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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Memories of Blanda include Cleveland

By Marla Published: September 30, 2010

Former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden remembered legendary Hall of Famer George Blanda, who died Tuesday at the age of 83, on his Sirius NFL Radio show and one of his best stories came from a game against the Browns.

“We’re playing Cleveland, and we’re behind and on the goal line,'' Madden said on his show ''Madden Football.''  ''He comes over, we take a timeout, and I’m going through [play calls], ‘Let’s do this. Let’s go far right 16. No, no, no, I don’t want to do that. Let’s go far left 7. No no, let’s go near left 65…’

''So I’m just bumbling, stumbling trying to find a run down there on the goal line and George said to me, ‘I’ll tell you what, coach, if you let me throw three slants in a row to Warren Wells, I’ll guarantee you a touchdown.’  I said, ‘You’ll guarantee it?’  He said ‘Yeah, I’ll guarantee it.’  I said, ‘Well, that’s a hell of a lot better than anything that I have.’''

Madden said Blanda threw ''a dirt ball'' on a slant to Wells on first down, but on second down threw a touchdown pass.

''That was George Blanda,'' Madden said. ''I’m the coach and I’m thinking goal line run, this is what I want.  He’s thinking, ‘What the heck are you talking about?  Just put the ball in my hands and I’ll win the doggone game for you.’”

Madden coached Blanda in Oakland from 1969-75. At the time of his retirement at age 48 (after the '75 season), Blanda's 340-game career was the longest in NFL history.

'He hated to be called a ‘kicker,'' Madden said. ''If anyone says ‘kicker George Blanda’ or ‘George Blanda, kicker,’ he hated that. He wanted to be known as a football player.  And he was a football player, who played quarterback and also kicked.  That’s what he wanted to be known as.  There was a time when he was with the Chicago Bears and he wasn’t playing much quarterback, so he told George Halas that he just wanted to play, so he played linebacker.  That was the type of guy he was.  He was a quarterback that could play NFL football as a linebacker.”

Madden said Blanda ''was the greatest clutch player that I have ever met.''

''In 1970, he had a run of five straight games that he won for us that were like miracles,'' Madden said. '' Come from behind as quarterback and then go in and kick the winner.  If you want to look at a period of competition, clutch playing, and greatness, you look at those five games in 1970 with George Blanda.”



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