Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1968: Super Bowl III - New York Jets vs Baltimore Colts
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped
without losing the continuity of the article.

Howard Schnellenberger

Joe Namath and Bear Bryant

Sonny Werblin presides over Namath's signing with Weeb Ewbank present.

Paul Brown and Weeb Ewbank

Don Maynard

Alex Hawkins

Don Shula (left) signs with Cleveland coach Paul Brown.

Carroll Rosenbloom


Pete Lammons



Babe Parilli

Bill Arnsparger

Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall

Jim Hudson

Lou Michaels

Walt Michaels

Billy Ray Smith

Norm Van Brocklin

Chuck Noll

Milt Woodard

Namath with his Fu Manchu

Dennis Gaubatz

Jerry Logan

Bobby Boyd

Gerry Philbin

Merle Harmon

Bubba Smith

Don Weiss in his later years

Al DeRogatis and Curt Gowdy

Clive Rush

Ewbank and Rosenbloom meet before the game

If Super Bowls I and II call to mind the name "Vince Lombardi," Super Bowl III instantly conjures up the name of a player - Joe Namath. It isn't often that a player changes the image of a team sport, but that's exactly what Namath did for pro football in the turbulent 1960s.
  • The Beaver Falls PA quarterback cast his lot with Alabama thanks to the recruiting efforts of receivers coach Howard Schnellenberger.
    When Schnellenberger brought Namath to the Alabama campus, the Crimson Tide were in the middle of a practice. Bear Bryant was in his usual spot on his tower overlooking the action. When he spotted Namath, Bear turned on his bullhorn and summoned Joe to ascend the stairs to the throne. Schnellenberger thought, This is why I was sent to Beaver Falls. This guy isn't just another great high school quarterback. He must be in a class by himself. Down below, freshman LB Gaylon McCollough spotted the new guy dressed like a mobster with a toothpick in his mouth and asked, Who is that character? A graduate assistant replied, That's your new quarterback. McCollough laughed. Right. He'll last about two days.
  • Namath lasted four turbulent years with Bear, including a suspension for the final game of the 1963 season and the Sugar Bowl.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals chose Joe with the #12 pick in the 1965 NFL Draft while the AFL's New York Jets made him the #1 pick in the AFL Draft.
  • Joe demanded a then-record $200,000 annual contract along with a Lincoln Continen­tal convertible from the Cardinals, who, it is now known, were working covertly for the New York Giants, who didn't want to risk embarrassment if the crosstown Jets landed Namath.
  • Jets owner Sonny Werblin, helped by the additional money the AFL received from the TV deal with NBC, signed Joe to a three-year $427,000 contract (along with a new car).
  • Namath's signing not only resuscitated the AFL's New York franchise but also set off a bidding war between the two leagues for draft choices that eventually led to an agree­ment to merge the two leagues.
The Jets steadily improved with Namath under center.
  • After a 5-8-1 mark in '65 - identical to their '64 record - the Jets finished 6-6-2 in 1966, 8-5-1 in 1967, and then 11-3 in 1968.
    The Jets were primed to contend in 1967, but 15 knee operations derailed their championship hopes. Nevertheless, they finished only a half-game out of first in the AFC East.
  • Winner of the East Division for the first time, the Jets defeated the Raiders 27-23 for the AFL Championship.
  • After an injury-plagued rookie season, Joe led the leagues in passing attempts, comple­tions, and passing yards. His astounding 4,007y in '67 marked the first time any passer had broken the 4,000 mark. The result was an AFL attendance record for the season.
  • "Broadway Joe" became the Glamor Boy of pro football thanks to his playboy lifestyle in the nation's biggest city. His thick sideburns and long locks and flashy clothes (in­cluding a fur coat he wore on the sidelines while injured) made him the favorite player of young people all over the nation during the decade of discontent, of non-conformist, and of flower children.
  • However, he also led the league in interceptions both seasons (27 and 28).
  • In '68, Joe threw for only 3,147y on 111 fewer attempts but also cut down his interceptions to 17. Part of the reason he threw less was that the Jets improved their running game from 1307y in '67 to 1608.
    The legendary Paul Brown, coach of the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, sized up Namath this way. He can really wing that ball in there. He has strength and accuracy and you'd better get to him or he will run you out of the park. He already is in a class by himself.
  • The final factor that put the Jets over the top was their improved defense.
    1967 - 3775y allowed, 3rd in the AFL
    1968 - 3363y allowed, 1st in the AFL
  • Looking ahead to the Super Bowl, the Jets were on a mission to gain respect for the AFL. WR Don Maynard expressed the sentiment this way. There were a lot of players on the Jets who knew about the ridicule and write-ups for the past nine years saying that the AFL wasn't as good as the NFL. We wanted to get even. We wanted to show we were as good as any team playing.
The NFL champion Baltimore Colts had no player who stood out like Namath.
  • Some writers labeled Don Shula's '68 squad the greatest ever after they rolled to a 13-1 record and clobbered the East champion Browns 34-0 in the title game. The outcome provided sweet revenge for the Colts since Cleveland had handed them their only de­feat of the season, 30-20 October 20 at Baltimore.
  • The Colts easily filled the void created in the Western Conference by the retirement of Vince Lombardi as Packers coach following Super Bowl II. With Phil Bengtson in charge, the aging Packers fell to 6-7-1.
  • It was Baltimore's fourth NFL championship game appearance and third title but their first without QB Johnny Unitas at the controls. The face of the franchise had suffered a severe arm injury in a preseason game that, coupled with a chronic elbow inflammation that had plagued him for years, limited him to five games and 32 pass attempts.
  • 34-year-old Earl Morrall, in his 13th year in the league, stepped up and quarterbacked the Colts so well he earned the NFL MVP Award from the AP, UPI, and NEA. He led the league with 26 touchdown passes and 9.2 yards/attempt (a statistic not kept at that time). He set career highs in those two categories as well as for completions (182) and passing yardage (2909).
    The Colts players were leery when Morrall replaced the fallen Unitas. Earl had not been a model of consistency the three previous seasons with the Giants. Receivers Jimmy Orr and Alex Hawkins worried that their quarterback would finally come back to Earth in the Super Bowl.
  • But the main factor in the Colts' dominance was their defense. Although Bill Arnspar­ger's unit finished fourth in yards allowed, the "bend but don't break" approach yielded the fewest points by far - 144 to second place Dallas's 186. That's only 10.3 per game.

