Harry Wismer is granted the New York franchise in the American Football League’s first organizational meeting in Chicago, August 14. The franchise is to be called the Titans. Notre Dame quarterback George Izo is the first player selected by New York in the draft. Sammy Baugh is hired as the club’s head coach, December 18.
Penn football coach Steve Sebo is hired as the Titans’ general manager. Don Maynard, a free agent from Canada, becomes the first player to sign with the Titans. Harry Wismer leases the Polo Grounds for his team’s home games. The team, whose colors are blue and gold, opens training camp at the University of New Hampshire and more than 100 players report. In the club’s first preseason game, the Titans lose to the Los Angeles Chargers, 27-7, before 27,778 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Titans finally win for the first time, 52-31 over Buffalo, in the last preseason game.
Wismer’s team draws just 9,607—5,727 paid—in the home opener, a 27-3 victory over the Bills. Although the Titans’ running game struggles and the defense is almost non-existent, the team does have an exciting passing game, with Al Dorow throwing to Maynard and young Art Powell. In 14 games, the second-place Titans go 7-7 and attract 221,285 people for the season, home and away.
Bear Mountain Inn in New York State is chosen as the new headquarters for training camp. Off the field, the Titans are in the news constantly. Harry Wismer first feuds with coach Sammy Baugh, then with AFL Commissioner Joe Foss. When he announces the team has lost $1.2 million in two years, the press has a field day. On the field, Al Dorow, Don Maynard, and Art Powell are joined with good performances by fullback Bill Mathis, who rushes for 846 yards, but the Titans compile their second consecutive 7-7 record, finishing third.
Steve Sebo quits as general manager to become athletic director at Virginia. Harry Wismer announces Clyde (Bulldog) Turner will succeed Sammy Baugh as coach. The club moves its training camp to East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Just before the opening league game, quarterback Lee Grosscup is signed and he directs a 28-17 victory over Oakland. But midway through the season, Grosscup joins Bill Mathis on the sidelines with injuries, and the Titans fall to last place. In November, Wismer cannot meet his payroll and the AFL announces it will assume the costs of running the club until the end of the season. In seven home games, the Titans draw just 36,161.
A five-man syndicate composed of David (Sonny) Werblin, Townsend B. Martin, Leon Hess, Donald Lillis, and Phil Iselin purchases the franchise for $1 million, March 28. Former Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank is named the new head coach and the owners change the name of the team from Titans to Jets, and its colors to green and white, April 15. The new training camp site is Peekskill, New York. Although finishing only 5-8-1 in the first year under the new ownership and coaching, the attendance improves to 103,550 in seven games. The highlight of the season occurs December 1, when the Jets record the first shutout in team history, 17-0 over Kansas City.
The Jets sign Matt Snell, a fullback from Ohio State, who is the first number-one pick to sign with the club. Snell goes on to gain 948 yards, catch 56 passes, and be named the AFL’s rookie of the year. The team moves to Shea Stadium and sets an AFL record when a crowd of 45,665 watches New York beat Denver, 30-6, in the opener. Two months later, 60,300 show up to see Buffalo defeat the Jets, 20-7. In the most significant trade in the history of the franchise, if not the AFL, the Jets deal the draft rights to quarterback Jerry Rhome to Houston for a number-one draft choice. They use that choice to select quarterback Joe Namath of Alabama.
One day after the Orange Bowl game, Joe Namath signs a Jets’ contract reported to be worth $427,000. Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte of Notre Dame agrees to a $200,000 contract one week later, giving the Jets over a half-million dollars worth of rookie quarterback talent. Three weeks after signing, Namath undergoes surgery for cartilage and ligament damage in his right knee, injured while he was playing for Alabama. Namath recovers in time to throw his first official pass for the Jets against Kansas City, September 18. He starts for the first time and passes for 287 yards, but the Jets lose to Buffalo, 33-21, September 26. Namath finishes the year as the AFL’s rookie of the year in both wire-service polls, gaining 2,220 yards through the air and throwing 18 touchdown passes. Other rookies make valuable contributions, including George Sauer, Verlon Biggs, Al Atkinson, and Jim Hudson. Namath is named most valuable player in the AFL All-Star Game.
The Jets open the season by burying Houston, 52-13, establishing a club record for points scored. They make an early run at the Eastern Division title, but four consecutive losses in the middle of the season end any hopes. For the season, Joe Namath passes for 3,379 yards, George Sauer catches 63 passes, and rookie halfback Emerson Boozer nets 1,247 all-purpose yards. Namath closes the season by beating the Patriots, 38-28, to knock them out of the Eastern Division championship. Eleven days later, he reports to the hospital for a tendon transfer and cartilage removal in his right knee.
Emerson Boozer, enjoying an outstanding season, goes down with torn ligaments in his knee and is lost for the season against Kansas City, November 5. A victory over Boston clinches the Jets’ first winning season in history, November 19. But a loss to Oakland costs them a chance for the East Division title. Joe Namath finishes the season with 4,007 yards passing, the first pro quarterback ever to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. George Sauer and Don Maynard are one-two in AFL receiving. The Jets sell out all home games and establish an AFL attendance record with 437,036 tickets sold for seven games.
Joe Namath enters the hospital and undergoes surgery for the repair of a small tear in the tendon of his left knee. Sonny Werblin’s partners, Don Lillis, Leon Hess, Townsend Martin, and Phil Iselin, buy him out. Lillis takees over the presidency of the club, May 21. The team relocates its training camp to Hofstra University on Long Island. Lillis dies, July 23. Iselin is appointed the new club president. In the season opener, Namath controls the ball the final six minutes as the Jets defeat Kansas City, 20-19. “Heidi” becomes the center of a nationwide controversy, when the decisive final minutes of a game between the Jets and Oakland are interrupted so the children’s television movie can begin on time. Much of the football audience doesn’t see the Raiders score twice in the final seconds to win, 43-32. A 35-17 victory over Miami is the team’s ninth of the year, a club record, and it finishes at 11-3.
In the AFL Championship Game, Namath and Don Maynard combine on the big plays in the fourth quarter to beat, Oakland 27-23. Namath, in a prediction that will cement his legend, guarantees the Jets will beat Baltimore, a 19-point favorite, in Super Bowl III. His sharp passing, combined with Matt Snell’s running and a marvelous defensive performance, make the Jets the first AFL team to win a Super Bowl, 16-7. It also gives Weeb Ewbank the distinction of becoming the only coach to win the world title in both leagues.
In June, Joe Namath announces he is retiring as the result of a dispute with the NFL office over his ownership of a Manhattan night spot, Bachelors III. The Jets report to training camp without Namath, July 8. Ten days later, Namath says he is selling his interest in the nightclub and reporting to work. The Jets beat the College All-Stars 26-24, then blitz the Giants, 37-14, in the first meeting between the two New York teams. Weeb Ewbank celebrates his one-hundredth coaching win in the Jets’ first victory at Buffalo. Two months later, another success over the Bills extends the club’s record winning streak to six. The Jets defeat Houston 34-26 to win their second straight Eastern Division title, December 6. But in the playoffs, Kansas City knocks the Jets out of the running, 13-6. Ewbank is named the all-time coach of the AFL and Namath, Don Maynard, and Gerry Philbin are chosen to the all-time AFL team.