What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby JameisLoseston » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:33 pm

Someone please explain his career arc to me, because it's one of the oddest things I've ever seen. As a rookie he didn't play that much on offense but showed flashes, but he had 8 INTs on defense. Second year he became the best QB in the league, but did nothing on defense or on the ground, which will be relevant shortly. Third season he was a terrible waste as a passer, still nothing on D... but 11 TDs rushing. 4th year he looked to be finally putting it together, good passing, good rushing and good defense, but played less (injury?) and then was just gone.

The heck was going on with him? It's like he lost every single part of his game from the previous year and developed a completely different skill set every year. I'm assuming he never stopped playing any of his positions at any point, so how does a guy just be good at one totally different thing each year? The Rick Ankiel of football?
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby TanksAndSpartans » Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:50 pm

JameisLoseston wrote:As a rookie he didn't play that much on offense but showed flashes, but he had 8 INTs on defense.


Sid Luckman still had the QB job that year.

JameisLoseston wrote:Second year he became the best QB in the league, but did nothing on defense or on the ground, which will be relevant shortly.


In '49, it would have been unusual to use your starting QB on defense.

JameisLoseston wrote:Third season he was a terrible waste as a passer, still nothing on D... but 11 TDs rushing.


I don't think he was a waste as a passer - he was a 1st team All-Pro QB from multiple organizations.

JameisLoseston wrote:4th year he looked to be finally putting it together, good passing, good rushing and good defense, but played less (injury?) and then was just gone.


Its odd he was playing defense in '50 and '51 - I wonder if that may have been just in key situations. In terms of ending his career, I think he had some injuries, contract dispute with Halas, and interest in the Notre Dame coaching job.
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby Rupert Patrick » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:05 am

TanksAndSpartans wrote:
JameisLoseston wrote:As a rookie he didn't play that much on offense but showed flashes, but he had 8 INTs on defense.


Sid Luckman still had the QB job that year.

JameisLoseston wrote:Second year he became the best QB in the league, but did nothing on defense or on the ground, which will be relevant shortly.


In '49, it would have been unusual to use your starting QB on defense.

JameisLoseston wrote:Third season he was a terrible waste as a passer, still nothing on D... but 11 TDs rushing.


I don't think he was a waste as a passer - he was a 1st team All-Pro QB from multiple organizations.

JameisLoseston wrote:4th year he looked to be finally putting it together, good passing, good rushing and good defense, but played less (injury?) and then was just gone.


Its odd he was playing defense in '50 and '51 - I wonder if that may have been just in key situations. In terms of ending his career, I think he had some injuries, contract dispute with Halas, and interest in the Notre Dame coaching job.


By 1950, the substitution rules were gone altogether and the era of the two-way player was essentially over.
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby conace21 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:12 am

TanksAndSpartans wrote:
JameisLoseston wrote:As a rookie he didn't play that much on offense but showed flashes, but he had 8 INTs on defense.


Sid Luckman still had the QB job that year.

JameisLoseston wrote:Second year he became the best QB in the league, but did nothing on defense or on the ground, which will be relevant shortly.


In '49, it would have been unusual to use your starting QB on defense.

JameisLoseston wrote:Third season he was a terrible waste as a passer, still nothing on D... but 11 TDs rushing.


I don't think he was a waste as a passer - he was a 1st team All-Pro QB from multiple organizations.

JameisLoseston wrote:4th year he looked to be finally putting it together, good passing, good rushing and good defense, but played less (injury?) and then was just gone.


Its odd he was playing defense in '50 and '51 - I wonder if that may have been just in key situations. In terms of ending his career, I think he had some injuries, contract dispute with Halas, and interest in the Notre Dame coaching job.


