EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Joe Namath was surrounded by a few dozen of his former New York Jets teammates and was again — as always — the center of attention.
Broadway Joe held court at MetLife Stadium on Sunday as part of the team's 50th anniversary celebration of the franchise's only squad to win the Super Bowl. And, the former Jets quarterback thinks the fans won't have to wait another 50 years to see another title.
Not even close.
"I'm as optimistic as I could possibly be," Namath said a few hours before the Jets' game against the Indianapolis Colts. "Really, I think all of us are pulling for the Jets to win a championship, mainly for the fans, as well as the players and all. Over the years, players come and go, ownership changes, coaches change, but the fans have been there since '63, and all of us would love to see the fans get another championship."
The Jets have been searching for a franchise-type quarterback since the glory days of Namath. Several players have had their moments over the years, but the team hopes it has its guy — finally — in rookie Sam Darnold.
Namath has met Darnold and spoken to him a few times, and thinks the youngster has lots of promise. But, he warns, it's not just about the quarterback.
"I like what I saw of him in college and what the coaches have had to say about him and his teammates, yeah, I like him," Namath said. "But you know it takes up front, outside, two sides of the ball. It's a team game. Sam will be good. You just need all the pieces to fit, though. You've got to have a complete team."
When a reporter suggested that it takes time to build that for most teams, Namath laughed.
"You know, 50 years is enough time," Namath said. "Fifty-one, 52, they should be getting it done in the next few years."
The Jets are 2-3 and looking to win consecutive games for the first time in more than a year. They're still building for the future, and Namath declined to give his full thoughts on this year's squad.
"If I really said what I thought, I would be misinterpreted, so I'm not going there," he said. "I'm pulling for them. Let's just leave it at that, you know? They're going to keep improving and don't say a team can't beat another team. On any given day, the Jets can beat anybody. We've got to see what happens today."
Darnold and the Jets defeated the Colts 42-34, with Jason Myers setting a franchise record by kicking seven field goals.
Namath was also asked about the other quarterback in town, Eli Manning, who is struggling through a tough season as the Giants are off to a 1-5 start. There have been suggestions that the 37-year-old Manning could be nearing the end of his career. Namath, who spent his final NFL season with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977, knows what it's like having to deal with the difficult decision of having to call it quits.
"It depends on the guy, depends on the dude, you know?" Namath said. "Eli, if he's coming to that time and they talk about it, I bet you he handles that better than 99 percent of the dudes that come to the end."
Namath, who famously delivered on his Super Bowl guarantee and beat the then-Baltimore Colts in 1969, was thrilled to be spending time with so many of his former teammates such as Don Maynard, Emerson Boozer, Earl Christy and John Schmitt who helped lead one of the biggest moments in pro football history.
The team was honored during a halftime ceremony at midfield, and a green and white banner that reads "Super Bowl III Champions" was unveiled near one of the top sections of the stadium.
"It's a joy," Namath said of being with some of his former teammates. "It's sincerely a joy. It's like you've not been apart. Guys you haven't seen for years, it's like normal. It's, like, comfortable.'
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