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Tex Maule
September 07, 1964
Gambling on Tittle is only one example of the brinksmanship practiced by Allie Sherman, who also has scrapped his defense.
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September 07, 1964

A Pedantic Professor Who Likes To Buck Long Odds

Gambling on Tittle is only one example of the brinksmanship practiced by Allie Sherman, who also has scrapped his defense.

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Lombardi, then and now head coach of the Packers, could not take the job, and it went to Sherman.

The Giants have done well under Allie's easy hand and his gift for organizing. His practices are meticulously planned and efficient, and although they are relatively short—an hour and 15 minutes usually—there is almost no standing-around time. Pass drills are run in sections—one side of the line at a time and two drills going on at once so that all the quarterbacks work and all the players are in action continuously. A small example of the care with which he plans a practice is a grid he has drawn on the practice field at Fairfield, Conn. This is for blocking and pass-rush drill. The chalk marks indicate lanes for the ends and tackles to stay in as they try to reach the passer; another chalk mark shows the passer where he should set up to throw. This diagram on the turf insures that the defensive ends and tackles take the shortest route to the passer and it gives the offensive linemen a clear idea of the area they must protect. In each scrimmage it makes head-on conflict between the blockers and rushers a certainty.

The Giants will be a carefully prepared, finely honed football team. But even for a coach of Sherman's stature, the negatives outweigh the positives. The loss of Huff leaves a big hole not filled by the return of Andy Robustelli, who can lend guidance but cannot fill all the positions of a shaky defense. A less obvious but a critical loss is Dick Modzelewski, traded to Cleveland. The Huff trade shocked Giant fans, but from Sherman's point of view it was logical. "We needed a quality player to replace Robustelli," Sherman said. "We have good young linebackers and we had to give quality to get it. A few years from now Huff would not have brought much." The quality player to replace Robustelli turned out to be Robustelli. Sherman has tinkered with the line, trying Andy Stynchula at defensive tackle and end, shifting Offensive Guard Ken Byers to defensive end and moving Bob Taylor in at both tackle and end, but even if he arrives at an acceptable solution, it will take time for the defense to jell and there is not enough time in a season. Jerry Hillebrand tried to fill Huff's shoes but was injured. Lou Slaby, off last year's taxi squad, is the incumbent now and he may be the equal of Huff in a few years.

Although Modzelewski never made All-League as a defensive tackle, he was a key on defense because he could protect the impetuous John LoVetere, a tackle who has a tremendous charge but who leaves himself open to traps because of it. A veteran like Mo could close the trap hole for LoVetere; whoever takes his place in the Giant line will lack Mo's experience and his ability to rectify the mistakes of LoVetere.

Too, Sherman must depend on very old or very young running backs. Alex Webster is one of the solidest players in the NFL, but he is 33 years old and was injured last year. Dick James is 30 and small to play the most punishing of all positions—running back. Rookie Fullback Ernie Wheelwright was impressive in preseason games and he fits the trend toward big backs who can block linebackers, but rookies make mistakes. Joe Morrison is a versatile and useful runner, but the Giants need help in the backfield.

And the last and biggest gamble, of course, is on the health of the incomparable Y. A. Tittle. Behind him are novices. With him, the Giants, despite the problems on defense and in running backs, could, given receivers like Del Shofner, Joe Morrison, Bobby Crespino, Frank Gifford and Homer Jones, score their way to another championship. But without him, they would be in trouble.

Sherman is a careful, calculating gambler but he may be trying to fill an inside straight this year.

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