Craig Morton

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Craig Morton
No. 7, 14, 15
Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-02-05) February 5, 1943 (age 71)
Place of birth: Flint, Michigan
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Weight: 214 lb (97 kg)
Career information
High school: Campbell High School
College: California
NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
AFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 10 / Pick: 75
Debuted in 1965 for the Dallas Cowboys
Last played in 1982 for the Denver Broncos
Career history
*Inactive and/or offseason member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TD-INT 183-187
Yards 27,908
QB Rating 73.5
Stats at NFL.com
Stats at pro-football-reference.com
Stats at DatabaseFootball.com
College Football Hall of Fame

Larry Craig Morton (born February 5, 1943, Flint, Michigan, United States) is an American former professional football player. He played quarterback in the National Football League for 18 seasons, 1965-82. Morton played for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos. He played college football at the University of California.

Early life[edit]

Morton is a graduate of Campbell High School in Campbell, California, where he played football and baseball. As a pitcher he received offers from Major League Baseball teams to play in their minor league systems. His football coach at Campbell High School was self-promoter Hal Raley, and as a quarterback he was voted Northern California high school athlete of the year and was selected to play in the annual California Shrine High School football game.

He would go on to play for the University of California under the direction of head coach and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Marv Levy and assistant coach and future NFL Hall of Famer Bill Walsh. He became a starter at quarterback in the sixth game of his sophomore season. Back then his nickname was "Big hummer" and his production dominated the Golden Bears offense output.

As a sophomore in 1962, he could only play in 5 games because of a knee injury, but still managed 905 passing yards, a 54% completion rate and 9 touchdowns. As a junior in 1963 he already owned most of Cal's all-time quarterback records.

In his 3 seasons as a starter he would never play on a winning team. His senior season in 1964 saw him complete 185 of 308 passes for 2,121 yards and 13 touchdowns, and even with a losing 3-7 record, he was recognized for his talent and contributions by being named first team All-American over other winning quarterbacks. He would also receive the W. J. Voit Memorial Trophy, given to the best player on the Pacific Coast and the Pop Warner Trophy, given to the best senior player.

He finished his career with 4,501 passing yards (a Pac-8 record), and most of Cal's all-time passing records, including:

  • Touchdown passes in one game (5).
  • Touchdown passes in a season (13).
  • Touchdown passes in a career (36).
  • Total yards in one game (285).
  • Passing yards in a career (4,501).
  • Passing yards in a season (2,121).
  • Most passing completions and attempts in one game.
  • Most passing completions and attempts in a season.
  • Most passing completions and attempts in one game.

In 1964 as the starting quarterback for the West, he would face Roger Staubach in the East–West Shrine Game, which would be a sign of things to come.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Morton was drafted by Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1965 NFL Draft (fifth overall). He spent his first 4 seasons as the backup for Don Meredith, but still received opportunities to play due to different injuries suffered by Meredith. In 1969 he became the starter at quarterback after Meredith's surprising retirement, but suffered a separated right shoulder in the fourth game of the season, that would require surgery at the end of the year and that affected his passing percentage (dropping from 71.1% to 53.6%).[1][2]

In 1970, although he was bothered most of the season recuperating from offseason right shoulder and right elbow surgeries, he led the Cowboys to Super Bowl V where the team lost a close game to the Baltimore Colts. This result created one of the most famous quarterback controversies in NFL history, when in 1971 Tom Landry started alternating Morton with Roger Staubach, reaching an extreme point against the Chicago Bears, where they alternated on each play. After this famous game, Landry settled on Staubach and the Cowboys went on a 10-game winning streak that included Super Bowl VI.

Morton played all of the 1972 regular season because of a separated shoulder suffered by Staubach,[3] but he was replaced by him during a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Staubach entered a hopeless situation and would go on to throw two touchdown passes in the last 90 seconds to win the game 30-28,[4] eventually sealing Morton's fate with the team.

After repeatedly asking for a trade, he signed a WFL contract with the Houston Texans, but would never play a down after he was traded to the New York Giants six games into the 1974 season, in exchange for their number one draft choice in 1975 (used to draft Randy White) and a second round draft choice in 1976 (used to draft Jim Jensen).[5]

New York Giants[edit]

After acquiring Morton, the New York Giants traded their starting quarterback Norm Snead to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a third-round draft choice in 1975 and a fourth in 1976.[6] During his time with the Giants, he struggled along with the team, and had a difficult time dealing with the fans and the media.[7] He was traded to the Denver Broncos in 1977 in exchange for quarterback Steve Ramsey and a fifth-round draft choice.[7]

