Joe Namath & Bubba Smith – Super Bowl III

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joe namath and bubba smith

Rounding out a week of great AFL photos…

1/12/69 – (SUPER BOWL) – MIAMI : The Nw York Jets quarterback Joe Namath is dwarfed by Baltimore Colts defensive end Bubba Smith in this second period action int he Super Bowl 1/12.  The Colts put a vicious rush on Namath, perhaps realizing that as Namath goes, so go the Jets.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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25 Responses to Joe Namath & Bubba Smith – Super Bowl III

  1. 1967 says:

    CAPTION THAT PIC (what would Joe say?)

    “Thank God for my quick release!” ~ Namath

    Joe’s gift was a huge benefit Superbowl III, the ‘close but no cigar’ proximity of the Colts in getting to the QB proof, severally. Too, Bubba (size equivalent to the AFL’s Buck Buchanan) was outplayed in Superbowl III by a relatively more undersized Jet OG Dave Herman, latter giving up half a foot & almost 50 lbs.

    A combination of Jet effort/confidence offset Colt presumption; the NFL’s best wilted like a 10 cent orchid under the pressure, their own ongoing failures in the game the gist. Those Colts ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ won the game, likely – suspect that had they played each other 10 times, Baltimore would’ve won their fair share, maybe more. The Vikings got their revenge against the Chiefs after Superbowl IV, winning 27-10 to open the 1970 regular season in Minnesota.) But on January 12, 1969, the football world belonged to the Champion New York Jets.

    Self-inflicted wounds were the Colts downfall, but, there was a reason for said – J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS.

    The national spotlight was upon them both, but “the best team the NFL has ever produced” according to popular party line of the day proved to be nothing more than pre-game hype the pundits, nod Joe “I guarantee it.”

    • don says:

      one thing everyone forgets?…Don Maynard’s Hamstring Cost the Jets 1 long TDP…If Maynard would have been healthy?..the score would have been worse, they didn’t have anyone who could run with Him..AND..cover George…

      The Colts might have one a few games, But their Mickey Mouse Plays wouldn’t have worked after the first game….

      I firmly Believe the REAL Suoerbowl was the RAiders and Jets…had the RAiders won?..I think they would have handled the Colts just fine…maybe not with the flair the Jets did!!!

      • billd says:

        Agree totally with Don. Game very easily could have been 30 to nothing in favor of Jets. Maynard’s hamstring; Namath missing a wide open Bake Turner over the middle deep in Colt territory; Turner missing two make-able field goals. Colts only scored because Jets played very soft defense in 4th quarter while eating up the clock.

        • 1967 says:

          Though I’m an AFL fan, to be fair the ‘what if’ game could also be utilized by the Colts & their fans.

          I recall a dropped Namath pass that should’ve been picked off by Baltimore’s Jerry Logan & returned for a td, clear field ahead of him. Earl Morall not seeing Jimmy Orr wide open the end zone- that’s another 7 points. As well, like Maynard, Unitas was hurt… had he been healthy, it might have been an entirely different game.

          These things often times tend to be a wash & even out, but if someone arbitrarily says the Jets would have beaten the Colts by even more than they did, I have to take exception. The Jets won that day but if rosters & resumes were tossed out on the playing field, I’d go with the Colts more times than not.

          • billd says:

            My point is the Jets could have run away with the game if not for their own errors. Both teams made errors. The narrative after the game and for years was that the Jets were lucky. Tex Maule and the Sabol’s (NFL) films being the main culprits. It was decades before I discovered that LB Al Atkinson deflected the pass that made it bounce of Tom Mitchell’s shoulder pads in the end zone, saving the Jets from Sauer’s fumble. NFL Films had taken over filming AFL games in 1968 and they did not receive a very warm reception in the Jet’s locker room after the game. By Steve Sabol’s own admission he was Colts fan and it showed in the highlight film they produced. The next year the KC Chiefs still got no respect in SB IV from the odds makers yet they dominated the Vikings. And the Chiefs could not even win their division in the AFL regular season, finishing behind the Raiders. If played again I’d put my money on the Jets.

