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.”
1964 Cleveland Browns – (10-3-1)
Guided by Blanton Collier, the 1964 Cleveland Browns were a great team. They were led at qb by Frank Ryan, who distributed the ball among three hall of fame members (Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Paul Warfield) as well as Gary Collins and Johnny Brewer. Naturally, Cleveland favored the run, though they scored twice as many touchdowns passing as they did on the ground (28-14). They averaged more than 29 points-per-game, and outscored their opponents 415-293 over the season. Their defense was fifth-ranked in the NFL, and ranked 14 in yards given up. The Browns boasted no eventual HoF’ers on defense, but were solid at most positions. Their +14 turnover differential was fourth in the NFL.
1964 Buffalo Bills – (12-2-0)
Unlike the 1963 AFL champs, the Chargers, the ’64 Bills were known more for their defense. That is not, however, to say that they offered up an anemic offense. In fact, Buffalo had the AFL’s #1-ranked offense and defense in 1964. Led by Jack Kemp (with the league’s greatest backup, Daryle Lamonica, waiting in the wings) , the Bills offense had the legendary Cookie Gilchrist in the backfield, along with Joe Auer and Bobby Smith. The receiving corps had Elbert Dubenion, Glenn Bass, and Ernie Warlick. That offense racked up 5206 yards, and put 400 points on the board in 14 games. Now to the defense, which was anchored by a stout line made up of Ron McDole, Tom Sestak, Jim Dunaway and Tom Day, no one ran on the Bills with great success. Their linebacking corps of Harry Jacobs, Mike Stratton and John Tracey were among the most experienced in professional football. Booker Edgerson, Butch Byrd, George Saimes and Gene Sykes made up the ball-hawking and hard-hitting secondary. The Bills allowed just 242 points (17.3/game) over the season for a points differential of 158 (11.3/game).
I think this would have been an exciting game. The first thing that jumps out to me is having Cookie Gilchrist and Jim Brown battling each other in a championship game. Not that either would have been easy to handle, but I think the Bills would have done a better job of containing Brown than the Browns would have done with Gilchrist. Next you have two exceptionally intelligent quarterbacks running their respective offenses. Again, I think the nod goes to Kemp in this contest. Maybe even more that the Chargers vs. Bears, this is a game that I would have loved to see!!
Any of our sim experts care to run this game and share the Gilchrist and Brown numbers, in addition to the winner?