Super Bowl III: Really That Important?

Geoffrey MortonCorrespondent IIAugust 1, 2011

Super Bowl III: Really That Important?

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    Super Bowl III is one of the most famous football games ever played. Any big football fan knows about Joe Namath's famous guarantee, his triumphant win over Johnny Unitas, and the wonders it did for the AFL's credibility. But was it really all it was cracked up to be? Or is it just over-hyped still 50 years later? This slideshow examines parts of the Super Bowl that may have been blown out of proportion.

Joe Namath Defeats the Great Johnny U

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    What we hear: One of the things that makes Super Bowl III legendary is the famed battle between Joe Namath and (arguably) the greatest QB to ever play the game, Johnny Unitas. As we all know, Joe Namath came out on top and gave the Jets their only Super Bowl ring to date, striking a critical blow for the AFL.

    Really?: Johnny Unitas, who had a sore arm during the game, didn't play until the fourth quarter. Until then, Earl Morrall, the backup, played and completed around a third of his passes with three interceptions and only 71 passing yards. When Johnny Unitas did enter the game in the 4th quarter, he completed more passes and threw for more yards than Morrall, and he drove the Colts down the field for their only touchdown of the day. Had Unitas played the whole game instead of Morrall, the end result on the scoreboard almost certainly would've been different.

Joe Namath's MVP Performance Leads the Jets to a Win

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    What we hear: Joe Namath, after guaranteeing the Jets would win (which actually happened in response to an obnoxious Colts fan and wasn't that big of a deal until after the game), lead them to a win as the MVP of the game.

    Really?: Well, first of all, Joe Namath didn't throw a touchdown pass. He also only threw for 202 yards. The real MVP of the game was a running back by the name of Matt Snell who is relatively unknown today despite his great talent. He took 30 handoffs and turned them into 121 yards and a score on the ground, and he caught four receptions for 40 yards. Unfortunately, it seems that in Super Bowls the winning quarterbacks are the default picks for MVP, so Snell was passed over and Joe Namath was given MVP for his average performance. And while Matt Snell has faded into obscurity, Joe Namath is still a household name today.

Super Bowl III Is the Reason the AFL and NFL Merged

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    What we hear: Super Bowl III, which featured the underdog Jets beating the heavily-favored Colts, showed that AFL teams are just as good as NFL teams and is the reason the merger happened.

    Really?: Super Bowl IV was just as important, if not more. The Jets did strike a blow for the AFL, but without Len Dawson's victory with the Chiefs the following year, it could've easily been called a fluke (Johnny U didn't even play until the 4th quarter). Super Bowl III helped set the stage for the merger, but Super Bowl IV, which featured the Chiefs soundly crushing the powerhouse Vikings, really drove the point home for the AFL, and the merger occurred soon after.

Conclusion

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    There is no doubt that Super Bowl III was an important game, and that it deserves some of the credit it gets today, but some parts of the story have been lost or blown out of proportion by the media. Joe Namath was an overrated passer with a talented running back, he did not triumphantly beat Johnny Unitas for four quarters, and Super Bowl III is not the sole reason the AFL and NFL joined together as one. Super Bowl III is a great upset story and one that will continue to be told over the years, but what we hear today is not an entirely accurate recollection of what happened.