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Horse Tracks: The Denver Broncos and goal line goalposts

Can you believe there really was once an era where there were two large metal posts on the goal line?

One of the great things about NFL football is that it constantly evaluates itself and makes changes. For a league that so reveres its history to have the awareness that their product could always be better (safer?) is nothing short of remarkable.

Last week, MMQB ran a bunch fun history-related articles during their ‘1967 week.’ One such article was about the peculiar placement of the goalposts planted at the goal line. In today’s safety-conscious world, seeing two metal posts in the middle of the field on the goal line makes you wonder how anyone ever thought it was a good idea.

With players, balls, and the occasional ref bouncing off of them, the NFL wisely changed their shape from the archaic ‘H’ to the ‘Y’ shape we enjoy today and then moved them to the back of the end zone.

What seems to go unsaid in the MMQB article is the role that television likely played in moving the posts out of the field of play.

If a pass hit the metal uprights, it would automatically be ruled incomplete. This was famously applied in Super Bowl VII when, in the fourth quarter, Washington quarterback Billy Kilmer missed a wide-open Jerry Smith in the end zone and bounced the ball off the post. The Dolphins won, 14-7, though it should also be noted Kilmer was intercepted three times that day.

Can you imagine? You can almost see people flipping out on their couches, “Why are those things there?!” That exasperation was surely fanned by injuries caused by collisions with posts. That’s not even talking about the nefarious pick plays that brazenly stole attention from the mano-y-mano spirit of the game. When the goalposts placement was broadcast nation-wide, it was only a matter of time before people noticed just how crazy it was to not move them out of the way.

Lastly, the article references ‘Cardinals quarterback Charley Johnson.’ The bit of information that’s missing is that Johnson was not only a quarterback for the Denver Broncos, but also a Ring of Fame enshrinee. In fact, so important were his contributions to team history, MHR’s KaptainKirk declared him the ‘Greatest Bronco to Wear #12.’

To read more about Charley Johnson, check out this classic article by MHR’s Tim Lynch.


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