Without a doubt quarterback Earl Morrall is one of NFL history’s most interesting anecdotes. A career that spanned 21 years as back-up quarterback. He only had over 100 pass attempts in 8 seasons yet managed to be a major contributor on not 1 but 2 Super Bowl teams. He won an NFL Championship along with the league MVP award in 1968 with Baltimore, though those accomplishments will forever be over-shadowed by the Colts loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III.
Graduating from Michigan State he was a 1st round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1956 where he backed up Hall of Famer YA Tittle. After a brief stay in Pittsburgh he spent the next 7 seasons in Detroit where he backed up familiar names like Tobin Rote and Milt Plum. In 1965 he was went to the Giants and had a very productive year. He ended up splitting time with Gary Wood until another future Hall of Famer named Fran Tarkington came to town.
Moving on again in 1968 his next stopping spot would be in Baltimore where he would back-up Colts legend Johnny Unitas. But after a preseason injury to Unitas Morrall found himself at the reigns of the Colts offense. He responded with an NFL MVP season by leading the league in touchdown passes and leading the Colts to the Super Bowl.
After the loss in Super Bowl III Earl Morrall found himself back on the bench behind Unitas. He played little until the Colts victory in Super Bowl V when Unitas went out with a rib injury in the 2nd quarter. Though his play could hardly be called spectacular, he did guide the Colts to the go-ahead scores in the 4th quarter. The following season of 1971 saw Unitas again hampered by injuries and Morrall starting 9 games. He was credited with 7 victories.
After 17 seasons and 2 Super Bowl appearances, Morrall proved he wasn’t done quite yet. He joined head coach Don Shula in Miami where he was to backup another Hall of Fame quarterback in Bob Griese. When Griese went down with an injury in week 5 against the Chargers he came off the bench, threw 2 touchdowns to win the game and then led the Dolphins to 9 straight victories to close out the 1972 NFL season with a 14-0 record. He started the 2 playoff games as well. Shula made the decision to start Griese in the Super Bowl though. His efforts did get the honor of being recognized as the NFL Comeback Player of the year though. He remained with the Dolphins until 1976. In December of 1975, against the Patriots, he became the oldest quarterback to win a game at the age of 42 (until Doug Flutie).
After finally retiring from the NFL in 1977 he became the quarterback coach at the University of Miami where he coached future NFL stars Vinny Testaverde, Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Mark Richt. He was even the mayor of Davie, Florida. He passed away in 2014.
Earl Morrall Quarterback, 1956-1976
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