John Brockington turns 69 today. He was a simple, straight-ahead batterer and, for a short time, the best in the game at that. Drafted with the ninth overall pick out of Ohio State in 1971, Brockington was a sensation as a rookie and set a league record by rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three years in the league. But then he was done. His yards per carry dropped to 3.3 in 1974 and never exceeded 3.5 again.
Brockington’s best season was his rookie year when he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and teamed in the backfield with Donny Anderson. In 1972, Anderson was traded for MacArthur Lane, who was essentially a second fullback, and the Packer offense became a simple power running attack with a very effective line and a superior lead blocker in Lane. Brockington’s average actually dropped to 3.7 that year, but the team won the division. In the playoffs, though, George Allen aligned his Redskin defense in a five-man front and shut down the Green Bay offense. Brockington’s rushing average improved to 4.3 in his third year, but that was the final hurrah.
Cowboys’ assistant coach Ermal Allen, who admired the 6’1” 230-pound Brockington as a “vicious runner” ascribed his decline to the normal wear and tear of a power back. Brockington himself, usually asserts that his best play was an off-tackle slant, and when the team’s offense was changed to more of a “stretch offense where you pick your hole,” he was disadvantaged. That and the decline of the offensive line.
It’s true that there were injuries on the offensive line that caused problems. It is also true that the team did not have a reliable quarterback to balance the attack. And it’s true that Brockington could not effectively turn his shoulders to make quick cuts. Considering all these factors, defenses could simply clump at the line and shut down Brockington. If the Packers had a quarterback who could pass, receivers who could get open, a line that could stay healthy and a complementary back who could go wide, Brockington may have had a lengthier career. As it was, he was a pile-driving blaster, a North-South runner who was not especially fast or elusive and was middling as both a receiver and a blocker.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
Custom cards in 1974 style.