An appealing trait of football is that its past remains as significant as its present.
NFL Films is the embodiment of that trait. There is a draw to looking back at how the game was as there is to analyzing what it's like today.
Throughout the years, the NFL has shown its players to be tough, serious athletes, but there's been a lighter side to the game and everyone associated with it as well.
Here are some examples of that humor, in the form of one-liners and short quips. These aren't in any order, and are based on very limited criteria. I tried keeping the list to NFL quotes, and tried limiting them to lines that are funny by themselves.
For example, "You play to win the game" is funny in context, but not inherently.
Who: Terrell Owens
While still a 49er, Owens got excited on the sideline while San Francisco was playing Atlanta. Never one to shy away from some self-promoting, Owens let loose to anyone willing to listen.
"I love me some me!" he said, repeating the phrase as he danced by the bench.
It was one of the early signs of Owens' large ego, but it certainly wasn't the last.
Who: George Rogers
Rogers's stock was at a sensational high early in his career. A Heisman Trophy-winning running back out of South Carolina, Rogers was the first overall pick in the 1980 draft and the offensive Rookie of the Year in 1981 with New Orleans.
He had plenty of talent. His math needed work. Once, while discussing his goals for an upcoming season, Rogers laid out his expectations in what, he thought, were crystal-clear terms.
"I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards," he said. "Whichever comes first."
For the record, Rogers ran for 1,674 yards his rookie year. He also ran for 1,500 and 1,000 yards that season.
Who: Matt Millen
Before Super Bowl XVIII, played between Los Angeles and Washington, Redskins lineman Joe Jacoby had commented that he would run over his mother if it meant getting his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
When asked for his take on Jacoby's comment, Millen, a Raiders linebacker, didn't hesitate.
"To win," he said, "I'd run over Joe's mom, too."
Millen got a laugh from the comment, and his Raiders got the last laugh as well in a 38-9 victory.
Who: Bus Saidt and Jim Plunkett
Bus Saidt, a sportswriter, wanted to get the story straight. He didn't pick the best way to do it.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Saidt was at a media session with Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett before Super Bowl XV. Looking to clarify Plunkett's background, Saidt posed a question.
"I'm having trouble keeping this straight," he said. "Is it blind mother, dead father, or blind father, dead mother?"
Both of Plunkett's parents were blind, and his father was dead. The quarterback paused before setting the record straight in front of a group of stunned reporters.
Who: Butch John to Doug Williams
This line was exposed as a myth, but it's still lodged in NFL lore.
When Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl in January 1988, he faced his fair share of questions about setting history, including (we thought) this one from Butch John.
"So, Doug," the legend has him saying, "how long have you been a black quarterback?"
According to the Orlando Sentinel, that question never happened. John instead asked "Doug, it's obvious you've been a black quarterback all your life. When did it start to matter?"
Unfortunately for John, the rumor has the staying power.
Who: Denver Broncos players
Right before the Atlanta Falcons played the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXVIII in 1999, Falcons safety Eugene Robinson made headlines when he was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover Miami police officer.
Robinson made it into the game, though he allowed Terrell Davis to gain 39 yards on a catch-and-run when he missed a tackle. According to Sports Illustrated, several Broncos players couldn't resist attacking the easy target.
"You look a little tired, Eugene," they said. "Up late last night?"
The humiliation didn't end there, as Denver ended up winning, 34-19.
Who: Bob Zuppke
During the height of Red Grange's popularity at the University of Illinois, the nation was awestruck by the dazzling open-field runner. One exception, however, was Michigan coach Fielding Yost, who commented that Grange was nothing but a good runner.
Zuppke, the Illinois coach, didn't miss the opportunity to retort, involving Enrico Caruso, the leading opera performer of the day.
"All Grange can do is run," he said. "And all Caruso can do is sing."
This quote involved college athletes and coaches, but I included it due to Grange's impact on the NFL as well.
Who: Drew Brees
During a 2002 game in which the San Diego Chargers defeated the Oakland Raiders, 27-21, in overtime, a fan hit Brees, then the Chargers quarterback, with a water bottle from the stands.
Brees took advantage of the opportunity to joke about the incident while also taking a jab at the Raiders pass rush.
"It might have been the hardest hit I took all day," he said.
Who: Bob Golic
Golic lasted as a defensive tackle in the NFL from 1979-1992. That doesn't mean he thought the position was anything glamorous.
“If you’re mad at your kid, you can either raise him to be a nose tackle or send him out to play on the freeway," he said. "It’s about the same.”
Who: Mike Ditka
Then coach of the Chicago Bears, Ditka was asked to provide an update on the condition of quarterback Jim McMahon, considered by many to be a loose cannon.
