This date, May 3, was my beloved dog’s birthday. It’s not quite three years ago that I had to have Cruiser put to sleep. She was 17. I wrote an article about her then. That article prompted more responses from my readers than any before or since on this website. I dedicate today’s article to Cruiser. She’ll always be in my heart.
Each year at NFL draft time, I say the same thing. If I’m the GM of a team so bad that it owns a very high draft pick, my team sucks and needs lots of help, not just one player, so I trade down to get it. Logical, huh?! So what NFL teams heard me in last weekend’s draft? None until Carolina at #14. Apparently I’m overqualified to be a GM in the NFL.
Great quote by Tony Kornheiser at the draft: “The Ford family is far more interested in their Taurus than their Lions.” Obviously, if Matt Millen is still there.
Two commentators during the draft, Chris My Favorite Berman included, called them “the N.Y. Football Giants.” Hello! Guys, there’s only one Giants franchise in New York. The baseball Giants left New York 49 years ago.
Golden State was the #8 seed in the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The Warriors were 42-40 in the regular season, and barely made the postseason. The Dallas Mavericks had the best record from wire to wire in the regular season at 67-15. That’s a whopping 25-win separation. On paper, the series pitted greatness against mediocrity. Rating the magnitude of the Warriors’ victory, this series is the biggest upset in NBA history, and one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Since the NBA went best-of-7, no 8th. seed had won a playoff series until Golden State turned the trick tonight. It was Don Nelson’s finest hour. The Warriors’ coach apparently knows how to neutralize his former Mavs team and its best player.
Story of the Week
THE DRIVE AND THE FUMBLE
This article is for Jim Zimring. He’s the most avid Broncos fan I know.
The Drive. 1-11-87. Denver @ Cleveland. AFC Championship Game.
Broncos trailed 20-13, muffed a kickoff return, and started from their 2-yard line with 5:32 remaining in the game. In 15 plays, John Elway drove his team 98 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, which the Broncos won in overtime on a field goal, 23-20. The 98-yard drive ranks as pro football's prototype performance in the clutch.
The Browns had jumped to a 20-13 lead and the Broncos had muffed the ensuing kickoff when Elway took over, first-and-10 on their own 2-yard line, with 5:32 to play in the game.
Regulation. The Broncos made three first downs before the two-minute warning.
Play No. 10 - Third and 18, Cleveland 48-yard line (1:47 remaining). Elway completed pass to Mark Jackson for 20-yard gain and first down to the Cleveland 28.
Play No. 12 - Second and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:10 remaining). Elway pitched a strike to Steve Sewell for 14 yards and a first down on the Cleveland 14.
Play No. 15 - Third and one, Cleveland 5-yard line (:39 remaining). Elway went to the air for the ninth time in the drive and hit Mark Jackson for a touchdown. Rich Karlis adds the PAT to tie the game.
Overtime. The Browns had first possession of the ball but were forced to punt. Then, on Denver's first possession, Elway marched the Broncos 60 yards in nine plays to set up Karlis' 33-yard winning field goal.
The Fumble. 1-17-88. Cleveland @ Denver. AFC Championship Game.
Trailing 31-38 with 1:12 remaining in the game, the Browns' Earnest Byner appeared to be on his way to score the game tying touchdown. But he fumbled the ball at the 3-yard line. The Broncos recovered the
ball, gave the Browns an intentional safety, and went on to win 38-33.
During the game, the Broncos jumped to a 21-3 halftime lead, but Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar led them back with 4 second-half touchdowns. By the middle of the fourth quarter, the game was tied 31-31. The Broncos then took the lead, 38-31, on a long drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Elway to running back Sammy Winder with 5 minutes left in the game. Cleveland responded by advancing the ball down to Denver's 2-yard line 1:12 left, setting the stage for the play that would make this game one of the most famous games in NFL Lore.
Browns running back Earnest Byner took a handoff and appeared to be on his way to score the game-tying touchdown. But he was stripped of the ball by Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille, and fumbled at the 3-yard line. The Broncos recovered the ball, then gave the Browns an intentional safety, and went on to win 38-33.
Despite being primarily remembered for "The Fumble," Byner actually went on to have an extremely successful career after the 1987 season. After spending another year with the Browns, he was traded to the Washington Redskins prior to the start of 1989 season. In his five seasons with Washington, Byner was selected to play in the Pro Bowl twice (1990, 1991) and won a Super Bowl ring with the team in the 1991 season. In that season's Super Bowl XXVI, in 1992, he caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter, and the Redskins won, giving him the NFL Championship ring he could not win with the Browns.
He ended up going back to Cleveland for two more years, and then finished his career in 1998, after spending two years with the transplanted Baltimore Ravens. In his 14 NFL seasons, Byner rushed for 8,261 yards, caught 512 passes for 4,605 yards, and scored 72 total touchdowns (56 rushing, 15 receiving, 1 fumble recovery). At the time of his retirement, Byner ranked within the NFL's top 30 all-time leaders in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, and total yards.
John Elway was brilliant in those two games, and throughout his career. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. However, my rap against him is the fact that he manipulated the 1983 NFL draft by refusing to sign with the Baltimore Colts, thus forcing a trade. (No doubt a role model for Eli Manning in 2004.) I have no respect for John Elway outside the lines.
Last Week’s Trivia
Rogers Hornsby averaged .358 in 23 seasons in MLB. That is second only to Ty Cobb’s career .366. Amazingly, the Cardinals 2B batted .402 during a five-year span from 1921-1925. He hit .424 in 1924, the highest batting average by a player in the 20th century.
Trivia Question of the Week
A major league baseball team once had eight managers in a single season? What team and what year? Beyond the sheer volume, what else was rather unique about this octet of field generals? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.