New AFL Book – The Uncrowned Champs!!

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Dave Steidel is at it again.  The author of the universally loved tome, Remember the AFL, has a new book out this month, and it will certainly stoke the fires of any AFL enthusiast (as well as piss off many staunch NFL fans).

Steidel’s new book, The Uncrowned Champs; How the 1963 San Diego Chargers Would Have Won a Super Bowl, is a week-by-week look back at what many believe to be the first AFL team that had a legitimate shot at knocking off an NFL champ.  With the professionalism of a true historian and passion of a 1960s football fan, Dave Steidel went back and interviewed former players and team associates, both for the 1963 San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears, to formalize his opinion of the greatest team of 1963.

Hall of Famer Lance Alworth wrote the forward to Uncrowned Champs, and which certainly bumps this book even higher on my list of “must reads.”

Mine is coming soon in the mail.  Get yours now as well!

Todd Tobias (788 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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9 Responses to New AFL Book – The Uncrowned Champs!!

  1. Eddie Arminio says:

    I think the’63 Chargers would have beaten the ’63 Bears, and the’64 Bills, would have beaten the ’64 Browns.Sid Gillman and Lou Saban could match wits with any NFL coach,including George Halas and Paul Brown.

  2. Howard says:

    I first started watching pro football in 1963. I grew up in New Haven, CT. That was in the days of the NFL blackouts. People would drive to motels around Hartford, CT in order to watch NY Giants home games. A much different world from today.

    The Giants were the team to watch in my part of the world. They had a good defense and a great offense with Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, etc. They were beaten rather soundly by the 1963 Chicago Bears in a blustery Wrigley Field. The Bears had an average offense and a spectacular defense. Bill George was a HOF middle linebacker. Doug Atkins was an all- pro defensive end.

    The San Diego Chargers were very strong during the first half of the AFL existence. The 1963 team was powerful. They were quarterbacked by Tobin Rote. He was a pick up from Green Bay. Great backs and the incredible Lance Alworth.

    The emotional view would be that San Diego would win. The thought is that their high powered offense would leave the “stodgy” Bears in the dust. After all doesn’t offense win? But, then I keep thinking of the 2013 Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl. The powerful Denver offense was favored to demolish the Seattle team. Well, quite the opposite happened. A superior defense with an efficient offense easily won.

    Since this game was never played; all bets are off. But, it is possible that old Tobin Rote would have fared no better than old Y.A. Tittle.

    • afl says:

      The 1963 Bears defense allowed 17 tds in 14 games, allowing just 226 yards per game, all vs NFL teams. The ’63 Chargers averaged 368 yards of offense per game and scored 48 tds vs AFL teams; with good reason, this is where most people look when comparing the two teams.


      Still, looking at this ‘game that never was’ from another angle, Chargers also had the AFL’s #1 ranked defense allowing 296 yards per game and 27 tds: that they never had to face their own #1 ranked AFL offense – twice per season, as every other AFL team did – of note when considering defensive prowess.

      Reference, Chargers would’ve ranked 7th or middle the 14 team NFL, were their numbers measured in that league 1963. Bears offense ranked 8th with 298 yards per game and 33 tds: as with the SD example, Bears also never had to face their own defense.

      The 1963 Bears defense (which allowed just 10 points per game on average) did not face the #1 ranked NFL offense NY Giants at all regular season, an offense that averaged 32 points per game & scored 51 tds. Of note, the ’63 Bears also did not face 3 of the top 5 NFL offense’s that regular season.


      When the two teams did finally met NFL Championship game: the Bears defense held NY to 10 points. Chicago’s 14 points scored was 8 points less than their season average, and less the 20 points per game average NY’s defense allowed.

      AFL Championship, Boston, like the Bears averaging 298 yards per game/33 tds same, saw SD hold the Pats to 10 points, under their 23 per game average. Beating Boston 2x by 5 points total regular season, SD’s 51-10 win was unexpected.

      CHIC’s biggest margin of defeat in 1963 was a 6 point loss, their only L of the season to go along with two ties; their biggest margin of victory was 38 points.

      Among SD’s 3 losses in 1963, their largest margin of defeat was a 16-point loss to the 2-11-1 Denver Broncos; largest margin victory a 46 point win over NY Jets.


      Upshot: all speculation of course, but I suspect that had SD and CHIC met in 1963, it would’ve been a very close game, whichever team ‘did not’ lose its poise, prevailing.

      • Dave Steidel says:

        True the Chargers lost in Denver for their first loss – amid 7 turnovers. But the Bears too, in losing their only game lost when they were 5-0 to the 0-5 49ers. And later had to come back twice late in games to tie the lowly Steelers and Vikings to stay in first place. When they beat the Packers the second time (the only team the Packers lost to) Green Bay had to use 2nd string quarterback John Roach in place of Bart Starr. Both teams were great And both should be recognized for their greatness. The Bears are. But this Charger team has never recieved its due praise. Hope you read the book.

        • afl says:

          Am sure that I will read it. As an AFL fan, Chargers were, along my Chiefs & the Raiders, personal favorites, and definitely owners the (still to date) flashiest uniforms in sport, football or otherwise.

          That said, for the sake discussion I compare the 1963 season ‘game that never was’ prowess teams SD vs CHIC with the one that was, KC vs GB in Superbowl 1 post 1966 season. All we can do is conjecture, unfortunately. Were similarities between the KC vs GB & SD vs CHIC match-ups.

          Three years farther along case the latter’s, presumption?/inference mine: more experience/better material including defenses in the AFL. Both KC ’66 & SD ’63 were offensive powerhouses – likewise, both GB ’66 & CHIC ’63 were dominant defenses.

