They were Giants

When Allie Sherman took over as head coach of the New York Giants for the 1961 NFL season, there were only two things he requested. The first was a speedy receiver. The second was a backup quarterback for Charlie Conerly. <BR><BR>

The Giants took care of the first, getting Del Shofner from the Los Angeles Rams. But the second was a little trickier. Yelberton Abraham Tittle had been a quarterback, in fact one of the finest in the NFL, with the San Francisco 49ers for 10 seasons, from 1951-60.

But San Francisco head coach, Red Hickey, had decided to overhaul his offense and was looking to install the shotgun attack. For that to work successfully, the team had to have a quarterback with good mobility. That was one thing Tittle didn't have.

So when the Giants offered to trade the number one draft choice, a lineman by the name of Lou Cordileone, for the 35-year-old Tittle, the 49ers went for it.

With that move the pro football career of Y.A. Tittle was reborn.

"It was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my football career," said Tittle, a native of Marshall, Texas. "I knew what the situation was coming to New York. Interestingly, I almost retired before going to the Giants. I didn't want to go if I was going to be just the backup. I still thought I could play football and that I could do it as a starter. But I also knew that Charlie (Conerly) was still the favorite in New York, not only with the fans but with the players as well.

"Another reason I enjoyed coming to the Giants was the fact that the team was winning. These were a group of guys who had come together as a championship organization. But I knew that I would fit in. Charlie was the starting quarterback. I knew that his age was becoming a factor, and I knew that I would be ready to go if needed."

Actually Sherman's plan in 1961 was to start the 40-year-old Conerly, but alternate him with Tittle as needed. But as the season passed the midway point, it became evident that Tittle was the main gun.

During the 1961 season, Tittle captured NFL Most Valuable Player honors while leading the Giants to the NFL's Eastern Division title.

Unfortunately, the 1961 campaign ended one win short of the ultimate goal: the NFL championship. In the title match, the Giants fell to the Green Bay Packers, 37-0, at Lambeau Field.

It would be the same story for the next two seasons, as the Giants would repeat as Eastern Division winners. But New York would lose again to the Packers, 16-7, in New York's Yankee Stadium in 1962 and to the Bears in Chicago, 14-10, in 1963.

"We had tough weather conditions in all three of those championship games," recalled Tittle, who played 17 seasons of professional football, including two in the All-American Football Conference (1948-49) with the Baltimore Colts and 15 more in the NFL with the Colts, 49ers and Giants. "But we never made excuses for those games. Both teams came in equal for each game. But I never saw such cold conditions for games as I did in the three the Giants played in while I was there."

The championship game that Tittle is most remembered for is the ‘63 contest against the Bears. In that game Tittle twice injured his left knee.

"The first time I got hit, I knew I was hurt the minute I hit the ground," recalled Tittle, the NFL's MVP in 1963. "I just thought I could get up and walk it off. But it was the second hit late in the game that did me in. I heard something pop and knew that I was done.

"I know that I should have come out after I hurt me knee. But it was the coach's decision to keep me in there. I appreciate the fact that he had that much faith in me. I'm just sorry that we fell short of our goal and that was to win the NFL championship."

That was the one thing that eluded Tittle throughout his NFL career. Despite that, he put up some good numbers during his tenure, including 2,427 completions, 33,070 yards, 242 touchdown passes and 13 300-yard games.

Tittle, a LSU product, had two memorable seasons with the Giants – 1962 when he threw for 33 touchdowns and a career-high 3,224 yards, and 1963, when he set a NFL record with 36 TD passes, a record which would later be broken by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins.

Tittle's highest honor came in 1971 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Today, at 76, Tittle is owner and operator of Y.A. Tittle and Associates, an insurance brokerage firm, with six offices in the Northern California area.

"I started the company back in 1955," said Tittle, who resides in Mt. View, Calif. "I never thought it would be around almost 50 years later."

The moment that most sticks out in Tittle's mind occurred during the Giants final game of the 1961 season.

"We were at Yankee Stadium playing against the Cleveland Browns," Tittle said. "We were in the final 10 seconds of the game and the fans had started their countdown. I just stood there listening and knowing that I was going to my first NFL title game. What a thrill.

"I knew that it couldn't get much better than that."


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