Catching Up With Jaws – Part 2

Jaws going down memory lane with our very own Will Martin. Photo Courtesy:
Jaws going down memory lane with our very own Will Martin. Photo Courtesy:

By Will Martin

*We continue with an impromptu media meet and greet with the one time Eagle and L.A. Ram. The Polish Rifle Ron Jaworski. What made this more amazing was that I was the only person in the media with a camera and an audio recorder.

Plenty of questions and memories to shoot on. Part 1 – Ron spoke about his relationship with Dick Vermeil, Tony Romo, Mike Hartenstine, Claude Humphrey, and playing alongside Pat Haden and James Harris.

This time one question that will get answered is how the ‘Polish Rifle’ nickname came to be*

Part 2 of my interview with Ron Jaworski inside the Cherry Blossom room at the Hilton Anatole prior to an SMU speaking engagement October 11th 2013.

Recently it has been stated by some in the media and the NFL that the 46 defense and Cover 2 are two schemes that are becoming obsolete. Do you concur?
There are variations of it all. I would say that the Cover 2, in its original form might be obsolete. I have now seen it evolve into quarters coverage which is a variation of the Cover 2, a man under two people which is the most predominant coverage scheme now in the NFL. A certain variety of the Cover 2 so changes are always being made.

I would say that the old Cover 2 with the middle linebacker running deep in the middle of the field…that’s probably gone but it’s been tweaked in which its still used as part of an NFL defense today.

Where did the nickname ‘Polish Rifle’ come from?
A pretty interesting story. At Youngstown State I was ‘Rifle Ron’ so I got to Los Angeles and there was a writer for the Herald Examiner. His name was Bud Furillo and I guess he didn’t think that ‘Rifle Ron’ was glamorous enough for playing L.A. so I guess he called me ‘The Polish Rifle’ and it stuck. (Smiling).

I remember Bud well. Little known fact about Bud. He was a huge pro wrestling fan!
Boy, was he. Watched it all the time.

Are you surprised by the slow starts for the Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants? The last time New York began a season 0-6 they were just opening up Giants Stadium (10/10/76 against Dallas) 37 years ago.
I’m not surprised…I am shocked! For years I and many of my circle of people thought that the NFC East was the toughest division in football year in and year out. To see 2-3 lead with Dallas and Philly with New York at 0-4 and Washington at 1-3 it’s hard to believe how far the NFC East has fallen.

I haven’t an answer. I know the game is cyclical where teams go up and teams go down but to have all four teams in a downward spiral is somewhat surprising. Although only five games have been played we’ll see how it all plays out. I’m confident there is still some talent in the East.

Since we just had the game (Eagles vs the Giants) won by Philly 36-21 I am reminded of a game in November. November 19th, 1978 and what looked to be an Eagle loss at Giants Stadium. A last second handoff from Joe Pisarcik to Larry Csonka was fumbled, and Herman Edwards runs it in. That crazy win took you to the playoffs. Where were you when that play happened?
Oh I can tell you EXACTLY where I was and what was going through my mind! I was sitting on the end of the bench. On our offensive series before the Giants got the ball I had gotten an interception. I was thinking, ‘we are going to win this game’ the right way with a touchdown pass! Harold Carmichael and I were walking off after I threw the pick.

I’m down at the end of the bench and I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness I can’t believe I blew this game, threw the interception.’

And all of a sudden I see THE WHOLE SIDELINE sprinting toward the end zone. I had no idea what happened. Down at the end of the bench, my head down disappointed thinking what was going to be a loss. I really didn’t know what happened until that night. Now we didn’t have Sportscenter and all these TV shows and highlight shows.

It was during the 11 O’Clock News that I finally saw what happened and thought, ‘Oh my God, we just benefited by one of the most remarkable plays in history!’

