Thursday, August 1, 2013

Joe Namath & the '68 Jets

One of my most favorite teams of all time was the 1968 New York Jets with quarterback Joe Namath. 

 He was my favorite football player.  I also liked their receivers George Sauer and Don Maynard and in '68 they had one of the league's best defensive teams too.
    There's a lot of football trivia history embedded in the '68 Jets and their historic season. First and foremost, the AFL-NFL thing.  The NFL had been around since way back in 1933. The upstart NFL, by contrast, had its beginnings in 1960.  So the old historic league was meeting up with the "new kids on the block" for the third time in a championship game.  

  In the past two games, the Green Bay Packers had destroyed the AFL's representative teams, beating the Kansas City Chiefs by 35-10 and the Oakland Raiders by 33-14.  This year was not to be any different story, as the NFL champions, the Baltimore Colts, had a 13-1 record and were favored by the oddsmakers to win by 18 points.  They had literally dominated their league all season, and had been described as one of the best teams in the history of the league.  Their defense especially was highly touted, only allowing 10 points per game. They had faced the only team to beat them in the regular season, the Cleveland Browns, in the NFL championship game and won 34-0 on the Browns home field.  Conversely, the Jets almost lost their championship game at home in New York's Shea Stadium, losing the lead in the fourth quarter after a Namath interception return, and having to come back and win by only 27-23 with a late touchdown pass by Namath to one of his favorite receivers Don Maynard.

   So no one really gave the Jets a chance in hell of pulling off a win in this biggest of all games.  Another odd fact was that the Jets' coach, Weeb Ewbank, had been the Colt's coach just a few years earlier, from 1958-62, and had coached them in two of their most famous games, the 1958 and '59 NFL Championship games against the New York Giants.  The first of these two has often been called the "greatest game of all time" because it was the very first Sudden Death overtime game, and was televised nationally as the famous Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas drove his team to a touchdown by coolly and perfectly executing a mix of run and pass plays.

  During the week preceding the Super Bowl game, Namath was attending an awards dinner in at the Miami {the site of the game} Touchdown Club and was at the podium when the subject of the game came up.  An obvious Colts fan yelled out, "Namath, we're gonna kick your a--" to which Joe replied, in like fashion, "Wait a minute, .. hold on. You .. guys have been talking all week, but I've got news for you, buddy. We're gonna win the game. I guarantee it."  This caused quite a stir in the room, as well as in the media. There were also a couple of Colts players in the room at the time, and its effect was not lost on them.  Here was a brash, young quarterback from the other league spouting off about how his team was gonna crush the talented Baltimore Colts.

  After making his famous guarantee, Joe was seen by fans and reporters relaxing poolside at his hotel.  Not exactly the picture of stress and anxiety.  Looking pretty cool.  In the meantime, Joe was asked about Colts quarterback Earl Morrall, who had replaced Unitas earlier in the year, but had won the MVP award for best player.  Joe went on to state that he believe that there were at least six quarterbacks in the AFL who were better than Morrall, including himself, of course.  All of which obviously ate at the opposing Colts players and coaches. 

  Jets coach Ewbank blasted Namath for his remarks, reminding him that this quote was going to be put on the Colts bulletin board and was going to incite and ignite the Colts players. Namath simply replied, "Well, it's your fault, coach."    A bewildered Ewbank asked for an explanation, to which Joe responded, "You've been telling us all year long how good we are, and now we're just believing it!"

January 12, 1969... Super Bowl III

A few days later, in the sunshine of Miami's Orange Bowl,Joe Namath and the Jets made history by beating those Baltimore Colts 16-7 in what has become one of the most famous games in NFL history.  Without throwing a single touchdown pass, Namath still was commander over the field, methodically engineering drive after drive, and the Jets defense, while not perfect, dominated the Colts, forcing four interceptions and a fumble.

I would love to say that I was faithfully committed that the Jets were going to win this game.  I must say honestly... that I didn't know.  But I had hope and faith in them.  

  I remember my dad and I were in our living room, watching on a small (19") Zenith color TV.

  In the end, Joe Namath was asked if he thought that anyone had bet on the Jets in Super Bowl III.  He replied, "Well, I don't know about that. It's just a hell of a shame for those that picked it the other way."


  1. I thought this was the sports section. Where is your drag racing coverage?

  2. Finally found your comment. There will be NO drag racing coverage, as long as I'm actively monitoring and administering this site.