On this date in 1987, Seattle wide receiver Steve Largent caught six passes in a 41-20 loss at Kansas City to become the NFL's all-time leading receiver with 751 receptions.
To illustrate the pass-happy days we currently live in, 33 players (34 if we include Largent) have caught more than 751 passes for their careers. Largent finished his career with 819 catches, good for 27th all time on the NFL receptions list.
Of the 33 players who have caught more than 751 receptions, eight are still active.
The rundown, with career receptions followed by all-time rank in parentheses:
- Steve Smith (836, 25th)
- Larry Fitzgerald (840, 24th)
- Wes Welker (841, 23rd)
- Anquan Boldin (848, 22nd)
- Jason Witten (867, 17th)
- Andre Johnson (921, 14th)
- Reggie Wayne (1006. 8th)
- Tony Gonzalez (1321, 2nd)
Assuming Gonzalez retires at season's end, he'll finish No. 2 all time behind Jerry Rice (1549 receptions).
And depending on how well he bounces back from injury, the 34-year-old Reggie Wayne will most likely retire No. 2 in career receptions. Wayne needs 96 to catch former teammate Marvin Harrison for third all time.
by Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
Fitted at Thanksgiving in champion splendor
Detroit celebrated turkey day with scoring bender
The NFC North seemed theirs to be taken
That win, however, appeared to be their last
Three December losses ravaged them fast
Another miserable year for Team Forsaken
So it's a day late. Bah humbug! This coroner was so full of Christmas spirit (read: collecting items for displaced Raiders fans, an annual tradition), that he forgot to send in the Lions autopsy, which was written Monday afternoon.
Like the Lions, the coroner "missed it by THAT much". His work continues....
TIME OF DEATH: 7:40 PM EST, Sunday, December 22, 2013 (by overtime loss to New York)
You don't know 'winter's discontent' until you watch a team's season begin to disintegrate under the
spiraling flakes of a Philadelphia blizzard. Ten days earlier, the Detroit Lions moved to 7-5 following their largest win over the Packers in forty years, crushing them 40-10 on Thanksgiving afternoon. At that point, Detroit had a half-game lead on Chicago (with a tiebreaker sweep), and were up one and a half on the ailing Packers. It seemed as though the football Gods, for once, were smiling down on the unlucky Motor City.
Ten days after giving thanks for their bountiful circumstances, the Lions found themselves up 14-0 over the Eagles in wintry Philadelphia. That was before a fourth quarter filled with LeSean McCoy 10K runs, and a meme-worthy Matthew Stafford botched snap, snowed in the Lions. So much for streaking toward the postseason.
While Green Bay and Chicago trudged ahead, the Lions lost to a Ravens team that couldn't score touchdowns, needing to rely on Justin Tucker's shoe six times (the death blow, an upright-kissing 61-yarder). A week later, with the season on the line, the Lions gave away a fourth quarter lead to the Giants, and were outpunched in overtime. Detroit's had many lousy seasons, but it hurts more to miss out when you've come within striking distance.
1. Turnovers, Failure to Cash In
Matthew Stafford's girlfriend took to Twitter to rip on Lions fans who booed the team during their elimination game on Sunday. There's been plenty to boo, not so much because of demoralizing lack of quality, but in the mold of missed opportunities and careless mistakes.
Matthew Stafford's only been sacked 18 times this season, so it's either poor judgment or too many hurried throws that explains his 19 interceptions, tied with Joe Flacco for fourth most in the NFL. The Lions are second in most giveaways in the NFL with 34, a full seven behind the very Giants who eliminated them without malice or prejudice. Detroit is also second in fumbles (27) and fumbles lost (15).
Of the Lions' 34 turnovers, 21 have come in the last six games. Think about that; this comes after 13 giveaways across the first nine. Detroit is 3-5 on the year when turning the ball over three or more times, and 1-5 across those last six (each game had at least three turnovers).
Detroit is also responsible for giving away four touchdowns off turnovers: three pick-sixes from Stafford's hand, and a fumble-six to Green Bay on Thanksgiving. In two of the pick-six games, Detroit lost by three points to both Tampa Bay and New York (Stafford threw the pick to Will Hill with a seven point lead late). No errant throws, and Detroit is 9-6, already clinching the North.
Because of these turnovers, the Lions are 23rd in Scoreability, scoring a point every 15.77 yards gained. That's a touchdown every 110.39 yards, whereas most contending teams should be under 100, unless their defense can bail them out.
