Norm Van Brocklin

Last updated

Norm Van Brocklin
Norm Van Brocklin 1974.JPG
Van Brocklin in 1974
No. 11, 25
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Born:(1926-03-15)March 15, 1926
Parade, South Dakota [1]
Died:May 2, 1983(1983-05-02) (aged 57)
Social Circle, Georgia
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school: Lafayette (CA) Acalanes
College: Oregon
NFL Draft: 1949  / Round: 4 / Pick: 37
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Pass attempts:2,895
Pass completions:1,553
Percentage:53.6
TDINT:173–178
Passing yards:23,611
Passer rating:75.1
Player stats at NFL.com

Norman Mack Van Brocklin (March 15, 1926 – May 2, 1983), nicknamed "The Dutchman" was an American football quarterback, punter, and coach in the National Football League. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. [2]

American football Team field sport

American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, the team with possession of the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with the ball or passing it, while the defense, the team without possession of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs or plays; if they fail, they turn over the football to the defense, but if they succeed, they are given a new set of four downs to continue the drive. Points are scored primarily by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins.

National Football League Professional American football league

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The NFL's 17-week regular season runs from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. Following the conclusion of the regular season, six teams from each conference advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, which is usually held on the first Sunday in February and is played between the champions of the NFC and AFC.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Professional sports hall of fame in Canton, Ohio

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the hall of fame for professional American football, located in Canton, Ohio. Opened in 1963, the Hall of Fame enshrines exceptional figures in the sport of professional football, including players, coaches, franchise owners, and front-office personnel, almost all of whom made their primary contributions to the game in the National Football League (NFL); the Hall inducts between four and eight new enshrinees each year. The Hall of Fame's Mission is to "Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence EVERYWHERE."

Contents

Early life

Born in Parade, South Dakota, [1] Van Brocklin was one of nine children of Mack and Ethel Van Brocklin. His father was a watchmaker. [3] The family moved to Northern California and settled in Walnut Creek, east of Oakland. [4] [5] [6] Van Brocklin was a three-sport standout at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, where he quarterbacked the football team to a 5-3 record as a sophomore and a 4-2-2 record as a junior. [7] [8] He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 through 1945, foregoing his senior year of high school. [9]

Parade is an unincorporated community in Dewey County, in the U.S. state of South Dakota.

Watchmaker artisan who makes and repairs watches

A watchmaker is an artisan who makes and repairs watches. Since a majority of watches are now factory made, most modern watchmakers only repair watches. However, originally they were master craftsmen who built watches, including all their parts, by hand. Modern watchmakers, when required to repair older watches, for which replacement parts may not be available, must have fabrication skills, and can typically manufacture replacements for many of the parts found in a watch. The term clockmaker refers to an equivalent occupation specializing in clocks.

Northern California Place in California, United States

Northern California is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. Spanning the state's northernmost 48 counties, its main population centers include the San Francisco Bay Area, the Greater Sacramento area, and the Metropolitan Fresno area. Northern California also contains redwood forests, along with the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite Valley and part of Lake Tahoe, Mount Shasta, and most of the Central Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural regions.

College career

Following World War II, Van Brocklin followed two former high school teammates north and enrolled at the University of Oregon in Eugene. [9] He became the starting quarterback in 1947 under first-year head coach Jim Aiken, [10] [11] and led the Ducks to a 16-5 record in his two seasons as a starter. In 1948, Oregon tied with California for the title of the Pacific Coast Conference, forerunner of the Pac-12. California was undefeated overall, and Oregon's only loss was at undefeated Michigan, [12] [13] that year's national champions, and the Ducks had seven victories in the PCC to Cal's six. [14] Oregon did not go to the Rose Bowl, however, because Cal was voted by the other schools to represent the PCC in the game. Oregon needed only a 5-5 tie vote, as Cal had been to the game more recently, and with six Northwest schools and four in California, appeared favored to advance. Oregon had opted for a playoff game, but California declined. [15] Among the Cal voters was the University of Washington, which elevated the intensity of the Oregon-Washington rivalry. Breaking with tradition, the PCC allowed Oregon to accept an invitation to play SMU in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It was the first time that a Pacific Coast team played in a major bowl game other than the Rose Bowl (a policy which was continued by the Pac-8 through 1974). Both Oregon and California lost their New Year's Day bowl games. [16] [17] That season, Van Brocklin was honored with an All-America selection [18] and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. [19] Coincidentally, the Heisman Trophy winner that year was SMU running back Doak Walker. Both Walker and Van Brocklin got Outstanding Player recognition for their performance in the Cotton Bowl Classic. [20]

