The 1969 NFL season was the 50th regular season of the National Football League, and the last one before the AFL-NFL Merger. To honor the NFL's fiftieth season, a special anniversary logo was designed and each player wore a patch on their jerseys with this logo throughout the season.
The season ended when the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game, earning the right to face the American Football League's Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans Tulane Stadium. This was the last awarding of the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy to the NFL champion; the trophy was introduced 35 years earlier in 1934. As was the case the previous season, the NFL Champion was not crowned as the world champion because of the Vikings' 23-7 loss to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. This occurrence can no longer happen, as the AFL and the NFL merged with each other the following season (1970), with 2 separate conferences (the AFC and the NFC) both playing together in the same league (the NFL), with the 2 conference champions playing each other every year in the Super Bowl.
|1969 National Football League season|
NFL 50th season anniversary logo
|Duration||September 21 –|
December 21, 1969
|East Champions||Cleveland Browns|
|West Champions||Minnesota Vikings|
Like the previous two seasons, the Eastern Conference was split into the Capitol and Century Divisions, and the Western Conference had the Coastal and Central Divisions. Through 1966, if two teams were tied for the division lead at season's end, a one-game playoff was conducted to break the tie. Starting in 1967, a tiebreaking system was implemented in which head-to-head record, then net points in head-to-head competition, followed by the team that had less recently played in a title game were the tiebreakers. As such, only one team in a division would be the division winner, even if the won-lost record was the same. (This tiebreaker was only needed once in the three years it was in existence, when in 1967 the Rams and Colts tied for the Coastal Division title but the Rams advanced to the playoffs based on their 1–0–1 record vs. the Colts).
The 1969 division races were largely uneventful. All four division winners assumed 1st place by week 5 and never gave up their lead. The closest races were in the Central and Coastal where the Vikings and Rams won their divisions by 2½ games, but the Rams had clinched with four games to play and the Vikings with three games to play. As home field in playoffs was rotated and not determined by a teams' record at that time, the division winners had nothing to play for and the last month of the season was uneventful, save for the Rams' quest for a perfect record, which ended in L.A. in a week 12 loss to the Vikings, 20–13. The other story of note was Vince Lombardi's return to coach the Washington Redskins after a one-year hiatus from coaching; he led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 finish, their first winning record in fifteen years.
|2||Dallas||2–0–0||Cleveland||2–0–0||Los Angeles||2–0–0||Green Bay||2–0–0|
|3||Dallas||3–0–0||St. Louis*||2–1–0||Los Angeles||3–0–0||Minnesota*||2–1–0|
|4||Dallas||4–0–0||N.Y. Giants*||3–1–0||Los Angeles||4–0–0||Minnesota*||3–1–0|
*indicates more than one team with record
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings
|New Orleans Saints||5||9||0||.357||311||393|
|New York Giants||6||8||0||.429||264||298|
|St. Louis Cardinals||4||9||1||.308||314||389|
|Los Angeles Rams||11||3||0||.786||320||243|
|San Francisco 49ers||4||8||2||.333||277||319|
|Green Bay Packers||8||6||0||.571||269||221|
In the Eastern Conference championship game, the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys met for the third straight year. The Cowboys had won in 1967 in Dallas and the Browns in 1968 in Cleveland; this was the rubber match before the Browns would move to the American Conference in the 1970 merger/realignment. The Cowboys were favored as they featured the best offense in the NFL, a better record than Cleveland, and were at home. However, the Browns jumped on the Cowboys early and often in cruising to a surprising 38–14 win at the Cotton Bowl.
In the Western Conference, the Vikings were four-point favorites over the Rams in Minnesota. Three weeks earlier, the Vikings (10–1) met the Rams (11–0) in Los Angeles and won, 20–13. This time, the Rams broke out on top and led 17–7 at halftime. After the Vikings scored to make it 17–14, the Rams settled for another short field goal (both Ram field goals came when they could not get a touchdown from inside the 5 yard line; this would ultimately cost them the game) to make it 20–14. Joe Kapp led the Vikings to the go ahead touchdown early in the 4th quarter, helped by a controversial penalty on Rams defender Jim Nettles. Viking receiver John Henderson caught a pass and ran to the Rams 20 yard line where he was tripped up by Eddie Meador. Not sure if the defender made contact and not hearing a whistle, Henderson got up and starting running; Nettles then tackled him and was called for unnecessary roughness. Nettles claimed he never heard a whistle and asked "what was I supposed to do, stand there and watch him run into the end zone?!" With the ball moved inside the 10 yard, Kapp eventually put the Vikings ahead 21-20 with a short touchdown run. Shortly thereafter, Vikings DE Carl Eller sacked Ram QB Roman Gabriel in the end zone to make it 23–20. The Rams forced a Viking punt and began driving for a potential tying field goal or go ahead touchdown but Gabriel was intercepted by Alan Page at the 45 yard line with under two minutes to play to clinch the win. After starting the season with eleven victories, the Rams lost all four games in December; they won the last edition of the third place Playoff Bowl, shutting out Dallas 31–0 on January 3.
