For a team with just one Super Bowl win, the New York Jets have been the subject of a lot of books. Ralph Hickok’s Bibliography of Books About American Football lists 30 Jets-relayed books, many of which concern the team’s Super Bowl III win. In contrast, the Kansas City Chiefs, another AFC team and winners of Super Bowl IV a year later, are the subject of around 10.
Meanwhile, Joe Namath, who led the Jets in that Super Bowl, is the subject of more than 10 books, while Joe Montana, winner of four Super Bowls, has inspired just five.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, New York is America’s media capital, home to Sports Illustrated, so the City’s teams attract a lot of attention, sometimes out of proportion to their accomplishments. Many legendary sportswriters, including Dave Anderson and Paul Zimmerman, wrote books about the Jets.
But Super Bowl III was also historically significant. After the Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, the NFL was ready to give up on the annual showdown, convinced that it was clearly the better league. Had the Jets lost to the Baltimore Colts in January 1969, there is a very real possibility that it would have been the last Super Bowl. Or at least the last for several years.
Even so, what could there be to say about the 1968 Jets that hasn’t already been said? A fair amount, it turns out. Previous books have typically focused on Joe Namath. That’s understandable. He was a celebrity far beyond the confines of the football field. Moreover, he earned a place in history with his famous “guarantee” that the Jets would beat the Colts. Bob Lederer’s Beyond Broadway Joe looks, as the title suggests, at the other factors that led to that Super Bowl win, apart from the charismatic quarterback.
After setting the scene with some background on the AFL and the foundation of the Jets, who stumbled from the wreckage of the New York Titans, Lederer goes through the team, one position group at a time, and discusses each player’s background and the role he played for the Jets that season and in the Super Bowl.
The book is particularly interesting on head coach Weeb Ewbank, who came to the Jets after being fired by the Colts. Carroll Rosenbloom, owner of the Colts, said of him: “History will evaluate Weeb as a man who in his 20 years as a head coach did more with less material than any coach in the NFL.”
The only coach to win championships in both the NFL and AFL, Ewbank benefited, in Super Bowl III, from his familiarity with the Colts’ players and their system. Through access to Ewbank’s personal archive, Lederer is able to share many of the coach’s evaluations of his players.
Elsewhere we hear how the role of the Jets defense is often overlooked in writing about the game and how offensive line play, such as Dave Herman’s ability to shut down the Colts’ Bubba Smith, was a crucial factor.
By the time they reach the biographies of special teamers or guys who didn’t even figure in the Super Bowl, anyone who isn’t a Jets fan will find their interest waning. However, this isn’t really meant to be a book for the generalist. Lederer’s exhaustive research has turned up numerous new stories and fresh perspectives that Jets fans – especially those of a certain age – will find fascinating. If you are one of those people, then don’t hesitate to get a copy.