          Case 1966 Chiefs, they averaged 32 points per game compared the ’63 Chargers 29 per game. The ’66 Packers allowed 12 points per game an average compared the ’63 Bears who allowed just 10 points per game.

          While we don’t know how ‘Superbowl ’63’ would’ve ended, we do know how Superbowl 1 ended: 35-10 in favor of GB, though (and admit I’m biased) that game was not a rout unless only final score looked at.

          14-10 (a missed KC fg would’ve given them a 10-7 lead 2nd quarter), 21-10 till nigh on 4th quarter, an late GB td less than one minute remaining 3rd quarter made it 28-10; only then was this game lost, reality.

          Back to 1963, SD vs CHIC: a bit better CHIC defense than GB’s 1966, a bit lesser SD offense ’63 than KC’s ’66. All speculation as I’ve said before, but my supposition: while acknowledging every game is an separate entity, CHIC would’ve had the advantage perhaps by way the experience factor.

          Overall, my opine: the Bears were more established, consistent and conservative compared the Chargers, but, on any given day… could it have gone the way AFL/SD? Of course. A measure other my emotion deciding SD vs CHIC, would have given the NFL team the betting nod.

          I wanted my Chiefs to win Superbowl 1, but as KC players themselves (reportedly) were aware, ‘Packer/NFL’ mystique was in play, whether it was a factor or not the final analysis, debatable.

          The old adage ‘that’s why they play the game on the field and not on paper’ comes to mind. As I said earlier post, whichever team did not implode of their own device (lose their poise like KC did after that big interception Superbowl 1) would’ve prevailed in a close game, SD vs CHIC, my opine.

          Could it have been a blowout? That too is possible, just couldn’t see it having resulted, either team (which belies what transpired, KC vs GB; bets ranged from 14 points give or take in favor GB, to Packer fandom/NFL types predicting 50-60 points the Packer cause, little to nothing for KC. On the other side, KC’s local newspaper Sports Editor Joe McGuff predicted a 27-17 KC win on that day, so opinions, well.. everyone has one.

          Could it have been a NYJ vs BALT result? Yes. Is it comparing apples and oranges AFL vs NFL those days, KC vs GB/SD vs CHIC? Only wish it didn’t have to be debate, that game SD vs CHIC would’ve been played.

        • Howard says:

          I read a great book recently on the 1963 pro football season. One takeaway, was that the Packers were shocked that they lost twice to Chicago. They believed that they were a far superior team.

          George Halas had the Bears ready with one goal for 1963; beat Green Bay! The key to both victories was that the vaunted Packer offensive line was beaten soundly in both games. The Bears had large, mean linemen. The fact that Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer were hurt didn’t help. And losing Paul Hornung due to suspension was a killer.

          The 1963 season was frustrating for Vince Lombardi. They thought 1963 was their best team. They were hoping for three Championships in a row. They had a weak 1964 season. But they then rolled off three in a row. Arguably the greatest dynasty of all time! (New England may beg to differ).

          • afl says:

            “(Packers) had a weak 1964 season. But they then rolled off three in a row.”

            – the Packers 1963 NFL season reminds me of MLB’s Dodgers ’64 season same: Champions in 1963 & ’65, LA laid an egg in 1964, otherwise they win 3 consecutive World Series/Championships.

            “(Green Bay) Arguably the greatest dynasty of all time! (New England may beg to differ).”

            – no argument here… 5 Championships in 7 years is unmatched; Packers/Lombardi/Starr et al remain best ever.

            Patriots? Where’s the vomit bag. They can beg, differ & cheat all they want – they don’t rank with the Pack; ditto Dolphins, Steelers, 49ers & Cowboys (or anyone else; as if today’s game/progeny bears any resemblance yesteryear’s terms quality (it doesn’t and that’s not a compliment to 2015’s NFL mess.)

  3. Eddie Arminio says:

    The Charger powder blue uniforms will never be matched. The best,hands down.

  4. afl says:

    “The Uncrowned Champs”

    – want to add that the Chargers circa ’63 have as much basis/right to call themselves ‘World Champions’ (some have done any way so all these years) as do the Bears. Reason being, though the NFL was generally considered superior then, sans the Champions each league AFL/NFL having actually played, be merely subjective opinion.

    The Packers Vince Lombardi was quoted post Superbowl 1 saying “I guess we’ll have to play Alabama now to see who is really #1”, that in reference to the 1966 college football post season wherein Alabama, Notre Dame & Michigan State all had their supporters as being the National Champions (an personal note, were it possible am also left ponder Rocky Marciano vs Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali boxing match-up, Sandy Koufax vs Ted Williams baseball, etc.)

    Much as the NFL turned up its nose at the AFL and the chance play the ’63 Chargers after that season, in 1904 there was no MLB ‘World Series’ played due the reigning NL Champ NY Giants and AL Champ Boston Americans (later Red Sox) not agreeing to play, due “personal animosity” and “business rivalry” between the two leagues.

    Replace ‘NL’ with ‘NFL’ & the sentiment below probably sounds quite familiar to AFL fans:

    ~ Giants declined to meet the champions of the “junior” or “minor” (MICKEY MOUSE) league. Manager John McGraw said his Giants were already ‘World Champions’ since they were of the “only real major league”. No matter that in the year before, 1903, AL Champion Boston had defeated NL Champion Pittsburgh in the ‘World Series’ in an contest that was arranged via the two champion clubs, and not by the leagues themselves.

    My opine, thus can the 1960 & 1961 Houston Oilers stake their claim as ‘World Champions’ – ditto the 1962 Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, 1963 San Diego Chargers & the 1964/1965 Buffalo Bills, all 6 seasons having had no ‘Superbowl’ to determine the matter otherwise.

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