Welcome to our sixth pass over our second NFL Thursday miniseries, as we analyze the Championship Game/Super Bowl MVP and the Rookie Player of the Year awards for 1955. Remember, title-game MVP awards were not voted upon until 1961 (and the AFL title games only started giving out the award in 1963), so we’re designing our play from scratch here—just the way we like it.
Likewise, 1957 was the first year the NFL gave out the 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 like us do! Remember, you can check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context, too.
1955 NFL Championship Game MVP: Don Paul, DB, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns played in their sixth-straight NFL title game, and they beat the Los Angeles Rams, 38-14, to claim their third league championship over that same time frame. The Browns jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and the Rams barely put up a fight after that. Down 21-7 at halftime, Los Angeles was unable to do much to derail Cleveland’s momentum.
With 7 turnovers, the Rams also handed a lot of opportunity to the Browns, even though Cleveland turned the ball over three times itself—all interceptions off the arm of quarterback Otto Graham. So there’s no way we are giving him the MVP Award again, even though he accounted for four touchdowns himself (two passing, two rushing). Where does that leave us?
The Browns had a running-by-committee approach with three different backs combining for 35 carries and 143 yards on the ground, and six different defensive guys had an interception as the Los Angeles QBs were very generous in spreading the love. Therefore, we’re giving this award, somewhat randomly, to Cleveland defensive back Don Paul, who scored the first TD of the game—setting the tone—on a 65-yard INT return which gave the Browns that 10-0 lead. Surprise!
1955 NFL ROTY: Alan Ameche, FB, Baltimore Colts
QB Johnny Unitas, who would one day end up in the Hall of Fame, was a 9th-round draft pick in 1955, but he never played a down during this season. The two top rookies were Detroit Lions halfback Dave Middleton (864 scrimmage yards, 5 TDs) and Baltimore Colts fullback Alan Ameche (1,102 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs, 3 fumbles).
As a first-year player, Ameche—the third overall pick in the draft—topped the NFL in rushing attempts (213), yards (961), touchdowns (9), scrimmage yards, total TDs, and total touches (240). The Colts, however, didn’t even crack .500 on the year (5-6-1), finishing 3 games behind the Rams in the West Division. As for the Lions, they were even worse: 3-9 and last place in the West.
So, Ameche gets the nod, despite the turnovers, which may have cost the Colts a .500 finish, but oh well. It’s a sound pick.