The History of The AFL: Making Amends

As The Chancellor of Football, it’s imperative the history of the NFL and AFL is preserved and showcased for future generations. A best friend to Taylor Blitz Times has been Chris Burford. Not only was he the starting wideout for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I, he was the first player signed in the history of the American Football League. He also suggested a great book to me last year. The Ten Gallon War which covered the days when the Chiefs / Dallas Texans battled the Cowboys for the heart of Dallas.

chris burfordAt the end of the highlight for Super Bowl I, he’s the one who puts on the Cowboy hat and heads out as John Facenda’s voice offers “In another year it will be the turn of the AFL. But this first spectacle of a sport belonged to Green Bay.”

These words echoed in my mind when Chris commented on an article which was the earlier incarnation of one I did on the ’66 Chiefs here.

“The major press were all in the NFL’s corner and denigrated our teams throughout the 60′s…however, when all was said and done after 10 years and 4 Super Bowls, the score was AFL 2 NFL 2…..(Chiefs 1-1), and the football world knew we could play with or against anybody….was a great time in pro football and a joy to have played in the AFL, from the beginning and through the emergence of the league….John Facenda, the Sabol’s, Pete Rozelle, Sports Illustrated, and the NFL propaganda machine notwithstanding.”

Full comment and original article here.

I thought it would be fitting to share with Chris one of my older archives where the late Steve Sabol had the late John Facenda narrate The History of The AFL. It’s told in a very respectful vain. The importance of this is even in the highlight for Super Bowl III, NFL Films narrated it with an NFL slant. Steve Sabol some time around 2000, later apologized for it. Going over the top about “One more moment for the master”- John Unitas trying to bring the Colts from behind instead of focusing on Joe Namath, the AFL, and the Jets victory. Which further validates Chris’ point.

So without further adieu lets take you back to this gem recorded in 1987 yet was produced in 1982.

Unfortunately I started two a day practice and didn’t get the other two shows recorded. What most folks don’t understand is there is still a battle between the AFL and NFL. For those that were there, some like Al Davis, didn’t want a merger. Others went on yet have their memories intact of the 10 year war and are fighting to be remembered and recognized. How the late DE Jerry Mays and FS Johnny Robinson were on the All Time AFL team, yet not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, are glaring omissions.

Websites like mine and Todd Tobias’ Tales From The American Football League  and esteemed AFL historian Ange Coniglio’s Remember The AFL do what we can to recognize these players. Remember the AFL has a permanent link on the left side bar for easy access. I know this doesn’t totally make amends Chris but something I wanted to share this Memorial weekend.

JohnnyRobinsonPFHoFbustPostscript: 3, December 2019:  Last August, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Kansas City Chiefs great FS Johnny Robinson (finally) for his contributions to pro football back in the American Football League. An honor long overdue and ironically every time Chris would interact and talk about great players of the past, not one conversation would go by without mention that Robinson belonged in Canton. Not one.

I was unable to attend the PFHoF ceremony in 2019 however I did run into Robinson’s teammates and fellow Hall of Famers Willie Lanier and Emmitt Thomas after the 2018 Gold Jacket Dinner in Canton.

chancellor.e.thomas.w.lanier

Hall of Fame CB Emmitt Thomas and MLB Willie Lanier of the 69 AFL Champion Chiefs.

On the day Robinson was to receive his Hall of Fame ring during a half time ceremony earlier this year, here is what graced the PFHoF Instagram page:

JohnnyRobinsonPFHoFringCongratulations Johnny Robinson on your Hall of Fame Induction!! Taylor Blitz Times salutes you.

Again Chris it doesn’t totally make amends but know you pioneers haven’t been forgotten. Raising a glass to toast you all.

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SUPER BOWL IV CHAMPION 1969 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Super Bowl IV in ancient Tulane Stadium, the scene for Kansas City’s 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the last ever AFL game. The merger followed this game and to have the score after 4 games: AFL 2 wins, NFL 2 wins, was poetic justice since the two leagues battled for a decade. So many ironies during this era it’s hard to choose where to begin…but we have to start somewhere right?

sbiv

We’ll start with an epilogue I posted with the 1966 Chief’s AFL Championship ring on the origins of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings and the irony of those two teams facing each other in the last ever game of the AFL.

