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Sports Then and Now



Matt Snell: Super Bowl Hero 0

Posted on December 24, 2020 by Dean Hybl
Matt Snell

The Vintage Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month was the key weapon behind the most important upset in pro football history.

While Joe Namath was the face of the 1968 New York Jets and Super Bowl III, Matt Snell was the backbone of the New York offense and primary weapon during the shocking victory.

In many ways, the foundation for the 1968 championship squad started to be built in the 1964 AFL Draft when the Jets selected Snell, a star at Ohio State, with the third pick in the first round. Occurring at the height of the AFL-NFL player war, Snell was also drafted by the New York Giants in the 4th round of the NFL Draft (49th overall pick).

Read the rest of this entry →

50 Years Ago: Joe Namath and the Jets Shock the World 0

Posted on January 11, 2019 by Dean Hybl

Joe Namath dominated the attention prior to Super Bowl III, but few expected his team to win.

Joe Namath dominated the attention prior to Super Bowl III, but few expected his team to win.

With apologies to boxing legend Muhammad Ali, the most shocking sports victory of the 1960s took place 50 years ago on January 12, 1969 when the underdog New York Jets lifted the fortunes of an entire league by defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Though the American Football League (AFL) was completing its ninth season and the champions of the AFL and National Football League (NFL) were meeting for the third straight year, most people did not consider the two leagues to be equal. In fact, it is reported that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle believed it might be another decade before the AFL would be an equal to the NFL and that a new format for the Super Bowl might be needed.

In hindsight, we know that the two leagues were indeed much closer in competitiveness than Rozelle believed, but at the time his reasoning was hard to argue against. The NFL Champion Green Bay Packers had claimed the first two Super Bowls by a combined margin of 68-24 and the current NFL Champion Baltimore Colts were perhaps an even more dominant champion than Green Bay.

While the Colts were an established NFL power, the New York Jets were an AFL upstart that had just completed the second winning season in franchise history and were making their first-ever trip to the playoffs.

However, one “ace in the hole” for the Jets was roaming their sidelines. Head Coach Week Ewbank had won two NFL Championships during his nine year tenure as coach of the Baltimore Colts. After moving to the Jets, he had taken the team from a basement dweller to league champions.

During both his time with the Colts and the Jets, Ewbank had the benefit of having an elite franchise quarterback leading the offense.

In Baltimore, he turned Johnny Unitas into an all-time great. Though New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath had not yet reached that status level, in 1967 he did become the first quarterback in pro football history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the Greatest Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History 3

Posted on February 06, 2016 by Dean Hybl

Max McGee caught more passes in Super Bowl I than he did during the entire 1966 season.

Max McGee caught more passes in Super Bowl I than he did during the entire 1966 season.

Sunday’s Super Bowl will feature a budding star quarterbacking one squad and an aged gunslinger likely facing his final showdown on the other. While we tend to focus on Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, the reality is that victory in the Super Bowl will likely hinge on the performance of someone far less known than either starting quarterback.

Super Bowl history includes a mixture of Hall of Fame players rising to the occasion on the biggest stage of the game and second tier players who picked the Super Bowl to have a career day.

This article marks part two of our look at the top 50 individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. Of the 50 performances picked for the list, 32 were by players who either are in the Hall of Fame or should realistically expect to receive a bust in Canton at some point. However, when you look at the “best of the best” performances, 19 of the top 25 were by players who are Hall of Fame caliber.

Here is a look at our picks for the 25 best individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. For this list we looked at statistics, but also considered game situations. That is why the Super Bowl where Joe Montana threw 5 touchdowns was highlighted in the first look at performances 50-26, but his most clutch performance is featured here. We did take into account whether the team won the game, but did not give any weight to who won the game MVP Award as there have been many occasions where you can scratch your head at who received that award.

Be sure to check out part 1 with numbers 50-26. I welcome your comments or ideas as to which performances you think should be on this list.

