Ten Significant "What If's" in NFL History

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Ten Significant

I found an article on this site about great "what if's" in NBA history, so I decided to do one about "what if's" that shaped the history of the NFL.


10. What if Joe Roth didn't die of Cancer in February 1977?

There might be some of you that have never heard of Joe Roth, so, just to fill you in, Roth was a star QB who played at Cal in 1975 and '76. His ex-teammates have said that he was like Joe Montana because of the coolness with which he operated.

NFL scouts had him rated as one of the top players in the 77 draft. But then, fate intervened. The Cancer that he thought he had beaten came back during the 1976 season. He played through the season and in the Japan Bowl in January, and then died a month later, not being able to realize his potential as, quite possibly, one of the best QB's in NFL History.


9. What if Brett Favre never plays in Green Bay?

People know Brett Favre as a Packer icon today, but what if he never played there? In the '91 Draft, Chuck Knox, the Seahawk Coach, wanted him instead of Dan McGwire. Tom Flores, the GM, asked Ken Behring, the owner, whom he wanted, and he wanted McGwire, so that is who Flores selected.

Then, Ron Wolf wanted him for the Jets, but the Falcons beat them to him in the second round. Favre parties too hard his rookie year, gets demoted to third string, and ends up getting traded to Green Bay for their second first rounder in '92. The rest, as they say, is history, but it could have been different.


8. What if Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones could have worked out their differences and stayed together?

In January 1994, the Dallas Cowboys won their second straight Super Bowl over the Bills. The Cowboys seemed poised to dominate the rest of the '90's. Then, Johnson walked away as coach because Jerry Jones wanted more control in personnel decisions. After that, they won one more SB, then went into a slow decline throughout the rest of the '90's that lasted into the first few years of this decade.


7. What if John Elway and the Colts could have ironed out their differences?

Elway was the first pick in the '83 draft, but he refused to play for the Colts, as a lot of you know. The reason was that he didn't like their authoritarian Bobby Knight-like coach, Frank Kush.

I heard something about how Ernie Accorsi, the Colt GM at the time, was trying to get it worked out, and that team owner Robert Irsay traded John behind his back. Whatever happened, it was one of the worst chapters in the Colts history, culminating with the Mayflower episode the next year.


6. What if Drew Pearson broke away from Eric Wright in the 81 NFC Championship Game?

All of you remember "The Catch" or the TD by Dwight Clark in the '81 NFC Championship game that started the Niners' dynasty in the '80s. But, a lot of people forget about the play after.

Danny White hit Drew Pearson with a deep post play after two defenders dived but missed the ball. Pearson got in Dallas territory around the 40-yard line, but Eric Wright grabbed him by a finger and prevented him from breaking it further.

The 'Niners sacked White on the next play, forced and recovered a fumble, and won the game which catapulted the Niners and led to Dallas's slow decline in the 80's.


5. What if Monday Night Football wasn't carried by ABC?

For negotiations of a new TV contract with the NFL that would start in 1970, Pete Rozelle wanted to get a Monday night game deal with one of the three major TV Networks. CBS and NBC weren't in favor of the Monday night deal, so he talked with ABC. They had reservations about it as well, but, when Rozelle used the threat of billionaire Howard Hughes and his Hughes Sports Network, they decided to give it a chance.


4. What if the Jets didn't win Super Bowl III?

As many of you know, the Jets were big underdogs in this game. There was talk, if the Jets did lose by the predicted spread, of postponing the Super Bowl until the AFL got on better ground with the NFL. We all know what happened, but things could have been very different if the Jets lost.


3. What if Lamar Hunt was able to buy the Cardinals and move them to Dallas in the late '50s?

In the '50s, the Cardinals struggled in the shadow of the Bears and played to crowds of less than 20,000 a game. Lamar Hunt was one of the owners who wanted to buy the Cardinals and move them, but to no avail. The current ownership ended up moving the team to St. Louis, and Hunt ended up forming the AFL.


2. What if the Colts blew out the Giants in the 58 NFL Championship game?

It is called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." But, it could have been different. The Colts led 14-3 at halftime, and had the ball at the New York one in the third quarter, but were stopped on downs. The Giants came back and took the lead, the Colts tied it, and the rest was history. This game vastly increased NFL popularity. Who knows what would have happened if the Colts won decisively.


1. What if Paul Brown went back to Ohio State after WWII?

In 1942, Paul Brown coached the Buckeyes to the National Title. After the 43 season, however, Brown was drafted into the Navy, and Carroll Widdoes took over the Buckeye program. He wanted his old job back, but Ohio St. was happy with the job Widdoes was doing, so he took the job with the Cleveland team in the new AAFC.

He would go on to have an enormous impact on the course of Pro Football history and influence many coaches that would go on to have huge success, like Chuck Noll, Don Shula, and Bill Walsh. The NFL would look very different today without him.

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

Out of Bounds


Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.