As we approach the season, we are going to count down the history of Jets jersey numbers along with some of the notable players to wear each number. We will start with number 99.
When it comes to this number, one player comes to mind with the Jets. Mark Gastineau has far and away the highest approximate value of Jets number 99's. Gastineau, a second round pick out of East Central Oklahoma State in 1979, was one of the most colorful, productive, and controversial figures in Jets history.
Sacks were not an official stat in 1981, but Gastineau and Joe Klecko both had over 20. Along with Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam, Gastineau and Klecko formed a group that came to be known as the New York Sack Exchange.
Gastineau's 22 sacks in 1984 set an NFL record that would stand until 2001 when Michael Strahan broke the record in controversial fashion. He was not a particularly popular player in the locker room, though. A sign of this is that even in his record-setting season, Gastineau's teammates voted Freeman McNeil as team MVP. During the strike in 1987, he crossed the picket line, drawing the ire of teammates. He retired during the 1988 season, attributing it to fiance Brigitte Neilson's cancer diagnosis. Years later, Gastineau admitted his retirement was really due to knowledge he would fail a steroid test.
The story of Gastineau is complex. He was a four time Pro Bowler, an NFL sack leader and part of the most iconic unit in franchise history. There were also the issues in the locker room and off the field. His life after his career ended was turbulent with legal issues and a stint in jail. In recent years, his life has reportedly turned around, and Gastineau has found faith in God. The Jets brought him in for a visit last year.
Other notable Jets to wear number 99 are Hugh Douglas, former antagonist Jason Taylor, and Bryan Thomas for the first eight years of his career.