Much has been said (especially since my recent photo postings) about Super Bowls I-IV. They are fantastic subjects for debate, individually or collectively. Great players, hall of fame coaches, big plays and ultimately, a 2-2 record between the leagues.
Not nearly as much is said about the world championship games that would have been played if the two leagues had arranged postseason contests beginning in 1960. 1960 Oilers vs. Eagles? 1963 Chargers vs. Bears? Which AFL team would have been the first to knock off an NFL champion? Or was the AFL simply not up to the NFL standard early on, as so many NFL enthusiasts like to shout from the rooftops?
Over the next several days we will run through the AFL-NFL Championships that never were, or as I am calling them, the Pre-Super Bowls. I will post the vital stats, and you all provide the commentary. Let’s see who most people think would be the first AFL team to be crowned, “World Champions.”
1960 Philadelphia Eagles – (10-2-0)
Coached by Buck Shaw, the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles boasted the NFL’s #4-ranked total offense, and #1-ranked total defense. With HoF qbs, Norm Van Brocklin and Sonny Jurgensen, the Eagles passed for 2816 yards. Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff accounted for more than 1600 of those yards, and 18 receiving touchdowns. Their running game was less exciting, totaling just 1134 yards on the season, 465 of which came from team leader, Clarence Peaks. The defense, which lined up in a 4-3, allowed an average of 4.9 yards per run, and 6.0 yards per pass attempt. In 12 games they hauled in 30 interceptions.
1960 Houston Oilers – (10-4-0)
Led by Lou Rymkus, the Houston Oilers had the AFL’s third-ranked offense, and first-ranked defense. “The Other League’s” inaugural champion gained 3203 yards and 31 touchdowns in the air, with quarterback George Blanda, accounting for the majority. Rookie Billy Cannon led a rushing unit that amassed 1733 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Oilers defensive was stingy on the run, allowing just 3.5 yard per run. They allowed 5.9 yards per pass attempt, and brought down 25 interceptions.
These early years are difficult to judge, as the AFL had just begun to get it’s feet wet. Still, the Oilers were led by a Hall of Fame quarterback, who threw to a receiver who deserves HoF recognition. They would have put up a fight. But while the Oilers defense was highly-ranked in the AFL, how would that translate in interleague play?