Detroit Lions: Old school stories from the book ‘Paper Lion’
Relief Quarterbacks: Was this really a thing?
Earl Morrall was one of the NFL’s great relief quarterbacks. Going into the ’63 season, Milt Plum is Detroit’s starter. However, the understanding is that Morrall would take the reins in the second half for plenty of games.
That concept took me a while to wrap my head around. So much that I needed to conduct some outside research to determine whether this was a common occurrence back then. The answer I’ve reached is an inconclusive ‘sort of’.
The concept didn’t quite take hold for the Lions that season. Morrall ended up becoming the full time starter (and Plum had a forgettable 2 TD/12 int stat line). Scouring pro-football-reference.com at some of the other quarterback stats from that year, the Dallas Cowboys are the only other team (out of the 14 NFL clubs) that appear to have used a starter/reliever quarterback system.
However, the 1964 Buffalo Bills won the AFL championship using Jack Kemp as the starter and Daryle Lamonica as a very active relief quarterback. A November 1964 article from the Buffalo News describes Lamonica as “the most celebrated relief hurler in football.” Kemp was the unquestioned starter, but Lamonica “provides the finishing touch.”
The Buffalo News article goes on to say that the two quarterback system “…offends the doctrinaires who insist that winning football can be achieved only with one man at the controls.”
Depending on how many of these doctrinaires there were, relief quarterbacks weren’t exactly common, but weren’t unheard of either.
Next: Detroit Lions, NFC North Position Rankings: Defensive Line
Best Line from the Book
6-3, 350 lb lineman Les Bingaman: “The two biggest men in Northern Michigan”.
Being from Northern Michigan, I have to say I love the shoutout. I can’t decide whether that’s meant to be a compliment or an insult to us though.