Here is an interesting article by Dave Steidel. Part “Dream Team,” and part book review, this one ought to get your minds working on sorting out the AFL’s “Dream Backfield.”
Of the many collectable AFL books on the nostalgia circuit, one of the more unique ones and one that appears to be a bit more difficult to locate is one written in 1969 by Howard Liss called the AFL Dream Backfield – Players who would be the answer to any pro football coach’s prayers.
Using little, if any, scientifically devised formula other than statistics and opinion (really, do you need anything more for a book like this?) the author bio’s the top two four man units of the AFL that he believes would almost guarantee a championship. His basis sights former Chicago Cardinals head coach Jim Conzelman, who in his first few years was not particularly successful, as being quoted to say “I’ve got a dream that some day I’ll have exactly the kind of backfield I want, my ‘dream backfield.’ When that happens I’ll win the pro football championship.” In 1947 Conzelman’s wish came true as the Cardinals rose to the top of the league with a star-studded backfield of Paul Christman (the future AFL announcer) at quarterback, and the full house behind him of Charlie Trippi and Elmer Angsman at halfback and Pat Harder at fullback.
For Liss, the idea of selecting his own dream unit was an appealing subject for another book in a series of more than 30 sports books he had written. This was his only one about the AFL. His first unit includes Len Dawson at quarterback, Lance Alworth-flanker, Cookie Gilchrist-fullback and Abner Haynes-halfback. His second unit selections were George Blanda-qb, Don Maynard-flanker, Jim Nance-fullback and Paul Lowe-halfback. It’s hard to argue that Liss got any of it wrong. And in the book’s introduction he does mention a few other notables and why they did not crack either of his lineups, like quarterbacks Joe Namath, John Hadl and Jack Kemp, runners Clem Daniels and Mike Garrett and flanker Otis Taylor.
Still to come, after Liss’ book hit the marketplace, was the publicized selection of the AFL’s All-Time Team of the finest players at their position in AFL history as chosen by the AFL members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee and a panel of writers and broadcasters who lived and experienced the AFL through its ten years of existence. That backfield turned out to be Joe Namath, Lance Alworth, Clem Daniels and Paul Lowe. So even though Liss’ first unit list was only 25% similar to the voters, with some leeway afforded to his selection of Lowe to his second unit, the concept is food for thought and debate as well as an opportunity to go beyond his choices and those on the All-Time list to discuss and select other units that might also qualify as AFL Dream Backfields.
Consider if you will, who you would choose for a third and fourth Dream Backfield, or even players who you would have selected instead of those on Liss’ units. Here are some players who might warrant your vote.
QUARTERBACK: Joe Namath, John Hadl, Jack Kemp, Daryle Lamonica, Babe Parilli, Bob Griese, Greg Cook
FLANKER: Charlie Hennigan, Otis Taylor, Warren Wells, Al Denson, Elbert Dubenion, Gino Cappelletti
FULLBACK: Matt Snell, Curtis McClinton, Hoyle Granger, Keith Lincoln, Robert Holmes, Hewritt Dixon, Charlie Tolar
HALFBACK: Clem Daniels, Mike Garrett, Emerson Boozer, Dickie Post, Floyd Little, Paul Robinson
Not included here are Lionel Taylor, Art Powell and Fred Bilenikoff, only because for most, if not all, of their career they were listed as ends, not flankers.
So there you have it – an all-inclusive list to mix and match and challenge those selected by Liss’. And if you are so inclined, share who you would vote on to your 3rd and 4th units or even those you’d change on Liss’ list to make up your own AFL Dream Backfield.