The opposing head coaches had an 18-year connection.

  • Weeb Ewbank served as an assistant on Paul Brown's staff in Cleveland when Don Shula joined the club. Weeb had scouted the defensive back at John Carroll College in a Cleveland suburb and recommended that the Browns draft him.
  • Shula later played for Ewbank when Weeb became head coach of the Colts in 1954. After Baltimore fired Ewbank following the 1962 season, Shula replaced him.
  • Don had retired as a player after the 1957 campaign but continued in football as a coach at several colleges before returning to the NFL as defensive backfield coach for the Lions in 1960. Baltimore owner Carroll Rosenbloom made the 33-year-old Shula the youngest head coach in NFL history.
  • Meanwhile, Weeb wasn't unemployed long. The Jets hired him for the 1963 season and had enough patience with him (three 5-8-1 records in a row) to allow Ewbank to build a championship team around Namath's leadership.

Both teams gained confidence as they watched films of their Super Bowl opponent.

  • The Colts were not impressed with the Jets defense. Shula: They looked vulnerable on defense on film. They were not overly impressive from what we could see. We really felt we could run and pass freely.
  • DT Billy Ray Smith bragged that Namath can throw a football into a teacup at 50 yards. But he hasn't seen defenses like ours in his league. Our defenses are as complex as some team's offenses. We have 20 variations of blitzes and five or six variations of fronts. That lets us do a lot of things.
  • The Colts prided themselves on the complicated defense that mastermind Bill Arnsparger had orchestrated. They would show two defensive sets prior to the snap, then change again once the ball was snapped. They used eight to 10 coverages per game and disguised them cleverly. As Dallas coach Tom Landry said, You never see them the same way twice. They're difficult to read.
  • MLB Dennis Gaubatz could accept the call Arnsparger sent in between plays or change it. Shula, whose specialty was defense, Arnsparger, and secondary coach Chuck Noll prepared the game plan and gave Gaubatz a chart of the plays Namath liked to call in each down-and-distance situation.
  • DT Billy Ray Smith bragged that Namath can throw a football into a teacup at 50 yards. But he hasn't seen defenses like ours in his league. Our defenses are as complex as some teams' offenses. We have 20 variations of blitzes and five or six variations of fronts. That lets us do a lot of things.
    The Colts defensive backs held Noll in the highest esteem. Jerry Logan: We called Chuck "Knowledge Noll" because it was like being in a classroom when you were around him. I know he made me a smart player. He made sure you knew not only your assignment but everyone else's as well, and he'd grade you on your knowledge. He was a damn good coach, and he proved it later in Pittsburgh. He was a fiery guy, too. Not so much verbally, but he'd get his point across with little facial expressions. Coach Arnsparger was pretty quiet, mild-mannered. But he always put out great game plans.
  • But watching the Colts on film, Ewbank realized they were still running some of the zone defenses he had installed in his time in Baltimore. Gaining confidence as game day approached, he told his assistant Clive Rush, They're slow. If we can't pass on these guys, we ought to get out of the business. In particular, Weeb noticed that Baltimore always rotated its zone toward CB Bobby Boyd. I think they're trying to protect him, said the Jet coach. I think he's slow.
  • Jets TE Pete Lammons told his coaches to stop showing films of the Colts' defense because he and his teammates would get overconfident. Asked years later if that was true, Pete replied, Yes, sir. It might have been the smartest thing I ever said. We watch the defensive team, the two films we had of them. Of course, they walked through the playoffs. The other teams that they played seemed to not adjust offensively to the stuff that they had called. ... It seemed like they could not call audibles at the line of scrimmage. We did.
  • Unknown to the Jets, Boyd was concerned about their passing attack. After watching films of New York's recent games, he emerged with a concerned look. He told a teammate that The Jets have a damn good offense. Namath can throw the football with the best of them. But his teammates assured him that Namath was passing against inferior AFL secondaries. So when asked by a reporter if Joe could burn Baltimore with his long bombs, Boyd replied, I don't think he can. Nobody in the NFL has completed a bomb on us all season.
  • Ewbank also learned from the game plan that Los Angeles Rams coach George Allen had employed a year earlier to upset the 11-0-2 Colts and knock them out of the playoffs in the final game of the season. Their front four and three linebackers could kill you, Allen said afterward. We had to be ready to pick up the blitz. So he told his QB Roman Gabriel to read the defense and audible plays at the line. The result was a 34-10 victory.
  • OLB Larry Grantham was the Jets' counterpart to the Colts' Dennis Gaubatz. The former Ole Miss end called the defensive signals for Walt Michaels' defense and knew what each player was supposed to do in each scheme.
    Michaels may have been what today would be called the Defensive Coordinator of the Jets. But defensive assistant Buddy Ryan added an important element to the mix also. Offensive lineman Pete Herman: Buddy was one of the keys to that team, and not just the defense. He would lend you the intensity he had and also lend you the confidence he had. Walt had a quiet intensity. Buddy was more vocal.