          • 1967 says:

            Yes, NFL Films own bias showed in the highlight films theirs the Jets/Colts SB III; ditto Superbowl I GB/KC (Chiefs answered, to the tune 66-24 vs the Bears next NFL team KC played.) Too, post SB II film essentially was a hand-job to Lombardi as well courtesy NFL Films, but as they say to the victor go the spoils.

            That said, ‘on any given Sunday’ I am still convinced KC could have beaten GB, OAK same & Colts/Vikings too prevailed vs NY/KC. That football’s best team 1967-69 (the Raiders, my opine) never won a Superbowl affirms how little difference there was between any of these aforementioned; the Chiefs wouldn’t even have been in post season save for a one year aberration, wild card format implemented that 1969 season only. My point is, all these teams were great/best, based on their record over time, an season’s worth. One game? As referenced, Namath inferred BALT would’ve beaten NY 9 times out of 10 but all that mattered was that one game – so true.

            That the Jets never again sniffed any Championships & the Chiefs same(MIN whupped my Chiefs convincingly in game 1 the 1970 season) suggests one game provides no consensus. Likewise, GB disappeared for decades after Superbowl II, as father time did what their opponents couldn’t. The Packers were not the most talented team man to man possibly, but won like no other; as a team they remain unmatched to date, their resume affirming: the best team ‘on (most) any given Sunday’, over time.

            Subjective take we all possess, but everyone can agree that it’s what transpired on the field/the final score in lieu embellishment/what if’s either way that is the final arbiter, not director’s cut film, pundit bias or scribes in a newspaper column… nor players/fans too. So, final score NY/BALT was a true barometer one game, on one particular day.

            Next, let’s debate whether Notre Dame, Michigan State or Alabama was truly ‘the best’ back in 1966…


      • Jeff says:

        The thing I remember about the game is this. The Jets were the better team from start to finish. They outplayed the Colts all day. The only time I remember being nervous was when Johnny U. came into the game. His reputation preceded him. At the time I never watched that other league cause they were boring. I was amazed at how much better the Jets were given all the publicity the Colts received. I also remember quotes from various Jets (Namath) that when they watched film of the big bad Colts defense they were shocked at how vanilla it was, and how several teams in the AFL played tougher D than the Colts.

        • Tom says:

          When each league had it’s own draft the Colts had four starters that were drafted by the Jets and the Jets had five starters drafted by the Colts playing in SB 3. The Jets drafted Tom Matte, John Mackey, Willie Richardson and Sam Ball, the Colts drafted Johnny Sample, Larry Grantham, Bake Turner, Winston Hill and Al Atkinson. Johnny Sample played for both teams.

  2. Howard says:

    i was as shocked as anyone after that game. Being an “NFL guy”, I expected the Colts to walk over the Jets. Looking back over that game on YouTube, I respect the Jets very much. They had a very solid defense. Most of the hype before the game was about Broadway Joe. But, the game was won by the Jets defense and by a strong running game.

    That being said; Earl Morrall sucked in that game. The Jets played well, but Baltimore played flat and missed several opportunities early on to gain momentum. While I think the Chiefs were a better team then Minnesota in 1969,and that game was not an upset. I still in my heart of hearts believe the Colts were man for man a better team than the Jets. Not 19 points, or whatever the stupid Vegas line was, but, a more solid team. As “1967” would say “my opine”.

    • Jim McKinley says:

      I saw an interview with Namath one time. He was talking about the game. He gave the Colts a lot of compliments and said that they were one of the best NFL teams of all time and then summed it up with this. “If we played ten times, they would probably beat us nine times. That doesn’t matter though, we only played one time”.

