The Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23–17, in the first sudden-death overtime in an NFL Championship Game. The game became known to American football fans as "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
|1958 National Football League season|
|Duration||September 28 –|
December 14, 1958
|East Champions||New York Giants (playoff)|
|West Champions||Baltimore Colts|
The 1958 season is regarded as a watershed year in which the popularity of professional football in the United States began to rival that of baseball in the public imagination. "Professional football was beyond coming of age in 1958," one writer enthused, "it was on an even plane with baseball as the game of the people."
Stadium attendance was robust throughout the league, with crowds in excess of 100,000 twice filling the Los Angeles Coliseum to see the Los Angeles Rams, while the Detroit Lions managed to sell a staggering 42,000 season tickets in advance of the 1958 campaign, ensuring home sellouts at Briggs Stadium.
At the other end of the attendance spectrum, the Chicago Cardinals faltered with the live gate, overshadowed again by the legendary Bears. The team ultimately moved two of their home games for 1959 to Minneapolis before permanently departing for St. Louis the following year. Similarly, the Pittsburgh Steelers were disappointed with their attendance in their new home at Schenley Field, which proved difficult to access and provided a particularly windy and inhospitable place to watch a game. The team sought to remedy its problems by opting out of its two year lease.
Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown electrified football fans around the league by gaining more than 1,500 yards on 257 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. The powerful Cleveland runner smashed the previous NFL record of 1,146 yards in a 12 game season, set by Steve Van Buren in 1949. He also nearly doubled the total of the second leading ground-gainer of 1958, fullback Alan Ameche of the Baltimore Colts. Brown's 17 touchdowns scored similarly dwarfed the tallies of any other player, with Colts end Raymond Berry second on the list with 9 scores.
Young wide receiver Del Shofner of the Los Angeles Rams led all receivers with 1,097 yards gained on 51 catches — a bountiful average of 21.5 yards per completion. Baltimore quarterback Johnny Unitas made use of a plethora of offensive weapons, connecting with halfback Lenny Moore for nearly 950 yards and wide out Ray Berry for nearly 800 more, leading the league with 2,875 yards passing. Unitas' interception percentage of 2.7% was also a league low among starting quarterbacks. San Francisco 49ers QB John Brodie led the league with a completion percentage of 59.9%.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back James Patton of the New York Giants lead the league with 11 interceptions in the 12 game season, followed by Pittsburgh Steelers defender Jack Butler with 9. Quarterback sacks were not an official statistic in this era, but the league-low 183 points allowed by the New York Giants (15.25 per game) give testimony to the stoutness of their defensive unit.
The 1958 Colts–Giants title game was a milestone in the popularity of pro football, but the Giants almost did not qualify. The Cleveland Browns led the Eastern Conference title race up until the final week. On December 14, the 9–2 Browns visited the 8–3 Giants. As a snowstorm swept over Yankee Stadium, the Browns' 10–3 lead gave way to a 10–10 tie game on Frank Gifford's pass to Bob Schnelker, which would still have suited Cleveland. The Giants' Pat Summerall missed a 31-yard field goal with 4½ minutes left. With two minutes to play, Summerall had another opportunity from 49 yards out, in inclement weather and connected for a 13–10 win. The Browns and Giants finished with 9–3 records, and in the playoff the next week, the Giants won again at Yankee Stadium, 10–0.
The Western Conference race was over after ten games, with the Colts at 9–1, and the Bears and Rams mathematically eliminated at 6–4. The Colts lost their final two games on the road in California to finish at 9–3, a game ahead of Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Green Bay Packers finished with a league-worst record of 1–10–1 and hired Vince Lombardi, offensive coach of the Giants, as head coach in January 1959. Philadelphia finished tied for worst in the East, at 2-9-1. Two years later, both the Eagles and Packers would play for the championship.
