For this on-time edition of NFL Thursday, we look at league title-game MVPs for both the AFL and the NFL, as well as Rookies of the Year for both, too, for the 1966 season. This season was a landmark one, as it meant there was also a Super Bowl MVP to consider! Yes, Super Bowl I happened at the end of this season, so that becomes our first award to discuss now.
Check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context, too. Happy New Year’s Eve Eve …
Super Bowl I MVP: Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay (original); Max McGee, WR, Green Bay (revised)
The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, in the first Super Bowl, and Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr won the MVP Award for completing 16 of 23 passing attempts for 250 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The turnover bothers us, though, so we’re more inclined to look at halfback Elijah Pitts or receiver Max McGee for this award, in truth.
Pitts was the most effective runner the Packers had this day, as he replaced an injured Paul Hornung in the lineup for the 1966 postseason. He also added 32 yards receiving on two catches to post a combined 77 yards with two TDs. Not overwhelming, however. Meanwhile, McGee famously also filled in for an injured starter, and he caught 7 passes for 138 yards and 2 TDs. He is the true MVP in our minds.
Here is a primary reason why: On this touchdown play, Starr throws a bad pass—and McGee makes a great catch to turn it into a score rather than (another) interception. No one remembers anything Starr did on this day; they just remember McGee and his story.
1966 NFL Championship Game MVP: Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay
With the advent of the Super Bowl, no NFL title game MVP was selected as the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys, 34-27, to claim their second straight league championship. It was a close affair until midway through the second half when Green Bay scored two TDs to take a 34-20 lead and then held on to secure the victory on the road.
Starr was brilliant in this game: He was 19-for-28 on the day, completing four TD throws to four different receivers and totaling 304 yards through the air. With a nominal running game to support him, the game was on his shoulders, and Starr delivered. For this, we award him the hardware for the NFL title game. We also gave him this honor in 1961, as well. He also was our pick for NFL MVP during the regular season.
1966 AFL Championship Game MVP: Len Dawson, QB, Kansas City
With the advent of the Super Bowl, no AFL title game MVP was selected as the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills, 31-7, to deny the Bills a third straight league championship. The Chiefs broke a 7-7 tie in the second quarter by running off 24 straight points to dominate the game, and although neither team gained more than 280 yards on offense, the K.C. defense forced 4 Buffalo turnovers to key the victory.
The defensive domination was a team effort, so we look to Chiefs QB Len Dawson here for our MVP nod, as he took advantage of all the opportunities without committing a turnover himself. He was 16-for-24 with 2 touchdown passes, throwing for 227 yards overall as the K.C. offense struggled to run the ball (just 3.4 yards per carry on 33 attempts). Dawson was sacked 9 times, but he didn’t fumble once.
Remember, he was also our pick for the 1962 AFL Championship Game MVP, so Dawson is a return winner, too. He also won two of our AFL MVP awards as well in the first miniseries (1962, 1968); he’s a well-decorated guy in our minds.
1966 NFL ROTY: Johnny Roland, HB, St. Louis (original, confirmed)
The pickings were slim for the NFL ROTY nod, as St. Louis Cardinals HB Johnny Roland took the vote with his 1,476 all-purpose yards (695 rushing) for a team that finished 8-5-1. He did a lot of damage in multiple capacities, scoring six times (5 rushing, 1 punt return). His only real competition for this award in our eyes was Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Tommy Nobis (5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery).
But Nobis played for an expansion team that won just 3 times in 14 games, so it’s hard to really assess the value there. Even with his four fumbles, Roland rates out ahead of Nobis in Approximate Value (AV) for the season, so we will stick with the voters’ choice here.
1966 AFL ROTY: Bobby Burnett, HB, Buffalo (original, confirmed)
There are only two real possibilities here: vote-winner Bobby Burnett, a halfback for the Bills, and Chiefs HB Mike Garrett. It’s a close-enough contest here to look at more closely:
- Burnett: 1,186 total yards, 8 TDs, 3 TOs
- Garrett: 976 total yards, 7 TDs, 5 TOs
Burnett has the stats advantage, for sure, and Buffalo had a closer race in the respective division chases, winning the East Division by a half game over the Boston Patriots. Meanwhile, Kansas City had it easier out west, beating the Oakland Raiders by three games to take that division crown. Therefore, we confirm Burnett’s ROTY win, readily. He made more of an impact and also was the better rookie.