Don Shula 1930 – 2020

Remembering the exceptional American, and Ohioan, who was Don Shula

I rooted against his Miami Dolphins every single game, but boy where they great!

Don Shula died today at the age of 90.

As a little boy, I saw things very much in a all or nothing way. And I was stung by Coach Shula leaving the Baltimore Colts, the first sports team I connected with – probably because of the pretty cowgirls in their entourage. But also because their kamikaze rabid dog linebacker Mike Curtis. I didn’t realize (consciously) that they were the longtime rival of my dad’s Cleveland Browns, but he never said a discouraging word against it.

Shula jumping to the AFL was another snub, even if they were merging with the NFL. And he had the bad manners to move to a team in the same division as my Colts, and take the lowly Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season. At least my Colts won the Super Bowl that year – finally!

But  worst of all, he beat my Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship in his second season on the way to losing the Super Bowl, preventing a rematch between the defending champion Colts and the eventual champion Cowboys. But then he went on to win the next two Super Bowls, including that “Perfect Season,” where I rooted against them every game they played.

But I always had tremendous respect for his Dolphins, and admiration for their rhino fullback Larry Czonka and the rest of those glory teams.

He was a tough S.o.G., some say a veritable alligator as a coach. And I always loved this story, recounted in his obituary at

“After the 1969 season, Shula moved to Miami, where he was given a 10 percent stake in ownership of the team (he later sold it). His first team made the playoffs. His second made it to the Super Bowl. His third and fourth teams won championships and established themselves as South Florida legends, complete with a famous story about the time former Dolphin Manny Fernandez captured an alligator from the Everglades and put it in Shula’s shower after practice. When Shula ran into the locker room, fullback Larry Csonka informed him that players had taken a vote — with Shula prevailing by just one — to decide whether to tape the alligator’s mouth shut.”

He was drafted by the Browns in 1951 as a Defensive Halfback, but spent most of his seven seasons with the Colts, who in 1963, made him the youngest coach in NFL history, at that time.

And the rest is very much history indeed. R.I.P. Coach Shula. It was a great 90 years.


Who doesn’t like brownies?

Not all brownies are as nice

Petyton Hillis Browns jersey and brownies cap

OK, I am geeking out a bit here

I’ve always wanted an NFL jersey, with embroidered numbers and name, not the flimsy sacks with screen printed numbers.

But I think the current Browns uniforms are butt ugly. And official Nike Retro ones cost $100 (compared to $350 for actual game quality jerseys) and not much like actual pre-2010 Reebok jerseys.

And even used ones of players who were complete duds aren’t very affordable and usually the cheapo variety at that.

And then I found it on Ebay at a thrift store. New with tags – $15.

Circa 2011 Reebok On Field Series, Size 48 (not Small, Medium, Large, of the cheaper versions.)

It is a respectable #40.

That is Peyton Hillis, an old-school rhinoceros of a fullback who in 2010 had one phenomenal season for an otherwise forgettable Browns team, so good that he was on the cover of the Madden NFL 2012 video game.

And then he suffered the “Madden Curse,” via bad hamstrings for the rest of his 7-year career, probably due to his coach running him “til the wheels came off” for that one big season.

Hardly a dud, Hillis was a gladiator didn’t start until Game 3, and then gave his all for 1,177 yards rushing, 61 receptions for 1,654 total yards and 13 TDs. On a team that went 5-11. He and Marshall Faulk are the only players to attain more than 130 yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 60 yards receiving in a single game.

For $15, this jersey is almost certainly a well-made counterfeit from Asia, but it is good enough for the Brooklyn sports bars.

I am thrilled!

Here is a video showing Peyton Hillis running people over.


A Super Bowl for the Ages

Super Bowl LIII was a Spectacle of Defense

People may have seen this Super Bowl as boring or even forgetful, when it was actually incredible.

I can understand why viewers did not find the game entertaining. It was almost as tense and frustrating for us as it was for the players, as the defenses kept blowing out the match before the offenses could light the fireworks.

While today’s casual viewers wanted to see high-scoring offenses do their thing, in the scheme of NFL history it was the defenses that made this game memorable, even legendary.


The winning defense put on the most dominating performance since Super Bowl III, played 50 years ago.

But there are significant differences. Sunday’s teams were pretty much even when it came to professional experts picking the winner. After blowouts in the first two Super Bowls, nobody picked the NY Jets from the upstart AFL to upset the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, which earlier that season were being called the Greatest Team in NFL History.

But the Jets victory was not nearly as impressive as the Patriots’, because several of their opponents were playing with significant injuries, and they were facing a backup quarterback. The Colt’s only points came late in the game when hobbled John Unitas came off the bench in a last-ditch effort at a comeback.

Super Bowl line

An overwhelming performance

The Rams had the second highest scoring offense in the league this season, with all their stars but one in good shape yesterday. The Patriots shut them out in the first half, with but two First Downs, and held them to 3 points total.

The victory was achieved in the boring and forgettable trenches, where continual penetration from New England’s front seven allowed no time for the Rams’ complicated trickery to unfold, forcing LA to resort to traditional plays.

It’s not that the Rams “didn’t show up.” The Patriots took the Ram’s usual game plan away from them.

LA’s defense was almost as impressive as New England’s, until the end. That’s when the boring and forgettable preseason conditioning paid off yet again for the Patriots.

Their defense had just a little more gas left in the tank, and their offensive line gave their quarterback the time to make the key throws he couldn’t earlier in the game, and then they split open the Ram’s Fearsome Foursome like a melon for the winning touchdown run.