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Note: The NFL did not officially count tie games in the standings until 1972
|New York Giants||9||3||0||.750||246||183|
|Los Angeles Rams||8||4||0||.667||344||278|
|San Francisco 49ers||6||6||0||.500||257||324|
|Green Bay Packers||1||10||1||.091||193||382|
Eastern Conference Playoff Game
NFL Championship Game
|Most Valuable Player||Jim Brown, Fullback, Cleveland|
|Coach of the Year||Weeb Eubank, Baltimore Colts|
The Associated Press (AP), Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), New York Daily News (NYDN), The Sporting News (SN), and United Press International (UPI) selected All-Pro teams comprising their selections of the best players at each position in the National Football League (NFL) during the 1958 NFL season.1959 Philadelphia Eagles season
The 1959 Philadelphia Eagles season was the franchise's 27th season in the National Football League. They improved on their previous output of 2–9–1, winning seven games. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the tenth consecutive season.George Blanda
George Frederick Blanda (September 17, 1927 – September 27, 2010) was an American football quarterback and placekicker who played professionally in the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL). Blanda played 26 seasons of professional football, the most in the sport's history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement. Blanda retired from pro football in 1976 as the oldest player to ever play at the age of 48. He was one of only two players to play in four different decades (John Carney, who played 1988–2010, is the other), and he holds the record for most extra points made (943) and attempted (959). During his career, he played under head coaches Bear Bryant, George Halas, and John Madden.History of American football
The history of American football can be traced to early versions of rugby football and association football. Both games have their origin in varieties of football played in Britain in the mid-19th century, in which a football is kicked at a goal or kicked over a line, which in turn were based on the varieties of English public school football games.
American football resulted from several major divergences from association football and rugby football, most notably the rule changes instituted by Walter Camp, a Yale University and Hopkins School graduate who is considered to be the "Father of American Football". Among these important changes were the introduction of the line of scrimmage, of down-and-distance rules and of the legalization of blocking. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gameplay developments by college coaches such as Eddie Cochems, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Parke H. Davis, Knute Rockne, and Glenn "Pop" Warner helped take advantage of the newly introduced forward pass. The popularity of college football grew as it became the dominant version of the sport in the United States for the first half of the 20th century. Bowl games, a college football tradition, attracted a national audience for college teams. Boosted by fierce rivalries and colorful traditions, college football still holds widespread appeal in the United States.
The origin of professional football can be traced back to 1892, with William "Pudge" Heffelfinger's $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. In 1920 the American Professional Football Association was formed. This league changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) two years later, and eventually became the major league of American football. Primarily a sport of Midwestern industrial towns in the United States, professional football eventually became a national phenomenon.
The modern era of American football can be considered to have begun after the 1932 NFL Playoff game, which was the first indoor game since 1902 and the first American football game to feature hash marks, forward passes anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, and the movement of the goal posts back to the goal line. Other innovations to occur immediately after 1932 were the introduction of the AP Poll in 1934, the tapering of the ends of the football in 1934, the awarding of the first Heisman Trophy in 1935, the first NFL draft in 1936 and the first televised game in 1939. Another important event was the American football game at the 1932 Summer Olympics, which combined with a similar demonstration game at 1933 World's Fair, led to the first College All-Star Game in 1934, which in turn was an important factor in the growth of professional football in the United States. American football's explosion in popularity during the second half of the 20th century can be traced to the 1958 NFL Championship Game, a contest that has been dubbed the "Greatest Game Ever Played". A rival league to the NFL, the American Football League (AFL), began play in 1960; the pressure it put on the senior league led to a merger between the two leagues and the creation of the Super Bowl, which has become the most watched television event in the United States on an annual basis.Les Walters
Lester Kenneth Walters Jr. (born February 13, 1937) is a former American football player. He was born in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, and attended Milton S. Hershey High School. He then enrolled at Pennsylvania State University where he played college football at the end position for the Penn State Nittany Lions football team from 1956 to 1957. He was selected by the Associated Press as a second-team player on its 1957 College Football All-America Team. He later played professional football in the National Football League, appearing in eight games as a defensive back for the Washington Redskins during the 1958 NFL season.List of Cleveland Browns seasons
The Cleveland Browns were a charter member club of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) when the league was founded in 1946. From 1946 to 1949, the Browns won each of the league’s four championships. The National Football League (NFL) does not recognize the Browns’ AAFC championships, the Pro Football Hall of Fame does recognize the team’s championships, which is reflected in this list. When the AAFC folded in 1949, the Browns were absorbed into the NFL in 1950. The Browns went on to win three NFL championships, nearly dominating the NFL in the 1950s, and won one more NFL championship in 1964. The team has yet to appear in a Super Bowl, however. Overall, the team has won eight championships: four in the AAFC, and four in the NFL.