Ewbank used a dual approach to prime his players for an upset.

  • First, he compared players on the seemingly unbeatable Colts with AFL players whom the Jets had han­dled. Second, he showed films of the famous 1958 NFL Championship Game in which the Baltimore beat the Giants in overtime and pointed out how many Colts from that game were still playing.
  • Watching film of the Colts, TE Pete Lammons playfully told Coach Ewbank, Weeb, if you don't stop showing us these films, we're gonna get overconfident. I guarantee ya, we're gonna beat these guys. The Jets thought the Baltimore defense - especially the secondary - was slow compared to what they went up against in the AFL.
  • The Colt Ewbank most feared was DE Bubba Smith. He decided that RT Sam Walton could not handle the man considered the best defensive end in either league. So he moved All-league RG Pete Herman to Walton's spot. Randy Rasmussen took over the guard position Herman vacated. Ewbank: Throwing something new at them might make them have to do some extra thinking.
    Bubba had a reputation for taking plays off. But Herman didn't see it that way from his film watching. He was very aggressive. He played full speed ahead every play.

If the Jets were fired up, the Colts were loose and so confident they seemed arro­gant to some observers, including their Super Bowl III opponents.

  • Baltimore WR Alex Hawkins wrote in his autobiography, After two days of watching the Jets' defense on film I came to one conclusion: Super Bowl III should be a rout. We should be able to score 50 against these people. I did not see one player in their defen­sive backfield who could make our team. Their linebackers were active but too small to be taken seriously. The front four were small and unable to rush the passer. All in all, I thought they were the poorest defensive unit I had seen in 10 years of pro ball.
  • Earl Morrall insisted in his 1971 autobiography that the Colts were not overconfi­dent. It would have been easy for us to have taken the Jets lightly. But we didn't. I'm sure of that. ... The Colts had the incentive a team needs in order to win. "This is the hungriest team I ever saw," John Mackey declared. And he said it after the Cleve­land game. That's how everyone on the team felt.
    Another thing; we came away from the film sessions with great respect for the Jets. They were a sound team; they made very few mistakes.
  • The oddsmakers pegged the Colts as 17-point favorites, a larger spread than the Pack­ers enjoyed in either of the previous two Super Bowls. The Jets were a bigger underdog in Super Bowl III than the College All Stars were against the champion Packers back in August. The line ranged as high as 21 points in some quarters as the game neared.
    An incident that happened before the Jets left for Florida illustrates Namath's confi­dence. Joe went to a restaurant-bar he frequented near the Jets training facility. Joe asked the owner, who was tending bar, How you betting?
    You guys, of course. Give me eighteen points. I'll take that anytime.
    Points? What are you talking about, points?
    Well, I mean .... Well, you know, eighteen is a lot and, well ...
    We're gonna win straight.
    Win straight?
    Eighteen points. What's that in odds?
    I don't know. Maybe seven to one.
    Bet it. Bet the ranch.
    You sure?

    Namath told his friend about his film study and how he felt the Jets had an excellent game plan.
    Impressed more by the confidence Joe exuded than the details he presented, the bar­keep raised $3,000 from his partner and their employees to bet on the Jets at 7 to 1.

At his press conference in Miami two days before the game, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle spoke about a possible change in the post-season format.

  • Responding to the widespread belief - first uttered by Vince Lombardi after Super Bowl I - that several NFL teams could have beaten the AFL champs in '66 and '67, Pete broached the idea of a change in the playoffs when the leagues merged in 1970 so that two NFL teams might play in the final game.
  • After Super Bowl III, such thoughts would be tabled. Two teams, the Colts and Cow­boys, that were part of the NFL before the merger did meet in Super Bowl V, but only because Baltimore (along with Cleveland and Pittsburgh) had switched to the AFC to equalize the number of teams in the two conferences.
    At the press conference, Rozelle raised the possibility of scheduling games on Monday night. We already have saturation on Sunday afternoons. We've got the football fan hooked. But on Monday night, we can reach a more varied audience. Maybe we can attract some new fans to professional football.
    Working with Roone Arledge of ABC-TV, Rozelle would make that dream come true when Monday Night Football debuted for the 1970 season. Namath and the Jets played in the first prime time game against the Browns in Cleveland.

The Jets flew to Fort Lauderdale FL ten days before the game.

