The 1968 New York Jets season was the team’s ninth season in the American Football League (AFL)….a year in which the team had the most successful season in franchise history to date in 2016….while trying to improve upon their 8–5–1 record of 1967….they won the AFL Eastern Division with an 11–3 record. They defeated the defending champion Oakland Raiders in the AFL championship game….earning the right to play in Super Bowl III against the NFL champion Baltimore Colts in a stunning upset that was marked by fourth-year quarterback Joe Namath’s famous “guarantee” of victory….the Jets defeated the heavily favored Colts 16–7….as the Jets have yet to return to the Super Bowl….making them along with the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the only teams to have been to just one Super Bowl and win it.
On May 21, 1968, Sonny Werblin sold his shares in the Jets to his partners Don Lillis, Leon Hess, Townsend Martin, and Phil Isselin….with Lillis becoming the president on May 21….but he died on July 23 and Isselin was appointed president on August 6.
The 1968 season also saw the Jets involved in one of the most notorious incidents in television history….an incident that would change the way television networks carried sporting events for decades to come….for on November 17, 1968….just before 7:30pm Eastern time….the Jets scored late to take a 32–29 lead over the Oakland Raiders with 1:05 left in the game…..that is when NBC cut to a commercial….and then everywhere but the West Coast showed the movie Heidi….a show which NBC had promoted extensively for the sweeps period. Outraged fans bombarded NBC headquarters in New York with phone calls demanding the game be restored….as so many phone calls were made that they eventually knocked out the NBC switchboard. Even though a decision was made to carry the game to conclusion….this decision could not be communicated…..thus resulting in the movie Heidi starting on schedule.
The fans’ ire was further fueled when they discovered that NBC’s cutting away from the game denied them from seeing live a dramatic finish…. when on the Raiders’ second play from scrimmage on the next drive….Daryle Lamonica threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Smith….which gave the Raiders a 36–32 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Earl Christy of the Jets fumbled at the 10-yard line….which the Raiders’ Preston Ridlehuber converted into another touchdown….ultimately giving the Raiders a 43–32 victory. Much of the country learned of this final outcome only via a bottom-of-screen crawl line shown during the movie….as this incident dubbed the Heidi Game….resulted in most television networks and sports leagues amending their television policies to ensure that games in progress would be broadcast to their conclusion….no matter what, even if it meant delaying or canceling the rest of the network’s lineup, and even if the game’s outcome seemed assured.
On December 29, Weeb Ewbank became the first coach to win titles in the National Football League and in the American Football League….when ironically, his former team, the Baltimore Colts won the 1968 NFL Championship on December 29 as well.
In January 1969, the Jets would reach the pinnacle of their existence….providing the moment that would indicate the AFL’s coming of age….for under Namath’s guidance….the Jets rose to the top of the AFL by defeating the Oakland Raiders in a thrilling AFL championship game, 27–23….a win which qualified them to represent their league in a game that was being referred to for the first time as the Super Bowl….and referred to retroactively as Super Bowl III. They were pitted against the Baltimore Colts….the champions of the NFL. At the time, the AFL was considered to be inferior to the NFL…and most considered the Jets to be considerable underdogs and treating them as such. That would change three nights before the game while Namath was being honored by the Miami Touchdown Club as its Player of the Year….when Namath took exception to a heckling Colts fan by using that moment to lament the lack of respect his team had gotten to that point. He then said “The Jets will win Sunday. I guarantee it.” His audacious remark proved correct, as the Jets created one of the greatest upsets in football history by defeating the Colts 16–7. This victory showed that the AFL was capable of competing with the NFL
Any way you cut the pie….this video is about the greatest New York Jets season ever played….and a historic moment in the history of the NFL and AFL….for I did not even write anything about “Broadway Joe’s guarantee”….for that is a subject worthy of it’s own feature story…..cuz I have more video that this great piece about 1968 New York Jets…..and the man called Broadway Joe.