Rosenblatt NJ.com: Giants salary cap update: How much cap space is left after Dion Lewis, Corey Coleman, other free agent signings?
Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM)
3/25/20, 10:15 AM
Grading each NYG free agent signing:
James Bradberry (B)
Blake Martinez (C)
Levine Toilolo (B)
Kyler Fackrell (A-)
Cam Fleming (B-)
Nate Ebner (A)
Colt McCoy (B)
Dion Lewis (B)
Overall, I'm giving this haul a (B) based on contracts and needs filled.
Traina SI.com: Roster-building Challenges the Giants are Facing Amid COVID-19 Mitigation Tactics
RV SNY: Giants three-round 2020 NFL Mock Draft: Dave Gettleman targets one position with his top picks
Q: No Pass rusher?
Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY)
3/25/20, 4:46 PM
They are hoping Kyler Fackrell will address that. Maybe Leonard Williams. And maybe Patrick Graham can scheme some things to help.
Q: Negative Media reaction if no pass rusher?
Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY)
3/25/20, 4:48 PM
You might be right, but I wouldn't. I don't think this is a particularly deep pass-rusher class. But yeah, if a good one slips to them in Round 2, I might feel differently. Just don't know who that would be.
Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY)
3/25/20, 4:46 PM
I have concern, but I believe that they believe Kyler Fackrell addresses that spot for now. I'm not sure they think anyone they can get in this draft is necessarily better. They can't get Chase Young and the other top ones will be gone by Round 2
Q: If Braun or Gross-Marks available at 36?
Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY)
3/25/20, 4:44 PM
I definitely could see that. My issue is they signed two LBs in free agency, including one they consider an edge rusher, so I think they may lean towards plugging other holes. And center is a huge one. ... But I could see an edge-rusher, too
Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY)
3/25/20, 4:51 PM
I don't think the Giants could even afford him on a one-year deal now. From what I can tell, they've got less than $10M in cap space, and eventually need room for draft picks. Even now, I bet he gets $18-20M for a year
WFAN: Carl Banks: 'I Would Understand' If Giants Draft Offensive Lineman At Pick No. 4
“An offensive lineman who is going to be there for Daniel Jones for the next seven, eight, ten years, if he’s successful, is going to prove better than an Isaiah Simmons. And that’s taking nothing away from (Isaiah Simmons) … If they take a lineman, I understand the logic.”
Schneier/Falato Big Blue Banter Podcast: *NEW Big Blue Banter*
- Breaking down @nickfalato 's 7-round #Giants only mock draft
- Film review: What does Dion Lewis offer?
- Should #nyg jump back into the Clowney chase (Audio)
Traina Locked on Giants Podcast: Peter Bukowski of LockedOn Packers drops by the show to give us a rundown of linebackers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell, formerly with the Packers (Audio)
Lombardo NJ.com: NFL free agency: Ex-Giants wide receiver lands with NFC East rival | How does departure impact depth chart?
Schwartz NYP: Giants’ contract standoff with Leonard Williams could drag on
PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants)
3/25/20, 1:41 PM
Dravon Askew-Henry recorded a 91.6 coverage grade in his final XFL game. He didn’t allow a reception on 9 targets including 5 pass break-ups. 3rd best coverage grade among qualified corners in the 5 weeks of the XFL season
Field Yates (@FieldYates)
3/25/20, 3:19 PM
Nate Ebner's one-year deal with the Giants: $950K roster bonus plus a $1.05M base salary. $2M value and pretty straightforward
Breer MMQB: Mailbag: Why There's No Market for Jameis Winston
Why the former No. 1 pick of the Bucs hasn't found a new home yet. Plus, why Jarrett Stidham may pan out, a plan if the Dolphins pass on Tua, and the latest on Jadeveon Clowney and Trent Williams.
“I think two things are at work here. One, Clowney’s injury history (he’s had microfracture surgery) is such where he’s getting dinged for the same reason Cam Newton is—an inability to meet with team doctors makes it difficult to prove that he’s not an enormous medical risk. Two, I think his financial expectations were a little unrealistic to begin with, and that’s not a knock on him as a player.
I know it was fairly well known in Houston that he wanted to join Frank Clark and DeMarcus Lawrence in the $20 million club after being franchised in 2019, and the Texans were never going there. That, plus clashes with coaches, led to the trade to Seattle, and he was good-not-great for the Seahawks (he actually had fewer sacks than one of the “parts” in his trade, Jacob Martin). So if you’re paying him what he wants, you’re doing that based on potential, and it’s tough to pay someone as banged up as Clowney’s been on that basis.
All of that is why I think the likelihood is he’s back in Seattle, maybe on a one-year deal.”
Freeman B/R: Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Judging a Frantic NFL Offseason for Every Team
Corry CBS Sports.com: Agent's Take: 10 key contract-related takeaways from the 2020 offseason through the first wave of free agency
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
OK. Let's discus sacks vs pressure.
1. Yes, from an EPA/Impact standpoint sacks are a better play statistically and overall than pressure.
But clearly it's more complicated than that
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
2. Pressure in and of itself matters.
Last season, pressuring a QB moved his passer rating from 99.8 to 67.3, which is the equivalent of turning DeShaun Watson into Duck Hogdes. It's a major impact and win for the defense long-term
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
3. Sacks are a TINY snapshot of a pass rusher's season.
10 to 15 sacks is like half a percent of a pass rusher's season.
10-20 is a little over a percent.
It's signal noise, even assuming those sacks are all the same quality play, which of course they're not.
