NFL Fun Facts

June 6, 2022  (5:28)

In honor of doing a million pre-season articles, here are some fun facts.

1. In college, the Notre Dame sports information director convinced future Washington Redskins quarterback and NFL MVP Joe Theismann to change the pronunciation of his name from «THEEZ-min» to «THIGHS-min» so it would rhyme with Heisman. The new Mr. Thighsman would not win his Heisman, finishing second to Jim Plunkett.
2. The largest point spread in NFL history came when the Denver Broncos were favored by 26.5 over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 of 2013. The Jags covered, falling 35-19.
3. Of the 11 games since 1987 that had point spreads of 20+, the favorite has only covered twice, though no underdogs won straight up. The Philadelphia Eagles, 24.5-point dogs to the eventual 16-0 New England Patriots, came closest, leading 28-24 entering the fourth quarter before a Patriots touchdown gave them a 31-28 victory.
4. Since no one could agree on the realignment of the NFC after the AFL/NFL merger, the five best plans were put into a vase and Pete Rozelle's secretary selected one at random.
5. The Baltimore Colts made an 80-cent long-distance call to sign Johnny Unitas as a free agent.
6. The Arizona Cardinals had the longest postseason victory drought in NFL history (1947 to 1998).
7. There have been games played every day of the week in the modern NFL. The one Tuesday game was due to a Pennsylvania blizzard. The single Wednesday game was because the NFL moved the Washington-New York Thursday night season opener so it wouldn't overlap with John McCain's speech at the Republican convention. The Friday games were either Christmas or New Year's related, with at least one of those (a Kansas City-Miami matchup in 2005) occurring after being moved up a few days because of a hurricane forecast.
8. Walter Payton only won one NFL rushing title in his career.
9. There have been 14 different rushing champions in the past 17 years. There were 14 different champions in the 27 years before that.
10. Those NFL rushing champions have included a wide array of men: Supreme Court Justice, actor, Rhodes Scholar, the man who scored the most famous touchdown in NFL history, a guy played on film by Billy Dee Williams, a player suspended for nearly an entire NFL season and O.J. Simpson.
11. It took the New Orleans Saints 32 years to win their first playoff game. The two expansion teams of 1995 (Carolina and Jacksonville) played for their conference championship in their second years of existence.
12. Since 1988, every team in the NFL has played in a conference championship game (with the exception of the 13-year-old Houston Texans).
13. Since his last interception at Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 48 touchdowns.
14. Bill Belichick would need 10 consecutive 12-win seasons to pass Don Shula on the list for most coaching victories. Belichick will be 73 years old in 10 years.
15. Pete Rozelle was voted NFL commissioner on the 23rd ballot.
16. The commissioner made the controversial decision to play games two days after John F. Kennedy's assassination, based on advice from JFK's press secretary, Pierre Salinger. He said Robert F. Kennedy told him his brother would have wanted the games to go on. None of the games were aired, as television was providing wall-to-wall coverage of the assassination and its aftermath. Just after the early games kicked off, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot in the parking garage of the Dallas police headquarters while JFK's horse-drawn caisson was led through the streets of Washington. Rozelle would call playing those games his biggest regret. His successor, Paul Tagliabue, would not make the same mistake after 9/11.
17. CBS paid $4.65 million in 1962 for the first exclusive rights to broadcast NFL games. (In its current deal, Fox pays a reported $1.15 billion per year for its NFC package.) But that didn't cover the NFL championship, which NBC acquired for just under $1 million or about 1/4th the cost of what it'll take to buy a 30-second ad at Super Bowl 50.
18. Ed Sabol was the oldest Hall of Fame inductee. At 94 years old, he was 60 years older than the youngest, Gale Sayers.
19. Julio Jones has three more catches through three weeks of the NFL season (34) than anyone else in history and is on pace for 181 catches this season, which is only 38 ahead of the NFL record, which should tell you something about Marvin Harrison's remarkable 2002.
20. The NFL and the Chicago Bears were named on the same day. Both changed on June 24, 1922, the NFL from the American Professional Football Association and the Bears from the Chicago Staleys.
21. There have been more penalties called in the first three weeks of the 2015 NFL season than in the first three weeks of any other season in history.
22. Sammy Baugh once led the NFL in passing, punting and defensive interceptions in the same season.
23. The 2000 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had a five-game stretch in which they didn't score a touchdown and their only points were field goals by Matt Stover (14 in all). The team went 2-3 in that run of offensive ineptitude but only lost one other game all season, setting an NFL record with 165 points allowed and almost scoring as many points in Super Bowl XXXV (34) as they did in that historic five-game stretch (42).
24. Despite a recent onslaught, Baugh still holds the record for single-season punting average at 51.4, set in 1940. After no one else averaged more than 50 yards per punt in the first 86 years of the league, six players have done so in the past seven years.
25. Of the 55 players who have played in an NFL game in their 40s, 41 were quarterbacks, kickers or punters. Beyond the 1920s, the oldest position player who wasn't a QB, K or P was 43-year-old Ray Brown, who played guard for the Washington Redskins in 2005.
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