25. Max McGee – Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl I – 7 rec., 138 yards, 2 TD
It was no surprise that the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl, but it was quite a shocker that one of the stars of the game was aging wide receiver Max McGee. Having caught just four passes in limited action during the season, McGee expected his biggest score of the weekend to be when he broke curfew the night before the game. Yet, after Boyd Dowler suffered a broken collar bone in the first minutes, McGee made history by scoring the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

24. Kurt Warner – St. Louis Rams – Super Bowl XXXIV – 24-45, 414 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Before the 1999 season Kurt Warner had thrown all of 11 passes in the NFL. In Super Bowl XXXIV he threw the ball 45 times for 414 yards (still the single game Super Bowl record) to lead the Rams to a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Rams marched up and down the field, but were held to just three field goals in the first half and the Titans came all the way back to tie the score at 16. Warner then connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

23. Eli Manning – New York Giants – Super Bowl XLVI – 30-40, 296 yards, 1TD, 0 INT
With his team trailing 17-9 after the New England Patriots scored on the first drive of the second half, Eli Manning completed 17 of 23 passes for 176 yards to lift the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in five years. He was especially impressive when marching the Giants down for the game-winning touchdown as he completed five of six passes for 74 yards.

22. John Elway – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 18-29, 336 yards, 1TD, 1INT; 1 rushing TD
In his final NFL game, John Elway went out in style by passing for 336 yards and a touchdown and scoring another touchdown on the ground as the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl. The Broncos seized control early with Elway’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith giving them a 17-3 lead. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 25 Greatest Individual Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History 4

Posted on January 30, 2014 by Dean Hybl

Has there ever been a better Super Bowl performance than Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII?

Has there ever been a better Super Bowl performance than Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII?

Sunday’s Super Bowl will feature the most prolific offense in NFL history against a squad that has a dominant running back and budding star at quarterback. Who will rise as the greatest star of the biggest game of the year? While Super Bowl history is full of second tier players having a career day, it is also full of future Hall of Famers who rose to the ultimate occasion.

This article marks part two of our look at the top 50 individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. Of the 50 performances picked for the list, 31 were by players who either are in the Hall of Fame or should realistically expect to receive a bust in Canton at some point. However, when you look at the “best of the best” performances, 19 of the top 25 were by players who are Hall of Fame caliber.

So, as we look toward Sunday, expect the cream to rise to the top and the top performers to be from marquee players like Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Russell Wilson. However, I wouldn’t put it past Julius Thomas, Eric Decker, Golden Tate, Percy Harvin or Doug Baldwin to emerge as a Super Bowl hero.

Here is a look at our picks for the 25 best individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. For this list we looked at statistics, but also considered game situations. That is why the Super Bowl where Joe Montana threw 5 touchdowns was highlighted in the first look at performances 50-26 and two others where he arguably wasn’t as statistically dominant are included here. We did take into account whether the team won the game, but did not give any weight to who won the game MVP Award as there have been many occasions where you can scratch your head at who received that award.

Be sure to check out part 1 with numbers 50-26. I welcome your comments or ideas as to which performances you think should be on this list.

25. Joe Montana – San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XIX – 24-35, 331 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT; 5 rushes, 59 yards, 1 TD
Even though Joe Montana already had a Super Bowl ring prior to facing the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, he was generally considered the “second quarterback” entering the big game. Conventional wisdom was that Miami’s big armed quarterback Dan Marino was going to blow away Montana and the 49ers. As it turned out, Montana and his team proved dominant in a 38-16 victory. Montana passed for 13 more yards and tossed three touchdowns with no picks, compared to one TD and two interceptions for Marino.

 

Max McGee was an unlikely hero in Super Bowl I.

Max McGee was an unlikely hero in Super Bowl I.

24. Max McGee – Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl I – 7 rec., 138 yards, 2 TD
It was no surprise that the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl, but it was quite a shocker that one of the stars of the game was aging wide receiver Max McGee. Having caught just four passes in limited action during the season, McGee expected his biggest score of the weekend to be when he broke curfew the night before the game. Yet, after Boyd Dowler suffered a broken collar bone in the first minutes, McGee made history by scoring the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

23. Kurt Warner – St. Louis Rams – Super Bowl XXXIV – 24-45, 414 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Before the 1999 season Kurt Warner had thrown all of 11 passes in the NFL. In Super Bowl XXXIV he threw the ball 45 times for 414 yards (still the single game Super Bowl record) to lead the Rams to a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Rams marched up and down the field, but were held to just three field goals in the first half and the Titans came all the way back to tie the score at 16. Warner then connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

22. Eli Manning – New York Giants – Super Bowl XLVI – 30-40, 296 yards, 1TD, 0 INT
With his team trailing 17-9 after the New England Patriots scored on the first drive of the second half, Eli Manning completed 17 of 23 passes for 176 yards to lift the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in five years. He was especially impressive when marching the Giants down for the game-winning touchdown as he completed five of six passes for 74 yards.