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
4. Not all sacks are qualitatively good plays by the defender. Remember the play Michael Strahan broke the sack record with? That's the same statistically as the play Khalil Mack stole Taylor Decker's soul on. Clearly they're not the same play from a qualitative point of view
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
5. Almost 1/5th of all sacks are completely unblocked.
Another 1/3rd are either clean up or pursuit plays. Expected level plays for an NFL player.
So like 1/2 of all sacks are basically noise.
You NEED to look at pressure to build up a better picture. It increases resolution
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
6. Pressure is more predictive. Because it provides greater image resolution for the player in question, past pressure predicts future sacks better than past sacks do.
So why focus on it? Because it's less dumb than looking at how many sacks a player has in the past.
Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam)
3/25/20, 12:22 PM
These are the reasons we shouldn't think of pressure as simply 'almost plays' and actually think smarter about the data we're using to try to actually achieve something - greater context and knowledge about players.
McManaman AZ Republic: QB Brett Hundley: Arizona Cardinals will be 'off and running' when NFL activities return
Ledbetter AJC: Falcons sign tight end Khari Lee
vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23)
3/25/20, 3:31 PM
Khari Lee more of an inline blocker, and Falcons need that after getting rid of Luke Stocker. Hayden Hurst the pass-catching tight end after Austin Hooper went to Browns
Hensley ESPN Baltimore: Source: Ankle issue holding up DL Michael Brockers' deal with Ravens
Newton ESPN Charlotte: Panthers' rebuild could progress slower than 1995 expansion team
Jensen Phil Inquirer: Matt Rhule signing Temple players for Carolina Panthers is nothing like Chip Kelly signing Oregon players for the Eagle
Panthers.com: Panthers sign DL Zach Kerr, bring back WR DeAndrew White
Field Yates (@FieldYates)
3/25/20, 5:02 PM
The Panthers have signed former Cardinals DT Zach Kerr, per source. He adds some size (6-2, 334) in the middle of a defense that is now without Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe
Chicago Tribune: When Ryan Pace traded for Nick Foles, he __________. Our writers fill in the blanks on 4 Bears issues after the 1st week of free agency.
Field Yates (@FieldYates)
3/25/20, 4:59 PM
The Bears have re-signed QB Tyler Bray. He's back in the fold as the third QB to try and earn a spot on the roster behind Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky
Hobson Bengals.com: Reports Of X Files Bulk Up Bengals On O-Line And In Locker Room
Hobson Bengals.com: Reported Vonn Bell Deal Rings In Culture Change As Bengals Revamp Defense
Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr)
3/25/20, 12:24 PM
Bengals signing former Tennessee CB Leshaun Sims, source said.
The massive overhaul of the CB room continues
Pluto Cleveland Plain Dealer; Cleveland Browns Scribbles: Jack Conklin, Austin Hooper offer glimpses of a fun offense
Williams Cleveland Plain Dealer: Can new Browns middle linebacker B.J. Goodson really replace Joe Schobert? -- Film review
ESPN: Source: Cowboys, Dak Prescott resume contract talks
Eatman Cowboys.com: Cowboys Still Working on Deal With Dontari Poe
Moore Dallas Morning News: What does the extreme makeover of the Cowboys’ defensive line mean for Tyrone Crawford?
Demovsky ESPN GB: Packers' 2021 decisions: David Bakhtiari or Aaron Jones? Kenny Clark or Kevin King?
Doyel Indianapolis Star: Teammates, opposing players love trash-talking new Colts QB Philip Rivers
Erickson Indianapolis Star: Why the Colts have resisted spending big money on free agent WRs
Adam Caplan (@caplannfl)
3/25/20, 2:39 PM
Strong 4-year extension for new Colts DT DeForest Bucker:
$21m apy, first 2 years he'll earn over $40m ($23.4m in year one).
Erickson Indianapolis Star: Colts sign Sheldon Day: ‘My personality is big because I’m from Indianapolis’
DiRocco ESPN Jacksonville: Leonard Fournette must prove himself again before getting big contract
McMullen Chiefs.com: Five Things to Know About New Chiefs' CB Antonio Hamilton
Bair NBC Bay Area: Raiders still need secondary help after Eli Apple, Jeff Heath signings
Vic Tafur (@VicTafur)
3/25/20, 2:45 PM
Raiders do love Clemson guys and one scout told McGinn: Terrell "had a bad game in the big game, but he didn’t quit. He kept fighting. His mental toughness is really good. This kid has more skill than the kid Oakland drafted (last year, Trayvon Mullen)."
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Wilde State Journal: For Bulaga, a fresh start with Chargers
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Rablais The Adovcate (La): In times of crisis, former LSU standout Andrew Whitworth makes his home state proud
Klein LA Times: Former Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman to sign one-year deal with Eagles
Habib Palm Beach Post: Kyle Van Noy and Brian Flores enjoy working together. Really. So don’t pay too much attention to the fact that they get on each other’s nerves
Hartman Minn Star Tribune: Young players need to rise up for Vikings
Goessling Minn Star Tribune: Vikings add receiver Tajae Sharpe, defensive lineman Anthony Zettel
Price Boston Globe: With Stephen Gostkowski gone, could the Patriots turn to Jake Bailey to do it all?
Just Nola.com: This is not a fantasy draft:' Saints GM Mickey Loomis in favor of delaying NFL draft amid coronavirus
Triplett ESPN NO: Saints' Sean Payton says he's 'doing well' after testing positive for the coronavirus
Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_)
3/25/20, 7:00 PM
Sean Payton said Taysom Hill is going to be the Saints’ No. 2 QB going into the 2020 season. Payton: “He’s earned that opportunity.”
