Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chargers Land Unitas

On Jan. 22, 1973,  the Baltimore Colts dealt legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas to the San Diego Chargers.
Despite his record numbers, the Colts felt that Unitas was too advanced in years to help them anymore. He was traded for the draft rights to quarterback Bert Jones.

Unitas started just four games for the Chargers before he was benched in favor of Dan Fouts. Fouts would go on to have a legendary career for the Chargers.

Nicknamed "The Golden Arm", Unitas, was a Lithuanian American professional American football player in the 1950s through the 1970s, spending the majority of his career with the Baltimore Colts.

He was a record-setting quarterback, and the National Football League's most valuable player in 1959, 1964 and 1967. For 52 years he held the record of throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games (between 1956–1960), until New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke his long standing record on Oct. 7, 2012.

Unitas was drafted in the ninth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL but was released before the season began as the odd man out among four quarterbacks trying to fill three spots. 

Steelers Head Coach Walt Kiesling had made up his mind about Unitas; he somehow thought him not smart enough to quarterback an NFL team.

The opposite would be true, as Unitas would become one of the greatest on-field leaders of all time, introducing the 2-minute offense to the NFL.

Kiesling never even let Unitas take a snap in practice with the Steelers. Among those edging out Unitas was Ted Marchibroda, future NFL quarterback and longtime NFL head coach. Out of pro football, Unitas--by this time married--worked in construction in Pittsburgh to support his family.

On the weekends, he played quarterback, safety and punter on a local semipro team called the Bloomfield Rams for $6 a game

Unitas was the prototype of the modern era marquee quarterback with a strong passing game, media fanfare and widespread popularity. He has been consistently listed as one of the greatest NFL players of all time.

Unitas was a star studded pro in the NFL earning several honors including three Bert Bell Awards, a 10-time Pro Bowler, being a three-time Pro Bowl MVP, two-time NEA NFL MVP, three-time UPI NFL MVP, three time AP NFL MVP, six-time First Team All-Pro selection, one Second Team All-Pro selection, one Second Team All-Conference award as well a two time NFL World Champion and Super Bowl Champion in Super Bowl V. He also won the 1970 NFL Man of the Year Award.

Unitas was honored to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994, as well honored as part of the All-Decades team from the 1960s. Unitas’ no. 19 jersey was also retired by the Baltimore Colts.