2. Pass Defense Not Always Consistent
The Lions defense can lay claim to the league's best third down percentage, barely allowing 30 percent to convert. On the sliding scale, their run defense is more than solid, allowing 3.98 YPA, good for 12th in the league.
It's the pass defense that gets a little murky. Detroit is 27th in Negative Pass Plays, with just 30 sacks and 14 picks. Especially troubling was Jim Schwartz's installation of Jim Washburn as a defensive assistant. Washburn's 'Wide-9' scheme, which fizzled during a disastrous 2012 for the Eagles, isn't getting the job done with this talented defensive line.
Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have combined for nine sacks, and rookie Ezekiel Ansah has eight, but 30 sacks is pretty light. Only three teams have less, and not by much. Atlanta and Chicago are tied for last with 28.
The lack of pressure, both up front and in containment, leaves Detroit vulnerable. The Lions give up 6.64 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, 11th most, while their 4010 passing yards allowed are eighth most.
The Lions' 85.65 Defensive Passer Rating is 13th worst, but comes with a caveat: six opponents have topped a 100.00 rating this year, and Detroit is 2-4 in those games. The two they won, over Dallas in October and Chicago in November, were by one and two points each.
Expect a wild ride here in Week 17, with so much to be determined across the NFL. In fact, you might want to keep this guide handy on Sunday.
The nail-biting chaos will be especially profound in the hugely competitive NFC, where all four division titles, three playoff spots and the two first-round byes are all up for grabs entering the final game of the season.
For a little perspective, consider this: 13 of 16 games this week will have an impact on the composition of the 2013 playoff field. Only one of four first-round byes (Denver in AFC) and one of 12 playoff seeds (Kansas City No. 5 in the AFC) has been determined. Eight of 12 teams already know they're in the playoffs, with four spots still to be determined.
It should be fun. Here are the scenarios in each conference, team by team. (Playoff scenarios below come courtesty of NFL Media services.)
The playoffs start six days early in the NFC, where it will be a wild Week 17, with nearly the entire playoff picture still to be determined.
Most notably: two division titles will be determined in do-or-do games: Green Bay visits Chicago in the late afternoon games, with the NFC North crown hanging in the balance; and Philadelphia visits Dallas in the nightcap on the 2013 regular season, with the NFC East title to be determined.
The loser in each case misses the playoffs.
Just three NFC teams have clinched playoff spots, but all four divisional titles are up for grabs as we enter Week 17. Six teams are fithing for the remaining three playoff positions.
Only two NFC games will have zero impact on the playoff picture: Detroit-Minnesota and Washington-N.Y. Giants. All four of those teams have already been eliminated.
CLINCHED: Seattle, playoff spot; Carolina, playoff spot; San Francisco, playoff spot
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (vs. STL)
Seattle clinches NFC West division and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) SEA win or tie OR
2) SF loss or tie
CAROLINA PANTHERS (at ATL)
Carolina clinches NFC South division and a first-round bye with:
1) CAR win or tie OR
2) NO loss or tie
Carolina clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) CAR win + SEA loss + SF win
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (at DAL)
Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:
1) PHI win or tie
CHICAGO BEARS (vs. GB)
Chicago clinches NFC North division with:
1) CHI win or tie
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (at ARI)
San Francisco clinches NFC West division and a first-round bye with:
1) SF win + SEA loss
San Francisco clinches NFC West division and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) SF win + SEA loss + CAR loss or tie
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (vs. TB)
New Orleans clinches NFC South division and a first-round bye with:
1) NO win + CAR loss
New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:
1) NO win OR
2) NO tie + ARI tie OR
3) ARI loss
ARIZONA CARDINALS (vs. SF)
Arizona clinches a playoff spot with:
1) ARI win + NO loss or tie OR
2) ARI tie + NO loss
DALLAS COWBOYS (vs. PHI)
Dallas clinches NFC East division with:
1) DAL win
GREEN BAY PACKERS (at CHI)
Green Bay clinches NFC North division with:
1) GB win
The AFC playoff picture is far more secure entering Week 17: with all four division titles already wrapped up, the Kansas City Chiefs locked into No. 5 seed and only the No. 6 wildcard spot still outstanding.
However, seven of eight AFC games this week will have an impact on the final AFC playoff picture, with Houston-Tennessee the only exception.
