Former Pro Bowl fullback Daryl Johnston has twice seen the hand-writing on the NFL wall and done what he has always done best. He plowed through trouble to open a hole for himself.
This year that opening was as general manager of the San Antonio Commanders, one of the most popular teams of the new Alliance of American Football League.
Johnston, who starred for the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl-winning teams and spent the last 18 years as a TV analyst on NFL games, visited with the Talk of Fame Network this week to explain the ups and downs of trying to build a professional football franchise from scratch and why he took on that challenge.
He said he first began thinking about finding a new role for himself in football because “seeing the influx of younger guys (retiring to television booths) and seeing (that) you can’t stay in the broadcast booth forever’’ convinced him that -- just as there is a time to leave the huddle -- there's also a time to leave the broadcast booth.
He wondered if his knowledge of pro football might translate into building a roster that would eventually win a championship. When the owners of the San Antonio team approached him, he was ready for a new start, one far different -- but no less challenging -- than blocking Mike Singletary or Lawrence Taylor.
“They each have their specific challenges,’’ Johnston said with a laugh. “(In the GM’s role) there’s a lot more to this than football. Sometimes at 3:30 pm I’m wondering, ‘What did I get myself into?’ But it’s been a joy.’’
Johnston said the hardest job he’s had is not finding players or coaching talent. It’s telling a player his pro football journey has probably ended.
“The hardest thing is saying goodbye because I know this is different (than being cut by an NFL team),’’ Johnston said. “For guys down here (in a developmental league like the Alliance) probably this is it. This is that last shot.’’
Also visiting this week is veteran Steelers’ beat writer and Hall-of-Fame voter Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who tries to unravel the mess that seems to be piling up in Pittsburgh with the pending departure of All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown and Pro Bowl running back Le’veon Bell.
Although Bouchette admits they are highly talented players he said they may both be more replaceable than the public thinks. Reason: The absence of Brown, Bouchette said, may actually help quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“Ben forced many balls to Antonio Brown (which led to costly interceptions),’’ Bouchette said. “He won’t be doing that any more. Look at New England. They didn’t have the great, great wide receiver or running back. The Steelers need to get back to more of the team stuff.’’
Speaking of going back in time, co-host Rick Gosselin goes back to the 1930s for this week’s "State Your Case" argument for Hall-of-Fame consideration. Gosselin argues that 1930s’ Detroit Lions; fullback Ace Gutowsky was one of the three best fullbacks of his day, along with Clarke Hinkle and Bronko Nagurski.
Nagurski was part of the Hall’s inaugural class in 1963, and Hinkle went in the following season. Ace got aced out despite having rushed for more yards in the 1930s than either and having set a single-season rushing record in 1936 that stood for 36 years.
Gutowsky also started at linebacker and the same season he led the NFL in carries with 146 Detroit’s defense finished with a league-low 59 points allowed in 13 games. So Goose says, it’s time the Hall of Fame played its ace card and took a look back at Ace Gutowsky.
There’s all that and more this week and you can hear it all on your local SB Nation radio network station or by simply downloading our free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also access the show, and all our past shows and interviews, at our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.