To AFL Home Page
To AFL Home Page LowerDotcomLogo.jpg (2555 bytes)

EastDivCombo.jpg (2262 bytes) WestDivCombo.jpg (2267 bytes)
.

The 1968 American Football League Season and the . . .

 

JetsPlaqColor.gif (73359 bytes)


Jets 2008 40th Anniversary logo

 

1968 was a great year for the American Football League, culminating in the humiliation of the "greatest team on Pro Football history" by the AFL's New York Jets.  Below are some clippings on AFL players and teams from various sources throughout the year.

 

American Football League Pictorial program covers from 1968

 

               Showing his arrogant bias, on September 30 1968, Tex Maule wrote an SI article on Pro Football's best young quarterbacks.  Somehow, he forgot to mention Joe Namath, Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, or Bob Griese!  He did praise those unforgettable NFL icons, Gary Cuozzo, Jack Concannon, Kent Nix, Bill Munson, and Randy Johnson.  You remember them, don't you?   Below are some photos of some of the AFL's underrated field generals.

 

In 1968, Jack Kemp and Ron McDole were the Bills' offensive and defensive captains.

 

        The two-time AFL champion Buffalo Bills fell on hard times in 1968, winning only one game.  In a 35-6 thrashing by the Oilers in their second encounter, Don Trull threw for two touchdowns and Pete Beathard mopped up.    

 

In 1968, the University of Buffalo's John Stofa was the
first expansion pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, from the Dolphins.

 

                The Jets went 11-3, defeating the Oilers 20-14 at the Astrodome, and 26-7 at Shea Stadium.

 

A week after they beat the Oilers at Shea Stadium, the Jets went West to play the Raiders on Sunday, November 17.  At 7 PM, the Jets were leading 32-29 with one minute left.  NBC made the incredible blunder of cutting the game off so that they could show the TV movie Heidi.  In those days, I had a list of radio stations that carried games of American Football League teams.  I tuned in the Jets game in time to hear Lamonica throw a 42-yard pass to Charlie Smith, and Preston Ridlehuber recover a fumble for a Raiders' touchdown to win them the game 43-32.

 

A little known fact about Ridlehuber is that in 1969 with Buffalo, he had a perfect 158.3 passer rating.   He threw one pass and completed it to Haven Moses for 45 yards and a touchdown in a 23-16 win over the Patriots, one of only four wins for the Bills that year.  Most fans didn't know who the passer was, because he wore jersey number 31, a number which up to that time had been used only on the Bills logo, and never worn by an actual player.

To see some other articles about the Heidi game, click here.

 

           "When the New York Jets took a 32-29 lead over the Oakland Raiders with 65 seconds to play the other day, victory for the Jets seemed to be solidly locked away." ~ Arthur Daley, NY Times

 

This is a page from my AFL scrapbook. 

           "Attention will be focused on an American Football League game like it has never been focused before." ~ Larry Felser, Buffalo Evening News 

Click on individual articles to enlarge.

 
               The 1968 AFL Championship Game was played on December 29, 1968.  The Jets defeated the defending AFL Champion Oakland Raiders 27-23.  Click on individual articles to enlarge.

 

.

     Namath had rather unconventional training habits.  Before Super Bowl III, he relaxed by the pool. Later, during a press conference, Joe casually said: "We're gonna win, I guarantee it."  He said it not out of bravado, but from confidence.

 

It was not only the best Super Bowl, it was the best program cover!
It was the only one ever to depict the two teams actually playing in the game.
Now, like a high school yearbook, the program is prepared well in advance of the actual event, and has only a late insert about the teams in the games. 
Modern covers are generic.

.

The injured Don Maynard, pictured above, could be only a decoy,
but it was George Sauer Jr., below, who bedeviled Lenny Lyles,
with eight receptions for 133 yards.

JetsWin16to7w700.jpg (93790 bytes) NamathNo1.jpg (30330 bytes)
 

      Right guard Dave Herman and the rest of the Jets' offensive line gave Namath maximum protection.

