INDIANAPOLIS -- As today is the AFC championship game and the New York Jets are playing, there has been a ton of pre-game hype about this game. Part of that hype has included the Jets playoff history (which is short) and particularly their performance in championship games.
A couple of those championship games have connections to Miami. The Jets one and only Super Bowl title came in Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts. The Colts were coached by Don Shula, who went on to coach the Dolphins and is the winningest coach of all time.
Another game Jets fans and media speak much about is the 1983 AFC title game. Dolphins 14, Jets zippo. In typical New York fashion, this loss has been rationalized and blamed on, of all people, Shula. I'm not making this stuff up.
Google "Jets and tarp and Shula" and you'll get a ton of articles, including this one this week in the Newark Star-Ledger, in which an otherwise respected journalist claims Shula ordered the grounds crew at the Orange Bowl not to place the tarp on the field on a day it was raining in Miami in order to give the Dolphins an advantage.
Aside from how stupid that sounds based on the fact it means it was raining on ground the Dolphins as well as the Jets were using, I actually decided to do what journalists used to do, and go to a source on the topic to find out the truth.
"Tha'ts an insult to my intelligence," Shula told me moments ago when I asked if he ordered the tarp in the Orange Bowl not to be used on the field. "If there was ever a coach that wanted to play a game on a fast track, I was that guy. I've heard of the Jets accusing us of not putting the tarp on the field or some nonsense like that but it's ridiculous.
"I did a radio show where they asked me about that and one of the hosts was obviously a Jets fan and he said I did that. I told him, 'You've got to be stupid to think I would something like that.' I like playing a game in the best possible conditions. It's the truer test for both teams."
Well, that settles that. Shula isn't re-writing history here. He's got no agenda because his reputation has already been written, both good and bad.
And he recognizes that on the bad side of the ledger is that fateful Super Bowl III that, as he says, "was the Joe Namath guarantee game."
That was New York's one and only NFL championship. And it set the stage for Shula coming to Miami.
"That game had a big impact on my career because after we lost, my relationship with the owner was never the same," Shula said. "Carroll Rosenbloom was the owner than and he'd get on the phone and take a lot of heat from his New York buddies for losing the game and then he'd get on the phone and pass the heat on to me.
"I lasted another year in Baltimore after that, but it was never the same between us. It's the main reason I ended up in Miami."
Shula said he'll be watching the both title games today, including the AFC game between the Jets and Colts.
"What the Jets have done is pretty amazing with a rookie quarterback and to come the way they've come," Shula said. "Mike Westhoff is a is friend of mine and I'm happy for him. And I'm happy for Brian Schottenheimer because he's Marty's son and Marty Schottenheimer is a close friend of mine."
So Shula likes some of the folks on the Jets.
"They're going against one of the best guys to play the game and there's not a lot they can do about that," Shula said. "I would never pick against Peyton Manning. It's unbelievable what he does. Whatever the situation is in the game, you never feel like you're safe if Manning is the other quarterback. He's one of the best of all time and when he's done he'll probably have all the records.
"You can't pick against him."
And Shula doesn't. He's picking the Colts.
[BLOG NOTE: Yup, we'll have a live blog in the comments section during the AFC title game. Go there, discuss the action with fellow Dolfans and others, and enjoy a big afternoon of football.]