Players who give us a chubby

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 13, 2007



Back when he had the misfortune of working a 9-to-5 office job, the Chief Troll once worked with a flighty Vegan Chick.
 
It was a match made in hell, like Putin and capitalists, trolls and "pundits" or TV and baseball.
 
The Vegan Chick wouldn't eat cake because it had eggs in it. The Chief Troll would bath in bacon fat each morning.
 
If one of her self-righteous little rants, before she left to paint portraits of the orphans of Calcutta, the Vegan Chick told the Chief Troll that men like football because it gives them a chance to live out their homo-erotic fantasies.
 
Well, it turns out that militant little lesbian bitch was right ... because here we are years later writing a story about  "players who give us a chubby."
 
It turns out that sometimes we're just attracted to certain players – no matter what the stats and data say about them. Of course, a couple nifty Cold, Hard Football Facts in their favor never fail to sway us.
 
In other words, it turns out that, yes – like the humans – we, too, have feelings toward certain players. Players who excite us so much that sometimes it moves when we watch them play.
 
Today we look at three players from the 1970s who give us a chubby when we watch tapes of them on NFL Films. These are guys who played back when bad-ass defenses ruled the game and players wore helmets so thin you could comb your hair through it. (Got that line from a movie somewhere ... not original.)
 
So here goes ...
 
Rocky Bleier
Football fans under 30 who even know of Rocky Bleier today know of him as Franco Harris' less heralded backfield sidekick on the great Steelers teams of the 1970s.
 
His story is so much greater than that – everything about this guy gives us a huge friggin' chubby. Captain of the Notre Dame football team, war hero, inspirational icon, four-time Super Bowl champion. If he knew how to make a good pulled pork, we'd bear his children. Even the guy's name is f'in' cool (his real name is Robert ... "Rocky" is just a nickname he earned).
 
Bleier was Notre Dame's captain in 1967 – a fact all by itself which doubles the testosterone coursing through the Chief Troll's pudgy body. He won a national title with the Irish in 1966 and, that year, played in the legendary "Game of the Century" – the 10-10 tie against Bubba Smith and the rest of the Michigan State Spartans. He was not pegged as a great pro prospect – drafted in the long-forsaken 16th round by the pathetic Steelers in 1968 – and whatever shot he had at the NFL took a radical detour when he was drafted by the Army and shipped off to Vietnam.
 
During a firefight, a grenade basically destroyed his right ankle, and doctors wondered if he'd ever walk again, let alone play football. (NBCSports.com has a video of Bleier's story here.)
 
Of course, he did play football again. He fought his way back into the game, despite twice being waived by Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll. He finally made the team in 1972 and became a starter in 1974 – Pittsburgh's first Super Bowl championship season. Bleier today is a motivational speaker.
 
He also comes from solid Middle American stock. He was born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, the home of another great American hero: John Bradley, the corpsman who famously helped raise the flag over Iwo Jima in 1945 and whose son, James, wrote the book "Flags of our Fathers."
 
Chubby-producing Cold, Hard Football Fact: In 1976, Bleier and Harris combined to become just the second backfield mates in history to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
 
Ken Stabler
The Southern hicks hold a special place in the heart of the Cold, Hard Football Facts. They love football, they make great food and they've never come across an animal or vegetable they wouldn't filet, fricassee or deep fry. Take, for example, collard greens.
 
On their own, collard greens are a gritty, vitamin-filled vegetable we'd keep at a safe distance – like anthrax, bubonic plague or the gym. A southern chef looks at the abomination called collard greens, mixes 'em with pork fat, and before you know it you have a vegetable you can actually tolerate.
 
The Southern hicks also turn out pretty fair country quarterbacks ... Stabler, born and bred in Alabama, is high up on the list of greatest ever. He played for Bear Bryant and John Madden. He backed up Joe Namath in college and Daryle Lamonica in the pros – and then outperformed both when he finally got a chance to play. And he won championships at both levels.
 
We're mildly surprised to find that the original Snake, the gun-slinging country quarterback who replaced Lamonica as the second great Mad Bomber in the pre-Al-Davis-is-a-senile-old-coot glory days of the Raiders, is not in the Hall of Fame.
 
And he probably shouldn't be. He had quite a few not-so-HOF-worthy seasons. But at the top of his game, and in an era when quarterbacks were treated like tackling dummies by an unprotective NFL, he was as good as the league has ever seen.
 
