Why Y.A. Tittle's 1963 MVP Season Ranks Amongst the Greatest of All-Time

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 2:10 PM
In 1963, Y.A. Tittle set the all-time record for most touchdown passes thrown in a single season—breaking the record set by Y.A. Tittle in 1962. Over 50 years later, many forget that Tittle retired with the two highest single-season touchdown pass campaigns in NFL history. He broke Johnny Unitas' record of 32 when he threw 33 in 1962. Tittle then bettered his own mark by throwing a mind-boggling 36 touchdown passes in 1963—a record that stood for 21 years until it was broken by Dan Marino in 1984.

Tittle (1963): 221 of 367 (60.2) for 3,145 yards, 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 104.8 passer rating.

To put Tittle's 36 touchdown passes into perspective, it wasn't until 1995 (32 years later) that any quarterback not named Marino threw for more. Tittle's 9.8 touchdown percentage in 1963—an NFL record for quarterbacks with 275+ passing attempts—stood for 41 years until Peyton Manning's 9.9 set the standard in 2004. As of 2014, Tittle's 9.8 is still the second highest total of all-time.

What's more astonishing is the fact that Tittle established such astronomical marks despite hitting a slump after the first nine games of the 1963 season. Prior to that point, Tittle was producing through the air at a rate never before, and perhaps never since, seen in the 93 year history of the league. With a 10.6 touchdown percentage, the 27 touchdown passes Tittle threw in the first nine games of the 1963 season would have risen to 70 had he thrown as many passing attempts (659) as Manning did during his record-breaking 2013 season.

Tittle (first nine games): 156 of 255 (61.2) for 2,263 yards, 27 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. 118.8 passer rating.
Tittle (adjusted rate): 403 of 659 (61.2) for 5,848 yards, 70 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 118.8 passer rating.

While the 1963 New York Giants had talent on the offensive side of the ball, nobody would confuse the caliber of Tittle's supporting cast with what was surrouding Unitas in Baltimore, Montana in San Francisco or Brady in New England. Tittle had no Hall of Fame head coach to direct him, no 6' 4" Randy Moss to pluck bombs out of the sky in triple-coverage and no Mel Blount rule to let his receivers run free after five yards. Where most quarterbacks peak in their late 20's to early 30's, Tittle was a 37 year old quarterback whose body had been beaten beyond repair after playing 16 years of pro football. If Tittle was on-pace to throw for almost 6,000 yards and 70 touchdown passes in 1963, imagine how much more productive he could have been if playing ten years younger, with the aid of modern medicine, the advantage of the modern game's passing rules, while being blocked by an offensive line of multiple All-Pros (e.g. the 2007 New England Patriots) and throwing to bombs down the field to Moss.

The context and conditions in which Tittle played under in 1963 makes his MVP season all the more impressive. His 36.0 QBS was the highest of the 1960's and still ranks amongst the greatest single-seasons in NFL history.

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