silver screen.  As he once told journalist Jim Klobuchar, “I’ve always seen myself as an outrider.  You’ve seen the movies where a guy goes out by himself and hits the bush, a little away from the crowd. Well I think that was me.”

(Adapted from my book, Packers By the Numbers)

2wayjmcnallyc  1929cjblood4flags

spjblood  1936jblood

All custom cards are colorized.

Packer Hawkeyes

There are 6-8 universities that the Packers have drawn heavily enough from that we can create an entire 22-man Packer roster of alums. Our seventh installment, though, lacks a quarterback so our Iowa team needs to run the single-wing.

Iowa
E Jim Keane; Dick Evans
T Bryan Bulaga; Dave Croston
G Ross Verba; Ron Hallstrom
C Hal Griffen
TB Joe Laws
RB Jim Jensen; Herm Schneidman; Bill Reichardt
DE Mike Daniels; Aaron Kampman
DT Colin Cole; Jeff Drost
LB Abdul Hodge; Joe Mott; Frank Balazs
CB Bob Jeter; Mycah Hyde
S Emlen Tunnell; Al Randolph; Matt Bowen; Kerry Cooks
K Frank Balazs
P Joe Laws

Iowa features a pile driving front line to power its four-pronged running attack; tailback Joe Laws, though, only completed 10 of 33 passes as a Packer, so the passing game would be substandard. On defense, Iowa could generate a pass rush from Mike Daniels and Aaron Kampmann, but the tackles and linebackers are weak. However, the defensive backfield is very strong with Hall of Famer Tunnell, Pro Bowler Jeter and solid starters Randolph and Hyde.

1951tetunnell  1951tbjeter

Custom 1951 Topps-style cards are colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1973

Rookies1973tmacleod

Coming off a division title in 1972, Dan Devine did almost nothing to improve the Packers in 1973. He made 14 picks in the draft, but only had two selections in the top five rounds due to trades. The second rounder had gone to Dallas for Ron Widby and Ike Thomas the previous year. The four and five brought in spent veterans Tommy Joe Crutcher and Carleton Oats.

Devine chose Florida State wideout Barry Smith in round one and Minnesota linebacker Tom McLeod in round three. Smith caught 15 passes as a rookie and didn’t get any better after that. McLeod, however, replaced Dave Robinson at left linebacker and played well.

Devine’s other picks that played for Green Bay included Idaho State linebacker Tom Toner in round six, Prairie View defensive back Hise Austin in round eight and unheralded Illinois center Larry McCarren in round 12. Four free agents also made the team: Colorado State defensive back Perry Smith, Missouri runner Ron McBride, Yankton runner Les Goodman and Houston tackle Kent Branstetter. Only Smith lasted more than two years as a Packer.

Ultimately, Larry McCarren would be the only star of the 1973 rookie class, but he spent most of the year on the taxi squad and appeared in just five games in his first year. Tom McLeod played very well as a rookie starter before being swapped to Baltimore for Ted Hendricks in the off season; McLeod was the Packers top rookie of 1973.

1973tbrsmith2  1973tlmccarren2

 

McCleod custom card is colorized.

Misjudged Packer Rookies Team: Defense

None of these players ever played for Green Bay, but the Packers held the rights to each of them coming out of college. Depending on the player, there are different levels of regret expressed here:

DE: Bruce Clark was one of the biggest embarrassments in club history. The fourth overall pick in the 1980 draft, Clark signed instead with Toronto of the CFL. After two years in Canada, he signed with New Orleans and had an eight-year NFL career with the Saints and Chiefs. Clark was not worthy of so high a pick anyway, making just one Pro Bowl, but his refusal to play in Green Bay was a major insult to a struggling franchise.

DE: Gary Cutsinger was drafted in the seventh round in 1962, but signed with the Oilers of the AFL instead. Gary had a seven-year career in Houston and was a decent player, but would have been a benchwarmer in Green Bay.

DT: Bob Gain was the fifth overall pick in 1951, but rebuffed the Packers to sign with Ottawa in Canada. Paul Brown then acquired Gain’s rights for journeymen Ace Loomis, Dom Moselle, Dan Orlich and Bill Schroll. Gain signed with Cleveland in 1952 and spent a dozen seasons with the Browns, going to five Pro Bowls and receiving All-Pro notice nine times. Gain’s loss was devastating to Green Bay.

DT: Fred Heron was a third round pick in 1966, but was traded in training camp to the Cardinals for a third rounder in 1968 (used for Billy Stevens). Heron had a solid seven-year tenure in St. Louis, but would have been a reserve in Green Bay.

LB: Bob Laraba failed to make the Packers in 1959, and joined the Chargers in 1960. He picked off five passes in 1961 and returned two for touchdowns. He died in a car crash that offseason. He would have sat on the bench in Green Bay.

LB: Gene Jeter was drafted in the 12th round by Green Bay in 1965, but signed with Denver instead. Jeter had a three-year career with the Broncos, and would not have made the Packer roster.