In 1995, then-Browns owner Art Modell made the decision to move the team from Cleveland, Ohio to Baltimore, Maryland. An agreement between the city of Cleveland and the NFL kept the team’s history, name and colors in Cleveland, while Modell’s new team would be regarded as an expansion team. The Baltimore Ravens would begin play in 1996, and the Browns would return to the league in 1999. For record-keeping purposes, the Browns are considered to have suspended operations from 1996 to 1998, which is reflected in this list. In 2017, the Cleveland Browns became the second team in NFL history to suffer an 0–16 record.Mike Nixon
Michael Regis Nixon (November 21, 1911 – September 22, 2000) was an American football player, coach and scout who spent close to a half-century connected to the game. His most prominent positions were as head coach of the National Football League's Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers.Modern history of American football
The modern history of American football can be considered to have begun after the 1932 NFL Playoff game, which was the first American football game to feature hash marks, the legalization of the forward pass anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, and the movement of the goal posts back to the goal line; it was also the first indoor game since 1902. Other innovations to occur in the years after 1932 were the introduction of the AP Poll in 1934, the tapering of the ends of the football in 1934, the awarding of the first Heisman Trophy in 1935, the first NFL draft in 1936 and the first televised game in 1939. Another important event was the American football game at the 1932 Summer Olympics, which combined with a similar demonstration game at the 1933 World's Fair, led to the first College All-Star Game in 1934, which in turn was an important factor in the growth of professional football in the United States. American football's explosion in popularity during the second half of the 20th century can be traced to the 1958 NFL Championship Game, a contest that has been dubbed the "Greatest Game Ever Played". A rival league to the NFL, the American Football League (AFL), began play in 1960. In 1966, the NFL initiated the AFL–NFL merger between the two leagues. The merger lead to the creation of the Super Bowl, which has become the most watched television event in the United States on an annual basis.Red Hickey
Howard Wayne "Red" Hickey (February 14, 1917 – March 30, 2006) was an American football player and coach. He played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1941 and the Cleveland / Los Angeles Rams from 1945 to 1948. Hickey served as head coach for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers from 1959 to 1963. He devised the shotgun formation in 1960.Steve Junker
Steven Norbert Junker (born July 22, 1935) is a former American football player. He played in the National Football League (NFL) for the Detroit Lions (1957, 1959–1960) and the Washington Redskins (1961–1962). As a rookie, he caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdowns in the Lions' divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. He also had two touchdown catches in the Lions' victory over the Cleveland Browns in the 1957 NFL Championship Game. He missed the 1958 season after sustaining a knee injury and never fully recovered from his knee injuries.
Junker also played college football at Xavier University from 1953 to 1956. In 1956, he was inducted into Xavier's "Legion of Honor" and was selected as a second-team end on the Associated Press' small college All-America football team and a first-team player on the International News Service's All-Ohio team. He was also selected to play in the 1956 East–West Shrine Game and the August 1957 Chicago College All-Star Game.Vince Lombardi
Vincent Thomas Lombardi (June 11, 1913 – September 3, 1970) was an American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League (NFL). He is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls at the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons. Following his sudden death from cancer in 1970, the NFL Super Bowl trophy was named in his honor. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, the year after his death. Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest coach in football history, and he is more significantly recognized as one of the greatest coaches and leaders in the history of any American sport.Lombardi began his coaching career as an assistant and later as a head coach at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey. He was an assistant coach at Fordham, at the United States Military Academy, and with the New York Giants before becoming a head coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967 and the Washington Redskins in 1969. He never had a losing season as a head coach in the NFL, compiling a regular season winning percentage of 72.8% (96–34–6), and 90% (9–1) in the postseason for an overall record of 105 wins, 35 losses, and 6 ties in the NFL.
1958 NFL season