March 30, 2011

MVP Profile: Johnny Unitas, 1957

Quarterback, Baltimore Colts

Age: 24
2nd season in pro football & with Colts
College: Louisville
Height: 6’1” Weight: 190

Unitas was chosen in the 9th round of the 1955 NFL draft by the Steelers, but failed to make the team in the preseason. After playing semi-pro football, he was signed by the Colts to back up starting QB George Shaw. When Shaw went down with a broken kneecap four games into the ’56 season, Unitas got his chance, showed potential, and held onto the job.

1957 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 301 [1]
Most attempts, game – 37 at San Francisco 12/8
Completions – 172 [2]
Most completions, game – 23 at San Francisco 12/8
Yards – 2550 [1]
Most yards, game – 296 at San Francisco 12/8
Completion percentage – 57.1 [3]
Yards per attempt – 8.5 [2]
TD passes – 24 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Detroit 9/29, at Detroit 10/20
Interceptions – 17 [2]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Detroit 9/29, vs. Pittsburgh 11/3
Passer rating – 88.0 [1](Ranked 3rd in system used at time)
200-yard passing games – 8

Attempts – 42
Yards – 171
Yards per attempt – 3.5
TDs – 1

TDs – 1
Points – 6

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: NEA
2nd team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News
Pro Bowl

The Colts went 7-5 to finish third in the NFL Western Conference, contending throughout the season but finishing a game behind the leaders after losing their last two games on the West Coast.

The 1957 breakout season was just the beginning for Unitas. He led the Colts to back-to-back championships in 1958 and ’59, the first culminating in a sudden death classic against the Giants. Unitas was an outstanding play-caller as well as passer with a quick release and adept at throwing long, short, or in between. His 1957 season was part of a record 47-straight-game TD passing streak that ended in 1960. Unitas passed for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns in a career that extended until 1973. He was an MVP three more times, was named to 10 Pro Bowls, and selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Unitas had his #19 retired by the Colts and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1979.


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 2/15/14]