The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league. The AFL couldn’t’ operate with only 7 teams. Fittingly the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

super-bowl-logo-1969

 

What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask? They went west and became the Oakland Raiders the Chiefs main rival. As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14. So when you think of the Vikings of the 70’s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960…folks I can’t make this stuff up.

sbiv2This game was significant because NFL loyalists still weren’t giving the AFL its due after the crushing loss in Super Bowl III. Thought it was just a fluke. One of the great things about the AFL was its close camaraderie between the players and teams, knowing they were only part of an overall league fighting for their respect. They each played their part and they represented their league.

Joe Namath recalled when the New York Jets returned to their hotel after beating Baltimore in Super Bowl III, he could remember being greeted by Emmitt Thomas, Buck Buchanan, and Willie Lanier (Chiefs) as told on HBO’s History of the AFL circa 1995. Len Dawson (Chiefs QB) was also in the stands for the Jets monumental win over Baltimore so to have this group carry the banner into the last Super Bowl and last game in the AFL’s history had personal weight, league-wide weight, and TOTAL legitimacy for the AFL’s legacy with another win.
sbiv3Another significant point to this team is that this was the first Super Bowl champion that African American’s comprised half their roster and had the first Mexican American QB to get a ring in Tom Flores. However the 1969 Minnesota Vikings sported the first Mexican American to quarterback his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp (never understood why they don’t have larger Hispanic followings with these significant historic backdrops).

The Minnesota Vikings had departed with Fran Tarkenton and brought Joe Kapp (California Bears) from Canada to play quarterback. He threw ugly passes and played football from his gut and as a fearless leader who avenged a playoff loss the year before against Baltimore. In 1968 the Colts were regarded as the greatest team with the greatest defense ever. The Colts beat Minnesota 24-14 in a divisional playoff match where they sacked and hit Kapp repeatedly.

In 1969, game 2 he threw for a record 7TDs in a rematch with the Colts to wrest the NFL dominance mantle from them winning 52-14. The Vikings went on to finish the season on a 12 game winning streak and break the Colts 1968 defensive record of 144 points allowed with 133. The 12 game winning streak to finish the season was the longest the NFL had seen in 35 years. Yikes, they were steamrolling to the Super Bowl…all they have to do was win this last game.

Kansas City, like Green Bay before them resembled what future NFL teams would look like. That defense with Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, and Jim Lynch at the linebacker spots. Two that are in the Hall of Fame (Bell and Lanier…in fact Bobby Bell was the first outside linebacker inducted into the Hall of Fame) and one that should be in Jim Lynch. Jim Marsalis, and Emmitt Thomas at the cornerback spots. To imagine Emmitt Thomas, think of a little lighter Mel Blount. Johnny Robinson and Patrick Kearney were interchangeable safeties.

Then you have the front four: Aaron Brown, Jerry Mays (AFL all decade team member), Buck Buchanon, and Curley Culp were as physical as the Steelers of the 70’s with less notoriety because they played in the AFL. They made it to the big stage this day. All this before I get into Hall of Famer Len Dawson and WR Otis Taylor who should be…then versatile Mike Garrett, Warren McVea, and Robert Holmes running the ball as a group. This was a complete team and one of the most powerful Champions ever.

Thanks for reading and by the way if you wanted to see Super Bowl IV in its entirety, click the link “Super Bowl IV” at the start of this article.

Enjoy

AFC Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

Playoff time in the National Football League begins now and you can smell it. Listening to all the pundits talk about the team no one wants to play, they keep talking about the wrong team. The team no one wants to play isn’t the San Diego Chargers, it’s the Indianapolis Colts. They are the giant killers that toppled Denver from the ranks of the unbeaten, beat the Seahawks, bludgeoned the 49ers, and three weeks ago upended the Chiefs to keep them from winning the AFC West.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Keep in mind they are coming into this playoff match-up with a higher defensive ranking than the Chiefs. They have to contend with Jamaal Charles who represents 35% of the Chiefs offense. Today Andy Reid has to get Alex Smith to go downfield with DeWayne Bowe while the Colts are keying on Charles.

He led the Chiefs in rushing (1,227 yards) receptions (70) and the league in touchdowns with 19. Right now Reid’s offense is too one dimensional. Dexter McCluster could be a wild card here but we have to see some new wrinkles.

