The Triple Crown is an impressive individual feat in horse racing and in baseball. In horse racing, it means winning at the Preakness, Kentucky Derby, and Belmont Stakes. The racehorse American Pharoah captured the Triple Crown in 2015, the first such feat since 1978.
In baseball, it involves a player leading the league in three main statistical categories. For batters, it means leading the league in batting average, runs batted in, and home runs. Miguel Cabrera won the latest Batting Triple Crown in 2012, the first Batting Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
For pitchers, it counts wins, strike outs, and earned run average, although this feat is far more common and has been achieved eight times since 1997, including Pedro Martinez in 1999.
There isn't a specified Triple Crown in football, although we can manufacture a title for quarterbacks (completion rate, passing yards, touchdowns), running backs (attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns), and receivers (receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns).
Here's the full list (data courtesy of Pro Football Reference). Similar to baseball, there are multiple winners for some seasons prior to the merger. Ages of the players are in parentheses.
The Rushing Triple Crown has been attained thirty times, a far greater number than the crowns for quarterbacks and receivers. Still, only five running backs have won the Crown since 1980. It seems that running backs at the dawn of football were far more likely to lead the league in all three categories.
Spec Sanders (AAFC) and Steve Van Buren (NFL) both won the Rushing Triple Crown in 1947, for their respective leagues.
Jim Brown won four career Rushing Triple Crowns, while Van Buren won three in a row. No running back in their 30s has ever won the Triple Crown.
DeMarco Murray won the Rushing Triple Crown this past season, although he tied Marshawn Lynch for the season lead in rushing touchdowns.
|1937||Cliff Battles (27)||WAS||216||874||5|
|1943||Bill Paschal (22)||NYG||147||572||10|
|1944||Bill Paschal (23)||NYG||196||737||9|
|1946||Spec Sanders (28)||NYY||140||709||6|
|1947||Spec Sanders (29)||NYY||231||1432||18|
|1947||Steve Van Buren (26)||PHI||217||1008||13|
|1948||Steve Van Buren (27)||PHI||201||945||10|
|1949||Steve Van Buren (28)||PHI||263||1146||11|
|1953||Joe Perry (26)||SFO||192||1018||10|
|1955||Alan Ameche (22)||BAL||213||961||9|
|1956||Rick Casares (25)||CHI||234||1126||12|
|1958||Jim Brown (22)||CLE||257||1527||17|
|1959||Jim Brown (23)||CLE||290||1329||14|
|1960||Abner Haynes (22)||DTX||156||875||9|
|1962||Jim Taylor (26)||GNB||272||1474||19|
|1963||Jim Brown (27)||CLE||291||1863||12|
|1964||Cookie Gilchrist (29)||BUF||230||981||6|
|1965||Jim Brown (29)||CLE||289||1544||17|
|1966||Jim Nance (23)||BOS||299||1458||11|
|1967||Leroy Kelly (25)||CLE||235||1205||11|
|1968||Leroy Kelly (26)||CLE||248||1239||16|
|1968||Paul Robinson (23)||CIN||238||1023||8|
|1973||O.J. Simpson (26)||BUF||332||2003||12|
|1975||O.J. Simpson (28)||BUF||329||1817||16|
|1977||Walter Payton (23)||CHI||339||1852||14|
|1980||Earl Campbell (25)||HOU||373||1934||13|
|1987||Charles White (29)||RAM||324||1374||11|
|1995||Emmitt Smith (26)||DAL||377||1773||25|
|2005||Shaun Alexander (28)||SEA||370||1880||27|
|2014||DeMarco Murray (26)||DAL||392||1845||13|
This might as well be called the Don Hutson Crown, as he won the title a staggering five times, including four in a row from 1941-1944. Hutson revolutionized the wide receiver position, and the numbers show it. He is the only receiver to win the crown multiple times. The Receiving Triple Crown has been attained fifteen times.
Only three players have earned the Receiving Triple Crown since 1966: Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992), and Steve Smith (2005).
While the rise of slot receivers might have made it more difficult for players to earn the Receiving Triple Crown, Antonio Brown came close last season, leading in both receptions and yards, with Dez Bryant edging out Brown in touchdowns.
|1932||Ray Flaherty (29)||NYG||21||350||5|
|1936||Don Hutson (23)||GNB||34||536||8|
|1941||Don Hutson (28)||GNB||58||738||10|
|1942||Don Hutson (29)||GNB||74||1211||17|
|1943||Don Hutson (30)||GNB||47||776||11|
|1944||Don Hutson (31)||GNB||58||866||9|
|1951||Elroy Hirsch (28)||RAM||66||1495||17|
|1953||Pete Pihos (29)||PHI||63||1049||10|
|1959||Raymond Berry (26)||BAL||66||959||14|
|1964||Johnny Morris (28)||CHI||93||1200||10|
|1965||Dave Parks (23)||SFO||80||1344||12|
|1966||Lance Alworth (26)||SDG||73||1383||13|
|1990||Jerry Rice (27)||SFO||100||1502||13|
|1992||Sterling Sharpe (27)||GNB||108||1461||13|
|2005||Steve Smith (26)||CAR||103||1563||12|
The Passing Triple Crown has been attained ten times, although only three have come after the merger. Slingin' Sammy Baugh won the NFL Triple Crown twice, including the same season Otto Graham won the AAFC Triple Crown in 1947.
The three modern-era Crown winners are the Greatest Show on Turf's Kurt Warner in 2001, 2007's Tom Brady as a part of the best offense in football history, and 2011's Drew Brees as he set the (then) record for the most single season passing yards in NFL history.
|1935||Ed Danowski (23)||NYG||794||50.44%||10|
|1936||Arnie Herber (26)||GNB||1239||44.50%||11|
|1940||Sammy Baugh (26)||WAS||1367||62.70%||12|
|1941||Cecil Isbell (26)||GNB||1479||56.80%||15|
|1947||Sammy Baugh (33)||WAS||2938||60.60%||25|
|1947||Otto Graham (25)||CLE||2753||59.30%||25|
|1965||John Brodie (30)||SFO||3112||61.90%||30|
|2001||Kurt Warner (30)||STL||4830||68.70%||36|
|2007||Tom Brady (30)||NWE||4806||68.90%||50|
|2011||Drew Brees (32)||NOR||5476||71.20%||46|
All three of these NFL Triple Crowns are impressive achievements, regardless of the value one attributes to the award. Just eleven total Triple Crowns have been attained since 1980, and just six since the turn of the century, so they remain a rare and impressive feat.