An Overshadowed Classic: The 1966 NFL Championship Game

When you look back at the rich history of the Green Bay Packers, we focus squarely on the Lombardi era teams that won 5 NFL championships in the 1960’s. While the most iconic of these championships was The Ice Bowl for the 1967 title, a more gripping affair in the classic sense took place for the 1966 crown. While every championship has its importance this was the 2nd in a row which set the Packers up for the chance at winning 3 straight.

Bart Starr standing amidst a charging George Andrie (66) Bob Lilly (74) and the late Willie Townes (71) attempting a pass.

With the merger between the NFL and the AFL signed, each league would send their champion to play in a world championship game called the Super Bowl. While the sporting press sided with the traditionalist NFL there were revolutionaries who sided with the new guard if you will. The American Football League was established in 1959 and began play in 1960.

The new league had a flashier style of play and took to the air in a way that aside from the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas, the rest of the NFL and traditionalists scoffed at. It was 3 yards and a cloud of dust over here. Evidenced by the perennial champion Packers’ signature play… the power sweep. If I were to tell you to close your eyes and picture the Lombardi Packers, the image of Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston leading either Jim Taylor of Paul Hornung would come to mind vividly.

The founder of the AFL was Lamar Hunt of Hunt Bros. Oil and a Dallas, Texas resident. He had been thwarted in an attempt to buy the St Louis Cardinals a decade previous and wasn’t taken seriously when asked about NFL expansion to Dallas. So once he started the American Football League with his Dallas Texans as a flagship team (now the Kansas City Chiefs), the NFL scrambled and put a team down in Dallas which was then named the Cowboys. Each began play in the 1960 season.

Over the next few years the AFL and NFL waged war for the top college athletes. The Cowboys took several seasons to learn how to win under the guidance of Head Coach Tom Landry. Yet in spirit because they had been borne out of expansion and were the new kids on the block, the Cowboys were AFL kindred spirits residing in the NFL. They had a new way of scouting and evaluating talent much like the AFL and although Coach Landry had been the defensive coach (the term coordinator didnt’ exist until 1967) for the New York Giants in the 1950’s, he pioneered several offensive formations and sets to undo the 4-3 he brought into prominence a decade earlier.

It took a few years to gain footing however Landry finally had a team that could challenge for the NFL Championship by the ’66 season. He would take on his old nemesis Vince Lombardi in The Cotton Bowl to decide who would go on to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I.

Why was Lombardi a nemesis?? Lombardi was the Offensive Coach (Coordinator) of the New York Giants in the 1950’s before moving on to Green Bay. His offense used to sharpen Landry’s defense and vice versa for a great Giants team.

Another side note to this iconic championship it was Dallas’ Tex Schramm who stepped across league lines with Lamar Hunt to discuss the merger in the 1st place. It happened at Love Field and they met at the Texas Ranger Statue. So not only were the establishment Packers going to Dallas for the championship, they wanted to give the traitorous Cowboys their comeuppance. When you think of the city of Dallas from a national perspective, keep in mind we are only 3 years removed from JFK’s assassination there….and Lombardi was a Kennedy Democrat

Into this cauldron Lombardi and his team stepped…

With Tom Brown’s desperation last second interception to conclude the ’66 NFL Championship, the Packers survived and were off to Los Angeles for Super Bowl I. Tom Landry would go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest coaches in history. His team wasn’t ready to carry the mantle of league champion yet but they would come back to win Super Bowl VI as the 1st of Landry’s 2 championships.

It was Vince Lombardi’s team who defended their ’65 NFL championship’65 NFL championship and would go on to win Super Bowl I. There they would defeat Kansas City to win their 4th overall league title. Now looking back they had to actually beat two upstarts to win it all originating from the city of Dallas to crown themselves as Team of the 60’s. This would be the last with the Hall of Fame backfield duo of Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung. It was quiet Bart Starr who elevated his play with a record 4 TD passes in he win down in Dallas. Out in L.A. he was even better carving up the Chiefs to win the 1st MVP of the very 1st Super Bowl.

Super Bowl I Trophy sits in the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

Another championship loomed in 1967 but it was the prime time finish of the ’66 championship at night that pushed the Packers into NFL lore.

As for the trophy won out in Los Angeles, The Chancellor visited it in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame just two weeks ago.

Today this rivalry renews as the Packers are down in Dallas to take on the Cowboys in Jerry World. Hopefully this look back helps in explaining the rivalry began here which will enrich The Ice Bowl memories created a year later.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Keep in mind we’re still campaigning to assist Jerry Kramer to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and you can help. Lend your thoughts as well by writing in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the address below. Please be respectful and positively lend your voice:

Please write & nominate #64
Send letters to:
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Attention Senior Selection Committee
2121 George Halas Dr NW, Canton, 
OH 44708

 

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SUPER BOWL I CHAMPION 1966 GREEN BAY PACKERS

War of the Worlds… The first meeting of champions from both the upstart American Football League, and the established National Football League took place on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles. NFL Films called it “Spectacle of a Sport” and it was when you think about it. Separate leagues, separate television contracts, and even different balls made the two leagues as different as night and day. The AFL was the league that went for 2 pt conversions and had the names of the players on the back of the jersey where the more established NFL was more conservative by nature.