 
 

      AFL Referee Jack Reader signals a touchdown by Matt Snell.

.

      Original art by Gary Thomas.

.

NamathLong.jpg (14036 bytes) SBIIISmall.jpg (102697 bytes) JetsScanSmall.gif (39500 bytes)

SB03ringBetter.gif (11145 bytes)
SUPER BOWL III

.

        The 1969 regular season started with the Jets at Buffalo.  Hundreds of Bills fans (including me) greeted the Jets at the Buffalo airport, shouting "Thank you Jets!"
          When the visiting, defending World Champion Jets, the Bills' AFL Eastern Division rivals, ran onto the field at War Memorial Stadium,  a sellout crowd of 46,151 Bills fans gave them a standing ovation, and the Bills Cheerleaders honored them by displaying a green and white sign reading CHAMPS!
           What other league ever had fans as loyal?

 

       In 1971, Mike Curtis was whining about the Colts' loss to the Jets in the third AFL-NFL World Championship Game, and complaining that the Colts had to "move to the AFL" after the merger.
       AFL fan
nospam.johnyrad@optonline.net was kind enough to send us this copy of a "letter to the editor" from the December 1971 Football Digest.

       "So Mike Curtis doesn't like being in the AFL?  Well, the feeling is mutual.  AFL fans would rather have kept their name and emblem and let the NFL keep their three teams."

       "The Jets burst the NFL's balloon.  You can't put a balloon back together, Mike."

       "The Vikings may get a shot at revenge against the Chiefs someday, but the Colts never did and never will beat the Jets in a Super Bowl."

..

   
 
          As late as 2011, Curtis couldn't let it go. "That's my worst memory that affected me the rest of my career and it still does affect me," he said. "We were so much better. We were favored to win by 18 points and we'd smashed everybody throughout the year."
         That's typical
NFL revisionist history.  What Curtis forgets was that the Colts were only better than the sluggish teams of the NFL.
The Jets, however, were better than the high-flying teams of the
AFL, better than the Colts, and therefore better than any other team in the NFL. That is, for the 1968 season, the AFL's Jets were the best team in Professional Football.
          All the
NFL sycophants of the day touted the 1968 Colts as "the best team in the history of Professional Football".  So, by defeating them, the JETS earned that sobriquet.
           To Mike Curtis, I say if the Colts had been "so much better" than the Jets, they would have won.
   
 

              The players shown below were all with the Jets' 1968 AFL Championship and World Championship team.  In spite of NFL apologists' claims that the AFL was better only because of the "merger" and the Common Draft, the overwhelming majority of the Jet starters were drafted BEFORE the merger.  Several remained from the era of the "lowly" Titans of New York.

.

LARRY GRANTHAM

GranthamFrontSmall.jpg (71076 bytes)

 RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)A member of the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame, linebacker Larry Grantham of the University of Mississippi came to the New York Titans in the 1960 college draft and helped form the backbone of a Jets defense that reached the playoffs in 1968 and 1969, and captured the 1968 American Football League and World Championships.
       From his right outside linebacker spot, Grantham wrought havoc on opposing offenses. One of the Jets leading tacklers, he was named to the
American Football League All-Star team five times and played in eight league All-Star games.    He was selected to the All-Time All- AFL second team.
      
One of only twenty players who were in the American Football League for its entire ten-year existence, and only seven AFL players who played their entire careers in one city.

  Grantham60.gif (2027 bytes)     AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


.

WINSTON HILL

1965Topps116Hill250w.jpg (37281 bytes)

          Winston Hill, an offensive tackle from Texas Southern University started with New York’s American Football League franchise in the same year that they became the New York Jets, and went on to record the tenth-longest string of starts in pro football history, 174. He was an American Football League All-Star in 1964, 1967, 1968, and 1969.   Hill was an overpowering blocker who opened gaping holes for Matt Snell in the Third AFL-NFL World Championship game.   He was selected to the second-team All-time All-American Football League Team and is a member of the Texas Southern Sports Hall of Fame and the New York Jets All-Time team.