We never realized how great Stabler was until last year when we put together our humbly titled "myth-breaking work of staggering genius." Stabler was absolutely brilliant in Oakland's 1976 championship season. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes, tossed 27 TDs and 17 INTs, and ended the year with a phenomenal-for-its-time 103.4 passer rating.
 
That 103.4 rating looks pretty decent by today's standards. But by the standards of 1976, it's one of the greatest passing seasons in modern NFL history. After all, the league-wide passer rating in 1976 was just 67.0. Stabler exceeded the league rate by better than 50 percent. (The league-wide passer rating here in the 21st century usually exceeds 80. See our "evolution of passer rating" for more.)
 
Stabler in 1976 averaged 9.4 yards per attempt – a stat we consider a very, very telling indicator of passing efficiency. To put that into perspective, the brilliant Peyton Manning has averaged more than 9.0 YPA just once – 9.2 YPA in his record-setting 2004 season. Modern quarterbacks, of course, play in much, much easier conditions than passers like Stabler did back at the height of the Dead Ball Era.
 
Chubby-producing Cold, Hard Football Facts: Stabler posted a 28-3-2 (.879) record as a starter at Alabama. Paired with John Madden in Oakland from 1970-78, he was half of the winningest Coach-QB combo in NFL history: 60-19-1 (.756).
 
Jack Lambert
The NFL Network ran a feature Tuesday on the Steelers of the 1970s and a lot of it focused on Jack Lambert. It was like a shot of Viagra and essentially prompted the creation of this little feature here.
 
Lambert looked nasty. He played nasty. He talked nasty. He was nasty. (His nasty facade is still idolized by Steelers fans today, such as ed52 in the Cold, Hard Football Facts forum.)
 
Those are all pretty good qualities to have in an ass-kicking middle linebacker. (By the way, check out this cool story by Dr. Z of Sports Illustrated that the folks from the great, great Steelers fan site McMillenandWife.com keyed into their site by hand. That's dedication.)
 
Lambert's pro football rap sheet is amazing: He was the second player taken in Pittsburgh's legendary draft class of 1974. The group included four Hall of Famers – Lambert, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth – and it was this draft that turned the Steelers from an early-1970s contender into the dominant team of the decade. Lambert was the NFL's defensive Rookie of the Year that season and two years later was the NFL's defensive player of the year for a team that surrendered just 9.9 PPG and shut out five of its final eight opponents (it's the fourth-stingiest defense of the Super Bowl Era). Lambert was named a middle linebacker on the All-Decade teams of both the 1970s and 1980s (despite a career that ended in 1984).
 
Like Bleier, there are a lot of cool things love about Lambert. He grew up in the Gridiron Breadbasket, one in a long line of legends to come out of Ohio's high school (Crestwood of Mantua) and college (Kent State) football factories.
 
Most importantly, he was the clear leader on a defense filled with legends. When it came time for someone to kick ass – whether teammates or opponents – it was usually Lambert who swooped in to do the dirty work.
 
Perhaps the most famous incident came in Super Bowl X against Dallas. Pittsburgh's Roy Gerela had just missed a field goal, and the Cowboys great safety Cliff Harris got in the kicker's face to mock him. Lambert, part of the field-goal kicking unit, smacked Harris to the ground as 120 million people at home admired his handiwork. He drew a 15-yard penalty. But his teammates today said it was that moment – a personal show of "not-even-our-kicker's-going-take-any-shit" force by Lambert – that changed the tone of the game. And, in turn, it changed the course of football history.
 
Pittsburgh held on to win, 21-17. Had the Steelers lost, the Cowboys, and not the Steelers, might have gone down as the team of the decade in the 1970s.
 
Needless to say, it gives us a big ol' chubby when a foul-mouthed, toothless, ass-kicking middle linebacker changes the course of football history.
 
Chubby-producing Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jack Lambert, the baddest-ass mo-fo on the baddest-ass mo-fo of a defense in modern NFL history, the toothless, belligerent, ass-kicking centerpiece of the mighty Steel Curtain defense ... yes! That Jack Lambert ... was a skinny rail who barely weighed 220 pounds. Some reports say he played at as little as 205 pounds.
 
We shit bigger than that.

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