Four teams are fighting for that final playoff spot: Miami, Baltimore, San Diego, Pittsburgh. Not one of those four teams contorl their own destiny. Each needs a win and help.
So expect a lot of scoreboard watching around the NFL in Week 17.
CLINCHED: Denver, AFC West and first-round bye; New England, AFC East; Cincinnati, AFC North; Indianapolis; AFC South; Kansas City, playoff spot
DENVER BRONCOS (at OAK)
Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) DEN win or tie OR
2) NE loss or tie
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (vs. BUF)
New England clinches a first-round bye with:
1) NE win or tie OR
2) CIN loss or tie + IND loss or tie
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win + DEN loss
CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. BAL)
Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:
1) CIN win + NE loss
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (vs. JAX)
Indianapolis clinches a first-round bye with:
1) IND win + NE loss + CIN loss or tie
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (at SD)
Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:
1) CIN win + NE loss
MIAMI DOLPHINS (vs. NYJ)
Miami clinches a playoff spot with:
1) MIA win + BAL loss or tie OR
2) MIA win + SD win OR
3) MIA tie + BAL loss + SD loss or tie OR
4) MIA tie + BAL tie + SD tie
BALTIMORE RAVENS (at CIN)
Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:
1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR
2) BAL win + MIA loss or tie OR
3) BAL tie + MIA loss + SD loss or tie OR
4) BAL tie + MIA tie + SD loss OR
5) MIA loss + SD loss + PIT loss or tie
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (vs. KC)
San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:
1) SD win + MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
2) SD tie + MIA loss + BAL loss
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. CLE)
Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:
1) PIT win + MIA loss + BAL loss + SD loss
SEVEN FROM SUNDAY – WEEK 16
From NFL Media Services
A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. ET and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 22, the 16th week of the 2013 season.
- All four division winners in the AFC have now been determined. The DENVER BRONCOS, who defeated Houston 37-13, clinched the AFC West and a first-round bye. The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, who defeated Baltimore 41-7, clinched the AFC East. The CINCINNATI BENGALS, who defeated Minnesota 42-14, clinched the AFC North. The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, who defeated Kansas City 23-7, had already clinched the AFC South entering Week 16.
In the NFC, the CAROLINA PANTHERS defeated New Orleans 17-13 and clinched a playoff berth. The Panthers join the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, who had already clinched a postseason berth, in the NFC playoff field. None of the four division winners in the NFC have been determined. The CHICAGO BEARS can win the NFC North this week if they defeat Philadelphia in tonight’s game. The Seahawks can win the NFC West and clinch home-field advantage this week if San Francisco loses tomorrow night against Atlanta.
- Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING passed for 400 yards and four touchdowns in the Broncos’ win. Manning has 51 touchdown passes and passed TOM BRADY (50 in 2007) for the most touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history.
Manning has 5,211 passing yards and is the fifth different player to throw for at least 5,000 yards in a single season. He joins DREW BREES (three times), Pro Football Hall of FamerDAN MARINO, TOM BRADY and MATTHEW STAFFORD.
Manning is the first player in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season.
- New England quarterback TOM BRADY led the Patriots to a 41-7 win at Baltimore as New England clinched the AFC East today. Brady has led his team to 11 division titles, the most by a starting quarterback in NFL history.
Denver’s PEYTON MANNING, whose Broncos clinched the AFC West today, has led his team to 10 division titles. Brady and Manning are the only two starting quarterbacks in NFL history to win at least 10 division titles.
- Indianapolis quarterback ANDREW LUCK passed for 241 yards and a touchdown in the Colts’ 23-7 win at Kansas City. In his second season, Luck has 21 career wins and tied Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO for the third-most victories by a starting quarterback in his first two NFL seasons during the Super Bowl era.
Luck has 7,914 career passing yards and passed PEYTON MANNING (7,874) for the second-most by a player in his first two seasons. With one game remaining, Luck needs seven yards to pass CAM NEWTON (7,920) for the most.
- Cincinnati’s ANDY DALTON and Denver’s PEYTON MANNING each threw four touchdown passes without an interception today. There have been 17 such performances this season, one shy of the single-season record of 18 set in 2004.
- Carolina linebacker LUKE KUECHLY had 24 tackles and an interception in the Panthers’ win over New Orleans. Since tackles were tracked 1994, Kuechly’s 24 tackles are tied for the most in a game (New York Jets’ DAVID HARRIS, November 4, 2007).
Kuechly is the first player since Tampa Bay’s DERRICK BROOKS (September 30, 2001) to record at least 20 tackles and an interception in the same game.