Hill75.gif (2016 bytes)    AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


.

BILL MATHIS

MathisFrontSmall.jpg (55546 bytes)

RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)One of four Titans who remained with the Jets to win a World Championship, Clemson's  Hall of Fame halfback Bill Mathis led the American Football League in carries in 1961.  He was an AFL  All-Star in 1961 and 1963.   Mathis had a collarbone broken in the third game of 1961, against the Boston Patriots.  He played in the next game, and in fact in all the remaining games of the season.  That persistence allowed him to gain a roster spot year after year, and end his career in 1969 as a member of the World Champion New York Jets.   One of only 20 players who were in the AFL for its entire 10-year existence, and only 7 players who played their entire AFL careers in one city.

Mathis31.gif (2236 bytes)

AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League

Hall of Fame

.

DON MAYNARD

MaynardTitans.jpg (34902 bytes)

RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)The very first Titan, Texas Western's (UTEP)   Don Maynard was an example of the lack of player-evaluation skills of NFL teams.    Released by the Giants, he played one year for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, and then became an American Football League All-star and a Super Bowl champion.  With 72 pass receptions in his first year as a Titan, he had 5 seasons with 50 or more catches and 1,000 yards receiving.  In 1960, he teamed with Hall of Famer Art Powell to form the first professional wide receiver tandem to each gain over 1,000 yards on receptions in a season.   They did it again in 1962.  Maynard held the pro record for total receptions and yards receiving.  A 4-time AFL All-star, he is 6th in all-time pro football td receptions, with 88.  Maynard is a member of the All-Time All-AFL Team team.  In the 1968 AFL Championship game against the defending AFL Champion Raiders, Maynard caught 6 passes for 118 yards and 2 tds.  That made the Colts so wary of him in Super Bowl III that, though he played injured and didn't have a reception, his very presence on the field opened up the Jets' offense.  One of only 20 players who were in the AFL for its entire 10-year existence, and only 7 players who played their entire AFL careers in one city.

Maynard13s.gif (2395 bytes)

AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the All-time Jets Team, and the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

.

JOE NAMATH

NamathFlashRing245w.jpg (34404 bytes)

       Joe Namath, from the University of Alabama, was passed up by the NFL as "too expensive".   He would soon show that he was a bargain at any price.  Signed to the Jets team by Hall of Fame owner Sonny Werblin in 1965, Namath was AFL Rookie of the Year, and became the first pro quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season (1967).  He was a three-time American Football League All-star, although plagued with knee injuries through much of his career.   Still, he enjoyed many exceptional days, one of which came in the 1968 AFL title game, when he threw three touchdown passes to lead New York to a 27-23 win over the defending American Football League Champion Oakland Raiders. 
       His shining moment was his generalship in the Jets' win over the Colts in the third
AFL-NFL World Championship Game.   The 1968 NFL Champion Colts were touted as "the greatest pro football team of all time".  NFL icon Norm Van Brocklin ridiculed the AFL, saying "This will be Namath's first professional football game." Writers from NFL cities insisted it would take the AFL several more years of the "common draft" before its teams could even step on the same field as the untouchable NFL teams.

THEN, THEY PLAYED THE GAME!   Namath showed that he had been tempered in the crucible of real pro football in the AFL, as the  Colts' "invincible" defense withered under the onslaught of the Jets running and passing game.   Meanwhile, their offense gave up four interceptions to the Jets, including one by "NFL reject" Johnny Sample, off the once-great John Unitas.  Namath picked the Colts apart with a 17 for 28 performance, with eight completions to George Sauer alone, for 133 yards.  Namath was the game's MVP and found a permanent place in the hearts of all AFL fans, by shoving the NFL's taunts down their throats with a "guaranteed" win.  He is a member of the All-time All-American Football League Team and the patron saint of underdogs everywhere.  Namath was twice the AFL's Most Valuable Player, in 1968 and 1969.

Namath12.gif (1870 bytes)

AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the All-time Jets Team, and the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

.

