If you ask many Jets fans the most painful loss in franchise history, you likely will get many different answer.
Some of the newest fans might point to the AFC Championship Game losses under Rex Ryan. Fans who have been around a bit longer might go to the game in Pittsburgh in the 2004 Playoffs or the AFC Championship Game in Denver. Fans who have been around for a few decades might go to the collapse in Cleveland in the 1986 Playoffs or the Mud Bowl.
There is a game that should be remembered in that same pantheon. It probably does not live in Jets lore because it happened too long ago for most fans to remember.
The date was December 20, 1969. The Jets were the defending Super Bowl Champions, and their attempt to repeat brought another division title in the AFL Eastern Division. This meant hosting a Divisional Playoff Game at Shea Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.
This was not meant to be a walkover. Although the Chiefs had finished second in the AFL Western Division, they had a better record than the Jets at 11-3 to New York’s 10-4. Kansas City had also beaten the Jets in the regular season 34-16.
Blustery conditions saw winds at 25 miles per hour and made a day that was in the 30’s feel like the temperature was in the teens.
Down 6-3 in the fourth quarter, a pass interference with the Jets driving gave New York the ball at the Kansas City 1 yard line with three chances to take the lead. Two stuffed runs and an incompletion forced the Jets to settle for a tying field goal.
From there, Len Dawson hit a 61 yard pass to Otis Taylor followed by a 19 yard touchdown to Gloster Richardson for the go-ahead touchdown. The Jets twice got the ball into the red zone hoping to save their season and a chance at a repeat but were unable to score.
Kansas City won 13-6. The Chiefs went on to beat Oakland for the last AFL Championship and beat the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
The Jets’ hopes of building a dynasty went out the window. This game left a bitter legacy for the franchise. An ailing Namath was 14 of 40 with 3 interceptions. It was the last time he made the Playoffs.
Not only did it signal the end of the Namath golden era, it was the start of dark days for the Jets franchise. They would not make the Playoffs again until 1981.