December 23, 2013

MVP Profile: Johnny Unitas, 1967

Quarterback, Baltimore Colts

Age:  34
12th season in pro football & with Colts
College: Louisville
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 196

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 and 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. He broke out in 1957, leading the league in pass attempts (301), yards (2550), TD passes (24), and yards per attempt (8.5). The Colts contended and Unitas was selected to the Pro Bowl and received MVP consideration. It set the stage for a championship season in ’58, with Unitas leading the NFL with 19 TD passes despite missing two games due to injury and then leading the Colts to a title with a memorable overtime win over the Giants. Unitas was chosen to a second Pro Bowl and was a consensus first-team All-Pro for the first time. An outstanding play-caller as well as passer with a quick release, he was adept at throwing long, short, or in between. He followed up in 1959 by leading the NFL in pass attempts (367), completions (193), yards (2899), and a then-record 32 touchdown passes. The Colts repeated as league champs and Unitas received MVP as well as All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition. He continued to excel, although the Colts went into a brief decline. His record 47-straight-game TD passing streak ended in 1960 (and remained the standard until 2012) and he led the NFL in passing attempts, completions, and yards twice more and TD passes once through 1966, by which point he had achieved nine Pro Bowl selections in ten years. Unitas was having another outstanding season in 1965 until felled by a knee injury, still garnering consensus first-team All-NFL honors.

1967 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 436 [2]
Most attempts, game – 39 vs. Dallas 12/3
Completions – 255 [2]
Most completions, game – 22 vs. Atlanta 9/17, vs. San Francisco 10/1, vs. Dallas 12/3
Yards – 3428 [2]
Most yards, game – 401 vs. Atlanta 9/17
Completion percentage – 58.5 [1]
Yards per attempt – 7.9 [3]
TD passes – 20 [5, tied with Frank Ryan]
Most TD passes, game – 4 at Atlanta 11/12
Interceptions – 16 [8, tied with four others]
Most interceptions, game – 3 at Chicago 10/8, vs. Dallas 12/3
Passer rating – 83.6 [4]
400-yard passing games – 1
300-yard passing games – 3
200-yard passing games – 10

Attempts – 22
Most attempts, game - 4 (for 18 yds.) at Minnesota 10/22
Yards – 89
Most yards, game – 18 yards (on 4 carries) at Minnesota 10/22
Yards per attempt – 4.0
TDs – 0

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

The Colts went 11-1-2 to finish second in the Coastal Division while leading the NFL in total offense (5008 yards) and finished a close second to the Rams in scoring (394 points) and tied with LA for second in touchdowns (48). While not losing a game until the season finale, it meant missing out on the division title and postseason.

A severe elbow injury caused Unitas to miss virtually all of the 1968 season and he showed wear over the remainder of his 18-year career that ended with the Chargers in 1973, although he quarterbacked the Colts through one last championship season in 1970. For his career, Unitas set then-NFL standards for pass attempts (5186), completions (2830), yards (40,239) and touchdowns (290). He was named to 10 Pro Bowls and received first- or second-team All-NFL honors eight times. 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).