A Football Life

Discussion in 'NFL' started by sport historian, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    I recall a Pro Football Weekly column in the late 70's by a Seattle writer, who wrote something like: "Largent is always compared to Fred Biletnikoff because he is white. He is faster and better than Biletnikoff."

    In his film highlights, Steve Largent is constantly shown way behind the defense and wide open before catching a TD pass.

    Funny thing, in the 70's there were several white running backs, more white runners than white wide receivers as I remember.

    Yes, the scouts and personnel "experts" didn't like Steve Largent coming out of college. Without Jerry Rhome, Largent would never have had "A Football Life."
     
  2. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    Something else interesting about Largent that I didn't know, or had forgotten, is that he came from a very dysfunctional family. His parents divorced when he was 5 or 6 years old and he essentially never saw his father again. His mother remarried, to a bad alcoholic. Despite that, not only did Largent become an all-time great pro football player but later became a Congressman from his native state of Oklahoma. He was a conservative Republican and who knows may have become Vice President or President at some point, but left politics after deciding to run for Governor of Oklahoma and losing a very, very close race in which he was smeared but did not retaliate. According to the show, the deciding votes against him came from rural Oklahomans who supported **** fighting, which Largent opposed; that's how close the race was.

    After that defeat in 2002, Largent retreated to private life and has been quiet since. He overcame a lot in his life, but with a great combination of pro football greatness, integrity, character and looks, it's a shame he didn't continue in politics as this country is doomed due to too few "Steve Largent types" emerging as leaders.
     
  3. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    Yes Largent seemed too normal for him to be from a family where his mother fled to a women's shelter in the middle of night with her children. He never did cocaine or partied with a million women, gambled or battered women. The excuses for the dysfunctional players that the NFL currently have could have been given towards him if he was inclined to be a misfit. It shows you that it's not just the environment that you were raised that causes this antisocial behaviour.
     
  4. Truthteller

    Truthteller Mentor

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    Largent's career stats completely show he could never be considered "slow" or a "overachiever". "Rudy types" just don't average 16.0 yards per reception during a career that spans 14 season and 200 games. That is quite simply dominance! https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LargSt00.htm

    If he was "slow", it was no different than fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who some claim ran a 4.71/40 at the Indianapolis Combine coming out of college. As slow as Rice was reported to be, no one ever ran him down from behind when he was in his prime.

    Largent broke into the league before my time as a fan, but I have often wondered why the Houston Oilers released him as a rookie, a few months after taking him in the 4th round?

    Looking at the '76 Oilers stats, they had a star receiver named Ken Burrough, leading the way (51/932/7). Billy Johnson, who was a great kick/punt returner, was the other starter at wide receiver, but he posted mediocre stats as a receiver (47/495/4). The Oilers #3 receiver in 1976 was someone named Melvin Baker, who had 3 receptions for 32 yards...and their 4th receiver had just 4 receptions for 15 yards. So, that was 7 receptions for 47 yards for all of Houston's backup's combined! Also, the tight ends posted pedestrian stats -- only two TE's gained 208 and 174 yards in 1976, each.

    Again, what were the Oilers thinking when they just gifted the expansion Seattle Seahawks their 4th round pick at a position of need? I've never seen that discussed.
     
  5. Shadowlight

    Shadowlight Master

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    Your guess as to why the Oilers released him is as good as mine. Probably a caste move.

    Also worth noting their HC Bum Phillips was as dumb as a box of rocks. Bum never understood how to play off the clock at the end of games. With his crew cut, burly build and clueless look he looked like somebody beamed in from a 50's rockabilly band. Good nickname though. He was a bum. He wasn't unlikeable per say but the media sort of understood Bum didn't know what the hell was going on. He was kind of like Yogi Berra with his off beat goofy observations.

    His Earl Cambell teams were good but always fell short at crunch time. His teams had zero imagination.
     
  6. Truthteller

    Truthteller Mentor

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    Good points, Shadow.

    I would guess roster size, at the time (1976), certainly could have been a factor. I know when I really began following the roster make-up of NFL teams in the 1990's, rosters were recently expanded from the longtime norm of 45 or 46 to 53. In exchange for the extra roster spots, the NFL made Injured Reserve a more permanent designation (out for the entire season). Earlier this decade the NFL finally softened the rules with one (now two) designated for return players. Also, back in the 1970's teams ran the ball a lot more than they do now. So between the smaller rosters and more emphasis on the run game, I'd assume most teams only kept 4 wide receivers. In recent decades, most NFL teams keep 5 or 6 wide receivers.

