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A GAME WITHIN A GAME
Robert F. Jones
December 22, 1969
It's the annual rite of picking NFL and AFL all-star teams. But the choices are too often based on reputation. The all-league teams presented here were selected by the assistant coaches, who go by ability
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December 22, 1969

A Game Within A Game

It's the annual rite of picking NFL and AFL all-star teams. But the choices are too often based on reputation. The all-league teams presented here were selected by the assistant coaches, who go by ability

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Would you believe the following:

?An AFL all-star team on which Daryle Lamonica didn't get a single vote?

? An NFL all-star team on which players from the Central Division filled 10 of the 22 positions?

? An NFL all-star team on which a rookie, Calvin Hill, received more votes than anyone, except Dick Butkus?

Well, sports fans, your credulity is about to be challenged. With the games dwindling down to a precious few and the heavens portending the selection of all-stars, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for the first time presents All-NFL and All-AFL teams (page 21), from which a random selection of players is pictured on the following pages. These teams include the anomalies listed above—and more.

In many respects, any all-star team resembles the Tucker automobile of 1946: great design, plenty of bright ideas, but perhaps a bit of a con. An all-star team's greatest virtue, however, derives from its gravest fault. Since no all-star team can satisfy every fan, the selections invariably generate winter-long debates—and, to the addict, outraged exception is a game within a game within a game.

Most all-star teams are selected by head coaches (the AFL and NFL All-Star Game squads), sportswriters and sportscasters (AP and UPI) or players (NEA). SI turned to the assistant coaches, offensive and defensive, to compile its teams. Our reasoning: the assistants watch more miles of game film more intensively, forward and backward, than anyone else; their futures depend on objective analyses, and thus they are less likely to indulge in ax-grinding.

Each team was awarded one vote for each position, and no one was allowed to vote for a member of his own team. If the coaches were unable to agree on a man for a given spot, the vote was fractionalized. In the AFL, Oakland declined to choose a tight end, while in the NFL, Philadelphia didn't pick wide receivers and chose only one defensive back. Atlanta Coach Norm Van Brocklin refused to permit his assistants to choose anybody—a decision in keeping with his crotchety character. As one observer has noted: "The last time Norm cooperated in anything was when he emerged from the womb, and even then I'll bet he dragged his feet."

As the voting was tabulated, a number of interesting facts became apparent. In the AFL New York placed six players on the all-star team versus five for Oakland and three for Kansas City, while only Boston wasn't represented. In the NFL fully half of the league's 16 teams—Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington—failed to place a single player. Does this indicate greater balance in the AFL or more perspicacity in the NFL?

Quarterback is generally conceded to be the premier position in football, yet in both leagues only three quarterbacks received votes: Joe Namath (7), Len Dawson (2) and Bob Griese (1) in the AFL; Roman Gabriel (7?), Sonny Jurgensen (6?) and Bill Nelsen (1) in the NFL. Why this near unanimity—and why were such stick-outs as Lamonica, John Brodie, Fran Tarkenton and Joe Kapp overlooked?

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