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Thursday, September 30, 2010
John Madden remembers George Blanda

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden took time this week during his show on SIRIUS NFL Radio to remember the legendary George Blanda.

Blanda died Monday at the age of 83. Madden, nine years Blanda’s junior, coached the hall of fame quarterback-kicker from 1969 to 1975 in Oakland. Madden relayed several memories of Oakland during his show, including an example of how confident Blanda was.

“We’re playing Cleveland, and we’re behind and on the goal line,” Madden said. “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.’ So first down, he throws a dirt ball on a slant to Warren Wells. Second down, he throws a touchdown. That was George Blanda. 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.’ ”

Blanda played quarterback well into his 40s and he kicked until he was 48. Blanda played 26 years in the NFL after being drafted by Chicago in 1949. His final season was in 1975 with Oakland.

“He was a football player,” Madden said. “He hated to be called a ‘kicker.’ If anyone says ‘kicker George Blanda’ or ‘George Blanda comma 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.”