Before Pat Fischer came along, defensive backs weren’t really known for their physicality against a receiver at the line of scrimmage.
But because a receiver’s routes are all about timing, Fischer and his coaches thought it’d be to their advantage to do whatever they could to knock a second or two off that offensive process.
Fischer, an all-time great Redskins defensive back, talked today with Larry Michael, the Voice of the Redskins, for a taping of “Redskins Chronicles,” which airs each Saturday from 10:30 to 11 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet. He discussed the process of revolutionizing press coverage in the NFL in the 1960s and 70s as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Redskins.
“What we called ‘pressing’ or ‘clamping,’ different terms have been used to express it, but it was an introduction of a style of play that the NFL actually had never had,” Fischer said. “And it took offenses and receivers three or four years to make the adjustments to that type of play, and that was to go play right up at the line of scrimmage.”
Fischer said he was one of the first defensive backs in the NFL to utilize press coverage.
“Nobody did it — nobody,” he told Michael. “You just played the defenses, and the normal positioning was like six or seven yards, and slightly to the outside of the receiver.”
“I attacked him right at the line of scrimmage,” Fischer continued. “The question is, ‘How long should the quarterback have if he takes a five-step drop?’ Should a receiver have four, six seconds? How long does it take for a receiver, without interference, to run the 12-yard out? Four-and-a-half seconds. That’s it. And your big, fat defensive ends ought to be making some penetration, so the quarterback should not have more than four, four-and-a-half seconds, to get into his three- or five-step drop, and the ball should be thrown.”
Fischer said he didn’t think he had a shot to make an NFL roster when the Nebraska product became the 17th-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 1961. Getting drafted at all, Fischer said, was a huge deal.
“There was no way that I ever thought I would make the team,” he said. “It was exciting that I was drafted by an NFL team. That was significant to be able to say at least you were drafted. You didn’t have to say that you were the No. 1, 2 or 3 or that you were drafted in the 17th [round]. I didn’t have to identify that — I was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Once on the squad, Fischer, who signed with the Redskins in 1968 and was a Pro Bowler the next year, said he all the motivation he needed to keep playing — and playing well.
“My motivation came from the large debt that I had,” said Fischer, who is as energetic today at 72 as he was in the prime of his playing days. “What I did was make the first loan from Omaha National Bank, and they wanted their money back, so I thought, ‘I better figure out a way to stay in the National Football League.’”
Fischer, who helped lead the Redskins to an appearance in Super Bowl VII in 1972, finished his 17-year career with 56 interceptions, 27 of which came as a defensive back in Washington.
He was ranked in 2002 as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins.
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