Craig Morton

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Craig Morton
No. 14, 15, 7
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-02-05) February 5, 1943 (age 74)
Place of birth: Flint, Michigan
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight: 214 lb (97 kg)
Career information
High school: Campbell (CA)
College: California
NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
AFL draft: 1965 / Round: 10 / Pick: 75
(by the Oakland Raiders)[1]
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TDINT: 183–187
Passing yards: 27,908
Passer rating: 73.5
Pass completions: 2,053
Pass attempts: 3,776
Rushing touchdowns: 12
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Larry Craig Morton (born February 5, 1943) is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for 18 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Denver Broncos. He played college football at the University of California.

Early years[edit]

Morton is a 1961 graduate of Campbell High School in Campbell, California, where he played football and baseball. As a pitcher he received offers from major league teams to play in their minor league systems. His football coach at Campbell High was self-promoter Hal Raley, and as a quarterback Morton was voted Northern California high school athlete of the year and was selected to play in the annual California Shrine High School football game.

College career[edit]

Morton played college football at the University of California in Berkeley under head coach Marv Levy and assistant coach Bill Walsh, both future NFL head coaches and members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Morton became the starter in the sixth game of his sophomore season in 1962. Back then his nickname was "Big Hummer" and his production dominated the Golden Bears offense output.

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

In his three seasons as a starter at Cal, he never played on a winning team. Morton completed 185 of 308 passes for 2,121 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior season in 1964, but 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 also received 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. In the balloting for the Heisman Trophy won by John Huarte of Notre Dame, Morton was seventh, ahead of Joe Namath of Alabama and Gale Sayers of Kansas.[2][3]

He finished his college 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 faced Roger Staubach in the East–West Shrine Game, which was 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 the fifth overall selection of the 1965 NFL Draft, taken by Dallas Cowboys, and spent his first four 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 (which required surgery at the end of the year) affected his passing percentage (dropping from 71.1% to 53.6%).[4]

In 1970, although he was bothered most of the season recuperating from offseason right shoulder and right elbow operations, he led the Cowboys to Super Bowl V where the team lost 16–13 to the Baltimore Colts. This result created one of the most famous quarterback controversies in NFL history, when in 1971, head coach Tom Landry started alternating Morton with Roger Staubach, reaching its extreme against the Chicago Bears, where they alternated plays. After this famous game, Landry settled on Staubach and the Cowboys went on a 10-game winning streak that included a 24–3 victory in Super Bowl VI over the Miami Dolphins.

Morton played all of the 1972 regular season because of a separated shoulder suffered by Staubach,[5] but was replaced during a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Staubach entered an apparently hopeless situation and threw two touchdown passes in the last 90 seconds to win the game 30–28,[6] eventually sealing Morton's fate with the team.

After repeatedly asking for a trade, Morton signed a WFL contract with the Houston Texans, but never played a down with them. He was traded to the New York Giants six games into the 1974 season in exchange for their number one draft choice in 1975 (#2-Randy White) and a second round draft choice in 1976 (#40-Jim Jensen).[7]

New York Giants[edit]

After acquiring Morton, the 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.[8] During his time with the Giants, he struggled along with the team, and had a difficult time dealing with the fans and the media.[9] He was traded to the Denver Broncos in 1977 in exchange for quarterback Steve Ramsey and a fifth-round draft choice in 1978 (#137-Brian DeRoo).

Denver Broncos[edit]

At age 34, Morton revived his career with the Broncos,[10] 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,[11] he overcame the injury to become the first quarterback in NFL history to start the Super Bowl for two different teams (Dallas in V and Denver in XII). This was later equaled by Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning,[12] but Morton is the only quarterback to have started two different team's inaugural Super Bowl appearances. Morton was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for 1977 and selected All-AFC by the Sporting News. He threw a franchise playoff record four interceptions in the defeat, and shares a franchise record 5 interceptions from the 1977 post-season with John Elway.

Morton's best statistical season came in his penultimate 17th season in 1981, when he threw for 3,195 yards and 21 touchdowns and had a 90.5 passer rating. 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. His 8.5 yards per attempt that season remains a Broncos franchise record, as do his 54 sacks, and two games where he was sacked seven times each (later matched by Elway and Tim Tebow).

Morton wore number 7 for the Broncos and retired just before the arrival of celebrated rookie John Elway in 1983,[13] who wore the same number and has had it retired in his honor. He still remains as the third 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 Staubach replaced him for the Dallas Cowboys in 1973, Morton played seven more NFL seasons. The Cowboy teammates graduated from college the same year, but Staubach served in the U.S. Navy for four years and retired after the 1979 season, while Morton played through 1982.[13]

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

Coaching career and later life[edit]

Following his playing career, Morton served as head coach for the Denver Gold of the United States Football League (USFL). He was a voter in the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, a component of college football's now-defunct 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "1965 AFL Draft". Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Huarte wins Heisman gridiron trophy". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. November 25, 1964. p. 1, sec. 3. 
  3. ^ "John Huarte". Heisman Trophy. 1964. Retrieved January 25, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Morton to require shoulder surgery". Spartanburg Herald. (South Carolina). Associated Press. November 25, 1969. p. 13. 
  5. ^ Richman, Milton (September 25, 1972). "Staubach wished Morton success". The Dispatch. (Lexington, North Carolina). UPI. p. 10. 
  6. ^ Rosenthal, Bert (July 14, 1973). "Cowboys' Landry facing the same old Staubach or Morton question". The Argus-Press. (Owosso, Michigan). Associated Press. p. 17. 
  7. ^ "Morton dealt to Giants". Victoria Advocate. (Texas). Associated Press. October 23, 1974. p. 1B. 
  8. ^ "Giants get Morton, trade Snead; Hadl to 'Pack". Morning Record. (Meriden, Connecticut). Associated Press. October 23, 1974. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "Grid Giants trade Morton to Broncos". Schenectady Gazette. (New York). UPI. March 8, 1977. p. 26. 
  10. ^ Grimsley, Will (November 30, 1977). "Denver's Craig Morton: the star who had to wait". Nashua Telegraph. (New Hampshire). Associated Press. p. 43. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Peyton Manning eyes Super Bowl title with 2nd team - NFL - ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. 2014-01-25. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  13. ^ a b "Craig Morton announces retirement". Ellensburg Daily Record. (Washington). UPI. December 12, 1982. p. 12. 

External links[edit]