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NFL – Highlights – 1968 New York Jets – Super Bowl III Season


 The 1968 New York Jets season was the ninth season for the team in the AFL….as the team had the most successful season in franchise history…..after trying to improve upon their 8–5–1 record of 1967….they won the AFL Eastern Division with an 11–3 record….then 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, marked by fourth-year quarterback Joe Namath‘s famous “guarantee” of victory….the Jets defeated the heavily favored Colts 16–7.  The Jets have yet to return to the Super Bowl and makes them along with the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the only teams to have been to just one Super Bowl and won it. 

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….for 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….for 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 starting on schedule.  Fans’ ire was further fueled when they discovered that NBC’s cutting away from the game denied them from seeing live a dramatic finish….whereby on the Raiders’ second play from scrimmage on the next drive…QB Daryle Lamonica threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Smith….thus giving the Raiders a 36–32 lead….after which on the ensuing kickoff….Jets Earl Christy 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. This incident was dubbed the Heidi Game ….and 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….even if the game’s outcome seemed assured.

In January 1969, the Jets would reach the pinnacle of their existence and the climax to an incredible 1968 season and providing the moment that would indicate the AFL’s coming of age….for under QB Joe Namath’s guidance, the Jets rose to the top of the AFL, defeating the Oakland Raiders in a thrilling AFL championship game, 27–23. The win 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….champions of the NFL….for at the time….the AFL was considered to be inferior to the NFL….as most experts considered the Jets to be considerable underdogs….and treated 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 Broadway Joe took exception to a heckling Colts fan….using that moment to lament the lack of respect his team had gotten to that point….when he boldly predicted “The Jets will win Sunday. I guarantee it.”….as his audacious remark proved correct when his 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.

In this lil ole chiweenie Sportsphile’s opinion…..the 1968 New York Jets season ranks at the top of the ladder in NYC sports history….right along with The Amazing Mets of 1969….and both seasons happened within a year of each other.

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