  • Ewbank figured it would be very difficult to practice in New York on fields that were frozen. He could work the players hard in Florida and really work on the plays for the game.
  • The entourage stayed at the Galt Ocean Mile, a seaside resort, and practiced at the Yankees' spring training facility.
    Namath was assigned Mickey Mantle's locker at the training facility. Joe and S Jim Hudson stayed in the Governor's Suite at the resort, which Vince Lombardi had occupied before Super Bowl II. I'm not sure he would have approved of everything I did in his old room, Joe would later remark. But he actually spent a great deal of time watching film of the Colts.
    The morning after the Jets checked in, several FBI agents checked out Namath's room because of a threat made on his life several weeks earlier in New York. We think the guy who made it is in the Miami area now, an agent said. His room is in a good spot. His balcony faces the beach, not the pool ...
  • However, Weeb set no curfew until the Tues­day before the game. And he allowed wives and children to join the players three days before the game. However, the Jets were upset that the club wouldn't pay the wives' expenses.
  • Eight days before the big game, team physician Dr. James Nicholas drained two ounces of fluid from Namath's right knee. He also drained fluid from FB Matt Snell's damaged knee. But Nicholas could do little for WR Don Maynard except give him a cortisone shot in the left hamstring. The speedy receiver, who caught a 52y bomb from Namath in the AFL championship game against Oak­land, could hardly jog, much less run. But the Jets kept the extent of his injury secret to make the Colts prepare for the long pass.
    The public didn't know the extent of the beating Namath took from the Raiders in the AFL Championship Game. He suffered a sprained thumb on his throwing hand, a dislocated left ring finger, and a concussion.

The Colts arrived in Fort Lauderdale the Sunday before the game.

  • That same day, an article by Dave Anderson appeared in the New York Times recount­ing his interview of Namath on the flight from New York two days earlier.
  • Dave had started his talk with Namath by referring to Joe's remarks after the victory over the Raiders. During the celebration in the locker room, Namath claimed that Oakland's Daryle Lamonica was a better passer than Earl Morrall, the NFL MVP. Anderson asked, Still feel that way about Morrall? Namath replied. I said it and I meant it. Anybody who knows football players knows Lamonica throws better than Morrall. I watch all quarterbacks, and I study what they do. Joe cited three other AFL guys that he thought were better than the NFL's top-rated passer: John Hadl of San Diego, Bob Griese of Miami, and himself.
  • He was on a roll now. In our league, we throw a lot more to our wide receivers than they do in theirs. I completed 49 percent of my passes this season, but I could have completed 80 percent if I dropped the ball off to my backs like they do in their league.
  • Then he went even further and cited his own backup, Babe Parilli. You put Babe Parilli with Baltimore, and Baltimore might have been better. Babe throws better than Morrall. Listen, I don't have anything against Morrall, personally, it's just that I don't think he's that good a quarterback.
  • Although Joe was nursing a scotch, his brashness was deliberate. From his film study, he felt the Colts were overrated. When the Colts lost to the Browns at midseason, they didn't get beat by any powerhouse. I'm not going to take what I read about their defense. I'm going to go with what the one-eyed monster shows me. The one-eyed monster doesn't lie.
  • Namath couldn't believe the Colts were 17-point favorites. If we were allowed to bet, I'd bet $100,000 on this one. I might sound like I'm boasting and bragging, and I am. Ask anybody's who's played against us in our league. The Colts are good, but we're good too.
  • The interview set the tone for the entire week. The media flocked around Joe hoping to get his next juicy remark while the Colts stewed in anger and vowed to pulverize the Jets the following Sunday.
  • Response from writers broke down along league lines. Reporters from NFL cities snick­ered at Namath's "arrogant junk," as Jerry Green of the Detroit Free Press tagged it.
  • When reporters confronted Morrall about his reaction to Joe's remarks, Earl replied, Joe is getting his newspaper space, and that's what he's after, isn't it? He seems to thrive on being in the limelight. He's a guy who relishes publicity. Look, any player on any team has information and opinions on other players that would send newspapermen running to their typewriters and command a great deal of newspaper space the next day. But players keep these opinions to themselves - at least that's the way it's been traditionally. Maybe Namath represents a new breed of athlete, the kind of athlete the coming generation wants. I hope not.
  • Privately, Morrall was furious. He told a teammate, "I want to beat these guys by 40. I want to beat them bad."
  • Namath had set the tone for the Super Bowl and put the Colts on the defensive.Shula unwittingly added to the pressure on his team by telling them before they left Baltimore, Just remember that everything we've accomplished all season is riding on the outcome of this game.

With both teams staying in Fort Lauderdale, an encounter between Namath and Baltimore players was inevitable.

