Y. A. Tittle | legacy


At the time of his retirement, Tittle held the following NFL records:[44][77]

  • Career passing yards (28,339)
  • Career passing touchdowns (212)
  • Career pass attempts (3,817)
  • Career pass completions (2,118)
  • Passing touchdowns in a season (36)
  • Passing touchdowns in a game (7)
  • Career total offense (29,338)
  • Games played (176)

Tittle was the fourth player to throw seven touchdown passes in a game, when he did so in 1962 against the Redskins. He followed Sid Luckman (1943), Adrian Burk (1954), and George Blanda (1961). The feat has since been equaled by four more players: Joe Kapp (1969), Peyton Manning (2013), Nick Foles (2013), and Drew Brees (2015).[57] Tittle, Manning and Foles did it without an interception. His 36 touchdown passes in 1963 set a record which stood for over two decades until it was surpassed by Dan Marino in 1984;[78] as of 2016 it remains a Giants franchise record.[79]

Despite record statistics and three straight championship game appearances, Tittle was never able to deliver a title to his team.[3][80] His record as a starter in postseason games was 0–4. He threw four touchdown passes against 14 interceptions and had a passer rating of 33.8 in his postseason career, far below his regular season passer rating of 74.3.[70] Seth Wickersham, writing for ESPN The Magazine in 2014, noted the dichotomy in the 1960s between two of New York's major sports franchises: "... Gifford, Huff and Tittle, a team of Hall of Famers known for losing championships as their peers on the Yankees—with whom they shared a stadium, a city, and many rounds of drinks—became renowned for winning them."[81] The Giants struggled after Tittle's retirement, posting only two winning seasons from 1964 to 1980.[82]

He made seven Pro Bowls, four first-team All-Pro teams, and four times was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player or Player of the Year: in 1957[35] and 1962 by the UPI;[36] in 1961 by the NEA;[52] and in 1963 by the AP and NEA.[52][83] In a sports column in 1963, George Strickler for the Chicago Tribune remarked Tittle had "broken records that at one time appeared unassailable and he has been the hero of more second half rallies than Napoleon and the Harlem Globetrotters."[71] He was featured on four Sports Illustrated covers: three during his playing career and one shortly after retirement. His first was with the 49ers in 1954. With the Giants, he graced covers in November 1961,[84] and he was on the season preview issue for 1964; a two-page fold-out photo from the 1963 title game.[85][86] Tittle was on a fourth cover in August 1965.[87]

The trade of Tittle for Lou Cordileone is seen as one of the worst trades in 49ers history;[19][88] it is considered one of the best trades in Giants franchise history.[79][89] Cordileone played just one season in San Francisco.[88]

Famous photo

The photograph "immortalized Tittle in football lore as an image of the aging warrior who had finally fallen."[90]

A photo of a dazed Tittle in the end zone taken by Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on September 20, 1964, is regarded among the most iconic images in the history of American sports and journalism.[91][92] Tittle, in his 17th and final season, was photographed helmet-less, bloodied and kneeling immediately after having been knocked to the ground by John Baker of the Pittsburgh Steelers and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown at the old Pitt Stadium. He suffered a concussion and cracked sternum on the play, but went on to play the rest of the season.[93]

Post-Gazette editors declined to publish the photo, looking for "action shots" instead, but Berman entered the image into contests where it took on a life of its own, winning a National Headliner Award.[91] The photo was published in the October 2, 1964, issue of Life magazine.[94] It is regarded as having changed the way that photographers look at sports, having shown the power of capturing a moment of reaction. It became one of three photos to hang in the lobby of the National Press Photographers Association headquarters, alongside Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima and the Hindenburg disaster. A copy now hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[95]

After at first having failed to see the appeal of the image, Tittle eventually grew to embrace it, putting it on the back cover of his 2009 autobiography.[96] "That was the end of the road," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. "It was the end of my dream. It was over."[93] Pittsburgh player John Baker, who hit Tittle right before the picture was taken, ran for sheriff in his native Wake County, North Carolina in 1978, and used the photo as a campaign tool.[97] He was elected and went on to serve for 24 years.[98] Tittle also held a fundraiser to assist Baker in his bid for a fourth term in 1989.[99]

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