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 twenty-one 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 an injured Johnny Unitas leading to an NFL championship shutout victory and Super Bowl III….and for the 1972 Miami Dolphins season (both under coach Don Shula) he filled in 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 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….then to Pittsburgh in late 1957….to which the Steelers traded Morrall just over a year later to the Detroit Lions in order to obtain future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. Morrall would be 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…..and 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 to the New York Giants as part of a three-team transaction on August 30, 1965. 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. On August 25, 1968, he was traded to the Baltimore Colts for an undisclosed draft choice. When regular Colts signal caller Johnny Unitas was injured in the final exhibition game….Morrall became the team’s starter….and 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….while 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 didn’t see Orr (despite having successfully run the same play earlier in the year). His throw down the middle was short and picked off by Jim Hudson to blunt the Colts’ momentum. Two years later, Morrall again replaced an injured Unitas in Super Bowl V….but the occasion proved to be much happier as 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….thus reuniting him with his former Colt head coach Don Shula.