The Foolish Club(s) in the Superbowl

The Foolish Club(s) in the Superbowl
Reading Time: 10 minutes.

The Foolish Club(s) in the Superbowl: how did they fare?

We are starting to get towards the business end of the NFL season now. Before we know it, another Superbowl will be upon us. Which got me to thinking about the makeup of teams in the Superbowl games themselves, and particularly how many of the foolish club(s) have been represented.

The foolish club(s) in this context are the eight original AFL teams. I am referring to them as the foolish club(s) here because when Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams were refused entry into the NFL in 1959 they set up a rival – the AFL. The original AFL owners were dubbed ‘the foolish club’ because they were seen as having little to no chance going up agains the might of the established NFL.

For the purposes of this artcile then, the ‘foolish club(s)’ are the teams that were the original eight when the AFL launched in 1960. That means we are excluding later AFL teams such as the Miami Dolphins (1966), & Cincinnati Bengals (1968) who were added to the AFL as expansion teams.

There are also teams in the NFL that have represented the AFC in the Superbowl who will not count here. For those purposes the Colts & Steelers do not count here. Which leaves the original eight AFL teams. The Bills, Oilers, Jets, Patriots, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders & Chargers.

So let’s take a look at how each of those teams have fared when it comes to the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Buffalo Bills

4 Super Bowl appearances (1990-1993 consecutively). 0-4 record. Points for: 73. Points against: 139.

Poor Bills fans. They have seen their team be the only one to make it four consecutive Super Bowl games. And then lose them all. Of course that did mean that in the early 1990s they were one of the most consistently successful teams in the NFL.

Jim Kelly never led the Bills to a Super Bowl. Instead he led the Bills to 4 straight big game defeats from Super Bowl XXV to Super Bowl XXVIII. Over that span Kelly went 81 of 145 for 829 yards, 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. If your QB melts down in the big game you don’t have much of a chance.

Pre Super Bowl days they did pick up 2 AFL titles, have added another recent AFC title game tilt in 2020 and are currently one of the best teams in the league. There won’t be a table left intact in their patch of New York State by the time the Bills Mafia are done if they ever do bring home a Lombardi trophy.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 0-4

Tennesse Titans – formerly Houston Oilers

1 Super Bowl appearance (1999). 0-1 record. Points for: 16. Points against: 23.

The 1999 season saw the NFL celebrate its’ 80th anniversary. The Titans had moved to Tennessee as the Oilers in 1997. Since arriving they had back to back .500 seasons and were 16-16 as a Tennessee team. This year they had become the Titans & the NFL retired the Oilers name.

The Titans had not been in the playoffs since 1993 when they were still the Houston Oilers. Now they had finished 13-3.

However they were the 4 seed in the AFC because the Jacksonville Jaguars had edged them to the AFC Central title with a 14-2 record.

As a Wild Card team the Titans had played 3 games to reach the Super Bowl. They had beaten the 11-5 Buffalo Bills 22-16 before playing 2 games on the road. This game was known for its dramatic finish as the titans won on the Music City Miracle – which deserves an article all of its own!

Tennessee next edged a 13-3 Colts team in Indianapolis 19-16 before travelling to Jacksonville to face the Jags. Whilst Jacksonville took the Division title, this was the Titans day as they beat the Jaguars 33-14.

The Super Bowl Ending

Kurt Warner completed one pass in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXIV. It won the Rams the game. On the first play of the ensuing drive Warner hit Isaac Bruce who ran in a 73 yard touchdown. It took just 18 seconds to undo the Titans comeback in this way.

Ironically this mirrored the 1951 title game where a tie was broken by the Rams hitting a 73 yard TD pass to win by 7 (24-17 in this case).

The Titans weren’t done and now that their O was firing they got driving again. The Titans took over the ball at their own 12-yard line with 1:48 left in the game. They dove all the way to the Rams 10 yard line and took a timeout.

The Tackle

This was followed by the aforementioned ‘tackle.’ McNair hit Kevin Dyson over the middle and he looked destined for the End Zone. Had he scored the Titans could have gone for the XP to tie and force overtime, or a 2 pointer to win or lose on a single play. But it wasn’t to be.

Rams Linebacker Mike Jones made the biggest play of his career as he wrapped up Dyson and brought him down with his outstretched arm agonizingly short of the End Zone. It was all about momentum, but Dyson’s shoulder was down inches from the score and the Rams got to celebrate.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 0-5

New York Jets – formerly New York Titans Foolish Club(s) pioneer

1 Super Bowl appearance (1968). 1-0 record. Points for: 16. Points against: 7.

We have previously suggested in our Milestone Games series that this was the most important game of the 1960s in the NFL. In fact arguably it is one of the most important games in NFL history.

Super Bowl III was the third iteration of a championship game between the NFL & AFL champions. It was also the first game to be called a ‘Super Bowl’.

