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Trade for a quarterback? What does history say about the Giants success doing that?

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The franchise has traded for quite a few QBs in hopes of fixing the position

1972j Topps #120 - courtesy Barry Shuck

Recently there have been discussions about whether the New York Giants should bring in another quarterback to supplant Eli Manning, possibly via a trade. When a team’s offensive line is mediocre to poor, obviously this requires a system that has a mobile QB in place. Everyone knows that Eli’s clock is winding down.

What does history tell us about the Giants franchise and the business of trading for a new QB?

Let’s grade some of the trades the franchise has made for quarterbacks.

Fran Tarkenton

Tarkenton was drafted in the third-round of the Minnesota Vikings very first draft. He started every game for six seasons and tossed 113 TD passes against 95 INTs. When the American Football League (AFL) and the NFL announced their merger plans, part of the negotiations was that the AFL New York Jets and Oakland Raiders would each have to relocate and allow the Giants the City of New York and San Francisco the entire bay area. In addition, the AFL was to pay the NFL $18 in indemnity payments.

As part of the agreement, Giants’ owner Wellington Mara agreed to allow the Jets to remain in New York after it was announced that the Giants would receive $10 million and the 49ers the other $8 million to allow the Raiders to remain in their territory. But Mara huffed about Jets’ QB Joe Namath and his popularity in the area. So, the NFL granted the Giants the first overall pick in the upcoming 1967 college draft – provided they would take a quarterback or trade the pick but only for a starting QB.

The latter is what they did. The Giants traded the pick plus another first in 1968 (which ended up the first overall pick) and two second-round selections to the Vikings for Tarkenton. Sir Francis would have some of his best years under center while playing for the Giants. He was known as a great player on poor teams, was very mobile and did run for positive yardage, but he mainly scrambled behind the line of scrimmage in order to throw the ball. In his six seasons in New York, he made the Pro Bowl five times. Tarkenton was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and at the time of his retirement owned every NFL passing record.

Grade: A-

Craig Morton

There was a QB situation with the Dallas Cowboys in that Roger Staubach and Craig Morton would both play parts of every game in all situations. In one game against the Chicago Bears, the two signal caller alternated every play. Finally, Morton asked for a trade. Instead, he signed with the Houston Texans of the newly-formed World Football League (WFL) but never played. In the interim, in 1974 the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants for their first-round pick in the 1975 draft plus a second-round selection the following year.

1976 Wonder Bread #1 Craig Morton - courtesy Barry Shuck

Morton was viewed as the offensive savior to an anemic offense, but would only play three seasons for the Giants. During this time he threw for 5,734 yards, 29 TDs with an astounding 49 INTs and a paltry 52.1 completion percentage. Morton, now age 33, failed to produce a winner as they won only 10 games against 22 losses in the midst of the “Wilderness Years.”

Grade: C-

Steve Ramsey

In 1977, the Craig Morton experiment was over and the Giants traded him to the Denver Broncos for QB Steve Ramsey, a fifth-round pick and a future sixth-rounder. Just like the Giants were looking to make a fresh start by trading Morton, the Broncos were also seeking a new path by trading away Ramsey.

Ramsey’s outlook coming to the Giants was very positive and saw the trade as a major chance to become a full-time starting NFL quarterback especially with being a young guy. He competed in training camp with rookie Jerry Golsteyn and CFL veteran Joe Pisarcik, but was cut later in the pre-season and never played a down for the Giants.

Grade: F

George Shaw

Shaw had been drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the first overall pick in the 1955 NFL draft. He won the starting job in training camp in his second year and then broke his leg in a 58-27 loss to the Chicago Bears to which his backup, Johnny Unitas, filled in for the remainder of the year. Once healed, Shaw’s starting role was taken for good and he became Johnny U’s backup.

