Legends Of The Fall: YA Tittle

One of the earliest stories I read in my formative years learning about the NFL was on YA Tittle. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was celebrated for his effort in trying to obtain an NFL title but never did. He was a part of the legendary Million Dollar Backfield in San Francisco where he teamed with Hugh McElhenny, Joe “The Jet” Perry, and John Henry Johnson. The first complete backfield to make the Hall of Fame ad we’re talking all four players.

Tittle as a member of The Million Dollar Backfield.

Tittle as a member of The Million Dollar Backfield.

Tittle quarterbacked the San Francisco 49ers throughout the 1950s but couldn’t overcome the Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions in the Western Conference to play in the NFL Championship game. The most glaring was the 1957 season where they finished 8-4 and in a tie with the Lions. Detroit was the vanguard of the West having played in 3 title games in the previous 5 years, winning 2. Tittle had a career year completing 63% of his passes while throwing for 2,157 yards and 13 TDs on the season. He also rushed for 220 yards and 6 scores.

Hosting the playoff game with Detroit in old Kezar Stadium, Tittle and the 49ers took a commanding 27-7 lead in the 3rd quarter. In many accounts the 49ers thought the game was over. They became victims as the Lions roared back to win 31-27. Over the next few years the Baltimore Colts emerged as the best of the west and the 49ers were broken up.

Tittle and McElhenny wound up in New York with the Giants who were afflicted with not fulfilling the promise of winning an NFL championship. They won in 1956 on the broad shoulders of Tom Landry’s defense. However they came up short in 1958 and 1959 in championship losses to Baltimore. In truth, the offense with Charlie Connerly, Frank Gifford, and Alex Webster had let them down. Although Tittle was in the twilight of his career he would be an upgrade at quarterback and aid an aging yet still formidable defense. Over the next 3 years, Tittle took the Giant offense to greatness.

In 1962, he broke Johnny Unitas’ single season touchdown record of 32, throwing for 33. He had never thrown for more than 20 in a season. He broke it the following year when he threw for 36, along with George Blanda over in the AFL, that stood until Dan Marino eclipsed it in 1984. Which was several NFL generations later. Tittle was the most productive in his career at 37 years of age. All he had to do was win the NFL championship to cement his legacy.

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George S Halas – A Word on Papa Bear & 1963 NFL Championship Highlight

"Papa Bear" George Halas

“Papa Bear” George Halas (Feb. 5, 1895 – Oct. 31, 1983)

In the last few years, we get to the NFL playoffs, it’s interesting to hear short sighted fans ask why the NFC Championship trophy is named after George S. Halas and the Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi. Several times our CEO has heard on multiple occasions that one of the trophies should be named after Tom Landry. Those Cowboy fans couldn’t be more delusional.

First off, Tom Landry never had a back to back champion that would qualify any of his Cowboy teams as a best ever unit. What would be the basis for this?? Because he won 2 championships as coach of the Dallas Cowboys and coached for 29 years?? That is nowhere near close enough to unseat George Halas who coached for 40 years, and his six¬†championships are the most ever. Not only is he the Phil Jackson of the National Football League when it comes to coaching championships, he’s also the ¬†founding father of the NFL and the Chicago Bears. No George Halas, no NFL, its that simple.

Don Shula has overtaken him as the coach with the most wins 347-324, but you have to realize he was there pushing the pro game from it’s infancy to the modern age. Yet if you want to base it on just coaching feats try these on…

Ring for the 1933 Chicago Bears championship rings

Ring for the 1933 Chicago Bears championship.

Earlier we mentioned Landry not having coached back to back champions, well Halas did it twice. First in the 1932 & 1933 seasons, then in 1940 & 1941. The latter dynasty featured the 73-0 defeat of the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game that introduced a new backfield alignment, the T-Formation. For a seven year period, his Chicago Bears won 4 championships which nearly equals what the Steelers (4 in 6 yrs) did in the 1970’s. His greatest team were none of these.

In 1934 with his chance to three-peat, he had an undefeated team in the NFL Championship Game when the Giants “outsmarted” them switching to basketball shoes on in icy field. That 30-13 loss brought an end to his first dynasty. So it wasn’t Don Shula with the first team to finish the regular season undefeated and Bill Belichick suffered the same fate in 2007, but he was going for 3 in a row at the time.

As for his last championship in 1963:

George Halas Bust

The George Halas Trophy that is awarded to the NFC Champion.

The George Halas Trophy that is awarded to the NFC Champion.

George Stanley Halas led an incredible football life. Without his efforts of over 60 years the National Football League and the subsequent All America Football Conference and the American Football League wouldn’t have had the wings to take flight. Each of those rival leagues had to have the NFL to aspire to be greater than. So when you see his name on the side of the NFC Championship Trophy, understand his importance to pro football.

The list of his Champion Chicago Bears championship teams:

Dedicated to the memory of George Stanley Halas (Feb. 5, 1895- Oct. 31, 1983)

The ring for George Halas' last champion Bear team from 1963.

The ring for George Halas’ last champion Bear team from 1963.