Right after the AFC and NFC championship games the Los Angeles Rams were a 1.5-point favorite in the Super Bowl. By the end of the week, the New England Patriots were 2.5-point favorites. That’s not a surprise.
I’m not much of a bettor, but at the start of the year I probably would have taken a bet that had either the Vikings or the Packers in the Super Bowl. Shows you what I knew. Now all I know is that both teams were incredible disappointments.
As far as this year’s Super Bowl goes, I don’t which team will win, but I hope it isn’t the Patriots. I don’t particularly care for the success of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft. Kraft is the winningest sports owner ever. Like I mentioned last week, I am sure me rooting against the Patriots has a little to do with envy. It probably also has something to do with their arrogance. But, like many of us, I like to pull for the underdog as well.
No matter where the spread ends up, the Rams are going into the Super Bowl as the underdogs. But the Rams do have an explosive offense with Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, and if the defense is able to knock Brady off his rhythm, there’s chance. That hasn’t happened for a long time, but I think Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald have a chance to get to Brady. If they do, it will be interesting to see how Brady’s 41-year-old body holds up.
Of course, this year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the great wins by an underdog when the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts 16-7. I think that was the first Super Bowl. The Packers’ wins in the first two years were when the game was called the NFL-AFL Championship. I’m sure there will be a big deal made of Jets’ win at this year’s game, as well there should be. It was one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
The Colts were 18-point favorites in the game, but the brash quarterback Joe Namath famously promised that the underdog Jets would win the game, and they did, outplaying the bruising Colts. The Colts didn’t score until the fourth quarter, with the Jets already up 16-0. The Jets were a fairly high-scoring team, but in the Super Bowl, they played it conservative because star receiver Don Maynard was injured. The approach by Jets’ Head Coach Weeb Ewbank proved to decisive.
I think one of the great stories of the game is Ewbank’s, who looked a lot more like a kindly grandfather than a tough football coach. Ewbank had been the head coach of the Colts from 1954-1962. One of his first finds was signing Johnny Unitas in 1956. Ewbank saw the potential in Unitas, who was one of the great quarterbacks ever.
During the course of Ewbank’s tenure with the Colts, his team won two NFL championships in 1958 and 1959. The 1958 overtime win over the New York Giants is also recognized as one of the greatest games ever. But as football goes, the Colts’ good fortune ceased (partially because of the Packers’ rise) and Ewbank was fired after the 1962 season. He was replaced by Don Shula, just 33 then, who had been a member of the Colts’ 1958 team.
It must have been sweet for Ewbank to hammer the Colts in the Super Bowl. To this day, Ewbank is the only head coach to win an AFL championship, an NFL championship and a Super Bowl. Plus, he was the winning head coach in two of the NFL’s most memorable games. That’s quite a legacy for someone most people don’t remember.
Football fans are hopeful that Sunday’s Super Bowl will be memorable, too, and I think most are hopeful that the Rams will come out ahead. The Super Bowl is always great fun, and the game that really put it on the map was the Jets’ win 50 years ago.