Rest in peace Earl Morrall. The former Miami Dolphins quarterback passed away this morning at the age of 79. The savior of the 1972 Undefeated Season, Morrall was the epitome of what a team needs in a backup quarterback - always ready to step in and lead the team.
Morrall played for six teams over a 21-year NFL career, starting with the San Francisco 49ers before stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Baltimore Colts, finally landing with the Dolphins. With the Colts, Morrall was named league MVP in 1968 after leading Baltimore to a 13-1 record and the Super Bowl. When the Colts waived Morrall in 1972, Don Shula, the former Baltimore head coach now holding the same position in Miami, claimed him.
That move happened April 25, 192 - 42-years ago today.
"He was an unbelievable guy," Shula told The Miami Herald upon hearing of Morrall's passing. "There were no negatives with him. He was the best guy in the locker room. Great in practice. And on the field he made big plays in big games.
"He was just a fine human being and that transcended everything else. It wasn't just about his career. In everything he tried, people recognized what a fine individual he was."
Shual had to convince then Dolphins owner Joe Robbie that paying Morrall a large salary ($90,000 for the 1972 season) to sit on the bench was a worthwhile move. Shula proved prophetic when, after a 40 start to the season, starting quarterback Bob Griese broke his ankle in the fifth contest and Morrall stepped in, leading the team through the rest of the season and to the AFC Championship game without a loss. Griese came back into the Dolphins lineup in the second half of the AFC Championship, then started the Super Bowl.
Without Morrall, however, there is no Undefeated Season.
After retiring in 1977. Morrall worked as the quarterbacks coach at the University of Miami, coaching players like Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, and Vinny Testaverde. In 1989 Morrall was elected to the Davie town council and in 1992, became the town's Mayor.
It's been 42-years since the Dolphins complete a waiver claim that would prove one of the most influential in team history. Unfortunately, we lost the player involved in that move today. Dolphins fans everywhere should remember how important a piece to the puzzle Morrall was in bringing the team their first Super Bowl championship and the only Perfect Season in league history.
Rest in peace Earl. Thanks for everything.