Today the Colts will win 30-21 as they are plus 5 in takeaways at home. Take out the aberration when they turned it over 5 times in a 38-8 loss to the Rams, that number jumps to plus 10.  In the last seven games, Kansas City has forced only 6 turnovers in 6 games and 7 versus the Raiders. The problem is they’ll be missing Tamba Hali although LB Justin Houston is back. The playoffs start with a win in Lucas Oil by the Colts.

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Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year: Andy Reid

The late Bum Phillips when discussing Don Shula’s coaching abilities once said “Shula can take his’n and beat your’n then take your’n and beat his’n.” In layman terms he could beat any opponent no matter the personnel he had or was given. This fits the 2013 season for several National Football League coaches but the one who’s coaching style best illustrates this is Chief’s coach Andy Reid.

Coach of the Year is Andy  Re....wait that's not Reid.

Coach of the Year is Andy Re….wait that’s not Reid.

Consider the fact Kansas City was coming off of the worst season in NFL history. Not only was the coaching staff headed by Romeo Crennel escorted out the door. The players left behind endured a 2-14 season, along with the suicide of former teammate Jovan Belcher. At the practice facility no less. In 2012 this team had lost 13 of it’s last 14 and scored just 211 points all year. Good for dead last in the NFL.

All Reid did was breathe life into an organization with a forgotten quarterback in Alex Smith. Whom San Francisco discarded when Colin Kaepernick stepped to the fore midway through last season. Consequently he provided Smith with his 6th offensive coordinator in 8 years.

2013 TBT Coach of The Year: Andy Reid

2013 TBT Coach of The Year: Andy Reid

Just as he had with Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Brett Favre, and a resurrected Michael Vick, he got the most out of his quarterback and made the playoffs. Smith finished with career highs in yardage (3,313), touchdowns (23) and nearly eclipsed his career low in interception percentage (1.4% in 2013 v 1.1% in 2011). By the way that led the league

It took awhile for the offense to get into a groove as the defense led the Chiefs to a 9-0 start. They finished 11-5 while scoring 430 points, good enough for 6th in the league, while allowing 305 points good enough for 6th defensively.

Aside from Smith, he performed this with players that had been with the Chiefs the previous year. His career was at a crossroads after being dismissed in Philadelphia. His message had grown stale as his Eagle’s free-fell from playoff contention losing 11 of 12.  Reid has his team heading to Indianapolis for a wild card tilt with the Colts this Saturday. However that game turns out this has been a successful season for both he and the Chiefs.

By the way… Taylor Blitz saw this coming: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/

Honorable Mention:

2. Bill Belichick – What else needs to be said about Belichick’s coaching abilities?? In 2013 he began the season without the top 5 receivers from the year before. He endured the awful controversy that is the Aaron Hernandez murder case and steered his team onward. Then he loses two of his leaders in perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork and leading tackler Jerrod Mayo for the season. Yet here they are 12-4 entering the playoffs as the #2 seed having already beaten #1 seed Denver in the regular season. He’s two wins away from coaching a record 6th Super Bowl and participating in his 9th.

Kiss the rings.

Kiss the rings.

He’s the greatest National Football League coach since Vince Lombardi without a doubt. Under normal circumstances he would be runaway coach of the year. He’ll have to settle for second on my list because he did have Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to help guide the ship. The Patriots have played in the last two AFC Championship games and we had them predicted to make it to this one as well. Their missing key contributors and roll into the playoffs having won 5 of their last 6. One of those is over the Denver Broncos. Please don’t underscore that for it’s importance if they play again.

3. Chip Kelly – “Man he’s not going to win with that gimmicky college offense in the pros.” You can remember hearing that before the season and it died somewhere around week 7. I had my reservations as well but no one counted on Nick Foles becoming one of the National Football League’s best quarterbacks. Yet they have the NFL rushing champion in LeSean McCoy and the defense is making timely plays. He infused a new atmosphere in a place Andy Reid used to call home but he is using Reid’s old players. How he does in the NFL playoffs will dictate how he’ll take command of the NFC East next year.

