According to Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column yesterday, Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman, arguably the dean of SI’s football writers, suffered two strokes last week and is recovering in the hospital.
Zimmerman has been writing about football for what seems like forever, long enough that when King picks out “four passages from not so long ago” to highlight some of Zimmerman’s best writing, the definition of “not so long ago,” relative to Zimmerman’s career as a whole, stretches back twenty-five years.
For many of those years, he has been accused of being notoriously biased against the Redskins, especially with regard to the many years he spent vocally opposing Art Monk’s enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
But Chris Chase at Shutdown Corner makes the point that Zimmerman wasn’t always so critical, especially when criticism was completely unwarranted, simply by linking to Z’s piece on Super Bowl XXII from Sports Illustrated.
First the numbers. In five possessions the Redskins established a postseason record for one quarter of 35 points on five touchdowns. They turned a 10-0 deficit into a 35-10 lead, thereby ending the show before the Rockettes could even get warmed up for their halftime number. Williams had nine completions in 11 attempts for 228 yards and four touchdowns. His scoring passes covered, in order, 80, 27, 50 and 8 yards. In that quarter Washington racked up a playoff-record 356 yards of offense. That may be a regular-season record as well. The statistical people weren’t sure.
“We don’t keep one-quarter records,” said Seymour Siwoff, head of the Elias Sports Bureau, which handles NFL stats, “but geez, 356 yards. Who could have gained more than that?”
Gone were the painstaking, clock-killing drives that have become a Washington trademark under Gibbs. The most plays consumed on one drive—a 79-yarder—were seven. Another, covering 80 yards, required only one play. The other drives covered 64 yards in five plays, 74 in two and 60 in three. Total plays, including a quarterback kneel to close the half: 19. Total time of possession: 5:54.
The best thing about it, if you are a Washington fan, was that it was far from a one-man show. It was simply a team reaching perfection on all levels: Williams’s passing; the running game, featuring a little-known rookie named Timmy Smith, who added slash and dash to the Skins’ old five-and six-yard standby, the Counter Gap play; a defense that clogged Bronco quarterback John Elway’s passing lanes, kept the pressure on him and gave him little room to maneuver outside the pocket; a brilliant little receiver named Ricky Sanders, who had made his reputation catching Jim Kelly passes in the USFL; and a line that blocked the way you draw it on the play charts.
It’s well worth reading the rest of the article, partially to appreciate some genuinely fine football writing from a talented writer near the peak of his abilities, but also just to wash away some of the frustration from Sunday’s game with quick review of the single best quarter of football in Washington (and NFL) history.
And wish Zimmerman a quick and healthy recovery while you read it — someone’s health is more important than holding a football-related grudge, right? It’s easy to be gracious now; Zimmerman ultimately turned around his stance on Monk’s enshrinement, with class and a couple of curse words. (I’m assuming the class part, actually.)