April 27, 2014

MVP Profile: Earl Morrall, 1972

Quarterback, Miami Dolphins

Age:  38
17th season in pro football, 1st with Dolphins
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 and had a MVP season, most notably leading the NFL in passing, TD passes (26), and yards per attempt (9.2). The Colts went 13-1 and won the league title, although the dream year came to a sour end in an upset loss to the AFL Champion Jets in the Super Bowl. Morrall returned to a backup role with Unitas reclaiming the starting job 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. A broken ankle suffered by starting QB Bob Griese in Week 5 put Morrall in the starting lineup.

1972 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 150
Most attempts, game – 19 vs. St. Louis 11/27
Completions – 83
Most completions, game – 12 vs. St. Louis 11/27
Yards – 1360
Most yards, game – 210 vs. St. Louis 11/27
Completion percentage – 55.3 [8]
Yards per attempt – 9.1 [1]
TD passes – 11 [18, tied with Marty Domres]
Most TD passes, game – 2 vs. San Diego 10/15, vs. St. Louis 11/27, at New England 12/3
Interceptions – 7
Most interceptions, game – 1 on seven occasions
Passer rating – 91.0 [1]
200-yard passing games – 2

Attempts – 17
Most attempts, game – 4 (for 7 yds.) vs. Buffalo 10/22
Yards – 67
Most yards, game – 29 yards (on 3 carries) vs. NY Jets 11/19
Yards per attempt – 3.9
TDs – 1

TDs – 1
Points - 6

Postseason: 2 G
Pass attempts – 24
Most attempts, game - 13 vs. Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
Pass completions – 13
Most completions, game - 7 at Pittsburgh, AFC Championship
Passing yardage – 139
Most yards, game - 88 vs. Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 4
Most rushing attempts, game - 4 vs. Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 3
Most rushing yards, game - 3 vs. Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – 0.8
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
AFC Player of the Year: Sporting News
NFL Comeback Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP
2nd team All-NFL: NEA
1st team All-AFC: AP

Dolphins went 14-0 to finish first in the AFC East as they led the NFL in total yards (5036), rushing yards (2960), scoring (385 points), and touchdowns (45, tied with the Oakland Raiders). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Cleveland Browns (20-14), AFC Championship over Pittsburgh Steelers (21-17), and Super Bowl over Washington Redskins (14-7).

Morrall gave way to Griese in the playoffs in 1972 and 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).