Well, we go from an all Ohio State offensive line that against similar types of all-collegiate pro teams would be Summa Cum Laude, to a unit that is only somewhat laudable in the ranks of professional offensive backfield lore. Here’s how I think it would stack up.
Nine top ten heisman vote-getters. Two winners. Double digit 5,000-yard career passers.
Zero players who started more than four seasons in the NFL. Only one who started more than two, and only three who started at least one.
Ohio State is not exactly Quarterback U for the pros, despite collegiate successes.
Mike Tomczak (1985-1990 Chicago Bears, 1991 Green Bay Packers, 1992 Cleveland Browns, 1993-1999 Pittsburgh Steelers)
Tomczak’s professional career was, well... the best for an Ohio State passer. He is the only buckeye QB ever to see
garbage playing time in a Super Bowl (Joe Germaine and Tomczak are the only two with a ring) and did some pretty awesome shuffling as a fake guitarist shortly after.
You get the best shot of Tomczak at 2:49.
While the numbers would only impress a four year old, number 18 is Ohio State’s pro leader in both career and single season passing yards, passing touchdowns, games, games started, passing attempts, and passing completions as a quarterback. He is perhaps best remembered in Chicago for his fog bowl performance... his statistics would be abysmal under normal circumstances, however leading the Bears to victory through a fog that had many fearing for their first-born child probably warrants some recognition.
He could never fully sustain a role as an NFL starter (throwing interceptions on nearly five percent of his throws probably had something to do with that), Tomczak showed a great capability to win games. His career record was 42-31, with a dozen game winning drives and six fourth quarter comebacks dispersed amongst those wins.
Kent Graham (1992-1994, 1998-1999 New York Giants, 1996-1997 Arizona Cardinals, 2000 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001 Washington Redskins)
The 1998 New York Giants squad was a helpless 3-7 team whose field general Danny Kanell was sending more Ducks into the air than a blast from a 12-gauge. Who else to turn to besides a man who never threw for more than 1,020 yards in a collegiate season?
Right call. Old New York took home two of their next three games with Graham at QB to get back to 5-8. 5-9 seemed like a forgone conclusion, however, when the 13-0 Elway-led eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos rolled into town. It turned out to be a battle, resolving in tremendous fashion:
At the time of his retirement, Graham had started 38 NFL games, throwing for 7,801 yards at a 51.8% completion rate with 38 touchdowns.
Figuring out how to structure this team in the backfield, outside of quarterback, was difficult. In a pro style offense, what many of the better NFL buckeye backs ran in, there is a “fullback” and a “running back”, each of which share a high volume of carries and similar roles in many cases. So instead of a fullback position and a running back position, with the lines blurred a good deal I settled on the all-pro style naming of two “running backs” on both teams.
Ohio State has a stable of players to choose from at the position... eight pro bowl players with resumes that were incredibly close in merit. I could see an argument for any of the seven I’ll be listing (two first team, two second team, three honorable mentions) at any slot on the list.
Also, quick nod to a guy who will be on this list in the future:
Yes, that was Clay Matthews that just got put in a spin cycle.
Eddie George (1996-2003 Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Titans, 2004 Dallas Cowboys)
The hardest worked of horses, Eddie George ranks 15th all-time in pro history in terms of carries (2,865) and is one of 29 players in the 10,000 yard rusher club.
His career started like a newly-ignited Bunsen Burner. Carrying home the 1996 rookie of the year award, he rattled off five consecutive seasons of at least 1,290 yards with pro bowl invites in each of the final four. All of it culminated with a first-team all-pro bid following a 1,500 yard season in 2000. Following the regular season that year, the Titans hurled themselves onto his back and rode their star runner to a bid in Super Bowl XXXIV. They lost the game, but with all said and done George totaled 391 all-purpose yards through the three playoff matchups.
By 2001, the weight of the team had finally broken the back of his playing ability to a certain degree. He would fall short of 1,000 yards for the first time that season. The Titans O-line had two new starters roll into town for 2002 and George once again saw his production pick up, but after averaging 3.3 yards per rushing attempt in 2003 he was dealt to the Cowboys. Retirement followed after 2004.
