Morton was named AFC Most Valuable Player after finishing fourth in the NFL in passer rating (82.0) during that magical "Orange Crush" season, but he was the Broncos' starting quarterback for the majority of the time from 1977 to 1982, and he left his indelible mark on No. 7 before John Elway arrived. In fact, Morton holds almost every passing record available for a Denver quarterback - most yards per game (275.8), most touchdown passes (48), highest completion percentage (.667), most wins (16) and most appearances (24). He's even second all-time in total touchdowns (49), behind Elway.
However, it wasn't easy being the man. Under Morton were two other quarterbacks: Dennis Johnson, who played in three games in 1977 before losing the job to Morton; and Steve Spurrier, who took over when Morton went down with an injury and never looked back. The only thing that might have helped Morton is the fact that some of his best years were spent playing in Gary Kubiak's offense, but that didn't prevent him from making millions off the field after his career was done.
Overall, he was a solid starter who always had a good team around him, which isn't too bad for a guy who started just once in his first four seasons in the league.
Morton finished ninth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, which was won by Notre Dame's John Huarte, ahead of Alabama's Joe Namath and Kansas' Gale Sayers. Morton concluded his collegiate career with 4,501 throwing yards (a Pac-8 record) and held the majority of Cal's all-time passing records, including:
Cowboys of Dallas Morton was chosen fifth overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1965 NFL Draft. He spent his first four seasons as Don Meredith's backup, although he still had opportunity to play due to Meredith's injuries. In 1969, he took over as starting at quarterback from Roger Staubach,...
He had an 8-25-0 record in 34 career games with the Giants over three seasons, throwing for 5,734 yards, 29 touchdowns, 49 interceptions, and a 52.1 completion %. Morton resurrected his career with the Broncos at the age of 34, finishing the season as the AFC's second-best passer.
Craig Morton, a 34-year-old quarterback, was selected NFL Comeback Player of the Year. The Denver defense was dubbed the "Orange Crush," which thrilled the marketers of the Illinois-based soft drink. The unit allowed only 10.8 points per game.
In his first season back from injury, Morton led the Broncos to the best record in the AFC (12-2). He threw for 2,071 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for six more scores. The 77-73 win over the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs earned Denver a spot in Super Bowl VIII. However, they would lose that game by a score of 21-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers' champion squad.
After retiring as a player following the 1978 season, Morton returned to the team as an assistant coach under Mike Shanahan.
After Craig Morton retired at the end of the 1982 season and Herrmann was moved, the press speculated that Elway would take over as the starter for the 1983 season. He made his Broncos debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium, when he was sacked for the first time in his NFL career by linebacker and fellow Hall of Famer Jack Lambert. Elway led them to a win with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 121.6.
In 1984, Elway went 14-1 as a starter, winning his first championship in the process. He threw for 2,219 yards with 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The Broncos defense allowed just 17 points per game during their run, which is second all time. They finished the season with a victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XIX. Elway had another great season in 1985, leading the team to its second straight title. He finished with 2,519 passing yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Defensively, the Broncos were able to stop opponents from scoring until late in the fourth quarter of their playoff games. They were defeated by Bill Parcells' 10-4 New York Giants in the Divisional Round but won the next week when Dallas scored twice in the final minute to defeat Denver 4-3 in the Championship Game.
Elway missed most of 1986 due to a knee injury but returned in 1987 to lead the team to its third consecutive championship. He finished the season with 2,849 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Craig Morton (1992) was inducted into the National Football Foundation's Hall of Fame. He had a very good career as a linebacker for the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.
In 1992, the National Football Foundation held its first induction ceremony. Craig Morton was one of six players honored that year. The others included Jim Parker, Charlie Sanders, Lee Roy Caffey, Jr., and Bill Willis.
Morton started out his career with the Washington Redskins in 1969. In two seasons with the team, he played in 30 games and recorded 113 tackles and seven sacks. He also forced three fumbles and returned one for a touchdown.
After leaving the Redskins, Morton spent one season with the Minnesota Vikings before retiring after the 1970 season. In 70 games with the Vikes, he recorded 568 tackles and 13 sacks. He also forced 29 fumbles and recovered 14 more.
Overall, Morton played in 160 games over eight seasons, recording 1,088 tackles and 22 sacks. He also forced 42 fumbles and recovered 26 more.
A native of San Diego, California, Morton graduated from San Diego State University in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in physical education.
Broncos quarterback Craig Morton had spent the whole week in the hospital due to a hip injury sustained in the AFC Divisional Game triumph over Pittsburgh. The 35-year-old veteran was released by doctors on Friday morning after being treated for dehydration and low blood pressure caused by the severe pain from the injury.
Before being sidelined, Morton had been preparing for his second season with the Broncos. He replaced John Elway as the team's starter in 1983 and led them to the playoffs before losing to the eventual champion Oakland Raiders.
Morton had also been working out earlier this month at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus when he suffered the injury during a drill. At the time, coach Mike Shanahan said there was no indication that Morton would not be able to play again this season. However, less than two weeks into the season, Morton was placed on injured reserve.
During his three seasons with the Broncos, Morton completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,374 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also rushed for four scores.
After spending seven years in Cleveland where he lost his only playoff game against Baltimore in 1992, Morton joined Shanahan's Washington Redskins where he stayed for three seasons and won a Super Bowl title.
Craig Morton led the Dallas Cowboys to the Super Bowl in 1970, when they faced the Baltimore Colts. Unfortunately for Morton, the Cowboys lost, and he quickly lost his hold on the starting quarterback job. He was replaced by Roger Staubach.
Morton passed away in 2001 at the age of 48.