Johnson Nola.com: After re-signing with Saints, Noah Spence hopes better focus leads to better results
NEW YORK JETS
Mehta NYDN: Robby Anderson spurns Jets to sign deal with Panthers: source
Mehta NYDN: Rebuilt Jets offensive line faces a nightmare scenario this offseason
Cimini ESPN NY: Source: Jets, LB Patrick Onwuasor agree to 1-year deal
Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY)
3/25/20, 2:39 PM
The Jets add more competition at inside linebacker. Patrick "Peanut" Onwuasor started 31 games for the Ravens the last three seasons. With C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson coming off injuries, they need some experience there, just in case
Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley)
3/25/20, 2:44 PM
Let's try this again ...
New York Ravens?
LB Patrick Onwuasor is the latest notable former Ravens player acquired by Jets since Joe Douglas took over as GM:
-WR Breshad Perriman
-OL Alex Lewis
-RB Kenneth Dixon
-LB Albert McClellan
-CB Maurice Canady
McLane Phil Inquirer: Eagles pass on top free agent wide receivers. The NFL draft looks more promising
Domowitch Phil Inquirer: Hassan Ridgeway returns to a Eagles team stacked at defensive tackle
Bowen Phil Inquirer: Worth a nickel: Eagles add low-cost, experienced corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, who excels in the slot
Zach Berman (@ZBerm)
3/25/20, 1:19 PM
Eagles add another nickel, already have Avonte Maddox and Cre'Von LeBlanc. Might be an indication that they want to play Maddox on the outside.
Pryor ESPN Pittsburgh: Steelers sign DT Cavon Walker, OT Jarron Jones, S Tyree Kinnel
Pryor ESPN Pittsburgh: Why Eric Ebron's upside outweighs the risk for Steelers
Branch SF Chronicle: Mel Kiper thinks top wide receiver prospects could be historically elite
Bell News Tribune: Germain Ifedi is gone. Seahawks’ former top pick signs with Chicago--for only one year
Bell News Tribune: As they continue to wait are Seahawks in better spot with Jadeveon Clowney than last week?
Monson PFF: Just how good is Jadeveon Clowney, and why isn't he signed?
“And summation of him in particular:
Sacks thing is silly, but totality of data says he's borderline top 10 EDGE. Does that deserve #1 money? Probably not. Hence delay signing.”
Romano TB Times: Go for broke: Signing Tom Brady is typical Bruce Arians
TB Times: Bucs wanted Breshad Perriman back, but needed to prioritize elsewhere
Smith Buccaneers.com: O.J. Howard Will Get Chance to Earn Tom Brady's Trust
TB Times: The Bucs keep the band together on defense
Bringing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh back on a one-year, $8 million deal is the final piece of the puzzle
Wyatt Titans.com: Titans Agree to Terms with Veteran Offensive Lineman Ty Sambrailo
Paras Washington Times: Redskins continue to transform to Carolina North under Rivera
John Keim (@john_keim)
3/26/20, 8:02 AM
Signed OL Jeremy Vujnovich; camp competition; 16 starts for Colts in '17; no games in '19
Signed WR Cody Latimer; good size; depth; can return KO's
TW Saga continues. Teams unwilling to both pay TW and surrender higher picks. Curious how changes b4/during draft
Fortier Washington Post: Redskins sign former Giants wide receiver Cody Latimer, as well as offensive lineman
Svriluga Washington Post: In Trent Williams vs. the Redskins, it used to be easy to pick a side. Not anymore
Kahler MMQB: James Morgan Is the Hot Name Among Draft QBs
The quarterback’s rise from a forgettable run at Bowling Green to star turn at Florida International to draft-season darling. Plus, Tua looks like he’s ahead of schedule
“Teams in the market for a quarterback have shown significant interest in the 23-year-old who played his high school ball in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, in the shadow of Lambeau Field. Among them: Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, Miami, New England and Indianapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Buffalo, the Jets and Giants.
A 6' 4", 230-pound pro-style quarterback, Morgan began his college career at Bowling Green in 2015, spending his true freshman season redshirting and learning Dino Babers’s air raid offense. Babers left for Syracuse, and new coach Mike Jinks brought a new system to BGSU and, early in the ’16 season, found a new starting quarterback in Morgan. But midway through the next year, Morgan was overtaken by true freshman Jarret Doege; Morgan decided to look for a new opportunity.
He finished a pre-law degree at Bowling Green and transferred to FIU, where his career took off. He quickly won the starting job and earned Conference-USA Newcomer of the Year honors after completing 65.3% of his passes for 2,727 yards, a school-record 26 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, and leading the Panthers to a program-record nine wins. As a senior he played through injuries and his numbers regressed—one scout pointed to Morgan’s completion percentage last season (58.0%) as an area of concern, saying that he tends to force throws downfield.
But a return to health led to a standout week at the East-West Shrine Game, and the momentum has built from there. Teams like Morgan’s size and arm talent, and are impressed with his intellect, leadership and mental preparation. One scout who spent time with Morgan at the combine describes him as, “very smart.” Another adds: “We all liked him that week.”
With a month to go in the draft process, he could end up in the Day 2 conversation.”
Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer)
3/25/20, 12:13 PM
On a conference call, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. says potential Ravens target A.J. Epenesa likely won't fall any further than the late first round or early second round.