- Arizona head coach BRUCE ARIANS, in his first season with the club, won his 10th game with the Cardinals in the team’s 17-10 win at Seattle. Arians joins NORM BARRY (11 wins in 1925) as the only head coaches in franchise history to win at least 10 games in their first season with the franchise.
Cardinals linebacker KARLOS DANSBY had an interception in today’s victory and has 6.5 sacks, four interceptions and two interception-return touchdowns this season. He is the fourth player with at least six sacks, four interceptions and two interception-return touchdowns in a season since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 16
UNPREDICTABLE NFL: With two weeks remaining in the 2013 regular season, 19 teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Only one team – Indianapolis (AFC South) – has clinched a division title. Denver, Kansas City and Seattle have all clinched playoff spots.
Four teams – Kansas City (AFC West), Philadelphia (NFC East), New Orleans (NFC South) and Carolina (NFC South) – that finished in or tied for last place in their divisions in 2012 are currently in or tied for first place in their respective divisions with two weeks to play. If any of these teams wins its division, 2013 would mark an NFL-record 11th consecutive season that at least one team has finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place.
LEADER(S) THROUGH WEEK 15
New England (10-4)**
Cincinnati (9-5) **
Denver (11-3)**, Kansas City (11-3)
New Orleans (10-4)**, Carolina (10-4)
*Division champion; **Can clinch division title this weekend
-- NFL --
A MANNING FOR ALL SEASONS: Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING leads the NFL with 47 touchdown passes in 2013, which is already the fourth-most in a season in NFL history.
Manning, who needs four more TD passes to surpass TOM BRADY’s single-season NFL record of 50 in 2007, can move up the all-time single-season list in Houston on Sunday.
Manning is the first player in NFL annals with at least 45 touchdown passes in two different seasons.
The players with the most touchdown passes in a season in NFL history:
*Through 14 games
Manning (4,811) can also become the fifth different player to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, joining DREW BREES (three times), Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO, TOM BRADY and MATTHEW STAFFORD.
Manning has led the league in touchdown passes three times in his career and can tie DREW BREES, BRETT FAVRE and Pro Football Hall of Famers LEN DAWSON, JOHNNY UNITAS and STEVE YOUNG for the most seasons leading the league in touchdown passes (four).
-- NFL --
LOTS OF LUCK: Indianapolis quarterback ANDREW LUCK has thrown for 7,673 yards in his first two NFL seasons, the third-most passing yards in a player’s first two seasons of a career in NFL history.
With 248 passing yards at Kansas City on Sunday, Luck will surpass PEYTON MANNING (7,874) and CAM NEWTON (7,920) for the most passing yards in the first two seasons of a career in NFL history.
The quarterbacks with the most passing yards in the first two seasons of a career in NFL history:
MOST PASS YARDS IN FIRST TWO SEASONS OF CAREER
*Through Week 15
-- NFL --
MILE HIGH-POINT: The Denver Broncos have scored 535 points in 2013, already the eighth-most points in a season in NFL history. The Broncos are averaging 38.2 points per game, the second-highest average of any team in NFL history behind the 1950 Los Angeles Rams (38.8).
The Broncos have also scored 68 total touchdowns this season, the fourth-most total TDs by a team in a season in NFL history.
With three TDs in Houston on Sunday, the Broncos can move past the 1984 Miami Dolphins (70) and 2011 Green Bay Packers (70) into second on the all-time list for most TDs scored in a season.
The teams scoring the most total TDs in a season in NFL history:
*Through 14 games
-- NFL --
LEADER OF THE PACK: Green Bay Packers rookie running back EDDIE LACY leads all NFL rookies with 1,028 rushing yards in 2013.
With 78 rushing-yards on Sunday vs. Pittsburgh, Lacy can surpass JOHN BROCKINGTON (1,105 in 1971) for the most rushing yards by a rookie in Packers annals.
Lacy (248) has already surpassed Brockington’s all-time rookie mark (216) for rushing attempts in a season and his eight rush TDs are the most by a Green Bay rookie.
JUST KICKING IT: In Week 15, Baltimore Ravens kicker JUSTIN TUCKER converted all six field goal attempts, including a 61-yarder in the final minute to beat the Lions 18-16. Tucker’s 61-yard field goal marked the third-longest come-from-behind game-winning field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter in NFL history.
Tucker has made 33 consecutive field goals this season, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.