In the NFL final in Minnesota on January 4, the Browns were thoroughly dominated for the second year in a row. In 1968, the Colts beat them 34–0 in Cleveland; in this game the Vikings won 27–7, completely shutting down the Browns offense while Minnesota gained nearly 200 rushing yards.
|Conference Championship Games||NFL Championship Game|
|December 28, 1969 – Cotton Bowl|
|January 4, 1970 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|December 27, 1969 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|Los Angeles Rams||20|
|Most Valuable Player||Roman Gabriel, Quarterback, L.A. Rams|
|Coach of the Year||Bud Grant, Minnesota|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Calvin Hill, Running Back, Dallas|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Joe Greene, Defensive End, Pittsburgh|
The 1969 NFL Draft was held from January 28 to 29, 1969 at New York City's Belmont Plaza Hotel. With the first pick, the Buffalo Bills selected running back O. J. Simpson from the University of Southern California.
The 1969 NFL Championship Game was the 37th and final championship game prior to the AFL–NFL merger, played January 4, 1970, at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb south of Minneapolis. The winner of the game earned a berth in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans against the champion of the American Football League.The Minnesota Vikings of the Western Conference hosted the Cleveland Browns of the Eastern Conference. It was the Vikings' first appearance in the title game, while the Browns were making their second straight appearance and fourth of the 1960s.
Minnesota had a regular season record of 12–2, including a 51–3 defeat of the Browns eight weeks earlier on November 9. The Vikings defeated the Los Angeles Rams 23–20 in the Western Conference championship a week earlier at Met Stadium. They were coached by Bud Grant and led on offense by quarterback Joe Kapp and wide receiver Gene Washington. The defense allowed only 133 points (9½ per game) during the regular season and their four defensive linemen were known as the "Purple People Eaters."
Cleveland was 10–3–1 during the regular season and had upset the Dallas Cowboys 38–14 at the Cotton Bowl for the Eastern Conference title. The Browns were coached by Blanton Collier; Bill Nelsen was the starting quarterback and Gary Collins and Paul Warfield were star wide receivers for the team.
Although not as severe as the "Ice Bowl" of 1967, the weather conditions were bitterly cold at 8 °F (−13 °C), with a sub-zero wind chill factor. Cleveland linebacker Jim Houston suffered frostbite during the game and was hospitalized.
Minnesota was favored by nine points to win the title game at home, and they won, 27–7.Of the four NFL teams that joined the league during the AFL era (1960s), Minnesota was the sole winner of a pre-merger NFL championship. The Dallas Cowboys entered the league in 1960 and lost two NFL title games to the Green Bay Packers, in 1966 and 1967. The expansion Atlanta Falcons (1966) and New Orleans Saints (1967) did not qualify for the postseason until 1978 and 1987, respectively.
The Vikings would go on to lose Super Bowl IV 23-7 to the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs. Starting with the 1970 season, the NFL champion was determined in the Super Bowl, beginning with Super Bowl V.1969 NFL playoffs
The NFL playoffs following the 1969 NFL season determined the league's representative in Super Bowl IV.
This was the last NFL playoff tournament before the AFL–NFL merger and the last awarding of the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy to the NFL champion, which was introduced in 1934.Bill Arnsparger
William Stephen Arnsparger (December 16, 1926 – July 17, 2015) was an American college and professional football coach. He was born and raised in Paris, Kentucky, served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and graduated from Miami University (Ohio) in 1950. Immediately upon graduation, Arnsparger was hired as an assistant coach with the Miami football program, beginning a long career in the profession.
Arnsparger is best known for serving as a defensive coordinator in the National Football League (NFL) for Miami Dolphins teams that won consecutive Super Bowls (1972 and 1973) and reached another (1982), all under head coach Don Shula. Arnsparger's defenses were an important part of the Dolphins' success, and earned two nicknames over his tenure - the "No-Name-Defense" in the 1970s and the "Killer B's" in the 1980s. Later in his career, he served as the defensive coordinator for another Super Bowl runner-up, the 1994 San Diego Chargers.
