Several years ago I wrote a piece about Tim Tebow and Bobby Douglass. When I look at the gloves that wide receivers use today, I think it might be worth another look at Douglass.
Tim Tebow reminded me of Douglass who was the Bears QB from 1969 to the beginning of 1975. After leaving the Bears, Douglas played for San Diego, New Orleans and Green Bay.
Both Tebow and Douglass are left-handed and big men. Tebow is 6-3, 235 lbs. Douglass played at 6-4, 225 lbs and like Tebow, he did a lot of running. For his career, Douglass had 507 completions on 1178 attempts giving him a 43% completion rate for a total of 6,493 and 36 touchdowns. In one of his best games, he was 10 for 15 passing—sounds Tebow like? On the downside, it’s been said that Douglass was not a quick study of the Bears playbook and he did throw interceptions–perhaps more than would have been expected by a running quarterback. In his defense however, he was asked to play pretty early in his career without an apprenticeship under a solid offensive system. He would play under three head coaches–Dooley, Gibron and Pardee.
His career rushing yards are more impressive. He had 410 rushes for a total of 2,654 yards and 22 touchdowns. In 1972, Douglass had 968 yards rushing and an incredible 6.9 yards gained per run. It would be decades before the NFL would see another running quarterback of the caliber of Douglass–Michael Vick.
Like Tebow, Douglas was a fearless runner. He played aggressively, he was a scrambler and was not likely to hang around the pocket much and take a sack. Although his throwing stats were never great, he had the strongest arm in football and with seemingly little effort could throw a ball 70 yards. Douglass himself said he could throw at least 90 yards and probably 100 in certain conditions.
Not a Great Era for the Bears
The Bears were awful during the years when Bobby Douglass played—they never had a winning season. Many things contributed to their lack of success. Watching Douglass many years ago, fans were frustrated with the Bears passing game, but were never quite sure who to blame. The Bears were very predictable. And many times, Douglass threw the ball into the hands of the receivers, but his pass velocity seemed almost uncatchable at times. This is the point that is intriguing to me. What would his statistics be today with receivers wearing gloves that might have helped them hold onto the ball? I have to wonder whether Douglass’s career would have ended up altogether different. A good Bear fan of the era was accomplished at grunts and groans when one opportunity after another seemed to fall by the wayside.
Nevertheless, Bear fans of the era knew Douglass was something special, but pundits were never quite convinced he was in the right position. Some thought he would have made a better running back or tight end. But in some ways, he was a perfect fit and personality type for the Monsters of the Midway. It’s difficult today to know what position Douglass would play in the pros or whether new methods, training techniques or strategies could be employed to make him a better player. But the game does evolve.
For a great book NFL history, see Pillars of the NFL.