With four field goals without a miss on Sunday vs. New England, Tucker would surpass MATT STOVER (36) for the third-most consecutive field goals made in NFL history.
The most consecutive field goals made in NFL history:
MOST CONSECUTIVE FIELD GOALS
San Francisco, 1997; Minnesota, 1998
-- NFL --
THE 100 CLUB: Houston wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON leads the NFL with 99 receptions and Chicago’s BRANDON MARSHALL (90) ranks fourth. Both receivers can join WES WELKER as the only players in NFL history with five 100-catch seasons.
The players with the most 100-catch seasons in NFL history:
MOST SEASONS WITH 100+ CATCHES
BLOWING OUT THE CANDLE: The final Monday Night Football game of the season features a matchup between the ATLANTA FALCONS and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS and will serve as the final regular-season NFL game to be played in Candlestick Park, before the team moves to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
The 49ers have called Candlestick home since 1971 and Monday will mark the 36th time the stadium has hosted Monday Night Football, the most of any stadium in NFL history.
The NFL stadiums to host the most Monday Night Football Games in NFL history:
MOST MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GAMES
Sun Life Stadium
*Play Monday Night
By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Chief Mathletics Advisor
In Week 15, six divisional leaders lost their respective games. Five of them (Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, Saints and Eagles) kept their grasp atop their respective divisions, but the Lions dropped to third in the NFC North. In the AFC, the playoff picture remained the same among the top four despite the losses. In the NFC, now the Saints and Eagles must beat the second-place team (Panthers and Cowboys, respective) to win their respective divisions.
Beyond all that, there might be a deeper issue that arose. The Patriots and Saints each fell to 3-4 on the road, while the Bengals fell to 3-5 away from home. These three are not the only projected or potential playoff teams who struggle on the road.
In the NFC, four other playoff hopefuls own a 3-4 road record (Bears, Cardinals, Packers, Lions). The Cowboys and Ravens are 2-5 on the road. Even the Chargers are 4-4 on the road, despite their proclivity for beating quality teams. Finally, the Colts are 4-3, but travel to Kansas City on Sunday.
With that mind, Stat Pack host Adam Dobrowolski delved into the Mathletics of playoff teams with a .500 or worse road record. While 10 such teams in NFL history made the Super Bowl, and four came in the last decade, the history doesn't look good for these playoff teams.
Since 2003, these teams own a 16-25 on the road. Furthermore, 13 of the 42 teams went one-and-done in home playoff games (without ever playing on the road in the postseason). Of the 13 losses, nine came against teams with a winning road record. Finally, of the 16 wins, seven were earned by the Super Bowl teams (2006 Colts, 2008 Cardinals, 2010 Packers, 2012 Ravens) and an additional two were earned by the rest of the 2008 NFC class. Only one NFC team in 2008 and a winning road record, and those Giants were ousted one-and-done.
So will Dobrowolski BUY or SELL any road teams to win postseason games?
Also of note in this week's episode, Dobrowolski examines which defenses stood out in Week 15, according to the Big Board. Furthermore, he offers up a preview of what the Intelligence Index thinks will happen to the NFC playoff picture in the final two weeks.
Make sure to check out this week's six pack of topics on Stat Pack!
For those who are interested in checking out bits and pieces of this week's podcasts, every edition will include a "playlist" of sorts breaking down every segment from the podcast.
2:20 -- Mathletics: Road Woes for Playoff Teams
12:40 -- Week 15 Big Board Highlights
16:55 -- King of Props Week 15 Review
18:55 -- The Stat Pack Week 16 Power Rankings
23:20 -- Week 16 Preview via the Intelligence Index
25:30 -- Six Pack of Top Games for Week 16
December 17th marks the date of death for two of pro football's greatest quarterbacks in history: Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh.
Graham died on this day in 2003 at the age of 82; Baugh died at age 94 this day in 2008.
Although they don't share the exact same date of death like two of the founding fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, we can agree they're two of the founding fathers of the quarterback position.
Below is the Cold Hard Football Facts description for both Graham and Baugh from our definitive list of Top 10 quarterbacks in history, written in 2008.