Even the Super Bowl trophy was new as Pete Rozelle commissioned a new trophy produced every year. Up until that point the championship trophy rotated to the winning organization for that year. So the NFL trophy that made the rounds stayed in Green Bay at the conclusion of the 1965 season when the Packers dethroned the defending champion Cleveland Browns 23-12.

4654756ringDid you know the LA Coliseum for Super Bowl I had over 15,000 empty seats? The game was broadcast on 2 networks….well kinda…lol Pete Rozelle and the NFL had the main CBS feed and microphone, where the AFL’s NBC just gave a commentary over the video supplied by CBS for their broadcast. So after the game, commentators for both networks were fighting over the INDIVIDUAL locker room microphone after the game when it was time for the trophy presentation and subsequent interview of Vince Lombardi. That is nuts…

How far had the AFL come in the 6 years since its inception? The Chiefs were behind only 14-10 after a 1st half where the Chiefs held their own however the game changed on a Willie Wood interception in the 3rd quarter, running it back to the Chief 5. A few touchdowns later and the Packers were on cruise control 35-10 which was the final.

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Super Bowl I Trophy sits in the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

In my opinion, this was the best of the Green Bay champions of the 1960s. They were more diverse than previous champions and the mixture of young talent with the veterans made for a lethal combination. The exact peak where veteran savvy and physical ability meet before aging would slow the Packer machine. You still had Jim Taylor as the bludgeoning fullback where at halfback Elijah Pitts along with rookie Donny Anderson supplemented aging Paul Hornung. Bart Starr was now the chief QB in the league who threw for 4TDs in the ’66 NFL title game against Dallas and 2 more against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl which doesn’t include a 64 yd TD strike to Carroll Dale that was called back. What 3 yards and a cloud of dust? This team wasn’t just running sweeps anymore.

Speaking of sweeps: Forrest Gregg, Jerry Kramer, Bill Curry, Fuzzy Thurston (always loved that name), and Bob Skoronski were still supplying those holes and were the essence of the Packers. They beat you on the line of scrimmage…that plain and simple. Forrest Gregg went on to win a 3rd ring with the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and coached the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XVI. Kramer became the voice of that team thru a series of bestselling books. Curry went on to play in 2 more Super Bowls with the Baltimore Colts and coached at the University of Alabama as well.

Thurman SuperBowl XXV 233These men paved the way for many a 1,000 yd rusher in the 60’s. TE Marv Fleming has to be added to the mix since TEs had to block back then. Fleming replaced Ron Kramer as Starr’s short pass option over the middle. He would go on to play in 5 of the first 8 Super Bowls (3 with Miami) becoming the first man to win 4 rings (the Charles Haley of his day). Carroll Dale, Boyd Dowler, and “out all night” Max McGhee were steady, heady receivers. Max went on to enjoy success in the restaurant business… Chi Chi’s I believe.

Again…winning on the line was the name of the game with the Packers when it came to defense: Willie Davis, Ron Kostelnik, the late Henry Jordan, and the late Lionel Aldridge were draped on Len Dawson in the second half of Super Bowl I like a tailored suit. They were a veteran group that did its main job of stopping the run, and in a 4-3 defense, keep blockers off of the MLB. Since the late Ray Nitschke skated into the Hall of Fame, I think it’s fair to say they did it well. How many highlights do you see Nitschke making plays tackle to tackle? Tons. Texan Lee Roy Caffey and Hall of Famer Dave Robinson were solid at outside linebacker. Robinson along with Bobby Bell were the prototype to the modern outside linebacker with their size and range when the league brought in the Robert Braziles, Clay Matthews, Lawrence Taylors and Ricky Jacksons in the 80’s.

super-bowl-logo-1966The late Bob Jeter, former USC quarterback turned safety Hall of Famer Willie Wood, Tom Brown, and Hall of Famer Herb Adderley (converted RB from Michigan State) was simply the best defensive backfield in football…maybe football history. Who could read a QB better than a former QB? When it came to athletes Adderley in his heyday was Deion Sanders without the flash. Adderley won another ring in Super Bowl II with the Packers then would go on to play in 2 more Super Bowls with Dallas, winning in Super Bowl VI along with Forrest Gregg. However Adderley was still a starter and blanketed Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, of Miami, in that game some 5 yrs later.

Another look at this team tells you another story. Lombardi coached at a time when it was expressed Italians / Catholics weren’t viewed as football coaches. See how he didn’t get the job to replace Jim Lee Howell in New York originally. This is at a time where would be voted President back in the late 50’s. I bring this up because as you look up the racial make up for most teams in the 60’s, the Packers more than any team did more for diversity and breaking quotas than any other team. At least in the NFL. This group was champion a few years before the 1969 Chiefs who became the first team to win it all with minorities comprising more than half their roster.

Yet Lombardi had black linebackers and safeties on his defense or in the “thinking man spots” that wasn’t prevalent in the 1960’s NFL.

