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Browning Nagle Would Start For The 2016 Jets

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Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Think quick, who is the poster child for the New York Jets 40+ years and running futile quest for a franchise quarterback? Some might say Mark Sanchez, or Geno Smith, but for those who remember a quarter century back, one name stands out: Browning Nagle.

Nagle was drafted by the Jets out of Louisville University as the 34th overall pick in the second round of the 1991 NFL draft. The 33rd pick that year was a fellow some of you may be familiar with. The Jets wanted to draft him, but the Atlanta Falcons grabbed him first.  Fellow by the name of Brett Favre.  Oops.

Nagle was a 6' 3", 225 pound quarterback with a howitzer for an arm.  Arm talent wasn't Nagle's problem.  Every other imaginable kind of talent was.

Browning Nagle sat behind Ken O'  Brien for a year before taking over full time as the Jets quarterback in 1992.  After leading the Jets to what is to this day their only 5-0 preseason record in 1992 with a high flying, bombs away vertical attack, Jets fans were excited to see what Nagle could do in real games. Visions of Super Bowls danced in Jets fans heads.  Alas, it was not to be.

The 1992 Jets were a 4-12 mess, and one of the primary reasons was the complete ineptitude of Browning Nagle. He couldn't do pre-snap reads, he couldn't do post-snap reads, he couldn't go through his progressions, he couldn't throw with touch or anticipation.  About all Browning Nagle could do was throw the ball really, really hard. Think Matt Simms, 1992 model.

Nagle started off the 1992 season with a bang, throwing for 366 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 100+ passer rating in an opening day 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the team that beat the Jets to Brett Favre.   It was literally the high point of Nagle's career. He would never again start a game in which he exceeded a 90 passer rating. Nagle would never again throw for more than 200 yards in a game.  It got so bad in 1992 that over the last six games, five of which ended in Jets defeats, the Jets did not exceed 7 points on offense in four of them and did not exceed 160 yards passing in five of the six games.

Browning Nagle was a disaster for the 1992 Jets. He was so bad the Jets gave up on him and imported Boomer Esiason to start in 1993. Nagle only started one more game his entire career, a career that somehow managed to stretch into the 1996 campaign, though he was gone from the Jets by 1994.  In an ironic twist Nagle wound up his final days in the NFL with (this team keeps cropping up) the Atlanta Falcons.

Ever since the failed Browning Nagle experiment Nagle has been a poster child, for Jets fans old enough to remember, for how terrible the Jets are in drafting quarterbacks.  The thought is it could always be worse, we could have another Browning Nagle starting.

Sadly, the 2016 Jets kind of do have another Browing Nagle starting. In fact the 2016 Jets kind of have three or four Browning Nagles. There is an argument to be made that Browning Nagle would be the best available quarterback on the 2016 Jets roster.

Here's how it goes.  Quarterbacks can only be measured against others of their eras. The game has changed so much that statistics compared over decades are meaningless.  Hall of Fame quarterbacks from the 1970s have passer ratings that would place them at the bottom of the league today.  So let's compare apples to apples and see how the Jets quarterbacks stand up to their peers compared to how Nagle did in 1992.

The following is a handy dandy chart of unsurpassed genius showing Ryan Fitzpatrick's numbers in comparison to NFL averages in 2016.  100 is league average.  Scores above 100 are better than average; scores below 100 are worse than average.

Yards/Attempt

Completion %

TD %

INT %

Passer

Rating

88

75

81

67

69

Here is Bryce Petty's 2016 chart.

Yards/Attempt

Completion %

TD %

INT %

Passer

Rating

77

79

74

60

62

And here is Browning Nagle circa 1992.

Yards/Attempt

Completion %

TD %

INT %

Passer

Rating

82

74

78

87

72

Geno Smith's 2016 numbers are better than any of them, but he only played for half of one game and has been injured the rest of the way, so we're not considering him here.

As you can see it's a close call, but Nagle actually stacks up as the best of the three quarterbacks in passer rating and interception %.  While hardly a slam dunk, there is an argument to be made that Browning Nagle -- THE Browning Nagle, poster child for just how bad it can get at quarterback for the Jets -- would rightfully be the starting quarterback for the 2016 Jets.  Ever wonder how bad can it get?  In the case of the Jets quarterback position there is an answer. This is how bad it can get. You're looking at it every week.  The 2016 Jets would quite possibly be starting Browning Nagle at quarterback even if they already knew how bad he was.  How about that?