Last October at the Super Bowl III 50th Anniversary Dinner, Joe Namath offered a hope that was on the lips of every Jets fan, whether that fan got started in 1968 or 2018.
"We won it and I'm thankful, yes, I'm thankful," the Jets' legendary quarterback said. "And what we've got to do now is win another one. That's what we've got to do."
When Joe spoke with me recently regarding the promotion for his new book, "All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters," I asked him what he might foresee for the Jets as they enter the Adam Gase era.
"I don't think it's impossible for the team to win the championship," Namath said, not specifying the exact year but certainly tying that possibility to the arrival of Gase as head coach. Then he gave a Namathian riff on just why the head coach in general and Gase in particular is so important to achieving that end.
"I'm one of those guys that believes in leadership — the coaches, Gase, right now how he communicates with the players he has," Namath said. "He has some quality players on the team. They're all good players or they wouldn't be there.
"But getting the mindset, getting the discipline, both mentally and physically, establishing that as a procedure, as the way you live, certainly in the locker room, on the field and off, thinking about your team, it takes combined effort and focus," he said. "You play like you practice, you play like you study. It sounds corny to a degree. But one thing coach Paul Bryant ["Bear," of course, Namath's Alabama coach] told us when we were freshmen was 'I'm going to teach you all how to keep from beating yourselves.' "
This led the Pro Football Hall of Famer and Jets Ring of Honor charter member to reflect on the Kansas City-New England conference title game in January, when the Chiefs' Dee Ford lined up in the neutral zone on a third-and-10 interception of Tom Brady that likely would've clinched a 28-24 KC win and a trip to Super Bowl LIII. Instead, the Patriots went on to their 37-31 overtime victory.
"The guy lines up offsides. I mean, excuse me!" he said. "You're on the line of scrimmage. What is the first thing you know you've got to do? There's an urgency, yes, but you've got to be disciplined enough to contain that urgency until the time is right to explode.
"If you can learn how to keep from beating yourself, you've got a better chance to win. You can go right back to that AFC Championship Game."
How does a team weed out unfocused players, what Namath calls "loose horses"?
"It's the coaching staff, and it's the leaders in the locker room," he said. "I see [C.J.] Mosley's there — that's adding somebody. And yes, I like Quinnen [Williams] big-time. But we have other leaders there. [Leonard] Williams has been looking outstanding and I can only guess that he's a leader. Jamal [Adams] wants to play, wants to get it done properly. That's got to be contagious, learning discipline to keep from beating yourselves, not busting assignments, being ready to do things, not making mental errors through proper practice.
"And it comes down to Coach Gase and his staff. What are they going to accept? How are they going to demand these guys conduct themselves prior to the season, throughout the practice sessions and throughout the season."
Then Namath gave one of his hearty laughs, which often indicates a ridiculously "insurmountable" obstacle ahead but one that can be hurdled because, well, he and his band of Jets did just that a half-century ago.
"How do you demand something from a guy that's making 10 million, 5 million, a rookie making half a million dollars? It's not easy," he said. "And that's why there's only one champion a year, I guess."