Another edition of NFL Thursdays takes us to 1962, and we have parallel awards to analyze from both the American Football League and the National Football League. While most football fans couldn’t tell you which team won the AFL titles in the 1960s, most people do know the Green Bay Packers were dominating the NFL right about now—and that is reflected in the analysis below.
1962 AFL MVP: Cookie Gilchrist (original), Len Dawson (revised)
The Dallas Texans beat the Houston Oilers in a double-overtime championship game, 20-17, which almost no one remembers or cares about, sadly. Those Texans would go on to become the Kansas City Chiefs, of course, while the Oilers are now the Tennessee Titans. It’s easy to get lost in history, we know.
Buffalo Bills fullback Cookie Gilchrist won the MVP award at the time, running for an AFL-best 1,096 yards on 214 carries, while scoring 13 rushing touchdowns and fumbling 7 times. However, at 7-6-1, the Bills finished 3.5 games behind the Oilers in the East, and they just weren’t a real playoff contender. That makes it hard to take Gilchrist seriously.
The league’s two other 1,000-yard rushers were Dallas halfback Abner Haynes and Houston fullback Charley Tolar. Haynes was the superior player, rushing for more yards (1,049), more TDs (13), and a better per-carry average (4.7). He also fumbled a mere four times in 1962, making him more valuable than he was in 1960 when he was voted the MVP (but stripped of that award by us here in this space).
Texans quarterback Len Dawson posted a 98.3 QB rating to top the AFL, throwing for 29 TDs and 17 interceptions, while completing 61 percent of his passes. Only two league QBs had a QB rating higher than 64.4, so Dawson’s performance was pretty amazing all things considered in contextual comparison to his peers.
Defenses certainly tightened up in the AFL this season, as only two receivers caught passes for more than 1,000 yards, and both played for the last-place New York Titans: Art Powell and Don Maynard. Overall, Haynes was the best in the league for yards from scrimmage, adding 573 yards receiving to his rushing totals.
Two defensive players reached double digits in INTs, but safety Lee Riley (11 picks) played for Titans, and safety Tommy Morrow (10) played for the Oakland Raiders—a team that finished 1-13. Neither was a legitimate MVP candidate.
That leaves us with Dawson and Haynes, really, as our best MVP options. No Texans receiver caught more than 45 passes or gained more than 645 yards receiving. This was Dawson either distributing the ball around to Haynes and others like a boss, or Haynes himself running through the AFL defenses.
The absence of a dominant WR only enhances Dawson’s effort, as he had to spread the ball around, and that takes talent to do it at his efficiency level. Haynes benefited from the absence of a dominant receiver, as the defenses had to be spread thin to cover all the possible receivers out there. Haynes had a great season, for sure, and is deserving, but Dawson was the puppet master here that made it all work on a regular basis.
1962 NFL MVP: Jim Taylor (original, confirmed)
No defensive player reached double digits in INTs, so that makes our NFL MVP analysis simpler in a season where the New York Giants (12-2) won the East by three games and the Green Bay Packers (13-1) won the West by two games. The list of true contenders is short for the 1962 season.
Packers QB Bart Starr finished second in QB rating (90.7), completing 62.5 percent of his passes, but he only threw 12 TDs. Starr also tossed 9 INTs, which isn’t good considering his TD total is so low. New York QB Y.A. Tittle threw 33 TDs and 20 INTs while finishing third in QB rating. Neither of those players really deserves MVP consideration.
(For the record, Dallas QB Eddie LeBaron topped the NFL in QB rating for the 5-8-1 Cowboys with a 95.4 mark.)
This season was the only time for Cleveland fullback Jim Brown that he did not lead the NFL in rushing. Our pick for the 1961 NFL MVP award was Packers fullback Jim Taylor, and in 1962, he did top the league in rushing with 1,474 yards. He also scored a league-best 19 TDs on the ground, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry—second best in the NFL.
Taylor only fumbled five times, too, which is not much considering he touched the ball 284 times combined (which included 22 pass receptions). His 1,580 yards from scrimmage was a league high as well. Brown was second with 1,513 yards and 18 TDs overall, but the Browns finished at 7-6-1 and well out of contention.
Washington flanker Tommy Mitchell was the best receiver in 1962, snaring 72 catches for 1,384 yards and 11 TDs. The first two totals topped the league, and the scoring total was tied for third best for receivers. At 5-7-2, though, his team was an afterthought.
This all makes it easy to confirm Taylor’s MVP award for the season, on every count. He joins Brown as the only multiple winner of our MVP analyses, as well as the a back-to-back winner.