According to legend, Washington Redskins coach Ray Flaherty once diagrammed a deep pass play for his team, then remarked to his passer, Sammy Baugh, "When the end cuts way down here, Sam, I want you to hit him in the eye." Baugh, knowing the accuracy of his arm, asked, "Which eye, coach?"
Although this oft-quoted story probably never happened, it indicates the precision of the tall Texan's passing.
Until "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh (born 1914) arrived in the NFL after an All-American career at Texas Christian University, no one had ever seen a passer who could throw long, short, and in-between with such fantastic accuracy.
As a rookie in 1937, Baugh led the Redskins to a championship. In 1942, he and the 'Skins took another title. On three other occasions, Baugh's passes took the Redskins to championship games.
For all of his 16 seasons, his tosses kept his team exciting and competitive. He led the NFL in passing a record six times. In 1945, he completed 70.3 percent of his passes.
It's no exaggeration to say that Baugh's fabulous success with the pass was a major factor in turning football from the grind-it-out days of old into the exciting, air-dominated modern game. It’s no wonder that in 1963 he was named as a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In the mid-1940s, at the height of his career, Baugh was asked to learn a new position. Within a year, he had made a successful transition from a single-wing tailback to a T-formation quarterback, as he led Washington to another division title.
Baugh was such a great passer, it is sometimes forgotten that he did everything well. His 51.4 punting average in 1940 is still the NFL record, as is his career average of 45.1.
He was an effective runner when the situation demanded as well as a top pass defender. In 1943, he led the league in passing, punting, and interceptions -- a triple crown.
To learn more about football greats, see:
- Great Football Players
- Great Offensive Football Players
- Great Defensive Football Players
- Great Football Coaches