No longer a child, not yet middle-aged, and still finding their place in the NFL world.
...the 30-year wall of silence is an impressive achievement for a League that leaks as a lifestyle.
He recommended Jack Patera enthusiastically for the Seahawks...
The letter C is coming soon!
The Seahawks used Williams’ local reputation as a promotional tool, as they would do (very briefly) with Ahmad Rashad.
The average Seahawk selected in the veteran allocation is 6-2, 222 pounds, just under 26 years old and is entering his fourth NFL season.
The Seahawks played the Rams...facing off against future Seahawk coaches Chuck Knox, Tom Catlin and Ken Meyer.
...management decided early to pursue coaches with no NFL head coaching experience.
Patera had the boldness to recruit 3 coaches with no NFL service...
...why was there no place for one of the ultimate local heroes of the early 1970s – Sonny Sixkiller?
Thompson may have looked on paper like a conservative and safe manager for a new team with first-time owners, but...
...reports from the camp are unclear as to who did the special team evaluations.
As a defensive coach, Jack Patera valued his linebackers.
Maybe we'll come up with something soon!
...nobody else on the Seahawks squad took their dislike quite to the extent of Ahmad Rashad.
The Nordstroms were an obvious possibility because of their wealth and local presence.
Approximately 14 members of that squad would never play for the Seahawks again.
A simple lesson in draft history is to list the fate of quarterbacks for several years before 1976.
Jack Patera was unable to take a single Redskin veteran from the allocation list.
...the Seahawks’ offense would be directed by 3 men who had 2 years of NFL experience between them
Terry Brown’s Seahawk career lasted less than 24 hours.
...we think this story might just have been a good Patera Prank!
While Patera had an inside edge on stocking his team with Vikings, he only chose one Viking from the allocation...
Character would clearly play a part...
Patera lived up to his code of we will tolerate you until we can replace you...
Yes! We will have something for Y eventually!
What more need we say?
Q is for Quarterback
This is a harsh assessment of the quarterback talent available to the Seahawks, but a little objective history might put the issue into better context. Larry Felser is a veteran writer with outstanding credentials, but that won’t protect him from some (childish) second-guessing!
Mr Felser’s insight into quarterbacks has taken a bit of a beating from football’s unpredictability: all writers will say something they’d like to take back, and he’s no exception. Covering the AFC for Street and Smith’s 1976 Yearbook, Mr Felser noted a problem for the San Diego Chargers:
The trouble on the field begins at the quarterback position. There is no discernable evidence to outsiders that Dan Fouts can be a viable quarterback in the NFL … Coach Tommy Prothro has opted for the improvement route. He thinks Fouts and [Jesse] Freitas can be coached into competence.
To be fair, the Chargers were a team that killed a lot of reputations in the 1970s. And the improvement route is easy to choose when you can hire Bill Walsh as a quarterback tutor. But we’re sure Neil Graff and Gary Keithley would be happy to go into history rated as equally abysmal as Dan Fouts!
Meanwhile, Mr Felser’s Pro Football 1976 book was also unkind to another no-name quarterback at the Redskins:
And creaking Billy Kilmer is still the quarterback. (Meanwhile, Randy Johnson chafes on the bench and Joe Theismann wonders what happened to all that talent he was reputed to have.) If Kilmer gets hurt again, which would be nothing new, Johnson will play. Not Theismann. Perhaps not ever Theismann.
Mr Felser was undoubtedly reflecting the reality of the times: neither Fouts nor Theismann had yet seized their opportunities. But when the experts can’t see the gold while legends of unquestioned talent are waiting for their break, it might have been a little unfair on Seattle’s aspiring quarterback to take the critic’s word so literally when assessing them.
We’ve become used to a steady supply of quality quarterbacks entering the NFL. Years in which one or two quarterbacks have been drafted early are regarded as poor ones for the position, while drafts such as 1983 and 1998 have become legendary. However, in the early to mid 1970s there was a different market in quarterbacks, and it’s important not to underestimate this as the existing teams prepared their lists for the veteran allocation and the expansion teams considered their options.
A simple lesson in draft history is to list the fate of quarterbacks for several years before 1976. Quarterbacks weren’t guaranteed to be the high-number, eagerly-sought, draft picks we expect today, and many of them came and went through the NFL at that time without making any impression at all. It wasn’t a position that assured long-term development for the occupant, and any team with genuine talent at the position hung onto it tight.
