Our esteemed Editor and Chief Mr. Barath apparently noticed that I hadn’t posted an article in a little while and suggested I write one. Since I hate to disappoint I have picked up the quill, figuratively, to write. Greg suggested I write a retrospective on Tom Brady’s APBA career but since his career is not over and since the one season I lack is a season that ol’ Tom played, I decided to co-opt the idea but with a different QB. Let’s ask APBA, what kind of a career did Joe Namath have?
A Rookie hits Broadway
I am a little young for the early years of Joe. Still I lived in a Suburb of New York City for most of his career and I was certainly aware of him even as a little kid who was yet to follow the game. Joe came to the Jets to be a star. We can argue his value as a Quarterback all night long but one thing that nobody can ever argue is, Joe Namath was a big star from the moment he walked on the field in New York. My mother, if asked to name a Football player would name Namath. If we asked her to name another one, she would not be able to do so.
Joe’s rookie season has been carded twice by APBA. The original card from the old game and the latest version which came out in the last year are here. You’ll notice that he’s a 3 now where he was a 2 back in the day. This very much reflects two things about APBA under Mr. Seitz. One, he downgraded rookie Quarterbacks because he felt, probably correctly, that they lacked the field general skills right out of the shoot. Two, he capped the AFL players at a 4, especially in 1965. Seitz was an NFL first guy and that is apparent here.
One thing we will see with Namath throughout his career is what I’ll call “great power”. Joe has 2-2-5-6-6-7 on the new card, that’s great. The original is a very impressive 1-1-7-8-9-10. I think the new card is actually more powerful, but you can certainly score with either. The other theme is turnovers. Joe was going to give the ball up. He has 4-20s, 2-21s and a 24 on the new card. Plus, a half a fumble number. While not terrible, the medium pass has a good chance of getting picked off. Interceptions were different in the old game but the 20 and 21 are likely picks and the 2-16s, 17s, 18s and a 19 are all at risk. My guess though is that if you are in a draft league in 1965 you would take Namath over the other “name” rookie, Craig Morton.
The coming of Broadway Joe
When you look at Joe’s cards for 1966 and 67 the thing that jumps out is how fast he goes from good to great. The 1966 card has a 1-3-7-7, underwhelming power column. 1967 jumps to 1-1-6-9. Still not your best card but ultimately a nice amount of power. What’s interesting is that he has a 9 at 44 and a 16 at 55 but 7 at 31 and 51 and 8 at 13 and 53. I’ve not seen that distribution before and while in total it looks right it also looks very strange. Joe gets a 3 from Seitz for both seasons, even though he was much better statistically in ’67. He passed for 4,000 yards for the first time. Daryl Lamonica was the 1st team all AFL QB (and player of the year) so Joe wasn’t likely to get a 4 from APBA. I think if we carded that season now he’d be a 4, though a 3 in ’66 still seems likely.
A legend Comes into his own.
You may never have heard this but after the 1968 season Joe Namath guaranteed the Jets would win the Superbowl. I remember in the 90’s all the NY athletes would make a similar guarantee, no doubt in the hopes of being the next Namath and eating for free for the rest of time. Patrick Ewing in particular seemed to like to make this oath. It’s less impressive when you lost to Indiana.
Any way 1968 is the greatest season in the history of the Jets and Namath is certainly the man on that. A card that starts 1-3-7 and has 8 single digit results is solid. Joe still is going to throw a pick but it’s not as bad as previous seasons. He’s only a 4 here, I feel certain that his 1st team all AFL would net him a 5 these days. For a guy who had a reputation for being a statue this is also his second straight card with 16 single digit running results. The old game didn’t have a QB scramble number, but you could do worse than sending Joe on a bootleg.
With his 1969 card Joe shows that he is what he is and what he is, for APBA, is very good. A 1-1-7-7 is again good, double 1’s is actually very impressive even in the old game. So, with his first 5 cards Namath got 3-1s and 2-3s on 11. That’s a nice way to start a career. Joe keeps his 4 in ’69 as well. While I will admit that I don’t know the old cards like I used to or like I know the new ones, I think the 69 card is a little better than ’68.
The Beginning of the End
Peak Joe was short-lived. An injury held him to 5 games in 1970 and 4 in 1971. He was not terribly good in those 9 games if we’re being honest. He keeps his 1 on 66 but the 5 on 11 represents the worst number he’s seen there. His completion numbers are down, and he appears to have another full interception over his peak two cards. Also, the running has evaporated. Joe is a 2 in ’70, ending the two-year run of 4.
1971 is an improvement, he climbs back to a 3 and he has 3-1’s so the familiar power is back. On the other hand, he has
no results between 9 and 13, which kills his completion percentage. This is clearly his worst card for interceptions, which is not a surprise with his 10% INT rate. That he’s back to a 3 is actually more a reflection (I am guessing) that the leagues are merged, and Joe is now a middle-of-the-pack QB.
