Chiefs vs. Jets: 8 Greatest Games in the Old AFL Rivalry
The year is 1959 and 26-year-old oil magnate Lamar Hunt is beginning to shape the template for his newest entrepreneurial vision, a professional sports venture that will challenge the unrivaled machine that was the National Football League. In constructing his outline for the football conglomerate that would later become the American Football League (AFL), Hunt began selecting the perfect geographic locations to plant the hopeful seeds that would be his first franchise cities.
Among those cities selected was New York, a city that simply cannot be left out of any sports conversation. Outside of Los Angeles and possibly Boston, there is no larger of a sporting market. It was in New York that Hunt placed his Titans.
Another city chosen for an initial franchise offering was Dallas, Texas. Hunt, raised in Dallas, saw the professional market in the Metroplex area already occupied by the NFL’s Cowboys and saw ample market space for a next-door neighbor. Naturally, Hunt chose Dallas for the home of the Texans.
For the next four AFL seasons, the Texans and Titans would meet for AFL supremacy until the eventual transformations that would turn the Titans into the beloved Jets and transport the Texans from south Texas to Kansas City, Missouri, fully equipped with a new town and new name; the Chiefs.
The Jets and Chiefs meet again this Sunday at MetLife Stadium for their 35th meeting in their illustrious 51 year histories. While a Jets-Chiefs contest may not evoke the same acidic images that more famous feuds like Chiefs-Raiders or Jets-Patriots generate, the importance of this game in Week 14 of the 2011 season is undeniable for the New York Jets.
There have been dozens of contests between the Chiefs and Jets since 1960 that have come and gone without much fanfare. Yet for every 9-3 final score and every Browning Nagle versus Dave Krieg snooze fest these teams have produced together, there have been some that prove the kind of unpredictable glitch this matchup can be. In preparing ourselves for this most-important game, let us look at just a few of the historic moments this infrequent rivalry has given its fans.
Broadway Joe Arrives
In the 51 seasons since these two teams first met, the likes of Hall of Fame legends Len Dawson, Hank Stram, Derrick Thomas, Don Maynard, and John Riggins have competed and taken the field to face each other. On September 18, 1965, perhaps the brightest star of them all laced his cleats and made his first professional start as quarterback of the New York Jets.
Joe Namath, the standout prospect from the University of Alabama began his iconic career against none other than the Kansas City Chiefs. The result of the game showed that patience was key for the sanity of Jets faithful, as the man who would come to be known to millions as Broadway Joe threw for only 121 yards on 23 passing attempts.
1968 and '69
Three years later, during the course of a 1968 campaign that would earn the New York Jets their first (and only) Super Bowl championship, Namath vindicated himself for his first performance against the Chiefs with a 302 yard and two touchdown passing performance that included 203 receiving yards for fellow future Hall of Famer Don Maynard.
Broadway Joe would continue the Jets offensive onslaught in 1969 until meeting the Chiefs on November 16, 1969. Namath gave the most complete exhibition of why he is considered one of the most unpredictable gunslingers of his day, throwing for an impressive 327 passing yards as well as three game-altering interceptions. The Jets lost the game 34-16 one month before they would meet the Chiefs again, this time for the chance to a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Running Wild: 1963-1975
On the first day of December in 1963, the first time the newly named Jets and relocated Chiefs faced one another, the Chiefs amassed 119 rushing yards. While that may not be awe inspiring in the era of 2,000 yard rushers we see today, in the pass-happy AFL that kind of single game production was a rarity. What was more unusual about this particular game was that in spite of running the ball so well the Chiefs were shutout for the first time in franchise history.
The Chiefs had a similar holiday season experience in 1964 when on November 29 they gained an impressive 419 total yards offensively, including 209 of those on the ground. They conceded only 217 yards of Jets offense that afternoon, yet still fell to the young Gang Green 27-14.
The Jets might not have always had the strong rushing attack that Kansas City has had throughout history, but on September 28, 1975, they most certainly did. For the last game the Jets took the field with a certain guarantee-making quarterback under center, they apparently decided they did not require his services as rookie John Riggins and his counterpart Carl Garrett rushed for a combined 280 yards against the Chiefs in a 30-24 victory.
December 20, 1969 – Chiefs Beat Jets in AFL Playoffs, Advance to AFL Title Game
It is often lost in the archives of the NFL that the Jets 1968 Super Bowl championship team came within arm’s length of competing for their second consecutive AFL championship and possibly succeeding the Green Bay Packers as the second team to play in back-to-back Super Bowls. The only thing that kept Head Coach Weeb Eubank and his New York Jets from potentially representing the AFL in Super Bowl IV was quarterback Len Dawson, the Chiefs, and seven points. With a bit of imagination and rewriting of history, it is not impossible to conceive that the Jets could have established their version of a Jet Dynasty in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s if they would have just scored that last illusive touchdown against Kansas City that divided them five days before Christmas. Fortunately for the Jets organization, it would not be the last time a playoff road went through Kansas City.
December 26, 1986 – Jets defeat Chiefs in AFC wild card game
The Jets, fresh off of a disparaging five game losing streak to end the 1986 regular season, once again faced off with the Chiefs on the day after Christmas that year. Injuries decimated the Jets defensive front, leading many to believe that New York was in dire straits regardless of the fact that they were playing their first playoff game at home in their own Meadowlands Stadium. Head Coach Joe Walton made a stunning pregame decision to substitute slumping quarterback Ken O’Brien with unsophisticated but efficient, backup Pat Ryan. Ryan did not eclipse 200 yards passing that day against the Chiefs, but generated the three touchdown passes that complimented Freeman McNeil’s blue-collar running performance on their way to victory. As was the case with many of the mid-80’s Jets squads, the Jets defense squelched any chance of a Chiefs comeback holding them to just over 200 yards total offense.