Football Classic Seasons Preview: 1961 and 1975

Classic Football

Legends Galore in Strat-O-Matic’s Version of 1961 and 1975 seasons
By Glenn Guzzo
            Get ready to experience the extraordinary and spectacular with Strat-O-Matic’s release of two classic pro football seasons this summer: 1961 and 1975.
            The 1961 season gives us the beginning of Title Town USA in Green Bay; the handoff (pass-off) from one Hall of Fame quarterback (Norm Van Brocklin) to another (Sonny Jurgensen) in Philadelphia; a 3,400-yard backfield (for 14 games) in Cleveland, and a 513-point offense in Houston among other thrills.
            The 1975 season offers 10 teams that won 10 games or more, with suffocating defenses in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Oakland, plus huge seasons from offensive legends O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, Roger Staubach, Ken Anderson, Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese, Lynn Swann and such electric players as Terry Metcalf, Chuck Foreman and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.
            Here are the details that may put you in can’t-wait mode (teams carded in the “six-packs” for each season are identified in bold face):
1961 NFL: Green Bay (11-3) wins its first championship under Vince Lombardi, in a run that would include more titles in 1962, 1965-1967 and the first two Super Bowls. The Packers did not lose a single championship game in this period. This time, they dominated New York (10-3-1), 27-0.
            Rich in superstars (Willie Davis, DT Henry Jordan, MLB Ray Nitschke, CB Herb Adderley and FS Willie Wood, who returned two punts for TDs), the Packer defense allowed only three opponents to top 17 points. FB Jim Taylor powered for 1,307 yards (5.4 avg) and 15 TDs, while HB Paul Hornung averaged 4.7/carry. QB Bart Starr passed to Max McGee, Boyd Dowler and Ron Kramer for at least 16 yards per catch each.
            New York had passer Y.A. Tittle, WR Del Shofner (68-1,125-11) and RB Alex Webster (928 yards, 4.7 avg) – more than enough to support a star-studded defense (DE Andy Robustelli, DT Rosey Grier, MLB Sam Huff, FS Jimmy Patton) that allowed no foe more than 24 points.
            The Giants were barely better than division foe Philadelphia (10-4), which had won the NFL title the previous year. QB Sonny Jurgensen replaced Norm Van Brocklin and led the NFL with 3,723 yards and 32 TD passes. WR Tommy McDonald (64-1,144-13) and HB Timmy Brown (6.8/carry and TDs on both punt and kickoff returns) were just as dynamic.
            Also in the highly competitive Eastern Division, 8-5-1 Cleveland’s Jimmy Brown ran for an NFL-best 1,408 yards and had more than 1,900 all-purpose yards. Sidekick HB Bobby Mitchell had 1,508 all-purpose yards and equaled Brown’s 10 TDs, including scores on punt and kickoff returns. Milt Plum was the league’s leading passer and the defense held nine foes to 17 points or fewer.
1961 AFL: With George Blanda throwing for 36 TDs, WR Charlie Hennigan catching 92 passes for 1,766 yards and AFL rushing leader RB Billy Cannon gaining 2,043 all-purpose yards and scoring 15 TDs, the 10-3-1 Houston Oilers scored 513 points (36.6/game) to win a hard-fought title over 9-4-1 Boston in the Eastern Division, then upset the defending champion Chargers, 10-3, in a surprisingly low-scoring title game. The Chargers, now in San Diego after their AFL debut in Los Angeles, were 12-2 with passing ace Jack Kemp and TE Dave Kocourek (1,055 yards receiving) leading a 396-point offense and DT Ernie Ladd, DE Earl Faison and LB Chuck Allen leading the league’s best defense (219 points).
1975 NFL: Ten teams won at least 10 games. Pittsburgh (12-2) won its second straight Super Bowl, 21-17, over wild-card Dallas (10-4). And the Cowboys got there on a wild ride that included the original – and controversial – “Hail Mary” pass.
            Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense (162 points) was the AFC’s best, by far. Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount (11 INTs), et al held nine foes to 10 or fewer points. Plenty good enough for an offense with RB Franco Harris (1,408 yards), QB Terry Bradshaw (only 9 INTs) and WR Lynn Swann (11 TDs).
            In the playoffs, Dallas beat Minnesota 17-14 on a last-play 50-yard TD pass from Roger Staubach (NFC-best 7.7 ypp) to Drew Pearson (11 TDs) after Staubach’s Hail Mary prayer was answered when refs missed Pearson’s push-off on the desperation bomb. Then the Cowboys drubbed the 12-2 Los Angeles Rams, 37-7, conquering a team that yielded only 135 points all season.
            St. Louis (11-3) beat Dallas twice to win the NFC Eastern Division. FB Jim Otis rambled for 1,076 yards. HB Terry Metcalf had 2,439 all-purpose yards and 13 TDs (one each on punt and kickoff returns) and QB Jim Hart hit WR Mel Gray (19 ypc) for 11 TDs.
            Oakland (11-3) won the AFC West with a defense that intercepted 35 passes, QB Ken Stabler (7.8 ypp), HB Pete Banaszak (16 rushing TDs) and WR Cliff Branch (18 ypc).
            Minnesota (12-2) won its first 10 games and the NFC Central. In addition to the Purple People Eater defense (DE Carl Eller, DT Alan Page, FS Paul Krause, et al) that held 14 foes to 180 points (only two reached 20), the Vikings had the NFC’s highest-scoring team (377 points) with HB Chuck Foreman (1,761 yards from scrimmage and 22 TDs) and Frank Tarkenton, who led the NFC in passing, with 64 percent completions and 25 TDs.
             Other formidable teams that will be available in the Windows game:
            — Cincinnati (11-3): Ken Anderson, the AFC’s top rated passer (61 percent completions, AFC-best 3,160 yards).
            — Baltimore (10-4): The AFC East champs had super passer Bert Jones (only 8 INTs) and RB Lydell Mitchell (who led the Colts both with 1,193 yards rushing for 11 TDs and with 60 pass receptions).
            — Miami (10-4): QB Bob Griese led the AFC with 8.9 ypp and the defense yielded the second fewest points (222) in the AFC.
            — Houston (10-4): Lost only to division foes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (twice each) while holding nine opponents to fewer than 20 points. WR Ken Burrough had 1,063 receiving yards (20-yard average) and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson returned three punts and one kickoff for scores.
            — Buffalo (8-6): Led the NFL with 420 points, thanks mostly to O.J. Simpson (1,817 yards rushing, 5.5 avg, 16 TDs, plus another 426 yards, 15-yard average and 7 TDs receiving). QB Joe Ferguson led the AFC with 25 TD passes.