Congratulations to Andy Reid…Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year

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Styles Make Great Fights: Kansas City Chiefs v. Denver Broncos Week 11

Now the rest of the sporting press has come to recognize what Taylor Blitz Times readers already knew. The Kansas City Chiefs were going to be a force in the 2013 campaign as we predicted they would win the AFC West. Well, not so fast. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to go into Invesco Field and stop Peyton Manning’s 8-1 Denver Broncos. However the Chiefs come in as the NFL’s last unbeaten team and a perfect 9-0 record.

Tamba Hali has 9 sacks in the Chiefs 9 games. Did you know that is only good enough for second on the team??

Tamba Hali has 9 sacks in the Chiefs 9 games. Did you know that is only good enough for second on the team??

The obvious match-up pits the #1 offense of the Broncos with the Chiefs 9th ranked defense. In all 9 games Kansas City hasn’t given up more than 17 points in any game this season. They lead the league with 36 sacks, twenty between Justin Houston (11) and Tamba Hali (9) alone. The Chiefs are also 6th against the pass having intercepted 12 passes and giving up the 3rd fewest passing touchdowns with 9.

Hosting this big time match-up is the NFL’s “point a minute” offense. Peyton Manning has 33 touchdowns in only nine games. Thirty three?? Yikes… The Broncos have scored 371 points so far this season. How significant is that? Last year’s Super Bowl champion Ravens scored 398 the entire season. You were staring at one of history’s finest scoring teams. With five of their last seven being played outside in colder weather, their scoring should slow some.

Moreno has had a big 2013 and may need to be a bigger factor down the stretch.

Moreno has had a big 2013 and may need to be a bigger factor down the stretch.

The real question comes when the Broncos two backup tackles have to line up and take on Hali and Justin Houston. Will they decide to run the ball with Knowshon Moreno (521 yds / 8TDs) to keep the defense honest?? The Chiefs are only 19th against the run and Nose Tackle Dontari Poe (36 tackles /4.5 sack /3 passes defensed) is on the short list of defensive linemen up for Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year. Will Denver stay committed enough to the run??

They have to get the ball out of Manning’s hands quick with the Chiefs rush coming at them. Kansas City needs to press the Denver receivers and forcing Manning (nursing a high ankle sprain) to hold onto the football for close to 2 seconds before the ball can be thrown. If they do all of these things, the Chiefs have a big chance to win this game.

To win this game, the Chiefs have to rope them into a defensive slugfest and possess the football. Right now the best the Chiefs can do is a low scoring affair won 20-17 or 17-14. If manning can get to 20 first, the game is over and Kansas City will have to wait for the rubber match in two weeks. Alex Smith can’t turn the football over and the line needs to open holes for Jamaal Charles (726 yards / 6 TDs) and a big play is needed from Dexter McCluster.

Funny how folks shape their arguments huh?? Last year when The Chancellor of Football said the Denver Broncos ran out to a 13-3 record and won the AFC West, they hadn’t played anybody. The rest of the AFC West was mired in a 17 game losing streak. Now Bronco supporters are saying the same thing about Kansas City and they might be right. Yet did you know Denver hasn’t beat a team with a winning record in 2013?? That’s right they were beaten in Indianapolis and are 0-1 against a team with a winning record. They were 1-3 last year against playoff teams.

Let’s face facts…. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense could be off for 50 minutes, then poof score 28 and are well ahead in a rout. The Chiefs coming out party is one where they have to play a grind it out game for all 60 minutes. Possess the football and run it at Denver and keep Manning off the field.

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NFL Week 5: Peyton Manning Sets The Pace

At the end of the NFL 2013 season many experts have the Denver Broncos headed to New York and Super Bowl XLVIII. Why not? We’re talking about the #1 offense in the NFL right now averaging 483 yards per game. Worse part is they just pulverized the #2 offense in the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20 and let’s face it, they could have scored 80. Peyton Manning and the Bronco offense rank first in passing with an average of 383 yards per game with an obscene 179 points scored. Are you serious?? They are on pace to score 719 points for the 2013 season. Now the count will begin elsewhere for the Broncos possibly going undefeated along with shattering numerous passing records in the process.

Peyton Manning has turned each of the last four games into a surgeon's clinic on how to pay quarterback.

Peyton Manning has turned each of the last four games into a surgeon’s clinic on how to pay quarterback.

However posing as the #1 challenger in their own division no less are the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid has kept the Chiefs in games playing stout defense and a low risk / high yield offense that doesn’t beat itself with turnovers. Going into last week’s contest with the Giants, Alex Smith was one of three quarterbacks (one was Manning)  who had gone the longest without an interception this season.