1961 Fleer #126 George Shaw - courtesy Barry Shuck

In 1959, the Giants traded for him to sit behind aging Charlie Conerly. In two seasons he appeared in 14 games but never got the starting nod. He threw for 1,696 yards while with New York with 12 TDs and 14 picks. He was left unprotected by the club when the expansion Minnesota Vikings selected him in the veteran dispersal draft and was their starting QB in their first-ever game. Shaw either never lived up to his greatness aspirations or lost his edge once he healed from his early injury but was a quality backup.

Grade: C

Earl Morrall

The San Francisco 49ers took Morrall with the second pick in the first-round in the 1956 NFL draft. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers the following year and then traded again to the Detroit Lions where he played six seasons. In his final year in Detroit he was hurt against the Bears which ended his season.

In 1965, a three-way trade ensued and the Giants got Morrall from the Lions. At the time, the defense was stout and the offense already had WRs Homer Jones and Del Shofner. But the offensive line was porous and required a more mobile QB. Morrall was also on the other side of 30 when the Giants got him. Plus, head coach Allie Sherman had a QB platoon system where he would shift from Morrall the pocket passer to Gary Wood the scrambler for much of the year and sometimes rookie Tom Kennedy to where no consistency could be applied.

While with the Giants, Morrall tossed only 175 passes in two seasons including a mere 24 attempts in 1967 after the Giants got Tarkenton. He was traded to the Colts where he blossomed and was the starting QB when the 16-point favorites Colts were defeated by the New York Jets in an upset in Super Bowl III. Later, he would carry the torch for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins when starter Bob Griese went down with a broken ankle for most of the year.

Grade: B-

Jeff Rutledge

The Giants had Scott Brunner under center in 1982. Their prized first-round pick a few years back was QB Phil Simms, but he was constantly hurt and usually ended the year on the IR list. This time around it was a knee injury. The club needed experienced QB help and reached out to the Los Angeles Rams and traded for backup Jeff Rutledge for an undisclosed draft pick during the 1982 preseason to compete with Mark Reed for the backup role behind Brunner.

Rutledge was drafted by the Rams in the ninth round of the 1979 draft after a stellar career at Alabama where he won three SEC titles and was the starting QB on the 1978 national championship squad. He was named All-SEC two seasons and was a three-year starter. While with the Rams, he played sparingly behind Vince Ferragamo and newly-acquired Bert Jones. He appeared in only eight games over three years with just 86 pass attempts. However, he was the holder for kicker Frank Corral. During his playing days in Los Angeles, the Rams competed in Super Bowl XIV and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Giants head coach at the time was Ray Perkins, an Alabama alumnus. Rutledge played for the Giants for eight seasons, but was nothing more than a backup and once again, a reliable holder for the kicker. While in New York he made 350 pass attempts and completed 179 for 2,391 yards, nine TDs with 20 INTs. He was the holder in Super Bowl XXI and Simms’ backup as the Giants defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20.

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers
Jeff Rutledge
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

In 1990 he was traded to the Redskins and retired in 1992. He would become a coach at the high school, college and pro levels until he retired in 2010 and went into real estate.

Grade: C+

Y.A. Tittle

One of the greatest QBs to lead the Giants was a player by the name of Yelberton Abraham Tittle, or Y.A. for short. And he came to New York in a trade.

In 1960, Giants veteran QB Charlie Conerly had turned 39 and was war-torn. During the previous season he had passed for 1,706 yards with 14 TDs and only four INTs. Yet in 1960, Conerly could only muster 954 yards with eight TDs and a hardy seven INTs. He was tired and almost 40 years old, and his play had diminished. Behind him was the 27-year old Shaw who also struggled on the field. It was also the last season for head coach Jim Lee Howell.

For 1961, Howell’s offensive coordinator Allie Sherman had been named head coach. Sherman had toiled over the years with the aging Conerly and decided he needed someone new to take the helm of his high-flying offensive attack. At Sherman’s insistence, the Giants began to trade most of the established stars on the club mostly on the defensive side such as Cliff Livingston, Rosey Grier, Sam Huff and Dick Modzelewski. Sherman had the perception that anyone could play defense and you simply just plug in another defender and keep playing.

