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Throwback Thursday: John Unitas' 1967 MVP Season

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In 1967 John Unitas won his third league MVP award. The Colts finished 11-1-2 and second in their division. However, they missed the playoffs. This week's Throwback Thursday reviews Unitas' MVP campaign, and a disappointing season for the Colts.

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue to look at the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts' MVPs over the team's history, we get to take one last look at John Unitas. In 1967, Unitas garnered his third MVP award. This would be the final MVP award for Unitas, but not the final Colts MVP of the 1960s (but more on that next week).

Unitas again was near the top of the league in most statistical categories, which we'll get into in a minute. Of course, being on an 11-1-2 team never hurt a player's chances either.

Unitas would finish fourth in passer rating with an 83.6 rating, which was a good four points behind league leader Sonny Jurgensen. By comparison, it was also 13 points worse than Unitas' 1964 passer rating.

Passing percentage, though, is where Unitas really makes his leap. He was tops in the league in passing percentage, at 58.5 percent, and finished second in attempts and completions (both second to Jurgensen).

Hand in hand with that, Unitas also finished second in passing yards, with 3,428, and again was second to Jurgensen. Touchdowns, however, saw Unitas drop just a bit. He finished fifth in the league with a mere 20 touchdown passes. By comparison, Jurgensen (shocker) led the league with 31.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that Unitas must have had very few interceptions (like in 1964) to statistically separate himself from the other quarterbacks, specifically Jurgensen. Nope. Unitas finished with 16 interceptions, which was right about the middle of the pack. Jurgensen also tossed 16 interceptions. And for the record, Jim Hart led the NFL with 30 interceptions.

In terms of passing statistics, it's fairly clear that Unitas was the second best quarterback in the league in 1967, with Jurgensen being the top.

The biggest difference, however, came in the teams that they played for. The Colts had the top offense, and fourth best defense in the NFL. The Redskins, Jurgensen's team, had the second ranked offense, but the 15th ranked defense.

Each team's record may have played the biggest role. The Colts finished 11-1-2, while the Redskins finished 5-6-3.

But what about running backs? Could there have been a runner who was a more viable MVP choice? Not really.

Leroy Kelly of the Browns was far and away the top back, but his numbers really didn't stack up, especially when compared to numbers posted by his predecessor, Jim Brown, in past years. Kelly ran for 1,205 yards (5.13 per carry), the only running back in 1967 to go over 1,000 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Good numbers, but not great.

The fact that the Browns did make the playoffs would help his cause and would probably rank him ahead of Jurgensen in some minds because of that.

While it seems like every year it got a bit closer, it's somewhat clear that Unitas deserved is MVP award in each of his three seasons.

But how did 1967 turn out? In his first MVP season, Unitas and the Colts won the NFL Title. In his second MVP season, the Colts lost to the Browns in the Championship Game.

In 1967, the Colts didn't even make the playoffs.

Yes, despite going 11-1-2, the Colts missed the playoffs. That mark was also tied for the best record in the league. Unfortunately, the Rams also finished 11-1-2, and held a 1-0-1 record against Baltimore. This gave the Rams the nod to be division champions, giving them the playoff berth.

So yes, the Colts were (record wise) the second best team in the NFL and didn't qualify for the playoffs. Certainly a disappointing end to a third MVP season for Unitas.

As I mentioned, this was the final MVP season from Unitas, but not the final one for a Colts player in the 60s. In fact, the Colts would tally another MVP the following season.

But we'll get to that next week.

All stats from Pro-Football Reference.