The end of the 1950s has come to play in our second NFL Thursday miniseries, as we determine the non-existent Championship Game MVP awards for the past in professional football in America. Remember, title-game MVP awards were not voted upon until 1961 (and the AFL title games only started giving out the award in 1963). You can check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context, by the way, and next week, we will be able to add American Football League (AFL) awards. Yay!
Meanwhile, the NFL started doling out the Rookie of the Year Award in 1957, so we’re doing our usual thing there. Enjoy!
1959 NFL Championship Game MVP: Johnny Unitas, QB, Baltimore Colts
The Baltimore Colts repeated as NFL champions with a come-from-behind win over the New York Giants, again. The Colts scored 24 straight points in the fourth quarter to bury the Giants, 31-16, in a game that was a defensive scrum for the first three quarters. New York led, 9-7, entering the final frame, but then Baltimore erupted, scoring touchdowns on the ground, through the air, and on defense.
If you ever wondered how Johnny Unitas got his reputation, look no further than this game: He accounted for all three Colts touchdowns, throwing two TD passes and running for another score. Unitas threw for 264 yards on 29 attempts, and he did not commit a turnover. Overall, Unitas gained 270 of the team’s 337 yards of offense. This is his second-straight nod from us here.
He opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 60-yard scoring throw to Lenny Moore, and then in the fourth quarter, Unitas ran for a 4-yard TD to give Baltimore the lead for good. He then tossed another TD pass, this one for 12 yards to Jerry Richardson—future owner of the Carolina Panthers—which turned out to be the game winner.
1959 NFL ROTY: Boyd Dowler, WR, Green Bay Packers (original, confirmed)
The top three rookies were Detroit Lions fullback Nick Pietrosante (587 scrimmage yards, 3 TDs, 4 fumbles), Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Buddy Dial (428 scrimmage yards, 6 TDs, 0 fumbles), and Green Bay Packers receiver Boyd Dowler (569 scrimmage yards, 4 TDs, 0 fumbles). Dowler was the unanimous vote winner, as the Packers improved six wins from the prior season under first-year Head Coach Vince Lombardi. You may have heard of him.
The Lions, despite winning three NFL titles earlier in the decade, were in ruins now, as their 3-8-1 record suggests, and Pietrosante obviously had trouble holding on to the ball. The Steelers finished 6-5-1, but Dowler also outdid Dial in yardage impact. Plus, Dial had only 16 touches the entire season (all receptions). He was a clear downfield threat, but with only 16 receptions, it’s hard to truly give that kind of infrequent action too much value. We confirm Dowler’s award, based on his 32 catches and one rush.