  • The night of Sunday, January 5, the day the Colts arrived, found Joe, wearing his fur coat, having a drink at Jimmy Fazio's bar in Fort Lauderdale with his roommate Hudson.
  • Another patron that evening was Colts DT Lou Michaels, the younger brother of Jets defensive coach Walt Michaels.
    Lou told reporters, I'm not going to talk to Walt until after the game if he still wants to talk then. If I know my brother like I think I know him, he's not going to be talking to me either.
    Namath had met Lou because Joe's older brother, Frank, was Lou's roommate at the University of Kentucky.
  • Lou walked over to Joe and introduced himself. You're doing a lot of talking, boy.
    As Michaels tells it, He pointed to me and said, "We're gonna kick the shit out of you, and I'm gonna do it." That's the exact words he used, God strike me dead.
  • According to Hudson, the two began arguing over who was the better Catholic and who treated his mother better. Then, of course, somebody said, "Well, we'll be tearing your ass up come Sunday."
  • Michaels: I told him my mother brought me up better - in so many words. He should have been thankful for the gift of being such a good athlete. Johnny Unitas never acted like that. Joe responded, Unitas is an old man. He's over the hill.
  • Lou fought to control his temper. It boiled my blood pressure over. He asked Namath to step out to the parking lot to settle their differences. I really got mad. If I went after him, no one would've been able to separate us.
  • Fifty pounds lighter than his adversary and with Hudson and Lou's teammate Dan Sullivan urging restraint, Joe passed on the offer.
  • Michaels asked, Suppose we kick the hell out of your team? Joe replied, I'll sit in the middle of the field and I'll cry. That broke the ice as everyone laughed.
  • We finally got to talking sensible, recalled Michaels. Namath ended up paying for everyone's drinks with a hundred-dollar bill and giving Michaels and Sullivan a lift back to their hotel. By the end of the evening, Michaels admitted that Joe wasn't such a bad guy after all.
    One night, Weeb was in his room with his wife, Lucy. He answered a knock on the door to find Johnny Unitas with his wife, Dotty. Ewbank and his former quarterback chatted about their children and how mutual friends in Baltimore were doing. Weeb escorted his guests down the hall but stopped short of the lobby lest a reporter see him with the opposing quarterback before the big game. Just then, Namath entered the lobby through the front door. As Weeb watched, his shaggy-haired quarterback in a blue turtleneck sweater under a blue blazer chatted with the crew-cut veteran who was wearing a gray suit and tie.

Namath even made the news the next morning by not appearing.

  • Jets Picture Day was scheduled for 10 AM. Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer slept through their wake-up call, and Hudson couldn't get Namath to rise and shine. If they want pictures of me, they're going to have to take 'em later than ten o'clock, said Joe.
  • Ewbank fined each no-show $50, exactly half what Joe spent on drinks the night before. Don Shula couldn't believe his old coach and predecessor had been so lenient. Namath didn't show up for Photo Day? What the hell is Weeb doing?
  • Word of what happened at Fazio's began leaking out as the day went on. Some reports described the encounter as a near fistfight. Others called it a heated debate.
  • Hudson summarized the confrontation this way. What else can you expect when two hard-headed coalminers from Pennsylvania get together?

Shula met with reporters, including Dave Anderson, Monday morning at the Colts hotel.

  • Don began by praising the brash Jets quarterback for his quick release and strong arm. A great arm ... sees the blitz ... recognizes defenses and can pick them apart ... knows where to go with the football. But Namath hasn't been throwing against the defenses that Earl has been throwing against.
  • Shula felt compelled to speak out against what Namath said about Morrall. I don't see how Namath can rap Earl. Don specifically objected to Joe's implication that Morrall piled up completions by tossing the ball to running backs, citing the fact that SE Jimmy Orr had averaged 25.6ypg, almost 3y better than Namath's main target, Maynard. He's thrown for a great percentage without using dinky flare passes. We're proud of him. Anyone who doesn't give him the credit he deserves is wrong. ... But I guess Namath can say whatever the hell he wants.
  • Shula got more and more angry as he continued talking. Shula was steaming, reported Anderson.

Other Colts and even another NFL coach joined in the criticism of Namath.

  • He's never faced anybody like he's going to have to face in our defense, said Johnny U. From the films of games I've seen, the Jets haven't had much of a pass rush put on them ... They haven't really been put under that much pressure. Our pass rush will be something, I think, that Namath will remember a long time.
  • One of the men who would provide some of that rush, DT Billy Ray Smith, praised Namath before vowing to stop him. The man can throw a football into a teacup at fifty yards. But he hasn't seen defenses like ours in his league. Our defenses are as complica­ted as some team's offenses. We have twenty variations of our blitzes and five or six variations up front. That lets us do a lot of things. I think reading our defenses will be a new experience for the man. He's a good QB, but he's still a young man. When he gets a little older, he'll get humility. ... I've never heard a quarterback make remarks like he's been making. A lineman sure, he can protect himself. But a quarterback, it only takes one crack to put him out of commission. ... There's nothing I like to hit more than quarterbacks, and when you get a mouthy one, it makes it that much better. (Make those remarks today and you'd draw a fine and possibly a suspension.)
  • Hall of Fame QB Norm Van Brocklin, head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, made the most acid comment of all. On Sunday, Joe Namath will play his first professional foot­ball game.
  • But Morrall himself continued to play it cool in front of reporters. He even praised Na­math. I've only seen him play on television, three or four times. He has a fast release and sets up quickly. He backpedals a lot deeper than most quarterbacks in our league, but I guess he wants to protect his knees. He doesn't do any scrambling, but he doesn't get thrown for losses too much either. I attribute that to his quick release more than anything else.
  • Meanwhile the point spread had increased to 18 points.
    Jets owner Sonny Werblin, who regularly played the horses, said, I haven't bet on a football game in eight years. But I have to go for this price.

Even though the Super Bowl was only three years old, the oppressive press coverage bespoke America's love for its new pastime.

  • However, the entourage following the Colts was nothing compared to the media hounding the Jets quarterback during what Larry Merchant of the New York Post labeled "Joe Namath Week."
  • Confronted by reporters and photographers while lounging poolside, Joe responded to the news that the betting line had risen to 18 points. That's crazy, he said playfully. We should only be favored by nine or 10.

