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Why Joe Namath Is The Greatest Quarterback Of All Time!

Jim GillContributor IJanuary 2, 2010

Joe Namath is the greatest quarterback of all times. This is a bold statement but I will back it up. A quarterback must have every quality to be considered great. The important qualities that are desirable are: 1) ability to throw the ball 65 or more yards at any time 2) a cannon to drill the ball between defenders 3) a quick release to get rid of the ball in hurry 4) ability to pick apart defenses with audibles 5) ability to throw to secondary receivers  6)Desire to rise to the occasion - performs in epic games

1) There is no doubt that Namath had the strong arm. This is one aspect that almost everyone can agree. A good example is when he threw for 496 yards in the game that pitted Jonny Unitas against Joe Namath at Baltimore. In that game Namath hit Rich Caster for two bombs down the middle, 65 yards in the air.

6) In that game (1972 not in 1968) against Baltimore, the Jets were leading by 10 points. Johnny U directed an awesome drive down the field lasting 8 minutes resulting in a TD to move within 3 points of the Jets. The Baltimore crowd went wild. Everyone knows what the headlines would say the next day if the Colts win: If Johnny U played the whole game in Superbowl III, the Colts would have defeated Joe Namath and the Jets. Namath responds to the stage. He wasted no time. On the first play from scrimmage after the score Namath went deep to Caster for the touchdown. This was typical Namath. If we saw this in a movie, we would say it was fiction. So what does the great Johnny U (Unitas was Namath's boyhood idol by the way) do? He comes right back with another 8 minute TD drive to move yet again within 3 points of the Jets late in the 4th quarter. The crowd was going wild thinking that this is the opportunity they have been waiting for. It was their opportunity to avenge their loss in Superbowl III. Namath feeling the excitement, the importance, the impact, the consequences,  drops back on the first play after the score, goes 65 yards in the air to Rich Caster silencing the crowd and the critics. Oh the critics are still trying to reverse the Namath greatness and they WISH that they had this game as evidence along with Superbowl III, but they do not. Final Score Jets 44 Colts 34. By the way this was the most yards thrown in a game in the history of football at that time. My opinion is that it was the greatest regular season game of all times because of the performance and excitement of two of the greatest icons in the History of Football (Unitas 396 yds, Namath 496 yds). The record has been broken but only after the defense was not allowed to maul receivers and quarterbacks.

6) Namath had so many epic games. When people say that he is famous for just one game, they don't know what they are talking about. After Superbowl III the Jets were playing their last pre-season game in the 69 season against Fran Tarkington and the NY Giants. Everyone in the country was watching this one. The Giants were considered a team to be reckoned with that year with Tarkington at the helm. NFL fans were salivating assuming that the Giants would win and dub Superbowl III as a fluke. My Uncle John called me and said that Jets were going to get destroyed by Tarkington proving that Superbowl III should have went the other way. I told him that he would be calling me after the game and telling me how great Namath was. Namath, the Jets and the Giants all said that this was not a pre-season game, it was the real thing. Namath went to work throwing 4 touchdowns in the first half. Just as predicted my Uncle John called me and admitted that Namath was unbelievable. Epic games and the Giants.. let me mention this one. Overtime came into existence in the regular season in 1974. Who do you think won the first overtime game in regular season in the history of football? Joe Namath and the Jets. The stage was set for the first real game between the Jets and the Giants on November 10, 1974 at the Yale Bowl in Connecticut. In that game Namath actually ran around the right side scoring a touchdown. It was an exciting game that the whole country was watching. Jets were losing but tied it up at the end of the 4th quarter 20-20 sending the game into overtime. The Jets got the toss, chose to receive and marched down the field in a spectacular fashion capping the drive with a 7 yard touchdown pass to Emerson Boozer winning 26-20. It was a game heard around the country as if it was scripted in Hollywood. By the way this game was in 1974 and in 1968.

6) The 68 season was of course a historic year. The Oakland Raiders with Daryl Lamonica were great and they wanted to get back to the Superbowl to avenge their lose in Superbowl II. They beat the Jets in their first meeting in a close game. The Jets and Raiders always had epic games. With two great quarterbacks facing each other, it always seemed that the team who got the ball last would win, despite the great defenses that each team had. On the second meeting the Jets were down by 4 points with about 2 minutes to go. They were receiving the ball and with Namath at Quarterback, this was going to be a thrilling finish. With the ball in the air on the kickoff, the game went off the air and the movie "Heidi" came on (known as the famous 'Hiedi Game'. We never saw the end of the game. The Jets fumbled on the kickoff, Raiders recovered, scored and the Jets lost by 11. The stage was set for the AFL championship against the Raiders. This time with Jets down and time running out, Namath and the Jets drove down field capping the drive with a TD pass to Don Maynard thrusting the Jets into the Superbowl. That AFL championship game is considered by many as one of the most exciting playoff games in history.

