The Miami Dolphins lost today one of their most prominent members in history. Earl Morrall. Morrall, 79, never garnered the top accolades of that perfect season instead it was Bob Griese who led the team in the playoffs and to a Super Bowl victory that capped off a perfect season. Without Morrall however, there would likely not have been a perfect season.
Morrall took over for Griese when he broke his leg early in the season and engineered a regular season that has only been matched by the Tom Brady led New England Patriots…who fell short of their own perfection.
Morral played 21 years of professional football but was best known as the back-up to four legendary Hall of Famers. Fran Tarkenton, Y.A. Tittle, Bob Griese and Johnny Unitas. It was Morrall who led the 1968 Baltimore Colts to Super Bowl III and it was Don Shula who pulled him during the game in favor of Johnny Unitas. When Shula left Baltimore for Miami, he brought Morrall with him a couple years later.
Drafted in round one by the San Francisco 49’ers he was traded to the Steelers for two first round picks and was after a season, traded to the Lions for HOF’er Bobby Layne. He would play for six different teams in his career but he is best remembered for what he did in his 72 season with the Dolphins.
Prior to his arrival in Miami, Morrall came off the bench to lead the Colts to a come from behind victory in Super Bowl V becoming and still remaining the only QB to lead his team to a Super Bowl from behind and off the bench.
Morrall won NFL Most Valuable Player in 1968, was on the losing end of the largest Super Bowl spread loss, Super Bowl III, was the QB coach at Miami U where he helped develop Jim Kelley, Bernie Kosar, and Vinny Testeverde.
“All Earl ever did was win games for me, whether it was as a starter or coming off the bench,” Shula said Friday in a statement released by the Dolphins. “What I remember the most, of course, is what he did in 1972 when he replaced Bob Griese after Bob’s injury and kept our perfect season going until Bob returned in the playoffs.
“But Earl won a lot of games for me in Baltimore as well. And he did it in such a humble way — he was a great team player who would do whatever was asked of him. And he was an outstanding leader who inspired confidence in his teammates.” Don Shula told the Miami Herald today.
“The Miami Dolphins’ family is deeply saddened by the passing of Earl Morrall today. Earl not only left an indelible mark in Dolphins history with his play on the field during the Perfect Season Super Bowl VII Championship team, but was extremely active in the community as a player and Dolphins alumni. He will be greatly missed. Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife Jane, family and friends during this time.”
Morrall’s number 15 isn’t retired but his legacy is nonetheless overwhelmingly strong. It’s been reported that Morrall’s health had been declining but the cause of death is not yet known. May you rest in peace, Mr. Morrall.