Monday, April 28, 2014

In Memoriam Earl Morrall (1934-2014)

It's no secret that I'm a football fan and it's also no real secret that I favor football as it was played in the '70's, when there was no salary cap, players didn't make nearly enough money (although there's nothing wrong with players making money) and many of the players lived in neighborhoods close to fans. As a matter of fact there were two or three pro players that lived in Hamilton Park, where I grew up!

Earl Morrall
Of course those players are getting older and passing on. One died this past week, Earl Morrall. There are young people who probably have no idea who I'm talking about, but Earl Morrall was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, although by the time I started watching the game he was not a starter he was a back-up, but what a back up!

Starting with in 1956 when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, Morrall played more than 20 years ending his career with the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins. As Johnny Unitas' back-up with the Colts, he led them to a 13-1 record, victories in the playoffs, finally losing to the New York Jets in the Super Bowl 16-7. He replaced Unitas again in the 1970 leading the Colts to a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He may have been the first back-up QB to lose a Super Bowl in one era (NFL era) and win one in another (NFC/AFC era).

In 1972 he was picked up on waivers by the Miami Dolphins where he was re-united with his head coach from Baltimore, Don Shula. When Bob Greise, starting quarterback for the Dolphins went down with an Achilles heel injury that year, Morrall took over against the San Diego Chargers. They won the game leaving them 5-0 for the season. It was Earl Morrall that led the Dolphins to the only undefeated season of a team in NFL. Can you name a starter today (let alone back-up) who can lead a team to an undefeated season?
That year Morrall was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year and American Football Conference Player of the Year.

I liked Morrall because as a backup, he showed himself to possess the greatest quality of a player who doesn't start for his or her team - he was always ready. He always gave his best, and his best always put his team in the best position to win! And he never fought for first place. It's said that when, during the undefeated season Morrall struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Shula told him he needed to make a change at quarterback and put in Greise, who by this time was well, Morrall simply told the head coach, 'I don't agree, but it's your team.'

Everybody can't be a starter. Everyone can't get all the accolades a starter gets. What everyone can do is be ready to give their best whenever they're called on. I think Earl Morrall was a great quarterback, although, as I said earlier, many may not know his name, he's well worth remembering.

Earl Morrall died April  25 at 79 years old.

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