LB: Chuck Hurston was 6’6” and 240 pounds who played both defensive end and linebacker. A 15th round pick of the Packers in 1965, he signed instead with Buffalo, but spent most of his seven-year career with the Chiefs. The Packers abused him in Super Bowl I, but he was still on the Chiefs as a reserve when they won Super Bowl IV.

CB: Mike Bass was drafted in the 12th round in 1967, while his Michigan teammate John Rowser was drafted in round three. Although Rowser had a decent NFL career, mostly in Pittsburgh and Denver, Bass outdid him. Bass was cut by the Packers in the last week of the preseason and was picked up by the Lions. Two years later, Vince Lombardi brought Mike to Washington, where he would start for the next seven seasons, drawing All-Pro notice once and eventually being named to the Redskins 70th Anniversary team.

CB: Phil Nugent played quarterback for Tulane and was drafted in the third round by the Packers in 1961. Converted to defense, he was cut and signed with Denver of the AFL. Nugent picked off seven passes in his rookie year, but never appeared in another pro game.

S: Joe Scarpati signed with the Packers as a free agent in 1964, but was cut during the preseason. Eventually signing with Philadelphia, Joe played six years with the Eagles and one with the Saints and picked off 25 passes as a small, but quick free safety.

S: Garney Henley was a 15th round pick in 1960 and impressed Vince Lombardi with his speed. Although he could not beat out fellow rookie Willie Wood in Green Bay, Henley played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1960-75. Mostly he was at defensive back, where he picked off 60 passes. However, Garney played on offense, too, at the beginning of his career and shifted to wide receiver exclusively for his final four years. He was a nine-time All-CFL defensive back and was also an all-league wide receiver in 1972 when he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player while leading Hamilton to its fourth Grey Cup title during his 16-year career. He was elected to the CHoF in 1979.

1951bbgain

1964pjscarpatti  1961tpnugent

Custom cards are colorized.

Crimson Tide Packers

There are 6-8 universities that the Packers have drawn heavily enough from that we can create an entire 22-man Packer roster of alums. Our sixth installment is Alabama:

Alabama
WR Don Hutson; Ted Cook
TE Ben Smith
T Steve Wright; Claude Perry
G Bruce Jones; Buddy Aydelette
C Larry Lauer
QB Bart Starr; Scott Hunter
RB Eddie Lacy; Paul Ott Carruth
DE Byron Braggs; Jim Bowdoin
DT Terry Jones; Bill Lee
LB Rich Wingo; Randy Scott; Antonio London
CB Rebel Steiner; Al Romine
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix; George Teague
K Don Hutson
P Bart Starr

 

The best part of the Alabama Packers are the “triplets:” Hutson, Starr and Lacy. The offensive line features a couple of worthy players from the early days, as does the defensive line, but neither fares as well with more recent players. The linebacking corps and secondary are both pretty solid, though.

1951tdhutson  1961nubstarr

1961nuswright

Custom cards are colorized.

Packers Top Rookie: 1972

Rookies1972wbuchanon2

Thus far, only one player drafted in 1972, Franco Harris, has been elected to the Hall of Fame, so the Packers actually did pretty well in a somewhat weak draft that year. Unfortunately, the draft was deep in running backs and linebackers, but the Pack’s biggest needs were at QB and WR. Green Bay selected 16 players in 17 rounds and eight made the team.

San Diego State cornerback Willie Buchanon proved to be excellent with the seventh overall pick, but the team’s second first rounder, the 11th overall pick, was a major disappointment: Nebraska quarterback Jerry Tagge. The Green Bay native Tagge was one of five quarterbacks chosen that year who would throw at least 50 passes in the NFL, and only one, Buchanon’s San Diego State teammate Brian Sipe in the 13th round, developed into a good player. The other four quarterbacks (Tagge, John Reaves, Pat Sullivan and Joe Gilliam) all failed as professionals.

Dan Devine made a surprising choice in round two with Hillsdale kicker Chester Marcol, and that turned out well with Marcol leading the NFL in scoring in two of his first three years in the league. The team’s only other pick in the first five rounds was Notre Dame linebacker Eric Patton in round four. However, Patton never played in the NFL, unlike Colorado receiver Cliff Branch who was picked in round four by Oakland.

Later in the draft, Green Bay picked Eastern Michigan defensive tackle Dave Pureifory (round six), Northeast Oklahoma runner Bob Hudson (round six), Oregon receiver Leland Glass (round eight), Nebraska guard Keith Wortman (round 10) and Clemson linebacker Larry Hefner (round 14). Tackle Kevin Hunt, a 1971 draftee, also made the Packers, as did free agents Bob Kroll (a safety) and Paul Gibson (a wide receiver).

Pureifory had a nice career in Green Bay and Detroit, and Marcol fixed the long-standing kicking problem in Green Bay, but Willie Buchanon solidified the defense, was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and the Packers’ top rookie of 1972.

1972twbuchanonroy  1972twbuchanon

1972tjtaggecas  1972tdpureifory

A sampling of 1972-style custom cards.

