The majesty of Steve Bono’s 76-yard touchdown run might never be seen in the NFL again | Dorktown

– Alex, if there’s one thing
that’s true about Dorktown, it’s that we never find the
best stories on purpose. We think we are, but we find the best stories on accident. We found this one while researching your Barry Sanders piece. Could you tell the
folks what that’s about? – So we had a written
post about Barry Sanders and how he sort of monopolized
super long runs in the NFL, and the tragic story of how he doesn’t get to finish them off in the
end zone when they got close. And in telling that story, we came across a different story that reaffirmed just how
beautiful a sport this is. And we had to call an emergency audible. – We did. Oout of 10, what would you rate the
strangeness of this play out of 10? – Out of 10?
– Yeah. – An 11. – 45. (chuckles) (soothing music) – [Jon] We begin this story with the 1990s QB Depth Charts of the Chiefs and 49ers. These two teams are in different parts of the country, play in
different conferences, almost never play each other, and generally have absolutely
nothing to do with each other. Except for this. Here’s the hero of our story, Steve Bono. Years prior, Bono was in San Francisco serving as the 3rd-string quarterback behind Joe Montana and Steve Young. In ’93, the Chiefs traded for Montana and the next season they said ‘hey, why not’ and they traded for Bono too. The Niners, now in need of a
backup, drafted Elvis Grbac. Chiefs said, ‘Oh, hey, you got another quarterback? cool.’ And then they signed him too. This is all part of one of the
strangest behavioral patterns I’ve ever seen throughout
all of NFL history. Take a look, this is every
game the Kansas City Chiefs have ever won, playoffs included. In red, we see all the
games the Chiefs won with a quarterback they drafted. In white we see every game they won with some other jerk
they signed or traded for. For example, back in the ’60s we see all the wins
quarterbacked by Len Dawson, who the Chiefs did not draft, in white. And of course we see
the wins of the nascent Patrick Mahomes era in red. As you can see, the Chiefs have won the
vast majority of their games with quarterbacks they didn’t draft. This is pretty weird to begin with. And mostly it underscores the
Chiefs’ general disinterest in drafting quarterbacks over the years. But what’s far weirder is just how many of these wins came specifically
from ex-49ers quarterbacks. As of the end of the 2018 season, the Chiefs had won 149 games with QBs who came from San Francisco. That’s nearly a third of all Chiefs wins in the history of the franchise. And more than doubled the
number of Chiefs games won by Chiefs-drafted quarterbacks. Why? Well, the presence of Paul Hackett explains a small fraction of it. Hackett was Montana’s
QB coach in San Fran, found himself in Kansas
City a decade later, and was instrumental in
bringing Montana to the Chiefs, I guess it’s possible
that his relationship with the Niners was also a minor factor in landing Bono and Grbac although that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me since Montana was the only
one he actually coached. And of course, he had absolutely nothing to
do with the acquisitions of ex-Niner Steve DeBerg, who came before, and ex-Niner Alex Smith,
who came far later. So within this 30-year
window that began in 1987, and ended in 2017. Five different ex-Niners quarterbacks combined to land 149 wins for the Chiefs. Within the same window
you know how many games the Chiefs one with
quarterbacks they drafted? Zero. In fact, in these three decades, only one chiefs drafted
quarterback ever even got to start a Chiefs game in the first place. That was Brodie Croyle, but as we saw on a previous
episode of Dorktown, Croyle didn’t win a single one
of the 10 games he started. Thanks to him, one of
the most baffling trends in NFL history remained intact. But anyway, who was Steve Bono, and why is this video about him. (soothing music) – [Alex] I’m sure Steve Bono has plenty of positive attributes as a human being, probably pays his taxes
on time and whatnot. But one thing that happened to elude him is the top flight athleticism, you tend to associate with an NFL player, or really any other elite
athletes such as Jon or myself. Across the first nine years of his career, he was never atop a team’s
quarterback depth chart, and in the time he did see the field, he never so much as rushed
for 50 yards in a season. The only two times he’d found
the end zone with his legs, were on quarterbacks sneaks. Then upon being traded
to Kansas City in 1994, he spent another year
again backing up Montana. Joe then retired giving a 33-year-old Bono his first ever chance