The Iowa DE, who had a disappointing combine performance, is the No. 25 overall pick in Kiper's latest mock draft
Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday)
3/25/20, 12:08 PM
Mel Kiper says Isaiah Simmons is at the top of his list among NFL-ready prospects
Diaz Monroe News[/url] Star: With no Pro Day, LA Tech's Amik Robertson uses unconventional means to reach NFL scouts
Former Giants News
Walker Hoosier Huddle.com: New IU Strength Coach Aaron Wellman Wants to Maximize Efficiency and Minimize Orthopedic Stress
March 25, 2020
“Wellman’s experience in the NFL helped him reach a strong conclusion about the way collegiate athletes were being treated. He had the ability to write up a custom strength, conditioning, and nutritional plan for each player individually when he was with the Giants. He’d like to bring that to the college game, partly because he was able to see the players that weren’t able to get that kind of treatment in college. Wellman went on to explain, “...we progress to individual needs based largely on where the window of greatest adaptation is for the individual. In other words, does he have a significant window of adaptation with regard to strength or with regards to speed, and what we do is we just influence his program more so towards those barriers to performance. We identify his strengths, make sure we are still training his strengths but really we shift program to focus on what are those barriers to preventing this individual from achieving top performance, and that's where our program tends to shift towards for each individual.”
Northrup Buffalo News: Amid all his honors, one big hit defined Mike Stratton's great Bills career
“Mike Stratton, an unsung end on a single-wing team at the University of Tennessee who became one of the most famous players in Buffalo Bills history, died Wednesday of heart complications. He was 78.
A six-time selection for the American Football League All-Star game and a two-time All-Pro, Stratton was selected to the Bills 50-year anniversary team, and his name went on the Wall of Fame at New Era Field in 1994.
Still, Stratton is best known for his hit on San Diego Chargers fullback Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL championship game at War Memorial Stadium.
Stratton, covering the right flat, drove his shoulder into Lincoln just as the Chargers back was collecting a pass from quarterback Tobin Rote. Not only did it cause an incompletion, the hit put Lincoln out of the game with broken ribs and inspired the Bills. The Bills trailed, 7-0, at the time but rallied for a 20-7 victory.
Standing out on pass defense was not unusual for Stratton. He played 142 games for the Bills from 1962 to 1972, starting most at right linebacker. He made 18 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in 1963. He also had two touchdowns on fumble returns.
He never missed a game until the 1970 season, when he was out of the lineup for five games. Ironically, Stratton's last season in the NFL was with the Chargers in 1973, and he was still picking off opponent passes. He had three that season.
Maiorana Rochester Democrat: Mike Stratton, who made one of the most famous plays in Buffalo Bills history, dies at 78
Turney PFJ: Review— America's Trailblazing Middle Linebacker: The Story of NFL Hall of Famer Willie Lanier
Miller PFJ: The Hammer's Dubious Record
Rashad Jennings RB FA-OAK 2014 NYG 2014-2016 3-26-1985
Clarence LeBlanc DB UDFA LSU 2003 NYG 2003 3-26-1977
Dick Nolan RS/RDH/LS D4-Maryland 1954, Purchased GB 1960 NYG 1954-1958, 1960-1961 Born 3-26-1932 Died 11-11-2007
Shipley PFR: Dick Nolan: Man of Many Seasons
“Learning the Ropes
Nolan’s NFL career kicked off in 1954 when the New York Giants drafted him in the fourth round from the University of Maryland, where he had starred as a two-way back on the Terps’ 1953 national championship team. He quickly earned a starting spot as a cornerback opposite Tom Landry, and picked off six passes in his rookie season. In Nolan’s first two seasons, the Giants were a team on the rise that steadily improved but fell just short of the playoffs.
Thanks to two young assistants who would later become NFL legends, the Giants’ fortunes were soon to change. Landry retired after the 1955 season to become defensive coordinator under Jim Lee Howell, and
he immediately made his mark as a strategist and innovator. On the offensive side of the ball, Vince Lombardi installed the system that would later make the Green Bay Packers the dominant team of the 1960s. “Landry was a very smart guy and so was Lombardi, but they had their own ideas about football and their
own philosophies,” remembered Nolan. “Vince motivated guys emotionally, and he was very good at it. Tom motivated a guy by letting him know that when he walked on the field, there was nothing that wasn’t answered for when he went out there.” “Just playing under the New York Giants coaching staff of the 1950s was worth a Ph.D. in itself,” Jack Zanger would later write in his book Pro Football 1970 about Nolan, who by then had become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
In the two years after Nolan arrived in New York, the Giants began assembling the star-studded cast that would soon become one of the NFL’s greatest defenses ever. Rosey Grier, Jim Patton, Sam Huff and Jim Katcavage came through the draft, and Harland Svare, Andy Robustelli and Dick Modzelewski arrived in trades. Joining them in the secondary was holdover Emlen Tunnell, who eventually retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in interceptions.
Everything fell into place in 1956. The Giants broke the Cleveland Browns’ streak of six straight Eastern Conference titles, winning the crown with an 8-3-1 mark and earning a shot at the Chicago Bears in the championship game.
“We had played them earlier in the season, and we were leading but ended up tying them after we slapped the ball around in the end zone on a Harlon Hill touchdown catch at the end of the game,” Nolan remembered. “I think they thought they could handle us pretty easily, but all of a sudden we jumped down
their throats.” New York scored on its first possession and never looked back, and by the time the Bears dragged themselves off the frigid Yankee Stadium turf, the score was 47-7, and the Giants were NFL champions for
the first time since 1938. “I remember it was the last few minutes of the game, but Landry wouldn’t take any of the first string guys out
of the game, and I broke two ribs and wound up in the hospital,” said Nolan. “My wife said to me, ‘you’ve won the championship and everyone is having a big time at the party, and here you are sitting in the hospital.”
