Only once was there any hint of trouble. That was in the third game of the season, after Charlie had thrown a long pass that was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Before that play Sherman had asked me to warm up, and I went in when we took over again. Conerly was angry and he showed it by slamming his helmet to the ground, but he did not say anything.
After the game, Sherman said to him, "I didn't yank you for the interception, Charlie. I was going to play Y. A. anyway."
"Forget it," Charlie said. "I understand. It's all right."
Later in the season I had a bad half in a game I started against Los Angeles, and Charlie went in and saved it. So the next week he started.
"I'm not starting him because you were bad, Yat," Sherman explained to me. "I'm starting him because he deserves it for having been so good."
It was my turn to tell Sherman I understood, and I did.
The next two years were the best I ever had. Rote retired after the 1961 season, but Gifford came back. We sort of groped our way through the exhibition season while he was getting used to playing out on the flank. He didn't really get his legs under him until about the third game of the season, against Pittsburgh. He came on like Gangbusters in that one and was tremendous the rest of the year.
One thing that bothered me a little was that I ran into more zone defenses in the East than in the West. I hated zone teams—not because they are harder to beat than teams that use man-to-man coverage but because zone coverage takes away the home run. When you know a team is in a zone you can't eat it up but you have to nibble it to death. The zone shackles a good quarterback with a fine deep receiver like Shofner. I always felt that almost any quarterback could throw the short passes that beat a zone.
I always believed sincerely that I could hit an open deep receiver, and I hated to see Shofner reduced to catching short patterns. It's like making Mickey Mantle a pinch hitter, or asking him to bunt. Sure, he can bunt, but so can the .250 hitter. The people pay to see him ride one out of the park.
For three years we won division championships and lost the big one—twice to the Green Bay Packers and once to the Chicago Bears. The football writers began to say that Tittle could not win the big games—I guess by that they meant the championship games. I have won some very big games—and I have lost some, too.