COACH: PAUL BROWN
1959 RECORD: W 7, L 5, TIED FOR 2ND
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 4, L 1
Milt Plum, Paul Brown's latest choice to succeed Otto Graham, showed signs of skill in 1959, but a combination of crippling injuries to his receivers and protectors in the line cut down his effectiveness toward the end of the year. Plum has capable receivers in Ray Renfro, Gern Nagler and Leon Clarkebut, and he will probably look to Bobby Mitchell for the deep all-out passes.
September 25, 1960
Jim Brown by himself is enough to make any ground attack go. Combine his tremendous straight-ahead power with the blistering outside speed of Mitchell and the imaginative bursts of Plum, and you have a very strong running game. The Brown line, which ordinarily does a fine job of prying cracks in the opponents' defense, would be awfully unlucky to have as many injuries this year as it had last.
Brown is faced with replacing two very good, very intelligent deep defenders in Warren Lahr and Ken Konz, both retired, but he has Jim Shofner and excellent prospects in rookies Dan Fleming and Dick Mostardo. His linebackers are strong and accustomed to playing as a unit, and his defensive line can put pressure on a passer.
Galen Fiss, Vince Costello and Walt Michaels are rugged linebackers. The front line has been revamped, and possibly Jim Marshall and Jim Houston, first-year men, will take over at end, making way for Bob Gain to return to tackle.
OVER-ALL: Again, the fate of the Browns depends to a large extent on how well Milt Plum does at quarterback. Plum occasionally looks like a wonderful player; when his protection breaks down, he frequently looks a good deal less than wonderful. Cleveland's attack, on the ground, is superb, principally because of Jim Brown. The team may be vulnerable to a sharp passing attack and the East, it should be noted, is full of sharp passers. If Paul Brown can patch up his secondary, the Browns will be among the leaders again.
NEW YORK GIANTS
COACH: JIM LEE HOWELL
1959 RECORD: W 10, T 2, 1ST IN EAST
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 0, L 3, T 1
The Giants own the most underrated short-and-medium-passing attacks in pro football. Bob Schnelker has become an exceptionally good receiver; Kyle Rote and Frank Gifford always have been, although none of these is good at going deep for smart Charlie Conerly's very accurate passes. Lee Grosscup, No. 3 quarterback when practice began, has moved up ahead of George Shaw and may become Conerly's replacement.
Alex Webster and Mel Triplett are nearing 30 and have begun to show the effect of multiple injuries. They still hit hard but will be rested more with the excellent replacements Phil King and Joe Morrison taking up the heavy chores. Gifford, of course, is the National League's complete back. He is an effective runner capable of slashing deep into the secondary, a canny receiver, a fearless blocker and a dangerous option passer—and there was no suspicion in 1959 that he had begun to lose his verve for the pro game.
A secondary led by the league's best safety—Jim Patton—and experienced players who are still in their physical prime make this the best pass defense in football.
Ends Andy Robustelli and Jim Katcavage, Tackles Dick Modzelewski and Rosey Grier comprise one of the biggest, smartest defensive lines around. Sam Huff is back at the important middle-backer spot, flanked by Harland Svare and Cliff Livingston, both deadly tacklers.
OVER-ALL: There have been almost no changes in the Giants lineup, and for good reason. This club is a mature, strong and intelligent one; age has not yet begun to wither it. The loss of Defensive Coach Tom Landry might have been serious had not one of his best pupils—Svare, who will coach as well as play—been ready to take over. Tom Scott spells Svare as a corner backer. The Giants may win their third straight division title, but they are an older team and they are going to be pushed hard by the Steelers, the Browns and the Eagles.
COACH: BUCK SHAW
1959 RECORD: W 7, L 5, TIED FOR 2ND
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 3, L 1
Norman Van Brocklin has been one of the finest marksmen in professional football since 1950. He has one spectacular end to throw to, Pete Retzlaff, and a good, elusive slot back in little Tommy Mc-Donald. The Dutchman can throw under pressure but he may not have to often this year. The 1959 team represented a major overhaul and now blocking assignments are second nature.