Apparently, the coach recognized the wild ways of his field general as well.
"The shoulder surgery was a success," he said. "The lobotomy failed."
Who: Jack Tatum
A fierce hitter who sent many receivers back to the bench (or, in Darryl Stingley's case, to the hospital), Tatum didn't try to hide or make excuses for his savage nature.
"I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault," the former Raider said.
Who: E.J. Holub
A center and linebacker in the AFL and NFL from 1961-1970, Holub went through numerous battles in the trenches.
His knees, which were operated on 12 times, serve as proof.
When discussing his medical history, Holub made light of his situation.
"My knees look like they lost a knife fight with a midget," he said.
Who: Ray Lewis
After winning Super Bowl XXXV on the strength of one of history's greatest defenses, the Baltimore Ravens switched quarterbacks, with Elvis Grbac taking the place of Trent Dilfer.
Lewis, the All-Pro linebacker, knew Grbac didn't have to do much with the Baltimore defense helping him out. And he let him know it.
“You don’t have to win it," Lewis told him. "Just don’t lose it.”
The Ravens made it to the divisional round in the 2001 season.
Who: Joe Theismann
Nobody would call Theismann brilliant, but it's reasonable to expect him to get names down.
Especially one that belongs to one of the most powerful minds that has ever been. The former Pro Bowler slipped, however.
"Nobody in football should be called a genius," he said. "A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
Albert was pretty smart, too.
Who: Jerry Rice
Rice was trying to be modest. So when he was asked about his immense ability, he tried to sidestep the question. He didn't quite succeed.
“I feel like I’m the best," he told an interviewer, "but you’re not going to get me to say that.”
Who: Hollywood Henderson
Before the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers clashed in Super Bowl XIII, Henderson, a Cowboys linebacker, tried to rattle Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers star quarterback, by making fun of his intelligence.
He proceeded to give one of the sport's most famous soundbites.
"He couldn’t spell “cat” if you spotted him the ‘C’ and the ‘T’," he said.
The joke was on Henderson and the Cowboys. Bradshaw and Pittsburgh won the game, 35-31.
Who: Terry Bradshaw
Henderson wasn't the only one fueling the "dumb Bradshaw" belief. Bradshaw contributed to it as well.
"I may be dumb," he said, "but I'm not stupid."
Insightful or idiocy? You be the judge.
Who: John McKay
The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were really bad. Really bad. Oh-and-14 bad.
After yet another loss, someone asked McKay what he thought of his team's execution. He couldn't lie.
"I'm in favor of it," the coach quipped.
Who: Bruce Coslet
While coaching the Cincinnati Bengals through a miserable stretch, coach Coslet was asked what the flaws with the team were.
Coslet explained each one—and then some.
“We can’t run. We can’t pass. We can’t stop the run. We can’t stop the pass. We can’t kick," he said. "Other than that, we’re just not a very good football team right now.”
That about sums it up.
Who: Dick Butkus
Butkus was one of the most ferocious players to step on a field, though he said there were times he took it easy.
Not really, however.
“I wouldn’t ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was important," he said. "Like a league game.”
With all NFL games being "league" games, opponents were never safe with Butkus on the field.
Who: William "The Refrigerator" Perry
Perry was larger-than-life while with the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, though there was a time when "The Fridge" was smaller. Kind of.
“I’ve been big ever since I was little,” he said.
Who: Randy Moss
After pretending to moon Packers fans after scoring a touchdown in the Vikings' 2004 Wild Card round victory, Moss was slapped with a fine.
Reporters caught up to Moss in a parking lot and asked when he was going to write the check. Moss said that rich people don't write checks, and that he had another plan for paying the commissioner.
"Straight cash, homey," he said, getting into his car.
A new phrase was born.
He built the game up as a matchup of No. 81s, and signed off with a line that has since become part of Owens' persona.
"p.s. Getcha Popcorn Ready." Owens wrote on a sign by his locker.
Though the Patriots crushed the Cowboys, the phrase has remained popular.
Who: Jim Mora
After a frustrating loss as coach of the New Orleans Saints, Mora had only one way to describe his team's inability to score points.
"We couldn't do diddly poo offensively," he said.
Mora went on a tirade in which he blasted his team as a whole, but the "diddly poo" line stuck out as the top comment.
In case you're wondering, no other coach has used "diddly poo" in a postgame interview.
"Diddly poo" was famous, but Mora continues to be defined by a postgame tirade after a loss to San Francisco in 2001. A reporter asked Mora about Indianapolis's playoff chances, and the coach snapped.
"Uh, playoffs??? Playoffs!?" Mora said incredulously. "Don't talk about playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win another game!"
It was Mora's final season as Colts coach, but he can always say he went out with a bang.