Finally, the Patriot’s pass rush actually got better on the Ram’s very last drive, despite the refs not calling the blatant Offensive Holding, which got worse and worse as the game went on.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was awesome

The only other time both defenses were so dominant and disruptive in the same Super Bowl was Super Bowl V, which is often accused of being the worst Super Bowl, the sloppiest, etc., when it was really two ferocious defenses making two good offenses look bad.

The MVP was the middle linebacker for the losing team, the Cowboy’s Chuck Howley, even though it was the victorious Colts’ middle linebacker, Mike Curtis, whose interception set up the winning field goal.

Super Bowl Curitis

While I can appreciate that Julian Edelman’s 10 receptions were one short of Jerry Rice’s Super Bowl record, it seems to me that there were more-valuable players on the two defenses of this particular game, with at least three playing for New England who had more to do with the Rams losing than Edelman had to do with the Patriots coming out on top.

Super Bowl LIII was like a heavyweight prize fight of two dominant defenses shutting down two famous offenses, each making the opposing star quarterbacks seem “off” or “not themselves.” On TV, we saw passes not getting to where receivers were. We didn’t see the cornerbacks and linebackers disrupting timing routes so the receivers weren’t getting to where they should have been.

Super Bowl pass

And so the defenses kept blowing out the match to the fireworks – until Tom Brady’s last rocket took off on course and landed in Gronkowski’s hands, in the only little window it could have, due to the triple-coverage.


It was one of a handful of offensive plays from either side that succeeded, and it was the most important.

There will never be scripted drama quite like that. And anyone who thinks that can happen by the refs or the league “fixing” the Patriots’ victories should just keep their mouth shut so all the stupid doesn’t fall out.

And so, Tom Brady got his sixth championship victory, in eighteen seasons. He only needs one more to tie the GOAT.

Otto Graham Super Bowl

Otto Graham played professional football for 10 seasons and took his team to the championship game every year, winning seven of them. This was in an era before the ball was reshaped for more accurate passing, and still he set records not touched until Joe Montana was playing with rules that gave receivers much greater advantages while running routes; not to mention the coddling of receivers that goes on in Brady’s era.

For his time, Brady is indeed amazing. But with the pro-offense rules they have these days, it is the defensive performances in this most-recent Super Bowl that make it truly incredible, even legendary.

And that’s one man’s word on…

Super Bowl LIII was so incredible




Rodgers’ Astounding Performance

I’ve always felt Aaron Rodgers is the greatest quarterback since John Unitas.

No matter how many Super Bowls Tom Brady has won. I am now convinced.

I would not have believed it if I had not just witnessed one of THE most heroic performances in the history of professional sports – or anywhere outside of actual warfare.

Aaron Rodgers, who was carted off mid-way in the first half to what seemed likely the end of his season due to a leg injury, wasn’t able to stand on his left leg as he took the field in the second half to stare down a 20-0 deficit. I cannot ever remember seeing a player leave on a cart and come back to play again in the same game.

And then he led the Green Bay Packers to a 24-23 victory over their historic rival Chicago Bears, to increase his at-home record to 57-8, and 51-2 since going 6-6 in his first 12 starts.
But there is so much more to it, and you can’t make this stuff up, folks!
Kalil Mack just arrived on the Bear’s roster this week and showed why he deserves to be the highest-paid defensive player in league history with his own super hero performance in the first half that included harassing Rodgers non-stop and being the main reason Rodgers went down to be injured when another defender fell on him, to stopping the Packer’s first worthwhile drive, when he charged in like a flash and simply took the ball out of the hand of Rodger’s replacement, Deshone Kizer.
On the next drive, Mack nearly stripped the ball a second time on a “hurry,” before intercepting a Kizer pass that he returned for a touchdown, to put the Bears up 17-0. And most of America went to bed amazed that the Packers were being blown out at home and Aaron Rodgers was done for the season after having missed 10 weeks the previous year due to a broken collar bone.
Then came A-Rod’s gimpy return, which resulted in a field goal, then a bomb to the corner of the end zone right into the hands of a scrappy Geronimo Alison for a TD, to jaw-dropping needle-threading passes for another score, and then Randal Cobb’s 75-yard TD scamper after Rodgers one-legged scramble disrupted the defense and thread yet another needle to get Cobb the ball. And all of it while holding Chicago to 6 points.
AND THEN veteran golden-maned linebacker Clay Mathews had a bizarrely stupid Roughing the Passer call on Fourth Down to give the Bears and their young but steely QB new life. But they failed to convert on a later fourth down, and Rodgers hobbled his way to the victory.
The Green Bay Packers were 0-107 when trailing by 17 or more points in the 4th quarter. But no longer.
For all the hoopla about Rodgers hail mary pass against the Lions some years back, that only happened after the refs called a phantom Face Mask penalty that didn’t actually happen, which gave Rodgers one more play. But this win was absolutely earned. And while the Bears and their fans must feel absolutely gut wrenched, they showed they are a force unlike anything that’s been in Chicago in many years.
And that makes the walking wounded performance of Aaron Rodgers and his mates all the more amazing.

2016 NFL Football Season Underway

The NFL Football season is upon us.

Predictions and reflections

The first game prediction Denver 24 – Carolina 20

But really, I cannot remember a Week 1 where so few games seemed a sure thing.

Seattle at home against Miami, yeah. But anything could happen in the other games, given all the changes in personnel and people missing in action for one reason or another.

Out on a limb time: End of Season Rankings

NFC East – Cowboys

NFC North – Packers

NFC South – Panthers

NFC West – Cardinals

Wild Card – Giants, Seahawks

Dark Horse – Saints

AFC East – Patriots

AFC North – Bengals

AFC South – Colts

AFC West – Raiders

Wild Card – Steelers, Broncos

Dark Horse – Jets