Heisman Trophy no guarantee of NFL stardom

Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back in NFL history, did not win a Heisman.

Winning the  Heisman Trophy is a  tremendous honor. It may be the most important individual award in sports — certainly at the collegiate level. Yet it hardly guarantees a seat at the NFL head table.

Consider this — what do Jimmy Brown, Joe Montana, below right, Johnny Unitas, Walter Payton and Peyton Manning have in common? None of them won a Heisman Trophy. Neither did Jerry Rice or Lawrence Taylor or Reggie White.

All of them are listed in the top 10 of the NFL Network’s 100 greatest players in NFL history, a list compiled by a blue ribbon panel of current and former NFL coaches, players, executives, and media.

The first Heisman Trophy winner on the NFL top 100 list was 1988 winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State, ranked 17th. Only five others on that list were Heisman Trophy winners:

40. OJ Simpson (USC, 1968)
46. Roger Staubach (Navy, 1963)
55. Earl Campbell (Texas, 1977)
77. Tony Dorsett (Pitt, 1976)
85. Marcus Allen (USC, 1981)

Only eight of the 78 Heisman winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – the six above plus Doak Walker (SMU, 1948) and Paul Hornung (Notre Dame. 1956)

A total of 19 Heisman winners were the first pick in the NFL draft, including the first winner — halfback Jack Berwanger of the University of Chicago, the first player to be drafted by the NFL in its inaugural draft in 1936. Traded from the Eagles to the Bears, Berwanger opted not to sign in order to preserver his amateur status and compete for a spot on the US Olympic team in the decathlon.

And since 1986, only three Heisman Trophy winners were number one picks in the NFL draft — Carson Palmer of USC in 2002, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in 2008 and Cam Newton of Aubun in 2010.

Only three Super Bowl MVPs were Heisman winners — Staubach, Allen and Jim Plunkett, the only quarterback to start and win two Super Bowls and not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps one day recent Heisman winners like Cam Newton (Auburn, 2010) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor 2011) will gain NFL immortality. And this year’s winner, Johnny Manziel (Johnny Football) from Texas A&M, is just a freshman. But it’s still way too early to make that call.

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10 things you must know about Giants-49ers

Giants Leonard Marshall levels 49ers Joe Montana in New York’s epic 15-13 upset in 1990 NFC Championship game that dashed San Francisco’s hopes for a Super Bowl three-peat.

The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers is one of the all-time great NFL rivalries, starting with their first-ever meeting in 1952 at the Polo Grounds.

That day Charlie Conerly threw a touchdown pass and Ray Poole’s three field goals made the difference in a 23-14 Giants win. Y.A. Tittle, who would later take the Giants to three straight NFL Championship games, pitched two touchdowns for the Niners.

Here’s 10 things you need to know about Giants-49ers:

1. Even Steven: The two teams have split 28 regular season games. In those games, the 49ers outscored the Giants by just seven points, 560 to 553.

2. Playoffs…playoffs: Same in the playoffs. San Francisco holds a 4-3 edge in playoff matchups, scoring 161 points to the Giants 156.

3. Familiar foes: No two NFL teams have met in the playoffs more often than these two, with Sunday’s title game at Candlestick Park marking their league record-tying eighth postseason showdown. Only the Bears-Giants and Cowboys-Rams have as many playoff matchups.

4. 10-Year Super run: The two teams met five times in the playoffs between 1981 and 1990. In four of those five games, the winner went on to win the Super Bowl.

5. Hey Joe: Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. led the Niners to divisional round wins over the Giants in 1981 and 1984, and San Francisco went on to win its first two Super Bowls.

6. Home cooking: The Giants won their first-ever playoff game in Giants Stadium in 1985, beating the 49ers 17-3 on touchdown passes by Phil Simms to tight ends Mark Bavaro and Don Hasselback. Hasselbeck went on to father NFL quarterbacks Tim and Matt.

7. 49 vs. 49ers: In 1986, Simms threw four touchdown passes and Lawrence Taylor took an errant Montana pass to the house as the Giants romped 49-3 en route to their first Super Bowl.

8. Bahr for three: The two teams met in the NFC Championship game for the only previous time in 1990. Matt Bahr, right, kicked five field goals, the last in the final seconds, to send the Giants to more Super Bowl glory with a 15-13 victory. Bahr’s field goal was set up by a costly fumble by Roger Craig.

9. Running Watters: Ricky Watters set a playoff record with five touchdowns (all rushing) and 30 points in 1993 when the 49ers beat the Giants 44-3, the last game for both Simms and Taylor.

10. Huge comeback: In their last playoff meeting in 2002, the 49ers overcame a 24-point deficit to win 39-38 the second greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. 19-year veteran Trey Jenkin, playing in his only game for the Giants, botched a snap as they Giants attempted a potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds.


Slingin’ Sammy Baugh a True Legend

Sammy Baugh, one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, passed away this week at the age of 94.

