Blanda_George_Oilers-700

AFL Assault

Blanda_George_Oilers-700
10/06/2009

When the founders of the American Football League were formulating a strategy to launch their newly formed pro circuit, they correctly realized that they needed a hook. The AFL had to stand out compared the “old guard” National Football League to capture the attention of the fans and keep them interested. The decision the league organizers made was that each team had to score. High-octane offenses that could register points at will would dazzle football fans and charge their appetite for more.

To help accomplish this, the AFL introduced a slimmer, more tapered ball which made it easier for teams to throw the ball. The leather on the aerodynamically-altered ball also had a tackier feel to it, which enabled receivers to more easily pluck the ball in midair while in flight.

The plan worked. In the AFL’s first season in 1960, each team scored an average of 24.2 points per game. In comparison, an NFL team’s average per game that same season was 21.5.

The majority of these offensive points can directly be attributed to a super-charged aerial attack. AFL quarterbacks and receivers posted eye-popping numbers throughout the 10 seasons that the league existed.

One particular player who benefitted greatly from the open style of play was Denver Broncos receiver Lionel Taylor. Not only did he lead the AFL in receptions from 1960 to 1963 and again in ‘65, but he posted the first 100-catch season in pro football history in 1961. In 1964 Charley Hennigan of the Houston Oilers bested Taylor’s mark by one when he hauled in 101 passes.

Quarterbacks also prospered in the pass-happy league. The Oilers’ George Blanda lifted his name atop the record books when he passed for 36 touchdowns on 3,330 yards in 1961. Then in 1967, New York Jets great Joe Namath passed for 4,007 yards to become the first quarterback to surpass the 4,000-yard plateau.

The vision the AFL founders conceived and employed was a wise one. The offenses that evolved from their early days in the league laid the foundation for many of the game plans that teams employ today.

AFL's Leading Receivers by Season

1960 Lionel Taylor, Denver Broncos 92 1,235 12
1961 Lionel Taylor, Denver Broncos 100 1,176 4
1962 Lionel Taylor, Denver Broncos 77 908 4
1963 Lionel Taylor, Denver Broncos 78 1,101 10
1964 Charley Hennigan, Houston Oilers 101 1,546 8
1965 Lionel Taylor, Denver Broncos 85 1,131 6
1966 Lance Alworth#, San Diego Chargers 73 1,383 13
1967 George Sauer, New York Jets 75 1,189 6
1968 Lance Alworth#, San Diego Chargers 68 1,312 10
1969 Lance Alworth#, San Diego Chargers 64 1,003 4


AFL's Leading Passers by Season

1960 Jack Kemp, Los Angeles Chargers 406 211 3,018 20 25
1961 George Blanda#, Houston Oilers 362 187 3,330 36 22
1962 Len Dawson#, Dallas Texans 310 189 2,759 29 17
1963 Tobin Rote, San Diego Chargers 286 170 2,510 20 17
1964 Len Dawson#, Kansas City Chiefs 354 199 2,879 30 18
1965 John Hadl, San Diego Chargers 348 174 2,798 20 21
1966 Len Dawson#, Kansas City Chiefs 284 159 2,527 26 10
1967 Darryl Lamonica, Oakland Raiders 425 220 3,228 30 20
1968 Len Dawson#, Kansas City Chiefs 224 131 2,109 17 9
1969 Greg Cook, Cincinnati Bengals 197 106 1,854 15 11

 

 # - Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame


  50 Years After - Follow Profootballhof.com all season long as we flashback to memorable moments and personalities that made the AFL a league to remember.
 

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