The 1963 NFL season was the 44th regular season of the National Football League. On April 17, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle indefinitely suspended Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras for gambling on their own teams, as well as other NFL games; Hornung and Karras would miss the entire season. In addition, five other Detroit players were fined $2,000 each for placing bets on one game in which they did not participate.
|1963 National Football League season|
|Duration||September 14 –|
December 29, 1963
|East Champions||New York Giants|
|West Champions||Chicago Bears|
In Week 11 on November 24, just two days after the assassination of President Kennedy, the NFL played its normal schedule of games. League commissioner Rozelle said about playing the games: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition." Attendance at games went unaffected despite the assassination. Although the choice to play the games was protested, and Rozelle had also eventually regretted the decision, he stated that Kennedy's secretary, Pierre Salinger, had urged him to allow the games to be played.
However, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins had sought postponement of the games. Eventually, the game between the two teams in Philadelphia saw acts of kindness from both sides. Before the game, each of the Eagles players contributed $50 to the family of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed by the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. After the game ended, players on the Redskins asked Coach Bill McPeak to send the game ball to the White House, thanking Rozelle for allowing the games to be played that weekend, saying that they were "playing...for President Kennedy and in his memory."
No NFL games were telecast, since on the afternoon of the 22nd, just after the president had been pronounced dead, CBS President Frank Stanton ordered that all regular programming be pre-empted until after Mr. Kennedy was buried. Normal programming, including the NFL, was replaced by non-stop news coverage, broadcast without commercials.
Both conference races were undecided until the final games of the regular season. In the Eastern, the Browns were 7–1–0 after eight games, but on November 10, the Browns lost 9–7 at Pittsburgh, while the Giants beat the Eagles 42–14, to tie New York and Cleveland at 7–2–0. When the Giants won again and the Browns lost, the former had the lead.
The Western race was close as well. The Bears were 5–0 and the Packers 4–1 entering Week 6; Green Bay won at St. Louis, 30–7, while Chicago lost 20–14 at San Francisco, tying the Bears and Packers for the lead at 5–1. Both teams continued to win, and then met in Chicago in Week 10 on November 17, where the Bears prevailed decisively, 26–7.
The Week 11 games took place two days after the Kennedy assassination. Although the fourth-year American Football League (AFL) postponed its schedule, the NFL chose to play, although the games were not televised due to round-the-clock network TV coverage of the assassination aftermath. The Giants lost at home to St. Louis, 24–17, while Cleveland beat visiting Dallas 27–17, to give the three teams identical 8–3–0 records. The Bears were losing at Pittsburgh, until Roger Leclerc kicked a field goal to get a 17–17 tie, and to stay half a game ahead of Green Bay.
In Week 12, Green Bay's win was denied when the Lions tied the game 13–13 with a last-minute touchdown in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, while Chicago averted another loss by tying Minnesota 17–17 on Sunday. The three-way tie in the East was pared down when Cleveland beat St. Louis 24–10, and New York won 34–27 over Dallas.
Week 13 saw both the Bears and Packers winning, while Cleveland lost to Detroit, 38–10. New York won 44–14 over Washington, but at 10–3–0, New York was trailed by Pittsburgh, which had an unusual 7–3–3 record, and the final game of the season would match the Steelers and Giants at Yankee Stadium.
Under the rules of the day (ties discarded), a Pittsburgh win over the Giants would have resulted with New York at 10–4–0 (.714) and the Steelers at 8–3–3 (.727) and the trip to the championship game. The Steelers had won the first meeting in Pittsburgh 31–0 on September 22. In a game that decided the conference title, New York beat Pittsburgh 33–17, and the Steelers fell to fourth in the East.
In the Western race, Green Bay needed to win on the road and for Chicago to lose at home. The Packers played Saturday at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco and beat the league-worst 49ers, 21–17. The Bears' 24–14 win over Detroit at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon was announced to the Packers during their flight home, ending their pursuit of a third consecutive league title.
Although the Packers' 11–2–1 record without Hornung was the second-best in the league and one of the best in their history, the two losses to Chicago kept them in second place in the West. Green Bay played in the consolation Playoff Bowl in Miami against East runner-up Cleveland on January 5.
|1||3 teams (Chi, Det, Min)||1–0–0||3 teams (Cle, NYG, StL)||1–0–0|
|2||Chicago Bears||2–0–0||Tie (Cle, StL)||2–0–0|
|3||Chicago Bears||3–0–0||Cleveland Browns||3–0–0|
|4||Chicago Bears||4–0–0||Cleveland Browns||4–0–0|
|5||Chicago Bears||5–0–0||Cleveland Browns||5–0–0|
|6||Tie (Chi, GB)||5–1–0||Cleveland Browns||6–0–0|
|7||Tie (Chi, GB)||6–1–0||Cleveland Browns||6–1–0|
|8||Tie (Chi, GB)||7–1–0||Cleveland Browns||7–1–0|
|9||Tie (Chi, GB)||8–1–0||Tie (Cle, NYG)||7–2–0|
|10||Chicago Bears||9–1–0||New York Giants||8–2–0|
|11||Chicago Bears||9–1–1||Tie (Cle, NYG, StL)||8–3–0|
|12||Chicago Bears||9–1–2||Tie (Cle, NYG)||9–3–0|
|13||Chicago Bears||10–1–2||New York Giants||10–3–0|
|14||Chicago Bears||11–1–2||New York Giants||11–3–0|
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings
|New York Giants||11||3||0||.786||448||280|
|St. Louis Cardinals||9||5||0||.643||341||283|
|Green Bay Packers||11||2||1||.846||369||206|
|Los Angeles Rams||5||9||0||.357||210||350|
|San Francisco 49ers||2||12||0||.143||198||391|
The Playoff Bowl was between the conference runners-up, for third place in the league. This was its fourth year and it was played a week after the title game.
|Most Valuable Player||Y. A. Tittle, Quarterback, New York|
|Coach of the Year||George Halas, Chicago|
The 1963 National Football League Championship Game was the 31st annual championship game, played on December 29 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The game pitted the visiting New York Giants (11–3) of the Eastern Conference against the Chicago Bears (11–1–2) of the Western Conference.Originally, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle asked Bears owner/coach George Halas to move the game to Soldier Field for its higher seating capacity and lights, as the game could extend into multiple overtime periods. (Wrigley Field was not lighted until 25 years later, in 1988.) Soldier Field was the home field of the Chicago Cardinals in 1959, and became the home of the Bears in 1971.
