Tom O’Malley’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Cincinnati-native Tom O’Malley is the only T formation quarterback in NFL history to wear the number 76, but wore it for only one game, despite setting a Green Bay record that has yet to be topped.

After high school, Tom served in the Navy for three years during World War II before entering the University of Cincinnati in 1946. Under new coach Sid Gillman in 1949, O’Malley led the nation in passing yards as a senior with 1,617 and threw for 16 touchdowns. Gillman appreciated O’Malley so much that he retired Tom’s number 27 jersey for Cincinnati, although it did not stay retired. The undrafted 5’11” quarterback signed with the Browns as a free agent in March but was traded to Green Bay on August 28, 1950 for a draft pick.

Packers new coach Gene Ronzani went into his first league game three weeks later with two rookie quarterbacks: second round pick Tobin Rote and O’Malley. Rote started on opening day against the Lions at City Stadium and led the Packers to a first quarter touchdown, but was not very effective, completing three of ten passes for 55 yards and being intercepted once.

When Rote left in the second quarter due to a shoulder injury, though, things went completely downhill. O’Malley came into the game and attained a passer rating of 0, completing four of fifteen passes for 31 yards and being intercepted a team record six times. Detroit won the game 45-7, and O’Malley was waived three days later when Ronzani acquired veteran quarterback Paul Christman from the Chicago Cardinals.

O’Malley never played in the NFL again, but did surface with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1951 and led them to a Grey Cup championship that year. Also on the 1951 champion Rough Riders was Bob Gain, the Packers top draft pick that year, who passed on Green Bay for Canada. Returning to the U.S. in 1952, Gain went to six Pro Bowls as a Cleveland Brown. O’Malley played two more years in Ottawa and then retired from football at age 29. He was elected to the University of Cincinnati Ring of Honor in 2006 and died in 2011.

(The colorized 1950  Bowman-style O’Malley on the left and colorized 1951 Bowman-style Gain on the right both feature the players in their college uniforms.)

1950bctomalley   1951bbgain

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