Long, long ago, on a Jets team not so far away, there was a rivalry. It was a bitter rivalry between two AFC East teams with quarterbacks from the legendary class of 1983. One team, the Miami Dolphins, had made what in retrospect was clearly the better choice that year, selecting Dan Marino with the 27th selection of the first round of the draft. The Jets, picking three slots earlier, had taken little known quarterback Ken O' Brien with the 24th selection. It was a selection easy to ridicule, especially when Marino went on to have what was up to that time the greatest season for a quarterback in NFL history in 1984. By 1985 the tables had turned and O' Brien arguably had the upper hand, leading the NFL in passer rating that year. However, within just a few more years the verdict was clear, and the Dolphins had won. Marino was an all time great; O' Brien had a few great years before declining. Still, the rivalry between the two teams brought out the best in both of the quarterbacks.
Between September 21, 1986 and September 24, 1989 the two teams squared off seven times. In all seven games the Dolphins scored 30 or more points. Would it surprise you to learn that the Dolphins lost five of those seven games? That's right, the Jets once had a quarterback not named Joe Namath that could actually consistently win wild shootouts and put up 35 plus points per game relatively often.
Which brings us to the current sad state of affairs regarding Jets quarterbacks. When was the last time you can remember saying to yourself, I don't mind if the Jets get in a shootout with a Brees or a Brady or a Peyton Manning, because the Jets have a quarterback who can win one of those? Maybe Brett Favre for part of one year?
We all know the Jets have not had much luck at the quarterback position, but it may be even worse than you think. The Jets have not finished an NFL season with an average or above passer rating since 2006. Barring a minor miracle the 2016 season will mark the tenth consecutive year the Jets have finished below average in passer rating. During this streak the Jets have finished better than 22nd in the NFL in passer rating twice. They've finished in the bottom four in the league five out of the last nine years, and are currently residing in 32nd and last place in the NFL in 2016.
To put into context just how bad it's been, there are only six other teams that have a streak of below average quarterbacking going as far back as three years. Go back five years and the list drops to five teams including the Jets. At six years only four teams are left: the Jets, the Minnesota Vikings, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns. At seven years only the Jets and the Browns are left on the list. If it's any consolation, the Browns crush even the Jets in this category. The last time the Browns finished a season above average in passer rating Chad Pennington was having his coming out party with the Jets in 2002.
Not surprisingly, the teams going through streaks like the Jets have had trouble winning playoff games. Six teams go back as far as 2012 without a single above average year in passer rating. Those teams are the Jets, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Cleveland. Jacksonville goes back to 2010; their last playoff appearance was in 2007. Tennessee goes back to 2012. They haven't made the playoffs since 2008. Minnesota goes back to 2010; they haven't won a playoff game since 2009. Tampa Bay goes back to 2011, and they haven't made the playoffs since 2007. Cleveland takes the prize, with the last year they had an above average quarterback being 2002. Not coincidentally the Browns have not had a playoff appearance since 2002. That makes the Jets an oddity among the losers in the quarterback lottery; the Jets are the only team that goes back as far as 2012 that has actually won a playoff game during the streak. The Jets won four, a tribute to Rex Ryan's defenses in his earliest days in New York.
Although it is common to hear that the Jets just never have good quarterbacks, that really isn't quite true. The Jets rarely have great quarterbacks, but they haven't had all that much trouble producing above average years before this streak started. From the 1968 Super Bowl team through 2006, the year before the current quarterback streak started, the Jets actually had above average passer ratings in 20 out of 39 seasons, which is slightly better than you would expect the average random NFL team to do. No, it isn't the track record of a team like the Colts, who seem to jump from one Hall of Fame talent at quarterback to the next, from Johnny Unitas to Bert Jones to Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. It isn't a great track record, but before 2007 it was a respectable one, even sprinkled in with a couple of #1 ratings in 1985 and 2002 along the way. Chad Pennington, Vinny Testaverde, Boomer Esiason, Ken O'Brien, Richard Todd; all were at times pretty good quarterbacks, at least for a few years, more than capable of leading a deep run in the playoffs. Before the arrival of Bill Parcells in 1997 it was much more often the collapse of the defense than the problems with the quarterback and the offense that doomed the Jets. Now of course we have the best of both worlds; a quarterback and a pass defense that are both at or near worst in the NFL levels.
The Jets are currently stuck in quarterback hell, with little relief in sight. It certainly is possible that could change as early as 2017, but there is not a whole lot of reason to bet that way. No quarterback on the current roster is a better than even bet to make it into the top half of the NFL quarterback rankings; no quarterback on the current roster is even close to that. It is possible, but it isn't probable. The good news? If there is any good news, it is this: the Jets are certainly aware of the problem and expending significant draft resources to fix it. The drought cannot last forever. If nothing else, random luck will eventually plop a good quarterback into the Jets' lap. Only the Browns have been in quarterback hell longer. Any bets on who emerges from it first?