GERRY PHILBIN

PhilbinFront1964Small.jpg (67255 bytes)

       Gerry Philbin, a defensive end from the University of Buffalo, joined the Jets in 1964 and played stellar defense for them for nine seasons.  He is a member of the University of Buffalo Athletic Hall of FamePhilbin was selected as an American Football League All-Star in 1968 and 1969.  A ferocious pass-rusher, Philbin recorded nineteen sacks of opposing quarterbacks in 1968.   In Super Bowl Three, he anchored the Jets defense in limiting the so-called "best team in the history of the NFL", the Colts, to a measly seven points.  A member of the All-time All-American Football League Team.

Philbin73.gif (1951 bytes)    AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


.

PAUL ROCHESTER

RochesterFrontSmall.jpg (63613 bytes)

RealPatch10Year.gif (2119 bytes)Paul Rochester was born in 1938, and attended Michigan State University.   He played defensive tackle in the American Football League for the Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and the New York Jets.  He was an American Football League All-Star  in 1961, and he earned two AFL Championship rings: one with the Dallas Texans in 1962 and one with the New York Jets in 1968; as well as a World Championship with the Jets after the 1968 season, when he was team co-captain in the Jets' destruction of the NFL Champion Colts.  After his playing years, he fell to alcoholism, but underwent therapy, and has been sober for 33 years, offering help and hope to others with the problem. Rochester is one of only twenty players who played the entire ten years of the AFL's existence.  

Rochester72.gif (2245 bytes)    AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame


.

JOHNNY SAMPLE



         Johnny Sample attended Maryland Eastern Shore where he excelled not only in Football, but in Track & Field, Baseball, Gymnastics and Basketball.  He was  labeled an "NFL reject",  when he played for the Jets from 1966 through 1968.  But in his final season, he helped the Jets win the AFL Championship against the Oakland Raiders, and then to defeat his former team, the over-rated Colts, in the third AFL-NFL World Championship Game (Super Bowl III), recording an interception in the Jets' 16-7 win. He is the only Pro Football player to have won all three: an NFL, AFL, and World Championship.
       Sample finished his Pro Football career with 41 interceptions, which he returned for 460 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He also recovered 13 fumbles, returning them for 61 yards.  On special teams he returned 68 punts for 559 yards and a touchdown, along with 60 kickoffs for 1,560 yards and a touchdown.
           He was a three-time All-American halfback at
Eastern Shore and is a member of the  school's Athletic Hall of Fame.


.

MATT SNELL

SnellFrontTopps1965w350.jpg (64672 bytes)

       Though Jets owner Sonny Werblin made history with his 1965 acquisition of Joe Namath, Werblin’s first coup over the NFL was the 1964 signing of OHIO STATE's powerful fullback Matt Snell. In another example of the lack of scouting, foresight and persistence of NFL teams, the Giants drafted Snell in the third round, and offered a fraction of what the Jets gave him as their first-round choice. Snell immediately paid dividends. In his rookie year, he rushed for a Jets record 180 yards against the Oilers, on his way to a 945-yard season and American Football League Rookie of the Year honors.
       Snell was an AFL All-Star three times, but his defining moment came in the third
AFL-NFL World Championship Game, when the AFL Champion Jets played the 1968 NFL Champion Baltimore Colts. The Jets received the ball first, and on their second play from scrimmage, Snell slammed into Colts safety Rick Volk, touted as one of the toughest tacklers in the NFL. "When Rick hits you," said Colts head coach Don Shula, "you might not get up." This time it was Volk who did not get up, and Snell was the key player in the Jets ball-control offense in the 16-7 upset of the Colts. Although slowed by knee injuries, Snell carried 30 times for 121 yards. In the second quarter, he went 4 yards around the left end to score the Jets only touchdown. It was his sixth carry on an 80 yard drive. He also helped set up 3 Jim Turner field goals that finally put the game away for the Jets in the second half.

Snell41s.gif (1892 bytes)

AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the All-time Jets Team, and the
American Football League
Hall of Fame

.