Misjudged Packer Rookie Team: Offense

None of these players ever played for Green Bay, but the Packers held the rights to each of them coming out of college. Depending on the player, there are different levels of regret expressed here:

WR: Alex Hawkins did not get along with rookie coach Vince Lombardi in 1959 and was sold to Baltimore 12 days before the season. He became the NFL’s first Kicking Teams Captain with the Colts and also started at receiver for the expansion Falcons. Good player, but he was not really missed.

WR: Gordy Soltau was drafted in the third round in 1950, but rather than playing with his Minnesota teammate and Packers’ top choice Clayton Tonnemaker in Green Bay, Gordie was traded to Cleveland for lineman Joe Spencer on August 12 when the Packers and Browns met in the first preseason game. Shortly after, Paul Brown sent Soltau to San Francisco for a fourth round draft pick. Gordie was a 49er mainstay both as a receiver and kicker for a decade. Very good player who could have helped the dismal 1950s Packers more than the two years of Spencer did.

TE: Paul Costa was 6’5” and 250 pounds, but signed with Buffalo rather than Green Bay in 1965. He spent four years at tight end before switching to tackle for his last four years as a pro. Costa was pretty comparable to Packer tight end Marv Fleming and so was not a major loss despite being a solid player.

T: Tony Liscio was a promising third round pick out of Tulsa in 1963 who was cut in September. Picked up by Tom Landry, Liscio started at left tackle for most of his nine years in Dallas. For Green Bay, Tony would have filled the role played by Steve Wright as reserve tackle in the threepeat. Liscio was better than Wright, though, so there is some regret here.

T: Dalton Truax was a third round pick out of Tulane in 1957. Traded to New York for an unspecified draft pick on September 18, he failed to make the Giants, but did play 1960 with the fledgling Oakland Raiders of the AFL. Obviously, no loss.

Also of note as a tackle was Bud Wilkinson of Minnesota, drafted in 1937, who went into coaching instead.

G: John Nisby was a sixth round pick out of Pacific in 1957 who was tried at defensive tackle and linebacker before being sold to Pittsburgh on September 18. Nisby played eight years with the Steelers and Redskins at guard and was a three-time Pro Bowler. A very good player who would have negated the need to trade for Fuzzy Thurston, but no real regrets.

G: Ken Gray was a sixth round pick out of Howard Payne in 1958 and lost out to fourth round pick Jerry Kramer for the third guard slot behind veterans Hank Bullough and Jim Salsbury. Cut on September 23, Gray spent all but one of his 13 NFL season with the Cardinals, was named to the Pro Bowl six times and was a two-time first team All Pro. An excellent player, he also would have negated the need for the Thurston trade. Some regrets about Gray.

Three other guards of note all signed with the AFL rather than the Packers and had solid careers: Len St. Jean, Joe O’Donnell and Jim Harvey.

C: Jon Morris was the Packers’ second round pick out of Holy Cross in 1964, but signed with the Patriots of the AFL instead, where he spent 11 of his 15 years as a pro. Morris was drafted the same year as Ken Bowman and Bill Curry, and the seven-time Pro Bowler was probably a bit better than either one. Minor regrets, but Kenny Bowman was a very good player.

Two other Packer draftees had successful careers at center in the AFL despite being first cut by Green Bay: Mike Hudock and Jon Gilliam.

QB: Kurt Warner was an undrafted free agent brought in as a camp arm in 1994 when the Packers already had Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and Ty Detmer. Had Warner made at third quarterback over Detmer, he may have eventually brought more in trade depending on how he performed in preseasons. No real impact.

QB: Daryle Lamonica was drafted in the 12th round out of Notre Dame in 1963 but signed with Buffalo instead. The Mad Bomber would have chafed behind Bart Starr for five years, but if he had taken over from the oft injured Starr in 1968, it could have been interesting. I definitely have regrets on this one.

RB: Don Woods was drafted in the sixth round out of New Mexico Highlands in 1974, but was cut on September 11. Picked up by San Diego, Woods was Rookie of the Year, gaining 1,162 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile in Green Bay, Brockington’s years as a 1,000 yard rusher were done and top pick Barty Smith proved to be a bust. The one thing that keeps this from being a complete loss is that Woods never had another season remotely like his first. One season regrets, though.

RB: Ernie Green was a 14th round choice out of Louisville whom Vince Lombardi had no place for in 1962, so Vince traded him to his friend Paul Brown for a seventh rounder on August 12. Green would have come in very handy down the road a few years once Taylor and Hornung faded. Definite regrets on Green.

FB: Jerald Sowell was a seventh round pick from Tulane in 1997. Very green, but promising, Sowell was claimed off waivers by the Jets on August 26th, and then Jets Coach Bill Parcells sent the Packers tight end Tyrone Davis for “past considerations.” Sowell spent ten years in the NFL, and never became a star, but did start in New York for three years. Minor regrets…Sowell would never have beaten out William Henderson.

Two other runners cut by Vince Lombardi went on to glory in Canada. Both George Dixon and Bill Symons are in the Canadian Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1963ttliscio  1958tkgray

1964pjmorris  1963tdlamonica

1974tdwoods  1962tegreen

Custom cards for Liscio, Gray and Green are colorized.