University of Oregon Public research university in Eugene, Oregon

The University of Oregon is a public flagship research university in Eugene, Oregon. Founded in 1876, the institution's 295-acre campus is along the Willamette River. Since July 2014, UO has been governed by the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon. The university has a Carnegie Classification of "highest research activity" and has 19 research centers and institutes. UO was admitted to the Association of American Universities in 1969.

Eugene, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Eugene is a city in the U.S. state of Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest. It is at the southern end of the verdant Willamette Valley, near the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers, about 50 miles (80 km) east of the Oregon Coast.

Jim Aiken American football player and coach, basketball coach

James Wilson Aiken was an American football player and coach of football and basketball. He served as the head football coach at the University of Akron (1936–1938), the University of Nevada (1939–1946), and the University of Oregon (1947–1950), compiling a career college football record of 78–53–5. Aiken was also the head basketball coach at Nevada for a season in 1944–45, tallying a mark of 8–9.

Van Brocklin left Oregon for the NFL with one remaining year of college eligibility. At that time, a player was not allowed to join the NFL until four years after graduating from high school. Though he had only been at the University of Oregon for three years, he was eligible due to his time in the Navy during World War II. At age 23, he completed his bachelor's degree in June 1949. [21] [22]

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Professional playing career

Van Brocklin depicted in 1951 Van Brocklin 1951 Bowman.jpg
Van Brocklin depicted in 1951

Los Angeles Rams

Van Brocklin was selected 37th overall in the 1949 NFL Draft, taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams. [23] Teams were not sure if he planned to play the 1949 season in college or not, so he fell in the draft, [21] conducted in December 1948. Van Brocklin signed with the Rams in July and joined a team that already had a star quarterback, Bob Waterfield. Beginning in 1950, new Rams coach Joe Stydahar solved his problem by platooning Waterfield and Van Brocklin. The 1950 Rams scored a then-record 466 points (38.8 per game – which is still a record) with a high octane passing attack featuring Tom Fears and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch. Fears led the league and set a new NFL record with 84 receptions. Van Brocklin and Waterfield finished 1-2 in passer rating as well. They were defeated by the Cleveland Browns in the 1950 title game, 30-28. [24]

The 1949 National Football League Draft was held on December 21, 1948, at The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. The draft was preceded by a secret draft meeting held November 15, 1948, at the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh.

The 1949 Los Angeles Rams season was the team's 12th year with the National Football League and the fourth season in Los Angeles.

Bob Waterfield American football player

Robert Stanton Waterfield was an American football player and coach and motion picture actor and producer. He played quarterback for the UCLA Bruins and Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. His No. 7 jersey was retired by the Los Angeles Rams in 1952.

In 1951, Van Brocklin and Waterfield again split quarterbacking duties and the Rams again won the West. That year, Hirsch set an NFL record with 1,495 receiving yards and tied Don Hutson's record of 17 touchdown receptions. This time, the Rams won the title rematch against Cleveland, 24-17. [25] Waterfield (9-24, 125 yards) took most of the snaps at the L.A. Coliseum, but Van Brocklin (4-6, 128 yards) threw a game-winning 73-yard touchdown pass to Fears. [25] It was the Rams' only NFL championship while based in southern California; their next came in 1999, several years after the move east to St. Louis.