“So I said, ‘if you want to go, get my coat out of the closet and let’s go,’ and off we went to the party,” he continued. “Next day they were looking for me all over New York City because they didn’t know I had left.”
Detour to Chicago
All signs pointed to another championship run in 1957, but the Giants slipped to 7-5 and missed the playoffs. After the season, Giants management looked for ways to retool the roster, and it was Nolan who took the hit.
They traded him to the Chicago Cardinals, which then as now was like being sent to Siberia. “Pop Ivy wanted me there, so he made a two for one trade,” said Nolan. “The Giants got Pat Sumerall and Lindon Crowe in return.”
Nolan gamely headed to Chicago and solidified the Cards’ secondary with five interceptions, but it wasn’t enough, and they finished the 1958 season 3-9. Meanwhile, his former Giant teammates returned to the
NFL championship, but lost to the Colts in the Greatest Game Ever Played. After the season, he began to wonder whether it was worth it to stay in Chicago.
Return to New York
“The next year they looked kind of disorganized, so I thought it might be time to retire,” said Nolan of his first post-season as a Cardinal. “Then Wellington Mara called and told me not to retire, and before I knew it, I
was traded back to the Giants in a cash deal.”
The 1959 Giants showed no adverse effects from the painful loss in the 1958 championship, and once again took the Eastern Conference crown with a 10-2 mark. The stage was set for a rematch with Colts, and Nolan drew a tough assignment.
”I was covering Lenny Moore most of the afternoon,” he recalled, and other than a 60-yard touchdown pass
Moore caught early in the game, Nolan held his own, but it wasn’t enough. For the second straight year, the Giants came up short in the championship against Colts, this time by a 31-16 margin. It was the first of six
championship game losses Nolan would endure as a player or coach. “We were a good enough team to beat them, but we just didn’t get it done,” he insisted. New York missed the playoffs in 1960, but after acquiring Y.A. Tittle and Del Shofner before the 1961 season, a rejuvenated offense led Nolan and his Giant teammates back to the NFL title game. But once again the Giants took it on the chin, this time in a 37-0 pasting from the Green Bay Packers, the first championship won by their former offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi.
The End of the Line
After the season, Nolan began to seriously contemplate retirement. The deciding moment came when he got a call from his former defensive coach Tom Landry, who was now the head coach of the expansion Dallas
Cowboys. “He said, ‘you’re just an old man now. Why don’t you quit the game before you really get hurt?’” said Nolan as he remembered their conversation. “So I went ahead and retired in the spring of 1962, and went down to Dallas to start coaching for Landry.”
As Nolan hung up his cleats as a player and looked ahead to his new post in Dallas, he could reflect on some particularly memorable friendships and moments from his eight years as a player. He was particularly proud
of his relationships with black players of the time who were finally getting a shot at the NFL and starting to make their mark.
He shared a unique bond with defensive secondary cohort and future Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell: “He and I roomed together, and I was almost like a detective for the Maras. We used to travel by train because Steve Owen was afraid to fly, and they assigned me to Emlen to make sure he got on the train,
because he had a tendency to go off on his own if someone had a better idea. He was a great guy and a good friend.” Roosevelt Brown, another Giant teammate who later went into the Hall of Fame, gave Nolan fits in practice: “He was 265 pounds, but athletic enough to play tight end. We played across from each other in practice and he used to just work me over.”
Then there was an epic goal-line battle with Tank Younger of the Rams: “They were playing us at the Polo Grounds with Norm Van Brocklin at quarterback, and he handed the ball to Tank on a straight plunge. In those days the goalposts were right on the goal line and they weren’t padded very well, and he hit the goalpost right at the top of his head and it knocked him back to the six or seven yard line and he didn’t know what hit him. He looked up at me and gave me one of those looks like what the hell just hit me, and all I said
was ‘watch out or next time I’ll really hit you.’”
So with a wealth of good memories and a championship under his belt, Nolan felt he had made the most of his playing days, and he was fully prepared to start a new chapter as a defensive coach with Tom Landry and
the Cowboys. Then when the 1962 season was about to begin, Landry approached him with a proposition. “We were in the Cotton Bowl just before the opening game of the season and I was out on the field that
Saturday for warm-ups. Landry came up me and asked me how I’d like to play again. I told him I hadn’t hit or tackled anyone in months and I was overweight, and he told me I could handle it. I asked him when he wanted me to start, and he said tomorrow at 1:00. I must have lost 25 pounds in the first half alone, but I wound up playing the rest of the season. The reason he did it is that he wanted someone on the field with experience so there would be no confusion.”
After the 1962 season, Nolan retired again, this time for good. With the expansion Cowboys in a serious building mode, Landry needed him more on the sidelines than on the field, and took over as defensive coordinator. Dallas didn’t even get any draft picks in its first year and got little in the way of talent from the
expansion draft, which forced the organization to find creative ways to stock their roster.
Nolan remembered one player in particular who epitomized how the Cowboys found talent in unlikely places in those early years: “Cornell Green never played a down of football in college, but he was a hell of an athlete. He came in as a wide receiver and they were going to cut him, but Tom said, ‘Why don’t you take him on defense?’ He was smart and quick, and he could do all kinds of things. He was a great basketball player, and when the Globetrotters would come to Dallas, he’d score 30 points against them.”
