Weird stats

They say today's athletes are far superior: bigger, faster, stronger. I guess that must be true. You hear about it often enough and they sure look that way to me. But, it's funny ... CFL statistics don't really support that. You look at kicking for example.

Joe Zuger's career average is 45.5 yards vs. the great Jon Ryan's single-season record of 50.6 yards. Joe was from those dynamite Ti-Cats teams of the 1960s, for whom he was a pretty good QB too. The longest punts of all time were by Argos Zenon Andrusyshyn and Dave Mann ... quite a long time ago. I know, I know ... statistics are misleading but ...these are stats that are "measurable" from one era to the next. Quantifiable.

And if you watch old Youtube vids of Russ Jackson airing it out to Margene Adkins, those flick-of-the-wrist 55-yard spirals look as tight, humming, and straight as anything you might see today. Leo Lewis's career yards per carry is basically second only to Damon Allen. I know, I know, stats only tell half the story...

I actually had some of these thoughts while watching a recent NHL All-Star game and caught myself wondering why it took the young gods of today so long to break Al Iafrate's hardest slapshot record, Mike Gartner's speed-skating numbers, or Ray Borque's accuracy shot.

I guess today's players are better ... that's what we're told, anyways.

They are getting bigger and faster, not necessarily more talented. This is more evident in the minor leagues in the USA.

The NHL is not a good example for comparison. Hockey has changed more than football. The NHL has gotten rougher, the refs don't call penalties for things they would have called a few decades ago. Cross checks to head seem to be okay, as well as hooking. In a typical game today how many times do you see three consecutive passes, not too often. Just dump and chase. Stick handling is another lost art. Then you have Betteman's rule changes for the lines, first time in history, which seem to have back fired, as there is now more play behind the net.

Sorry to get on the wrong sport.

I would agree except for a couple of factors. The rule changes over the years put far more risk into attempting long field goals and that results in fewer attempts and the averages being lower. In Zuger's day for instance, there was no blocking on punts or field goal returns, resulting in fewer long returns, blocking on punt returns was not allowed until 1975 and Zuger retired in 1971. In Zuber's day as well, a missed field goal was concidered the same as a punt so a single resulted in the ball being place on the 20 yard line if my memory serves me correctly, whereas today on a missed field goal the ball is place back at the line of scrimmage for where the field goal was attempted.

Bottom line is that in the day there used to be more attempts at long field goals because the risk was not as great.

Re: Punting Average
There are three punters in the top five averages of all time (Dales, Prefontaine & Duval) and they are present day kickers.

There are a couple of key differences between punters today and punters of yesterday.

  1. Directional kicking
  2. Punt Singles

Up until 1975 there was no blocking permitted on punt returns. The job of the punter was to kick the ball as far as they could. Even when blocking was introduced, directional kicking was unheard of. In fact, Bernie Ruoff once got chewed out by a Winnipeg coach for attempting some directional kicks in a game. Ruoff was told to kick the ball deep and it was up to the coverage team to make the tackle.

The first punter to be asked to try directional kicking may have been Bob Cameron in 1982. Cameron was leading the league with an average close to 50 yards per kick. Ray Jauch asked Cameron to start directional kicking to limit the returns. Cameron knew that it would kill his average but he also knew that doing what the coach wanted was a good path to job security. By the end of the season Cameron was fifth in the CFL with a 43.3 average.

Punt Singles
In the days of old, you took points whenever you could. A punt single was a valuable point and the opposition often did its best to get the ball out of the end zone. After a single, the opposition got the ball at the 25 yard line.

Today, teams do their best to avoid punt singles as touchdowns and field goals are much more important. Punters aim for the coffin corner and they are disappointed when the ball bounces into the end zone for a point.

Long Punts
The key to a long punt is a strong wind at your back, a kick that the returner cannot field, a great bounce and a lot of luck. A couple of the longest punts ever pre-date modern records. There are suggestions that Joe Krol had a 110 yard punt in a playoff game in the 1940s. In 1931, Norm McLeod of the Winnipegs punted the ball from his own goal line and the ball didn't stop until it crossed the dead ball line at the other end of the field (120+ yard punt)... By the way, Chris Milo tied the CFL record for longest punt last season.

Average Gain per Rush
Leo Lewis played in an era when three or four backs lined up behind the quarterback. Those backs were divided into halfbacks and fullbacks. The halfbacks usually ran outside the tackles which put them into open space more often. That is why players like Leo Lewis and Willie Fleming have higher rushing averages than other backs. The fullback was responsible for a lot of the touch yards up the middle. The fullbacks who played in the same backfield as Lewis (such as Charlie Shepard and Roger Hagberg) had lower average gains.

When you look at the big picture, these stats are not so weird after all.

Ottawa Rough Rider WR Margene Adkins - in 1969 voted to the CFL all star team after setting the regular season record for the highest average gain per pass reception; 25.0 yards record that stood for 23 years - broken by Milt Stegall.

Interesting. Did not know that. Even by the standards of the many silky smooth receivers that have come and gone through the league over the years, Margene Adkins was really something special.

To be honest I didn't either. Just after that Adkins went to the NFL; Gene was part of a Super Bowl victory with the Cowboys in the 1971 season; Super Bowl [6] won by Dallas 24-3 over Miami.

I think I remember hearing that about Joe Krol too. (And, by the way, nicely done Stats Man.) Wouldn't surprise me if the ability to launch a 90-yard kick went all the way back to the days of Harry Batstone and Pep Leadley! It seems to me the football itself was actually heavier in those days ... less aerodynamic as well. I guess the only point I was trying to make (badly, I'm afraid) is that the athletes of today enjoy many benefits from science, medicine, and sophisticated training techniques and so, by reason, they SHOULD be more accomplished at their sport. But are the gains only marginal ...

I understand what you are trying to say about "marginal gains". But you gotta look at it like this. The athletes today are bigger and faster, etc. However, they are also playing other athletes that are bigger and faster. Athletes in the 40's and 50's wernt (on average) as big or fast, and they were playing athletes who were the same as well. Therefor any great leaps in stats shouldn't happen because it is all relevant to the place in time in which the game is being played.
This to me is the biggest factor and should answer this quarry in most instances.

The longest punts in CFL history were those that sailed over the returner's head, and bounced through the end zone. An identical punt nowadays is five yards shorter than in the glory days, when the end zone was 25 yards deep.

I don't know if that can be considered THE reason, but you've got to figure it's a factor.

Here's another stat I'm amazed about: Jackie Parker still holds the record for most rushing yards by an Eskimo QB - 4713
The next is Tracy Ham - 4438 ..I know there are posters on here that can comment on spaghetti legs Parker in the day.

My only "live" memory of Jackie Parker actually playing was when he filled in as QB for the BC Lions when I was in Gr. 8. That would have been 1968. A lifetime ago. But like everybody else here, I've seen archival footage. I've always scratched my head over Jackie Parker's running style and I think I finally figured out who he reminds me of. His running style was like Wayne Gretzky's skating mechanics. Not fast, but so deceptive. Always 360-aware of everything on the field. Scrawny. Gawkish. Too many moving parts in motion, unlike the tight, economic movements of pure "athletes." Parker and Gretzky have one other thing in common: they both got the job done like nobody else. Ergo: the long-standing records.

Yes, I remember that too in 1968 on T.V. when Parker did that. I started going to the odd game at Old Empire in 1969 as my friend was a big Roughrider fan. Against Winnipeg [Brock] in the 1977 semi-final was the class game I saw there.
Edit: Gizmo Williams is another one that was aware of the field; change direction in flight, thus turn defenders inside-out.