1951 Los Angeles Rams season NFL American football season

The 1951 Los Angeles Rams season was the team's 14th year with the National Football League and the sixth season in Los Angeles. In 1951, the Rams had an up-and-down season, never winning more than three games in a row, but was able to win eight games and clinch the National Conference after defeating the Green Bay Packers during week twelve. Los Angeles also led the National Football League in attendance for the second time while in Southern California and was the first of ten straight seasons leading the league in attendance. The Rams' largest crowd during the 1951 campaign was 67,186 against the Cleveland Browns during week two.

Don Hutson American football split end and coach

Donald Montgomery Hutson was a professional American football player and assistant coach in the National Football League (NFL). He played as a split end and spent his entire eleven-year professional career with the Green Bay Packers. Under head coach Curly Lambeau, Hutson led the Packers to four NFL Championship Games, winning three: 1936, 1939, and 1944.

1951 NFL Championship Game

The 1951 National Football League Championship Game was the 19th NFL championship game, played December 23 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.

Earlier in 1951 on opening night, Van Brocklin threw for an NFL record 554 yards on September 28, breaking Johnny Lujack's single-game record of 468 set two years earlier. Waterfield was injured so Van Brocklin played the entire game and completed 27 of 41 attempts with five touchdowns. Despite the increase in passing attacks by NFL teams in recent years, the yardage record still stands, set 68 years ago. [26] [27]

Waterfield retired after the 1952 season and Van Brocklin continued to quarterback the Rams, leading them to the title game again in 1955, hosted at the L.A. Coliseum. In that game, the visiting Browns crushed the Rams 38-14 as Van Brocklin threw six interceptions. [28] In early January 1958, he announced his retirement from pro football after nine seasons and had plans to enter private business in Oregon at Portland. [29] [30]

Philadelphia Eagles

Less than five months later in late May, Van Brocklin changed his mind and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for two players (offensive lineman Buck Lansford and defensive end Jimmy Harris) and a first round draft pick. [31] [32] It was disclosed he did not want to play another season for the Rams under head coach Sid Gillman's offense, but it was not a personality issue with Gillman. [31] Under famed head coach Buck Shaw, Van Brocklin was given total control of the offense in Philadelphia in 1958, and he steadily improved the Eagles' attack. In his third and final season with Philly in 1960, the team had the best regular season record in league at 10-2, and hosted the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game at Franklin Field. Throwing to his favorite receiver, 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)176 lb (80 kg) Tommy McDonald, Van Brocklin led the Eagles to victory. In a game dominated by defense, he led a fourth quarter comeback, resulting in a final score of 17-13. [33]

During his twelve-year career, Van Brocklin played on two NFL championship teams: the 1951 Los Angeles Rams and the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles. Following the latter triumph, he retired. As it turned out, the Eagles were the only team to defeat the Packers in a playoff game during Vince Lombardi's tenure as Green Bay's head coach. [34] Van Brocklin led the NFL in passing three times and in punting twice. On nine occasions, he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Coaching career

Minnesota Vikings

Van Brocklin cut his ties with the Eagles after his belief that the team had reneged on an agreement to name him head coach to replace the retiring Buck Shaw. On January 18, 1961, he accepted the head coaching position for the expansion Minnesota Vikings, [35] [36] less than a month after winning the NFL Championship game. During his six years with Minnesota, Van Brocklin compiled a record of 29-51-4 (.369). The tenure was highlighted by his contentious relationship with quarterback Fran Tarkenton. [37] Van Brocklin was displeased with Tarkenton's penchant for scrambling, preferring that he stay in the pocket. The feud culminated with Tarkenton's demand for a trade [37] and Van Brocklin's surprise resignation on February 11, 1967. [38] Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants shortly after Van Brocklin's departure, [39] but was reacquired by Van Brocklin's successor, Bud Grant, five years later in 1972.

