It’s time for 1964 on NFL Thursday, as we look at league title-game MVPs for both the AFL and the NFL, as well as Rookies of the Year for both, too. We have a full slate to go over, and we don’t want to waste a minutes of your time (or ours?)—so let’s get to it!
Oh, and you can check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context, too. Enjoy …
1964 NFL Championship Game MVP: Gary Collins, WR, Cleveland Browns (original, confirmed)
The Cleveland Browns won their most recent NFL title with a 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts. It was a nice team effort by the Browns, as they held Baltimore to 181 total yards while intercepting Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas twice. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s ran up 339 yards, led by both fullback Jim Brown (114 yards rushing) and wide receiver Gary Collins (150 yards receiving).
The key here is that Brown carried the ball 27 times—with a long run of 46 yards. For the most part, the Baltimore defense focused on the big guy in the backfield, shutting him down (relatively), and that enabled Collins to go wild, as he scored all three touchdowns in the game. Collins was named the MVP at the time, and we agree with the nod as Cleveland broke open a 0-0 tie game in the third quarter.
1964 AFL Championship Game MVP: Cookie Gilchrist, FB, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills beat the San Diego Chargers, 20-7, in the AFL title tilt, as the Chargers had to play most of the game without their two best offensive players (FB Keith Lincoln, WR Lance Alworth). Strangely, there was no voted MVP here, so we’re on our own this time around: The Bills might have a few candidates as the defense forced three turnovers and out-gained the Chargers by 128 yards.
But no Buffalo defender had a hand in multiple turnovers, and Bills QB Jack Kemp completed only half his pass attempts, so we are choosing Buffalo FB Cookie Gilchrist for his 144 total yards from scrimmage (16 carries for 122 yards, 2 receptions for 22 yards), even though he did not score. He’s the MVP here.
1964 NFL ROTY: Charley Taylor, HB, Washington Redskins (original, confirmed)
Four rookies stood out this year: Cleveland left end Paul Warfield (920 receiving yards, 9 TDs); Washington Redskins halfback Charley Taylor (1,569 total yards and 10 TDs); Los Angeles Rams flanker Bucky Pope (797 total yards and 10 TDs); and San Francisco 49ers LE Dave Parks (703 receiving yards, 8 TDs). Taylor won the vote at the time, as the Redskins went 6-8 overall.
He was clearly the best rookie, but was he the most valuable? Warfield was the only one of these guys who played on a winning team, in truth, although we know he also joined a powerhouse team with Brown already carrying the offense—and Collins clearly capable of dominating the passing game. How much value, therefore, did Warfield really have? Taylor’s overall yardage edge is enough for us to confirm.
1964 AFL ROTY: Matt Snell, FB, New York Jets (original); Butch Byrd, CB, Buffalo Bills (revised)
There are only two good candidates for this award: New York Jets FB Matt Snell (1,341 total yards and 6 TDs) and Bills cornerback Butch Byrd (7 interceptions, 1 TD). Snell won the award, even though the Jets finished just 5-8-1, while Buffalo won the East Division with a 12-2 record—giving up the fewest points in the league by a wide margin in the process.
In fact, the Bills gave up almost 50 fewer points than they did in 1963, making the difference between an NFL title and also-ran status. We give Byrd some credit for that improvement, while the Jets finished with exactly the same record as the prior season. So, we give this award to Byrd instead based on team improvement.