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers
Y. A. Tittle
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The Giants made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Tittle. Sherman wanted Tittle even though he was 34 years old. He had seen diminished playing time in his final season with the Niners with the presence of the younger John Brodie.

To acquire Tittle, the 49ers insisted on Giants OT Lou Cordileone in a straight player-for-player deal. Cordileone had been New York’s first-round draft pick in 1960 and had started only three games but was stunned that he was traded for a 34-year-old washed-up bald quarterback with nothing else included in the deal.

The Giants had also traded DE Andy Robustelli for WR Del Shofner from the Rams, and in a three-way trade with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, they got TE Joe Walton. The offense already had halfback Frank Gifford, RBs Mel Triplett and Joe Morrison, WR Kyle Rote and FB Alex Webster.

The end result to all this firepower and Sherman’s attention to bolster the offense was the Giants were second in the league in scoring in 1961 and 1962, and then led the league with 448 points (32 points per game average) in 1963. All three of these squads won Eastern Conference crowns and subsequently lost all three NFL Championship Games. Tittle finished seventh, third and second in the league is passing those seasons, respectively.

Tittle was named to the Pro Bowl all three seasons, the passing TD leader in 1962 and 1963, and awarded league MVP in 1963. For his career, he went to seven Pro Bowls, elected into the 49ers Hall of Fame, Giants Ring of Honor and had his number 14 number retired by the Giants.

Two of the greatest trades in NFL history were the Dallas Cowboys sending RB Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings, and the Giants trading for Tittle. In 1991, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the time of his retirement in 1963, he held eight passing records. He still holds the record for most TD passes in a single game with seven (tied with three other players).

Cordileone played only one season in San Francisco.

Grade: A

Jim Del Gaizo

Giants’ head coach Bill Arnsparger acquired Del Gaizo in a trade with the Green Bay Packers in 1974 for a third-round pick. At the time, the club had Norm Snead as the starter with Randy Johnson as his backup. Snead had a very good season in 1972 and earned his fourth Pro Bowl (first with the Giants) while Johnson signed with the newly-formed WFL.

In his final year with the Packers, Del Gaizo played quite a bit and then suffered a separated shoulder. After he arrived in New York, he was penciled in as Snead’s new backup. However, the Giants traded for Morton and suddenly Snead became the backup which slid Del Gaizo down further the depth chart.

Arnsparger knew Del Gaizo from his assistant coaching days with the Miami Dolphins before the Giants gig. He knew he was very smart and understood the pass offense. However, when Morton became available, the Giants’ brass quickly snagged him. Del Gaizo only attempted 32 passes all year and was released after his only season in Blue.

Grade: F

Frank Filchock

After serving in World War II, QB Frank Filchock was signed by the Washington Redskins who still owned his rights. After the 1945 season, Giants’ head coach Steve Owen had installed the A-formation offense and knew he needed a guy who understood the mechanics of the newly-instituted offense, so Giants’ owner Tim Mara made a trade with the Redskins.

Filchock would become the first player ever on the Giants to receive a multi-year contract, worth $35,000 a season for three years. He passed for 1,262 yards with 12 INTs in a time when the ball was seldom thrown (except on third and long distances). Filchock was an accurate thrower and a good runner himself which is what the new offense dictated. The Giants went from a three-win season to 7-3-1 and into the 1946 NFL Championship Game against the Bears.

One the day before the big game, a story broke that gamblers had fixed the title game and that two Giants’ players were involved in the fix: RB Merle Hapes and Filchock. Hapes admitted to being approached but Filchock denied the allegations. Hapes was then suspended from playing while Filchock played in the game and subsequently broke his nose and was not able to complete the game.

1960 Fleer - courtesy Barry Shuck

Even though both men were unfortunate bystanders, NFL commissioner Bert Bell suspended the duo indefinitely for failing to report a bribe. Filchock then signed with the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League and played four years in Canada.

Grade: B-


Barry Shuck is a pro football historical writer and a member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association