History Lesson: Three Pros You Should Know

Before Randy Moss, there was John Jefferson. Photo by DevilBrent47

Every era of the game has players that were great in many aspects of their game, but didn’t have an extended opportunity to prove it statistically. Brandon Lloyd is one of the greatest receivers in the history of the league when it comes to adjusting to the football, but he approached the precipice of his career death before pulling back just in time – perhaps the greatest catch of his life thus far. This got me thinking about other players who I thought were great talents, but didn’t have the commensurate statistics to earn that label in the traditional sense. Here are three.

RB Willie “The Whisp” Gallimore, Chicago Bears: The Bears have one of the richest traditions of running back play in the history of the NFL, but most people only think of Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, and now Matt Forte. Some might remember Neal Anderson, who had some excellent seasons in his own right. However, you have to ask an old timer about Gallimore, who passed away in a car accident at the untimely age of 29.

Watch Gallimore, whose first highlight in this video begins at the 0:59 mark, and you’ll see that the Bears No. 28 was easy to mistake for Sayers in the open field:

One of my favorite parts of this video is the claim that Gallimore was “one of the last great steals of the draft before the draft became sophisticated.” I think Terrell Davis, Arian Foster, Priest Holmes, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Ryan Grant might beg to differ. Anyhow, Gallimore’s ability to change directions and his balance in addition to his speed were special for this era of the game.

RB James Brooks, Chargers and Bengals: Brooks to me was the precursor in the RB evolutionary chain to Marshall Faulk. The all-purpose back was fast, elusive, and skilled between the tackles. He was also an incredibly good receiver. Check out this catch below:

Here are a few runs on a 201-yard effort against the Houston Oilers:

Brooks’ nifty run against the Steelers where he beats Rod Woodson to the end zone:

I think Brooks’ career stats suggest that the versatile runner was was an underutilized weapon.

Last Name First Name Team Year G Att R Yds RTds Rec Yd Rec Td
Brooks James sdg 1981 14 109 525 3 329 3
Brooks James sdg 1982 9 87 430 6 66 0
Brooks James sdg 1983 15 127 516 3 215 0
Brooks James cin 1984 15 103 396 2 268 2
Brooks James cin 1985 16 192 929 7 576 5
Brooks James cin 1986 16 205 1087 5 686 4
Brooks James cin 1987 9 94 290 1 272 2
Brooks James cin 1988 15 182 931 8 287 6
Brooks James cin 1989 16 221 1239 7 306 2
Brooks James cin 1990 16 195 1004 5 269 4
Brooks James cin 1991 15 152 571 2 348 2
Brooks James tam 1992 2 5 6 0 0 0
Brooks James cle 1992 4 13 38 0 -1 0

It’s not very often that you see a runner have a 1200-yard season in his ninth year in the NFL and then follow it up with another 1000-yard campaign. I think Brooks would have been an incredibly good West Coast back.

John Jefferson was a fantastic talent and fan favorite. Photo by Charger Tom.

WR John Jefferson, San Diego-Green Bay: Until Randy Moss’ incredible rookie year, there was only one wide receiver that had double-digit touchdowns in his first year and that player was Jefferson. If you look at his first three years in the league, you would have thought the former Arizona State star was on his way to a Hall of Fame career:

Last Name First Name Year Team G Rec Rec Yd Rec Td
Jefferson John 1978 sdg 14 56 1001 13
Jefferson John 1979 sdg 15 61 1090 10
Jefferson John 1980 sdg 16 82 1340 13

Just as a point of comparison, here are Randy Moss’ first three seasons in the NFL:

Last Name First Name Year Team G Rec Rec Yd Rec Td
Moss Randy 1998 min 16 69 1313 17
Moss Randy 1999 min 16 80 1413 11
Moss Randy 2000 min 16 77 1437 15

Moss’ seasons were better, but Jefferson was the first receiver in the history of the league to gain 1000 yards receiving in his first three seasons. Unfortunately, Jefferson, who was in the perfect offense to become an all-time great – working with Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow – was traded to the Green Bay Packers. Although he teamed with future Hall of Famer James Lofton to become one of the most fearsome receiving duos on paper, the Packers offense lacked the creativity to make the most of its talent. Another way of looking at the travesty this was for football fans is imagining the Bengals trading for Brandon Lloyd to pair with A.J. Green and the team decided to play Jim Harbaugh’s style of offense in San Francisco and acquire Alex Smith as the trigger man.

If there were a receiver that was in the wrong era of football, it was Jefferson. In fact, I think all three of these players would have been far better matches with the current era of the game. That’s why I mentioned them.

2 responses to “History Lesson: Three Pros You Should Know”

  1. Krumrie period!!!

    Brooks was dynamic and memorable skill wise….. If only he had the icky shuffle to make him iconic!!!

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