No. 9 – Frank Filchock (1938-1941, 1944-1945)
Frank Filchock’s complicated pro football career began in Pittsburgh in 1938, but he was moved to Washington midway through his rookie season. One year earlier, the Washington Football Team had selected Sammy Baugh in the draft to lead its backfield. This was in the era of the single wing, an offensive formation in which any one of four different backfield players might take the center snap, and run, pass or even kick depending on the situation. Neither Baugh nor Filchock was listed as a quarterback during those years – both were considered halfbacks in the single wing setup.
Baugh was the primary passer, but Filchock threw a lot too. Enough to lead the NFL in passing touchdowns in 1939. His career touchdown percentage rate of 6.9% would place him fourth in NFL history if he had enough qualifying throws. And during his Washington years, that rate was 7.4% On the other hand, about one in every ten passes Filchock threw resulted in an interception. It was a different era.
Filchock served in the navy during World War II. By the time he returned to the NFL, Washington had decided to move to more modern T-formation offense, with a distinct quarterback under center. That was usually Baugh, though Filchock filled in often enough to again lead the league in touchdown passes in 1944, despite being a backup. He grew tired of the backup role and requested a trade, which was granted after the 1945 season. He led his new team, the New York Giants, to the championship game in 1946 when his NFL career came crashing down in a gambling scandal. He would continue playing in Canada, but would only make the briefest of returns to the NFL stage for the Baltimore Colts in 1950.
At the beginning of Filchock’s career, Washington owner George Preston Marshall had lost future Hall of Fame runner Cliff Battles when the owner refused the player’s request for a modest raise. That would be a hallmark of Marshall’s ownership. Sammy Baugh once commented on his attitude toward these money-saving moves. Baugh said “Only one guy I ever told Mr. Marshall to keep. I said, ‘Don’t ever get rid of Filchock. He’s a hell of a good quarterback.’” As endorsements go, that’s a pretty good one.