The low pick numbers may be startling for a modern audience, but getting near the field during the season was another battle again. First and second string quarterbacks dominated most teams, and it would take an injury or a significant loss of form before a third quarterback even registered on the stats sheet as having participated in a game.
So it was a tight market for quarterbacks and there was little room for carrying untested talent. A good quarterback was someone to hold onto, or trade for a premium price. The 49ers are a good example: in 1976 they traded 4 draft picks and a junior quarterback to the Patriots to obtain Jim Plunkett, and they then traded an obviously surplus-to-requirements Steve Spurrier to the Buccaneers for 2 players and a second-round pick. Even unwanted quarterbacks were expensive if they came with experience. And, of course, the expansion teams had relatively little to offer in a trade except their vital future draft picks (which were likely to be high ones in the early years).
In the following table, players who changed teams from 1975 to 1976 are noted in italics. “Completed NFL seasons” is based on the number of seasons on a team roster, although the numbers for some players may be slightly understated if they had been kept on the practice squad at some time.
This was the market from which the Seahawks and Buccaneers were trying to obtain experienced quarterbacks in 1976.
The turnover of quarterbacks below the level of the existing starters was large, and it appeared to be very difficult for a rookie to fight his way into a lineup and stay there. This has always been true for the NFL, but the 70s were a period in which there was an overall lack of confidence in keeping a young quarterback and tutoring him to become a future starter.
As a result, no team was going to let a good veteran quarterback go into the 1976 veteran allocation unless it was absolutely forced to, because they were just too hard to replace. The preferred path was to trade for experience — and the expansion teams had very little to trade with.
On the other hand, the turnover of hopefuls in previous years had created a large pool of unemployed quarterbacks, many of whom had a little NFL experience and/or impressive college qualifications. Some, of course, would have decided to move out of football after their shot at the big league, but the Seahawks and Buccaneers should still have presented an opportunity to some of these men. With no disrespect to the 8 veterans and free agents who were selected for the Seahawks’ initial 1976 squad, it’s something of a mystery why the Seahawks could find a spot for only two quarterbacks who’d been drafted between 1972 and 1975: there were 61 drafted quarterbacks from 1973 to 1975 and a number of them weren’t with a team when the Seahawks and Buccaneers held their trials. If any of them tried out for either team, it seems that luck was against them — again.
Of course, being a highly-rated rookie quarterback of the 1970s was no guarantee of success, even for an expansion team.
Gary Keithley is a prime example of the cruelty of the system. As a second-round draft pick in 1973, he’d been drafted in one of the higher spots for a quarterbacks — and ahead of 3 men who turned out to be 100-plus gamers (including a Hall of Famer in Dan Fouts). His credentials in the Western Athletic Conference had been as good as many of his contemporaries, and his performances for St Louis in 1973 when Jim Hart was injured were as solid as could be expected for a rookie.
However, he fell behind the other 4 quarterbacks used by the Cardinals in 1974 and 1975 (each of whom had more experience) and his position could be assumed to have been in jeopardy coming into 1976. Yet the Cardinals had made no attempt to draft another quarterback in 1974, 1975 and even 1976: however good the draft picks might have been, they were not prepared to experiment with youth when they could trade for experience. Keithley remained good enough to be listed as a back up, but by the time he reached the Seahawks, the consensus opinion of the “experts” was that he was of average quality at best — but his ability to prove himself had been severely limited.
Neil Graff’s story is also one of limited opportunities. He’d been drafted by the Vikings to learn behind Fran Tarkenton, but he was a 16th round pick (#414) and the 17th quarterback selected. His position would have given him few illusions about his prospects, but he hung on and 2 years later his stock was high enough to be traded to the Patriots to play behind Jim Plunkett. He should have been safer than a lot of the other hopefuls around at the time.
But he wasn’t safe from bad luck: after trading Plunkett to the 49ers in exchange for Tom Owen and 4 high draft picks, the Pats decided to gamble on Owen and rookie Steve Grogan for 1976. Graff was cursed to be stuck in one of the few teams in 1975 that decided to disregard the experience-is-precious theory of quarterbacking.