to lead his own team. (soothing music) Now Bono’s first nine
official rushing attempts in KC went about as you might expect from someone whose foot
speed is slower than the last five minutes of
the last day of school. We’ve got a few kneeldowns,
some unproductive QB sneaks, while his two longest
runs ended up just shy of the sticks on third down. But then came his 10th
rushing attempt as a Chief. (soothing music) – [Jon] We bring this up because it is crucial to appreciating what Bono accomplished, at approximately 1:30pm,
on October 1, 1995. We’ll watch it together because it is the very oddest touchdown run
I have ever seen in my life. But first, let’s see
it through the numbers. – [Alex] Coming into this game, there had been only 11 quarterbacks in the 75-year history of the
NFL that had ever produced a rushing attempt that
gained at least 50 yards in a regular season game,
with Greg Landry’s 76-yarder for Detroit in 1970 leading the way. Then Bono did this, becoming
the 12th quarterback ever to traverse half a football
field on a single carry, with plenty of real estate
to spare as he tied Landry on his scintillating
76-yard jaunt to paydirt. But Landry, on what was
actually a quarterback sneak, was eventually caught and dragged down by Packers DB Al Matthews, the longest touchdown run by a quarterback was when Billy Wade scored
from 66 yards out in 1960. Until Bono, that was the
only time a quarterback had ever scored from even 60 yards away. In fact, throughout the 20
years leading up to this game, this Randall Cunningham
touchdown was the only such score of even 50+ yards. – [Jon] Look at these names. It’s like a who’s who of some of the most mobile quarterbacks of all time. Cunningham, Steve McNair, Cam
Newton, RGIII, Kaepernick The only other guy here
who’s not an absolute God-tier running quarterback
is Marcus Mariota, and even then he’s still one of the faster quarterbacks in the game. And then there’s Steve. – [Alex] So while Steve was able to gain 76 yards on a single carry. Across the rest of his 15-year career, he amassed just 181 yards on the ground. Here are each of the 294 quarterbacks who have ever rushed for at
least 200 yards in their career. For this discussion, we’re only looking at pure quarterbacks, excluding guys that spent
a chunk of their career at another offensive position, like Kordell Stewart and Terrelle Pryor. On average, of the 293 QBs
not named Steve Bono, their career longest run
accounts for about 5.43% of their career total, but all the way at the very top we see our pal Bono at 29.6%. Only one quarterback in
the century-long history of the NFL has had his longest run account for even half as large a percentage of his total career output as Bono’s. Though I’m not even going to attempt a pronunciation of his last name. But that was all the way back in the ’40s, meaning no QB in the last 70 years has had an outlier even half as egregious. It was one of seven career
rushing touchdowns for Bono. As for the other six, they
covered a combined 12 yards. Yet that very same man
somehow also unleashed a run longer than any NFL player was able to muster across the entire 1992 season. – [Jon] Again, all of
this looks like a mistake. Why as a runner is Steve Bono
mentioned in the same breath as men like Garrison
Hearst, Joey Galloway, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson. How could this possibly have happened? Well, this run is unlike
any other touchdown run you have ever seen. Let’s go to the tape. Please forgive the substandard
quality of this video. Appropriately enough, it’s a bootleg. (soothing music) Chiefs and Cardinals. At the start of the 2nd quarter, it’s a scoreless game. Facing 3rd-and-one at
their own 24-yard line. The Chiefs are lining up
and a three-back formation that looks kind of archaic today. There are no wide receivers in this setup. There’s nothing subtle about it. They want one yard and
they’re going to try and get it on the ground
and everyone knows it. There’s Bono, ready to take
the snap right behind center. A full seven yards behind the line is future Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, the overwhelming favorite
to take the ball here. The season prior, when the
Chiefs ran on 3rd-and-short, they gave the ball to Allen, twice as often as everyone else combined. And when he took it he
usually got the first down. Short yardage is his specialty. This is the situation he’s here for. The only other back on
the field with any history of taking the rock is Kimble Anders, but he’s clearly not taking it here. They’re sending him in motion
to block on the left side. Fullback Tony Richardson
