90 Yards and a Cloud of Dust

90 Yards and a Cloud of Dust
By Glenn Guzzo
            Football teams like to say they are only one snap from a touchdown. While we know that’s mostly wishful thinking, the exception is in Strat-O-Matic’s new All-Time Franchise football set.
            There is more sudden-strike potential in these ratings than any standard season.
            It’s not just that these 30 franchise times are rich in Hall-of-Fame offensive players. Their stats are normalized, reducing some famous names into unspectacular Strat cards.
            It’s not that these ratings capture the lustrous careers of Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Crazy Legs Hirsch and Jerry Rice, among many others. Career stats tend to flatten over time, compared to the extremes a single season can produce.
            No, the electricity in this set is generated by the longest play these extraordinary talents can produce on their best runs, receptions and returns.
            Counting automatic touchdowns on returns, this set has 108 plays that can travel 90 yards or more. Double that number of plays to include all the plays of 80-89 yards.
            And these startling results do NOT include the Long Gain results on running back, quarterback, receiver and team defense cards.
            Eighty percent of the teams can return kickoffs for touchdowns. Eighty percent can return punts for touchdowns. Sixty percent have at least one receiver who has a Long Pass reception of +90 or better. All have receivers who can travel +80 or longer.
            How much fun is Chicago’s Gale Sayers? He can return both kickoffs and punts for touchdowns. He has a +80 on End Run and a +80 Flat Pass reception.
            Washington HB/FL Bobby Mitchell goes +90 on End Run and +99 on Long Pass. Dallas HB/FB Herschel Walker goes +91 on End Run and +93 on Flat Pass.
            Mitchell is one of five players with the attention-getting +99. Dallas’ Tony Dorsett, who goes +99 Off Tackle, is the only one who has this result on his running card. The other receivers are Miami’s Tony Martin, Oakland’s Cliff Branch and Philadelphia’s Mike Quick, all on Long Pass.
            Other Highlights:
            KICKOFF RETURNS: 31 players can take a kickoff to the house. Twelve of them do it on rolls with multiple dice combos (#s 3, 4, 10, 11). Sayers has a touchdown on roll #4 and Green Bay’s Travis Williams has one on roll #10.
            On eight teams, both of their kickoff-return men have TD capability. Check this out: On Chicago and the old-timer “Greats” both return men have touchdowns on multiple dice combos.
            Note: There are no automatic touchbacks in the kickoff columns, so these return threats will get their chances. But there are no Long Gains on the kicking teams’ coverage rolls, either.
            PUNT RETURNS: 27 players can return punts all the way (all of them on roll #2). Five teams have TD potential in both of their punt-return men.
            Special Citations: Sayers is one of seven return men who score on both kickoffs and punts. The others are Atlanta’s Deion Sanders, Cincinnati’s Lemar Parrish, Houston’s Billy “Whiteshoes” Johnson, Kansas City’s Tamarick Vanover, the Greats’ Billy Hillenbrand and the Legends’ Buddy Young.
            Los Angeles and San Diego are the only teams that can get touchdowns from both of their kickoff-return men and both of their punt-return men. For each team, that’s four different players.
            RECEPTIONS: 30 players have a play of +90 or longer, some of them on a multiple-dice-combo. Most are on Long Pass plays, but two can do it on a Short Pass and two can do it on Flat Pass.
            Detroit has four different receivers with at least a +90 Long Pass reception, including HB Doak Walker, and two more with +80 or better. Ten teams have four receivers who can get at least +80 on Long Pass receptions.
            RUNNING PLAYS: Only seven backs can go +90 or better (two Off Tackle, five End Run), but 17 more can go +80, including Detroit QB Dutch Clark’s +82 on Must Run.
            With HBDorsett and FB/HB Walker, only Dallas can field twin backs with +90 potential. Dorsett can go +99 Off Tackle and Walker can go +91 on an End Run.