Feb 1, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula and former Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall sitting together before the Taste of the NFL breakfast event honoring Earl Morrall for his longtime contributions to hunger relief efforts and to celebrate his legendary football career. A former quarterback who played 21 seasons in the NFL - Morrall played five seasons with the Miami Dolphins and led them to The Perfect Season in 1972. The only NFL team to ever complete an entire season undefeated and go on to win the Super Bowl, the 1972 Dolphins were coached by Don Shula. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens: Former Baltimore Colts QB Earl Morrall Dies


 

Earl Morrall, a backup quarterback for Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts, and key player for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins, has died at age 79.

Humility is a virtue not always found in professional athletes, but the fellow who modeled that characteristic as well as anyone in the NFL was Earl Morrall. He served as the ultimate backup quarterback over 21 seasons. And when called upon to start, he played at an extraordinarily high level.

Growing up as a Colts fan, I enjoyed the play of Johnny Unitas in the same way that many younger Baltimore sports fans grew up liking Cal Ripken, for example. But inevitably in the NFL, a time will come when a backup is called upon.

That happened in 1968 with the Colts. In the final preseason game, Unitas suffered a season-ending elbow injury. Earl Morrall came on to lead the Colts to a 13-1 record, while also being named the MVP of the NFL by the Associated Press and the UPI. He threw for 2,909 yards with 26 touchdowns. The Colts would make it to the Super Bowl (III) where they were upset by the Jets and Joe Namath. Morrall had a very bad game.

However, two years later in Super Bowl V, he came in and replaced the injured Unitas, earning distinction that remains to today as the only QB to come off the bench and lead his team to a come-from-behind victory in the big game. This was done against the Doomsday Defense of the Dallas Cowboys.

Only old-time Colts fans remember #15 primarily for these feats, whereas most folks familiar with NFL history recall him for helping the 1972 Dolphins accomplish the only undefeated season ever. He filled in for the famous Bob Griese who was out for nine games with a broken fibula and dislocated ankle. Morrall also took them through two playoff wins over the Browns and Steelers, though Griese returned to lead Miami to the title in Super Bowl VII over the Redskins.

In that 1972 season, he was age 38. He played for the famous Coach Don Shula in both Baltimore and Miami.

Morrall played college football at Michigan State and was a winner of the Rose Bowl. He also played in the college world series.

Check out these stats to see what an impressive career was turned in by the humble man with the flat-top haircut…

Year

Age

Tm

G

GS

QBrec

Cmp

Att

Cmp%

Yds

TD

Int

1956

22

SFO

12

4

1-3-0

38

78

48.7

621

1

6

1957

23

PIT

12

11

6-5-0

139

289

48.1

1900

11

12

1958

24

2TM

11

2

0-2-0

25

78

32.1

463

5

9

PIT

2

2

0-2-0

16

46

34.8

275

1

7

DET

9

9

32

28.1

188

4

2

1959

25

DET

12

5

2-3-0

65

137

47.4

1102

5

6

1960

26

DET

12

2

2-0-0

32

49

65.3

423

4

3

1961

27

DET

13

6

4-2-0

69

150

46.0

909

7

9

1962

28

DET

14

32

52

61.5

449

4

4

1963

29

DET

14

10

4-6-1

174

328

53.0

2621

24

14

1964

30

DET

6

3

3-0-0

50

91

54.9

588

4

3

1965

31

NYG

14

14

7-7-0

155

302

51.3

2446

22

12

1966

32

NYG

7

7

1-5-1

71

151

47.0

1105

7

12

1967

33

NYG

8

13

24

54.2

181

3

1

1968

34

BAL

14

14

13-1-0

182

317

57.4

2909

26

17

1969

35

BAL

9

2

1-0-1

46

99

46.5

755

5

7

1970

36

BAL

14

1

1-0-0

51

93

54.8

792

9

4

1971

37

BAL

14

9

7-2-0

84

167

50.3

1210

7

12

1972

38

MIA

14

9

9-0-0

83

150

55.3

1360

11

7

1973

39

MIA

14

1

0-1-0

17

38

44.7

253

0

4

1974

40

MIA

14

1

1-0-0

17

27

63.0

301

2

3

1975

41

MIA

13

1

1-0-0

26

43

60.5

273

3

2

1976

42

MIA

14

0

10

26

38.5

148

1

1

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