Monday, November 22, 2010

Six... no, scratch that... Sixteen degrees of Joe Namath.

Each year new people get hooked on football and become the game's newest fans.  A local NFL franchise becomes the easy default for these newly found football fanatics, but sometimes you don't have a team in your city, or your state, or even your region for that matter.   Then it becomes a game or series of games that you might see on TV that inspire you to follow a team.

With their dramatic wins telecast over the past three weeks, it is quite possible that the New York Jets have picked up some new fans across the country.  I would discourage those who have a medical history of heart problems from following the Jets.  But for those who are good with potential heartbreak and disappointment, I've put together a guide, six degrees of Kevin Bacon style, showing how the Jets have gone from Joe Namath, quarterback the last time the Jets won the Superbowl, almost 42 years ago, to Mark Sanchez, their current quarterback and man responsible for the recent late game comeback heroics.

Joe Namath 1965 - 1976
"Joe Willie," "Broadway Joe," "The Face of the Franchise," Joe Namath was, without question, the greatest quarterback to lead the Jets.  The pride of the Crimson Tide or as Bear Bryant referred to him "the greatest athlete I ever coached" Namath led Alabama to a National Championship and then led the New York Jets to a Superbowl III win after guaranteeing a victory.  Its the only time the Jets have made a Superbowl appearance.  Besides selling panty hose and shaving cream,  Namath tried acting and color commentating.  He was elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

Richard Todd 1977, 1979 - 1983
Another starting quarterback from the Alabama Crimson Tide, Todd was drafted in the first round by the Jets in 1976.  After Namath went to the Los Angeles Rams. Todd took over as the Jets starting quarterback.  He set the record for most completions in a game, 42, which was eventually broken by Drew Bledsoe in 1994.  But Todd is mostly remembered for another record, most interceptions thrown in a season in 1980.   Todd actually threw more interceptions than touchdowns.  This became a sign of things to come for future New York Jets quarterbacks, never being able to live up to Namath's reputation.

Matt Robinson 1978
Matt Robinson, out of the University of Georgia, served briefly as a starter for the Jets, but mostly as a back up. He went on to play for the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills.

Pat Ryan 1984
Pat Ryan was a long time backup for the Jets, 1978 - 1990 and briefly led the team in 1984.  Out of the University of Tennessee, he was selected late in the 1978 draft and played his last season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Ken O'Brien 1985 - 1991
First round draft pick out of UC Davis, drafted three picks before Dan Marino, O'Brien threw for 25,094 yards in his career.  He went to the Pro Bowl in 1985 and 1991.  He was considered one of the most accurate passers to ever play the game.  With a better team, O'Brien could have been one of the game's greats.

Browning Nagle 1992
Selected in round 2 of the draft, out of Louisville, Nagle was picked right after the Falcons select another future New York Jets quarterback, Brett Favre.

Boomer Esiason 1993 - 1995
A second round draft pick out of the University of Maryland, Boomer Esiason gained most of his notoriety while playing with the Cincinnati Bengals.  His time with the New York Jets was uneventful.  By the time he finished his career, he had gone to the Pro Bowl four times and was named the NFL MVP for 1988, the same year he led the Bengals to the Superbowl, just barely losing to the 49ers 20 to 16.

Frank Reich 1996
Just like Esiason, Reich was a graduate of the University of Maryland and his tenure with the Jets was uneventful.  Frank Reich is currently the quarterback coach for the Indianapolis Colts.

Neil O'Donnell 1997
Also out the the University of Maryland, he took the Jets to an 0-6 record before a suffering season ending shoulder injury.  Quite a few fans were happy to see him go.

Vinny Testaverde 1998, 2000 - 2001 (back up until 2005)
A Heisman Trophy winner in 1986 out of the University of Miami.  Testaverde holds the NFL records for most touchdown passes to a different player (70 players), the most consecutive seasons throwing a touchdown pass (21 consecutive) the second highest completion percentage in a single game (91.3% 21/23)  So why does the name Testaverde still send shivers down the spines of NY Jets fans?  Maybe it's his other NFL record for most career losses by a starting quarterback (123)

Ray Lucas 1999
A graduate of Rutgers, Lucas spent most of his career as a backup quarterback.  He started for the Jets when Vinny Testaverde was injured at the beginning of the 1999 season.  He led the team to an 8-8 record.  Lucas followed Bill Parsells from the New England Patriots to the Jets and finished his career with the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens.

Chad Pennington 2002 - 2007
Picked number 18 in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft, Chad Pennington brought new life and hope to the Jets franchise and fans because of his exceptional skills.  Coming in as a replacement for Testaverde, Pennington took the 1-4 Jets and led them to a 9-7 record, winning the AFC East division championship.  Jets fans finally thought they had a chance to win it all until the next season when Pennington took a nasty hit, fracturing and dislocating his non throwing hand.  But that great hope resurfaced in the 2004 season when Pennington led the Jets to a 5-0 start.  But then he injured his rotator cuff.  He has never been the same.

Brooks Bollinger 2005
Bollinger only made the pain of losing Pennington worse.  He never really clicked with the team. He went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions before finding his current home with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL where he was named the league's MVP in 2009.

Kellen Clemens 2007
Out of the University of Oregon, Kellen Clemens has been with the Jets since 2006, mostly as the backup QB. Clemens became a starter when Pennington was pulled for bad performance in 2007.  To date, he's only started in nine game, eight of them coming in 2007 and has a 4-5 record.

Brett Favre 2008
Out of the University of Southern Mississippi, he was the longtime quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, but as mentioned earlier, he was originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.  His career accomplishments are well known, clearly he is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.  But Jets fans were more excited to see him leave the team than they were when it was announced that Favre was coming out of retirement to become a Jet.  A member of the Minnesota Vikings for two seasons now, as I discussed in a previous post, it just might be time for him to retire. 

Mark Sanchez 2009 - present
After three championship seasons with the Trojans of USC, Mark Sanchez bypassed his senior year to enter the 2009 NFL.  The New York Jets traded to get an earlier draft position and picked up Sanchez in the first round, the fifth player to be drafted that year.  Sanchez has brought new life back to the franchise and grows as a player with each game.  

With Rex Ryan as Head Coach and other Jets like Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Mike DeVito, John Conner, Braylon Edwards, Shaun Ellis, D'Brickahaw Ferguson, Santonio Holmes,  Dustin Keller, Nick Mangold, Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets fans are starting to hope, and against their better judgement, starting to feel like this team could be headed for a Superbowl some time in the near future.  But as a Jets fan, you must keep those feelings in check.  Forty two years of disappointment have proven you can't get too excited too early.


  1. wow. I was going to make fun of all the has beens and never was' in that list until I started doing a mental list for my team, the Cowboys, between Aikman and Romo.

    Yeash...... you win.

  2. Pretty crazy I know everyone from Ken O'Brien (or at least saw them play).

    Great stuff - I'd do the Bengals, but it'd be more painful than enjoyable!