Lombardi had a lot to do with that obviously and they were constant champions. Not 3 in 4 yrs, not 2 Super Bowls in a row, not 4 Super Bowls won in a decade. They won half (FIVE) of the decades championships, there must have been suicidal Bears fans everywhere in the 60s.

Aside from football X’s and O’s this football team will never be forgotten.

SUPER BOWL I RUNNER UP 1966 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The first AFL Super Bowl representative was the 1966 Chiefs, by virtue of a 31-7 burial of MY Buffalo Bills who were trying to 3-peat in the AFL.  With a little bit of luck the Cowboys would best the Packers and the Chiefs could play the Cowboys in Super Bowl I…..uh, sorry Green Bay wasn’t having it besting the Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL Title game.  Then those Packers went on to beat Kansas City in Super Bowl I 35-10.  So why am I talkin’ about Dallas??  Would you believe there is a history?

1loserThe KC Chiefs had moved from Dallas to Kansas City back in 1963 and even though they were AFL Champions, Lamar Hunt (AFL Founder) moved the team to not compete with the Dallas Cowboys.  The NFL, conservative and slow to expand, placed a new franchise in Dallas in 1960 since Lamar Hunt would have a team there.  They were even more shiesty with what they did with the Minnesota territory…yet we’ll get back to that…

AllDecalsDuring the 1960s, war raged between the NFL and AFL, these two principles from Dallas who both lived there crossed paths several times and were architects, in clandestine, about a possible merger between the two leagues.

They even met once at Love Field in Dallas under the Texas Ranger statue to talk about it right before Hunt boarded a plane for Houston to meet with Bud Adams and other AFL owners to vote Al Davis AFL Commissioner where the war for players escalated 10 fold. This act and subsequent talent drain included signing players from the other league (free agency LOL) that finally brought each side to the table.  At the meeting to announce the merger did you notice that Tex Schramm (Cowboys) and Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) flanked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle at that conference?

So it would have been something had the Chiefs faced the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl I.  Uh, but you see there was this team from Green Bay and…Uh…well, LOL let’s just say they weren’t going to be denied.  So with that, this ring is for the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs formerly known as the Dallas Texans for reaching Super Bowl I.

 

super-bowl-logo-1966EPILOGUE: About that Minnesota thing… 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.  Fitting that the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

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… The fact that the Vikings first and last Super Bowl losses came courtesy of these two teams is more karma than ironic. Folks I can’t make this stuff up.

The Soul Of The Game – Fred Williamson

The helmet Fred "The Hammer" Williamson wore with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The helmet Fred “The Hammer” Williamson wore with the Kansas City Chiefs.

When you think of the wild west scoring of the AFL, you think of long bombs, high scores, quarterbacks going for broke. Well, someone had to be deployed to stop those receivers and that’s where Fred Williamson comes in.  He was the “original” AFL shut down corner with the Oakland Raiders when he arrived in 1961.

There just isn’t a lot of footage on Fred Williamson’s early days. NFL Films didn’t acquire a lot of the old footage until after the merger agreement of 1966 so they exclusively used Kansas City Chiefs footage.

However he was an AFL All Star in 1961, ’62, and ’63 and was chosen 1st team All Pro in 1962 and 1963. Consider the fact he achieved All Star status with 5 int. with 58 yards in returns for a 2-12 Raider team. His best season was in 1962 which was his first as an All Pro, he intercepted 8 passes returning them for 151 yards and a touchdown. This he achieved on a 1-13 Raiders team that had two coaches and preceded Al Davis. In an 8 team league where the Raiders finished last on offense and second to last on defense, he was 1st team All Pro and the only player on the team to achieve any honors.

An autographed pic of Fred Williamson with Al Davis. He was the first guy to wear white shoes, not Joe Namath. Joe came into the AFL in 1965 when Williams stopped playing for the Raiders in 1964.

An autographed pic of Fred Williamson with Al Davis. He was the first guy to wear white shoes, not Joe Namath. Joe came into the AFL in 1965 when Williams stopped playing for the Raiders in 1964.

Those are high numbers for a cornerback who played for a team that was always behind and teams were running the clock out on them.

After intercepting 25 passes for the Raiders for 4 years, Williamson became a Chief and finally played for a winner. He teamed with all time AFL interception leader S Johnny Robinson to form arguably the best secondary in AFL history.

For all the talk of the “point a minute” reputation of the AFL, the 1966 Chiefs were dominant on defense. In a 14 game season teams threw away from “The Hammer’s” side of the field. So much so that both safeties Robinson and Bobby Hunt intercepted 10 passes each and the team grabbed 33 as a unit.

In the AFL Championship Game, the two time defending champion Buffalo Bills were eyeing a three-peat when Williamson nearly beheaded receiver Glenn Bass. It took the fight out of the Bills much like the Mike Stratton hit on Keith Lincoln in the 1964 championship, knocked the fight out of the Chargers giving Buffalo the momentum and emotional advantage.

Fred’s hit should have been remembered in the same light…

Fred “The Hammer” Williamson was the AFL’s version of the shutdown corner if there was one. Had the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl I his legend would be greater and might have his inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!