4. OTTO GRAHAM (Cleveland 1946-55)
Best NFL season (1953): 167 for 258 (64.7%), 2,722 yards, 10.6 YPA, 11 TD, 9 INT, 99.7 passer rating
Career (includes AAFC career): 1,464 for 2,626 (55.8%), 23,584 yards, 9.0 YPA, 174 TD, 135 INT, 86.6 passer rating
Championships: AAFC 1946-49; NFL 1950, 1954, 1955
Overview: Otto Graham was Tom Brady before Tom Brady, putting up gaudy numbers for his time while winning games and championships at an unprecedented rate. He led the Browns to a championship in all four years of the AAFC's existence (1946-49).
But he and the Browns proved they belonged in the big leagues by capturing the NFL title in their first year in the league. In fact, they'd go on to set a record that still stands, appearing in six straight NFL championship games from 1950 to 1955, winning three of them.
Bottom line: Graham played in a pro football championship game every single season of his 10-year career, winning seven of them in two different leagues.
He also set passing marks that stood for decades. His 86.6 passer rating, for example, is the top mark of the pre-Live Ball Era. And his career 9.0 YPA is No. 1 by a sizable margin. So why, then, isn't Graham higher on the list?
His four years in the AAFC make for some awkward comparisons. There's every reason to believe the Browns would have been a dominant NFL team over those four years, but little reason to believe they would have won four straight championships.
Graham's numbers also declined pretty noticeably when he went to the NFL, from simply unbelievable to merely spectacular. His career 9.0 YPA average, for example, drops to 8.63 if we look only at his NFL numbers. Of course, that 8.63 YPA mark is the best in NFL history, too.
The full measure of Graham's impact is this: the organization has never recovered from his departure at the end of the 1955 season. Sure, they remained competitive through the Jim Brown years (1957-65), winning a championship in 1964. But that's the only championship the organization won since Graham last took a snap for the Browns.
3. SAMMY BAUGH (Washington, 1937-52)
Best season (1945): 128 for 182 (70.3%), 1,669 yards, 9.2 YPA, 11 TD, 4 INT, 109.9 passer rating
Career: 1,693 for 2,995 (56.5%), 21,886 yards, 7.3 YPA, 187 TD, 203 INT, 72.2 passer rating
Championships: 1937, 1942
Overview: Here's a little rule of thumb: if you ever see a list of greatest quarterbacks (or greatest players, period) that doesn't include the Pigskin Messiah, burn the author of said heresy at the stake.
Seriously. Public execution.
We paid Baugh the ultimate compliment two years ago when we named him the quarterback of our peerless All-Time 11. We even listed his 1945 campaign as one of the greatest Old School seasons in NFL history a couple weeks ago.
You could make an argument that he's the best athlete in NFL history (we're not making the argument here, but you could). He certainly can stake a claim as the most accomplished two-way player in the history of the game.
He was a devastating defensive back (31 career picks) and still stands as one of the most spectacular punters in the history of the game – as evidenced by his tremendous 45.1 career punting average, second only to Oakland's current punter Shane Lechler.
But we're talking quarterbacks here, and even at that position, few were as good as the man they called Slingin' Sammy.
He virtually invented the modern quarterbacking position, and put up performances that continue to stand the statistical test of time. (For the record, while researching the 1942 NFL championship game between the Redskins and Bears, Baugh was actually listed as a "left halfback" in the papers. But he's really one of the first players we'd identify as a passer, as the nickname Slingin' Sammy suggests).
His 70.3 completion percentage in 1945 has been surpassed just once (by Ken Anderson, in 1982 ... edit ... Drew Brees set the new standard in 2011 with 71.23 percent), and his 109.9 passer rating that season stood as the second-best in league history until Joe Montana surpassed it in 1989.
How impressive is that?
Consider that the league-wide passer rating in 1945 was just 47.4 – Baugh more than doubled the league-wide mark! We can only imagine what kind of numbers the Pigskin Messiah might have produced had he played only offense today, in an era that favored passers.
Baugh was also a two-time champion who led the greatest upset in NFL history.
In the 1942 title game, his Redskins toppled the undefeated Bears, 14-6. Keep in mind that the 1942 Bears are the only club in history more dominant over the course of an entire regular season than the 2007 Patriots.
On this date in 1979, Roger Staubach played his final game with the Dallas Cowboys. In our definitive list of the top 10 quarterbacks of all time, we rated Staubach No. 7.
The original Captain America is a far cry from the man under center in Big D today, Tony Romo.
Also on this date: the 1972 Miami Dolphins cap off their perfect regular season at 14-0.
And O.J. Simpson became the first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, on this date in 1973. Two decades later, he would become synonymous with white Broncos and murder.
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