December 20, 2011

MVP Profile: Frank Gifford, 1956

Halfback, New York Giants


Age: 26
5th season in pro football & with Giants
College: Southern California
Height: 6’1” Weight: 205

Prelude:
Chosen by the Giants in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft, the versatile Gifford was used primarily on defense and was selected to the Pro Bowl following the ’53 season as a defensive halfback (modern cornerback). Under new Head Coach Jim Lee Howell (and offensive assistant Vince Lombardi), he was shifted to offense full-time in 1954 and again was named to the Pro Bowl. With his outside speed as a runner and pass receiver and option passing ability, Gifford proved to be a formidable weapon. In 1955, he gained 902 all-purpose yards (351 rushing, 437 on 33 receptions, 114 on kickoff returns) and not only was picked to a third Pro Bowl but was a consensus first-team All-Pro selection.

1956 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 159 [7]
Yards – 819 [5]
Average gain – 5.2 [5]
TDs – 5 [9, tied with five others]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 51 [3]
Yards – 603 [7, tied with Elroy Hirsch]
Average gain – 11.8
TDs – 4 [12, tied with six others]

Passing
Pass attempts – 5
Pass completions – 2
Passing yards – 35
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 1

Kicking
Field goals – 1 [14, tied with Sid Watson & Bud McFadin]
Field goal attempts – 2 [16]
Percentage – 50.0
PATs – 8 [14, tied with Bert Rechichar]
PAT attempts – 9 [15]
Longest field goal – 17 yards at San Francisco 9/30

All-Purpose yards – 1422 [5]

Scoring
TDs – 9 [6, tied with Lenny Moore]
FG – 1
PATs – 8
Points – 65 [10]

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship vs. Chicago Bears)
Rushing attempts – 5
Rushing yards – 30
Average gain rushing – 6.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Pass receptions – 4
Pass receiving yards - 131
Average yards per reception – 32.8
Pass Receiving TDs - 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: UPI, NEA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, NEA, UPI, NY Daily News, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Giants went 8-3-1 to finish first in the Eastern Conference and also led the conference in team rushing (2129 yards). Defeated Chicago Bears for NFL Championship (47-7).

Aftermath:
Gifford continued to excel at halfback, gaining 1116 yards from scrimmage in 1957 and 1308 in ’59. Along the way, he was again a consensus first-team All-Pro in both of those seasons and a Pro Bowl selectee in ’58 as well. A severe concussion suffered due to a tackle by Eagles LB Chuck Bednarik ended his career as a running halfback eight games into the 1960 season, but after taking a year off he returned as a flanker in ’62 and averaged 20.4 yards per catch on 39 receptions for 796 yards. He followed up with a 42-catch, 657-yard performance in 1963 when he returned to the Pro Bowl, but retired to move into a long broadcasting career after a 1964 season in which the team as a whole declined. Overall, Gifford rushed for 3609 yards on 840 carries with 34 TDs and caught 367 passes for another 5434 yards and 43 TDs, was named to 8 Pro Bowls and was a consensus first-team All-Pro four times. He also threw 14 TD passes and, on defense, had two interceptions, one that he returned for a score. The Giants retired his #16 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1977.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/11/14]