Recap: Before revealing the greatest Jet to play the game, let’s review the countdown.
#10 – Wayne Chrebet breaks ground for undrafted players everywhere
#9 – One of the most dominant pass rushers of his era, Gerry Philbin
#8 – Darrelle Revis, on pace to become the greatest cornerback of all-time (with another team)
#7 – No quarterback escapes Mark Gastineau
#6 – The original Jet, Larry Grantham
#5 – Every quarterback’s best friend: Winston Hill
#4 – Don Maynard, who retired as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver
#3 – A running back who could do it all, Curtis Martin
#2 – The should-be Hall of Famer, the always dominant Joe Klecko
#1A – The glue that keeps the team together, Jets Fans
And The Number One New York Jet of All-Time…
Yeah, bet you didn’t see that one coming. Mark Sanchez has more playoff victories than any Jets QB in history, he is the only QB in team history to lead the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship games. He is on pace to become the greatest….
Oh who am I kidding, I can’t even type this without wanting to cut my own fingers off.
For all of his “accomplishments,” Mark Sanchez has done less with more than any QB to ever play for the Jets. Watching him play can make you feel ashamed to even root for the Jets because he is so awful. His Butt-Fumble on National Television may be one of the most embarrassing follies in NFL history, even worse than the “Wrong Way Run” or Miracles at the Meadowlands. I think we’ve all had enough of Mark Sanchez pretending that he’s a leader because he’s not. No, a real quarterback with real accomplishments belongs at the top of the list. It shouldn’t be someone people want to think can become good, but someone who actually WAS the best.
And now, the REAL Number One New York Jet of All-Time…
“Broadway Joe,” Joe Namath
Coming out of the University of Alabama, doctors told Joe Namath he’d have an NFL career of maybe two or three years before his knees gave out permanently. Not only did Namath exceed those expectations – missing only 1 game in his first 5 seasons – he went on to become one of the most decorated quarterbacks of all-time, and in many ways saved both the AFL and NFL with his legendary “guarantee” in Superbowl III.
Joe Namath is the Jets all-time leader in QB starts, wins, passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, 4th quarter comebacks, and most importantly, Superbowl Wins. He was a 5-time Pro Bowler in the AFL and NFL, and was named the AFL MVP in 1968 and 1969.
Namath was far more than just a great QB – and for his era he was a really good quarterback – he was a cultural icon: signing the largest contract in NFL history, thus changing the salary system so future teams would invest money on potential rather than production. He was an advertising legend, modeling everything from clothing to panty-hose. He appeared on talk-shows, prime time television, even the Brady Bunch and changed the perception of NFL players from being violent, macho tough guys to celebrities.
In 1967, Joe Namath became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4000 yards – a mark that would not be reached again for over a decade afterwards, and has still never been broken by any other Jet.
I could waste everyone’s time talking about how Namath was also extremely inaccurate – he led the league in interceptions 4 times, while only leading in TDs once and yards only 3 times. In 12 years with the Jets his completion percentage was only 50.2%. But I’d rather talk about the only thing that really matters in football: Championships
Joe Namath led the Jets to an AFL Championship game in 1968 against the defending AFL Champions, the Oakland Raiders. After falling behind, Namath led the Jets on an amazing 4th quarter game winning drive, throwing a TD to Don Maynard to clinch the Jets only Championship win – and at home no less, the only time the Jets have hosted the game.
Leading up to Superbowl III, the Jets were 19-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts, who had led the NFL in every major category – wins, points scored, and points allowed. They were led by NFL MVP Earl Morral and had legends like John Mackey, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis and Tom Matte on the starting lineup – with Johnny Unitas waiting on the bench.
Every major pundit, reporter and news outlet predicted the Jets would be not only beaten but crushed, much like the Packers had to the prior two AFL teams, but much worse. Namath was asked the question if he thought the Jets would win, and he famously not just predicted, but GUARANTEED the Jets would beat the Colts.
Despite the immense pressure, the team was so far ahead by the 4th quarter that he didn’t even need to throw a pass in that quarter. Namath played a great game in Superbowl III, going 17 for 28 with 206 passing yards and was named Superbowl MVP. Namath also became the first QB in history to win a major championship both in college and the NFL.
Namath’s win in Superbowl III had an extremely large impact on the future of football. The win remains as the greatest upset in American sports history. It proved that the AFL teams could match up with the NFL on all levels of play, and made the upcoming merger much more respectful and mutual.
The American public also became enthralled with football, perhaps more so than after the legendary 1958 Championship game, and we all know how important football has become in America since then.
Namath never won another playoff game after that win. A trip to the Playoffs in 1969 was ended quickly by the Chiefs and the Jets wouldn’t return to the playoffs for the rest of the 1970s. But Namath still played at a high level even as the injuries began piling on.
In 1970, Namath played in the very first game of Monday Night Football against the Browns. In 1972 he won an epic shootout with Johnny Unitas, throwing an eye-opening 496 yards and 6 touchdowns in a 44-34 win.
Namath left the Jets after 1976 and played less than one season with the Rams before calling it a career.
Joe Namath was named the Quarterback of the AFL All-Time team, the Jets QB on their All-Time Team, his jersey #12 was retired and he was an inaugural member of the Jets Ring of Honor in 2010. In 1985 Joe Namath became the first career Jet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As far as lists of the greatest Jets of All-Time go, Joe Namath stands atop Mount Everest, by comparison, all other Jets live in Death Valley.
Joe Namath is more than just the greatest Jets QB of All-Time. He IS the Jets – all Jets players that don the Green and White try to emulate his accomplishments, his potential and his swagger.
There is only one number that Namath deserves. It’s the number he showed on his raised arm as he jogged off the field in victory with the Jets first Superbowl win: Number One.