Frank Deford wrote his best article ever when he captured the
spirit of professional football--Johnny Unitas (The Best There
Ever Was, Sept. 23). Even the occasionally snowy picture on our
old black-and-white TV was good enough to see the steel in
Unitas's eyes and the determination in his every action. We never
expected him to lose.
James Wedding, Fordsville, Ky.
Today's players, who spend five minutes celebrating a tackle,
should be required to watch film of Johnny U, who would engineer
a last-minute touchdown and calmly trot to the sideline with no
change in demeanor.
Charles Wallace, Chicago
It came as quite a revelation when my older brother told me that
the symbol on the sides of the Colts' helmets was a horseshoe and
not a U for Unitas.
Doug Henninger, Denver
Steve Rushin (AIR AND SPACE, Sept. 23) made a small but
significant error in his essay about the eternal images of John
on NFL Films. Colts home games began at 2 p.m., not 1 p.m., until
the early '80s, due to the influence of the large number of
churches in our neighborhood surrounding Memorial Stadium. This
allowed churchgoers to fulfill two holy obligations on one day:
go to church and be in their seats in time for kickoff. Godspeed,
William R. Caltrider Jr., Baltimore
Your six statistical gauges in the U Ratings (Sept. 23) do not
fully or accurately measure a quarterback's greatness. The
multidimensional running and passing skills of Roger Staubach,
Joe Montana and other QB's were not considered, as they should
have been. And completion percentage is not a barometer for
greatness, because winning quarterbacks only want a win and don't
hesitate to throw passes away to avoid costly sacks. The true
measuring stick should be victories. I saw Unitas, and he was
incredible. But I also saw Montana and Staubach, who won with
their mobility and their arms.
Garrick Case, Mount Dora, Fla.
Although I don't dispute that Unitas was one of the top three
quarterbacks ever to play the game, I do find fault with the way
some of the other great quarterbacks were rated. Brett Favre
rated 19 for accuracy? Then why did his completion percentage of
60.6 put him fifth in your rating system? John Elway rated sixth
for the two-minute drill? Ask the Cleveland Browns how he
performed in the two-minute drill.
Eric Burns, Menomonie, Wis.
Brian Urlacher and Michael Vick (The Matchup, Sept. 23) represent
the continuous evolution of football, players so accomplished
that they make so-called meaningless games, like the Falcons
against the Bears, interesting to every football fan. This new
wave of players, along with a drug-testing plan that isn't a
total embarrassment, is why football has blown by baseball as the
Eric Relkin, New York City
I noticed attendance at the game that included the first Tinkers
to Evers to Chance double play was 260 (SCORECARD, Sept. 23)!
Imagine what the world would have missed if de facto commissioner
Ban Johnson had contracted the Cubbies.
Andy Sher, Montreal
The Cleveland Browns' Otto Graham is the only quarterback to take
his team to 10 straight league championships--every year he
played--winning seven of them. He was all-league for nine of those
years; he passed for 23,584 yards and 174 touchdowns; he made an
interception to secure an All-America Football Conference title;
in 1953 he continued to play against the 49ers after getting 15
stitches in his mouth; and he ran for three touchdowns and passed
for three more in the NFL Championship Game against the Lions in
'54. He did all this after playing a year of professional
basketball and serving in the Navy during WWII. That, my friends,
is the greatest quarterback who ever played the game.
William R. Haney, Brunswick, Ohio
As the son of Otto Graham, I am obviously biased when it comes
to my dad's place in sport history. Everyone in the football
community mourns the passing of Johnny Unitas and holds dear
what he meant to the game. Unitas and my dad were great friends.
In 1956, when Otto had just retired from the NFL after leading
the Browns to another title, Dad got a call from Weeb Ewbank, a
former Cleveland assistant, then head coach of the Baltimore
Colts. Weeb said he had a raw kid in camp who had been playing
semipro ball and had great potential but needed work. Weeb asked
Otto if he would come down to Baltimore and work with the kid.
Otto did just that and stayed for two weeks. The kid was Johnny U.
Duey Graham, Waldoboro, Maine
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER (UNITAS)
B/W PHOTO: AP Graham's last career touchdown came against the Rams in the 1955 title game.