The Eagles needed a solid, consistent halfback or two last year to give their ground game continuity. They believe they may have one in 210-pound rookie Ted Dean who is fast enough to turn the ends and big enough to test the line. Fullback Clarence Peaks has already shown enough to encourage Shaw. Bill Barnes is a deceptively powerful halfback and a good receiver, and the Eagle blocking is at least adequate.
Shaw will attempt to plug two holes in the deep secondary with rookies Bob Jackson and Jim Nieman or second-year-man Gene Johnson. He also believes he has found a replacement for Linebacker Tom Catlin (who retired to coach) in Maxie Baughan, the All-America from Georgia Tech. This won't be the tightest defense in the East, but no team will beat the Eagles on air strength alone.
Last season 18 new men were incorporated into the team, half of them on defense. The Eagle line is young, it is active and it is big and could get added help from this year's good collection of freshmen.
OVER-ALL: The Eagles came from last place in 1958 to a tie for second in 1959 and may still be on the move up. Shaw has built his club carefully to take advantage of the talented Van Brocklin's arm. With Retzlaff, McDonald and Barnes to throw to, Van Brocklin can score on any defense in the league. Shaw's aerial offense should be better than ever with improved running, and if the Eagle defense can patch the few leaks, Philadelphia will be battling the Cleveland Browns, the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the East.
COACH: BUDDY PARKER
1959 RECORD: W 6, L 5, T 1, FINISHED 4TH
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 1, L 3
Bobby Layne is no picture passer; frequently the ball wobbles like a poorly launched satellite in flight, but it is always on target. In Jimmy Orr, Buddy Dial, Darrell Brewster and Preston Carpenter, acquired from the Browns, he has a corps of versatile receivers, and chunky Tom Tracy is a wonderful safety-valve target. The protection for elderly Bobby is very good.
Fullback has been the one real question in the Steeler backfield but John Henry Johnson and a rookie, Chuck Scales, who was discovered in the Pittsburgh sand lot league which produced John Unitas, provide two neat answers. They will enable Tom Tracy to return to halfback, where he is a dangerous outside runner and receiver and one of the game's best passing halfbacks.
Parker may have corrected his only defensive weakness by trading for the Browns' Junior Wren and the 49ers' Dick Moegle. They join Dean Derby, a very effective defender, and Tom Barnett.
The hard-bitten Steeler line was nearly impenetrable last year, should be about the same in 1960, although, like the Giants' and Colts', it is aging. Parker's defenses are imaginative and simple enough so that their execution is usually flawless. He has good linebackers in John Reger, Dick Campbell and Mike Henry but the three of them may be forced to come to the aid and comfort of the old line once too often.
OVER-ALL: For the first time since he came to Pittsburgh, Parker has all the parts he needs, including a strong running game, a superb passing offense and a good defensive secondary. Since incidence of injury as often as not decides championships in this evenly balanced league, a strong bench is a sine qua non for a contender. Parker, having picked up Tackle Dan James and gotten Jack McLairen back from the injured list, has part of one. If he can dredge up added defensive relief, then the Steelers might improve on 1959.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
COACH: FRANK IVY
1959 RECORD: W 2, L 10, FINISHED 6TH
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 3, L 2
Lack of a truly good passer and backs who can hang on to the ball (the Cards fumbled 42 times last year) inhibits Ivy's double wing T. King Hill has yet to prove himself; if rookie George Izo, the big Notre Dame quarterback, catches on, the Cards may come to life in their new habitat. The pass catchers—Sonny Randle, Perry Richards, John David Crow—are excellent.
The double wing T stations halfbacks on each flank, leaving only the fullback behind the quarterback in position to take a quick hand-off into the line. This hampers Crow and Bobby Joe Conrad, who are magnificent runners from their posts just outside the ends but who have little chance to prove it.
