If there is one benefit to this damn Covid-19 lock down, it’s that streaming apps and channels are offering some really old throwback games. You know those college games that you might catch on ESPNU, usually with a title like, “Before they were Pros”, whether it be college hoops, or football games from the 90s/00s. I usually watch just long enough to see how many future pros I can spot, and to help you realize, yeah I know they are great now, but look how much better they were in college! I love this stuff because it’s such a time warp, because your brain is like, “Is that what really happened?” If you aren’t sure , just remember, “Time is a flat circle!”
Based on sheer boredom and the fact that it’s neat to jump into a pretend time warp, I decided to watch a good chunk of Super Bowl X for free on the NFL Network app. This takes place in 1975, in the middle of Steelers and Cowboys dynasties. If you wonder why these teams have the biggest following across the NFL from people who don’t live in Pennsylvania or Texas, it’s because these teams were beyond successful in the burgeoning era of the Super Bowl for the NFL, and nothing will change it. The Steelers at least show up to the Super Bowl at least once a decade and or are perpetually competitive.
Are you ready for some Old Timey football!?
A young articulate Pat Summerall, who in 1975, who didn’t yet have the luxury of John Madden interrupting him and scribbling gibberish all over the TV screen, had commented that the Steelers had run the ball with Franco Harris and surprisingly squirmy quick Rocky Bleier on their first nine offensive plays. However, on the 10th, without any passes to “get into a rhythym”, Bradshaw dropped back in the middle of both hashes, and uncorks an absolute rope of a throw (with just enough arc and lift) 35 yards down the right sideline to a streaking Lynn Swann on a go route. Swann freaking stops abruptly and back shoulder catches over the Cowboys DB, and proceeds to roll out of bounds, like he planned. I don’t talk to myself when I’m alone too often, but that definitely elicited a very quietly mumbled “Holy Shit.”
My frame of reference for Terry Bradshaw changed instantly that sunny Tuesday afternoon. I know both guys as Hall of Famers, but my frame of reference obviously is with Lynn Swann working the sidelines for ABC games when I was growing up, and of course Terry Bradshaw yelling about some damn nonsense on FOX NFL pregame shows since like 1996. I’m not one for hyperbole but I definitely thought this immediately after: ”Ohhhh okay, so they’re in the Hall for a reason. Just saw that one play. Okay, I’m good”
Does 50 years really make a difference?
It’s obvious why Terry Bradshaw was the number one pick in 1970. Not only was he throwing heaters everywhere on that Super Bowl Sunday in Miami (a 15 yard out route bullet to John Stallworth also caught my eye), but he escaped the pocket here and there, and though he wasn’t exactly just cutting like LaDainian Tomlinson, he could out run a few guys. Same for Lynn Swann, who in the same game caught that famous pass wear he bobbles the ball and one hand catches it. Lynn Swann in 2020 would be blowing up on Twitter, and no one would give two shits about Odell Beckham, Jr. and his childish sideline antics.
I could only imagine if Bradshaw was eligible for the draft 50 years later in 2020, and had tossed that very pass in college. Some commentator who thinks they are a draft guru, let’s go with say….Mike Mayock, would then gush, “That’s an NFL level pass right there!”. Bradshaw would then be lauded for his “arm talent” and “physical skills”, by Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay (you know, guys with no NFL scouting background)but just like his actual real career in the 1970’s, Bradshaw would be accused of not being able to process the mental aspects of the game. But hell, why should that matter, because darnit….. “HE CAN REALLY SLING IT! I TELL YA WHAT!” (I mean, has scouting quarterbacks changed in five decades? Screw that guy who processes a chessboard of defensive players in about 2 seconds and gets the ball out, but heaven forbid HE CAN’T THROW A 30 PLUS YARD CROSSING ROUTE THAT MAYBE GETS CALLED 6 TIMES A YEAR!)
Let’s wrap this up
We are so used to watching amazing athletes in this generation, who take advantage of modernized nutrition, and weight lifting techniques (have you ever seen a retired football player minus like 50-80 pounds!? Unreal.) that when you put on the “old timey” stuff, it pales in comparison. There are players that are just better than everyone at the time, regardless of their era.
Sure, people like to argue, “Oh well these guys would have beat so and so.” Maybe, in a mysterious vacuum that may be the case, but your best measurement are your peers, and one play that took maybe three seconds from 45 years ago, showed Bradshaw and Swann were absolute studs, and would easily play in our current era. The same is true for any other player that gets downgraded because, “Well, I never saw him play!”. Just because it already happened, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Check the tape.