Double coverage is murder. The quarterback has to have the arm and the confidence to really pop the ball in there, and he has to be gambler enough to take the chance in the first place. The odds favor interception when he throws to a receiver covered by two men. But if the quarterback is not willing to take that chance the receiver being doubled winds up with nothing for the day. I was lucky with the Eagles in having two quarterbacks, Jurgensen and Van Brocklin, who were willing to take the risk. On the short ones they would fire the ball in, and on the long ones they were willing to try hitting between the short and long defenders. Completing the long pass takes talent. The ball has to come to the receiver just as he has cleared the short man and just before he gets to the sector where the deep man will pick him up. If the quarterback throws too soon, the short man intercepts. If he throws late, the long man gets it.
Last year Sonny was hurt, and his replacement, King Hill, didn't have the feeling for that kind of pass. He had a few interceptions and stopped throwing into double coverage. I was used as a decoy quite a bit last year and for that reason caught only 41 passes myself.
There is a lot of noise on the field, some of it made by me. If I think I can confuse the backs by yelling something, I sound off. Say there is a switching man-to-man defense, with one back taking you part way—inside or out or short or deep—and then dropping off to pick up another receiver. I always holler, "Switch," as I start downfield, because that is what they call to one another. Deceive them and they might leave you all alone or drop one of the other receivers. Naturally, this works best on rookies.
The Eagles didn't worry anybody with their running game, which made it possible for other teams to double up on our receivers—the usual way with the corner back and the safety, or with a linebacker and the corner man.
A linebacker playing you head on costs you a second and a half. I figure you have to have four to five seconds to throw in all the fakes you can on the defensive back, because the quarterback normally has that much time to throw and no more. If a linebacker takes a second and a half, you have two to three and a half seconds left. That's not enough against Night Train or any of the good ones.
Outweighing me by 50 pounds on the average, the linebackers can lean on me hard. Occasionally, I can get away quickly with a head fake. More often I can't. The roughest linebacker for me is Galen Fiss of the Browns. Dan Currie of the Packers is almost as tough.
Some people argue that the receiver has the advantage in his duels with the various defenders. I disagree. The defender has only three things to think about. First, staying with you after you have made your break. Second, batting the ball down. Third, intercepting if he has that kind of a shot at the ball.
Receivers, first of all, have to think out a pattern. Then we have to hope that the offensive line is keeping the big boys on defense off the quarterback's neck long enough for him to get the ball away. Then there is the matter of catching the ball and hanging onto it while a defender is trying to rearrange your ribs.
Snow and rain do not help the receiver, despite what you might hear to the contrary. We have to break our patterns off crisply. We do not run banana-shaped patterns. When we plant a foot on a wet field we are just as likely to slip as the defensive back. And catching the ball on a rainy or snowy day is like fielding a 10-pound shot. The leather gets soaked, and the ball gets heavy. Unless you have considerable strength and really squeeze the ball you are not going to hold it. In freezing weather we can count on some knee and elbow damage from the hard ground.
I can't explain exactly how I catch passes. Some people are born with the knack, while others couldn't catch the ball if it had handles. I was blessed with the hands for it, and I have developed a lot of little ways of making the catches surer. It isn't necessary, to my mind, to have big, superstrong hands. My hands are no larger than my wife's, and I wouldn't say hers are large for a woman. At Oklahoma, passing on the option play, I wasn't able to take a normal grip on the ball because of the smallness of my hands. I had to hold it out at the end and flip it sidearm. And I have played for years without the tip of my left thumb. I lost it in an accident with that motorbike Dad gave me. Some receivers squeeze rubber balls or chunks of clay to increase the strength of their hands. I don't. Strength isn't as important as sensitivity.