The battle-wise and exceptionally fast secondary was broken up when Dick (Night Train) Lane was traded, but his replacement, Billy Stacy, a safety man in 1959, may be almost as good. The linebackers are capable and strong; the line, however, puts little pressure on opposing passers and no secondary can cope with an air offense which has nearly unlimited time to aim and fire.
The weakness here is in the front line of defense. Ivy can rely on Tackle Frank Fuller but must depend on rookies or on late waivers to replace aging regulars and it takes more than one season to find the right men. Ivy could use more backstopping power; the backs tackle hard but, sadly, entirely too often.
OVER-ALL: The Cardinals, after 40 years in Chicago, have moved to St. Louis, where they know they are wanted. Love and affection and the undivided attention of their new followers may help quite a bit, but some large, tough and determined linemen would help even more. The Cardinal runners are fine, so are their receivers. But they need a quarterback and an offense which gives the running backs a clearer shot at the tiny holes in a pro defensive line. The first year in St. Louis should be pleasanter than the last in Chicago.
COACH: MIKE NIXON
1959 RECORD: W 3, L 9, FINISHED 5TH
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 0, L 5
The Redskins have not had a consistently good passer since Sammy Baugh, and this year will be no exception. Eagle Day and Ralph Guglielmi have had flashes of brilliance, but Guglielmi has severely injured his knee and M. C. Reynolds, recently acquired in a trade, will probably start at quarterback. The ends are good, the pass protection adequate but the key to a passing attack is the man who throws the ball.
The Redskin ball carriers are fast and powerful but the loss of Eddie LeBaron, who was a magnificent technician at quarterback, may cost the 'Skins something in deception. Nixon's ground attack should be very good; fast Fullbacks Don Bosseler and Johnny Olszewski hit with good impact, and Halfbacks Ed Vereb, Ed Sutton and Dick James may be the best triple set in the East.
The Washington secondary was as porous as a sprinkler head in 1959 but it has been recast with Dick Haley and Gary Glick at safeties and rookies Billy Brewer and Pat Heenan at the halfs. Dick Lasse and Bill Roehnelt could shore up the short-pass defense.
The defensive line is only fair; Bob Toneff is a strong tackle, but he and Ray Krause will be playing beside rookies, and rookies—no matter how good—need help. The defensive ends, with first-year-man Andy Stynchula, look very good, but Nixon's 1959 bugaboo—lack of linebackers—is still with him.
OVER-ALL: A wholesale replacement program, carried out through trades and a determined campaign which saw the Redskins sign almost all of their top draft choices despite the strong competition from the American Conference, will give the Redskins a different look. In 1959 Washington could not put a halt to the competition by land or by air. It will do better this year, mostly because of its fine new players, but a creaky passing attack and a case of first-year-it is add up to another drab and losing season in Washington.
COACH: WEEB EWBANK
1959 RECORD: W 9, L 3, NFL CHAMPION
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 2, L 2
The best passer throwing to three of the best receivers behind the most adamant pass protectors adds up to the finest passing attack in the National Football League. John Unitas is easily the most valuable quarterback in football; Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore are incomparable receivers, and Jim Mutscheller is only a short step behind them. And there are new receivers coming up who are also exceptional.
Ewbank could use a strong, tough halfback on the order of the Giants' Alex Webster, both for blocking help in the backfield and to relieve Fullback Alan Ameche of some of the ball-carrying load. Lenny Moore is an unequaled slot back; Ameche is a sound, strong and dependable fullback. But the Colts need a topflight replacement for L. G. Dupre.
The quickest, ball-hawkingest linebackers in the league spearhead the very fine Colt pass defense, and the deep men are opportunists who run like mad when they intercept. The one question here is whether the linebackers will retain their mobility in the face of the growing age of the men up front. They may have to tend more closely to trench warfare this year, and this would cut down on pass interceptions.
The impregnable Colt line is back—but is it intact? Someday age will have to show somewhere. If it doesn't this year, the line will continue to rank with the Giants' and will stop the enemy cold.