The Baltimore Colts who had been founded in 1953 were a two time NFL Champion (1958,1959) & were now a part of the NFL establishment. The Jets who had been founded in 1960 & played as the Titans until 1963 were a founder member of the AFL.

Under the tutelage of Head Coach Weeb Ewbank, who arrived in 1963, and who had previously led the Colts to their titles, the Jets had been gradually improving. Now an 11-3 season had seen them claim their first AFL title.

Baltimore went into Super Bowl III as 17-21 point favourites. Former NFL QB Norm Van Brocklin joked this would be “Namath’s first professional football game”. Broadway Joe would have the last laugh.

The New York Jets winning the third title against the senior league sent shockwaves through the football world. Prior to the game Namath ‘guaranteed’ the win. By the time the Jets were up 16-0 late in the last quarter he looked like Nostradamus.

There had been challengers to the NFL before. The AFL 1, AFL 2, and AFL3 iterations, and more successfully the AAFC. Even the latter however was disbanded and only saw three teams merged into the senior league.

Merger talks between the NFL & AFL were much more readily accepted once the younger league showed its worth. Namath’s guarantee & the Jets win were icing on the cake for the AFL. Not only would they merge with the NFL with all the teams intact. But they would also do so with a sense of equality because of it.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 1-5

New England Patriots – formerly Boston Patriots

11 Super Bowl appearances (1985, 1996, 2001, 2003-4, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016-2018). 6-5 record. Points for: 213. Points against: 234.

The (then) Boston Patriots played in one AFL title game. Falling heavily – 51-10 to the San Diego Chargers. Their next title shot(s) would be a 46-10 defeat by the Bears in Super Bowl XX & a 35-21 loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.

Then part way through the second game of the 2001 season starting QB Drew Bledsoe was injured. In came unvaunted back up Tom Brady & the rest is history as the Brady/Belichick Patriots juggernaut was born.

They would win three Super Bowl titles over the next four years. Lose twice to te Giants in the big game. Once in Super Bowl XLII when they were 18-0 and on the verge of a perfect season, and once again to the Giants following a 13-3 season leading to Super Bowl XLVI.

But they weren’t done. Between 2011 and 2018 the Pats appeared in eight consecutive AFC title games. Converting that into five Super Bowl appearances, and another three titles.

Of all the foolish club(s) they are the one with the biggest redemption arc. Going as they did from those early years title game blowouts to being the dominant team in the NFL.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 7-10

Denver Broncos

8 Super Bowl appearances (1977, 1986-7, 1989, 1997-98, 2013, 2015). 3-5 record. Points for: 147. Points against: 259.

The Broncos have their own, slightly smaller redemption arc when it comes to the big game. This is a team that lost their first four appearances. Football Outsiders even ranked the Broncos from 1973 to 1996 as one of the top five heartbreak dynasties of all time.

Denver lost their first four Super Bowl contests in one sided affairs (27-10 in 1977, 39-20 in 1986, 42-10 in 1987 & 55-10 in 1989). How bad was it? Craig Morton had one of the terrible single game performances in Super Bowl XII. Against Dallas’ Doomsday Defense he went 4 of 15 for 39 yards with 4 interceptions. He threw four first-half interceptions and failed to complete a pass in the second half, going 0 for 5.

Meanwhile John Elway may have won back to back Super Bowls and won a Super Bowl MVP in 1999. However the 1980’s were a different story. During that decade Elway was 0-3 in the Super Bowl and never really performed at his best on the big stage. The Broncos went to 3 Super Bowls in 4 seasons and when there Elway went 46 of 101 for 669 yards 2 TD’s and 6 interceptions. The true nadir came in a 56-10 thumping in Super Bowl XXIV.

Of Course Elway got to re-write his legacy and have a fairy-tale career finish. The Broncos found redemption as back to back champions in the 1997-8 seasons. Another collapse came in a 43-8 defeat to Seattle after the 2013 season, but by Super Bowl 50 led by a strong D they were champions again.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 10-15

Kansas City Chiefs – formerly Dallas Texans

4 Super Bowl appearances (1966, 1969, 2019-2020). 2-2 record. Points for: 73. Points against: 93.

The Chiefs have a special place in the history of the Foolish Club(s) and the Super Bowl. Quite possibly neither would have existed without the Kansas City’s first owner Lamar Hunt. He was the principal founder of the AFL and helped organize the league in its early stages.

Which makes it perhaps fitting that the Chiefs were in the first ever Super Bowl. Actually called the AFL-NFL Championship Game at the time. But Hunt suggested Super Bowl, which from Super Bowl III onwards stuck.

Kansas City lost in the restospectively named Super Bowl I to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 35-10. At one point it was 7-7 and at halftime 14-10, but in the end the Packers were too much for the AFL champs.

