The 300: #20 Dick Stanfel

Today’s member of The 300 is another star from the post-war years of the NFL

NFL CAREER

Detroit Lions (1952-1955)

Washington Redskins (1956-1958)

 

POSITION

Guard

Offensive Line Coach

 

WHY IS HE IMPORTANT?

It is one of the tragedies of Dick Stanfel‘s career that he failed by a few months to live long enough to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Indeed, one might argue that it is a double shame, because his induction was for his brief career as a player and not for his more lauded achievements as an offensive line coach.

As a player, Stanfel was a beast. After missing his entire rookie season through injury, he became the mainstay of a Lions’ line in a team which won consecutive NFL championships in his first two seasons. Coaches talk about linemen ‘getting to the next level’, and Stanfel was one of the first to be truly adept at it, routinely blocking one man to the ground and then moving forward to take done another one or two.

Back injuries marred Stanfel’s next couple of seasons and in 1956 he was traded to Washington, where his former college coach had just been appointed head coach. His time there was less successful and, after a 1958 season marred by injuries, he retired and took a coaching position at Notre Dame.

That was the start of a 35 year coaching career, 28 of which were spent in the NFL. Although he had brief spells as an offensive coordinator and interim head coach, it was as an offensive line coach that he was happiest. In particular, from 1981 he spent 11 years as offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears, for all but the first year under Mike Ditka. In that time the Bears were NFL rushing leaders for three successive years, with Stanfel credited for his work in providing the running lanes for Walter Payton. He retired when Ditka left Chicago in 1992, but rejoined him in New Orleans five years later, staying until he retired for good in 1999.

Not every great player becomes a great coach, but Stanfel (like Ditka) managed both.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    Today’s member of The 300 is another star from the post-war years of the NFL NFL CAREER Detroit Lions (1952-1955) Washington Redskins (1956-1958)
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