1992 Pittsburgh Steelers season
An emergency preseason trade for quarterback Stan Humphries — the incumbent starter, John Friesz, was injured — was looking to be a bust and Bobby Ross, who had won a share of the national championship with Georgia Tech in , was not impressing in his first stint as an N. But San Diego then had a bye week and emerged from it a different team. The Chargers closed the season with 9 wins in 10 games. The only team to qualify for the playoffs after starting , the Chargers shut out the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round before they were crushed by the Miami Dolphins in the second round.
Two seasons later, the core of this Chargers team went to the Super Bowl. Detroit attacked San Francisco through the air as Barry Sanders was unable to do much on the ground, gaining only 24 yards on 17 carries. The win did not provide much momentum; through nine games, Detroit was But something clicked, and the Lions closed the season with a seven-game winning streak that included two wins over the Chicago Bears, a team they held off for a wild-card spot by one game.
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The magic did not last. Detroit lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs, But the holdout and Harris' departure remain among those regrettable moments both player and team alike wish they could erase. Both sides underestimated the other -- Harris misjudged the Steelers' stubbornness when it comes to contract issues, and the Steelers underestimated what Harris meant to their fans.
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They discovered that when coach Chuck Noll referred to "Franco who? Noll had used similar lines in the past to describe other absent players, but many fans felt the comment was unacceptably harsh, and Noll was long criticized for it.
Harris, 34 at the time, knew his career was about over -- but didn't think he was finished. He had rushed for 1, yards in , and the Steelers were preparing a major celebration in honor of him breaking Brown's record. The money that separated the two sides would constitute a bonus clause in one of today's NFL player contracts.
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Yet it drove a wedge between one of the most popular teams in NFL history and one of its signature players. Even today, Franco Harris is one of a relative few star athletes easily identifiable by only his first name. He probably isn't recalled as fondly in Seattle, which has had only one other Hall of Fame player -- receiver Steve Largent.
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Harris signed with the Seahawks in early September to replace star running back Curt Warner, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. Harris, admittedly drained by the long Steelers impasse and with his enthusiasm flagging, was limited to yards on 68 carries, a 2.
He never played in another NFL game. Even though I felt good physically and thought I was in really good shape, I just wasn't ready mentally, and mentally is what it's all about.
Even though I tried to, I just couldn't do it," he said. But they had losing records three of the next four seasons and didn't have another 1,rusher until seven years later, Barry Foster in Harris, who now owns a Pittsburgh-based bakery, spoke to an estimated Detroit business leaders and entrepreneurs at an NFL diversity forum this week and will stay in town for the Super Bowl.
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