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R.I.P. George Blanda

Posted by Neil Paine on September 28, 2010

I'm sure everyone has seen the news already, but in case you didn't, Hall of Famer George Blanda passed away yesterday at age 83.

Just one look at Blanda's PFR page tells you why this is a significant loss for the game -- Blanda played more seasons (26) than anyone in pro football history, set a scoring record (2002 points) that wouldn't be broken until 25 years after his retirement (he still ranks 5th on the all-time list), played 340 career games (still 4th all-time), tossed 236 TDs (still the 19th-most ever), was the 1st player ever to throw 35 TD passes in a season, led Houston to 2 AFL crowns, won the 1961 AFL and 1970 NFL Player of the Year Awards, was 69th in Chase's pre-2009 QBGOAT rankings despite spending half his career as a kicker... I could go on for days listing Blanda's accolades, or the ways his stat lines caused future generations to do double-takes.

And I probably haven't even mentioned Blanda's most amazing factoid yet -- that he not only played at age 48, but he attempted 3 passes that season! Unless Brett Favre gives us seven more seasons of indecision, that record may never even be approached again, much less broken.

Which is really the greatest part of Blanda's resume -- it's so unique and larger-than-life, it's inconceivable that anyone could possibly duplicate it. When will we ever see a player who was simultaneously one of the greatest QBs and one of the greatest placekickers of all-time? When will we see someone play 26 seasons, or until they're 48? When will we see a 43-year-old kicker nearly quarterback his team into the Super Bowl? When will we see someone throw 42 interceptions in a season? When it came to Blanda's stats, everything was over-the-top, and therein lies a large part of his greatness.

Of course, eye-popping numbers aren't all that Blanda contributed to the game. His style of play and the excitement he brought to pro football helped the AFL survive and eventually merge with the established NFL. In the end, it was a combination of Blanda's talent, his longevity, his toughness, his circumstances, and his love for the sport that conspired to make his career the stuff of legends.

He will be missed.