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AFC VS. NFC (CONT.)
Wellington attempts to explain away the AFC's winning record by quoting figures on the post-1969 records of the three switchover teams—the Colts, Browns and Steelers. He credits these three teams with being the decisive factor in the AFC's reaching a superior level. Taken as a group, the won-lost figures he quotes (which include all games against all opponents) indicate that Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland have been successful overall. However, for two reasons, the figures are really not pertinent. The facts are that in the seven seasons since the merger was finalized that Wellington talks about, two of these teams—Baltimore (53-44-1) and Cleveland (49-47-2) have been just about average. Only Pittsburgh (64-33-1) has a strong winning record. A closer look at AFC-NFC head-to-head competition shows that the three teams' combined eight-year record against NFC teams is definitely average—34 wins and 33 losses (50.7% which, ironically, is exactly the percentage by which the AFC now leads the NFC after eight years—147 wins to 143 losses).
Pittsburgh, a team that arrived in the AFC tied for the worst won-lost record in pro football (1-13 in 1969), has a 14-8 record vs. the NFC in these eight years. Baltimore is 11-11 and Cleveland is 9-14.
It is well established that Pittsburgh now is a power in pro football, but by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that the three teams are the reason the AFC has moved ahead of the NFC. Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls, but certainly not based on credentials the Steelers brought with them from the NFL. As Wellington says, Chuck Noll was a " Paul Brown disciple," but he also was an "AFL disciple," having been an assistant coach for at least five years in the AFL. Baltimore was rebuilt under Joe Thomas' guidance and he has both AFL and NFL backgrounds.
The AFC's current superiority will not last forever—these things run in cycles; however, it is healthy for pro football that opinions are voiced about who is best. In this case, I felt it important that a closer look be taken at the facts.
However, the second suggestion of a three-man officiating team should not be implemented. After watching that system in action in the Big Ten for the last five years, it is evident to me that three officials cannot adequately communicate with each other and coordinate their calls and positioning well enough. There is also an alarming tendency on the part of officials to rely too much on the other guy to make a call. This results in many out-of-position calls and, consequently, an inconsistently officiated game.