Earl Morrall died yesterday. He was 79, would have been 80 in less than a month, and was 38 when he became part of the legendary 1972 Miami Dolphins team.
Acquired on $100 waivers earlier in the year, he was the back-up quarterback for Bob Griese. Griese was injured in Game 5, and Morrall stepped in as starter. He threw 11 touchdowns during the rest of the season, although the Dolphins were known more as a running team than a passing team. Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris were the first teammates to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Bob Griese came back to lead the team to victory against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII; Morrall wanted to play, but didn't make waves when Shula gave the start to Griese.
Without Morrall, the Dolphins might not have had the "Perfect Season." To date, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to go undefeated during the regular season and through the post-season, including the Super Bowl - they ended the season 17-0.
Every year since then, speculation grows about whether teams that go undefeated deep into the regular season will have a "Perfect Season" of their own. The 2007 New England Patriots came closest, having an undefeated regular season. They lost to the underdog New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins have held the distinction of having the Perfect Season for 42 years, and Earl Morrall was an integral part of that season.
He will be missed.