could legally take it, but as of this moment Marcus
Allen has 2,531 career carries. Tony Richardson has one. The big fella who will go on to become one of the best
blocking fullbacks of all time, is far better spent
clearing the lane for Alan. So, everyone in the building
sees what they expect to see as Bono appears to give the ball to Allen. There’s no reason to think this is a fake. Fake handoffs happen all the time in the form of play-action, but they’re only used
to drop back and throw. There’s literally nobody
for Bono to throw to. Everyone’s tied up. And for that reason, at this instant, Bono’s touchdown is guaranteed. Yes, he’s seven yards
deep in the backfield. Yes, he’s the slowest man alive, and yes at this particular moment, he’s running backwards. Doesn’t matter. Every Cardinal on the
field has taken the bait. They’ve all been absorbed into this big ol’ football custard. Nothing is escaping this
entanglement of limbs. The Cardinals still don’t
know Bono has the ball. But even if they did, they’re too physically locked
up to do anything about it. At frame number 36, the Arizona Cardinals have disappeared from the screen entirely. And they’ll never be seen again. They’re trapped forever
in this hideous mosaic, frozen in time, leaving Bono
and his friend, Joe Valerio, to bumble into the future. This is no longer a play, it’s a parade. (soothing music) There is one player who sneaks into the 87th and final frame
of this particular shot. I’m not positive but I
think it’s Marcus Allen and belly-flopping into view, seemingly incredulous over
what has just happened, Allen at this point is
a 14-year NFL veteran. He’s won a Super Bowl,
he’s won an MVP award. He’s seen and done everything else. But he has never ever
seen a play like this. Nobody has. How did Arizona put themselves
in this terrible position? Well, let’s make some
time for an old friend. Longtime viewers may remember Buddy Ryan as the man who collaborated
with Randall Cunningham to run the most unsportsmanlike
play in NFL history. But that was in Philly. Here’s Alex Rubenstein to introduce you to the Ryan family and
their adventures in Arizona. (soothing music) – [Alex] The head coach of these Cardinals was buddy Ryan, renowned
for a couple reasons. One stems from his time
running the Oilers defense when he threw this haymaker against his own team’s offensive
coordinator, Kevin Gilbride. The other was for being the
architect of what’s known as the 46 Defense that rose
to prominence in the 1980s, during his tenure coordinating
Chicago’s vicious D. The 46 is an extremely
aggressive, attacking defense. Here is a basic offensive formation, especially during that era. Here is a relatively
standard defensive alignment to counter it. However, what Ryan’s D would
do is pinch its line in to have both defensive
tackles and an end head up on the three interior offensive linemen. This would inhibit
their ability to execute double team blocks or
reach the second level of the defense, while the
other end lined up outside the tackle on the offense’s weak side. Then he’d position both
of his outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage. One on the tight end’s outside shoulder, the other on his inside shoulder, while dropping a safety down to flood the box as a de facto linebacker. The idea is to stifle
the opponent’s ground game and harass the hell out
of quarterbacks to disrupt the rhythm of their passing game. However, this defensive
philosophy would also leave his team exposed on the back end if they didn’t immediately wreak havoc. So this hyper-aggressive
defensive play call Oozed the DNA of entire Ryan family, with Buddy’s twin boys,
Rex and Rob, overseeing Arizona’s front seven and
secondary respectively. They completely sold
out — 11 men crashing down to tackle a running back
that didn’t have the ball. Though that’s not necessarily
how the Ryan fam drew it up. Linebacker Seth Joyner
was actually supposed to remain in position to
provide some sort of resistance, lamenting that his role on the play was to set the edge and
contain the quarterback. But he didn’t. He was duped. Perhaps since it wasn’t a naked bootleg and Bono had Valerio out
front as a lead blocker, it wouldn’t have mattered. But Joyner would have had a
fighting chance to make a play, or at the very least, could have prevented the wondrous sight of Bono waddling to the end zone with no one else even within
the vast frame of the camera. (soothing music) Or perhaps the damage
would have been limited if the Cards possessed the
overwhelming defensive talent that Buddy enjoyed in Chicago. But there weren’t exactly
any Mike Singletarys or Richard Dents running
around that field. Not coincidentally, that