Green was only one example of players overlooked by the rest of the league who wound up starring in Dallas. Under the shrewd leadership of Gill Brandt, the Cowboys front office revolutionized how teams scouted and built through the draft, and had particular success finding talent at small schools and historically black colleges. Players like Mel Renfro, Jethro Pugh, Don Perkins and Rayfield Wright were just a few of the players who went from college unknowns to Cowboy mainstays. Bolstered by this steady influx of talent,
Nolan and Landry began to build what would later be known as the Doomsday Defense.
“For years, Tom and I were one-two and we had a great knack for it. We thought the same way and we talked the same way,” Nolan recalled. “We put in the flex defense, what we called an inside outside defense. You never knew what hit you.”
Dallas improved its record in each of the first four years Nolan coached the defense, going 4-10 in his first season as Landry’s assistant in 1963, edging up to 5-8-1 in 1964, and finally hitting .500 with a 7-7 mark in 1965. In 1966, the trend continued, this time with a 10-3-1 mark that landed the Cowboys their first playoff berth. Nolan’s defense was instrumental in team’s success, emerging as one of the league’s finest thanks to
Pro Bowl performances by George Andrie, Cornell Green, Chuck Howley, Bob Lilly and Mel Renfro. Dallas’s opponent in the NFL championship would be the defending champion Green Bay Packers, who
ended the season 12-2 with a team that boasted eight Pro Bowlers in its own right. The Cowboys showed no signs of being nervous in their in their first championship and threw a scare to the powerful Packers. With
just over two minutes to go, the Cowboys took possession in Green Bay territory, drove downfield and were first and goal with enough time to score. “We were right by the goal line with four downs to work with, and we just couldn’t score,” Nolan said. Dallas continued their winning ways in 1967, capturing the Capital Division crown with a 9-5 record, and
crushing the Cleveland Browns 52-14 in the Eastern Conference title game. For the second straight season, they were headed to the NFL championship game, and once again their opponent was the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately for Nolan and the Cowboys, the outcome was the same as the 1966 match-up.’ “We had them 17-14 in the fourth quarter, but they made that drive and we couldn’t hold them,” Nolan remembered. “The Ice Bowl was my last game with those Cowboy teams.
SI.com: “GOTHAM FANS are anotoriously fickle bunch, so it says something that when Camel cigarettes waslooking for a New York athlete to put on a Times Square billboard in the early 1960’s , it chose Dick Nolan, a Giants defensive back who was not flashy but who personified diligence and determination. "He made himself into not just agood player, he was an extraordinary player," former teammate Frank Gifford told the New York Daily News earlier this year. "He didn't have the physical talent to do it all. He just willed himself. He was tough—as good as there comes in that respect."
“It's a cliché tosay that a player is a "coach on the field," but with Nolan, who diedlast week at age 75, that was literally the case. In 1962 he was traded toDallas (Roger Maris took his place on the Camel billboard), where formerteammate Tom Landry used him as a player-coach. Injuries forced Nolan to stopplaying midway through the season; the secondary's loss was the coachingstaff's gain. Nolan took over the defense and molded it into a unit that foryears would remain one of the league's stingiest.”
NYT: “The pressure of knocking heads with bigger players would leave him (Jimmy Patton) so taut after a game that he rarely could sleep that night. He often roamed the streets of Manhattan until dawn with Dick Nolan, me team's other safetyman”
PACKERS SELL DICK NOLAN; QB SEARCH NO NEARER END
SEPTEMBER 8 (Winston-Salem, NC) - “The Green Bay Packers, last year's doormat in the Western Conference, are selling players. It was announced Monday that defensive halfback Dick Nolan has been sold to the New York Giants who tipped the Packers 14-0 in an exhibition game at Bangor, Maine, Saturday night. He was the second player dropped since the game. Immediately after the contest, the Packers placed rookie halfback George Dixon of Bridgeport, Conn., College on waivers. But as Nolan left the Packers training camp here, where Green Bay will play the Washington Redskins in an exhibition Saturday night, blocking back Ron Kramer returned. He was discharged from military service last Friday. The 27-year old Nolan, with the Giants from 1954 through 1957, was acquired recently by the Packers from the Chicago Cardinals. The Giants plan to use him as the fourth or fifth man in the defensive backfield. It was the Giant defensive backfield that slowed the Packers' search for a starting quarterback. Three candidates saw signal calling duty but none was impressive. The top performance was by Joe Francis, who got into action late and completed 4 of 7 attempts and had none intercepted. Starter Lamar McHan hit on 5 of 14 tosses for 60 yards and had none intercepted. Babe Parilli threw one pass and it was grabbed by the Giants in setting up a touchdown. Bart Starr saw only enough action to hold for two unsuccessful field goal attempts. Despite the results, which left the Packers 2-2 in the exhibition grind, Coach Vince Lombardi was far from disappointed. He said: "We were moving the ball pretty good during the early stages of the game. It's been a long time since a team moved the ball 133 times through New York's defensive team. I liked what I saw offensively, that is, with a good deal more work."
1968: Dick Nolan Becomes Head Coach of 49ers
“On January 19, 1968 the San Francisco 49ers announced the hiring of 35-year-old Dick Nolan as head coach, succeeding Jack Christiansen. The 49ers had posted one winning record in the preceding six seasons and had most recently gone 7-7 in 1967.
