As a league, the AFL was known for explosive offenses; quarterbacks
who threw long and often, receivers who could fly, and backs who
could run and catch passes out of the backfield. In the AFL's
10-year history, there were several potent offensive units. Many of
those coaches and players are now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall
of Fame, and several more deserve to be.
My question to readers is two-fold, and will hopefully spark
a bit of conversation. Who was your favorite AFL offense, and
why? Who was the best AFL offense, and why?
To kick-start some memories and get the conversation started,
I will help out by providing some names and statistics.
1961 Houston Oilers
The AFL's first great offense was led by a veteran of the NFL
wars in quarterback George Blanda. Coming off their victory in
the inaugural AFL championship game, the Oilers featured former
Heisman Trophy winner, Billy Cannon, at halfback along with
fireplug Charley Tolar at fullback. Charlie Hennigan, the AFL's
first 1,000-yard receiver was at flanker, while the Oilers
carried three ends on their roster in Bob McLeod, Willard
Dewveall and Bill Groman. The Oilers scored 100 more points
than any other AFL team in 1961, and gained roughly 1,400 more
offensive yards than anyone in the league.
1963 San Diego Chargers
The '63 Chargers were the early darlings of the AFL. Clad in
powder blue uniforms and lightning bolts on their helmets, the
Chargers threw the ball all over the field. Tobin Rote was the
starting quarterback and served as a mentor to the young John Hadl.
Lance Alworth (who shared league MVP honors that year with Rote and
the Raiders' Clem Daniels) was at flanker, with Don Norton split out
wide, and Dave Kocourek on the end. Keith Lincoln and Paul Lowe made
up what was perhaps the most dynamic backfield in AFL history, and
of course this legendary group was led by the Father of the Modern
Passing Game, Sid Gillman. The Chargers led the AFL in rushing
yards, total offensive yards, and scoring in 1963, on the way to
trouncing the Boston Patriots 51-10 in the AFL championship game.
1964 Buffalo Bills
Perhaps not as highly-touted as some of the other offenses in
this article, the '64 Bills used their combination of speed and
power to lead the AFL in scoring and total offensive yards. Led
by their cerebral QB, Jack Kemp (with Daryle Lamonica waiting in
the wings), the Bills upset the Chargers in the championship
game. Wray Carlton played halfback, but the dominant player in
the Buffalo backfield was the enigmatic Cookie Gilchrist. Glenn
Bass, Bill Groman and Ernie Warlick were listed as ends, and Ed
Rutkowski and Elbert "Golden Wheels" Dubenion played flanker.
1966 Kansas City Chiefs
The '66 Chiefs represented the AFL in Super Bowl I. Hall of Fame
head coach, Hank Stram, led this expolsive team that featured
another HoF member, Len Dawson, at quarterback. Curtis McClinton
played fullback, and led the blocking for Heisman Trophy winner,
Mike Garrett, at halfback. Fred Arbanas, Chris Burford and Reg
Carolan were listed at end, but could also be split out wide.
Perhaps the most dynamic player on the offense was wide receiver,
Otis Taylor. The '66 Chiefs led the AFL in rushing, total offensive
yards and scoring.
1967 Oakland Raiders
With John Rauch implementing Al Davis's vertical passing game,
the 1967 Raiders went 13-1 on the season. They featured Daryle "The
Mad Bomber" Lamonica at quarterback, and had Clem Daniels and Pete
Banaszak in the backfield, along with Estes Banks, Larry Todd and
Roger Hagberg waiting in the wings. Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff
was at flanker, and Warren Wells, Bill Miller and Ken Herock were
out wide. Dave Kocourek rounded out the group at tight end. These
Raiders led the AFL in scoring and total offensive yardage.
1968 New York Jets
Is there any team that screams "AFL" more than a Joe
Namath-led Jets team? The '68 team upset the famed Baltimore
Colts in Super Bowl III, with a star-studded offense that made
New Yorkers (and the entire AFL) proud. Of course the
gimpy-kneed and powerfully-armed Namath was under center.
Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell were in the backfield. Hall of
Famer Don Maynard was split out wide with Bake Turner and George
Sauer. Pete Lammons, Mark Smolinski and Curley Johnson played
tight end. The '68 Jets did not lead the league in any major
offensive categories, but who can argue with the league's first
Super Bowl victory?
There you have it, the AFL's top-ranked offenses, or at least my
version of them. My favorite... The '63 Chargers. Maybe I am
biased, but on top of dominating the Patriots in the
championship game, they looked really cool in those classic
uniforms! My thoughts on the est offensive unit? I am torn
between the '63 Chargers and the '67 Raiders, though there
really are no slouches on this list. What are your thoughts?
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