  3. Dave Steidel says:

    If anyone wants to read the most enjoyable and honest book about Super Bowl III pick up a copy of The Game That Changed Pro Football. It IS the game that changed pro-football simply for that fact that the Jets victory earned the AFL the respect and notoriety that eluded them in the first two AFL vs. NFL championship games.The book is well laid out and takes you through the first rag-tag days of the NY Titans under the ownership of Harry Wismer (1960-62) to the rejuvenating new ownership in 1963 of Sonny Werblin, his renaming of the franchise and his signing of Joe “Willie” Namath by out bidding the NFL (he also signed Matt Snell a year earlier away from the NFL Giants who coveted him).
    The player interviews and insights of the 1968 season, the build up to SB3 the descriptions of the plays and the game strategies by several players are outstanding and gives the reader a look at several different points-of-view for the same play. Many candid comments from the losing Baltimore Colt players are equally insightful and adds tremendously to the credibility of the book. I admire those Colt players interviewed for really giving the Jets and the AFL their rightful credit and due for their talent, tenacity and what they accomplished – which proves that the hype, point spread and lack of respect shown to the AFL going into the game was mostly media generated and driven by people who really didn’t understand the two leagues differences and similarities and just wanted to discredit the AFL. I LOVED READING THIS BOOK because of its insight,interviews and its analysis – and even went back and watched Super Bowl III to see the game as described by the players in the book. Remember the AFL!

    • don says:

      there are a few books…” the Foolish Club”..( I think that’s the name) and a few books written about the AFL after the Jets won the Superbowl…the recount, how the NFL was going to try to absorb a few AFL teams, while some of their own Teams were going to crash and Burn….SB III changed all that, making the Merger a MUST..and sending Profootball on its path to the future

      • Warren says:

        A myth persists that the result of SB III put the NFL owners in panic mode. This supposedly forced their hand about the merger, etc. Not exactly accurate I think. The merger terms were agreed upon in 1966. To my knowledge there was no alteration of the agreement as a result of SB III. In 1966 the NFL owners initiated talks about a merger because they feared a major raid on talent and salary escalation because of competition between the leagues for players. Having said that, the SB III win was amazing in that it eliminated the NFL propaganda line of NFL superiority on the field of play. Wikipedia has a good writeup of the merger

        • Tom says:

          It could have been sour grapes but part of Bubba’s theory, aside from the gambling aspect and the point spread loss from 18 to 15 points, as a result of a bundle of money, he said was put on the Jets by someone on the Colts team, and the idea that a dominant New York team was in both leagues financial and popularity interest, was a clause he said was in the merger agreement.

          He said in effect the agreement demanded that the AFL be competitive, and if not the agreement could be annuled.
          The Wikipedia link on the merger does not link to the actual merger agreement, it just bullets high lights.

          It wasn’t that the NFL owners initiated the merger talks because of fear of player raids, it was because of actual player raids initiated by Davis. Roman Gabriel and John Brodie come to mind, both were signed by AFL teams to six figure deals, later scuttled and AFL teams were offering top draft picks like Namath, Mike Garrett and Dick Butkus what was then huge sums of money.

          If as Bubba says is true and the AFL had to prove parity or some measure equal to or greater than the NFL to secure the agreement, then the Colts loss may have put the players in both leagues at a financial disadvantage, as a merged league and Draft, all but eliminated the competitive bargaining for players.

          If you follow the money you find that with a 50,000 min stadium seat capacity included in the merger agreement which led to new stadium construction in places like Denver and KC which were seen as a boon to local economie. Rozelle, Modell and others forward look in securing a TV deal consumated by the 1970 TV contract with CBS and NBC, excluding Monday Night ABC, were probaly several driving factors behind the start of what is now Americas game.

          • Warren says:

            I guess the only thing I would say in addition to follow the money is follow the timeline. The agreement was agreed upon in 1966. To think the outcome SB III which was played in 1968 would cause a cancellation of the agreement and put both leagues back into open competition for players is not credible. Your point of actual AFL signings is well taken. Not just theoretical competition but actual signings. I couldn’t find an actual copy of the agreement on the web so Wikipedia is the best I could do. Tom, if you have a link to the agreement, I’d welcome taking a look. But it might be too much lawyer talk to actually read in full for my taste. Anything Bubba might have said about SB III game fixing smacks of saving face and not any real scenario. The Jets won. Deal with it Bubba!

