Weeb Ewbank started his National Football League head coaching career with the 1954 Baltimore Colts. He stayed in command for the next 20 years, the first nine in Baltimore and the final 11 with the New York Jets. In so doing, he made an impact on pro football that has done much to insure its emergence as America’s most popular spectator sport.
He is the only coach to lead teams from both the National and American Football Leagues to world championships. His Colts won NFL crowns in both 1958 and 1959 and the 1968 Jets followed up their AFL championship with victory in Super Bowl III. Of even more importance than the mere fact of victory itself is the effect that these Ewbank championships had on the growth of pro football.
Millions of fans watched on national television for the first time as the Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in 1958. Many still call this game “the greatest ever played” and there is no doubt the highly competitive nature of the contest did much to increase fan enthusiasm and anticipation in the years ahead.
A decade later, Weeb’s old team, the Colts, was heavily favored to make it three straight Super Bowl victories for the supposedly superior NFL over the overmatched AFL. But spurred along by Weeb’s careful prodding the Jets pulled one of the most stunning upsets in history. The competitive validity of the Super Bowl was never again in doubt.