In a list of top 10 all-time quarterbacks presented by The Sportslifer earlier this year, Baugh was ranked eighth overall, sandwiched between Roger Staubach and Bart Starr. Johnny Unitas leads the list.

Sammy Baugh (Redskins, 1937-52)
Slingin’ Sammy dominated the late 1930s and 1940s, winning six passing titles, two NFL championships, and nine All-Pro berths. And if that wasn’t enough, he could punt too….very well.
From the SportsLifer archives

Baugh spent his entire 16-year career with the Washington Redskins. He won NFL championships in his rookie year and again in 1942.

His greatest year was 1943, when he led the league in passing, interceptions (with 11) and punting. In one game that year, Baugh threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four passes.

When he retired following the 1952 season, Baugh had thrown for 187 touchdowns and held virtually all major NFL passing records. During the 1945 season, Baugh completed 128 of 182 passes for a 70.33 completion percentage, which was an NFL record then and remains the second best today (to Ken Anderson, 70.55 in 1982).

And In 1940, he averaged 51.4 yards per punt, still the NFL single-season record.

First Hall of Fame Class
Baugh was in the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of 17 inductees and the list survivor from a list of legendary players that includes Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe. In 1994, the NFL named Baugh as one of four quarterbacks on its 75th-anniversary team; the others were Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana.

A graduate of TCU, Baugh led the Horned Frogs to wins in the 1936 Sugar Bowl and first-ever Cotton Bowl in 1937. In 2003, College Football News named Baugh the third best college football player in history.

He was also the first coach of the New York Titans (later the Jets), posting successive 7-7 records in 1960 and 1961 when the team played at the Polo Grounds. Baugh’s 14-14 record was a Jets best until Bill Parcells went 29-19 between 1997 and 1999.

A tale from Baugh’s rookie season in his New York Times obituary typifies his uncanny passing capability and self-confidence.

Baugh was taking the field for his first practice session with the Redskins when his coach, Ray Flaherty, handed him the football.

“They tell me you’re quite a passer,” Flaherty said.

“I reckon I can throw a little,” Baugh replied.

“Show me,” Flaherty said. “Hit that receiver in the eye.”

To which Baugh supposedly responded, “Which eye?”


Top Ten All-Time Quarterback List

1. Johnny Unitas (Colts, Chargers, 1956-73)
A three-time champ with Baltimore, nine times an All-Pro, seventh all-time with 290 touchdown passes. Holds the NFL equivalent of Joe Dimaggio’s streak, 47 straight games with a TD pass.

2. Joe Montana (49ers, Chiefs, 1979-94)
Joe Cool, a third-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, won four Super Bowls in nine years with the 49ers in the 80s, 45 playoff touchdown passes, and five passing titles. He was an All-Pro seven times.

3. Brett Favre (Falcons, Packers, 1991-2007)
All-time QB leader in virtually every category, including consecutive games started (253), wins (160), touchdowns (442), completions (5,377) and yardage (61,655). This Packer legend did it all with a certain joie de vivre.

4. Dan Marino (Dolphins, 1983-99)
Lifelong Dolphin set many standards later broken by others. His record 48 TD passes in a single season snapped by Peyton Manning and Brady; Favre broke his career record of 420 TD passes last year.

5. Otto Graham (Browns, 1946-55)
Talk about championship pedigree, Graham played for the league title in each of his 10 years in pro football, four in the AAFC and six in the NFL. A 10-time All-Pro, he won seven league championships.

6. John Elway (Broncos 1983-98)
This gunslinger from the Rockies played in five Super Bowls and won rings in his last two years. Noted for nearly 50 fourth quarter comeback wins, he’s fifth all-time with 300 passing TDs.

7. Roger Staubach (Cowboys, 1969–79)
The sole Heisman Trophy winner on this list (in 1963), this Navy graduate, aka Roger the Dodger, won two Super Bowls and five passing titles, and was named All-Pro five times.

8. Sammy Baugh (Redskins, 1937-52)
Slingin’ Sammy dominated the late 1930s and 1940s, winning six passing titles, two NFL championships, and nine All-Pro berths. And if that wasn’t enough, he could punt too….very well.

9. Bart Starr (Packers 1956-1971)
Starr quarterbacked the great Green Bay dynasty that won three NFL championships and Super Bowls I and II. The leader of Pack scored the winning TD in the Ice Bowl, and won three passing titles.

10. Terry Bradshaw (Steelers 1970-83)
A number one overall pick out of tiny Louisiana Tech, Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in a six-year stretch. A three-time All-Pro, his pass helped author the Immaculate Reception in 1972.

Honorable Mention

Fran Tarkenton, Vikings-Giants…third in passing TDs, fifth in yardage
Sid Luckman, Bears…four NFL titles with Bears in the ’40s
Steve Young, 49ers…six passing titles, one Super Bowl