Cal football: 15 greatest quarterbacks in Golden Bears history

Jared Goff, California Golden Bears. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Jared Goff, California Golden Bears. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /
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California Golden Bears
California Golden Bears. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Craig Morton was one of the first true franchise quarterbacks of his era. Though he was never a Pro Bowler at any point during his 18-year NFL career with three different franchises, Morton was a transcendent quarterbacking talent while at Cal in the early 1960s. He is a big reason the Golden Bears football program has such a rich history at the quarterback position.

Morton was what you would call blessed to have two of the greatest offensive minds coaching him at Cal. Though the team wasn’t dominant, his first head coach with the Golden Bears was none other than future Pro Football Hall of Famer Marv Levy. The team’s receivers coach was Mr. West Coast Offense himself in Bill Walsh. It’s no wonder Morton put together a legendary collegiate career playing at Cal.

In 1962, Morton completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 905 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Though is accuracy dipped below 50 percent in 1963, Morton would never throw more picks than touchdowns during his final two years with the Golden Bears in 1963 and 1964.

As a junior in 1963, Morton completed 48.8 percent of his passes for 1,475 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He would be named all-conference for the first time in his college career. In his final collegiate season in 1964, Morton completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 2,121 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Morton would be named all-conference for the second year in a row, as well as winning the Pop Warner Memorial Trophy, the Voit Award and being named a First-Team All-American.

After a stellar career at Cal, Morton would be the No. 5 overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He would play 10 seasons with Dallas, being part of the Super Bowl VI championship team in 1971. Morton left the Cowboys in 1974 for the New York Giants after it became clear that it was Roger Staubach’s team going forward. He spent two years and change with the G-Men before joining the Denver Broncos in 1977.

In his first year with the Broncos, Morton would lead Denver to its first trip to the Super Bowl. He was the first quarterback in NFL history to lead two different teams to their first-ever Super Bowl. Morton won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1977, retiring after the 1982 campaign. John Elway would land in Denver the following season. Morton is in the Broncos Ring of Fame and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992 after his terrific tenure at Cal.