History Lesson : Miracle(s) at the Meadowlands

Ever wonder how/when the victory formation came into existence? It’s a history lesson Giants fans would probably rather forget.

The Giants were in the midst of a woeful season in 1978 when they played the Eagles at the Meadowlands, the Giants home stadium. But that day, they found a way to get the win, and were 20 seconds away from closing out a 19-12 victory over Philadelphia.

Until the call came in to hand the ball off to star running back Larry Csonka on the next play instead of taking a knee. Csonka didn’t want the ball, didn’t want to risk having something happen in the final seconds of the game. But no one was going to change the play. They broke the huddle a little too late, lined up a little too quickly, and had a little too much confusion still amidst when the ball was snapped, unexpectedly.

Herman Edwards – player, coach, and now ESPN analyst – was a cornerback for the Eagles at that time. He was in the perfect position to scoop up the ball and run it into the end zone after the fumbled snap. I love his recollection of head coach Dick Vermeil’s reaction: “It dawned on him when he noticed people running by him. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ And someone said, ‘Herman ran it in for a touchdown!’ He never saw it until he watched the tape.”

Here’s what he saw:

The Eagles went on to the playoffs, the Giants went on to a firing spree, and everyone would talk about the Miracle at the Meadowlands for years to come. Ever since that game, someone always stands behind the quarterback in the victory formation, just in case another fumble should come to call.

But that wasn’t the only Miracle at the Meadowlands, and I have to say the second one is my favorite by far.

It was 2010. The Giants and Eagles were fighting for playoff position in Week 15 of the regular season. “Fighting” didn’t quite describe how the Eagles were playing during the first three quarters of the game – by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, they were down by 21 points.

This is the point in the game in which broadcasters scrape for commentary and everyone starts wondering if the network will flip to a better game.

It’s a good thing they didn’t, because over the course of seven minutes the Eagles scored three touchdowns to tie the game.

And then this happened:

And I’m pretty sure I screamed just as loud as any diehard Eagles fan when DeSean crossed the goal line, because a Giants loss meant my Packers still had a chance to make the playoffs as a wildcard team. (Which they did, and went on to win Super Bowl 45. Thank you, Eagles!)

How about you guys? Which is your favorite miracle?

History Lesson : Tom Brady’s Draft Story

It's easy to think that Tom Brady was drafted first overall to much fanfare, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Come learn the full story today!

image source

We’ve focused primarily on ancient history in these posts so far, but today we’re going back to fairly recent history.

Do you know who Tom Brady is? OF COURSE you do! Even if you don’t know a single thing about football and stumbled on this website completely by accident and are looking to leave as soon as possible (but don’t! stick around!), you know who Tom Brady is. That’s because Tom Brady will be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback, in NFL History. He transcends football; he’s living legend.

(Hyperbole hyperbole hyperbole.)

(But…truth truth truth.)

What you may not know about Tom Brady is that he did not get drafted #1 overall. Not #2 or #3, either. Tom Brady waited through 6 rounds to be drafted after 6 other quarterbacks and 198 other players. He was draft 199th overall by the Patriots, despite his lackluster scouting report:


Tom Brady Positives: Good height to see the field. Very poised and composed. Smart and alert. Can read coverages. Good accuracy and touch. Produces in big spots and in big games. Has some Brian Griese in him and is a gamer. Generally plays within himself. Team leader.

Negatives: Poor build. Very skinny and narrow. Ended the ’99 season weighing 195 pounds and still looks like a rail at 211. Looks a little frail and lacks great physical stature and strength. Can get pushed down more easily than you’d like. Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. Can’t drive the ball down the field and does not throw a really tight spiral. System-type player who can get exposed if he must ad-lib and do things on his own.

Summary: Is not what you’re looking for in terms of physical stature, strength, arm strength and mobility, but he has the intangibles and production and showed great Griese-like improvement as a senior. Could make it in the right system but will not be for everyone. 


