George Blanda, a Charger?

The race was on in early 1960, to obtain talent for the newly-formed AFL teams.  Securing a veteran quarterback with leadership experience would, of course, have been a primary goal for all teams.  At the time, former Chicago Bears QB, George Blanda, was “retired” from football.  This did not concern Los Angeles Chargers coach, Sid Gillman, who wrote up the following review of Blanda early in 1960.

Blanda took a trip out to Los Angeles to speak with Gillman, but never had intentions of signing with the Chargers.  As he stated in his biography, Alive and Kicking, Blanda who had a short fuse of his own, viewed Gillman as a dictatorial coach, much like George Halas, whom he dealt with for the previous decade in Chicago.

George Blanda went on to sign with Houston, and as we all know, led the Oilers to AFL championships over Gillman and the Chargers in 1960 & 1961.




Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

7 Responses to George Blanda, a Charger?

  1. Eddie Arminio says:

    Even though Sid didn’t grab George Blanda,he certainly did alright with Jackie Kemp and Tobin Rote,with John Hadl to follow,steering the ship in the Charger early years.Sid was just as intelligent in acquiring personnel as he was in developing the passing game.If i’m not mistaken, Hadl was a running back at Kansas,developed into a great quaterback.

  2. AFLforever says:

    Very interesting….The Oilers drafted Jacky Lee, who played very well when he had the chance in his backup role to Blanda. Just wonder how good he would have been as the every Sunday Houston QB with all those great receivers (yes…Charlie Hennigan absolutely does belong in the Hall of Fame). So I suppose you could make an argument that Blanda added to the Chargers wouldn’t have necessarily swung the first 2 AFL Championships to LA/SD instead of Houston. They were very close, competitive title games and Jack Kemp was very good so I don’t necessarily believe that the outcome of Kemp versus Blanda would have been different than Blanda versus Lee.

    • Dave Steidel says:

      As Lee showed when he went to Denver and split time with Mickey Slaughter and John McCormick and then returned to Houston to again split time with Blanda, Don Trull and Pete Beathard – he was good but was not a reliable starting quarterback.

  3. Dave Steidel says:

    It was Oilers player personnel director John Breen, formerly of the Chicago Cardinals, who lured Blanda away from Gillman’s $17,000. offer. After leaving the Bears because owner/coach George Halas refused to let him play quarterback, outside of kicking, Halas was making every effort to make sure Blanda could not get back into the NFL. Blanda still wanted to play and in fact was working out in hope of joining the AFL. He ever dropped 20 lbs. in the process. Breen offered him a flat salary of $20,000. Considering that Houston season tickets cost $38. for all seven games and Charlie Hennigan’s first year salary was $7,000 – Blanda commanded quite a chuck of money to come on board in Houston.

  4. […] Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers e fondatore del sito Tales From The American Football League), ha recentemente pubblicato un documento molto interessante: una lettera del coach dei Chargers Sid Gillman che mostra […]

  5. afl says:

    Random thoughts…

    The haughtiness of Halas/the NFL (and its media cohorts like Tex Maule) not only toward the AFL but their own former kin (Blanda this case) an example a pendulum swung too far one way once upon a time.

    Recall too NFL old guard member Paul Brown the eve expansion Bengals first game ever 1968, exhibition vs the Chiefs, stating “well, he’s driving a Cadillac” in reference the success Chiefs QB Len Dawson had enjoyed in the AFL (Brown had failed to give Len real opportunity at QB in CLEV when Brown had him 6 years before; pettiness, pride & pique, by any other… Alfred Hitchcock’s “cattle” terminology re: actors a sentiment seemingly shared by owners and NFL-types same: easy come/easy go throwaways, disposable commodities football sense.

    How times change, least far as compen$ation for being but ‘a piece of meat.’

    Contrast said how far other direction has swung today: former millionaire ownership now billionaires fighting over $ with players once in need off-season jobs now millionaires themselves. More leagues, more teams, more money… but not the same quality as before.

    Back to Blanda, he was a cat with nine lives who only needed three. Banished from the NFL, released by the AFL Oilers too early 1967 & picked up by the Raiders (who had arguably the greatest off-season influx of talent annals pro football history, still to date (apologies the PITT Steelers ‘draft class’ of 1974, ditto any other team’s off-season bonanza same.)

    Nigh on 50 years ago, arriving via trades, free agent signings and/or draft choices, the likes impact players such as Daryle Lamonica, Warren Wells, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw as well Blanda put OAK over the top in ’67, quite the off-season haul for OAK. One notable loss result the Brown trade acquisition: Rich Jackson, who went from a backup LB OAK to starting and star DE for the DEN Broncos. Old Broncos fans must wonder ‘what might have been’ had they been able to sign any their 1st round draft choices pre – ’67 when Floyd Little became their first (Merlin Olsen, Bob Brown and Kermit Alexander added to Willie Brown (had they kept him), the traded Hewritt Dixon, the released Ike Lassiter & others might well have made them more competitive, even without a great QB. Even the latter QB lack was rumored to have been discussed in terms trade with KC. Believe it or not, the ‘rumor’ after the ’67 season and pre 1968 season was that the Chiefs Len Dawson (coming off for him a subpar year and KC’s failure to defend their Championship), was possibly headed to DEN in exchange for Broncos LB/DE Pete Duranko… never happened, of course. Just as OAK and KC never managed to snare Cookie Gilchrist in ’66 when both teams were rumored to be interested.

    By George, got a bit sidetracked from the Blanda theme herein but so many AFL memories are intertwined, hindsight, long may the memories live.

    • Matt Haddad a.k.a. overdrive1975 says:

      By George, it’s great hearing about all these intertwined memories ! ! !

      As somebody who grew up in the 1970’s, I love the history I learn from you guys–AFL (a.k.a. 1967), Tom, Howard, and billd. I still occasionally look through some of the older articles on this site and read all the comments.

      And of course, thanks to Todd, the man who makes it happen.

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