During my recent hiatus from the board, I did some research and reading on the Jets. I came across some very very interesting facts that somewhat surprised me, especially in light of how the Jets and many teams today seek to build a SB winner. Today, most GMs look to bring in older veteran FAs for leadership, solid play and/or as reliable depth. That was not true with the SB Champion Jets. They had an average age of 26.3. That's pretty doggone young. Of course, the AFL was fairly new, competing with the NFL for talent, and suddenly lots of younger players got chances they never had before. Follow after the jump to learn some more interesting facts.
Another couple of interesting facts about that team. Some of you may know that Weeb Ewbank had been the HC of the Colts before he came to the Jets. Well, out of the 45 players making up that roster, five key players were drafted by the Colts (Johnny Sample, Al Atkinson, Larry Grantham, Bake Turner and Winston Hill), so Weeb was almost surely responsible for the Jets adding those 5 players. Only 22 were drafted by the Jets (Joe Namath, Matt Snell, Emerson Boozer, Gerry Philbin, Ralph Baker, Pete Lammons, Verlon Biggs, John Elliott, Dave Hermann, Randy Rasmussen, Mike D'Amato, Cornell Gordon, Raymond Hayes, Karl Henke, Carl McAdams, Steve Thompson, Sam Walton, Lee White, Michael Stromberg, Jeff Richardson and Jim Richards), and I think only 10-11 of those were starters or key players. One of, perhaps their best WR, Don Maynard, was drafted by another team, the Giants, (and released after one season). Maynard then played one season in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger Cats (he caught one pass for 10 yards). He was the first player signed by the NY Titans.
A really curious tidbit on George Sauer, Jr. is that his father, George Sauer, Sr. became GM of the Titans in 1961, and according to a Nebraska Cornhusker site, drafted his son in 1963. According to another webiste, Sauer, Jr. was playing at the Univ. of Texas at the time (1962-1964 - I don't know if the rules regarding eligibility were different in that era), but Sauer, Jr. didn't begin playing for the Jets until 1965. I looked at the 1962 - 1965 AFL drafts and don't see Sauer's name mentioned, nor is there any information on when Sauer was drafted on the wikipedia site about the 1968 NY Jets. If anyone has definitive information on when Sauer was drafted, I'd appreciate your sharing it. Sauer, Sr. was instrumental in the signing of one Joe Willie Namath, so we can thank George Sauer, Sr. for bringing us our one and only SB Championship. Sauer caught 8 passes for 133 yards in that win over the Colts. Don Maynard was injured and basically just a decoy in that game. Before you think Sauer, Sr. was a great GM, he wasn't he picked a lot of unforgettable players eschewing some excellent players and a number of HOFers. He also picked more QBs and Ts than any other position, he picked a bunch of both in several drafts (1962 - 3 QBs and 10 Ts, 1963 - 4 QBs and 5 Ts, 1964 - 1 QB & 2 Ts [this year he loaded up on DEs and LBs], 1965 - 4 QBs & 1 T and a slew of DTs). In fairness, they were competing with NFL clubs who also drafted these players, so they had to draft more in order to try to get some at all. I'm sure the talent pool was really thin. I also know that the Titans/Jets were awful before Namath arrived so that also can explain the continued hunt for certain positions.
Several of those Jets were drafted by NFL teams, but they opted to sign with the AFL Jets instead: Gerry Philbin in Rd. 3 by the Detroit Lions, Ralph Baker in Rd. 3 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Matt Snell in Rd. 4 by the Giants, and Cornell Gordon in Rd. 16 by Niners.
While trying to find where and when George Sauer, Jr. was drafted, I looked at the 1964 and 1965 drafts because I knew he began playing for the Jets in 1965. The 1964 draft is notable because several HOFers came out of that draft: Bob Brown, Charley Taylor, Carl Eller and Paul Warfield, but also three players who went on to become very good coaches and who remain involved in the game today: Bill Parcells, Sherm Lewis and Monte Kiffin, and one owner, Jerry Richardson.
Finally, one last tidbit. In 1965, when the Jets drafted one Joe Willie Namath as the #1 pick, you'd think they'd believe the QB position set, right? Evidently, that wasn't the case, as they also drafted QBs in the 2nd rd. (John Huarte), 4th rd. (Bob Schweickert), and 7th rd. (Archie Roberts)! With their 2nd #1 pick (from the Broncos), they picked a FB (Tom Nowatzke) and eschewed Gayle Sayers, Dick Butkus, and Fred Biletnikoff. LOL!