The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Joe Willie vs. Johnny U


Comparing individual rivalries in professional football is much more difficult than in the other professional sports of baseball or basketball. The NBA and MLB are leagues played by individuals wearing the same jerseys, while football is a team sport played by individuals. Thus, individual rivalries are more pronounced in basketball or baseball. By nature, rivalries encompass more than just two warriors battling on the field. They also include other factors such as teams, periods of history, positions etc. A rivalry requires more components than simply two athletes.

In football there are more "mini rivalries" within the great team rivalries.These include Brett Favre vs. Warren Sapp, Bruce Smith vs. Anthony Munoz, Ray Nitschke vs. Dick Butkus.

As an agent, the one rivalry that I was closely associated with (which never received the attention, acclaim and publicity that it deserved) was Chuck Smith vs. William Roaf. It had all the excitement of Bird vs. Magic. Smith, the Pro Bowl defensive end for the Falcons would play Roaf, the future Hall of Fame and All Pro tackle of the Saints twice a year for nearly a decade. After so many games, each player knew each other like brothers, and yet they battled brutally almost twenty times in their careers. They were small heavyweight fights in the context of a team game, and it was fun and intriguing to watch two Sundays every year.

However, the greatest rivalry in the NFL history comes from the legends of my youth -- Joe Namath vs. Johnny Unitas. The young gunslinger, Namath, versus the cagy veteran Unitas. One playing for the upstart AFL New York Jets against the conservative and tradition-rich Baltimore Colts of the legendary NFL. Big city, bright lights New York versus the small country city of Baltimore.

Both players were blessed with dynamic personalities, golden arms and strong minds for the game. Both had all the intangible traits you look for in a QB: leadership, a champion's spirit. They lacked absolutely nothing: stats, team success, toughness, football smarts (remember in their era they called their own plays).

The only thing Joe Willie had over Johnny was flash and pizazz... Broadway Joe, ladies, mink costs, stockings, white shoes... the antithesis of Johnny U's style. Whether that was a good thing is up for debate. As an agent, I would certainly rather market a Namath type. The epic battles the two players had are etched in the memories of the baby boom generation.

While the names from these football rivalries may not be recalled as easily as an NBA rivalry such as Magic vs. Bird, the dramatic nature of professional sports continues to create these dynamic characters for each generation to enjoy.

By Peter Schaffer  |  March 27, 2009; 10:14 AM ET  | Category:  NFL , Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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What about the following you missed Dawson/Lamonica, Staubach/Tarkenton, Griese or Stabler/Bradshaw, Kelley/Marino, Elway/Kosar, Montana/Sims, Manning/Brady…could go on and on! Perhaps with RB’s too.

Posted by: JimBeam2 | March 27, 2009 5:07 PM

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