Wow Talk about shock and awe!!!
The Jets 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III was one of those events that defined an era. Everyone has spoken of the great accomplishment, the AFL arriving on the big stage but so few people talk about the vanquished 15-1 Baltimore Colts and Don Shula.
The loss was so devastating and embarrassing that the NFL didn’t issue a championship ring. A team that was 3hrs away from being the greatest team in NFL history received THIS WATCH when they failed to win the game…wow! Think the NFL thought highly of their championship season? Now before you ask, the answer is yes the teams that lost Super Bowls I, II, and IV did receive rings.
Let’s take you back to 1968…The Colts were motivated to win it all in 1968 because in 1967 they had the BEST record ever to NOT make the playoffs:11-1-2 including a win over the Packers who would go on to win Super Bowl II. The Rams had an identical record and won the tiebreaker for giving the Colts their one loss. The Colts were in the Western Conference and for the better part of the 60’s couldn’t unseat the Packers.
Except in 1964 when Paul Hornung was suspended for gambling, yet the Colts were upset in Cleveland in the Championship game. Yes you heard me correctly…the Packers and Colts were in the WESTERN CONFERENCE back then. So Vince Lombardi steps down and the Packers run out of steam and the Colts go 13-1 in 1968. So in TWO seasons they had only lost 2 games going 24-2-2. No regular season overtime back then hence the two ties.
Like other teams I’ve mentioned, this team that DIDNT win it all was the strongest Baltimore Colts team ever. They had a defense that set the league record for fewest points allowed in a 14 game season with 144 points. They held 11 of their 14 opponents to 10 pts or less including 3 shutouts.
The great Johnny Unitas got hurt and Earl Morrall replaced him and became league MVP at quarterback. They had Tom Matte and Jerry Hill as arguably the best running tandem in football. Their only regular season loss in 1968 was to the Cleveland Browns who they would go on to blow out 34-0 in the NFL Championship game IN CLEVELAND. So with that it was as though they practically had an undefeated season and were lauded as the best team in NFL history.
Then came January 12th, 1969…wow!! One look at this watch shows you how embarrassed the NFL was to lose to the upstart AFL. The corporate pressures, corporate culture and such were so great that within 2 years coach Don Shula was gone. Within 4 years Carroll Rosenbloom would swap franchises with Robert Irsay (then Rams owner), become owner of the Rams, would later marry Georgia, drown and she became Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere owner of the Los Angeles / St. Louis Rams. Of course this legitimized the AFL and NFL merging as well. Everyone talks about the champion but take a look across the river and pay attention to the team that loses it. The after affects can be frightening…
Would all of this have happened had the Colts WON Super Bowl III?
Epilogue: Although the Colts would go on to win Super Bowl V, how redemptive was it?