Nothing improves a professional football player like age. Up to a point this holds true during his career. It is even truer once he has retired. Bronko Nagurski was a great football player and has become a legend, but it is very doubtful that he could replace the Dallas Cowboys' Calvin Hill if he were playing today. He was not as big—6'2", 230 against 6'4", 235—and not nearly as fast. Red Grange, another legend, played at 5'11" and 175, quite small by modern pro standards, and both he and Nagurski ran against linemen and linebackers who would have to buy tickets to get into a game nowadays.
A number of experts have said the pro game has deteriorated during the past two decades due to the dilution of talent as the league expanded from 12 to 26 teams. But this is far from true. There is more talent today than ever. The players are bigger, faster, more skilled, better coached, in better condition and smarter than they were 20 years ago—and there are more of them.
In 1951 the Los Angeles Rams had the most talent of any pro team and they won the NFL title. One reason for their success was their scouting system, which was 10 years ahead of the competition. Another was that they were the first to draft players from the black colleges, picking Tank Younger of Grambling in 1949. Since then Grambling alone has sent 87 players to the pros.
In 1971 the team with the most talent is the Cowboys. Like the '51 Rams, the Cowboys were put together by Tex Schramm, who was the assistant to Ram President Dan Reeves and is now president of the Cowboys. Schramm's genius lies primarily in his ability to develop a scouting system; although the Cowboys' scouting system has been computerized, it is modeled on the one the Rams used in the late '40s and early '50s. So, if pro football talent has been diluted since 1951 by the addition of 14 teams, the 1971 Cowboys should be demonstrably weaker than the 1951 Rams.
I have seen a good deal of the 1971 Cowboys and I was the publicity director for the 1951 Rams, and if the two teams were to play tomorrow the Cowboys would win by at least four touchdowns.
The only position at which the Rams might have an edge is quarterback, which Bob Waterfield and Norman Van Brocklin shared. By present-day standards, they were a little short; Waterfield is 6'1�", Van Brocklin 6'1". But both had strong, accurate arms and extraordinary football acumen and they would have to be rated above Craig Morton (6'4") and Roger Staubach (6'3"). Whether they could have thrown as effectively against the towering defensive lines that Morton and Staubach face is questionable. The Rams beat the Cleveland Browns for the title in 1951 and the biggest man on the Cleveland defensive line in that game was John Kissell, who at 6'3", 247 was considered a giant. Only one Baltimore lineman in Super Bowl V weighed less than that and the biggest was Bubba Smith, who goes 6'7", 295 and is quicker than Kissell ever was. Of course, if the 1951 Ram offensive line had to protect Waterfield and Van Brocklin from the 1971 Cowboy rush, there is some doubt that either of them would have had time to throw the ball.
The blocking line for the 1951 Rams was; left tackle, Don Simensen, 6'2", 220; left guard, Dick Daugherty, 6'1", 214; center, Leon McLaughlin, 6'2", 228; right guard, Bill Lange, 6'1�", 245; right tackle, Tom Dahms, 6'5", 240. Aside from the fact that all of them were rookies, only two—Lange and Dahms—had anything approaching the size an offensive lineman needs today. The rest not only could not make a pro club in 1971, most of them would automatically be rejected by the computers on the basis of size alone.
Now consider the people the 1951 Rams' line would have had to contain if they had played the 1971 Cowboys. Simensen would have been blocking on George Andrie, who is 6'6", 250 and has nine years pro experience. Simensen did not have a good deal of luck against the smaller, lighter and less experienced defensive ends he blocked in 1951. He would have been destroyed by Andrie. Daugherty would have been giving away 46 pounds, four inches and 10 years of experience to Bob Lilly; it would have taken a major miracle and a baseball bat for him to even slow Lilly down. He would have gotten help from McLaughlin, the center, but that would have left the middle open for Lee Roy Jordan to blitz, which would have been disastrous for Waterfield or Van Brocklin. At 221 pounds, Lee Roy is small by today's standards, but he was about as big as middle linebackers came in 1951. The mismatch at right guard is not quite as obvious, although Lange was 15 pounds lighter than Jethro Pugh and not nearly as fast or experienced. In his six years in the league, Pugh has beaten bigger and more experienced guards consistently, rookie guards always. Probably the nearest thing to a standoff would have been Dahms blocking on Larry Cole, although even here Cole would enjoy a 10-pound advantage and three years more experience.
The Rams' difficulties on offense would have been multiplied on defense, the weakest part of their game. In 1951 the Rams scored 392 points, the most in the NFL, but they gave up 261.
Again, a comparison of the 1971 Cowboy and 1951 Ram opposing lines tells a revealing story. The Ram defensive line: left end, Larry Brink, 6'5", 240; left tackle, Jim Winkler, 6'2", 248; middle guard, Stan West, 6'2", 258; right tackle, Charlie Toogood, 6', 233; right end, Andy Robustelli, 6'1", 220. Only Brink and West were veterans.