I love that. LOVE that. Tom Brady has since proved nearly every negative wrong. (I say nearly only because homeboy is never going to be mobile. He can leave that to Colin Kaepernick and call it a day.) Was the scouting report wrong? Or did Tom Brady just work that much harder than everyone else? Probably both – but definitely the latter. He started his first season as the 4th quarterback on the depth chart. By season’s end, he was second and in the following season, he started a few games after starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured. He wasn’t spectacular right off the bat. But he did enough so that the Patriots never looked back; he’s been their starter ever since.

And he’s only led the team to 5 Super Bowls and won 3 of them. No big deal.

One of my favorite documentaries ESPN has ever done was The Brady 6, the story of the 6 quarterbacks taken before Tom Brady in the 2000 Draft. Here’s a peek into what he went through on Draft Day:

I just love his story. I can’t get enough of it. Anyone who has ever been told that you aren’t good enough, aren’t the right fit, won’t ever make it (ahem…Tim Tebow): take note. It’s possible.

Draft Week History Lesson : Bests and Busts

The draft wasn’t always the draft. It was always a selection process to procure new talent in which the worst teams selected players first, that much is true. But it hasn’t always been the media frenzy it has now become, complete with red carpet arrivals and round the clock coverage.

Future commissioner Bert Bell was the mastermind behind the NFL’s first draft in 1936. As fate would have it, the first player ever selected in the draft, Jay Berwanger, decided he didn’t want to play pro football after all.

I think it’s safe to say that tonight’s first pick will not follow suit.

In today’s NFL, it’s easy to think that all legendary talent gets drafted with the first or second pick. Last year’s draft history would tell us this is true: Andrew Luck was drafted first overall by the Colts and the Redskins moved up to take Robert Griffin III at number two. They’re both proving to be worth the high picks.

But history also tells us that Russell Wilson was chosen 73 picks later in the 3rd round of the draft. And that his Seahawks advanced farther in the playoffs than the Colts and the Redskins, whom the Seahawks beat in the first round to advance.

It’s not as cut-and-dry as it might seem in either capacity; there were extenuating circumstances throughout the year for all three teams. But it goes to show that sometimes the 75th pick can be just as valuable, and occasionally more valuable, than the first or second pick.

To test out this theory, let’s play a game. Try to match each player with their respective draft pick:

Draft day is HERE! Before the first pick is announced tonight, let's take a look back at the history of the draft.



A. (6) – Tom Brady was taken with the 199th pick in the 6th round. He was infamously drafted before 6 other QB’s, and will inevitably go down as one of the best to ever play the game.

B. (5) – Three quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks of the 1999 draft: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith. Only one survived to achieve success…and it wasn’t Couch or Smith.

C. (1) – See above.

D. (3)  – Shannon Sharpe was selected 192nd overall and spent 9 seasons with the Broncos, during which time he won two Super Bowls with the team.

E. (2) – The Bucs selected Ronde Barber 66th overall in the 1997 draft…and he’s still with the team to this day, 15 years later. And he’s still one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

F. (4) – Ryan Leaf is perhaps the most well-known of draft day busts, and also the saddest. He was taken by the Chargers with the 2nd pick in the 1st round by the Chargers and played there for only 2 years. He had all the potential in the world, but none of the drive.

Now, that list is admittedly deceiving, as there have been plenty of worthy #1 picks over the years: the Manning brothers both went with the first pick, as did Troy Aikman, John Elway, Earl Campbell, Terry Bradshaw, and plenty of other notables. It just goes to say that the draft might determine which team a player calls home for a time, but it doesn’t have anything to do with that player’s inherent talent and drive to be the best.

Who’s the diamond in the rough this year?

We’ll just have to wait and see. (That’s the best part!)

Happy draft day, everyone!

History Lesson : Pat Summerall

Pat Summerall passed away earlier this week at the age of 82, and I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to say he lived one of the greatest football lives of all time.

He played in the league for 10 years.

