The NFL passed out some awards tonight. The biggest news is that former Eagle DE Claude Humphrey was elected to the Hall of Fame. Here are some words from our resident historian AC Viking on Humphrey.
Humphrey, at age 34, “retired” four games into the Falcons 1978 season.
In ’77, Humphrey had an All-Pro season, as the Falcons set an NFL record for allowing only 129 points in 14 games (9.2 per game). But he told the team in early ’78 that he’d lost his desire to prepare and play.
Before the 1979 season, Falcons HC Leeman Bennett moved to a 3-4 defense under D.C. Jerry Glanville. Humphrey, a dominant pass-rushing 4-3 DE, was no longer in the Falcons plans. Nor did he fit the new 3-4 being installed by Glanville.
At some point shortly after the ’78 season, Humphrey let it be known that he would come back to the right situation.
Enter Coach Vermeil. The Eagles packaged a pair of 4th-rounders (’79 & ’80) to acquire Humphrey’s rights.
He, of course, joined the Eagles in 1979 as a predominantly 3rd-down pass-rushing specialist, when the Eagles would shift from their base 3-4 to a 4-3. Humphrey and Hairston were the DEs. Dennis Harrison slid inside from LDE to LDT. And Kenny Clarke replaced NT Charlie Johnson at the other DT spot.
Humphrey was not just a great locker-room presence. His play also moved the Eagles defense into the *elite* category from ’79-’81.
Maybe his best game as an Eagle came on November 23, 1980.
The Eagles ran their record to 11-1 after a bruising 10-7 win over the Oakland Raiders. The D-line put up 8 sacks that day. Humphrey had 3.5 of them.
The following week’s Sports Illustrated ran a lengthy story by Dr. Z called “PREVIEW OF SUPER BOWL XV?”
Someone mentioned performances by Humphrey against the Eagles, and Vermeil smiled. Philadelphia had gotten Humphrey last year when it seemed that his best days in Atlanta were long gone, when he’d retired and been coaxed into coming back. Humphrey had cost two fourth-round draft choices. Vermeil’s whole thrust has been toward defense. He has always used his first pick in the draft to go for defense (he had solved his quarterback problem by stealing Jaworski from the Rams for Tight End Charle Young, even up), but in Humphrey he got something special.
“He’s playing better this year than he did last,” Vermeil said. “You saw him out there today, you saw what he’s capable of. It’s exciting to me to see the way he’s been playing. One of the rewards of coaching is having the opportunity of being around the kind of man Claude Humphrey is.”
Stretched out on his back, wrapped up in his Jobst Cryotemp and staring at the collection of ancient leather helmets that trainer Otho Davis has hung from the ceiling of the training room, Humphrey philosophized about his role with the Eagles, his role in pro football.
“You know, when I retired I felt I’d only come back for this team,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. I’d seen ’em play early in the year in ’78 and they were a young football team, but they were good. They had talent on that defensive team. Carl Hairston, Charlie Johnson…. I said, to myself, ‘Hey, I can play with those guys.’ They were young and going places. At that point in my career I didn’t want to wait around for Atlanta to build a team. I’d been through that about seven times already.
“People say I’m old now. Well, I never felt old and I never felt young. I just felt like me. I can do what I’m doing now because I don’t have to go in on early downs and play the run. Last year when I had to go the whole way I just wore down. By the end of the season, by the time we drew Tampa Bay in the playoffs, my body was a wreck.
“Sixty plays a game, for 16 weeks…well, I don’t think I could do it now. But this way, playing 60% of the time, with Dennis Harrison playing the run and pounding on those tackles, I feel I have a lot of football left.
“You get so you can spot some things. Like the drop Plunkett took today. It was too deep. Usually when I put on a rush I pick out a certain point and aim for it, and I know when I get there I have to look back over my shoulder to see the quarterback and fight my way back to get to him. But today I could see Plunkett in front of me all the time. Those are the kinds of things you pick up from being around a while.”
It’s a good tight unit, the quality old-timers like Humphrey and Bill Bergey and the budding young stars—the only No. 1 drafts Vermeil has had since he’s been coach—Young this year and Linebacker Jerry Robinson in ’79. So far it’s been working just fine.
* * * * *
LeSean McCoy was named FedEx Ground Player of the Year. He came in 2nd for Offensive Player of the Year. PE.com has the story and some highlights. It’s always fun to watch Shady’s highlights.
Nick Foles won the Greatness on the Road Award for his 7-TD game at Oakland. I’ve never heard of this award before, but I’m sure Nick will treasure it more than I would a 10-pound bag of Funyuns.
Jason Peters finished 2nd in Comeback Player of the Year voting. QB Philip Rivers won. I don’t have a problem with that. Rivers was less than great in 2012 and looked like a completely different player this year. He bounced back in a major way.
Chip Kelly finished 4th in Coach of the Year voting. Ron Rivera won. Andy Reid finished ahead of Kelly. So you had a former Eagles assistant win. The former HC finish after him and the current HC finish 4th. That’s kinda cool. I would have put Kelly higher than 4th, but I can see Rivera winning. The Panthers had a breakthrough year.