Denver Broncos[edit]

At age 34 he revived his career with the Denver Broncos,[8] finishing the season as the second rated passer in the AFC. Although he was suffering in the playoffs from a swollen left hip that needed to be drained,[9] he was able to overcome the injury and become the first quarterback in NFL history to start the Super Bowl for two different teams (Dallas in Super Bowl V and Denver in Super Bowl XII), a feat that has only been equaled by Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning.[10] Morton, however, holds the unique distinction of being the only quarterback to have started two different team's inagural Super Bowl appearances, for the Cowboys and Broncos, while Warner's Rams and Manning's Colts and Broncos had several past Super Bowl appearances in their franchise history. After the 1977 season, Morton was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and selected All-AFC by the Sporting News.

Morton's best statistical season came in his 17th season (1981), when he threw for 3,195 yards and 21 touchdowns, compiling an excellent 90.5 passer rating and setting several records. He was a downfield passer not known for his mobility, and is one of the all time leaders in yards per completion. He also briefly held the record for the most passes completed in a row.

He wore number 7 for the Broncos, and retired just before the arrival of John Elway in 1983,[11] who also wore the same number and has had it since retired in his honor. He still remains as the second all-time passing yards leader in team history with 11,895 and his regular-season record was 50 wins and 28 losses in five seasons.

Morton was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1988.

Although Roger Staubach replaced him for the Dallas Cowboys in 1973 and would go on to great success, Morton played seven more NFL seasons than Staubach. The Cowboy teammates graduated from college the same year, but Staubach began his NFL career four years later following his active service in the U.S. Navy, and chose to retire after the 1979 season, while Morton played for three more seasons until 1982.

Personal life[edit]

Following his playing career, Morton served as head coach of the USFL's Denver Gold. He is currently a voter in the Harris Interactive College Poll, a component of college football's Bowl Championship Series.

In 2008, he co-authored a book (with Denver Post writer Adrian Dater) entitled "Then Morton Said to Elway..." - The Best Denver Broncos Stories Ever Told. The book was published by Triumph Books.

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season[edit]

Year Team Passing Rushing
Att Comp Yds TD Int Att Yds Avg TD
1965 DAL 34 17 173 2 4 3 -8 -2.67 0
1966 DAL 27 13 225 3 1 7 50 7.14 0
1967 DAL 137 69 978 10 10 15 42 2.8 0
1968 DAL 85 44 752 4 6 4 28 7 2
1969 DAL 302 162 2619 21 15 16 62 3.88 1
1970 DAL 207 102 1819 15 7 16 37 2.31 0
1971 DAL 143 78 1131 7 8 4 9 2.25 1
1972 DAL 339 185 2396 15 21 8 26 3.25 2
1973 DAL 32 13 174 3 1 1 0 0 0
1974 DAL 2 2 12 0 0 1 0 0 0
1974 NYG 237 122 1510 9 13 4 5 1.25 0
1975 NYG 363 186 2359 11 16 22 72 3.27 0
1976 NYG 284 153 1865 9 20 15 48 3.2 0
1977 DEN 254 131 1929 14 8 31 125 4.03 4
1978 DEN 267 146 1802 11 8 17 71 4.18 0
1979 DEN 370 204 2626 16 19 23 13 0.57 1
1980 DEN 301 183 2150 12 13 21 29 1.38 1
1981 DEN 376 225 3195 21 14 8 18 2.25 0
1982 DEN 26 18 193 0 3 1 0 0 0
Total 3786 2053 27908 183 187 215 627 2.92 12

Playoffs[edit]

*Super Bowl
Year Team Opp Result Comp Att Yds TD Int Rusing Att Yds TD
1969 Dallas Cleveland L, 14-38 8 24 95 0 2 -- -- --
1970 Dallas Detroit W, 5-0 4 18 38 0 1 -- -- --
1970 Dallas San Francisco W, 17-10 7 22 101 1 0 -- -- --
*1970 Dallas Baltimore L, 13-16 12 26 127 1 3 1 2 0
1972 Dallas San Francisco W, 30-28 8 21 96 1 2 -- -- --
1972 Dallas Washington L, 3-26 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
1977 Denver Pittsburgh W, 34-21 11 23 164 2 0 5 0 0
1977 Denver Oakland W, 20-17 10 20 224 2 1 2 -4 0
*1977 Denver Dallas L, 10-27 4 15 39 0 4 0 0 0
1978 Denver Pittsburgh L, 10-33 3 5 34 0 0 0 0 0
1979 Denver Houston L, 7-13 14 27 144 1 1 2 0 0

References[edit]

External links[edit]