It was pretty intense to hear Don Criqui with the call. You have played the Cowboys many times in your career. I remember the finale in 1980 where if a point differential of 25 points (via defeat to Dallas) was reached the Cowboys won the NFC East. I remember the score getting to 35-10 before you answered back with 17 unanswered points. Although you lost, you were the NFC Champs. Dennis Thurman I also remember gave Harold Carmicheal fits. What one memory sticks out for you over the years?
Well that game stands out…along with the NFC Championship game which certainly stands out. The uniqueness of that game in Dallas was that 25 point differential. We could lose the game by any total not to equal 25 points. Then this pennant is ours.

We traveled with champagne and champagne glasses on the plane because we were going to toast being the NFC East Champions. Well, lo and behold as you just said we’re in the 4th quarter, it’s 35-10 we’re just blowing our season. Our goal was to win the NFC East. It looked like were getting blown out in Dallas and we were. The point differential had been made up. It looks like we now have to go into the playoffs as a wild card team.

Fortunately we rallied back we scored 17 points in the 4th quarter and a 35-27 defeat which made us the NFC East champs. We had the champagne and the glasses back in the locker. It was bizarre that we lost yet we’re drinking champagne in champagne glasses at Texas Stadium’s locker room.

Back in your playing days you had a teammate named Louie Giammonia. Wasn’t he related to Dick Vermeil?
Louie Giammonia was Dick Vermeil’s nephew.

What do you think about all safety concerns in football across all ages and levels? How important is it in a state like Texas (which is so football crazy) to be teaching kids how to tackle, to play a revisionist form of football like it used to be?
I think safety is critical. I applaud commissioner (Roger) Goodell for what he is doing at the NFL level. It’s almost always on my mind first and foremost even as I’m at games. And I say I applaud the commissioner because he had to make some tough decisions. Me, even personally I thought the league was getting soft.

That being said I’m in Seattle three years ago doing Monday Night Football with John Gruden and Mike Tirico. We ran into a young man who wanted to meet me. His name was Zachary. A 13-year old who had a concussion who was put back in a game and suffered a very deep concussion a little bit later in that game, almost died but he did live.

After that second concussion his brain swelled and a lot of things went on. We and myself, I was very taken aback by that. My attitude had kind of changed on how we should address concussions when I saw this young man. Now, for a couple weeks before we visited with Zachary commissioner Goodell visited with him, and now I know WHY the commissioner decided that we needed to change the game.

ESPN did a special on Zachary, his injury and what had happened. I think it had a profound impact on Roger Goodell, myself, Mike Tirico, and John Gruden. We have to take steps to improve player safety. If the NFL takes the lead which it has then everyone else will follow. The NFL is stressing safety, not leading with your head, head up tackling and teaching the right way.

Coaches teaching and coaching the right way. You’re never going to eliminate the injuries, it’s a tough, brutal, and violent game. If we can bring that number down it’s good for everybody. You can then grow the game. If the NFL leads, the colleges follow, the high schools follow, the preschools follow our game becomes safer.

In my mind and in my opinion it was Zachary who had a profound impact on me. He also had an impact on commissioner Goodell. I think we all have to think about how to make the game safer. Not only do we want to make the game safe for the NFL Players but for the youngsters who want to play the game also.

With all the quarterbacks in Texas getting ranked highly en route to their college run do you see a trickle up effect for such a talent laden pool of players at such a young age?
There was a time when a few years ago I thought there was a dearth of QB talent coming into the NFL. I saw the cupboard bare. I did not see people coaching, to come into the NFL and be NFL passers. That has all changed.

I think it’s all these 7 on 7 leagues in Texas and Oklahoma and now throughout the Midwest, and all across the country. And I’m seeing quarterbacks on ESPN on a Friday night with such a level of ability because they’re playing on these passing offenses, running the veer, the wishbone, the power game. I mean, they are spreading it out and chucking it.

I’m seeing guys with great mechanics that project well at the college level and are being projected to be NFL players. So it’s very clear that the state of Texas has done a great job of growing the quarterback position by virtue of all the 7 on 7 play.

Thanks Jaws. Really appreciate your passion.
You bet, and thank you! You brought up some great stories. Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

That’s what I do. Happy to do it.