This is the seventh outing on our second NFL Thursday miniseries, as we scrutinize the non-existent Championship Game/Super Bowl MVP and the Rookie Player of the Year awards for 1956. 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 designating our winner from scratch here.
Likewise, 1957 was the first year the NFL gave out the ROTY Award, so there’s that to consider as well … until next time, when we will have something to measure our analyses against each year forward. We like to fill 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.
1956 NFL Championship Game MVP: Mel Triplett, FB, New York Giants
In one of the more shocking NFL Championship results of the era, the New York Giants rolled it up on the sabermetrically favored Chicago Bears, 47-7, as the Cleveland Browns failed to reach the title tilt for the first time in the club’s NFL existence. The Giants led 20-0 before the Bears even scored, and then New York did not let up after taking a 34-7 halftime lead. Clearly, the Giants were dominant, so which player deserves the nod here for contributing the most to the early steamrolling in this game?
We are going to go with New York fullback Mel Triplett, as he led the team in rushing with 71 yards on just 13 carries, and he opened the game’s scoring with a 17-yard scoring scamper. Other players put up bigger overall numbers, but Triplett’s impact on the game probably was more meaningful. Quarterback Charlie Conerly had a great day, but his two touchdown passes came in the second half when the Giants should not have been throwing the ball.
Likewise, halfback Frank Gifford—the league MVP in our minds during the regular season—totaled 161 yards from scrimmage, but 131 of those yards were on passes from Conerly, and his only score was the final one of the game. Context matters, so we’re going with Triplett here for carrying the ground load when it mattered and getting New York on the scoreboard first with an impressive run from almost outside the modern-day red zone.
1956 NFL ROTY: Lenny Moore, HB, Baltimore Colts
We have three decent contenders for this award: Baltimore Colts halfback Lenny Moore (751 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs, 5 TOs); Cleveland halfback Preston Carpenter (880 scrimmage yards, 0 TDs, 5 TOs); and Los Angeles Rams flanker Leon Clarke (650 scrimmage yards, 4 TDs, 1 TO). None of them are great options, but they are what they are this time around the block.
The Colts and the Browns each finished with just 5-7 records, while the Rams were just 4-8 overall. This makes this even more of a challenging exercise, since none of the teams were true contenders. Clarke’s numbers were the lowest, and his team was the weakest, so this comes down to Moore and Carpenter, and even though Carpenter had more yards, his lack of scoring had to hurt a Browns team that posted the second-lowest offensive point total in the NFL.
Therefore, Moore wins this award, almost by default, despite his high fumble total. His specific numbers: 649 yards rushing on a league-best 7.5 yards-per-carry average. He also ran for 8 TDs and caught 1 TD pass. Teamed with last year’s rookie star, FB Alan Ameche, it’s clear that Baltimore was building a great offense. They just needed a good QB to run the show. Enter Johnny Unitas, right? But that’s a topic for another day … soon.