WHEN “JOE WILLIE” WALLOPED THE NFL
Published on August 21, 2012 by Jim Amato · No Comments
Professional football…I have followed since I was seven years old. How could I not growing up in the football mad city of Cleveland ? The Browns were always in contention and the old Municipal Stadium was packed with 80,000 plus whenever the Browns played at home. Back then the soon to be a dynasty in the 1970′s Pittsburgh Steelers were normally the Browns whipping boys. I can remember my father and other members of the Knights Of Columbus chartering a bus to Pittsburgh to watch the Browns play there. Most of the time the Browns rolled to victory. Back then it was all good. Of course the Browns won it all in 1964 upsetting and embarrassing the Baltimore Colts 27-0. That was the last time the Browns were the champions of the NFL. They have NEVER gone to the Super Bowl. Close …but no cigar.
My love for football even spilled over to the NFL’s poor cousin, the American Football League. Few took the fledgling AFL seriously when they first came on the scene. The NFL scoffed at them. They remembered the old All American Football Conference that gave birth to the Browns trying to unseat the NFL. Eventually and mostly because the Browns were so dominant in the AAFC, it was disbanded. The NFL expanded to absorb the Browns and a few other AAFC castoffs into the senior circuit. It was really no great alarm to the NFL owners when the AFL began its impossible journey. I can remember buying AFL football cards then. Some of the stars were Jack Kemp, John Hadl, Cookie Gilchrist, Jim Nance, Lance Allworth and Keith Lincoln just to name a few. Every year the AFL became more established and they began trying to lure top college players to play in their league. This began to have an effect on the quality of the NFL. Finally the NFL agreed to let their league champion play the champion of the AFL. Lo and behold the Super Bowl was born. The NFL in their infinite wisdom thought this would show how much more superior they were to the AFL. They figured their representative would spank the AFL representative and put them in their proper place. It worked for the first two years thanks to the Vince Lombardi led Green Bay Packers. The first Super Bowl matched the Pack with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers were not an exciting team. They were very methodical in their approach to the game. All the Chiefs innovative formations effected the Packers in no adverse way. The Pack was still the Pack and they muscled their way to a victory. The second Super Bowl was not much different. The Packers again represented the NFL. They were matched with the AFL champion Oakland Raiders. Again the straight forward, no nonsense Packers won. The NFL had proved that they were the better league.
Super Bowl III would ultimately change the course of professional football. The NFL would be represented by the powerful Baltimore Colts. They were solid favorites to emerge victorious over the AFL winners, the New York Jets. The Colts were favored by as much as seventeen points. The Jets quarterback seemed to be insulted by the large point spread. He was a brash, hot shot quarterback out of Alabama where playing under the great Bear Bryant he sharpened his skills. Now with Jets he had the arrogance and attitude to promise a victory over the Colts. His name as Howard Cosell would later refer to him, Joe Willie Namath ” Super Joe ” was about to rock the NFL’s world and serve notice that the AFL had earned parity with the NFL.
It was not a great game in the sense of action but as it unfolded the historical ramifications of this huge upset became apparent. Behind the strong legs of running back Matt Snell and the confident play calling of Namath, the Jets were controlling the game. The pumped up Jets defense forced the Colts to make some crucial mistakes and as the time whittled away it looked like Joe Willie was going to deliver on his promise. The final score…Jets – 16 the Colts -7. Who would have believed it ? The NFL was dealt a crushing and humiliating blow. They could no longer carry their pompous attitude. Any chance the Jets win was just a fluke was dispelled as in Super Bowl IV the Kansas city Chiefs gained a sense of revenge for their loss in Super Bowl I. Led by Len Dawson, the Chiefs dominated the Minnesota Vikings.
Soon after the AFL would merge with the NFL.creating two separate conferences, the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference. Three teams from the old NFL went to the AFC to balance the league. They were the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns. Ironically it was two teams from the old NFL that squared off for Super Bowl V as the Colts edged the Dallas Cowboys.
Joe Namath never played in another Super Bowl. Knee injuries beset him throughout his career. Nevertheless his greatness was established the day he humbled the NFL.