The ugly truth about the old AFL: its QBs sucked

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 08, 2012

Pro football historians are committed to the myth that the old AFL offered a "more exciting" and more "wide open" brand of football than the NFL of the 1960s. It was a storyline put forth by the AFL too sell a product ... it's a perfectly understandable strategy that ultimately yielded great results for both the AFL and NFL and for football fans.

The images are ingrained in the culture of the game and the psyche of football fans today: the AFL was wide open and exciting. The NFL was dusty, boring old smashmouth football.

The reality is quuite a bit different, though, folks.

The reality is that the 1960s were a period of revolutionary and explosive offensive play and performances in the NFL.

The reality is that the quarterbacks in the AFL sucked, and sucked badly.

The reality is that the most explosive individual offensive performers in the 1960s played in the NFL, not the AFL.

The reality is that the AFL was only more exciting in that its sh*tty, second-rate quarterbacks were far more likely to throw the ball away at any given moment.

(Hall of Famer Len Dawson was a rare exception by the way, a guy who threw the ball with NFL level accuracy and efficiency. But we just like the photo.)

In any case, we did an entire three-part statistical breakdown of the AFL several years ago called "Everything You Know About the AFL is Wrong."

It was such a ground-breaking hit that Steve Sabol and NFL Films contacted us and make it a part of their AFL 50th anniversary retrospective a couple years ago. It was quite a thrill to see all our stories posted all over the walls of Sabol's office. It was at that moment that we new the CHFFs had "made it" if you will.

Here's the truth about the AFL:

It was a slopply, turnover filled brand of football defined by pathetic passers. (See this link here for the data.) NFL passers were consistently more accurate, more efficient, less turnover prone, more likely to get the ball in the end zone  and better at getting the ball down field.

The league-wide pass pass completion percentage in the AFL never topped 50 percent in any one of its 10 seasons (1960-69). That's right: if you watched every pass attempt in the history of the AFL, and not just the highlight reels, you would have seen most of those passes hit the ground incomplete.

The pass completion percentage rate topped 50 percent in the NFL in every single one of those same 10 years.

NFL passers produced a higher passer rating in every single season.

NFL passers boasted a higher TD percentage and lower INT percentage in 9 of 10  seasons.

AFL teams passed more often, but not by much: 31 attempts per game to 28 attempts per game for NFL passers

Scoring was typically higher in AFL games, but not because the offense was better. The were typically way more turnovers and way more defensive scores in the NFL.

Almost all the great statistical offensive performers and beakout seasons of the 1960s came out of the NFL, NOT the AFL. We wrote about that topic here.

The 1965 season, by the way, was the No. 2 scoring season in the history of the NFL. More points scored than in even the pass-happy seasons of recent vintage.

So much for the boring old NFL.

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