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Musings: Five Horned Frogs we don’t hate

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Really, do we hate any of them? Really?

BEAST
BEAST

If you thought we were exaggerating about there being too many Texas Longhorns we don’t hate last week, we had a very similar problem with this week’s victims, the TCU Horned Frogs. The relationship between TCU and Kansas State has been excessively cordial since the Frogs joined the conference, largely because their highest-profile personality is former Wildcat (and once almost Wildcat head coach) Gary Patterson.

The shine of that relationship has faded a bit over the last few years as Patterson has gotten sort of whiny and petulant with the press. But none of that has ever been directed our way, and the rivalry with TCU, such as it is, has been hard-fought yet without any real rancor. We’re usually glad to see either TCU’s taillights or Fort Worth in the rear-view mirror, but it’s mostly because playing them is always one heartbeat away from a coronary.

With that, we present the five Horned Frogs we just can’t bring ourselves to hate.

5) Davey O’Brien

The man has an award — which Michael Bishop won in 1998, recall — named after him. What other reason do we need?

O’Brien spent his first two years at TCU as a backup to another guy we’ll talk about in a moment. Handed the keys in 1937, O’Brien had a relatively pedestrian junior season, but went off as a senior in 1938. He set the NCAA record for passing yards in a season with 1,457 and tossed 19 touchdown passes as he led TCU to an undefeated season, a Sugar Bowl win, and the national championship.

O’Brien’s passing yardage record would be tied in 1941 by Bud Schwenk of Washington (MO), but would hold until Nevada’s Stan Heath obliterated it in 1948 by breaking the 2,000 yard mark.

He’d set another record a year later. O’Brien was drafted fourth overall by the Eagles, and as a rookie he unloaded for an NFL-record 1,324 yards. But O’Brien had a bit of a problem with completing passes to the other guys — 34 interceptions in two seasons against only 11 touchdowns — and the Eagles went a combined 2-19-1 in those two years.

Despite Philadelphia offering O’Brien a raise, he retired after only playing 22 games. He joined the FBI, staying there for ten years before going to work for Haroldson Hunt.

Yes, that was Lamar’s father, and O’Brien advised Lamar during the creation of the AFL. So Davey O’Brien is also partially responsible for the Chiefs. Imagine.

Elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955, O’Brien passed away from cancer in 1977.

4) Jake Arrieta

We actually got one objection on this nomination, but ultimately what really sells Arrieta is his work on such fantastic shows as Burn Notice, Deadwood, Raising Hope, and Justified.

What? You mean that was Garret Dillahunt, not Arrieta? Prove it.

Arrieta’s TCU career predated the Big 12, so he never had any impact on K-State. As a pro, he struggled in Baltimore before being traded to the Cubs, where he erupted and won the 2015 Cy Young award before helping to lead the Cubs to their 108-year-drought-breaking win in the 2016 World Series. In the NLDS that year, Arrietta homered off Madison Bumgarner; he was the first pitcher ever to do that, and anyone who embarrasses Bumgarner is okay with us. He’s also tossed a couple of no-nos.

He’s now moved on to the Phillies, and while we can joke about his uncanny resemblance to Dillahunt, Arrieta actually has appeared on the small screen: he had cameo appearances on both Veep back in 2012 and Chicago Fire in 2017.

3) Sammy Baugh

This is the guy who Davey O’Brien held a clipboard for.

Slingin’ Sammy practically invented passing. The NCAA didn’t even officially keep track of passing yards until the year after Baugh graduated, and at the time Baugh held the unofficial NCAA record for passing yards in a season with 1,241 in 1935, the record O’Brien would later break.

Joining the Redskins in 1937, Baugh changed the pro game. He led the league in passing as a rookie despite only starting five games and led the Skins to the NFL title; after a couple of years in which he only started four games combined, he started every game in 1941 and led the league again, setting the NFL record with 1,367 yards — breaking, in a wild turn, O’Brien’s record set the previous year.

Another NFL title followed in 1942, a year in which Baugh reset his own personal record with 1,524 yards but fell well behind Cecil Isbell of the Packers, who became the first NFL passer to eclipse the 2000-yard mark for a single season. In 1943, Baugh threw 23 touchdowns, putting him at 80 for his career; that set the NFL record, and he’d hold it for 19 years. Only Fran Tarkenton held it longer, at 20. Baugh also reached 8,379 career yards that season, setting a new benchmark in that statistic as well. He’d remain the NFL’s career passing leader until 1958.

As 1947 dawned, the single-season passing yardage record had been broken three more times, with Sid Luckman’s 2,194 yards holding the top spot since 1943. All Baugh did that year was throw for 2,938 yards, and that mark would hold as the league record until Johnny Unitas finally broke the 3000-yard mark in 1960.

Baugh earned NFL Player of the Year honors for that 1947 performance, and he’d repeat in 1948 after throwing for another 2,599 yards. Sadly, the Redskins suffered from a disease that would afflict a lot of pass-happy teams over the decades; they weren’t very good, going 4-8 in 1947 and 7-5 in 1948.

That wouldn’t exactly be Baugh’s last hurrah, but his career was winding down. He retired after the 1952 season with 21,886 passing yards and 187 touchdowns. Neither number is enough to even sniff the list of top quarterbacks now; hell, Patrick Mahomes is already almost halfway to Baugh’s yardage mark and 40% of the way to his touchdown tally.

The crazy thing about all this: Baugh wasn’t just a quarterback. In 1943, he led the league in interceptions — as a free safety. Five times, Baugh led the NFL in punting average, and still to this day holds the NFL record with 51.4 yards per punt in 1940.

But Baugh was really incredible, and worth remembering. He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and was one of the charter inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he died in 2008, he was the last surviving member of that inaugural class.

2) Brandon Finnegan

Finnegan was a hometown boy when he was drafted by the Rangers in 2011, and he stayed a hometown boy when he opted instead to attend TCU. For us, however, the important part is what happened in 2014: the Royals drafted him in the first round.

Late that year, Finnegan had already earned a call-up to Kansas City. He provided solid bullpen work for the Royals as they broke their 30-year playoff drought, and was a key factor in both the epic Wild Card victory over Oakland and the Game 2 win in the ALDS which sent Kansas City home with a 2-0 lead.

A couple of weeks later, Finnegan made history as the first player to ever play in both the College World Series and the actual World Series in the same year. Of course, he got blasted by the Giants in Game 4, but he was far from the only culprit. Besides, the only Giant we really hate from that series is, you guessed it, Madison Bumgarner.

Finnegan still got a World Series ring in 2015, however, and he was partially responsible for the Royals getting there despite being traded to the Reds on July 26... because he was the primary piece of the trade for Johnny Cueto.

Alas, after getting to Cincinnati, he career turned south. Injuries have plagued him, and he was released prior to the 2019 season without even being claimed off waivers.

1) LaDainian Tomlinson

Come on. We don’t even have to explain this one.

Honorable Mention:

Scott Brooks, Tank Carder, Andy Dalton, Kenneth Davis, Guy Morriss, Jim Swink, Kenrich Williams

Next week, we try to find five people from Texas Tech who don’t completely stink.