OVER-ALL: This is still a magnificently balanced-team with no real weaknesses. The defensive linemen average 32 years in age, and have a total of 34 years of professional experience behind them. But Gino Marchetti, Big Daddy Lipscomb, Art Donovan and Don Joyce showed no sign of slowing down in 1959 and there are some good younger replacements on hand. The bewildering, powerful Colt offense has not deteriorated and Unitas seems likely to last for at least another decade. The Colts should win the title again.
COACH: GEORGE HALAS
1959 RECORD: W 8, L 4, FINISHED 2ND
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 2, L 2
As long as Ed Brown stays on target, the Bear passing attack is magnificent. Brown, however, has been erratic in the last few years. Zeke Bratkowski, his replacement, suffers from the same trouble, and when both of them are having an off day, the Bear air game disappears. The receivers—Harlon Hill and Jim Dooley—are both fast, deceptive and sure-handed. The protection for the passers is more than adequate.
A good breakaway back in Willie Galimore and one of the three best fullbacks in the league in Rick Casares give the Bears a long-and short-range ground attack. When they have good passing, the Bears can move the ball as well as any team and much better than most.
Ingenious Clark Shaughnessy masterminds the Bear defense and he has bewildered some of the best offensive minds in football. His defenses are varied and sometimes complicated but they are well executed by the veteran Bear defense. Occasionally a forgotten assignment costs a long gain, but with ball-hawking Illini J. C. Caroline at safety this still is one of the best pass defenses in all the Western Conference.
Bill George and Joe Fortuna to give the Bears exceptional linebacking and the Bears in the line are grizzlies. Doug Atkins, the 6-foot-8 defensive end, is almost impossible to keep out of a play and he will be paired during this season with 6-foot-6 rookie Maury Youmans.
OVER-ALL: Ed Brown does not have to be good every week. He can afford three, maybe even four, off days and the Bears, close behind the Colts in 1959, could win their first division championship in four years. The attack is sometimes spectacular, the defense is sound, and the potential definitely is there. Bratkowski, big and strong, with a good arm, may be ready to offer more help this year than in the past when he had trouble finding secondary receivers. This, sadly, is a knack that comes only with several years' experience.
COACH: TOM LANDRY
1959 RECORD: NEW CLUB
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 1, L 5
With a promising rookie in Don Meredith, and two good veterans (Don Heinrich and Eddie LeBaron) to instruct him, the Cowboys will be strong at quarterback. Landry has not been able to lay his hands on any first-class pass catchers except for Bill Howton, but he has sound veterans who offer adequate targets. The blocking? With Guard Duane Putnam around, it could be good.
Don McIlhenny, acquired from the Packers is the only true breakaway threat, although L. G. Dupre provides fair backing. The rest of the Cowboy backs are hard, tough runners and good blockers. The fullbacks, however, are hardly more than journeymen; the Cowboy attack, unless an unknown should come along to change the situation, will depend more on passing than on the rushing.
Landry is a master of intelligent, daring defense. In selecting the players made available to the new franchise by the other clubs in the league, he chose first for defensive ability and he came up with some of the better backs and linemen in the league. Most of them are nearing 30, but none is overage. The Cowboy pass defense will not be the NFL's worst.
Landry has no Huff to stop up the holes, as he had on the Giants, but he does have a capable performer in Jerry Tubbs, drafted this year from San Francisco. The defenders have been around long enough to know what to do, and they seem young enough to want to do it.
OVER-ALL: Building a football team out of players acquired from 12 different clubs presents considerable difficulties. For instance, most clubs starting a new season are already familiar with the coach's offense, his style of defense and the terms he uses to describe both. It probably will take a while for the Cowboys, however, to discard old habits and to drop old words and to learn new ones. But with their air attack, their good short-gaining ground game and their good defense, it will be a great surprise if the Cowboys finish last.
