Forgotten Player of the Moment – TODD CHRISTENSEN
(by Ed Agner)
(Editor Note: Another FPOTM subject who passed after the writing of this. We are a cancer – Rippa)
Full disclosure: Todd Christensen is probably my favorite ever football player. Well, at least my favorite ever offensive skills position player. Except for Ken Stabler. And Cliff Branch. And maybe Mark Van Eeghen. And – OK, Christensen is CLEARLY my favorite ever Tight End. Except for maybe Dave Casper. Dang it! Let’s just move on.
Anyhoo – I absolutely LOVE great pass catching TE’s. Really, is there anything more beautiful in football – not Walter Payton-related, of course – than a TE burning a poor meathead LB’er and flicking away tiny little DB’s like fleas? I think not! Absolutely beautiful!
And for you kids out there – Yes, teams used to throw to their TE’s before Shockey and Gonzalez came around. See, back in MYYYYYYYY day, most teams only ran 2 WR sets and RB’s used to be pretty stone-handsy, thus the passes the decent RB’s and 4th WR’s pick up now used to go to the TE’s. Somewhere in the late-80’s- early-90’s most all of the decent pass catching TE’s went away and the West Coast offense with the 700 WR sets came in and all the TE’s passes went to RB’s (who now could actually haul in the occasional catch), or the little slow possession WR (running those sissy little 5 yard out patterns). As a result, the NFL has become a land where TE’s are often little more than glorified guards and Shockey, Gonzalez, etc., are considered freaks.
But back in MYYYYYY day Todd Christensen was maybe the best passing catching TE in a world of football where TE’s WERE pass catchers – mostly. And yet he gets no respect today. Absolutely none.
Christensen was both blessed and cursed by playing in the mid-80’s era of the AFC pass catching TE. From ’83-’86 Christensen caught at least 80 passes a year, amassed 4394 total yards and earned 5 Pro Bowl and 2 All Pro nods. That’s as a TE. Today that’s Gonzalez-Shockey level of performance. You’d have bloody brawls in fantasy football drafts over that.
Unfortunately, the curse is that Chistensen was doing this in the AFC while HOFers Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow were the established stars at TE. One could argue that Christensen was better during this time frame than Newsome and Winslow were at their peaks and deserves more consideration for the HOF than he’s gotten so far. But thinking of the farce that is the Pro Football HOF…will…just…make…me even more bitter. And I’ll save the HOF hate for the Cliff Branch piece.
OK, so maybe Christensen wasn’t the blocker that Newsome was and the self-promoter that Winslow was (Passing out after the ’81 Dolphins-Chargers playoff game. SOLDIER, SR., PUUUHLEASE!) and he didn’t have the longest career, but he WAS a really-really great TE with maybe the best perm mullet ever and that all certainly deserves more respect.
Of course, Phil tells me that Christensen used to be a host of American Gladiators (something I have no recollection of whatsoever, so I assume this happened in that incredibly fuzzy era of my life in the early-90’s that I like to refer to as, “The College Years” – a time when the only things I can recall anyone watching was porn and Saved By The Bell. Ahh, the drunken confusion!). I trust Phil, so…if that’s the case…then…well…yeah. OK.
On the bright side, Christensen still manages to make me incredibly happy as a college football announcer who, according to Ohio State fans, absolutely DESPISES Ohio State and, when assigned an Ohio State game, supposedly spends entire games going on about how every Ohio State player is a sex offending-thug-idiot-terrorist-puppy kicking-Miami Hurricane or something. Of course, Ohio State fans say that about EVERY announcer and they like getting my hopes up too much so I doubt this is true. But if it is, that cancels out the American Gladiators shame in my book. Yeah.