|No. 14, 15, 7|
|Date of birth:February 5, 1943|
|Place of birth: Flint, Michigan|
|NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5|
|AFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 10 / Pick: 75|
(by the Oakland Raiders)
|No regular season or postseason appearances|
|* Dallas Cowboys ( 1965– 1974)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|* Super Bowl champion (VI)|
|Stats at NFL.com|
|Stats at pro-football-reference.com|
|College Football Hall of Fame|
Larry Craig Morton (born February 5, 1943) is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Denver Broncos. He played college football at the University of California.
As a pitcher he received offers from major league teams to play in their minor league systems 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.
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 only played in the last five games because of a knee injury he suffered in practice while returning punts. He 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 three seasons as a starter at Cal, he never played on a winning team. He 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.
Morton 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
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.
Morton was selected by the Dallas Cowboys fifth overall in the 1965 NFL Draft. He spent his first four seasons as the backup for Don Meredith, but still received opportunities to play due to periodic injuries suffered by Meredith.
In 1969, he became the starter at quarterback over Roger Staubach, after Meredith's unexpected retirement. Morton dislocated a right finger in preseason and had to miss the season opener. In the next three games, he had a 71.1% passing percentage and was seen as having a promising future as the starter. In the fourth game against the Atlanta Falcons, he suffered a separated right shoulder after being tackled by Tommy Nobis. In the next contest against the Philadelphia Eagles, he set club records with 10 consecutive passes and 5 touchdown passes in a single-game, although he sat most of the second half. He did not miss any games because of his shoulder, but his effectiveness decreased to 53.6% the rest of the season, as he caused more damage. He had surgery on his right shoulder during the offseason.
In 1970, although he was bothered most of the season recuperating from his right shoulder surgery, he finished third in the NFL in passer rating with 89.8%. He also led the Cowboys to Super Bowl V, where the team lost 16–13 to the Baltimore Colts. He had surgery on his right elbow during the offseason.
In 1971, head coach Tom Landry created one of the most famous quarterback controversies in NFL history, when he began alternating Morton with Staubach as the starting quarterback, reaching its extreme against the Chicago Bears, where they alternated between 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.
In 1972, Staubach suffered a separated right shoulder in the third preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams and Morton was named the starter. Although Staubach was activated in the fifth game of the season, by then Morton was entrenched at quarterback. For the first time since 1969, his arm had regained its strength, helping him register 185 completions (club record) out of 339 attempts (54.6%), 2,396 yards (fifth in the league), 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He was replaced late in the third quarter of the first round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Staubach entered an apparently hopeless situation trailing 28-13 and threw two touchdown passes in the last 90 seconds to win the game 30–28, eventually sealing Morton's fate with the team.
In 1974, after repeatedly asking for a trade, Morton signed a WFL contract with the Houston Texans for the 1975 season, but never played a down with them. He was traded to the New York Giants six games into the 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).
New York Giants
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. During his time with the Giants, he struggled along with the team, and "felt the vocal wrath of the fans." 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). In his 34 career games with the Giants over three seasons, he had an 8-25-0 record, throwing a total of 5,734 yards, 29 touchdowns, 49 interceptions and a 52.1 completion percentage.
At age 34, Morton revived his career with the Broncos, finishing the season as the second rated passer in the AFC. Although he suffered in the playoffs from a swollen left hip that needed to be drained, he overcame the injury to become the first NFL quarterback 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, but Morton is the only quarterback to have started for 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, but is one of the all-time leaders in yards per completion. He briefly held the record for the most consecutive passes completed. 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, who wore the same number and in whose honor it was retired. Morton remains 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 1973 season, Morton played seven more years than did Staubach. The Cowboy teammates graduated from college the same year, but Staubach first served in the U.S. Navy for four years and then retired after the 1979 season, while Morton played through 1982.
In 1986, Morton was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. In 1988, he was inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame.
|1970||Dallas||San Francisco||W, 17-10||7||22||101||1||0||--||--||--|
|1972||Dallas||San Francisco||W, 30-28||8||21||96||1||2||--||--||--|
Coaching career and later life
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.
- "1965 AFL Draft". Archived from the original on February 25, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20170225154441/http://profootballarchives.com/1965AFLDraft.html.
- "Huarte wins Heisman gridiron trophy". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press: p. 1, sec. 3. November 25, 1964. http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1964/11/25/page/35/article/huarte-wins-heisman-gridiron-trophy.
- "John Huarte". Heisman Trophy. 1964. http://heisman.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=30&path=football. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
- "Morton to require shoulder surgery". Spartanburg Herald. Associated Press ((South Carolina)): p. 13. November 25, 1969. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19691125&id=SkMsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PMwEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7198,4879857.
- "Morton to require shoulder surgery". The Milwaukee Journal. Press Distpatches ((Milwaukee)): p. 19. February 20, 1970. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19700220&id=LzkoAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NSgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7147,4832024.
- Richman, Milton (September 25, 1972). "Staubach wished Morton success". The Dispatch. UPI ((Lexington, North Carolina)): p. 10. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1734&dat=19720923&id=Y3kcAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AVIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3660,1874320.
- Rosenthal, Bert (July 14, 1973). "Cowboys' Landry facing the same old Staubach or Morton question". (Owosso, Michigan). p. 17. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1988&dat=19730712&id=yXciAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wKwFAAAAIBAJ&pg=872,1381429.
- "Morton dealt to Giants". Victoria Advocate. Associated Press ((Texas)): p. 1B. October 23, 1974. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=1wpaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=aUsNAAAAIBAJ&pg=6890%2C4029914.
- "Giants get Morton, trade Snead; Hadl to 'Pack". Morning Record. Associated Press ((Meriden, Connecticut)): p. 10. October 23, 1974. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2512&dat=19741023&id=DjNIAAAAIBAJ&sjid=TgANAAAAIBAJ&pg=2324,3272280.
- "Grid Giants trade Morton to Broncos". Schenectady Gazette. UPI ((New York)): p. 26. March 8, 1977. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1917&dat=19770308&id=LzkwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jeAFAAAAIBAJ&pg=952,1866654.
- Grimsley, Will (November 30, 1977). "Denver's Craig Morton: the star who had to wait". Nashua Telegraph. Associated Press ((New Hampshire)): p. 43. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2209&dat=19771130&id=nX9jAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3HkNAAAAIBAJ&pg=7200,6309936.
- "Archived copy". https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19780103&id=Vw0qAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hCkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6836,1245250.
- "Peyton Manning eyes Super Bowl title with 2nd team - NFL - ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. January 25, 2014. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=nfl&id=10349185. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
- "Craig Morton announces retirement". Ellensburg Daily Record. UPI ((Washington)): p. 12. December 12, 1982. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=860&dat=19821216&id=zZZUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=T48DAAAAIBAJ&pg=1484,7696071.
- Craig Morton at the College Football Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from NFL.com • Pro-Football-Reference • Databasefootball.com