George Blanda, one of the toughest and most unique players in NFL history, has passed away.
Blanda was the league’s all-time leading scorer when he retired in 1976 after 26 seasons as a quarterback/place-kicker. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Blanda played with the Chicago Bears, Houston Oilers, and finally with the Oakland Raiders. He won AFL titles with the Oilers in 1960 and 1961.
Blanda started out as just a kicker in Chicago, but he became a record setting quarterback in Houston. He’s perhaps best known for being the most improbable Player of the Year award winner (then called the Bert Bell Award) in history at age 43.
Cut at the beginning of the 1970 season and 12 seasons after his first retirement, Blanda went on an insane five-week run where he either replaced Raiders quarterback Daryle LaMonica to lead the Raiders to a comeback victory or kicked a winning or tying field goal. Every single week.
The book America’s Game describes how Blanda’s story in 1970 broke normal boundaries. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Time, and Newsweek. He was joked about by Johnny Carson. He symbolized a new kind of life after 40.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great George Blanda,” the Raiders said in a statement. “George was a brave Raider and a close personal friend of Raiders Owner Al Davis.”