Former Rams and Eagles QB Roman Gabriel, 1969 NFL MVP, dies at 83

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Roman Gabriel #18 of the Los Angeles Rams turns to hand the ball off to a running back during an NFL football game circa 1969. Gabriel played for the Rams from 1962-72. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Focus On Sport via Getty Images

Former NFL MVP and four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Roman Gabriel died on Saturday. He was 83 years old. 

Gabriel played 11 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams and five for the Philadelphia Eagles during his 16-year NFL career. After playing college football at North Carolina State, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1962 AFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders and the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL Draft that same year. Gabriel opted to sign with the Rams. 

He won MVP honors in 1969, throwing for 2,549 yards and 24 touchdowns for an 11–3 Rams team. His 154 career touchdown passes are the most in franchise history. 

We mourn the loss of Rams legend and football pioneer, Roman Gabriel. We extend our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) April 20, 2024

Gabriel’s best season, statistically speaking, was in 1973 when he threw 3,219 yards and 23 touchdowns for an Eagles team that finished 5–8–1. His performance earned him Pro Bowl honors for the fourth time in his career.

Unfortunately, Gabriel didn’t experience much postseason success during his career. His teams lost in the divisional round twice in the playoffs. In 1967, the Rams went 11–1-2 but lost to the Green Bay Packers. And during his MVP season for an 11–3 club, Los Angeles was defeated by the Minnesota Vikings.

That might be why Gabriel is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite throwing for more career yards and touchdowns than Bob Griese, Bart Starr and Roger Staubach, all of whom won Super Bowl championships and are enshrined in Canton. 

RIP Roman Gabriel 🙏🏻#Rams#Eagles

A Tribute to a Colossus of a Quarterback

The 1969 NFL MVP, 1973 PFWA Comeback Player of the Year, and the Rams’ all-time career leader in touchdown passes

— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) April 20, 2024

During his 16 NFL seasons, Gabriel passed for 29,444 passing yards and 201 touchdowns with his teams compiling an 86–64–7 record. 

After his playing days ended, Gabriel briefly tried broadcasting, calling NFL games for CBS. He then went into coaching, leading the program at Cal Poly Pomona. That was followed by stints as offensive coordinator with the USFL’s Boston Breakers and head coach with the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football. 

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