January 28, 2012

MVP Profile: Earl Morrall, 1968

Quarterback, Baltimore Colts

Age: 34
13th season in pro football, 1st with Colts
College: Michigan State
Height: 6’1” Weight: 206

After leading Michigan State to a win in the Rose Bowl, Morrall was taken in the first round of the 1956 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Following a mediocre rookie season in which he backed up Y.A. Tittle, he was dealt to Pittsburgh where he became the starter and had a fair year in ’57. Two games into 1958, he was traded to Detroit in the deal that brought Bobby Layne to the Steelers and for the next seven years he shared the job with, first, Jim Ninowski and then Milt Plum. His best season with the Lions was in 1963, when he passed for 2621 yards and 24 TDs. But when new Head Coach Harry Gilmer committed to Plum for ’65, Morrall was dealt to the New York Giants. He started in 1965 and had a good year for a 7-7 team, but missed half of ’66 due to injury and was on the bench behind Fran Tarkenton in 1967. Frustrated at once again being a backup, he was traded to the Colts during the 1968 preseason to provide insurance as number two to Johnny Unitas. When Unitas suffered a major arm injury, Morrall took over as the starting quarterback.

1968 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 317 [5]
Most attempts, game – 31 vs. San Francisco 9/15
Completions – 182 [3, tied with Fran Tarkenton]
Most completions, game – 17 vs. Minnesota 11/24, vs. Atlanta 12/1
Yards – 2909 [2]
Most yards, game – 302 vs. Chicago 10/6
Completion percentage – 57.4 [3]
Yards per attempt – 9.2 [3]
TD passes – 26 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Chicago 10/6
Interceptions – 17 [4, tied with Joe Kapp, Bill Kilmer & Dick Shiner]
Most interceptions, game – 3 at Atlanta 9/22, vs. LA Rams 10/27
Passer rating – 93.2 [2](Ranked 1st in system used at time)
300-yard passing games – 1
200-yard passing games – 8

Attempts – 11
Most attempts, game - 3 (for 13 yds.) vs. San Francisco 9/15
Yards – 18
Most yards, game – 13 yards (on 3 carries) vs. San Francisco 9/15
Yards per attempt – 1.6
TDs – 1

TDs – 1
Points - 6

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 64
Most attempts, game - 25 at Cleveland, NFL Championship
Pass completions – 30
Most completions, game - 13 vs. Minnesota, Western Conf. Championship
Passing yardage – 520
Most yards, game - 280 vs. Minnesota, Western Conf. Championship
TD passes – 2
Most TD passes, game - 2 vs. Minnesota, Western Conf. Championship
Interceptions – 5
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. NY Jets, Super Bowl

Rushing attempts – 3
Most rushing attempts, game - 2 vs. NY Jets, Super Bowl
Rushing yards – -2
Most rushing yards, game - 0 at Cleveland, NFL Championship
Average gain rushing – -0.7
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, UPI, NEA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, NEA, UPI, NY Daily News, Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFL: PFWA
1st team All-Western Conference: Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Colts went 13-1 to finish first in the NFL Coastal Division while ranking second in points (402) and TDs (50). Won Western Conference Championship over Minnesota Vikings (24-14) and NFL Championship over Cleveland Browns (34-0). Lost Super Bowl to New York Jets (16-7).

Morrall returned to a backup role with the return of Unitas in 1969 and helped rally the Colts in relief in the Super Bowl win over the Cowboys following the ’70 season. He saw considerable action in place of the increasingly-brittle Unitas in 1971, but with the team undergoing a youth movement in ’72 he was traded once more, this time to the Miami Dolphins where he was reunited with his first coach in Baltimore, Don Shula. When starter Bob Griese went down with a broken leg, Morrall led the team the rest of the way to an undefeated season, but gave way to Griese in the playoffs. He stayed on another four years as a backup, finally retiring following the 1976 season at age 42 and after 21 seasons in the NFL. Often regarded as the greatest backup quarterback in league history, he twice was selected to the Pro Bowl and ended up passing for 20,809 yards and 161 TDs.


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 2/10/14]