One More Time With Feeling
1972 is an interesting season in the NFL for a lot of reasons. First, I feel sure that no season has ever had more football games replicate it. APBA has done it a few times. I know my friend Greg likes this season and for good reason, it was the renaissance of Joe Willie. I look at the R card (for the new game) this time. Joe’s power is back with 2-2-3-5-5. That’s very impressive. In addition, he has 4 6’s, you just want to call a medium pass and roll the bones with this card. Of course, there’s a few issues. A 29 is a big sack number and a 27 is probably not going to gain any yards. Plus, with a 24 and a 25 he has two big INT numbers. With 4 18’s and 3 20’s I’d have my linebackers blitzing all day long, if I can’t get a pick 3 times I’m just not trying. Namath is a 4 this season, a rating that is well deserved to be sure.
1973 was not as magical for either the Jets or Namath but for the author it does represent the first foray into APBA football. The first game I ever played included Namath and the Jets. My dad took that team and I specifically remember him saying “I’ll take Joe Willie and the Jets”. This is who Namath was at this point. My Father could name maybe three more football players than my mother, but Namath was someone he not only knew but understood was worth his time in a game like this.
One interesting note off the top (literally) this is the first card that Joe is not listed as 6’ 2” 191 points as he has “ballooned” to 200 pounds in ’73. For lots of players I’d not believe the stats, but Namath seemed like the kind of guy who kept the weight off not only while playing but really since as well. The power is down with this card, 1-3-5 is pedestrian but does keep his 11-power number strong. The R column is comically bad at this point as Seitz apparently has seen him hobble around long enough.
For 1974 I will use a card from a set I have made for the new game. I wanted to capture Joe’s last good season with a new game look. A 4 in this set, which based on his stats seems a little high, one might expect a 3. However, I think the rating is right for a player with Namath’s experience taking a bad team to the heights of mediocrity with a pretty limited supporting cast (save for Riggins). I mean David Knight is the second-best receiver on this team and he’s not exactly an all-timer. With a 2-3-3-4-4-5 Namath keeps the power numbers strong. Rushing for a TD strengthens his R column and he has 26 scramble number, so the sack problem may be as bad as we’ve seen. With a 23 and a 25 he still has an interception issue. It’s worse in other seasons but with the power down this card will be a little more challenging to generate scores over turnovers.
Broadway Begins To Degrade
1975 is the real beginning of the end for Namath. His QB rating is terrible, his team is terrible and really the physical toll his career has taken on him is starting to show. I always thought it interesting that Namath was threatening to retire as a much younger man but when faced with the fact that his talents were diminishing stubbornly hung around looking for another gold ring. I think the “Broadway” thing takes something away from him as he really was a tough SOB when you get down to it.
Namath returns to a 3 in ’75 with 1-3-6-7-8-8 power. This is I believe Namath’s worst season but it’s not his worst card. He has enough completion numbers to make it an OK card. Plus, he’s a 3, which is probably too high but since the under-rated him more often than over-rate I can live with it. The interception issue is here in spades so, basically, this is a bad version of Namath but there is still some value.
1976 is the last season with the Jets. I replayed this season in ’77-79. Namath was dreadful. This card is for the new game and is bad but not as bad as I recall the old version being. A 3-6-7 is not a great start. Not having a power number on 66 for the first time in his career hurts. After 11 seasons of knowing a 66 was going to be a score this is quite a come down. Unfortunately, the loss of a TD doesn’t get offset on the turnovers. 2-25’s is death, add in a 21 and good luck throwing medium. Plus, a 28 and 29 is not a combination you want. Namath gets a 2, which feels right. This Jets team was starting a rebuild with another Alabama QB, Richard Todd. Namath definitely looks like a QB ready to start a broadcast career.
With a trade to the Rams Namath got a fresh start in 1977. It didn’t help as he was clearly done. With 1-5-6 power he is at least back to 66-1. Unfortunately, that’s about the only nice thing to say about the card. He still throws picks and gets sacked. Playing on a very good team he will be a problem for the replayer.
So, What Have We Learned?
Anyone else surprised that Namath was never a 5? I thought he might have scored one. If the company does ’68 I’d bet, he gets one.
How about a guy that in 12 seasons gets a 1 or 2 on 66 11 times? Plus, he has a 1 or 2 on 11 5 times and a 1 on 33 once. That’s pretty great.
I think in total Namath is who we think he is. Charisma doesn’t really transfer to cardboard. Statistically he’s not a great Quarterback but in his time, he was considered one of the greats. He threw deep, he threw often, and he racked up some pretty good numbers along the way.
Plus, he’s arguably the biggest “star” in New York sports. Mantle is the only argument. Finally, the guy who manages this fine establishment has a favorite player. If he’s good enough for the Oguard, well that’s all I need to know.
This was interesting. If you wonder about another player throw a name out. No promises but I may just write them up.