Brady Suspension Can’t Compare To This

On May 13, 2015, in NFL, by Stephen

Yes, suspending Tom Brady four games might be a tad harsh. But the guy cheated and wasn’t forthcoming about it. So I have no sympathy for him, nor a Patriots organization that has cheated before with SpyGate and often is in the gray when it comes to following rules such as submitting injury reports.

But when it comes to the harshest suspension ever handed out in NFL history, Roger Goodell has nothing on what Pete Rozelle did in 1963. In April of that year, Rozelle suspended Packers halfback Paul Hornung, the league MVP just two years ago and the most versatile player in the league, and Lions three-time All-Pro defensive tackle Alex Karras for betting on the Packers to beat the Giants during the 1962 championship game. Their wagers were in the $50 to $500 range.

Just what were the ramifications of this?

Let’s start with Karras, who was a dominant player and headed for a Hall of Fame career. This wasn’t the nice guy dad of “Webster” or the Monday Night Football witty commentator. He was one of the biggest bad asses in the NFL, who once threw his helmet at and tried to go after his quarterback Milt Plum after Plum blew a game to the Packers by throwing a late-game interception when Detroit was leading.

Hornung was truly sorry for his actions. He took full responsibility. Karras was bitter about the suspension, feeling he had been wronged. Both players were reinstated a year later in 1964. Karras never was quite as good and is not in the Hall of Fame. There are worse defensive linemen in the Hall of Fame than Karras.

Now let’s get to Hornung and what his banishment did to the Green Bay Packers. It cost Vince Lombardi and the Packers championships not only in 1963 but also 1964.

First, 1963. The Bears edged the Hornung-less Packers in their conference going 11-1-2 to Green Bay’s 11-2-1. Chicago then defeated Y.A. Tittle’s Giants in the championship game. This was George Halas’ last great Bears team. The Bears did have a great defense, but a weak offense.

The Packers were the more balanced team, but couldn’t overcome the loss of Hornung AND Bart Starr, who was injured during the home stretch of the season and missed the Packers’ late-season key game against the Bears, which they lost with a backup quarterback. Starr was the Joe Montana of his day. A cool, brainy, highly-accurate quarterback who was at his best in the clutch.

Hornung happen to also be the Packers’ place-kicker. He held the NFL single-season scoring mark for 26 years with 176 points during the 1960 season. Hornung accomplished this feat in only 12 games. His mark was broken by LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. Tomlinson set the record in the 14th game of that season.

Lombardi turned to guard Jerry Kramer to replace Hornung as the Packers’ kicker. Now field goal kicking wasn’t nearly so automatic as it is today. There were no soccer style kickers in 1963. But Kramer still only made 16 of 34 field goals in 1963.

The Packers had won their conference the previous three years, capturing the NFL championship during the past two seasons by beating the Giants in the respective title games of 1961 and 1962. But even Lombardi could not overcome the loss of Hornung, Starr and 47 percent field goal kicking.

Hornung came back in 1964. He worked extremely hard to get in shape, but his kicking was shot. He had the worst season of any kicker in NFL history in 1964 making just 12 of 38 field goals!

The Colts edged the Packers for the conference title because of Green Bay’s many missed field goals. The Packers lost to the Colts by one point on a missed extra point and fell to the Colts by three points when Hornung missed four field goals. Green Bay also could only tie the Rams when Hornung missed three field goals and lost another game by 10 points when Hornung missed four field goals.

Following that season, Lombardi vowed to get a legitimate kicker – and he did. He brought in steady Don Chandler and won championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967 before retiring as Packers coach.

Hornung, for all his kicking woes, was a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer. But it took him 11 years before he was enshrined in 1986.

So those suspensions cost the Packers two championships and it cost Karras his rightful place in the Hall of Fame.


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