Hall of Famer's longevity was legendary
Alameda, Calif. • George Blanda, who played longer than anyone in pro football history and racked up the most points in a career that spanned four decades, mostly with the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders, died Monday. He was 83.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great George Blanda," the Raiders said Monday in confirming his death. "George was a brave Raider and a close personal friend of Raiders owner Al Davis." The Pro Football Hall of Fame said on its website that Blanda died Monday after a brief illness.
Blanda retired a month shy of his 49th birthday before the 1976 season. He spent 10 seasons with the Bears, part of one with the Baltimore Colts, seven with the Houston Oilers and his final nine with the Raiders.
He held the pro scoring record when he retired, with 2,002 points. He kicked 335 field goals and 943 extra points, running for nine touchdowns and throwing for 236 more.
He also threw for 26,920 yards in his career and held the pro football record with 277 interceptions until Brett Favre passed him in 2007. His points record stood until it was topped by several players in recent years.
"It certainly doesn't bother me," Blanda said about losing the scoring record. "The one record I was happy to get rid of was the one for the most interceptions."
A moment of silence was held in Blanda's honor before Monday night's game.
It was a five-game stretch for Oakland in 1970 that is the lasting imprint of his career. As a 43-year-old, Blanda led the Raiders to four wins and one tie with late touchdown passes or field goals.
Later that season, he became the oldest quarterback to play in a championship game, throwing two touchdown passes and kicking a field goal in Oakland's 27-17 loss to Baltimore in the AFC title game. His performance that season earned him The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.
Blanda joined the Oilers of the new American Football League in 1960 and played 16 seasons before hanging it up for good after the 1975 campaign. He led the Oilers to the first two AFL titles, beating the Chargers for the championship after the 1960 and '61 seasons.
He nearly won a third straight title when he led the Oilers back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to the Dallas Texans in the 1962 title game before losing in double overtime.
"George Blanda will always be remembered as a legend of our game," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, "including his amazing career longevity of 26 seasons in four different decades. George's multi-talented flair for the dramatic highlighted the excitement of pro football during an important period of growth for our sport."