Handler, Phil "Motsy" : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Handler, Phil "Motsy"

Philip Jacob Handler

Handler played guard for Texas Christian University (!) and received the nickname "Motsy" when he missed practice one day. According to Handler, the "coach asked me where I had been. Before I could answer he said in front of the whole team, 'You must have been home eating matzos.'" After his college career ended, Handler played six seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Cardinals (and was an All-Pro guard) before becoming a coach in the NFL.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. July 21, 1908 - d. December 8, 1968

Career Highlights:
Handler was a key player for TCU (Texas Christian University) in the late 1920s. In 1928, the Horned Frogs had a record of 8-2-0. In 1929, Handler was named All-America honorable mention and TCU finished with a record of 9-0-1; the tie came on the last game of the season against Southern Methodist. Phil regarded the 1929 Texas-TCU game as the best of his college career, saying, "We defeated Texas 15-12. It was the first time TCU had ever beaten Texas on their home field. I threw the key block that sprang...the winning touchdown."

After graduating in 1930, Handler played six seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals. From 1931-1933, he was an All-Pro guard for the Cardinals, who consistently had losing records (for example, 2-6-2 in 1932 and 1-9-1 in 1933).

In 1935, the team enjoyed its best season, as Handler was named second team All-NFL (UP). They finished with a record of 6-4-2 and defeated the Green Bay Packers three times; a loss to the Chicago Bears on the final game of the season kept them out of the post-season. One of Handler's teammates on the Cardinals from 1930-1935 was All-Pro lineman Lou Gordon. Following the 1936 season, Handler retired after playing in a career total of 53 NFL games.

During the 1936 season, Motsy doubled as the Cardinals' line coach (he played in only two games) and remained in the position after he retired from playing. In 1943, with the NFL at a low point due to World War II, Handler took over as the head coach of the Cardinals. The Cards found a place in history as one of the all-time bad teams going 0-10 -- two of their three tailbacks had negative rushing yardage!

In 1944, due to World War II manpower shortage, the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers were granted permission to merge for one year under the name Card-Pitt (the merger automatically dissolved the last day of the season). Handler and Walt Kiesling (Pitt) split the coaching duties and the team had a record of 0-10. In 1945, Handler remained the sole head coach of the Cards, who finished the season with a record of 1-9.

In 1946, Handler returned as line coach of the Cardinals and saw them finally climb out of the NFL basement. In 1947, behind the great play of Biggie Goldberg, the Cardinals won the NFL Championship. They returned to the championship game the next year, but lost the game. Following the 1948 season, the Cardinals' head coach resigned and Handler was made co-coach with Buddy Parker. After an 38-7 opening day victory over the Washington Redskins, the team dropped five of its next six games. Handler was moved into a front office job and Parker was made the sole head coach.

Handler remained with the Cardinals until 1951, when he became a line coach for the Chicago Bears. Phil said the highlight of his coaching career was in 1963 when, "...the Bears played Green Bay in a game which went a long way towards determining the NFL's Western Conference champion. We won 26-7 and I was awarded the game ball by the Bears players." Chicago defeated the New York Giants to capture the NFL championship that season.

Fort Worth, Texas

Career Dates:
Handler played guard at Texas Christian University from 1928-1929. He then played guard in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals from 1930-1936 and served as line coach with the Cardinals from 1946-1951.

Physical description:
5'11", 200 pounds (in college)
5'11", 225 pounds ( in pros)

Use links below to navigate through the football section of Jews In Sports.

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The Encyclopedia of Football, by Roger Treat (New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1976 -- 14th Edition)
Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League, edited by Bob Carroll, Michael Gershman, David Neft, and John Thorn (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)

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