When Homer Jones was traded to Cleveland, it is said the New York Giants
lost the only passing combo in football where neither the passer nor
receiver knew what the other one was going to do.
The passer was... and is Fran Tarkenton, who popularized the quarterback
scramble during his decade in the NFL while trying to get his team over
the .500 mark. Only once in his career, with Minnesota in 1965, has
Tarkenton quarterbacked a club that finished better than .500.
So the adage is, “a scrambler is exciting but he can't win for you."
Tarkenton has not proved this to be untrue, though he did once make a
remark that might be pertinent: "The only classic quarterback is a
Tarkenton, at 6-0, is not tall and he is a medium range passer. He is
not a good drop back passer and when he does just drop back he has a
tendency to try and escape instead of hanging in and throwing the ball.
The New York offense is geared to him, using roll outs, half rolls and
bootlegs and there is even a set plan when Tarkenton scrambles. When the
Giants practice one of the coaches blows a whistle after a certain
amount of time has elapsed and this is a signal that Tarkenton has begun
to scramble. Thus his receivers start to work there way back toward the
line of scrimmage. Naturally this whistle isn't used in games, though
rumor has it that Homer Jones used to hear it anyway.
In defensing Tarkenton, the ends are very important. They must pinch him
in, keep him from getting outside where scrambling becomes even more
dangerous. Most of Tarkenton's long touchdown passes have come on
A defensive back lists Tarkenton as "trouble." He adds, "Anytime he gets
out of the pocket and starts scrambling around the receiver breaks his
route and you've got a dogfight on your hands. I don't like scramblers
at all. I don't know whether he's a winner or not but I know I hate to
play against him has much as anybody I know."
"Tarkenton," a report says, "would be a great touch football player.
He's very smart, clever but he'll never put a championship flag on your
stadium. You just won’t have the consistency necessary to going all the
way with a scrambler."
Tarkenton is a good leader and with the Giants he is mostly surrounded
by followers. He is very accurate on short passes but erratic going
long. Terribly difficult to trap because he'll run out of the pocket and
he'll also dump the ball, rather than be trapped or forced into the
May lack the ingredients to lead a championship team but he is certainly
an explosive player. When he gets things going, like he did when he hit
ten straight passes this season to bomb the St. Louis Cardinals, he can
put up points extremely fast.
Tarkenton, who'll be 31 in February, doesn't seem as quick when he
starts to run as he used to be. But once he gets underway, he's as
dangerous as ever.
He's an extremely friendly, personal guy and can get hot and beat
anybody in football on a given day. But, again, titles are won with
consistency and Tarkenton will spend the rest of his career fighting the