Blog Entry

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

Posted on: January 27, 2012 6:03 pm
Greg Cook died at the age of 65 (US Presswire).

Greg Cook badly injured his shoulder in 1969, and after that season, was never the same (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

In 1969, Greg Cook was a specimen at quarterback during his rookie year for the Bengals. He led the AFL by completing 53.9 percent of his passes for 1,854 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions (he played in only 11 of the team’s 14 games), and at the time, it was one of the best seasons ever by a rookie quarterback. He could throw the ball 70 yards, and he possessed great touch and timing.

In his rookie season, he also averaged 17.5 yards per pass – the 12th best season average in NFL/AFL history. Cook – who, at 65 years old, died Thursday – was destined to be a superstar, perhaps one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

But while that one season was the highlight of his entire playing career, Cook’s legacy indirectly impacted much of the NFL offense you watch today. Cook, you see, was the main reason Bill Walsh had to implement the West Coast offense in 1970.

“Greg was the single most talented player we’ve ever had with the Bengals,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement. “His career was tragically short due to the injury. Had he been able to stay healthy, I believe he would have been the player of his era in the NFL.

“Greg was a personal friend to me. He was a good person whose company I enjoyed over all his years as a player and after that. I feel a great loss at his passing.”

The reason you probably don’t remember Cook today is because in the third game of his rookie season, he suffered a bad shoulder injury that was later diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff. He missed the next three games, but returned for the final half of the season to finish his rookie year on a high note.

But after undergoing several surgeries to repair his shoulder, Cook would play only one more game in his career, throwing just three passes in 1973 before disappearing into the Cincinnati landscape.

Yet, Cook was a godsend for Walsh, who was helping run the Bengals offense. He had expected Cook to return for his second season in 1970, and Walsh planned to continue using Cook’s big arm to mold a downfield vertical passing attack. But without Cook, the Bengals had to go with backup Virgil Carter, who was not as talented but was considering a quick-thinking quarterback.

As Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman wrote in 2001, “Carter was able to go through his progressions quickly and throw on the go; not blessed with a big arm, but accurate. So Walsh crafted an offense to suit him, a horizontal offense with a lot of motion and underneath routes and breakoff patterns, an attack that now goes by the misnomer ‘West Coast Offense.’”

It’s a misnomer because, although Walsh had his greatest success in San Francisco, the idea was hatched in the Midwest. And though the man from whom Walsh took much of his cues in developing the offense was a longtime Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers coach, Sid Gillman had started making his passing game more horizontal when he coach at Miami (Ohio) and the University of Cincinnati in the 1940s and 1950s.

Once, Zimmerman asked Walsh how much his system would have changed if Cook had a long career. “Completely different," he said. "It would have been down the field."

And thus, how much differently would the NFL look today without the West Coast offense and Cook’s contribution? I imagine it wasn’t any consolation to Cook, but without his injury, the league could have been a vastly-different, less-exciting place.

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Since: Jan 29, 2012
Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:42 pm

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

My memories of Greg Cook are of a more personal nature. I have wonderful memories of a young man who simply adored his 9 year old son Brandon. He had a great love for his Mother, Siblings and Grandmother when she was alive, and loved going back to Chillicothe to be with family.

He played for the University of Cincinnati before he was drafted by the Bengals in 1969. He was regarded as one of, if ...not, the best quarterbacks in college football when he was selected fifth overall by Cincinnati. He was declared by the American Football League as its 1969 passing champion. This was based on average league ranking over several categories. He excelled in long passes. He posted a league-leading average of 9.41 yards per attempt. This statistic remains a Bengals record to this day. He was named AFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by Associated Press and United Press International.  (The stats I had to look up to write this.)  The stats weren't important to me when we were together.  It was the whole person, Greg Cook.

When Greg's career as a Quarterback for the Bengals ended Greg never fully rebounded. His injuries not only left him in physical pain, but I believe he was scarred even more so psychologically . I remember the New England Patriots recruiter calling but getting Greg to respond was an impossibility. Greg's career ended after a serious shoulder injury his shoulder in the third game against the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969. Oddly in 1974 the Kansas City Chiefs picked him up for a short stint and then cut him. Greg's head and heart were never again in the game.

It has been nearly 36 years since I last saw Greg. He was a dear friend to so many. His will be missed by all.

Linda Loschiavo Makofski

Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: January 28, 2012 9:27 pm

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

I was lucky enough to see 2 of Greg Cook's best NFL performances in 1969 at Nippert Stadium.  There is a reason people talk about a guy 40 years later after he only plays one season.  Anything that you hear or read from Bill Walsh or Sam Wyche or others about this guy are all absolutely true --- zero exaggeration.  The Bengals were an expansion team in 1968 and were pretty horrible -- finishing 3-11 that first year.  Then the 2nd year they start out 3-0 behind the rookie QB Greg Cook.  In his first 5 starts he beat Kansas City and Oakland.  KC finished 11-3 that year and won the Super Bowl, and Oakland had a regular season record of 12-1-1.  The ONLY loss coming to Greg Cook and the Bengals.  

Another thing I had forgotten about was that after the 1968-69 season there was a game where the World Champions (NY Jets) played the college All-Stars.  I think the Jets led 21-0 at halftime when Cook came in.  The college guys almost beat the Jets led by Cook, finally losing 26-24.  He was named MVP of that game.   What I remember most about his play was his uncanny ability to throw the deep ball --- and I mean consistently hitting guys right in stride 30-40 yards downfield.  His deep balls were like a freaking laser beam.  The other thing was how astoundingly accurate he was throwing on the dead run -- VERY decisive and with a super quick release.  The team and especially the offensive line were not very good, but those 2nd year Bengals proved they could beat anyone as long as Cook was healthy.  It's impossible (and incredibly sad) to imagine how good this guy could have been.  RIP Greg Cook.           


Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: January 28, 2012 4:14 am

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

I remember hearing about him in an NFL Network bit (top 10 one-hit wonders; he was #1).  I recall them quoting Walsh from years later saying that he thought Cook had the potential to be the greatest quarterback he ever worked with; high praise from the guy who sculpted Montana and Young.  Sucks to see such great potential ruined by the comparatively shoddy medical care of the day, even if it did help lead to a revolutionary new offense.

Since: Jan 21, 2007
Posted on: January 27, 2012 9:28 pm

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

That would be "under Bill Walsh's tutelage"........

Since: Jan 21, 2007
Posted on: January 27, 2012 9:27 pm

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

Man, did I ever remember Greg Cook as a QB in the last year of the AFL. Just think if he had surgery technology of today, I believe he would of have very, promising career until Bill Walsh's tutelage. It's a damn shame he has passed away, I guess I consider myself lucky watching AFL games on NBC back in 60's. Rest In Peace, Greg.

Since: Sep 5, 2009
Posted on: January 27, 2012 7:05 pm

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

     Same thoughts here about Cook.....but I thought he was the starter in 1970 when Cincy won the Central Division but then lost to the Colts in the playoffs.

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: January 27, 2012 6:38 pm

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

I remember Greg Cook it's a shame his career was cut short

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