Heading into Super Bowl LIII (53), New York Jets fans will be watching QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots face off against the Los Angeles Rams for a chance to win the team's NFL record 6th Super Bowl. After several years of toiling around towards the bottom of the East Division, American Football Conference and National Football League, there's a growing urgency for Jets management to turn this franchise around.
As painful as it may be to watch this year's game, there's a sense of nostalgia in the air for Jets fans. You see, this is the Golden anniversary of one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl History. Not only did the New York Jets shock the football world and the mighty Baltimore Colts, but they embarrassed bookmakers who gave the Jets virtually no chance of victory. The gambling industry had not yet envisioned a time when online gambling providers like FanDuel (see this FanDuel welcome offer) would exist and maybe that's a good thing. They too would have suffered the shame of underestimation.
The stage was set when bookmakers made Baltimore an 18-point favorite. The Colts were coming off a solid 13-1 season and a devastating 34-0 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship game. The Jets had just completed an 11-3 season, capped off by a 27-23 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the AFL Championship game. Is it possible that the talent level between these two teams was wide enough to justify such a line?
After the Green Bay Packers walloped the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in Super Bowls I and II respectively, bookmakers could only assume a similar fate awaited the Jets. There was also an arrogance carried by NFL teams that suggested the entire AFL was simply inferior to the established teams of the NFL. Teams like the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Colts and Packers were rich with history. The football community used terms like "the black and blue" to describe the kind of football played in the NFL.
The AFL was a pass happy league where teams avoided the opportunity to mix it up in the trenches. Broadway Joe Namath was at the center of this new approach to football. Sure-handed pass catchers like George Sauer Jr. and Don Maynard were dashing all over the field, catching delicate passes from the man who dared to "guarantee" a victory over the Colts. Was it arrogance or did Namath know something the rest of football world was soon going to find out?
On the field, the Jets played the Colts even on both sides of the ball. The Jets decided they could run the ball just effectively as the Colts and that's exactly what they did behind Matt Snell, who rushed for 121 yards and one TD. Place kicker Jim Turner would do the rest of the scoring for the Jets with three field goals.
The difference in the game was five turnovers by the Colts, including four interceptions between QBs Earl Morrall and Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas. The Colts scored late, but it came too late in the game as the Jets walked off with the 16-7 upset victory.
As Jets fans watch Super Bowl LIII in progress, it will be hard for them to resist the temptation to remember Broadway Joe running off the field, wagging the #1 symbol to assure football fans the AFL was here to stay. That was only a short 50 years ago.