Nolan, who had no prior head coaching experience, was most recently defensive coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He had been a defensive back on the University of Maryland team that won the national championship in 1953 and played professionally for the Giants, who drafted him in the fourth round, from 1954 thru ’61, with the exception of 1958 when he was with the Chicago Cardinals. Nolan started out as a defensive halfback (cornerback) and was converted to safety later in his career. He joined the Cowboys as a player-coach in 1962 and became a full-time coach in ’63, recognized as an architect of the “flex” defense along with Head Coach Tom Landry.
Said club president Lou Spadia, “Dick was a winner when he played for Maryland and the New York Giants. He also helped coach a winner at Dallas. We believe he can do the same thing for the 49ers."
“The stage was set for the 49ers to make a move in 1970 in the newly-restructured NFL (and without the Colts in the same division). They went 10-3-1, the franchise’s best record since 1948 when San Francisco was in the AAFC, and won the NFC West for their first division title ever in their 25th season. Brodie had an MVP year, leading the league in passing and only being sacked eight times thanks to the performance of the offensive line. Gene Washington was also a consensus first-team All-Pro with his 53 catches for a league-leading 1100 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The defense came together in brilliant fashion. With an abundance of talent on the line, helped by the arrival of brash first draft pick DE Cedrick Hardman, Nolan rotated players in and out effectively. Wilcox and Nunley continued to star at linebacker, along with Skip Vanderbundt, and the backfield was bolstered by the addition of rookie CB Bruce Taylor, who provided the added bonus of leading the league in punt returns (12.0 average on 43 returns). Roosevelt Taylor provided veteran leadership along with the eventual Hall of Famer Johnson and SS Mel Phillips. The 49ers topped the NFL with a +17 turnover differential.
The turnaround on special teams helped – Taylor drastically improved what had been a major problem area in 1969 with his punt returning, and veteran PK Bruce Gossett, obtained from the Rams, increased San Francisco’s field goal production from a measly six in ’69 to 21.
After defeating the Vikings at Minnesota in the Divisional playoff round, the 49ers lost to Dallas at home in the NFC Championship game.
The Niners moved from Kezar Stadium to Candlestick Park in ’71 and again made it to the NFC title game. The division-winning record dropped to 9-5 and Brodie was more erratic, tossing 14 more interceptions (24) and six fewer TD passes (18) than in ’70. The line still protected him well, as he was sacked just 11 times. Gene Washington continued to be a top-rate deep threat and Kwalick emerged at tight end to rank second in the NFC with 52 receptions. HB Vic Washington provided much-needed outside speed, and both he and Willard rushed for over 800 yards apiece (811 and 855, respectively). The defense continued to be solid, ranking fourth overall, although the backfield starters Johnson and Taylor were nicked up by injuries. Once again, the 49ers won in the Divisional round, defeating the resurgent Redskins, and once more they lost to Dallas for the NFC title.
San Francisco won a third straight division title in 1972, this time with an 8-5-1 tally. Brodie went down with a broken ankle five games into the schedule, but the unproven Spurrier led the club to five wins and, when he faltered in the finale, Brodie returned to rally the 49ers into the playoffs. While still capable, both the offensive line and defense experienced injury problems. But it seemed as though they had finally solved the Cowboys when they led their postseason nemesis at home in the Divisional game by a score of 28-13 in the fourth quarter. Dallas QB Roger Staubach came off the bench to rally his team to a stunning 30-28 triumph, and with that, the postseason run of the Nolan coaching era came to an end.”
“Nolan was fired following the 1975 season, the early promise of his tenure having not brought a championship nor continued success. The low-key coach’s overall record was 54-53-5, not including 2-3 in the postseason.
Nolan made a return to coaching in New Orleans, serving as an assistant in 1977 and then being elevated to head coach in ’78. As in San Francisco, he enjoyed some initial success as the Saints put together their two best records up to that time at 7-9 in 1978 and 8-8 in ’79. But when the club started off at 0-12 in 1980, he was fired once more. He returned to assistant coaching, most notably going back to Landry and the Cowboys for several seasons. His son Mike later served as head coach of the 49ers (and was named to the job 37 years to the day after his father was).”
Hollandsworth Dallas Magazine: Is There Any WayTo Explain Football’s Most Confusing, Convoluted, Intellectually Taxing, Perhaps-No-Longer-So-Great Defense?
“AQUICK HISTORY: BEFORE 1964, YOU could go to a Cowboys’ game and, in between sips from the flask, actually follow the plays. Then Landry, already known for his defensive wizardry from his days as assistant coach of the New York Giants, installed a new defense never before seen in football. A couple of the defensive linemen would gelt in this bizarre, four-point crouch, looking like frogs. A couple of other linemen would be backed off the line for no apparent reason; the linebackers would jump around like they had ants in their pants; the strong safety, who we thought was supposed to be back waiting for a pass, would suddenly show up right on the line of scrimmage, and everyone on the defense was shouting stuff to one another.
Then the ball would be snapped, and instead of the defensive players chasing after the runner, they would all head to specific, predetermined territories they were supposed to cover. We’d rise from our seats, alarmed. No one was attacking! No one was pursuing the runner! What is this? They’ve all gone crazy out there!
Yet something very odd happened. It seemed no matter where the runner went, there stood some Cowboy waiting to make a tackle. This would happen play after play- and a great murmur would run through the stadium, as we’d all turn to one another asking what the hell was going on. About the only time we felt sure of what was happening with the defense was when we saw a fumble. “Fumble!” we’d roar, with great big smiles on our faces. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ defense became known as “Doomsday.” Landry was called a genius, and the team began winning Super Bowls. The Flex had made it to the big time.
