1970 New York Giants (Would This Be First Winning Season Since 1963?)

The Giants had not had a winning season since 1963, but their fans had high hopes for the 1970 season. Here’s how things turned out.

Alex Webster took over as head coach in 1969, and the team had finished the season strong, winning their last three games. But hope faded quickly when the Giants lost their first three games in 1970, with two of those losses coming to bad teams, the Saints and Bears.

But, suddenly, the team got hot, winning six games in a row. Two wins came against good teams, the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals and the eventual NFC Champ Cowboys.

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Jeckyl and Hyde Season

The Giants’ Jeckyl and Hyde season continued. Losing to bad teams and then winning against good ones became the storyline. The Giants reverted to their old ways with another bad loss to the lowly Eagles.

It was hard to figure out, too. The Giants had plenty of talented players with Fran Tarkenton at quarterback, rookie Bob Tucker at tight end, Fred Dryer at defensive end, Carl “Spider” Lockhart at safety, and Pete Gogolak at kicker. They also had one of the best running backs in football in the person of Ron Johnson, who came to the Giants in an off-season trade with the Browns.

Johnson spent his 1969 rookie season playing second fiddle to future Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly. Johnson rushed for 142 yards in a Week Four win over the Eagles, and he had a 200-yard day against the Cowboys–136 yards on the ground and 59 yards through the air.

After that unexpected loss to the Eagles, the Giants got back on the winning track again, winning their next three games. Their Week 13 win over St. Louis put them at the top of the division, tied for first place with the Cowboys, and a ½ ahead of the slumping Cardinals.

A playoff berth was on the line as the Giants prepared to face the Rams in the season finale.
But it wasn’t to be. Five days before Christmas, the Giants played their worst game of the year before a packed house at Yankee Stadium. Rams 31, Giants 3.

End of 1970 NFL Season

It was a disappointing end to the season, but the Giants finished the year at 9-5, their best season since 1963. Ron Johnson became the first Giants running back in team history to gain over 1,000 yards (1,027) in a season. His nearly 500 yards receiving put him at 1,514 yards from scrimmage for the year, the NFL’s best in 1970. He earned first-team All-Pro honors.

But like it often is with the Giants, their success was short-lived. Johnson missed most of the 1971 season with an injury, and the team reverted to its losing ways, finishing with a dismal 4-10 record. Johnson returned in 1972 and hit the 1,000-yard mark again, but the Giants finished only one game over .500 at 8-6.

It would be nearly another decade for woeful Giants fans before their team had another winning season (9-7 in 1981).

Mark Morthier is the host of Yesterday’s Sports, a podcast dedicated to reliving memorable sports moments from his childhood days and beyond.  He grew up in New Jersey just across from New York City, so many of his episodes revolve around the great sport’s teams of the 70s for the New York area. 

He is also an author of No Nonsense, Old School Weight Training (Second Edition): A Guide for People with Limited Time and Running Wild: (Growing Up in the 1970s)

Mark Morthier headshot - host of Yesterday's Sports podcast on the Sports History Network
Photo Courtesy: Mark Morthier

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