I was born on Gallows Road. By rights I should be a blues singer, but no.
My particular point of origin was in the birthing ward of Fairfax Hospital, 3300 Gallows Road, Falls Church Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. So, rather than imbuing soulful sorrow and a penchant for doing women wrong, my place of birth dictated that I grow up a Washington Redskins fan.
Early football allegiances are formed in the home. So even though my family moved to college-football mad Birmingham in 1976 when I was but a wee lad of three, my heroes were in the pros. When we played football in the school yard and the other kids would call out "I get to be Kerry Goode." or "I'm Walter Lewis." and then argue about who was pretending to be whom, I could stand above the fray, confident that I was likely the only John Riggins claimant in the whole of Birmingham.
It was the Riggins era when I stopped being the kid who would be called on to sing "Hail to the Redskins," for the grown ups' amusement every time we scored and started actually watching the game. Joe Gibbs and the Hogs, with Riggins as the front man, put on a show that formed my idea of what football should be: ugly, smash mouth, and overpowering. In the 1982game the 'Skins ran the same play (50 gut) nine times in a row. After the second time, they made sure to tell the Cowboys' defensive line what was coming as they came out of the huddle. It didn't matter. Dallas couldn't stop them.
Football was running. Passing was what happened when you failed at football. Defense showed that other teams were not as tough as yours.
There were fine receivers, no doubt. Art Monk was maybe the greatest possession receiver in NFL history and I love him.was a hell of a YAC threat. But they were a fall back for when large people hitting other large people inexplicably resulted in third down and long.
AfterXXII you might think I would take a shine to the passing game. Doug Williams passed for 340 yards and four touchdowns. At the White House reception, Reagan famously asked, "Where's Ricky Sanders?" before completing a toss to the receiver who had nine receptions for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the championship game.
It was an impressive display by the quarterback and wide receiving corps, but in my mind the game was won by the unknown rookie Timmy Smith. Twenty-two carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns, a Super Bowl rushing record in his first start, he was unstoppable and left a bewildered Denver wide open to any attack the Redskins wanted to dial up.
Had it not been for Van Tiffin (I admit to absent-mindedly writing "Van Kiffin" at first) I likely would have come to a more balanced view of the beautifuller game. Gibbs built on the ‘87 model, and by ‘91, with Mark Rypien under center, fielded one of the most balanced and lethal attacks that football has ever seen. But there was Van Tiffin.
If you can believe it, someone invited me and eight other seventh grade kids to the ‘85 Iron Bowl for their kid's birthday party. I can't imagine anyone doing that now given the cost. I'm sure it was fairly expensive at the time, even though we had pretty crummy seats. Crummy until Tiffin kicked the game winner right at us.
That was the beginning of my slow realization that the college game holds so much more excitement than the pros. I can't tell you when a waxing love of college ball eclipsed a waning love of pro, but by the Stallings era I was sold on the.
Whatever appreciation of the passing game I might have developed watching Gibbs' teams of the late 80s and early 90s was dashed on January 1, 1993. If you are a run lover with firm doubts about the wisdom of passing, there may not be a greater exercise in bias conformation than watching your team win a national championship match-up despite only gaining 18 yards through the air. Run the ball. Play D. Win games.
What followed was a decade plus of the University of Alabama doing their damnedest to reinforce my prejudice.
Post Barker we had Burgdorf with some Palmer in an incunabular Wildcat. Kitchens was followed by Phillips or David Phillips depending on how you parse your John David Phillipses. Andrew Zow stoked false hope. He was fun to watch, but only made his predecessor, a passable Tyler Watts, seem worse than he was.
There was a moment of Avalos before the most unfair thing to befall any third string quarterback that didn't play for anOSU happened. He had to play. Spencer Pennington was a hell of a baseball player pressed into service because the universe took a shotgun to the collective knee of every starter in the backfield, with predictable results.
By the time that a talent like Brodie Croyle came about, my full body tensing reaction was so involuntary that discontent ruled his tenure.
I specifically remember realizing that I was no longer panicking when we dropped back to pass during the Georgia "Black Out" game. I was not entirely on board with this newfangled forward pass thing, but I had seen enough of Wilson, or Parker Wilson depending on how you parse your John Parker Wilsons, under the new coaching staff that the occasional divergence from tried and true rushing principles was not entirely unwelcome.
By the middle of the following season I was a zealous believer in the pistol formation, and not just because it benefits the downhill runner. Why, I wondered, wasn't Julio getting the ball more often?
McElroy earned my trust and brought us a NC. AJ picked apart LSU. Sims just made me happy. Coker stepped up and made the needed plays.
In the Saban era, I have come to appreciate how much fun a fan can have when open to the enjoyment of a full playbook. And while I still view dropping back to pass on first down as a violation of well established curmudgeonly values, I really love when Kiffin throws his hands up for a touchdown when the ball is still in the air.
Seriously, thanks to the play callers Jim McElwain, Doug Nussmeier, and Lane Kiffin. There are so many new words I've enjoyed hearing over the past few years: Jones, Cooper, Stewart, Foster, Ridley, Howard...
So no blues for me, at least not in passing.