However, the defense was so complicated that only one other coach dared to try it- Dick Nolan, when he briefly coached the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t last long, proving that the wizard’s tricks were not easy to copy. “Landry had the Flex down to such a science,” Bob Lilly says, “that in the playbook, he had diagramed out exactly the steps the defensive linemen were supposed to take when the ball was snapped. He even told us which foot to start with. We looked like a bunch of ballet dancers out there.”
Landry designed the Flex to stop the dominant offensive force of the Sixties, the “run for daylight” concept originated by Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys’ nemesis. Lombardi would send a running back to sweep around the ends, and if the back saw daylight (a hole in the line) anywhere along the way, he’d zip through it. Landry countered with what he called a “flexible” 4-3 defense, in which he put a man in every gap and made him stay there. But the player could not-repeat, could not-anticipate where the play was going and head that way. no matter what his hunches or instincts told him. (If you are still following this explanation, please contact the national Mensa organization for an honorary certificate.) A player couldn’t surge through the blocker in front of him and then chase the ball. Sometimes, the Flex would demand a player vacate a position even though the play was obviously headed right there. The middle linebacker became responsible for making most of the tackles, because while the other players were tying things up in their gaps, he would be free to hunt down the runner. (Stay with me-this paragraph is about to end.) Theoretically, if everything in the Flex worked, three players would always be at the point where the offense attacked.
“Well.” says former star defensive tackle Larry Cole, “the Flex was contrary to everything you learned as a football player. We thought football was kicking somebody’s ass. We were used to smashing through and trying to pulverize the ball carrier. Now. we were being told to ’read the play,’ which involved hesitating, filling your gap, and then finally going after the ball. It drove us nuts.”
For the Cowboys, brain power became as important as muscle. “Think about this.” says Charlie Waters. “We would get in position, and they would snap the ball. In that split second, we had to learn to read what Landry called ’keys.’ [Keys are tipoffs in the movement of offensive linemen that indicate where the play is going.) So if I was back in my position and saw the two offensive guards pull and head toward the strong side, I’d have to run up to stop the end run. But I also had to watch the offensive tackle, and if he pulled then I had to swing out in case there was a quick pitch to the halfback. [Can this, I wonder, get any more confusing?] But let’s say one of the guards that pulled my way suddenly turned back around to block.[It can!] Then I knew I had to drop back for the pass. Then, let’s say the tight end faked his block and sneaked off into the flat for a pass. I had to cover him. And remember,” Waters concludes, tapping me to wake me up. “Lan-dry made you figure all this out in about one second.”
“What’s that?” I ask.
Waters gives me a very sour look. “I want to once again stress the absurdity of your trying to explain this,” he says.
I chuckle. Waters has no conception of my literary talents. I head off to talk to Brad Sham, the play-by-play broadcaster of the Cowboys, also known as an intellectual in the world of sports because he has grown a beard and smokes a pipe.
“It is impossible,” he says, “for fans to know what went wrong on a Cowboys defensive play. Most of the time, you just have no idea who is supposed to make the tackle. I generally try not to blame someone on a busted defensive play because there’s a chance I’ll be wrong,”
“Oh, come on,” I say. “This is football. A game. We’re not talking about building some nuclear weapon.”
“Don’t be so sure,” says Sham, lighting his pipe just like Einstein used to do.
“Listen.” says linebacker Rohrer, preparing to confuse me even further, “maybe this will explain it to you. The Flex is exponential. You do such-and-such, but if the offense makes a little change, you have to do such-and-such to a second degree. And then when you do that to the second degree, you have to watch out for a whole new set of variables, which can make you do such-and-such to the third degree.”
Rohrer is telling me this one day at a restaurant. He is holding a beer in one hand, playing a video trivia game with another hand, and discussing something about the way the Flex can stop the fullback counter-Near O Pitch. 1 feel as if a heavy curtain is dropping in the middle of my brain. “We’re like experimental dolphins,” he tells me. “The coaches just see how much they can train us. They know we’re intelligent. The question is: how intelligent?”
“A player in the Flex,” says another Cowboys’ linebacker. Steve DeOssie, who’s sitting next to Rohrer, “has to be a completely different breed than players on other NFL teams. We have to be extremely well disciplined, and we’re under the gun almost every play. All you need to do is sacrifice your life to God to learn to play the defense here.”
The great Randy White says the Flex “can be the best defense on the field. It just takes an incredible dedication to play it.”
Which brings me back to my original question (at least 1 think it’s my original question): is the Flex too difficult to understand? After watching those embarrassing situations last year where half the team would be in one defense and the other half would think a second defense had been called, could it be that even the players don’t understand it?
“You’re not going to get any of it right,” says Dick Nolan, a Cowboys’ assistant coach who helped Landry create the Flex. “Every rule about the Flex also has a corollary, which means it can change on every play.”
“Um, what changes on every play?”
Nolan looks as if he’s about to snap his pencil in half. “The Flex, dammit, changes on every play,” he says.
“Well,” says assistant coach Nolan, shuffling some papers as if to show he’s busy and ready for me to get the hell out of his office, “it does take a while to learn the Flex.”
“No kidding? Is that right?” I ask, exhibiting my considerable skill at the incisive follow-up question.
Nolan pauses. “But just between us,” he says, “it doesn’t take near as long for a player to learn it as it does to explain it to someone like you.”