In the end, if Eddie keeps the pace from his first five years for another couple he is probably a hall of famer.
John Brockington (1971-1977 Green Bay Packers, 1977 Kansas City Chiefs)
Put into words? A freight train with no rails guiding it. That’s what I see in the few highlights found of John Brockington.
While the latter half of his career never lived up to the greatness of his first four seasons, Brockington is revered in Green Bay.
The name is still said with reverence by those who saw him rumble through defenses for Green Bay from 1971-77, when he became the first rusher in NFL history to open his career with three-straight seasons with 1,000 yards. Back then, he was a weekly combination of low shoulder pads, high knees and fearlessness, too often in a losing effort.
Packers.com writer Ricky Zeller
Those three straight 1,000 yard seasons included a Packers rookie record that still stands for rushing yards (1,105), three pro bowls, and a first-team all-pro. Not even Dick Butkus could slow Brockington down in those days. In fact, three of his dozen 100 yard games came against the Bears in that three year stretch.
1974 was still a league top ten finish in yards for Brockington, but following that season wear and tear, new coach Bart Starr, and the loss of fellow back MacArthur Lane saw his production slip beneath 500 yards and stay there the remainder of his career.
Brockington would finish his playing days with a combined 6,482 rushing and receiving yards with 34 total touchdowns.
Matt Snell (1964-1972 New York Jets)
Snell snatched up Jets legend status with his performance in the famed Super Bowl III, helping to back up Joe Namath’s guarantee. He carried the ball for 121 yards that day in dominating fashion, outplaying fellow buckeye Tom Matte who was the main back for the Colts, and was the only player the entire game to cross the goal line with ball in hand.
That performance is the primary highlight of a Ring-of-Honor earning Jets career. But it is far from the only one. Snell was not only a consistent producer for the Jets his first six years with the team, enough to earn three pro bowl trips and a first-team all-pro nod, but was perhaps the best pass protecting back in the NFL during his heyday. Enough so that he became the league’s first third down specialist and even was asked back to coach pass blocking to backs after his retirement. Ohio State almost always seems to produce those types of complete, unselfish backs, no?
Pete Johnson (1977-1983 Cincinnati Bengals, 1984 Miami Dolphins, 1984 San Diego Chargers)
What did he do at Ohio State? Score touchdowns, the top individual season of doing so, in fact. What did he do in Cincinnati? Score touchdowns, enough to top the list of Bengals’ career leaders by sixteen scores, in fact.
Though he may have only reached the pro bowl once, Johnson had at least a dozen touchdowns in four different years at Cincinnati. His career production is solid... he totals 5,625 career yards on 1,489 attempts. He had an additional 1,334 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. And he did help take the Bengals to the Super Bowl in that lone pro bowl season, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown in the AFC title game. They were, of course, beaten by the 49ers.
Robert Smith (1993-2000 Minnesota Vikings) - Running Back
Smith retired in the prime of his career, coming off a first-team all pro season and his second pro bowl. He totalled 6,818 yards at a 4.8 per carry average, an average that ranks thirteenth in NFL history (minimum 750 carries). His 27.2 yards per touchdown run is an NFL record.
Keith Byars (1986-1992 Philadelphia Eagles, 1993-1996 Miami Dolphins, 1996-1997 New England Patriots, 1998 New York Jets)
While he only totalled slightly over 3,000 yards rushing for his career, Keith caught 610 passes for 5,661 yards and 34 touchdowns. His receiving and blocking skills were so good he was utilized as a tight end at different points of his pro days.
Tom Matte (1961-1972 Baltimore Colts)
Matte is a two time pro bowler and one time first-team all-pro with a Super Bowl ring (though he was injured). He led the league in all purpose yardage and rushing touchdowns for the 1969 season.
|Position||First team||second team|
Doug Van Horn
|Center||Nick Mangold||Tom DeLeone|
|Quarterback||Mike Tomczak||Kent Graham|