    Namath holds court poolside.
  • The confident Colts signed autographs, held press conferences, enjoyed the beach, and bided their time until they polished off the Jets to earn the "greatest team of all-time" sobriquet.
  • Even a strict disciplinarian like Shula found it difficult to keep his team focused. He would later call it one of the most unpleasant weeks he ever had as a coach.
  • Defensive backfield coach Chuck Noll, who would lead five Steeler teams to Super Bowl titles, worried that the Colts weren't taking the Jets seriously enough.
  • The oddsmakers increasing Baltimore's advantage to as much as 21 points served only to feed the Colts' confidence and make the Jets even more determined to show the world they were better than the previous two AFL representatives in the big game.
  • Aware of the bias by NFL writers and CBS (exclusive TV rights holder with the NFL) against his league, Namath told the Jets public relations man that he was only going to talk to the writers he knows. But Joe enjoyed hearing himself talk too much to stay within those bounds. When a Los Angeles TV correspondent asked, What about the people who ex­pect a no-contest game?, Joe replied, Maybe we shouldn't play.
    How about the big point spread?
    Well, I don't know about odds or betting or things like that. But it is a pretty big price.
Still, no one expected what happened at the Thursday night banquet at the Miami Touchdown Club during which AFL president Milt Woodard presented Namath the Professional Football Player of the Year award - the first time the honor had gone to an AFL athlete.
It was ironic that Woodard gave Joe an award because earlier that year, when Namath and a dozen teammates following his lead grew Fu Manchu mustaches, Woodard wrote them a later saying it was bad for football's image to be identified with extremists in society. Joe shaved off the mustache for $10,000 in a TV commercial.
  • Joe reluctantly left a team barbecue to ride to the banquet in a turquoise Cadillac while sipping Johnny Walker Red in a paper cup.
  • Earlier speakers teased Namath about his bold pronouncements. By the time the hon­ored guest took the podium, he showed the effects of the liquor, slurring some words.
  • Joe started his acceptance speech with the usual thank yous to family and friends for their support. When we won the AFL championship, a lot of people thanked the wives. I'd like to thank all the single girls in New York. They deserve just as much credit. They're appreciated as much.
  • From the back of the room came a shout. Sit down!
    Laughing, Namath asked, Who's that? Lou Michaels?
    The voice yelled back, Hey, Namath, we're gonna kick your ...
    Joe responded, Listen. You don't know what you're talkin' about. We're going to win Sunday, I guarantee it.
    Joe admitted years later that the guarantee was not something he planned but a spur-of-the-moment response. It was just something I felt and said. It was my heart speaking ... Those guys were overconfident over there. ... I didn't plan it. I never would have said if if that loudmouth hadn't popped off. I just shot back. We had a good team, but people were treating us like we didn't belong. I was fed up with it, and I guess it just came out.
  • Namath's promise made the headlines all over the country the next day - but not in New York. NAMATH GUARANTEES JET VICTORY, proclaimed the Miami Herald.
  • Coach Ewbank supported his quarterback to reporters. That's the way he feels about it, and I'm for him. I wouldn't give a darn for him if he didn't think we could win. But privately he hated what Joe did. I could've shot him. ... We thought we could lick their defense. But we didn't want to say anything before the game. According to Joe, Ewbank told him, What have you done? ... Joe how could you do this? That team was so overconfident! Now you've given them something to get fired up about! Namath replied, If the Colts need newspaper clippings to get up for a game, then they're in a helluva lot of trouble.
    Jets FB Matt Snell was glad Joe hadn't said what the team really thought. I guaran­tee we'll win ... if they play the zone they've been playing all year.
    DE Gerry Philbin had the same reaction as others at first - let sleeping dogs lie. But the more he thought about it, the more he liked what Joe said. In the first two Super Bowls, Kansas City and Oakland kept saying how great Green Bay was so as not to get them mad. But I think some of the players started believing it themselves. There's no way this team is going to beat itself.
    When Jets radio announcer Merle Harmon heard about what Namath said, he shrugged. Sure, Joe guaranteed the win. But the whole team felt that way, and they had me believing it. The Jets were a good team. They were younger and faster than the Colts.
    Some of the Jets offensive lineman said that Namath wasn't the one who had to block a riled-up Bubba Smith.
  • Namath seemed oblivious to the furor he created. He figured, if the NFL champs needed opponents' remarks to fire them up, they were in trouble.
  • The Colts had varied responses to the guarantee.
    LB Dennis Gaubatz: I thought he was scared, so I just laughed it off. I figured, "No way are they going to beat us."
    S Jerry Logan: I didn't pay any attention to it. People say things, and if you pay atten­tion to them, then you're not doing the things you need to do to prepare for the game.
    Morrall considered it a publicity stunt. Some guys seem to thrive on that stuff.
    S Bobby Boyd felt the guarantee angered some of his teammates. It got under our skins.
    DE Bubba Smith expressed indignation. Namath shouldn't talk like that. A professional doesn't say things like that. Privately, though, Bubba admired Namath's bravado. If he wins, he's a fortune teller. If he loses, it's still a beautiful try.
    Coach Shula welcomed Joe's remark because it gave his team more incentive. Joe has made it much more interesting.
  • But no one was more thrilled than NFL Publicity Director Don Weiss. Namath's guar­antee had tremendously increased interest in a game that many considered a mis­match. It now became David vs. Goliath.