        • Tom says:

          An escape clause in the merger, if there is one, that could be exercised after the third year 1968 that Bubba alluded to, would have been difficult and or practical to act upon, for no other reason than In 1967 the draft became common. In 1967 Bubba by way of a trade with New Orleans was the first player chosen, in retrospect and odd coincidence the Colts may have been better off taking Bob Griese with the first pick, Griese went a few picks later to Miami. The coincidence is as we know Shula ends up in Miami and has a perfect season and wins it all with both Morrall and Griese by his side

      • Howard says:

        The player wars started in 1960 and continued until the merger agreement in June, 1966. The irony was that Al Davis was appointed Commissioner of the AFL due to his aggressive nature. The signings of Gabriel, Brodie, and Ditka resulted in the thing that Davis least wanted; a merger. All of the AFL owners expect for Davis and possibly Werblin were all for the merger. The Jets and Raiders were forced to pay a territorial fee to the Giants and 49’ers. This pissed the crap out of Weblin and Davis.

        The NFL owners finally came around to the idea of a merger by 1964. Carroll Rosenbloom of the Colts met with Ralph Wilson of Buffalo to discuss the concept. It was a bit early, as the AFL had not yet signed the massive TV contract with NBC. Once that happened, the AFL was secure. It was only a matter of time before the owners looked after their own finances, rather than enriching players. Davis caused the merger to happen faster then it probably would have if left to it’s own devices.

        The game has grown exponentially over the last four plus decades since the merger. The AFL owners did alright for a $25,000.00 investment. And the NFL owners got a bigger sand box to play in. Virtually all franchises including previous door mats like New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver are worth over $1 Billion. Tremendous marketing and a game for modern times has generated enormous wealth for players and owners alike.

  4. Virgil Baldon, Jr. says:

    I read somewhere that Bubba Smith telegraphed his charge out of his stance with a false half-step with his right (back) foot before charging off his left. This quirk was picked up in game film study by RT Dave Herman and coach Walt Michaels for the Jets…it gave Herman a split-second advantage by seeing which direction Smith would charge before he actually moved forward on the snap. This would greatly help negate Bubba’s size and power advantage. As a former center and tackle, I can appreciate this, Anyone else read this?

    • Howard says:

      I read similar accounts. Bubba Smith was huge, but in 1968 he was not a polished player. Dave Herman was a smart player who used great technique to overcome an obvious size disadvantage.

      A few years after Super Bowl III (official name by then), Smith made a baseless charge that the game was fixed. He said the ref’s were influenced. If he spent more time on his technique then on BS, maybe his team would have won.

  5. HH-Western Colorado Broncofan says:

    NFL Films puts out quality material-always!

    In their America’s game-The 1970 Baltimore Colts, Bubba Smith was one of the Colts interviewed and if I’m not mistaken the other two were Bill Curry and Mike Curtis. And Smith said as far as he was concerned the referees calling of the game “was not kosher.”

    • Tom says:

      The penalties in SB 3 appear to have had litlle influence, 3 for 23 and 5 for 28, not sure if any one call ruined a drive or took either out of scoring position. 1970 SB 5 is another matter, Dallas was assessed 10 for 133 and Colts 4-31. The Colts won 16-13 on a Jim O’ Brien FG.

  6. Tom says:

    In 1970 I was a starting red shirt Soph and in practice a week after our 35-6 win over Kentucky in Lexington, a game that wasn’t even that close..I broke and dislocated my left thumb and missed the remainder of the season. It was a blessing in disguise as it was the start of three more injury plagued seasons that ended my playing days for good. That Super Bowl game seemed as though the players were in a daze, kind of how I felt after the injury and typified the season for me.

    1970 if not the most, is one of the most tragic seasons in sport history, Wichita State and Marshall plane disasters occurred that season. Wichita State was enroute to play my team. It is also the season now recognized as the season that sparked a full swing to integrate college athletics, on the 15th of this month Showtime will air “Turning The Tide” the story of the 1970 USC Alabama game won by SC 42-7 which many believe advanced the integration of sport in the SEC.
    Our lopsided win over Kentucky may have played a role as well, Kentucky beat Kansas State that year in an upset, K State a fully racially integrated team was favored to win the Big 8 led by Heisman candidate QB Lynn Dickey, and the KState loss may have given some pause and add credence, that a nearly all segregated team could not only compete with but beat a highly ranked integrated team. Our smashing success at night on the road against an SEC opponent like USC’s proved otherwise

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