George Blanda: NFL's Old Fossil?
Today’s athletes are getting older and older. These days you see more older sportsmen and sportswomen highly competitive at ages which are already conveniently considered by many as being “over the hill.”
For example, Olympic swimmer Dana Torres was 40 when she competed in the Olympics in China.
QB Vinny Testaverde was 44 when released by the Carolina Panthers in 2007.
Neither were bowing out or fading away, but instead pushing the envelope when it came to their competitiveness.
Here is a story of another celebrated oldster who played his best performances after it was assumed he was past his prime.
Jan. 4, 1976, this southwestern PA native played in his last game at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium at age 48.
It was the AFC Championship game where he kicked a 41-yard field goal and made one extra point as the Oakland Raiders lost to the Steelers 16-10.
He was released by the Raiders on Aug. 25, 1976.
Blanda was drafted in the 12th round out of Kentuckian 1949 and played 26 years as quarterback/kicker for four AFL and NFL teams: Chicago Bears (1949-58), Baltimore Colts (1959), Houston Oilers (1966-66), and Oakland Raiders (1967-75).
In 1958, after nine years in the NFL with the Colts and Bears, Blanda retired only to return to action signing with the Houston Oilers of the AFL.
Known as an “NFL Reject,” Blanda led the Oilers to two league titles in AFL history and played until 1966.
Considered an old fossil who has outlived his usefulness the Oilers released Blanda in 1967.
However, the Oakland Raiders, needing a back up quarterback and a dependable kicker, signed Blanda to a roster spot.
It was as an Oakland Raider that then 40-year-old Blanda became legend.
In his first two seasons, Blandas’ kicking skills helped him lead the AFL in scoring with 116 points.
But in 1970, Blanda was released during the preseason.
Later, the Raiders resigned Blanda to play his 21st season as a reserve back-up to QB Daryle Lamonica which became one of the most dramatic comebacks stories in sports history.
Beginning with the Oct. 25 game at Pittsburgh, Blanda put together five straight clutch performances.
Stepping in for the Lamonica, Blanda threw three touchdowns, a 44-yard TD to WR Warren Wells, and 19 and 43-yard TDs to TE Raymond Chester. He also kicked the extra points and a 27-yard field goal to defeat the Steelers 31-14.
One week later, with three seconds remaining Blanda kicked a 48-yard field goal for a 17-17 tie against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nov. 8, Blanda again came off the bench with 1:34 minutes remaining in the game against the Cleveland Browns, threw a 14-yard pass to Wells to tie the score, then with a few remaining seconds kicked a 53-yard field goal for the 23-20 win.
In the Nov. 15 game, Blanda defeated the Denver Broncos 24-19 with a touchdown pass to Fred Biletnikoff in the fourth quarter with 2:28 remaining.
One week later, behind 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Blanda kicked a 16-yard field goal to defeat the San Diego Chargers. Final score: 20-17.
With an 8-4-2 record, the Raiders advanced to the playoffs and defeated Divisional foe Miami to face the Baltimore Colts in the AFC title game.
Blanda again relieved an injured Lamonica and had a superb performance, completing 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns while also kicking a 48-yard field goal and two extra points, keeping the Raiders in the game until the final quarter, when he was intercepted twice.
Aged 43, Blanda became the oldest quarterback ever to play in a championship game.
He continued to play with the Raiders until 1975 at the ripe old age of 48.
George Blanda was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
Here are some of the records he still holds:
- Most seasons played: 26 (1949-58, 1960-75)
- Most seasons scoring a point: 26
- Only player to play in four different decades: (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s)
- Most PATs made (943) and attempted (959)
- Most interceptions thrown, single season: 42 (1962)
- Held record of most pass attempts in a single game: 68 (37 completions, vs. New York Titans
- First player ever to score over 2,000 points
- Oldest quarterback to start a title game
- Fewest receiving yards in a career: -16
- Most total points accounted for (including TD passes) in a career: 3,418 (not an official stat)
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