Both Ewbank and Shula brought conservative game plans to Miami.

  • Each coach wanted to mix the run and the pass to control the ball.
  • Colts defensive coaches Bill Arnsparger and Chuck Noll felt confident that their shifting zone defense could stop Namath & Company. They stood ready to unleash the eight-man maximum blitz that had confounded NFL opponents.
  • Ewbank simplified his offensive plan to emphasize basic running plays (off-tackle slants and draws) and simple pass patterns (hooks, flares, screens). He wanted to avoid the loss of poise that both Kansas City and Oakland had experienced when the Packers forced them into crucial errors in the first two Super Bowls.
  • Weeb possessed an advantage because he had installed many of the schemes the Colts employed from the time he coached them. Baltimore used the rotating zone 90% of the time to stop the long bomb. So Ewbank planned to take what the defense gave him. His main challenge would be getting Namath to stay with the game plan.
Despite Namath's proclamations, prognosticators remained solidly on the side of the NFL champions.
  • Of 55 writers polled, 49 picked the Colts. Two who took the Jets were George Usher and Stan Isaacs of Newsday, a Long Island publication.
  • Paul Zimmerman, a former college player widely respected for his knowledge of the game, called it 27-16 Colts.
  • But Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald went with Baltimore 42-13.
  • Sports Illustrated's Tex Maule, the dean of pro football writers who had consistently denigrated the AFL, wrote that the championship had been settled when the Colts slammed the Browns and called it 43-0 Baltimore. Cameron Snyder of the Baltimore Sun picked the Colts 47-0.
  • Vince Lombardi had praised Namath as a passer but, when asked to describe the Jets' chances, replied Infinitesimal.
  • One anonymous Colt (Hawkins?) told the sports editor of The Baltimore Evening Sun, I think we'll beat the Jets 50-0. Let me ask you, Who do you think has a better defense - the Jets or Cleveland? Cleveland, of course, And if we can hold Leroy Kelly's team scoreless, we should be able to hold anybody scoreless.
    Curt Gowdy, broadcasting the Super Bowl for NBC-TV, ran into Howard Cosell the morning of the game. Two years away from becoming a household name on Monday Night Football, New Yorker Howard was a fan of Namath and the Jets. But he told Gowdy, Cowboy! This is going to be a slaughter. The Colts'll kill 'em. I like Joe Willie Namath, but he may get a leg broken today.
    But Gowdy had a different view. First of all, when he got into a cab with his broadcast analyst Al DeRogatis, Al said, Ah, screw him. You know, the Jets are going to win this game. Just got a hunch. Their defense is a lot better than everybody thinks. And they've got a hell of a passing game. If they get some breaks, they can win.
    Gowdy also saw a marked contrast in the two teams' practice sessions. Ewbank invited him to a Jets workout during the week. It was the weirdest practice I'd ever seen. There wasn't a word spoken. ... These were the maddest guys, the most insulted guys, I'd ever seen.
    Shula invited Curt to a Colts workout a few days later. I got on the bus and rode over with 'em. They were singing and laughing. I was sitting next to Shula, and he said, "Geez, listen to these guys. I'm really worried about this game. Football is all mental. Any time one team's more ready to play than the other, they can beat you." ... I saw Tom Matte. We got to talking, and I said, "What are you going to do after the season?" He said, "Well, we get $15,000 for winning. I'm going to build a playroom on my home." He called over Dick Vogel, a great lineman. ... I asked him what he was going to do. He said, "We get $15,000 for winning. I'm going on an African safari." I talked to four or five of them. They already had their money spent.
Saturday night, both teams enforced strict curfews.
  • Jets players were told to be in bed by 11 PM, at which time coaches would conduct a bed check of those not staying with their wives. Missing the bed check would cost the miscreant $5,000.
    Namath answered the knock on his door in his underwear. He told offensive coach Clive Rush that he was staying up to look at color movies of the Colts. Rush said, Fine. If you detect anything new, let me know about it right away. If anyone new showed up in Joe's room that night, he didn't tell Rush about it.
