1966—A crowd of 14,000 at ASD Stadium watches the New York Jets hand the Buffalo Bills a 34-17 preseason loss in the third Allentown Pro Football Classic. Mike Taliafero, playing in place of injured Jets quarterback Joe Namath, throws two touchdown passes to Don Maynard, and Bills backup quarterback Daryl Lamonica throws for 109 yards and a touchdown in relief of starter Jack Kemp, who completed just seven of his 26 attempts.
The high point of Namath’s career was his performance in the Jets’ 16–7 win over the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl in January 1969, before the AFL–NFL merger. The first two games had resulted in blowout victories for the NFL champion Green Bay Packers, and sports writers from NFL cities insisted it would take the AFL several more years to be truly competitive with the NFL. The 1968 Colts were touted as “the greatest football team in history”, and Former NFL star and Atlanta Falcons head coach Norm Van Brocklin ridiculed the AFL before the game, saying “This will be Namath’s first Professional Football game.”
Three days before the game, tired of addressing the issue in the press, Namath responded to a heckler in Miami with the line: “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.”
In the game, Namath backed up his boast. The Colts’ vaunted defense was unable to contain the Jets’ running or passing game, while the ineffective offense gave up four interceptions to the Jets. Namath was the game’s MVP, completing eight passes to George Sauer alone, for 133 yards. The win made him the first quarterback to start and win a national championship game in college, to start and win a major professional league championship, and to start and win a Super Bowl. His “guarantee” was initially ignored or ridiculed when made, but it became legendary after the Jets’ upset of the Colts.
Namath acquired legendary status for American Football League fans as the symbol of their league’s legitimacy. When he was asked by reporters after the game whether the Colts’ defense was the “toughest he had ever faced”, Namath responded “That would be the Buffalo Bills’ defense.” The AFL-worst Bills had intercepted Namath five times, three for touchdowns, in their only win in 1968 in late September.
Joe Biden was running behind schedule to accept his Father of the Year Award at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan Tuesday. Joe Namath had already received his, so he got called up again to the mic to kill a few minutes until the vice president arrived. And he used the time to make an endorsement.