Jets Remember Kemp as One Tough Foe

It's a shame that in the 2009 regular season, when the National Football League celebrates the 50th anniversary of the birth of the American Football League, one of the AFL's on-field movers and shakers won't be there to bask in the celebrations and the memories.

Jack Kemp, who died Saturday evening of cancer at the age of 73, figured in many of the historic moments in AFL history. He was the losing QB in the first two AFL championship game, the Los Angeles Chargers' 24-16 loss to George Blanda and the Houston Oilers on New Year's Day, 1961, then the San Diego Chargers' 10-3 loss to Blanda's Oilers on Christmas Eve, 1961.

Five years later he led the Buffalo Bills to the 1964 AFL title, then repeated the feat in 1965, his league MVP season.

His 21,130 passing yards from 1960-69 became the league's all-time, never-to-be-toppled record because, of course, the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. And after retiring following the '69 season, Kemp had so much support in the blue-collar Buffalo area that he won an open congressional seat and set off on another successful career in politics.

"Pro football gave me a good perspective," he said after some years of playing political football in Washington. "When I entered the political arena, I had already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy."

A lot of those latter activities were performed by Jets fans whose teams usually didn't fare well against Kemp and his outfits. Mature fans may remember that in '65, Kemp was the starter and winner in the very first start of Joe Namath's pro career, a 33-21 conquest of the Jets on Sept. 26, 1965, at War Memorial Coliseum.

That was one of many tough days in Jets vs. Kemp history. He still shares the record for most rushing touchdowns by a Jets/Titans opponent, regardless of position, with 11, same as Paul Lowe, his old Chargers teammate. And Kemp still easily controls the mark of most 1-yard TD runs by an opponent at eight.

Those scoring runs (plus 11 TD passes) were instrumental in the fashioning of his sterling record against the Jets. He was 11-2 in all games, an .846 winning percentage that is fourth-best for all opposing starting QBs. Here are the four best winning percentages by opposing QBs vs. the Jets/Titans (minimum five starts):

QuarterbackTeam(s)RecordPct.
Terry BradshawPIT6-01.000
Jim ZornSEA6-01.000
Tom BradyNE12-2.857
Jack KempLAC-SD-BUF11-2.846

Then there's Kemp's record at home: His 6-0 mark is tied for the best winning percentage by an opposing QB with the aforementioned Blanda. Here are the four best percentages by opposing QBs at home vs. the Jets/Titans (minimum five starts):

QuarterbackTeam(s)RecordPct.
George BlandaHOU7-01.000
Jack KempLAC-SD-BUF6-01.000
Peyton ManningIND4-1.800
Bob GrieseMIA6-2.750

Further, those six Kemp home wins were offensive explosions. The 36.5-point average is the best by an opposing QB at home vs. the Jets all-time. And that included a 14-3 win in 1966, which was still noteworthy since it was a fourth-quarter comeback, again against Namath. Here are the scores of that sixpack of Kemp home wins:

SeasonFinal ScoreLosing QB
1960L.A. CHARGERS 50, N.Y. Titans 43Al Dorow
1961SAN DIEGO 48, N.Y. Titans 13Al Dorow
1962SAN DIEGO 40, N.Y. Titans 14Lee Grosscup
1964BUFFALO 34, N.Y. Jets 24Dick Wood
1965BUFFALO 33, N.Y. Jets 21Joe Namath
1966BUFFALO 14, N.Y. Jets 3Joe Namath

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted that "Kemp was an extraordinary American leader who became a trusted colleague and exceptional friend to countless NFL owners, team personnel and commissioners after his MVP playing career with the Buffalo Bills."

We at newyorkjets.com agree with the Commissioner, extend our condolences to the Kemp family and will always remember the great competitor that he was "back in the day."

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