AFL-NFL parity

They were back by Super Bowl IV however. Kansas City were going into that match-up as one of the stronger teams in the AFL. They were AFL champions in 19621966, and now again in 1969. They had gone 73-34-5 over that period. Winning 23-7 over the Vikings in this one meant that the AFL & NFL shared the first two Super Bowl wins with 2 each. I think it is fair to say that very few at the time saw that coming.

Of course the Chiefs have been in more recent Super Bowl games, losing 31-9 to the Buccs and winning 31-20 against the 49ers after the 2020 & 2019 seasons respectively.

This meant that KC have won two Super Bowls, 50 years apart. A record in itself. One of the foundng AFL teams is once again one of the strongest NFL teams.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 12-17

Las Vegas Raiders – formerly Oakland, Los Angeles, Oakland Raiders

5 Super Bowl appearances (1967, 1976, 1980, 1983, 2002) 3-2 record. Points for: 132. Points against: 114.

The Raiders (then in Oakland) followed in KC’s footsteps by losing to the Packers in Super Bowl II – falling to a 33-14 defeat. Beore the Jets and Chiefs balanced things this left NFL fans happy to point out how much more successful they were than the young league.

The Raiders would appear in 6 AFL/AFC title games without making it back to the Super Bowl. However, following a 13-1 season in 1976 they were back in the big game. This time they beat the Vikings 32-14. The same Vikings the Chiefs had beaten for their first title.

Fran Tarkenton of the Vikings managed to bomb out in three Super Bowls too. He led the Vikings to Super Bowl VIII, Super Bowl IX & Super Bowl XI losing eact time. Across all three games Tarkenton went 46 of 89 for 489 yards 1 touchdown and 6 picks. The Raiders were too good and took their first title.

Controversial moves

The 1980 NFL season had started with some controversy. This followed a vote by NFL owners to ban Al Davis from moving the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. Eventually Davis got his way and the Raiders moved. But at the time relations between him and the league were strained.

Even to the point of the question of how the trophy presentation would work if the Raiders won Super Bowl XV. Which they duly did.

Now in Los Angeles, the Raiders again won the Super Bowl following the 1983 season. Their third title in an eight year span has so far been the last. Despite making it back following the 2002 season they were roundly beaten 48-21 by Tampa Bay.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 15-19

Los Angeles Chargers – formerly San Diego Chargers

1 Super Bowl appearance (1994). Points for: 26. Points against: 49.

The LA Chargers played in, and lost, the first AFL championship game. Falling 24-16 to the Oilers. in fact whilst they went to five AFL title games between 1960 & 1965 they only won on one occasion. Once the Super Bowl era began they did not make another trip to the Super Bowl until after the 1994 season. When they made a surpsing push through the playoffs to appear in Super Bowl XXIX.

The (then) San Diego Chargers were the biggest surprise of the 1994 season, with very few expecting them to even reach the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them however they were the secondary story in this game.

Until the 1994 season, despite leading the league in passing from 1991-94, Niners QB Steve Young had been criticized for never winning a truly important game. He especially was haunted by consecutive losses to Dallas in the NFC championship game.

Young stepped out of the long shadow of Joe Montana in San Francisco on this day. He went 24 of 36 for 325 yards with 6 touchdowns and no picks. He also led both teams with 49 yards rushing. Small wonder he was named MVP.

At the time the 49ers beating the Cowboys in the conference title game two weeks earlier almost seemed bigger! The 49ers had beaten the two time defending champion Cowboys at Candlestick Park. A team they had lost to at this stage the previous 2 years. For many contemporary fans, this was the ‘real championship’ game.

Foolish Club(s) aggregate Super Bowl record: 15-20

Final thoughts

So there we have it. The AFL original eight. The foolish club(s) in the Super Bowl. How did they fare overall? Well the Super Bowl has been run 57 times so far and they have appeared in it on 35 occasions. Setting a 15-20 record along the way. The overall points score tally doesn’t look good for them either. Could this be a reflection of the dominane of the NFL teams over time?

More likely it reflects a run in the 1980s when the NFC was just much more dominant. And what about those NFL clubs taking the titles here? five of these defeats came to the San Francisco 49ers. Arguably, (if you want to stretch the history), showing just how good the AAFC was in putting this team into the NFL!

Let’s not foget either that 5 Super Bowl titles have also been won by expansion teams from the post merger era – Seattle (1 win), and Tampa Bay (2 wins) from the 1976 expansion. Alongside the Baltimore Ravens who have also won 2 being considered an expansion team whilst also being built out of the foundations of an ex AAFC team the Browns.

The Foolish Club(s) greates achievement always was and always will be being brought into the NFL fold. They helped generate the biggest expansion in league history. And were part of the acceleration of one of the greatest periods of growth the game has ever seen. Foolish Club(s)? Perhaps not.

Banner Image: QB Len Dawson leads the Chiefs who won Super Bowl IV. Image from

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