60 years ago, Van Brocklin passed the mark

It’s one of the oldest records in National Football League history.

Nearly 60 years ago, on a warm Friday night at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, Norman Mack Van Brocklin passed for 554 yards as the Rams beat up on the New York Yanks, 54-14. The date was September 28, 1951, the opening game of the NFL season,

Van Brocklin broke the single-game record set by Johnny Lujack of the Chicago Bears, who threw for 468 yards in a season-ending win over the Chicago Cardinals in 1949.

Since then, thousands and thousands of pro football games have been played. Rock and roll was invented. We’ve had 10 US Presidents. Man walked on the moon. Oh yes, and lest we forget, the Internet became vogue.

Van Brocklin, who was known as the Dutchman, threw five touchdowns that magic night against the dreadful Yanks, four to Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch (41, 47, 26 and 1). He also tossed a 67-yard touchdown to Vitamin Smith. All told, NVB completed 27 of 41 passes that afternoon, and was intercepted twice.

The Rams won the NFL Championship in 1951 with Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield sharing quarterback duties, although Waterfield started the majority of the 12 games the Rams played.

In the 24-17 championship game win over the Cleveland Browns, Van Brocklin threw just six passes. But one of them was a 73-yard bomb to Tom Fears in the fourth quarter to put the Rams in front for good.

History of Van Brocklin
Norm Van Brocklin, who played his college ball at Oregon, was a fourth-round pick (37th overall) of the Rams in the 1949 NFL draft.

He played nine seasons in Los Angeles, then was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958 for tackle Buck Lansford, defensive back Jimmy Harris and a first round draft pick. Van Brocklin may have hastened his departure when he was intercepted six times in a 38-14 loss to Cleveland in the 1955 NFL title game.

Van Brocklin played three years in Philadelphia, and was named NFL MVP in 1960, his final season. That year he led the Eagles to a 17-13 win over Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers for the NFL Championship. It’s the only playoff game a Lombardi-coached  team ever lost, and also marks the last time the Eagles won a championship.

Van Brocklin became the first coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings in 1961, and later coached the Atlanta Falcons for seven seasons.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Norm was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

The 500-Yard Club

554     Norm Van Brocklin, Los Angeles Rams, 1951
527     Warren Moon, Houston Oilers, 1990
522     Boomer Esiason, Arizona Cardinals, 1996
521     Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, 1988
517    Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 2011
513    Phil Simms, New York Giants, 1985
519    Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 2006
509    Vince Ferragamo, Los Angeles Rams, 1982
505    Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants, 1962
504    Elvis Grbac, Kansas City Chiefs, 2000
503    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2009