We have reached the 1960s and the era of the American Football League for 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. Enjoy the show!
1960 NFL Championship Game MVP: Jim Taylor, FB, Green Bay Packers
The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFL title with a hard-fought, come-from-behind 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers. It was interesting game that saw the Pack outgain the Eagles, 401-296, and win the turnover battle, 3 to 1. But Philly didn’t commit a single penalty the entire game, and the difference maker was a 5-yard touchdown run by Ted Dean in the fourth quarter. Where do we look for the game MVP here?
Even though he was on the losing side of the score, Green Bay fullback Jim Taylor was the best player in the game, as he gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including 105 on the ground. He didn’t score, but Taylor did a lot of the dirty work for the Green Bay offense. No other player managed more than 90 scrimmage yards in the contest.
But can we give the award to the losing team’s best player? In this case, yes, as the stats indicate that the Eagles should have lost this game, readily. It’s not Taylor’s fault that the Green Bay offense didn’t end up scoring more; that honor goes to the Philadelphia defense. But we have no defensive statistics here, and the Eagles only forced one turnover, so there’s not a lot to go on there. Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi later lamented his own decisions to go for it on fourth down so many times.
1960 AFL Championship Game MVP: George Blanda, QB, Houston Oilers
The Houston Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-16, to win the first AFL Championship. After the Chargers took a 6-0 lead on some early field goals, the Oilers took charge and led for the rest of the game behind a stellar performance from quarterback George Blanda. Offensive utility man Billy Cannon helped out, with 178 yards from scrimmage on his own, but 88 of those yards came on a beautifully thrown rainbow from Blanda; Cannon only averaged 2.8 yards on 18 rushing attempts.
So, we readily give this award to Blanda for his 301 passing yards and 3 TD throws. His 117.8 QB rating for the game is obviously pretty good, as the Oilers only netted 100 rushing yards on a whopping 40 carries. It was Blanda or nothing for the Houston offense, and he also added six points as the Oilers kicker, too. That’s domination!
1960 NFL ROTY: Gail Cogdill, E, Detroit Lions (original, confirmed)
This is an easy award to confirm, as Detroit Lions end Gail Cogdill was the only NFL rookie to finish in the Top 25 for scrimmage yards with a lot of new talent opting for the AFL, and he won the vote at the time, too. His team finished 7-5, one game behind the Packers in the Western Division, and Cogdill’s 642 receiving yards played a big role in that successful season. He only scored once, but he also did not fumble at all. For a 7-5 team, that’s a huge factor.
1960 AFL ROTY: Abner Haynes, HB, Dallas Texans (original); Paul Lowe, HB, Los Angeles Chargers (revised)
Five first-year professionals topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the AFL’s first season, led by Houston receiver Bill Groman (1,473 yards with 12 TDs and 2 turnovers). Dallas Texans halfback Abner Haynes (1,451 yards with 12 TDs and 9 TOs) won the ROTY vote, however, despite Chargers halfback Paul Lowe (1,232 yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs), Texans back Johnny Robinson (1,069 yards with 8 TDs and 8 TOs), and Buffalo Bills fullback Wray Carlton (1,010 yards with 11 TDs and 7 TOs) also having stellar rookie seasons.
The two Texans cancel each other out here, in truth, and the Bills finished under .500 for the year. So that leaves us Groman and Lowe: With Blanda throwing more TDs than interceptions, though, we see Lowe as having more value, playing with a slightly “lesser” QB in Jack Kemp. So, Lowe gets out vote here for ROTY. Remember, we also stripped Haynes of the league MVP Award, too, so we’re consistent.
You might wonder how we can give the MVP to Groman but not the ROTY? Well, there is slightly different criteria, and Groman did his receiving work with a QB who had his flaws as well. The extra yards help in that analysis, too.