BALTIMORE COLTS VS. NEW YORK JETS SUPER BOWL III SO, JOE SAID IT WAS SO The Colts were the NFL's new standard-bearer, but few figured the AFL could win its first title. An exception was Joe Namath

January 02, 1989

ALL THE NEW YORK BEAT writers traveled with the Jets and stayed
with them at the Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale for the third
Super Bowl, which would be in the Orange Bowl again. We had a heck of
a time and hoped the Baltimore Colts would not beat our Jets too
badly. The place was a zoo: players and their wives chasing screaming
kids around the pool; a near rebellion when the Jets heard they would
get watches to celebrate their AFL championship instead of the rings
they had voted for; Joe Namath almost getting into a fight with the
Colts' defensive end-kicker Lou Michaels in a restaurant; Namath
sleeping in and missing picture day -- then ''guaranteeing'' the
The bookies looked at the madhouse and raised their 17-point
opening line to 19 1/2 by kickoff, a 2 1/2-point move, the most ever
during Super Bowl week. Meanwhile coach Don Shula made sure his
Colts, 34-0 victors over Cleveland for the NFL championship, paid
attention to business.
Today many writers will tell you they picked the Jets to win, but
in New York only one I know of actually did, Leonard Shecter of the
Post. Another newspaperman, who later wrote a book about how to beat
the point spread, got down on the Jets early in the week, at 17.
After spending six days with them he bailed out and wound up betting
the Colts and giving 19 1/2. He could have caught a reverse middle
and lost both ends. In my pregame story I picked the Colts to win
by less than the spread, a cop-out.
No better quotes from a coach ever came out of a Super Bowl than
the ones the Jets' Weeb Ewbank fed the press that week. He was at his
best on picture day, facing a bunch of writers in a coffee shop after
Namath had stiffed them.
''Sometimes they're too tense,'' said Ewbank. ''Sometimes I have
to loosen them up before a game. I'll even tell 'em a dirty joke.''
''What joke?''
''Little lady, would you please leave the room?'' Ewbank said to a
waitress standing nearby. ''Well, this woman comes into a doctor's
office and says, 'Doctor, I've got a hormone imbalance. . . .' ''
Sorry, I couldn't print it then, and I can't now.
Ewbank was great with personality capsules on the key players.
''Don Maynard. Checks into a hotel with empty suitcases and leaves
with full ones. Towels, soap, toilet paper.'' Next day my wife,
Katie, was sitting next to Marilyn Maynard on the beach. ''Isn't that
terrible, what Weeb said about Don . . . about how he takes toilet
paper from the hotels?''
''The worst thing,'' Marilyn Maynard said, ''is that it's not just
the rolls, it's the single sheets, too. And then it's up to me to
smooth them out individually when he takes them out of his
All the New York writers were in the Jets locker room before the
game. It was standard procedure at AFL games in those days, but not
for the Super Bowl, which was run pretty much according to the NFL's
buttoned-up style. Ewbank told us to come in anyway. He wanted
everything the same as it had been for the regular season. We were
part of the landscape. And we saw enough to fill our notebooks.
George Sauer, the fine split end, was going through weird gyrations
and contortions to get loose. ''Look, I'm a frog, a frog,'' he kept
saying. Cornerback Johnny Sample was alone, praying in the deserted
shower room.
No one remembers this now, but Sample was a focal point in that
game; he had been a mainstay on two NFL championship Baltimore teams
when the Colts suddenly traded him at the height of his career. We
had all written early-week features on Sample's Revenge.
The Jets, with a very solid and underrated defense, felt they
could stop the Colts. Earl Morrall was quarterbacking for Johnny
Unitas, who had been bothered by a sore right elbow throughout the
season and now could barely throw. The Jets' problem appeared to be
putting up points against a team that / had allowed the fewest per
game (10.3) in 24 years. They figured to run weak side on the Colts,
against 36-year-old Ordell Braase. Namath, who had regularly faced
the exotic AFL defenses, licked his chops when he saw films of the
Colts' rather basic strongside rotating zone. But he had to figure
out a way to keep the Colts in it, which meant he had to sell the
defense on the big-play potential of Maynard, the flanker who always
went strongside.
But Maynard had a sore left leg. He could run straight ahead, but
he couldn't cut. On the second series, Namath -- who called
practically the entire game with audibles at the line of scrimmage --
sent Maynard flying down the right side, past strong safety Jerry
Logan, who had rotated over. The message was delivered, and to
reinforce it Maynard ran deep one more time, in the second quarter.
Both passes were incomplete, but the threat was there.
Namath had been rather conservative during the 1968 season,
throwing for fewer touchdowns (17) than in either of the past two
seasons. In October we were all writing ''What's wrong with Joe
Namath?'' stories. He worked a precise, conservative game against the
Colts, concentrating on Sauer on the weak side (his eight catches
were a Super Bowl record) and handing the ball off to 219-pound Matt
Snell, who ran like a maniac for 121 yards. The defense intercepted
Morrall and Unitas four times, Sample getting one of them, and the
Jets won it 16-7.
It was hard, but the New York contingent tried not to gloat in the
press box as those stiff, conservative NFL jaws set tighter and
tighter. It was historic. The AFL's first win. And we felt like part
of it. Part of the landscape.

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