They’re forte through this first stanza of the season has been to play conservative football and not put their 7th ranked defense in a demoralized position. Led by the NFL’s sack king Justin Houston (7.5 sacks) this defense has forced 12 turnovers which includes 3 at the expense of the Giants last Sunday. Lets take a look at the standings.

West Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Denver Broncos Broncos 4 0 0 1.000 179 91 3-0 1-0 1-0 2-0 W4 4-0
Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs 4 0 0 1.000 102 41 2-0 2-0 0-0 1-0 W4 4-0
San Diego Chargers Chargers 2 2 0 .500 108 102 1-1 1-1 0-0 0-2 W1 2-2
Oakland Raiders Raiders 1 3 0 .250 71 91 1-1 0-2 0-1 1-2 L2 1-3

Don’t overlook the San Diego Chargers too quickly. Sure they lost Dwight Freeney for the season with  a torn quad, but this is a 2-2 team that could easily be 4-0. They’re only 6 points away from it. Last Saturday Phillip Rivers tortured the Dallas Cowboys with a 401 yard passing day with 3 touchdowns. Rivers consistently found the mismatch as he threw all 3 of his TDs against Cowboys linebackers. Danny Woodhead was a surprising star with 2 scoring receptions. Yet the Chargers keep playing very close to the vest affairs that could short circuit their season.

Phillip Rivers is off to an unbelievable start in 2013 as well.

Phillip Rivers is off to an unbelievable start in 2013 as well.

Lost in the wake of Manning’s performance is the fact Rivers is off on a torrid pace of his own. Through four games he is 105 of 142 for an astounding 73.9% completion rate for 1,199 yards 11 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He is on pace to throw for 4,800 yards and 44 touchdowns himself. Can they fast break with the Broncos when they meet them in their two match-ups.

Last year the Broncos finished the season on an 11 game winning streak that began overcoming a 24-0 deficit to the Chargers. Each team’s season turned on that game. San  Diego finished the season 4-7 which cost Head Coach Norv Turner his job. The Chargers haven’t forgotten and will be looking to pay Denver back in kind. New offensive Coordinator Ken Wisenhunt comes in with a roven background and two Super bowl appearances by his offenses in the last decade. They have to overcome the loss of Dwight Freeney as the season rolls on.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs…it’s hard to not cheer for a team that went through the turmoil they had last year. It wasn’t just the 2-14 season they had to endure….most people forget they had a suicide inside their practice facility by a player last year to compund things. Now with a proven winner with a chip on his shulder in Andy Reid (see Sal Paolantonio video leaving field in Philadelphia wo weeks ago) and a proven commodity in former 49er Alex Smith, this team is quietly on a mission. The Chancellor forwarned you about this team: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/ This is about redemption in Kansas City and nothing motivates men like when they feel they have something to prove.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Just like San Francisco found out last year: A sure-fire champion wakes up in the middle of a season and finds themselves the hunted in their own divisional back yard. As all of NFL coverage has talked about Manning’s torrid start ad-nauseum, keep a few things in mind. On defense the Broncos are 24th in football and the Chargers should be able to score with them. Second Ryan Clady is still inactive and this week the Broncos have to have a back up Tackle play against DeMarcus Ware. This game against Dallas could be interesting.

Last but not least keep a few things in mind… Peyton Manning is not a good cold weather Super Bowl and to win it all he’ll need to win 3 games out in the elements. Just remember one of hi worst losses was a 41-0 drubbing against the New York Jets in the same spot that this year’s February Super bowl will be held. Last but not least, the greatest scoring offenses in NFL history, the 1983 Washington Redskins (541 points), the 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556 points), and the 2007 New England Patriots(589 points), ALL eventually ran into a defense and DIDN’T win the title. In fact two lost in the Super Bowl and the other in the NFC Championship Game. Further evidence of this we can throw in the 1990 Buffalo Bills , the 2011 New England Patriots, and the 2001 St Louis Rams for good measure. Bronco fans learn from history and be humble as this season grows on. The first question is:  Do the Kansas City chiefs have one of those defenses that can slow Manning and company before they get out of their own division??  Something to think about…. although right now Manning has established a record setting pace

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