We have a tripleheader today of professional football action for you on NFL Thursday, as we start with our usual look at league title-game MVPs for both the AFL and the NFL, as well as Rookies of the Year for both, too, for the 1968 season. This was a big year for the Super Bowl, too, if you recall a certain guarantee from a major celebrity in the sport.
In the meantime, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context, too …
Super Bowl III MVP: Joe Namath, QB, New York Jets (original); Randy Beverly, DB, New York Jets (revised)
The AFL scored its first SB victory, as the New York Jets beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts, 16-7. Jets quarterback Joe Namath was named the game’s MVP despite not throwing a touchdown pass—and despite the New York defense forcing 5 Baltimore turnovers. In fact, Jets running back Matt Snell ran for the game’s only TD while also piling up 121 yards on 30 carries—meaning he touched the ball more, too.
Namath attempted 28 passes and completed 17 of them for 206 yards. There was nothing spectacular about what he did, other than not committing any mistakes. That’s a low threshold, and yes, we know his guarantee was “pressure” he delivered on, but … Snell carried a bigger load and had the bigger impact on the N.Y. offense’s success.
What about that Jets defense? Defensive back Randy Beverly had two interceptions, both in the end zone, that directly ended Baltimore scoring chances. Those are huge moments, and he also had 4 tackles in the game. It’s arguable that he personally stopped the Colts from scoring 14 more points. That’s hard to overlook, and when you consider the second one came off legendary QB Johnny Unitas.
We’d say Beverly or Snell deserved this award more than Namath, the caretaker signal caller. We’re going to go with Beverly, actually, as the first INT was a momentum changer, and the second INT was a game clincher, really.
1968 NFL Championship Game MVP: Tom Matte, RB, Baltimore Colts
The Colts shutout the Cleveland Browns, 34-0, in the league title game, with RB Tom Matte running for 88 yards on 17 carries—and scoring three straight TDs over the middle part of the game, which effectively ended the Browns’ chances at victory. He also added 15 yards receiving to surpass the 100-yard threshold for scrimmage yards in the game.
The Colts defense was obviously solid, too, allowing just 173 total yards, but there’s not enough information to give credit for that to an individual. It was more of a team effort, overall. And with Baltimore QB Earl Morrall completing less than half his passing attempts, this game was all about the Colts running the ball down the Browns’ throat to the tune of 184 yards on 39 rushing attempts. Matte was the MVP.
1968 AFL Championship Game MVP: Don Maynard, FL, New York Jets
The Jets beat the Oakland Raiders, 27-23, in the league championship round, winning a very competitive affair with the go-ahead score midway through the final quarter. Namath tossed three TD passes, but he also completed just 19 of his 49 attempts and threw a pick. The Jets had a strong running game, but it was a committee effort in this one. The best N.Y. offensive player was flanker Don Maynard, actually.
He caught 6 passes for 118 yards and 2 TDs, doing a lot of damage, more so than any other Jets star. In fact, Maynard scored the first and the last touchdowns of the game, so there’s a lot of value there in getting on the board first—and clinching the game with the go-ahead score last. He is our nod for MVP.
1968 NFL ROTY: Earl McCulloch, WR, Detroit Lions & Claude Humphrey, DE, Atlanta Falcons (original, tie); Humphrey (revised)
In this era of both an offensive and defensive ROTY winner, we have a conundrum as both vote getters this season played for losing teams. It’s hard to see value there, even if Atlanta Falcons defensive end Claude Humphrey did register 11.5 sacks in 14 games for a 2-12 team. But there is an absence of quality candidates here from playoff-contending teams.
Seriously, all we have is Colts RB Terry Cole, who managed only 493 scrimmage yards and fumbled more times (5) than he scored (4). Therefore, we will give this award to Humphrey, because what he did was still impressive on a third-year expansion team. And to his credit, the Falcons gave up 2.3 points per game less than they did in 1967, so there’s that for value.
1968 AFL ROTY: Paul Robinson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (original); Robert Holmes, FB, Kansas City Chiefs (revised)
We have 5 good candidates for this award, which was won at the time by Cincinnati Bengals RB Paul Robinson (1,151 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs, 4 TOs). But Kansas City Chiefs fullback Robert Holmes (1,067 scrimmage yards, 7 TDs, 5 TOs), Miami Dolphins RB Jim Kiick (1,043 scrimmage yards, 4 TDs, 2 TOs), Oakland RB Charlie Smith (825 scrimmage yards, 7 TDs, 5 TOs), and Dolphins safety Dick Anderson (8 INTs, 1 TD) also need to be considered.
The Dolphins duo cancels out, and Miami finished just 5-8-2, anyway. The Bengals won just 3 times, so this comes down to Holmes and Smith, as the Raiders and the Chiefs tied for the West Division title with 12-2 records. Holmes has the yardage advantage there, all other things being equal, so he becomes our pick for the AFL ROTY.