    Still, that should not absolve Bum and his staff from making the Herculean error of frittering away a future Hall of Famer in order to keep a pair of slugs that combined for 7 receptions for 47 yards during that 1976 season. Neither of those players ever made a impact for the Oilers beyond that season, making things even worse. Houston giving away Steve Largent before he ever suited up for a game has to be one of the worst roster decisions in the history of the NFL! Yet we never hear about that?

    Caste clown deluxe Marty Schottenheimer has personally apologized to Wes Welker for cutting him very early in the 2004 season, after he had a monster pre-season returning kicks for the the San Diego Chargers. His excuse at the time was he could not keep both Welker and Tim Dwight (both white) on the roster at the same time, claiming their skill sets were too similar? As much as I despise Marty, perhaps you can cut him some slack, as Welker was undrafted and the Chargers did try to sign him to the practice squad, before Miami grabbed Wes off waivers and immediately made him their primary kick/punt returner.

    Houston selected Largent 117th overall (4th round) and lost him to an expansion team. No excuse for that. One has to wonder how history would've changed had the Oilers kept Largent? With budding superstar Earl Campbell, a rapidly-rising star tight end Mike Barber and a solid defense in the latter part of the 1970's, is it possible the Houston Oilers could've knocked off the Steelers with a 1,000 (plus) yard All-Pro wide receiver/deep threat like Largent?

    If the Oilers did make a Super Bowl (or 2 or 3) and won at least one, would they have ever fallen to the point they moved Memphis, Tennessee by 1994 -- just six years after Largent retired? I guess we'll never know?
     
  7. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    Largent was cut by Houston because he was having, by his own admission, a poor training camp, struggling to get open during practice. It's mentioned in the "A Football Life" show about Largent beginning around the 6 minute mark (as noted by Carolina Speed, it's available on YouTube and has over a quarter million views.) As a struggling "slow and short White guy" it's not surprising that he was cut.

    Although this thread is getting a bit sidetracked, I'll mention that the Oilers of the late '70s and early '80s had a pretty good White receiver in Mike Renfro. He's best known for having a TD catch wrongly ruled that he was out of bounds by the officials, pre-instant replay days, in the '79 AFC championship game against the Steelers that the Oilers might have otherwise won. It's briefly covered here: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-netwo...73/Top-Ten-Controversial-Calls-Renfro-s-catch

    Renfro was underutilized by the Oilers and then by the Cowboys, but did come close to a thousand yard receiving season in 1985, finishing 60/955/8. He ended his career with 323 receptions.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  8. Truthteller

    Truthteller Mentor

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    Thanks for the info, Don. NFL Network is a premium channel (somewhere around $7 per month) were I'm located and I would not pay a penny for it after watching it via a "free preview" for a month a few years back. Thanks for the heads up, I'll definitely check out the Largent video out on Youtube at some point?

    Either way, as poor as Largent's showing was for a few weeks in the summer of 1976, he sure did catch on quickly with Seattle didn't he? Really shows how NFL teams have operated for a long time: Top round black draft picks get years and years to produce; similar white picks get dumped after a few poor weeks in the blazing summer sun as rookies. Only surprise is this dates back 43 years. Either way, glad the Largent move really came back and bit the Houston Oilers franchise on the back-side decades after the summer of '76.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  9. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    I recall Bum being a hardcore run first, pass when you have to coach, most coaches at this time had a similar philosophy.

    In 76' I'm not sure who his tailback was but I know when he got Campbell in 78' he literally ran Earl into the ground similar a baseball manager burning out a starting pitcher's arm. Interestingly the understudy to Campbell was Rob Carpenter who was the 2nd string tailback who also rushed for 400+ yards one season when Campbell rushed for close to 2K yards.

    Bum was shown the door when his team lost to the Oakland Raiders in a wild card game after going to two straight AFC title games. When he went to New Orleans he tried the same style but without Campbell his teams were sub 500, and he even brought in a washed up Campbell near the end of his New Orleans run and that didn't work.

    PS, his crew cuts, chaw and heavy Texan drawl made him seem as dumb as Jed Clampett, but I have my doubts on his image as he probably would have failed miserably in Houston from start if he was that dumb.
     
  10. Shadowlight

    Shadowlight Master

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    For sure the media played up the Bum image and you are right I am sure he had some football savvy. But I have to tell you and I was young then I can't recall another HC since Bum who had so much trouble figuring out clock management at the end of games. He was completely flummoxed by it all.

    As for WR Mike Renfro the name registers but I am drawing a complete blank. I don't remember watching him play. Seems buried in the far reaches of my mind ( I vaguely recall something) but it just won't come to surface unlike say Steve Watson or obviously Steve Largent and many others.
     

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