In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the greatest center in franchise history.
37. Ed Flanagan
Center. 1965-74 Detroit; 1975-76 San Diego Chargers
One of the best centers in all of pro football during his career, Flanagan came to Detroit as the team’s fifth-round pick in the 1965 draft. He became the starter as a rookie when the previous starter, Bob Whitlow, was injured in training camp and another veteran, Bob Scholtz, was traded to the New York Giants. Ed would make everyone forget his predecessors by starting 139 of the team’s next 140 games at center.
When Joe Schmidt was elevated to head coach, he assembled one of the best coaching staffs in the entire NFL. Schmidt’s offensive line coach was a relatively unknown guy by the name of Chuck Knox. Under the tutelage of the man who would one day be called “Ground Chuck,” the Lions’ offensive line would become one of the league’s best. Flanagan thought highly of his position coach: “He taught me steps I never had before, like how to play percentages in the middle linebacker blitz. He also taught me little tricks about sitting back on the ball and how to set up for pass protection.”
Flanagan’s battles against Chicago Bear Dick Butkus are the stuff of legend. “Butkus was always my biggest challenge. I liked to hit Butkus,” the Lion center once remarked. “The highlight of my year is playing against (him).” Flanagan was the Lions’ co-captain from 1969-74. In addition, he was selected to play in four Pro Bowls (1970-72, ‘74). Ed played for two seasons in San Diego after being traded by Detroit for a second-round pick after the 1974 season.