COACH: GEORGE WILSON
1959 RECORD: W 3, L 8, T 1, FINISHED 5TH
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 2, L 2, T 1
Unless Earl Morrall or Jim Ninowski becomes a topflight quarterback, the Lion passing offense will be as ineffectual as it was in 1959. Morrall looked better last year but in the off season Detroit traded for Ninowski, who has seen more action in exhibition games than Morrall. Both still have a good deal of room for improvement. Gail Cogdail helps the receiving, and with rookie Bob Schultz at center and Darr is McCord shifted to offensive tackle the passers should feel more secure.
The Lion ground attack is solid, built around Fullback Nick Pietrosante and Halfback Hopalong Cassady. But Schultz must come through at center; he has no acceptable veteran behind him and his blocking has to be strong if the Detroit Lions' running game is to move.
Pass defense, thanks largely to Yale Lary, has been a strong point on most Lion teams of recent years, and it should be again with the recently acquired Night Train Lane taking over for the retired Jim David. Wilson has five experienced deep defenders, four capable linebackers and seven good front-line defenders. They may have some long afternoons if the offense does not jell.
No problems here. Joe Schmidt is one of the two or three best linebackers in the pro leagues and he has competent help. The Detroit line is deep in good, big veterans, the secondary backs come up fast and they tackle extremely well.
OVER-ALL.-This is a Detroit team on the way back but it still has a far way to go. The rookie crop is a good one; from it must come help for the offensive line, and from it, or outside, must come another adequate quarterback. Earl Morrall, in his fifth season as a pro quarterback, could take the small step forward which separates the journeyman from the master. So could Ninowski, who spent two quiet pro years as understudy to Milt Plum of the Browns. But all in all there are many, too many ifs with this hard-hitting team.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
COACH: VINCE LOMBARDI
1959 RECORD: W 7, L 5, TIED FOR 3RD
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 5, L 0
Bart Starr guided the Packers to four straight wins at the end of last season and appears finally to have come of age. If he falters, Lamar McHan, who did well last season until injured, could have another hot streak. Either way the Packers have a mature passing game. Center Jim Ringo makes the passers secure. Receivers (Boyd Dowler, Max McGee and Lew Carpenter) are rangy and adept at getting open.
The versatile Paul Hornung is nearly a carbon copy of the Giants' Frank Gifford. Jim Taylor, in addition, is a hard-running, fast-improving fullback. Rookie Tom Moore will add depth to the backfield, but the Packers need a good breakaway back if they are to field a sound, steady running offense.
Ancient Emlen Tunnell, a veteran of 12 years in pro football, is the stabilizer and the on-field brain of the Packer pass defense. Under his guiding hand, the young Packer secondary developed well last year, should be even better this year with Willie Wood taking firm hold of the right safety position. Lombardi has a very quick trio of linebackers to defend against the short pass.
A patchwork line assembled from trades, rookies and castoffs worked very well for Lombardi in 1959. With a year's experience behind them and with more good rookies on hand, the front line of the Packer defense should be improved. The linebackers need no improvement.
OVER-ALL: Lombardi was the best coach in the NFL last season. Under his driving leadership, the confused, dispirited Packers were welded into a cohesive whole. Because he did not have enough good runners, he lacked a strong ground attack. Even so, the Packers ended 1959 on a winning note. With two good passers who have gained greater confidence during the last two years, and with measurably greater backfield depth, Lombardi's team should be able to stand the erosion of a full season and even improve on its standing.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
COACH: BOB WATERFIELD
1959 RECORD: W 2, L 10, FINISHED 6TH
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 4, L 1
With three very accurate passers—Bud Humphrey has been continuously good during exhibition games and now challenges Bill Wade and Frank Ryan—and with three receivers the equal of any trio in football, the Ram passing offense should be nearly impossible to contain. Mass changes have been made in the line to improve the weak blocking: John Guzik and Al Barry take over at guard, Art Hunter is at center and Lou Michaels has been shifted from defensive end to offensive tackle. The very air-minded Bob Waterfield is head coach of the Rams now. Elroy Hirsch is the new general manager. Look for aerial acrobatics.