When Halas refused, Rozelle moved the game's starting time up an hour to 12:05 p.m. CST for increased daylight, similar to 1960 at Franklin Field. The championship game was played in temperatures under 10 °F (−12 °C).The Giants were in their third consecutive championship game and fifth in the last six seasons. They lost to the Baltimore Colts in 1958 and 1959 and the Green Bay Packers in 1961 and 1962. The Bears were in their first championship game since a loss to the Giants in 1956 at Yankee Stadium, and had last won in 1946, over the Giants at the Polo Grounds.
This was the fifth and final NFL championship game at Wrigley Field, which hosted the first in 1933, as well as 1937, 1941, and 1943. The Bears won four, with the only loss in 1937.
Tickets were $12.50, $10, and $6. NBC paid the league $926,000 for the broadcast rights.1963 Pittsburgh Steelers season
The 1963 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the team's 31st in the National Football League. The Steelers won seven games, and lost four, with three games ending in a tie. As a result, the Steelers finished in fourth place in the NFL Eastern Conference. It was also their final season of splitting home games between Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium before moving all of their home games to the latter for the next six seasons. Because tie games were not included in NFL standings at the time, the Steelers had a chance to play in their first ever NFL Championship Game if they defeated the New York Giants in the season finale, but they fell 33-17.
For the first time in 1963, the Steelers wore their trademark black helmets with their logo on one side of the helmet. They had used the logo previously on yellow helmets, but 1963 was the first season in which their now-signature look was used full-time in the regular season.Bennie McRae
Benjamin Prince "Bennie" McRae (December 8, 1939 - November 22, 2012) was an American football player. A native of Newport News, Virginia, McRae played college football as a halfback at the University of Michigan from 1959 to 1961 and professional football, principally as a cornerback, for 10 seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the Chicago Bears (1962-1970) and New York Giants (1971).Billy Kilmer
William Orland Kilmer, Jr. (born September 5, 1939) is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League for the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, and Washington Redskins. He played college football at UCLA.Clendon Thomas
Clendon Thomas (born December 28, 1935) is a former American football halfback and Defensive back who played 11 seasons in the National Football League (NFL).
In college, he was a star athlete for the Oklahoma Sooners under coach Bud Wilkinson. He led the Sooners in scoring during both the 1956 and 1957 seasons, while also leading the nation in the category during the 1956 season. He helped lead the Sooners to back-to-back national championships in 1955 and 1956. He was an All-Conference selection his junior and senior years and was a consensus All-American his senior year. He also finished in ninth place in the Heisman Trophy balloting that season (the award was won by John David Crow that year).In the 1958 NFL Draft, Thomas was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round. He played for the Rams for four seasons before being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played for another seven years and finished his career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1963 NFL season.
Thomas was selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.After retiring from football, Thomas had various business ventures. In 1978, he founded Chemical Products Corporation in Oklahoma City. The company manufactured water repellents treatments for concrete and similar surfaces. It was a pioneer in the use of siloxane-based chemistry.Frank Varrichione
Frank Joseph Varrichione (pronounced "Vair-akee-oh'-nee;" January 14, 1932 – January 6, 2018) was an American athlete. Varrichione was best remembered for being part of the 1953 University of Notre Dame football team that shared the collegiate national championship with a 9-0-1 record and for having played eleven seasons in the National Football League (NFL).
During his collegiate career Varrichione was named a Third Team All-American in 1954, recognized as one of the top 33 players in the college game. He would be the first lineman selected in the 1955 NFL draft, the league's sixth pick overall. Varrichione's stint in the NFL would include six seasons playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers before a trade ahead of the 1961 season sent him to the Los Angeles Rams, for whom he would play for five more years. During his career Varrichione would make five NFL Pro Bowl appearances between 1955 and 1964, indicative of his status as atop echelon offensive lineman.Jerry Williams (American football)
Jerry Ralph Williams (November 1, 1923 – December 31, 1998) was an American football player and coach who served as the head coach of two Canadian Football League (CFL) teams, as well as the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL).Terry Dillon
Terrance Gilbert Dillon (August 18, 1941 – May 28, 1964) was a defensive back in the National Football League (NFL). Dillon played with the Minnesota Vikings during the 1963 NFL season. He had also been drafted in the 19th round of the 1963 American Football League Draft by the Oakland Raiders.On May 28, 1964, Terry Dillon was working on a bridge construction project 25 miles west of Missoula when part of the temporary decking gave way and he fell 50 feet into the swift-running Clark Fork River. Witnesses said Dillon, a strong swimmer, started swimming for shore, fighting the current, but disappeared after traveling about 200 yards. His body was found on July 17th by a fisherman about 17 miles downstream from the bridge.In 1965, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Rip Hawkins received the first "Terry Dillon" award given by the Minnesota Vikings in honor of their late teammate. The award symbolizes Dillon's qualities of dedication, self-sacrifice and ability.
1963 NFL season