The Guarantee And Super Bowl Iii
After his record setting performance in 1967, Namath followed with a more conservative approach that had sportswriters scratching their heads. With a more complete supporting cast the Jets were poised to make a run for the Super Bowl. The game, a new phenomenon resulting from an agreement between the two leagues to match their two best teams in a battle for bragging rights, was the first step toward their eventual merger. The AFL, however, was considered the lesser league because of its wide-open style of play and characters like Namath. The league had suffered defeats in both of the previous Super Bowls to Lombardi's Packers and with Namath's Jets pitted against the ultraconservative powerhouse Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III it was widely considered a fore-gone conclusion. The Colts, with crewcut quarterback Johnny Unitas, represented the old NFL and the Jets with their young brash quarterback, the flashier AFL.
The Jets were seven-point underdogs going into the game in January 1969. Namath, frustrated with the lack of respect given to his team, guaranteed a victory before the game. "I try to explain that it wasn't an arrogant line, it was an angry one," Namath has said. "I was at the Miami Touchdown Club dinner at the Miami Springs Villa, and I was up at the mike, and someone yelled something nasty from the back and I said, 'Wait a minute, let's hold on. You Baltimore guys have been talking all week, but I've got news for you, buddy. We're gonna win the game. I guarantee it.'" The quote set off a media storm and the stage for what has become one of the most memorable Super Bowls in the game's history
The Jets made good on Namath's promise picking apart the Colts for a 16-7 victory in which he completed seventeen of twenty-eight passes for 206 yards. His offense dominated the Colts and the defense sealed the victory intercepting the Colts three times in the first half. The image of "Broadway Joe" trotting off the field after his team's shocking victory would be forever burned into the memories of football fans everywhere. "I got letters from a lot of high school coaches who told me they used the game as a motivator," Namath said. "Maybe it motivated some other people, too. There are a lot of underdogs in the world. Maybe it meant something to the underdogs in life."
The AFL and the NFL merged during the off-season and Namath once again made the papers. He was offered an ultimatum by Football Commissioner, Pete
Rozelle. Rozelle demanded that he sell his nightclub, because of the "undesirables" that frequented the establishment, or face indefinite suspension. Namath responded by announcing his retirement from football at the age of 26, saying he had to follow his conscience. Although he would reconsider and sell the club in time to participate in training camp, he felt the agreement went against his instincts.
Namath would stay with the Jets through the 1976 season without ever again reaching the heights he had achieved so early in his career. Because of chronic injuries and his advancing age the Jets placed their super-star quarterback on waivers after that season. Picked up on waivers by the Los Angeles Rams, he played for one more season before retiring at the age of thirty-four.