Lujack was quoted in a Halas biography that he would start games in 1948 while Sid sized up the defense. Then Luckman would come in to play QB while Lujack shifted to defense. As previously stated, he became the fulltime starter in 1949. In 1950, he suffered an arm and shoulder injury. A doctor determined he could play without exacerbating the injury, and he did play all year, but the injury certainly took a toll on his passing. 4 TD's 21 INT's. I'm guessing that Lujack ran more in 1950 because of his arm injury, as he led the league with 11 touchdown runs. I'm still trying to figure out how he was named 1st Team All Pro over Van Brocklin, Layne, Waterfield, Graham and Ratterman.
Lujack suffered additional injuries and that hastened his retirement. Apparently, Lujack could have continued to play as a runner or defensive back, but Halas wasn't about to pay QB wages for that. Lujack had a thriving business career in the making, and wasn't wild about a cut in pay.
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby JameisLoseston » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:01 am

Thanks guys, definitely starting to make more sense. I'd imagine the All Pro in 1950 was for his rushing TDs. He was basically Whizzer White that year; an elite rusher but approximately Tyreek Hill quality at throwing the football. How a guy turns from Cecil Isbell to Whizzer White in the span of an offseason is a mystery, but I can see him favoring his shoulder by running more as an explanation. Reminds me a lot of a poor man's Spec Sanders, but while Spec was a one-man army at his best, Lujack seemed to display all his skills at different times.

Speaking of Whizzer, why did his teams continue to allow him to pass even long after he had shown he was absolutely worthless at it? I can see why Lujack was allowed to because of all the promise he showed just the previous year, but Whizzer was never any more than a complete and utter failure at throwing the ball...
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby TanksAndSpartans » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:36 am

@conace21, great analysis - much deeper than mine. I'm actually currently reading Halas' bio, but not that far along.

Can't speak specifically to White, but it seemed to be the rule rather than the exception for the single-wing Tailbacks to throw more picks than TDs (I'm pretty sure even Baugh's numbers will show that). Plus if he was taking all those snaps as the TB and never threw it, the defense would eventually figure that out in my estimation. In general, I don't think the passing game was that sophisticated, not that I've seen a lot of film, but in what I've seen, some of the passing looked like throwing up jump balls. He wouldn't be a fair comparison with Lujack because by that time most teams were back using the T and the Bears particularly were ahead of the curve having been the first to abandon the s-w.

The Lujack All-Pro selection is interesting - maybe it needs to be the acknowledged that there are cases where one could look back and make a better choice. Maybe Graham should have gotten it.
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby JameisLoseston » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:57 pm

Graham had an uncharacteristically bad year in 50, his worst ever rating and no black numbers, probably because it was his first year in the NFL. I'd say NVB deserved it but he was still sharing time with Waterfield. Possibly Layne or Ratterman.
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby TanksAndSpartans » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:21 pm

JameisLoseston wrote:Graham had an uncharacteristically bad year in 50, his worst ever rating and no black numbers, probably because it was his first year in the NFL.


Wasn't the AAFC competition about the same as the NFL competition?
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby JameisLoseston » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:23 pm

TanksAndSpartans wrote:
JameisLoseston wrote:Graham had an uncharacteristically bad year in 50, his worst ever rating and no black numbers, probably because it was his first year in the NFL.


Wasn't the AAFC competition about the same as the NFL competition?


I've heard the same, but I look at Frankie Albert's career arc and I seriously wonder. It's also worth noting that Graham took until his 3rd year in the NFL to pick up any black ink, although he was certainly the best in the league thereafter until he retired. Therefore, I suspect the AAFC was a more passing-oriented, QB-friendly league with softer defenses, much like the early AFL. And that's not to even mention the very, very bad things Spec Sanders did to that league, which, although we never got to find out, it defies belief he could've done that in the NFL.
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Re: What in the world was up with Johnny Lujack?

Postby TanksAndSpartans » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:32 pm

Great answer - I like the Albert and Sanders examples. Sanders was around 1400 at 6 yards a pop, but if you were trying to win the '47 NFL title, do you want him or Van Buren?

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