Before coaching in the NFL, Arnsparger served as a defensive assistant for several college football teams. He was also the head coach of the New York Giants (1974-1976) and the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers (1983–1986), and served as the athletic director at the University of Florida (1986–1992).Dave Cahill
David Allen Cahill (July 26, 1941 - November 12, 2012) was an American football defensive tackle who played professionally in the National Football League (NFL). Cahill first played with the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1966 NFL season. He was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the 1967 NFL Expansion Draft, but played that season with the Los Angeles Rams. After a year away from the NFL, he played with the Atlanta Falcons during the 1969 NFL season.Don Doll
Donald LeRoy Doll (August 29, 1926 – September 22, 2010), formerly Don Burnside, was an American football player and coach.
Doll played college football for the USC Trojans (1944, 1946–1948) and professional football in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions (1949–1953), Washington Redskins (1954) and Los Angeles Rams (1955). He was selected to play in each of the first four Pro Bowls and was named the Most Valuable Player in the 1952 season Pro Bowl. He played safety on the 1952 Detroit Lions team that won the NFL championship. He tied an NFL record in 1949 with four interceptions in a single game and is the only player in NFL history to have 10 or more interceptions in each of three different seasons (1949, 1950 and 1953). When he retired at the end of the 1954 season, he was the NFL's all-time leader with 41 interceptions.
After retiring as a player, Doll worked as a football coach for 34 years, serving as the head coach at West Contra Costa Junior College in 1956 and as an assistant coach with the University of Washington (1955), USC (1957–1958), Notre Dame (1959–1962), Detroit Lions (1963–1964), Los Angeles Rams (1965), Washington Redskins (1966–1970), Green Bay Packers (1971–1973), Baltimore Colts (1974), Miami Dolphins (1975–1976), San Francisco 49ers (1977) and Detroit Lions (1978–1988). During his NFL career, he was associated with the game's legendary coaches, as a player for Curly Lambeau and an assistant coach under Vince Lombardi and Don Shula.Gene Washington (American football, born 1944)
There were two wide receivers in the NFL named Gene Washington; for the other, see Gene Washington (American football, born 1947)Eugene Washington (born January 25, 1944) is a former American football wide receiver in the National Football League. He played for the Minnesota Vikings (1967–1972) and the Denver Broncos (1973–1974). He wore #84 for Minnesota and Denver.List of NFL Championship Game broadcasters
The following is a list of the television networks and announcers that broadcast the National Football League Championship Game from the 1940s until the 1969 NFL season (after which the NFL merged with the American Football League). The National Football League first held a championship game in 1933, it took until 1948 before a championship game would be televised. The successor to the NFL Championship Game is the NFC Championship Game.Roger Brown (defensive tackle)
Roger Lee Brown (born May 1, 1937) is a former American football defensive tackle who retired after the 1969 NFL season.Super Bowl IV
Super Bowl IV, the fourth and final AFL-NFL World Championship Game in professional American football, was played on January 11, 1970, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. The American Football League (AFL) champion Kansas City Chiefs defeated the National Football League (NFL) champion Minnesota Vikings by the score of 23–7. This victory by the AFL squared the Super Bowl series with the NFL at two games apiece. The two leagues merged into one after the game.
Despite the AFL's New York Jets winning the previous season's Super Bowl, many sports writers and fans thought it was a fluke and continued to believe that the NFL was still superior to the AFL, and thus fully expected the Vikings to defeat the Chiefs; the Vikings entered the Super Bowl as 12.5 to 13-point favorites. Minnesota posted a 12–2 record during the 1969 NFL season before defeating the Cleveland Browns, 27–7, in the 1969 NFL Championship Game. The Chiefs, who previously appeared in the first Super Bowl, finished the 1969 AFL season at 11–3, and defeated the Oakland Raiders, 17–7, in the 1969 AFL Championship Game.
Under wet conditions, the Chiefs defense dominated Super Bowl IV by limiting the Minnesota offense to only 67 rushing yards, forcing three interceptions, and recovering two fumbles. Kansas City's Len Dawson became the fourth consecutive winning quarterback to be named Super Bowl MVP. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, with one interception. Dawson also recorded three rushing attempts for 11 yards.
Super Bowl IV is also notable for NFL Films miking up the Chiefs' Hank Stram during the game, the first time that a head coach had worn a microphone during a Super Bowl.Tim McCann (American football)
Tim McCann is a former defensive tackle in the National Football League. He was a member of the New York Giants during the 1969 NFL season.
1969 NFL season