Morrall in 1965
|No. 11, 10, 14, 15|
|Born:||May 17, 1934|
|Died:||April 25, 2014 (aged 79)|
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
|Height:||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight:||205 lb (93 kg)|
|High school:||Muskegon (MI)|
|NFL Draft:||1956 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Earl Edwin Morrall (May 17, 1934 – April 25, 2014) was an American football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for 21 seasons. Morrall, who also occasionally punted, played 21 seasons in the National Football League as both a starter and reserve. In the latter capacity, he became known as one of the greatest backup quarterbacks in NFL history. During the 1968 Baltimore Colts season, he filled in for 9 games for an injured Johnny Unitas leading to an NFL championship shutout victory and Super Bowl III, which they lost to the New York Jets. For the 1972 Miami Dolphins season (both under coach Don Shula) he filled in for 11 games for an injured Bob Griese leading to Super Bowl VII and the only perfect season in NFL history. Morrall made Pro Bowl appearances following the 1957 and 1968 seasons. In 2015, Morrall, Griese and Dan Marino were voted to the 50 greatest players in the Miami Dolphins’ 50 year history.
Morrall led Muskegon High School in Muskegon, Michigan to a state football championship in 1951. He attended Michigan State University, where he played under head coaches Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty. He played three seasons for the Michigan State Spartans football team, leading them to a 9–1 record in the 1955 season. He capped his senior year with a victory over the UCLA Bruins in the 1956 Rose Bowl. Morrall also played baseball at Michigan State and played in the College World Series as a shortstop and third baseman. He was offered the opportunity to play professional baseball but chose instead to play football.
National Football League career
In his more than two decades on the professional gridiron, Morrall played for six different teams, starting with his rookie year in 1956 as a first-round selection by the San Francisco 49ers. On September 16, 1957, he was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks. Despite the high cost of the transaction, the Steelers traded him just over a year later to the Detroit Lions in order to obtain future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. Morrall was with the Lions for the next six years, having his best season in 1963 by throwing for 24 touchdowns and more than 2,600 yards. The following year, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in an October 18 contest against the Chicago Bears.
After spending the off-season rehabilitating from his injury, Morrall was dealt by the Lions to the New York Giants for Mike Lucci who had been acquired from the Cleveland Browns, Darrell Dess and a draft pick as part of a three-team transaction on August 30, 1965. The Browns obtained defensive back Erich Barnes from the Giants to complete the trade. Enduring his role during the Giants' rebuilding phase, Morrall threw for 2,446 yards and 22 touchdowns that season, but found himself seeing spot duty over the course of the next two years. He was traded to the Baltimore Colts for an undisclosed draft choice on August 25, 1968. Butch Wilson was sent to the Giants to complete the transaction eight days later on September 2.
When regular Colts signal caller Johnny Unitas was injured in the final exhibition game, Morrall became the team's starter. Morrall proceeded to lead the Colts to a 13-1 record, then added two playoff victories en route to winning the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, leading the Colts into Super Bowl III. However, in one of sport's greatest upsets, the Colts lost 16-7 to the New York Jets, with a second-quarter interception of a pass by Morrall symbolizing the team's luck on the day. Wide receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open near the end zone, but Morrall inexplicably did not see Orr (despite having successfully run the same play earlier in the year). His throw down the middle was short and intercepted by Jim Hudson to blunt the Colts' momentum. Two years later, Morrall again replaced an injured Unitas in Super Bowl V, and the Colts won 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys on a 32-yard field goal by Jim O'Brien at the end of regulation.
On April 25, 1972, Morrall was claimed on waivers for $100 by the Miami Dolphins, reuniting him with his former Colts head coach, Don Shula. Shula described Morrall as "an intelligent quarterback who's won a lot of ball games for me."
Morrall replaced the injured Bob Griese for the Dolphins during the team's October 15 win over the San Diego Chargers. The victory gave Miami a 5-0 record, with Morrall building on that win to lead the team to the first undefeated regular season in the NFL since 1942 and only undefeated season ever, starting 11 out of 17 games that year. After notching a win in the team's first playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, Morrall struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game, leading to the return of Griese.
Morrall would remain as a Dolphin quarterback for the next four seasons before finally announcing his retirement on May 2, 1977. Until first Doug Flutie and then Vinny Testaverde almost 30 years later, Morrall was the oldest quarterback to start and win a football game in the NFL. In those 21 seasons, he was part of 255 games, completing 1,379 passes for 20,809 yards and 161 touchdowns.
Morrall became the quarterback coach at the University of Miami in 1979. During his time there, he worked with Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde and Mark Richt. In 1989, he was elected to the Davie, Florida city council and eventually became mayor. Morrall ran for the Florida House of Representatives District 97 seat as a Republican in 1992 and lost.
During a 1989 interview, Morrall was asked what it took to come off the bench and be an effective quarterback and team leader. His response was, "When you get the chance to do the job, you have to do the job. That's all there is to it."
He died on April 25, 2014 at his son's home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 79. After death, examination of his brain disclosed that he had grade 4 (the most serious stage) chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
- Schudel, Matt (April 26, 2014) "One of NFL's greatest backup QBs" The Washington Post, page B4. Retrieved May 2, 2014 
- "Giants Trade For Morrall," United Press International, Tuesday, August 31, 1965. Retrieved December 22, 2018
- Wallace, William N. "Giants Get Wilson, Tight End of Colts; Jets Drop Two Men," The New York Times, Tuesday, September 3, 1968. Retrieved December 22, 2018
- "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
- "Youngstown Vindicator - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
- "The Argus-Press - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
- "PFRA Hall of Very Good Class of 2018". Retrieved September 20, 2019.
- "St. Petersburg Times - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
- "Morrall still calls signals, but from mayor's office".
- Jensen, Trevor (July 8, 1992). "Davie`s Mayor Lining Up Backers For House Race". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- Salguero, Armando. "Former Miami Dolphins QB Earl Morrall dies at 79". Miami Herald. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- "Earl Morrall Is Dead at 79; Led 2 Teams to Super Bowl". The New York Times. April 25, 2014.
- "NFL: Naples resident and former Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall dies". Naples News. April 25, 2014.
- "Report: Former Miami Dolphins QB Earl Morrall had brain disease CTE".
- Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame profile
- Career statistics and player information from NFL.com · Pro-Football-Reference
- Earl Morrall on IMDb