If you live long enough, eventually just about everybody seems young.
Today, for instance, I started comparing Peyton Manning, seven weeks shy of his 40th birthday, against other Super Bowl quarterbacks of a certain age.
Turns out good old Earl Morrall, the regal reserve who saved the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season, was a relative pup during his championship years.
You never would have known it by his old-school crewcut, but Morrall was only 34 when he won the league MVP award in 1968 as quarterback of the NFL champion Baltimore Colts. That year ended with a shocking Super Bowl III loss to Joe Namath and the AFL champion New York Jets but Morrall, who threw three interceptions in that game, was not finished.
Two years later, at 36, Morrall came off the bench when Johnny Unitas got hurt and led Baltimore to a 16-13 Super Bowl comeback win over Dallas. Nothing fancy, just 7-for-15 passing for 147 yards and no touchdowns, but the Colts got the win and Earl got his ring.
Next thing you know Don Shula, the Baltimore coach, takes off for a new adventure in Miami. Morrall, he remembered, was a pretty good insurance policy, and so the Dolphins picked up the old pro off waivers. He was 38 and, when Bob Griese got hurt in the fifth game of the 1972 season, Morrall was back in business as Miami’s starter.
Could Morrall have started yet another Super Bowl? Well, sure, if Griese hadn’t been able to return from injury in the AFC Championship game.
Earl may not have been Superman, celebrating each touchdown by ripping open his imaginary shirt, but he was a man of steel nonetheless. Morrall died in 2014, just a few weeks shy of 80, a true Dolphins great.
Now let’s list a few more relative youngsters when compared to the age of Denver’s starting quarterback in Super Bowl 50.
John Elway started and won Super Bowls for the Broncos at 37 and 38.
Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon were each 37 when they started and lost Super Bowls.
Roger Staubach and Jim Plunkett each won Super Bowls at 36, while Fran Tarkenton lost one at the same age.
What Peyton wouldn’t give to be so young and spry again.
He won a Super Bowl at 30, then came up short in the big game at 33 and 37.
Hey, they’re only numbers in the end. Those who win are just the right size and shape and age. If it weren’t so, the Dolphins would have stayed away from hiring Adam Gase as their head coach. He’ll be 38 next month, just in time to go chasing all of those “kids” in the NFL draft.