This is the final season of AFL coverage on this NFL Thursday miniseries, 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 1969 season. The two leagues would merge for the 1970 season and beyond, making our column a little more streamlined for the future.
But in the meantime, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context … and enjoy!
Super Bowl IV MVP: Len Dawson, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (original); Johnny Robinson, S, Chiefs (revised)
The AFL evened up the Super Bowl ledger with the Kansas City Chiefs’ 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and K.C. quarterback Len Dawson—12 for 17, 142 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT—won the MVP vote. We’re a fan of Dawson’s, in general, but the INT makes us think there might have been better candidates for this award. This was a defensive game, so maybe we start there.
The Vikings committed 5 turnovers, and among the Chiefs’ defenders, three difference guys had interceptions, and three different guys had sacks. Only one player was involved in two turnovers: safety Johnny Robinson, who had both an INT and a fumble recovery. We like that double dip, and only K.C. wide receiver Otis Taylor (6 catches, 81 yards, TD) stood out for the offense.
But Taylor’s major damage came on one play, his 46-yard TD catch and run that provided the final margin. It’s a great moment, but the game was already pretty much decided by then, and it means that Taylor’s 5 other receptions only went for 7 yards a pop on average. Not very impressive; with the Chiefs holding the Vikings to just 239 total yards, we’re going with Robinson here for spearheading the effort.
1969 NFL Championship Game MVP: Dave Osborn, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings dropped the hammer on the Cleveland Browns in the NFL title tilt, 27-7, building a 24-0 halftime lead before giving up a meaningless score in the fourth quarter. The Browns turned the ball over 3 times and gained just 268 yards, although the individual defensive statistics game from are minimal. We have to look to the Minnesota offense for our MVP here.
Overall, three players combined to run for 208 yards, which was the essence of the game right there. Leading the way was running back Dave Osborn (18 carries, 108 yards, TD), doing half the damage himself. His score was the last one of the first half and really put the nail in the Cleveland coffin. We see Osborn as the primary difference maker here, so he gets our MVP nod.
1969 AFL Championship Game MVP: Emmitt Thomas, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
In the first of many playoff choke jobs, the Oakland Raiders—coached by John Madden—lost to the Chiefs, 17-7, in the final AFL title matchup after winning 56-7 the week before against the Houston Oilers in the divisional round. The Silver & Black had swept Kansas City in the regular season, too. Oops! See what we mean about Madden being overrated? Anyway, we digress …
Both teams committed 4 turnovers apiece in a sloppy game, and neither team gained even 240 yards on offense. The Raiders scored first, and then the Chiefs dominated the rest of the game. Strangely, too, Oakland threw 4 INTs, while Kansas City fumbled 4 times. That being said, we give the MVP hardware to Chiefs cornerback Emmitt Thomas for intercepting the ball twice and gaining 69 yards on the returns.
1969 NFL ROTY: Calvin Hill, RB, Dallas Cowboys & Joe Greene, DT, Pittsburgh Steelers (original, tie); Hill (revised)
The two rookies voted for the award were Dallas Cowboys RB Calvin Hill and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle (Mean) Joe Greene. While the latter notched 9.5 sacks, he did so for a 1-13 team that still ended up with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (which ended up being QB Terry Bradshaw). We can’t really consider Greene for this award.
What is odd is that Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Zook also managed 9.5 sacks, while adding 2 INTs—and finished eighth in the voting for Defensive ROTY! His team posted a 6-8 record, so why no voting love? Very strange. Anyway, Hill (1,174 scrimmage yards with 10 total TDs) and Washington Redskins RB Larry Brown (1,190 scrimmage yards with 4 total TDs) were the best offensive rooks.
With the Cowboys finished 3.5 games ahead of the ‘Skins in the Capitol Division, it’s an easy choice to hand this trophy to Hill alone, although Brown would go on to win the 1972 MVP vote (despite our decision going elsewhere).
1969 AFL ROTY: Greg Cook, QB, Cincinnati Bengals & Carl Garrett, HB, Boston Patriots (original, tie); Cook (revised)
We had a legit tie for this award between Cincinnati Bengals QB Greg Cook and Boston Patriots halfback Carl Garrett. But there were three others candidates, too, in our eyes: Patriots WR Ron Sellers, Buffalo Bills RB O.J. Simpson, and Miami Dolphins DE Bill Stanfill. The two teammates cancel each other out here, so we’re left with Cook, Simpson, and Stanfill as our finalists.
Cook topped the AFL in QB rating, but he had a losing record as a starter on a team that went just 4-9-1, so he’s not looking great right now. Yet Buffalo posted just a 4-10 record, and Miami was 3-10-1, so we have a bunch of losers here to choose from, in a rare situation. We will confirm Cook’s vote victory, since he did lead the league in his respective category while Simpson did not (1,040 scrimmage yards).
Stanfill was close, though, as he notched 8 sacks and had two INT TD returns (which did lead the league). That’s a solid defensive presence, of course, but the Dolphins still finished with the worst record in the league, so it’s hard to value it too much.