Forgotten Player of the Moment – WILLIAM ANDREWS
(by Ed Agner and Phil Rippa)
ED: Dean threatened to put on his Tom Landry hat, go into his Randy White four-point stance and bore us to death with endless tales of The Doomsday Defense if we didn’t feature William Andrews as a Forgotten Player of the Moment. I’ve had the misfortune of hearing my Dad wax poetic about Golden Richards far too often so I know the pain a Cowboy fan can bring all too well.
ED: I was always confused by the whole AFC-NFC deal when I got into football in the late-70’s and early-80’s. They were supposedly different and separate yet they all seemed the same to me AND they all played one another during the regular season – unlike the American and National Leagues…used to be. As far as I could tell, there really was no discernible difference between the conferences aside from the playoff divisions (and the fact that the AFC won the Super Bowl most of the time. Ahhh, the ‘70’s!). But stylistically even a moron like me could figure out that they were distinct – the AFC was mostly a pass-friendly league full of QB’s and WR’s putting up CFL-like stats; while the NFC was a defense- and run-oriented league full of most of the best of the best in young running backs – Walter Payton, Otis Anderson, Billy Sims, Tony Dorsett, George Rogers and William Andrews.
PR: While I grew up on and I still love me some NFC football, the AFC’s Earl Campbell was better than every single running back on the list Ed just wrote. There I said it. Okay, we are getting side-tracked. Must talk about the Andrews and Steve Bartkowski and Wally Francis.
ED: I was intrigued by Andrews via his football cards since: A) I liked those old mostly-red uni’s with the black trim that the Falcons wore back in the pre-Deion era; and B) William Andrews was the only Falcon player Topps used to give All Pro designation to, leading me to believe that he was all the Falcons had. For the most part he was.
PR: Topps was all sorts of goofy with the All Pro thingy. I mean who did Tommy Nobis or Jeff Van Note ever piss off? Oh, I’m sorry. They didn’t throw the pretty spiral.
ED: Andrews was a third-round pick out of Auburn where he was mostly used as a big blocking back. Given a chance and the ball with the Falcons, he quickly became an instant NFL stud. Big, tough, durable, versatile and deceptively fast; there seemed to be little that Andrews couldn’t do – which was fortuitous given that Andrews HAD to do EVERYTHING in his power to keep the chains moving to prevent Steve Bartkowski from throwing yet another pick.
PR: How the Falcons got to the playoffs with Bart throwing more picks than TDs is beyond me. Oh yeah, it helped that Alfred Jenkins was able to haul in everything tossed his way. Getting sidetracked again…
ED: Looking over Andrews’ stats, he was the ultimate multi-purpose back when Roger Craigs’ voice was still cracking – able to serve as a punishing back to rush for four 1,000 yard seasons, while also bringing the finesse to compile three 500-plus receiving yard seasons in an era when dumping the ball off to a RB was mostly a novelty. Racking up over 8,300 total yards from ‘79-’83, Andrews certainly seemed to be on the straight path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
PR: 1980 (a pro-bowl year for Willie) is my favorite Andrews year, just because he almost got overshadowed by another running back on his team. Andrews rushed for a shade over 1300 yards and 4 TDs to go with a respectible 456 yards. What is often forgotten is that year, Lynn Cain had 914 rushing yards and 8 TDs. Seriously, the Falcons had a great great team that year, they were the #1 seed (12-4 record)…. and choked it all away in the divisional round of the playoffs to the winner of the wild card game… Dean’s beloved Cowboys. Now I get the request. Aww…. I can picture Alantians weeping now.
ED: And then… According to football lore, Andrews suffered the most hideous knee injury EVER in a Falcons practice prior to the start of the ‘84 season – in an era when arthroscopic surgery was not yet completely mastered and repairing ACL’s was unheard of. Andrews got the knife and missed all of the ‘84 and ‘85 seasons before attempting a comeback in ‘86 where he did little – leaving Andrews as yet another in a long line of early-80’s NFC RB cripples who shoulda-coulda-woulda been.
PR: This is so another one of those “what would have been” situations because Andrews crippling himself paved the way for Gerald Riggs who ended up being the all-time leading rushing in Falcons history. I picture the RB controversy ending with Andrews punching Dan Henning in the face when Henning says he is going to start David Archer at QB. And then Andrews and Herschel Walker having the greatest “Who is the better running back” feud in the USFL.
Buy the William Andrews 80 Rookie Card for 8 times its worth