“They’re killing me, Whitey!”

Lou Saban
Lou Saban makes his point as the Broncos settle for a 20-20 tie with Houston on Nov. 16, 1969.

“They’re killing me, Whitey; they’re killing me!” Lou Saban’s immortal quote came on this date, when he wore a wireless microphone from AFL Films during the Broncos’ game with Houston.

One reason why Saban wore out his welcome in so many career stops was his volcanic emotions. On the sideline, Saban ran on a jagged edge between love for his players and verbal destruction.

The game wasn’t memorable—except for the fact that the Broncos blew a 20-3 lead and settled for a 20-20 tie that dropped them to 4-5-1. But Saban’s exclamations live on, including two in particular:

“My daughter could do better!”

… and, of course …

“They’re killing me, Whitey; they’re killing me!”

“Whitey” was assistant coach Whitey Dovell, a football lifer that Saban had brought with him from Maryland. A decade later, after leaving the Broncos, he would return to the team’s staff. Two decades later, he would be one of the central figures in the revival of the arch-rival Kansas City Chiefs as their director of player personnel, for whom he was still working when he died of cancer, aged 65, in 1992. But despite Dovell’s lengthy resume, he went into history as the answer to a football trivia question: “Just who was ‘Whitey’?”

Whitey was a man who, like the rest of the coaching staff, couldn’t control a force of nature like Saban.

“He just fired guys during the game,” recalled Floyd Little. “He fired the kickoff team at halftime in Houston when we played at old Rice Stadium. He challenged all of our players when we played an exhibition game in Utah. He was a wild man because he was a player for Cleveland and he was very competitive and he wanted to win.”