April 16, 2014

MVP Profile: Craig Morton, 1977

Quarterback, Denver Broncos

Age:  34
13th season in pro football, 1st with Broncos
College: California
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 214

Chosen by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1965 NFL draft (he was chosen by the Raiders in the AFL), Morton saw limited action as backup to Don Meredith for four seasons before taking over as the starting quarterback in 1969. A classic dropback passer with a good arm and limited mobility, he threw for 2619 yards and 21 TDs while averaging a healthy 8.7 yards per attempt in ’69 and in 1970 the Cowboys won the NFC Championship as Morton led the league with 8.8 yards per attempt. However, he had a rough outing in the Super Bowl loss to the Colts and then lost the starting job to Roger Staubach during the ’71 season. He stepped in when Staubach went down with an injury in 1972 but went back to the bench until he was traded to the New York Giants during the ’74 season. While expectations were high, the Giants were mediocre and Morton took a beating, tossing far more interceptions (49) than touchdowns (29) over the course of 34 games, only 8 of which were wins. Following the 1976 season, he was traded to the up-and-coming Broncos.

1977 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 254 [16]
Most attempts, game – 32 vs. Oakland 10/30, at San Diego 11/13
Completions – 131 [17]
Most completions, game – 19 vs. Oakland 10/30
Yards – 1929 [13]
Most yards, game – 242 vs. Oakland 10/30
Completion percentage – 51.6 [16]
Yards per attempt – 7.6 [2]
TD passes – 14 [9]
Most TD passes, game – 2 at San Diego 11/13, vs. Baltimore 11/27, at Houston 12/4
Interceptions – 8
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Kansas City 11/20
Passer rating – 82.0 [4]
200-yard passing games – 1

Attempts – 31
Most attempts, game – 6 (for 15 yds.) vs. St. Louis 9/18
Yards – 125
Most yards, game – 35 yards (on 5 carries) at Seattle 10/2
Yards per attempt – 4.0
TDs – 4

TDs – 4
Points - 24

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 58
Most attempts, game - 23 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Pass completions – 25
Most completions, game - 11 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Passing yardage – 427
Most yards, game - 224 vs. Oakland, AFC Championship
TD passes – 4
Most TD passes, game - 2 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff; vs. Oakland, AFC Championship
Interceptions – 5
Most interceptions, game – 4 vs. Dallas, Super Bowl

Rushing attempts – 7
Most rushing attempts, game – 5 (for 0 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – -4
Most rushing yards, game – 0 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – -0.6
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
AFC Player of the Year: Sporting News
NFL Comeback Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-AFC: Sporting News

Broncos went 12-2 to finish first in the AFC West with the conference’s best record, achieving the first postseason appearance in franchise history. Won AFC Divisional playoff over Pittsburgh Steelers (34-21) and AFC Championship over Oakland Raiders (20-17). Lost Super Bowl to Dallas Cowboys (27-10).

The Broncos topped the AFC West again in 1978, but Morton had a lesser season and split time with backups Norris Weese and Craig Penrose. The team had trouble putting points on the board in ’79, with Morton again seeing most of the action behind center, and while his passing yards (2626) and touchdowns (16) went up, so did his interceptions (19). Matt Robinson was obtained from the Jets to challenge him in 1980, but Morton regained the starting job and, with the arrival of ex-Dallas teammate Dan Reeves as head coach in ’81, he enjoyed a revival as he achieved a career-high 3195 passing yards and tied his previous best with 21 TD passes while averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. But it was a last hurrah as he finished out his career in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Overall, Morton passed for 27,908 yards and 183 TDs, with 187 interceptions, over the course of 18 years in the NFL. 11,895 of the yards and 74 TDs came with the Broncos, where he enjoyed his greatest success and became part of that team’s Ring of Fame in 1988.


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). 

1 comment:

  1. Talk about a checkered career. The big raps on Morton were his almost total immobility and inconsistency in moving the ball, particularly in big games. Yet in 1981, his final year where he was supposedly washed up for good, he was putting up gunslinger numbers alongside elites like Fouts, Anderson, Montana, Danny White, etc. A lot of this was because of the emergence of a very good young receiver named Steve Watson, who could catch anything Morton threw to him and proceeded to stretch defenses all over the field. Watson was still around several years later during the Elway years and made some critical catches during the famous championship game that featured "The Drive".