BOB TALAMINI

TalaminiFrontJetsSmall.jpg (74886 bytes)

 

       Bob Talamini, a stout, 6'1", 250-lb. lineman, earned third-team All-SEC honors at the University of Kentucky and was drafted by the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. He personally saw the league develop from the first training camp in 1960 to the day they knocked off the NFL's "unbeatable" Baltimore Colts in 1969.
       Talamini helped win the first two AFL Championships with the Oilers, made first-team All-AFL in 1962, and was a regular at American Football League All-Star games, selected to six straight through 1967.  He anchored an offensive line that gave Blanda time to set passing records that would last for decades.  He was selected to the All-Time All-AFL second team.
       After two AFL crowns and four Eastern Division titles with the Oilers, Talamini got to realize his dream when he picked up by the New York Jets. Opening holes for Matt Snell and blocking defenders away from Joe Namath, Bob played a vital role in the shocker that changed pro football forever. stuffing the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Talamini61.gif (1885 bytes)    AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame

.

WILBUR "WEEB" EWBANK

WeebHOF.jpg (15040 bytes)

      When Sonny Werblin purchased the New York Titans' American Football League franchise, he changed the team's name (to the New York Jets), and its coach, hiring Weeb Ewbank.   Ewbank took over a team that had not had a winning record in its first three years, and made them into a force to be reckoned with.

       As coach of the Baltimore Colts, Ewbank had won the 1958 and 1959 NFL championships.  In 1965, the Jets signing of Joe Namath added to the arsenal he would eventually pit against his former team in Super Bowl III.    His Jets won the American Football League championship in 1968 with a victory over the defending AFL champions, the Oakland Raiders.

       In the third World Championship Game, the Colts (proclaimed by some to be "the greatest pro football team of all time") were heavily favored over the AFL's "overmatched"  Jets.    But with Weeb's confident planning, the Jets ran a game plan that mystified the Colts, and came out with a 16-7 victory.    In doing so, the Jets made Ewbank the ONLY MAN ever to coach teams to victory in an NFL championship, an American Football League Championship, and a World Championship.  His record in the AFL was 50-42-6.  He was selected as the coach of the All-Time All-AFL Team.

SB3Ring.gif (3530 bytes)   AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame

DAVID "SONNY" WERBLIN

       Sonny Werblin purchased the Titans of New York from original owner Harry Wismer in 1963.  Immediately applying his show-business savvy, he changed the team's name to the New York Jets, and drafted future Hall of Famer Matt Snell in the first round, signing him away from the cross-town rival NFL Giants, who thought of Snell as a mere third-rounder.  His recognition that the American Football League needed a strong presence in New York was a major factor in the success of the league that was to be the genesis of modern professional football.  He cemented that position by signing Joe Namath, who would ultimately lead the AFL Jets in their Super Bowl victory over the so-called "best team in the history of the NFL".  He strongly opposed the merger between the leagues, with Al Davis, objecting to the indemnity the NFL squeezed from the American Football League owners for having the audacity to put good teams in the New York area and in California.

SB3Ring.gif (3530 bytes)   AFLHOF.gif (17340 bytes)

A member of the
American Football League Hall of Fame

.

Patriots Bills Oilers Jets Dolphins Broncos Chiefs Chargers Raiders Bengals
 

.

webbunny.gif (3114 bytes) CompassRose75high.gif (2545 bytes) AFLRedraw70high.gif (2081 bytes) AFLHOF.gif (17361 bytes) MajorLeagueFootball70hVer2.gif (2414 bytes) PlayersWhoBelong.gif (15996 bytes)
Home
.
Jets History
.
Site Index

Remember
the
AFL

1965 topps cards A F L
Hall of Fame
AFL-NFL
Merger
Players who
Belong in the
Hall of Fame
.
2003  American Football League Hall of Fame  All rights reserved. Duplicate in any form you like, if you're an AFL fan.
You have the permission of the American Football League Hall of Fame.

.

Hit Counter