This is the first entry in our second NFL Thursday miniseries, as we finished the first miniseries almost a month ago. Now, we go back to 1950 again to start again in examining the Championship Game/Super Bowl MVP Award and the Rookie Player of the Year Award. Why 1950? You can check out our original explanation from March 2020.
MVP awards were not voted upon for the NFL title games until 1961 (and the AFL title games only started giving out the award in 1963), so we’re on our own there for awhile. Likewise, 1957 was the first year the NFL had a ROTY Award, so there’s that to consider as well. We do like to fill in those gaps in the historical record, after all; that is what historians/journalists do!
1950 NFL Championship Game MVP: Otto Graham, QB, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns beat the Los Angeles Rams, 30-28, in the title tilt, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter to secure the come-from-behind victory. There’s really only option here for the MVP, and that is Browns quarterback Otto Graham. He threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and Graham also added 99 yards rushing to that total—to account for almost all of Cleveland’s 414 total yards.
He did toss one interception, but for the era, that was no big deal—his counterpart in this game, Rams QB Bob Waterfield, threw four INTs in the game. Thus, the dominance Graham exerted over this game’s outcome cannot be denied. He also had the calm to orchestrate the comeback, too, which was sealed with a 16-yard field goal. Graham was the man for Cleveland, period.
1950 NFL ROTY: Zollie Toth, FB, New York Yanks
The four best rookies were New York Giants fullback Eddie Price (733 total yards, 4 TDs, 5 TOs), Chicago Cardinals end Fran Polsfoot (653 total yards, 6 TDs), New York Yanks fullback Zollie Toth (825 total yards, 8 TDs, 5 TOs), and Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Fran Rogel (722 total yards, 4 TDs, 7 TOs). And yes, there was a football team named the Yanks once. Original, we know, especially for the era and for being from New York.
Immediately, we see Polsfoot as a leader, since he never fumbled. However, his team finished just 5-7, placing fifth in the American Division. We then look to Toth, since his TD:TO ratio was positive; the Yanks finished 7-5, which was good enough for third place in the National Division. That could seal the deal for us right there, as Price and Rogel were TO machines, and you can’t have that from a rookie in the NFL, can you? No matter what the era, no.
Toth was a fourth-round draft pick, but he rushed for 636 yards and 5 TDs while catching 15 passes for 189 yards and 3 more TDs. With 131 carries, he still fumbled too much for our liking, but he makes the most sense for this award. He would retire after the 1954 season with 1,983 total yards in his career, so this was as good as it got for Toth. Plus, we love his name, right?