He played for Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi when they were both coaches (defense and offense, respectively) for the New York Giants. (Can you even imagine having BOTH of them as your coaches?!)

He played in the 1958 Championship game, what many call the greatest game ever played.

He made the extremely rare switch from player to play-by-play broadcaster, and did so exquisitely.

He called a record 16 Super Bowls, along with also broadcasting US Opens and the Masters.

But perhaps the most meaningful, at least for me, was his perfect pairing with John Madden. It was a bit controversial after his legendary career with Tom Brookshier – an equally perfect pairing – but Summerall and Madden are the voices I hear when I recall my first memories of watching games as a kid. I count it a special honor that the Super Bowl that made me fall in love with the Packers and with the game of football entirely (Super Bowl XXXI, Packers vs. Patriots) was called by one of the best broadcasting teams in NFL history, Pat Summerall and John Madden. Summerall was the refined balance to Madden’s electric eccentricity. Hearing this commentary again gave me chills:

The tribute by NFL Films has been the best one yet (not surprisingly; they always do a great job). This is well worth a few minutes of your day:


History Lesson : The Immaculate Reception

One reception. That’s all it took to turn the tide for the once-woeful Steelers.

Can you even believe that in 1972, after 40 years in business, the Steelers had only been to the playoffs once? And that first appearance had been way back in 1947 –  a 21-0 beat down by the Eagles? And that since then, the Steelers now have more Super Bowl trophies than any other team in the NFL?

Crazy. Downtrodden teams: take heart. Things change.

Things changed for the Steelers in their second playoff game, a 1972 game against the Raiders. It had been a low scoring affair, only 7-6 with 22 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Then this happened:

So…valid touchdown? Or not a touchdown?

It depends on who you talk to.

The rule in that era was that a ball could not bounce from one offensive player to another without a defensive player touching it in between. The Steelers hold to the belief that the ball bounced off of Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum before Steelers running back Franco Harris caught the deflection. The Raiders, however, believe that the ball bounced off of Steelers running back Frenchy Fuqua without ever touching Tatum.

The ref sided with the Steelers and awarded them the game-winning touchdown. Thanks to another history lesson post, we know that the Steelers didn’t win that game and go all the way to a Super Bowl victory. They were beaten by the infamous ’72 Dolphins in the Conference Championship round. The Dolphins would win that Super Bowl and the next, but the Steelers would win the two after that…and a few more to follow.

Quite a turn around for a team with two playoff appearances in 40 years.

History Lesson : The ’72 Dolphins

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You know that group that hangs out at the bar and talks about that championship they won back in the day? The group that everyone sees and follows with a sigh because you know it’s going to be the same old story again?

The ’72 Dolphins are the ultimate example of that club…only they have reason to chat up days gone by. They’re still the only team in the history of the league to have an undefeated season.

The amazing thing about the ’72 Dolphins is that they didn’t even have their starting quarterback, Bob Griese, for the entire season. He broke his ankle in Week 5. The backup QB, Earl Morral, led them to more wins than Griese did, winning 9 games in the regular season before Griese returned for the playoffs.

Also amazing: their undefeated season boasted not only 17 wins, but three shutouts. Three! One really would have been plenty, but three, on top of an undefeated season…that’s just crazy.

Six of the players on the legendary ’72 team are already in the Hall of Fame, along with the team’s coach, Don Shula. The team has been accused of being fiercely protective of their record-breaking season, but since over 40 years have passed without any team equalling their success, can you blame them?

What about the ’07 Patriots, you ask? Good memory! The Pats were close, but not close enough. They had an undefeated regular season, and even an undefeated playoff run, but lost the Super Bowl in the final minutes to the Giants, thus falling short of a completely undefeated season.

The Dolphins have struggled since the days of the ’72 team and the Dan Marino era that followed. They’ve made quite the splash in free agency so far this offseason, though, so maybe something could be brewing for next year.


Until then, Miami still has the ’72 team. And they’ll continue to hold their breath through each consecutive record-keeping season.