In Patrick McCaskey's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships he covers the ten greatest NFL coaches of all-time. Among the pillars is Weeb Ewbank who coached the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets to championships. In Pillars, we describe some of the key players for these great coaches and we'd thought we'd reproduce some of that for our posts.
Joe Namath was born on May 31, 1943, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, a steel-mill town outside of Pittsburgh. His father and grandfather worked in the mills. Namath was an excellent baseball and football player. He turned down offers from professional baseball teams and decided to take a college scholarship. Namath played at the University of Alabama under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He was the first overall pick in the 1965 draft by the AFL New York Jets. Ewbank traded away draft rights to quarterback Jerry Rhome to the Houston Oilers in 1964 for their first round pick in 1965, which was used to snag Namath.
Namath was at the center of a number of highly visible competitions. He was the star player who might give a big popularity boost to the Jets versus the Giants in New York. He was the AFL star who would give recognition to the new league that was dwarfed in so many ways by the NFL. He was one of the big names that would help drive TV viewership under a big television contract that had been doled out by CBS.
Statistics would never accurately reflect Namath’s value to the Jets. He would excel in big games and draw attention to his team in a town that was rich in sports teams. Incredibly, some thought Namath lacked the intelligence to play in the big leagues. Ewbank would say: “Our quarterback doesn’t have to be Phi Beta Kappa, but he has to be a thinker and a worker.” Namath fit the bill on both counts.
Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships is an excellent book for all fans of professional football. Older article.