Here again the Ram talent is impressive. The addition of fast Dick Bass to a backfield which already boasts Ollie Matson and Jon Arnett richly gilds the lily.
Mistakes by rookies and hampering injuries to Will Sherman and Don Burroughs left the Ram pass defense riddled in 1959. The rookies are a year older, Sherman and Burroughs are healthy and the Rams have two quality first-year men in Don Ellersick and Charlie Britt.
This was no big worry in 1959) should not be in 1960. The Rams' worst problem on defense was the regular completion by their opponents of the long pass on third down. The Ram defensive tackles are massive and young, the ends massive and mobile and the linebackers, led by Les Richter, are very quick.
OVER-ALL: The Rams, somehow, managed to place second in the league in total offense last year and ninth in scoring. They achieved this dubious distinction principally by fumbling (34 times in all); injuries to key personnel slowed them for a while, too. With a new, young coaching staff and a new spirit, the club should improve mightily, particularly the defense, which ex-Ram Don Paul and ex-Detroit Lion Jim David will handle. The Bears and the Colts are still stronger, but the Rams, with a little luck, could finish as high as third.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
COACH: HOWARD HICKEY
1959 RECORD: W 7, L 5, 3RD
1960 EXHIBITIONS: W 3, L 2
John Brodie, now starting his fourth season, may prove the pro postulate—it takes three years to prepare a real pro quarterback. End Billy Wilson will make him look good.
Joe Perry steps aside after 10 years to let J. D. Smith move in, Hugh McElhenny returns to running, and Red Hickey may have relief for both in C. R. Roberts, a 210-pound discovery. Line blocking should be better.
The young, fast secondary may need all the speed and stamina it can summon since the backs probably will get little help from the linebackers, other than Matt Hazeltine. The loss of rookie Jerry Tubbs to Dallas could be serious.
The dubious linebacker situation hurts more on the ground than in the air, although big men up front, led by All-Pro Tackle Leo Nomellini, are capable.
OVER-ALL: Hickey's team was an almost unanimous choice for last place in 1959, but the aggressive redhead convinced his players that they were far better than that. This year he may have to do a new selling job, then work another small miracle to improve on his 1959 standing. An elderly backfield and a serious lack of good deep receivers hamper his attack. Therefore, if improvements are to be made, they must come either from a couple of veterans or—less likely—from rookies who can hold the defense.
AN OVER-ALL ESTIMATE OF THE LEAGUE
It is an unpleasant fact of life in the National Football League that victory is not so often for the swift as for the healthy. For example, suppose the Baltimore Colts' John Unitas broke a leg? The Colts, a good, solid choice to repeat as world champions, would have trouble finishing in the first three of the Western Conference. The Cleveland Browns, a sound, strong club in midseason last year, collapsed down the stretch because of injuries. The same thing could happen to any team in the NFL this year, with so much depending on the good health of the participants.
Disregarding injuries, then, the Eastern Conference should be a free-for-all among the Browns, the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Washington Redskins, principally because they do not employ Negro players, are a sensible choice for last. The Cardinals, settled in a new city, may climb to fourth—maybe higher.
The Colts dominate the West. It is doubtful that Weeb Ewbank will install any radically new offensive maneuvers; the Colt attack is the best in football, and what advantage would be gained by changing? The Bears are younger than Baltimore and maybe a little faster but not as versatile. The Rams are faster but not so good on defense. The 49ers are younger, faster and better on pass defense but do not attack as well over a broad front. The Packers? Still improving, still a year or two away despite the heroic efforts of Vince Lombardi. The Lions are still ambulatory patients.
That leaves the Dallas Cowboys, a swing team playing in both conferences but ranked in the West. Tom Landry is one of the true football geniuses, and he has assembled a surprisingly strong team from the leavings of the rest of the league. He will win four games or more—and, under the circumstances, that is good in the National Football League.