Super Bowl III Or XLII: Which Was the Ultimate New York Upset?

Aaron LiebmanAnalyst IJanuary 29, 2009

Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed a Jets win over 18 point favorite Baltimore.  This was not only an underdog team, this was an underdog league.  What we now know as the AFC was once the American Football League, an upstart organization that was initially laughed at more than the XFL recently was. 

The competition between the two leagues was beginning to destroy both, thus a merger was established.  A creation of that merger was the AFL-NFL Championship Game later renamed the Super Bowl.  The NFL’s Green Bay Packers won the first two by a combined score of 68-24.  Even though a merger was imminent, the AFL, and its teams were seen as second rate.

The Jets entered Super Bowl III as 18 ½ point underdogs.  Although legendary Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas went down with an injury, journeyman quarterback Earl Morrall came on to lead Baltimore, and was even league MVP.  The team ranked second in points scored and first in points allowed (then again this was just what you would call the NFC today).  Upon reaching the Super Bowl, they were touted as the greatest team in NFL history (sound familiar).

The game started as one would have thought with the Jets punting on their opening possession, and the Colts driving down deep into Jets territory.  But then something strange happened.  The Colts offense failed to score a touchdown and then missed a 27 yard field goal.

No problem.  This was still the Colts and the Jets, or rather the NFL and the AFL.

Later, the Jets were pinned down close to their own end zone when they fumbled and the Colts recovered.  This is what we had been waiting for.  But then, something even stranger happened.  The Colts again walked away with no points, but this time it was due to an interception in the end zone by the Jets.

The Jets then did what the Colts couldn’t…capitalize on the turnover.  Running back Matt Snell scored a rushing touchdown and GASP, the Jets were up 7-0.  Morrall would throw another interception late in the half and the Jets went to the showers with the lead.

Just as gambling addicts and Colts fans were preparing gallows, things got so bad for the Colts that they had to put in rarely used this season Johnny Unitas.  He did lead the Colts to the end zone, but it was too late.  The Jets had shocked the world, and Joe Namath became to this day, the first quarterback to win game MVP without throwing a touchdown pass.

Once considered the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, it may now not even be the greatest New York upset in Super Bowl history.  This past year the Giants

In a manner similar to Namath’s, Giants receiver Plaxico Burress predicted a Giants victory.  Topping Namath’s guarantee, Burress even gave a score of 23-17.  Tom Brady scoffed at this score, saying, “We’re only gonna’ score 17 points!”  Well, we all know they didn’t even put that much up.

The Giants entered with a 10-6 record, six whole victories less than 16-0 New England.  The game was seen as the coronation for the Patriots’ historical undefeated season and every sportscaster and even commissioner Roger Goodell did their best to sweep the whole “spygate” scandal underneath the carpet. 

Questions were arising as to not which team could beat the Patriots, but which team ALL-TIME.  No one picked the Giants, or even anyone recent.  The debate centered on the other undefeated team, the 1972 Dolphins, or the 1985 Bears

They had already planned a parade after their imminent historical victory, but didn’t stop there.  Not only had they already written a book about their yet to be done accomplishment, but they had inquired about trade marking the term “19-0” (why they would need to trade mark something like that is beyond me).

The Giants were seen as team that had lucked out and would be put in their place in the Super Bowl.  Eli Manning was looked at as erratic and inconsistent.  The defense, which gave up 80 points its first two games, wasn’t supposed to be able to keep up with Randy Moss.

As it turned out, the Patriots didn’t even walk away with the ring that year, the thing that matters most.  Players like Moss and Junior Seau were looking around the field as if in a daze and not understanding what was going on.  As for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, he ran away with his tail between his two legs before the game ended, prompting Eli to give the memorable sound bite “I guess he was trying to beat traffic.”

So which is the bigger upset?  There’s plenty of evidence all around to go either way on this one.  My vote would have to go to the Giants however.  The mystique around the Jets victory was based around back story and historical significance.  The win solidified the AFL and its teams as legitimate and no longer second class to the NFL.  Had there been an AFL win in the Super Bowl previously, it definitely would not have the same stigma.

Although the Colts were a tough team, the Patriots were a 16-0 team who had already won three Super Bowls.

Plus, let’s be honest.  The Colts threw that game away.  Literally.  Baltimore quarterback Earl Morrall threw three interceptions.  New England only committed one turnover.

So which was the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, New York or New York…