6 and 4) You know the rest. The Jets were 18 point underdogs going against the Baltimore Colts. Almost everywhere sports writers were saying that the Colts were by far the greatest team in the history of football ( although you can't find anyone to admit that they were saying that today). Namath was a student of the game. Despite his reputation, he was constantly studying films of the competition. He had the guts to guarantee victory. On one of the first plays from scrimmage of Superbowl III, Namath went deep to Maynard who had several strides on the defender. Namath slightly overthrew, with the pass falling incomplete. This scared the Colts. Namath went to work reading the defense, calling many audibles piercing through the Colts defense the running game. One reason that the running game was open was because the Colts were so worried about the Jet Passing game. Jets were leading 16-0 deep into the 4th quarter when the Colts finally put together a drive resulting in a TD. Final score: Jets 16, Colts 7. This was the greatest upset in Pro Football history. It knocked Pro Football on its ear. It was probably the most important game in the history of football since the AFL had lost the two previous Superbowls. When the pressure is on, only champions come through and that is what Namath did.

3) Namath was known for his quick release. Sometimes it seemed that the ball just flew from his hand. The only other quarterback that had a release comparable to Namath was the Great Dan Marino. The picture at the top of the page was taken in Superbowl III. The defender is phenominal Bubba Smith. It looks like there is no way that Namath is going to get this pass off. He did get this pass off because of how quick his release was. He completes this pass to George Sauer which was a key play in the game.

2 and 5) Namath was known for the velocity on his passes, firing the ball between defenders for the completion. Namath checked off on his receivers. Many times he would look at the primary receiver, check the secondary receivers and then come back to his primary receiver. This is something that you have to have. I cringe when QBs are considered excellent and all they do is look at one receiver and that is it. Fortunately there are a number of QBs that have the ability to find secondary receivers at this point in time(finally), but there are not enough of them.

Namath was even fantastic in College. He is the only quarterback to have won a National Championship and a Superbowl. So he proved himself in both venues. He was a great athlete in Football, Basketball and Baseball. He was offered a contract by the St Louis Cardinals baseball team

There were many people that were against Namath back then as well as now. There is a reason that he was the first bonus baby in the history of sports. Many fans wanted him to fail. They were hoping that he would fail from the first day that he became a Jet. They got excited when the Jets also signed the Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte (Quarterback of Notre Dame) the same year as Namath. Namath won the job and the rest is history. They were disappointed. They were disappointed when he threw for 4007 yards in the 67 season ( The only QB in the history of football to throw for over 4000 yards in a 14 game season). By the way the critics say that he had only one good year. He threw for these 4007 yards the year before Superbowl III. I guess these critcs dont consider this a great year??? Then when Namath was facing the powerfull Baltimore Colts, they said that this would be his first Pro Football game and they waited for his destruction. Guess what? They were wrong. But they kept talking, what can we say now. They came up with Superbowl III was a fluke, we will prove it next year when the NFL crushes the AFL in Superbowl IV. Sorry the Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) crushed the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Hey this was your time to discredit him, but Namath won.

Let's summarize:

He was the only QB to win both a College National Championship and Superbowl in Football History. He was the first bonus baby in the history of sports (400,000 dollars in 1965). In 1967, He threw for over 4000 yards in a 14 game season ( Hey was 1967 good year?) . He won the AFL championship in 1968 against the powerful Raiders ( hey to all of you that say that he had one good game, was that a good game and was 1968 considered a good year?). He defeated the Baltimore Colts in Superbowl III which was the biggest upset in Superbowl History. The next year(69) the Kansas Chiefs rolled over everyone, including the Raiders and the Vikings in Superbowl except the Jets. They barely won. The Jets failed to punch it in from the 1 yard line. In the final minute, down by 7, Namath and the Jets drove down the field (typical Namath coming through at the wire) deep into Chief territory. On the final play he threw into the endzone. Pete Lammons caught the ball but his right foot barely stepped on the line. The Jets with a little luck could have had another one ( Hey was that a good year?). The Undefeated Dolphins in 72 defeated everyone by 7 or more points. Wait, there is one team that they barely beat. Yes, it was Joe Namath and the Jets. Down by 4, Namath drove his team down to the 10 yard line in the final minute but could not capitalize.

Finally, I have a question. Why is there a Superbowl? It is because that the NFL had to merge with the AFL. Why did they have to merge? It was becasue the whole country was watching Namath go at it with several other great QBs. The merger would have never taken place without the performance of Joe Namath. The league would have folded and the game would still be called the NFL Championship. By the way, the merger was decided before Superbowl III took place which indicates that Namath had everyone's attention before that game. It was not that game that forced the merger.

A couple of facts: Vince Lombardi said that he was a perfect passer. Bear Bryant said that he was the best athlete he ever coached. John Madden put him on his All-Superbowl Team along with Joe Montana and Roger Staubach. Don Shula(Coach of the Colts in Supebowl III said that all of the other teams that they played could not handle the Colt Blitz. Shula said that Namath picked it up and because of his quick release , he was able to capitalize. Bill Walsh said that he was the most gifted QB he had every seen. Namath revolutionized football. He showed everyone how to do it.

So the next time that you watch the Superbowl or see a great passing offense in action you can Send Your Thanks to Joe Willie Namath because he is the one that showed everyone how to do it.

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