21. John Elway – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 18-29, 336 yards, 1TD, 1INT; 1 rushing TD
In his final NFL game, John Elway went out in style by passing for 336 yards and a touchdown and scoring another touchdown on the ground as the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl. The Broncos seized control early with Elway’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith giving them a 17-3 lead. Read the rest of this entry →

Book Review: Rising Tide Provides Glimpse Into Alabama Football During Era Of Bryant and Namath 3

Posted on August 18, 2013 by Dennis Jezek

The new book looks at the sometimes dicey relationship between two Alabama legends Bear Bryant and Joe Namath.

The new book looks at the sometimes dicey relationship between two Alabama legends Bear Bryant and Joe Namath.

The new book by Randy Roberts and Ed Krzemienski, Rising Tide : Bear Bryant, Joe Namath and Dixie’s Last Quarter, is dedicated to, among others, “all of the … passionate fans of the Crimson Tide, the most successful college football team in history.” It was not, however, written by fans.

In interest of full disclosure, I was born in 1965, just a few months after the last events of this book, and have been a fan of the Crimson Tide since 1972. I graduated from the Capstone in 1991, just a year shy of being able to experience the joys of 1992 for myself. I worked in the sports information office with Coach Gene Stallings, knew Dude Hennessey, Charley Thornton and Clem Gryska among others cited in the book.

If you’ve ever wondered why, when discussing the pantheon of greats from Tide history, Joe Namath doesn’t seem to get mentioned quite as often as Harry Gilmer, Don Hutson, Vaughn Mancha, Dixie Howell, Pat Trammel, Lee Roy Jordan, Johnny Musso, Kenny Stabler, Bob Baumhauer, Woody Lowe Ozzie Newsome or any of the newer stars, despite the fact that Bryant often called him the “greatest athlete I ever coached,” this book might help you understand it. Ever the outsider, Namath starred for the University of Alabama, but he never really was “part” of it. To paraphrase Chris Peterson, he wasn’t O.K.P. (our kinda player).

If you really are a fan of the Tide and have even a little sense of the history (and I don’t think you get to call yourself a ‘fan’ if you don’t), then there really is not a ton of new material here from a program perspective. There is, however, a great deal of background information about Namath, culled from interviews with family, friends and the man himself. That material alone makes the book worth the effort. Read the rest of this entry →

Cosmic Forces Align and Conflict in the Build Up to the Super Bowl 1

Posted on January 22, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

Will cosmic forces decide which teams will play in Super Bowl XLIV?

Will cosmic forces decide which teams will play in Super Bowl XLIV?

Something cosmic is about to happen.

The New York Jets, a wild card team, continued to play over their heads, lead by a gangly, tall, brown-eyed, brunette quarterback, a strong running game, and a punishing defense, they surprised everyone winning two playoff games on the road in order to play the Colts.

Does that sound about right? Of course. It is the 2010 New York Jets.

Wrong. And right. It is also the 1969 New York Jets. Same description: wild card, tall dark and young quarterback, strong ground game, strong defense, wild card, playing over their heads as momentum builds.

In 1969 the quarterback was Joe Willie Namath. While lounging on Miami Beach in the week leading up to Super Bowl III, the kid couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He guaranteed a Jets victory.

In the first two super games, the NFL, represented by Vince Lombardi’s Packers, totally dominated their AFL opponents: Kansas City the first year, Oakland the second. Everyone just assumed that the Baltimore Colts would make it three in a row. This, especially because the Jets were a wild card. Most of the pundits had them at either the third or fourth best AFL club. Everyone expected the Jets to be dragged across the field and trampled at the Orange Bowl. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Stan Mikita: Scooter Line Center
      February 7, 2021 | 11:49 am
      Stan Mikita

      As the 2021 hockey season heats up, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the all-time greats in Chicago Black Hawks history.

      Spending his entire 22-year career with the Chicago Black Hawks, Stan Mikita was one of the best centers of his generation.

      Mikita joined the Black Hawks for the 1959-60 season and by the following season was a key player on a squad destined to win the Stanley Cup. He scored a team-high six goals during the playoffs as Chicago won their most recent cup championship.

      He became a star as center of the famed “Scooter Line“, (with right wing Ken Wharram and left wingers Ab McDonald and Doug Mohns).

      Read more »

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