    Don Maynard kept a heating pad on his sore leg the whole night.
  • The Colts had a similar curfew, but the penalty for not responding to bed check was not playing in the game.
1968 New York Jets
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
11 Jim Turner K 6-2 205 Utah State 5
12 Joe Namath QB 6-2 200 Alabama 4
13 Don Maynard FL 6-0 180 Rice, UTEP 11
15 Babe Parilli QB 6-1 195 Kentucky 17
22 Jim Hudson S 6-2 210 Texas 4
23 Bill Rademacher WR-DB 6-1 190 Northern Michigan 5
24 Johnny Sample CB 6-1 205 Maryland-Eastern Shore 11
26 Jim Richards DB 6-1 180 Virginia Tech 1
29 Bake Turner WR 6-1 180 Texas Tech 7
30 Mark Smolinski FB-TE 6-1 215 Wyoming 8
31 Bill Mathis FB-HB 6-1 220 Clemson 9
32 Emerson Boozer HB 5-11 195 Maryland-Eastern Shore 3
33 Curly Johnson P 6-0 215 Houston 9
35 Billy Joe RB 6-2 235 Villanova 6
41 Matt Snell FB 6-2 220 Ohio State 5
42 Randy Beverly CB 5-11 190 Colorado State 1
43 John Dockery DB 6-0 185 Harvard 1
45 Earl Christy KR 5-10 195 Maryland-Eastern Shore 3
46 Bill Baird PR 5-10 180 San Francisco State 6
47 Mike D'Amato DB 6-2 205 Hofstra 1
48 Cornell Gordon DB 6-0 185 North Carolina A&T 4
50 Carl McAdams DT-DE 6-3 240 Oklahoma 2
51 Ralph Baker LB 6-3 230 Penn State 5
52 John Schmitt C 6-4 250 Hofstra 5
56 Paul Crane C 6-3 210 Alabama 3
60 Larry Grantham LB 6-0 210 Mississippi 9
61 Bob Talamini G 6-1 255 Kentucky 9
62 Al Atkinson LB 6-2 230 Villanova 4
63 John Neidert LB 6-2 230 Louisville 1
66 Randy Rasmussen G 6-2 255 Nebraska-Kearney 2
67 Dave Herman G 6-1 255 Michigan State 5
71 Sam Walton T 6-5 270 Texas A&M-Commerce 1
72 Paul Rochester DT 6-2 255 Michigan State 9
74 Jeff Richardson T 6-3 250 Michigan State 2
75 Winston Hill T 6-4 270 Texas Southern 6
80 John Elliott DT 6-4 245 Texas 2
81 Gerry Philbin DE 6-2 245 Buffalo 5
83 George Sauer SE 6-2 195 Texas 4
85 Steve Thompson DE a6-2 250 Washington 1
86 Verlon Biggs DE 6-4 275 Jackson State 4
87 Pete Lammons TE 6-3 230 Texas 3
1968 Baltimore Colts
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
2 Timmy Brown RB 5-11 200 Ball State 10
15 Earl Morrall QB 6-1 205 Michigan State 13
16 Jim Ward QB 6-2 195 Gettysburg 2
19 John Unitas QB 6-1 195 Louisville 13
20 Jerry Logan S 6-1 185 West Texas A&M 6
21 Rick Volk S 6-3 195 Michigan 2
25 Alex Hawkins WR 6-0 190 South Carolina 10
26 Preston Pearson KR 6-1 205 Illinois 2
27 Ray Perkins WR 6-3 185 Alabama 2
28 Jimmy Orr SE 5-11 185 Wake F./Clem./Georgia 11
32 Mike Curtis LB 6-3 230 Duke 4
34 Terry Cole RB 6-2 220 Indiana 1
37 Ocie Austin DB 6-3 200 Utah State 1
40 Bobby Boyd CB 5-11 195 Oklahoma 9
41 Tom Matte HB 6-0 215 Ohio State 8
43 Lenny Lyles CB 6-2 200 Louisville 11
45 Jerry Hill FB 5-11 210 Wyoming 8
47 Charlie Stukes DB 6-3 210 Maryland-Eastern Shore 2
49 David Lee P 6-4 230 Louisiana Tech 3
50 Bill Curry C 6-3 235 Georgia Tech 4
51 Bob Grant LB 6-2 225 Wake Forest 1
52 Dick Szymanski LB 6-3 235 Notre Dame 14
53 Dennis Gaubatz LB 6-2 230 LSU 6
55 Ron Porter LB 6-3 230 Idaho 2
61 Cornelius Johnson G 6-2 245 Virginia Union 1
62 Glenn Resler G 6-3 250 Penn State 4
64 Sid Williams LB 6-2 235 Southern 5
66 Don Shinnick LB 6-0 230 UCLA 12
71 Dan Sullivan G 6-3 250 Boston College 7
72 Bob Vogel T 6-5 250 Ohio State 6
73 Sam Ball T 6-4 250 Kentucky 3
74 Billy Ray Smith DT 6-4 240 Auburn, Arkansas 12
75 John Williams DE 6-3 255 Minnesota 1
76 Fred Miller DT 6-3 250 LSU 6
78 Bubba Smith DE 6-7 265 Michigan State 2
79 Lou Michaels K 6-2 245 Kentucky 11
81 Ordell Braase DE 6-4 245 South Dakota 12
84 Tom Mitchell TE 6-2 215 Bucknell 3
85 Roy Hilton DE 6-6 240 Jackson State 4
87 Willie Richardson FL 6-1 200 Jackson State 6
88 John Mackey TE 6-2 225 Syracuse 6
Continue to game ...

References: Super Bowl: Of Men, Myths and Moments, Marty Ralbovsky (1971)
Gang Green: An Irreverent Look Behind the Scenes at 38 Seasons of New York Jets Football Futility, Gerald Eskenazi (1998)
Going Long: The Wild 10-Year Saga of the Renegade American Football League in the Words of Those Who Lived It, Jeff Miller (2003)
America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation, Michael MacCambridge (2004)
Namath: A Biography
, Mark Kriegel (2004)
The Gridiron's Greatest Quarterbacks, Jonathan Rand (2004)
From Baltimore to Broadway: Joe, the Jets, and the Super Bowl III Guarantee
, Ed Gruver (2009)
The Ultimate Super Bowl Book, Bob McGinn (2009)
The Little League That Could: A History of the American Football League, Ken Rappoport (2010)