Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jun 2005

Ricky's Run Already Ended

Hey, it's another one of "Aaron Schatz's Greatest Hits," now updated with more damning anti-Ricky numbers for a brand new audience.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Jun 2005

3 comments, Last at 12 Jun 2005, 12:27pm by senser81


by Dan Doubleday (not verified) :: Sun, 06/12/2005 - 11:58am

As an aging newcomer to this discussion, might I say that I think Carl is right about Csonka and the WFL.

While still at the height of his career in a three back rotation in Miami, Csonka left to join the nascent World Football League.

For those of you who don't about the WFL, it was a shoestrings sort of operation. Don't confuse it with the World League of American Football because the caliber of players and competition was better.

The WFL only lasted three years, but it was a good league. A great many of the rules we now take for granted in the NFL had their tryout in the WFL, such as the point of kickoffs, the "bump" rule for defensive backs, standardized offensive holding and ineligible receiver protocols, field goal miss rules and other reforms.

Csonka played in a league that was structured more like the NFL we know today than perhaps we want to admit, and the teams that played in the WFL were more representative of America's football passion, with franchises awarded to football crazy Hawaii, Birmingham and Tennessee.

The NFL was slow to expand to its most beloved core, which is why the USFL was so popular in the south. The organizers understood that the professional game could work in Dixie.

I also think Carl's right about Csonka's numbers there. Csonka was a great fullback, but he left near the height of his abilities because he could make more money and have a greater control over his rushing in the WFL than the NFL.

It takes a lot of courage to leave a backfield with Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris to play summer football, but he did it, and he took Kiick and Paul Warfield with him!

While Csonka's numbers weren't great, they were accepted by the Hall's voters, just as Warfield's were. They didn't detract from his NFL statistics, I guess I want to say.

He had a terrible year with the Giants when he returned.

He probably wouldn't have entered Canton had it not been for his steady year in the WFL and a comeback season in Miami in 1979.

Writers could say that his rushing for the Giants was not indicative of his career, and the WFL and final Miami seasons helped him do that.

by Dan Doubleday (not verified) :: Sun, 06/12/2005 - 12:05pm

I'd also like to say that this has been a fascinating thread. Kudos to Aaron!

Senser, one reason the USFL and WFL were not accepted into the NFL was because of their summer games. Beyond the unique rules, the shaky finances and all that, the clubs were not acceptable to the NFL's hierarchy largely because of when they played their games.

Had summer football really caught on, I believe not only would the WFL and USFL been incorporated in the NFL, but that the season would have been moved back to the late summer.

by senser81 (not verified) :: Sun, 06/12/2005 - 12:27pm

re: post #208 & 209

I still don't understand how Csonka’s work in the WFL helped HOF voters make their case for him. I mean, I don't understand ANY part of that statement. Csonka was considered a flop in the WFL, so I don't see how Csonka's "steady" year in the WFL ensured his HOF enshrinement. Its strange how so many random people on this site know why the HOF electors voted players in. Csonka's WFL year? Jim Kelly's USFL statistics? Gimme a break.

The WFL lasted only 1 year, and it was a bad league. I don't understand how the WFL 'revolutionized' the point of kickoff, when this was established by the NFL after the 1973 season and before the WFL existed. I also have no idea what you mean by "ineligible receiver protocol" being established by the WFL.

Finally, I don't understand what playing in the summer would have ANYTHING to do with the NFL accepting WFL or USFL teams. Did the players have contract stipulations that only allowed them to play in the summer? If so, how did the USFL play fall games in 1985?