With the return of Brett Favre for his 20th NFL season, a few PR and media types were wondering how many position players have played 20 years in the NFL.
One of the results of looking at this was that the Elias Sports Bureau put George Blanda and his 26 years into the “kicker” category.
I realize where they are coming from here, but it sent my mind back to the career of the great Blanda.
While people most often remember him as the Oakland Raiders’ placekicker, that does very little justice to this guy’s overall career.
He was drafted out of the University of Kentucky in the 12th round of the 1949 draft. He threw his first pro pass for the Chicago Bears in 1949 and threw his last pro pass for the Raiders in 1975, 26 years later!
Blanda had 340 career games at the quarterback position, completing over 1,900 passes out of over 4,000 for almost 30,000 yards and 236 touchdowns.
He also had 135 career rushing attempts and scored nine times on the ground — his first rushing attempt was in 1949 and his last was 21 years later, still with positive yardage, two attempts for four yards in 1970 for the Raiders.
During his illustrious Hall-of-Fame career he led the NFL or AFL 12 times in passer categories during the seasons spanning 1953 and 1965.
He was a kicker for sure, but he was a lot more than that. By the way, Blanda led the NFL or AFL 36 times in various kicking categories over his career, and just for good measure he is pro football’s all-time leader in points (2,002) and field goal attempts (637), as well as in extra points and extra points attempted.
I got to watch him many times when the Houston Oilers were battering the Broncos in the early days of the AFL, before he moved on to the Raiders, and then we all witnessed many great Oakland-Denver matchups within the AFC West.
Two games I will never forget involving Blanda, one with Houston and one with Oakland.
He was kicking for the Raiders and accounted for all their kicking points in the 23-23 tie that marked the Broncos’ first-ever Monday Night Football appearance in 1973 — who would have thought when Denver was making its first such appearance that the Broncos would come into 2010 with the longest active consecutive season streak on MNF?
In 1966 the Broncos started off the season with one of the most infamous games in franchise history, failing to make a first down in a game at Houston as Blanda presided over a 45-7 pummeling of Denver on September 3.
The rematch was in Denver on October 2, and while the Broncos were a woeful club that was winless coming into the game, they had revenge on their minds that day and matched Blanda and the Oilers point for point. Denver won the game by a 40-38 margin, one of the most classic Bronco games I have ever witnessed.
I remember that Bronco kicker Gary Kroner kicked his second field goal of the day, a 46-yarder with just 27 seconds left, to bring some self respect and the first win of the season to the Broncos.
But Blanda accounted for all 38 of Houston’s points that day, one of the greatest single offensive performances I have ever witnessed. As I sat in my north stands seat I alternated between holding my breath for the Broncos and watching in awe as Blanda
threw touchdown passes of nine, 18, 79, 27 and 23 yards while completing 15 of 37 attempts for 300 yards along with those five TDs. For good measure, he kicked a 49-yard field goal for the Oilers. He accounted for all 38 of Houston’s points, either on offense or special teams, a staggering accomplishment.
So George Blanda was a “kicker,” and that is definitely the skill that prolonged his brilliant career, but he sure could play a little quarterback as well!