would be the final season as a football coach for
the Ryan family patriarch. As passing games started becoming
more and more sophisticated with teams frequently spreading the field and utilizing three and four-wide sets, the tenets of the 46 just couldn’t remain a viable way to attack offenses. – [Jon] Buddy Ryan’s go for broke Blitz was what made this nature hike possible. And with the 46 defense all but extinct we may never see anything like it again. We certainly haven’t seen
anything remotely like it in the decadse since. Not in the NFL. Since the day of Bono’s run, there have been 110
more NFL touchdown runs that went 76 yards or further. I looked them all up
because I wanted to know at what point of the run does
the last defender disappear from view when you watch it on TV. I found my answer and I
graphed them all like this. For example, these bars represent runs in which a defender was on screen with them until they
crossed the goal line. And these couple of bars represent runs in which the last defender disappeared from view by the time the
runner got to the 12-yard line. There was only one we
couldn’t find on video, this 82-yard Derrick
Alexander run from 1999. According to newspaper reports, it was a highly contested run in which five defenders
got their paws on him. And I think it’s safe to assume that an opposing player
was within the frame when he crossed the goal line. The 109 others I did watch
and I can tell you this, the overwhelming majority of the time, there’s a defender there at the very end. This is true of even the fastest runners. When Chris Johnson, one
of the fastest players in the history of the NFL, ripped off this 85-yarder in 2009, he didn’t let off the
gas for even a second. Didn’t matter, they had guys back there and defensive backs are a lot faster now. Sometimes, granted, the runner gets some help from the camera operator
like Dominic Rhodes in 2001. He has pursuers, but the
camera swings right in and tightens in and we have
no choice but to acknowledge that he had the TV all by himself by the time he got to the 16-yard line. In recent times, no one
has blown away the defenses as dramatically as Tre Mason did in 2014. And only then because
things went very wrong for the Raiders really early. Mason’s fullback was
permitted to plod upfield, completely untouched and throw
a crucial block to spring him. By the time he was 20
yards from the end zone. The defense had completely
gone off the air. In the 24 years since Bono, the runner to get the most airtime to himself was 2006 Warrick
Dunn, by a huge margin. Why? Well, because Fox switched
the end zone camera once he got to the opponent’s 35. Obviously, that’s cheating, but even with Dunn’s blistering speed And the Giants’ awful tackling and the ridiculously
friendly Fox cinematography, he still didn’t get the TV all to himself until he was far past midfield. After watching all these runs, I can tell you this, not a single one is even
in the same universe as the Steve Bono run, who got his own TV show
at his own 25-yard line. If you don’t like this
piece of camera work, by all means, let’s look at another. The end zone camera is all
his once he’s at his own 18. The slowest man imaginable, lined up for a traditional
play at scrimmage, kept the ball and left an
entire NFL defensive unit completely in the dust to a
degree we’d never seen before. And have never seen since. – [Alex] The closest I’ve
seen any other QB bootleg or really any running play period, dupe a defense that badly
with no one in frame was back in Alex Smith’s 2nd season on a rainy Thursday night In the Great Pacific Northwest. On a 3rd-and-long, no one on the planet was expecting Smith to keep the ball. Everyone was so fooled that
Smith started nonchalantly holding the ball out for the world to see before he even crossed
the line of scrimmage so as to not risk the officials
blowing the play dead. And yet Smith is approximately
5,700 times more athletic than Bono, his TD only covered 18 yards, and it at least had Seattle
linebacker Lofa Tatupu enter the picture at the very end. Again, Bono’s was 76 yards,
executed by a man who ran like a tranquilized turtle
wearing ankle weights, and still no defender ever
even entered his zip code. – [Jon] It’s even more striking when we see it in its original
four to three perspective. There is more emptiness. Everything’s bleached
out by the desert sun. You can’t even really see the grid lines. There’s no other team. There’s no conflict. Instead there are two
friends, going for a job. It doesn’t even look like football, and football might never
look like that again. (soothing music)

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