During his first year off the field in over two decades, Van Brocklin served as a commentator on NFL broadcasts in 1967 for CBS. [40]

Atlanta Falcons

In 1968, he took over as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons on October 1, replacing Norb Hecker, who had started the season with three defeats, extending the team losing streak to ten games. [41] Over the next seven seasons, Van Brocklin had mixed results, putting together a 37-49-3 mark. He led the team to its first winning season in 1971 with a 7-6-1 record, then challenged for a playoff spot in 1973 with a 9-5 mark. His 1973 Falcons handed the Fran Tarkenton-led, 9-0 Minnesota Vikings its first defeat, on Monday Night Football . However, after winning just two of his first eight games in 1974, he was fired. One thing Van Brocklin was known for was his disdain for soccer-style kickers (now the standard in the NFL). In one game, a soccer-style kicker beat Van Brocklin's team and after the game, a reporter asked about how felt about losing the game on a last-second field goal, and he replied "They ought to change the god-damned immigration laws in this country". [42]

Head coaching record

TeamYearRegular SeasonPostseason
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
MIN 1961 3110.2147th in NFL Western
MIN 1962 2111.1796th in NFL Western
MIN 1963 581.3934th in NFL Western
MIN 1964 851.6072nd in NFL Western
MIN 1965 770.5005th in NFL Western
MIN 1966 491.3216th in NFL Western
MIN Total29514.369
ATL 1968 290.1824th in NFL Coastal
ATL 1969 680.4293rd in NFL Coastal
ATL 1970 482.3573rd in NFC West
ATL 1971 761.5363rd in NFC West
ATL 1972 770.5002nd in NFC West
ATL 1973 950.6432nd in NFC West
ATL 1974 260.2504th in NFC West
ATL Total37493.433
Total [43] 661007.402

Final years

Following his dismissal, Van Brocklin returned to his pecan farm in Social Circle, Georgia, east of Atlanta. His only connections to football during this era were as a running backs coach for Georgia Tech under head coach Pepper Rodgers in 1979, [44] who was fired that December. [45] It was his only stint as an assistant coach. Rodgers's successor Bill Curry brought in a new staff in 1980 and Van Brocklin then was a college football analyst on "Superstation" WTBS in Atlanta. [3] [46]

Van Brocklin, a heavy cigarette smoker, suffered a number of illnesses, including a brain tumor. After it was removed, he told the press, "It was a brain transplant. They gave me a sportswriter's brain, to make sure I got one that hadn't been used." [47] He died of a heart attack in 1983 at age 57, [3] [46] five weeks after former teammate Bob Waterfield. [48] [49]

Van Brocklin was posthumously elected to the University of Oregon Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992. [50]

NFL career statistics

Legend
Led the league
NFL champion
AP NFL MVP
BoldCareer high
PassingPunting
YearTeamGW-L-TCmpAttCmp%YdsTDIntLngY/ARatePuntsYdsLngAvg
1949 LA 8325855.2601625110.4111.42914645.5
1950 LA 125-1-012723354.52,0611814588.885.1114665142.4
1951 LA 121-1-010019451.51,7251311818.980.8481,9926241.5
1952 LA 126-0-011320555.11,7361417848.571.5291,2506643.1
1953 LA 128-3-115628654.52,3931914708.484.1602,5295742.2
1954 LA 126-4-113926053.52,63713218010.171.9441,8746142.6
1955 LA 128-3-114427252.91,890815746.962.0602,6766144.6
1956 LA 122-2-06812454.8966712587.859.5482,0707243.1
1957 LA 126-6-013226549.82,1052021707.968.8542,3927144.3
1958 PHI 122-9-119837452.92,4091520916.464.1542,2255841.2
1959 PHI 127-5-019134056.22,6171614717.779.5532,2635942.7
1960 PHI 1210-2-015328453.92,4712417648.786.5602,5857043.1
Career14061-36-41,5532,89553.623,611173178918.275.152322,4137242.9

See also

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