George Blanda, who helped popularize modern professional football through his extraordinary 26-year playing career, has died at age 83, according to numerous media reports.
ESPN blogger Bill Williamson writes, "George Blanda was Brett Favre without the waffling. Blanda was the quintessential old-school NFL player. He played until he was a month shy of his 49th birthday as a kicker. He played quarterback well into his 40s. He won games quarterbacking and kicking on the same day, including a wonderful run in the 1970s. He was an Oakland Raiders’ legend, who played a staggering 26 years in the NFL."
For years Blanda was the quarterback of the Houston Oilers of the old American Football League, where he helped build the popularity of that league.
Blanda’s dream season was probably the five games at the end of the 1970 season when the 43-year-old Blanda replaced injured Oakland Raider quarterback Daryle Lamonica.
In the first of those five games he threw three touchdown passes in a winning performance. In the following four games, the Los Angeles Times writes, Blanda "kicked a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds to forge a 17-17 tie at Kansas City. Threw a tying touchdown pass with one minute, 34 seconds remaining, then kicked the game-winning 52-yard field goal in the final seconds of a 23-20 victory over Cleveland. Threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Fred Biletnikoff in a 24-19 victory over Denver. Kicked a 16-yard field goal in the final seconds for a 20-17 victory over San Diego."
Blanda’s coach that year, John Madden, told the L.A. Times, "It got to the point where when he’d come in [the game], the whole team would go, ‘Here comes George. We’re going to do it now,’ Then pretty soon all the fans started believing, and they’d all go nuts. And then the topper is when the opponents knew it. It was like, ‘Oh no, here he comes.’ "
Blanda’s dream season ended in the AFC championship game that season, when Oakland lost to the Baltimore Colts, who then went on to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth Super Bowl.