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Master NFL historian writes masterful 100-season history

Posted: 3:49 PM, Aug 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-30 16:49:07-04
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Joe Horrigan calls it a "many decades love affair with football."

Readers of his book, "NFL Century," will call it masterful.

Horrigan, who retired as the Pro Football Hall of Fame's executive director on June 1, is America's most foremost historian on pro football. His book, published by Crown, is a superb compilation of anecdotes, little-known facts, insightful analysis and memorable quotes.

While Horrigan jokes that he wasn't there in 1920 when the league was founded, he makes the readers feel as they are in attendance for many of the significant events through 99 seasons of the NFL. Wisely, Horrigan examines important trends as well as in-depth looks at the players, coaches and executives who turned pro football into America's Game.

"I wanted to identify the important but not always visible recurring themes that emerge throughout the league's history," Horrigan writes, "link decisions to decision makers, identify the circumstances of play that influenced the league's development, and, when possible, explain the resulting impact. I wanted to separate fiction from fact, offer a slightly different look at some familiar topics, and share some lesser-known stories that also helped shape the league's colorful history."

Among Horrigan's most enlightening tales is the story of the Cleveland Browns' dominance of the AAFC in the 1940s and subsequent powerful move into the NFL. Horrigan digs deep to analyze how Paul Brown built his franchise, strengthened it, then laid waste to one league before winning championships in another one.

But everything in the book, from the roots laid in Canton, Ohio, to the exhaustive look at Roger Goodell's commissionership, is, well, Hall of Fame caliber.

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HAIRY SITUATION

New Broncos coach Vic Fangio snipped the annual summer ritual of Denver Broncos veterans giving rookies hideous haircuts .

"I just don't think it's right. I just don't believe in hazing," the Broncos' first-year coach explained. "There are traditions that stay put. Guys are getting up in front of the team and doing a little skit every night. Maybe a rookie's carrying somebody's pads off the field and so on, or bringing in the doughnuts or the breakfast, but nothing physical."

That decree was met by relief from rookies who wouldn't have to endure haphazard hairstyles — or else shave off their own eyebrows like running back Philip Lindsay chose to do last summer.

"I've seen pictures and stuff. I wasn't really going to fight it," first-round pick Noah Fant said. "It's nice that we don't have to do them. But we still have to do all the rookie shows and stuff like that. So, there's still a lot of rookie stuff that you have to do, but not to that extent."

Some veterans didn't like the tradition's demise, arguing that the wacky haircuts were just a harmless rite of passage into professional football.

"Oh, I'm upset about that," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who said chopping off the rookies' hair "was fun. But at the same time I respect Vic. I love that guy, man. So, if that's how he wants it to go, that's how it is."

The rookies used to have to keep their wacky haircuts for a few days and a preseason game before shaving off what was left of their hair, and they couldn't hide their haircuts under their helmets during the photo shooting periods, providing public proof of their compliance.

The practice also took hold over the years in Dallas, New England, Washington and Oakland, among other NFL cities. NFL.com even did a montage of the best (actually worst) rookie haircuts a couple of years ago.

Denver was the hotbed of hideous haircuts, in part due to Tim Tebow's Friar Tuck look back in 2010. Two years later, long snapper Lonie Paxton took great delight in chopping off the long locks of undrafted rookie Aaron Brewer, but the last laugh was on him when Brewer beat him out and Paxton got cut a week later.

The Broncos have even had a barber's chair adjacent to their locker room for the last couple of years, one that's used for legit haircuts with real barbers during the season.

Not all Broncos veterans were in on the haircutting hilarity. Von Miller prides himself as the Broncos' biggest prankster, but he never grabbed the clippers.

"I like to mess with rookies, of course, but haircuts are not my thing," Miller said last summer when the ritual was still alive. "The rookies, it's not like they want to get their hair cut. I don't think it's straightforward. It's just not my deal."

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DAWG POUNDING

Woof!

"Dawg Pound Radio" is about to debut on SiriusXM, hosted by Bernie Kosar and longtime voice of the Cleveland Browns Jim Donovan.

Kosar, who quarterbacked the franchise to three AFC championship games — yes, the Browns once were successful, but that was before the franchise moved to Baltimore and an expansion group arrived in 1999 — and Donovan will discuss the 2019 Browns team that has been so hyped. The show will also look back at the storied history of the Browns, who have won eight league titles (four NFL, four AAFC) and boast 16 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"My association with the Cleveland Browns started long before I wore that uniform. I've watched this team since I was a kid growing up Northeast Ohio," Kosar explains. "I'm so proud to have been a part of this franchise's great history and I'm excited about its future. Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett . . . This is an incredibly exciting group of young Cleveland Browns players. I'm excited for the opportunity to team up with Jim, tell stories about my time with the Browns, talk with some of the team's all-time greats, and cover everything happening with the current team."

The program will air Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET beginning on Sept. 4.

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