Every fanbase covets superstar talent and there’s no question that this is something the 2018 and 2019 Jets didn’t have enough of.
However, there’s a school of thought that suggests the best way to build a team for sustainable success is by filling out your roster with players who are not necessarily stars but still productive contributors so that the team has depth and as few weaknesses as possible.
For example, back in 2008, the Jets had seven pro bowlers. However their obvious weaknesses at inside linebacker and safety and lack of a true number one receiver made them vulnerable so they lost four of their last five to miss the postseason.
Let’s therefore look back at such contributors from Jets history by making an all-Jets team comprised of players that never made the pro bowl (or AFL all-star game) and were never voted as an all-pro. We’ll do this in two parts, starting with the offense today and then finishing up with the defense and our conclusions.
For the purposes of this exercise, a player is ineligible for the team if he has been to a pro bowl or selected as a first-team all-pro, even if that occurred when he was playing for a different team before or after joining the Jets.
Immediately, we’re faced with a tough choice between Chad Pennington and Richard Todd, each of whom led the Jets to the postseason multiple times but let’s give Pennington the edge because he did it one more time. Pennington had a pro bowl-worthy season in 2002 but didn’t win the starting role until near midseason, by which time he was too far behind in the voting.
The running back spot is a toss-up between Johnny Hector and Adrian Murrell. Hector led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 1987 and set a team record with 40 carries in a 1986 win over New England. However, despite posting six 100-yard games in his nine years as a Jet, he was always in Freeman McNeil’s shadow. Murrell gets the nod for posting nine 100-yard games and two thousand-yard seasons in his five years as a Jet.
The fullback is a no-brainer. In addition to being a good blocker, Brad Baxter was a solid short yardage back who led the AFC in rushing touchdowns in 1991 and spent his entire seven-year career with the Jets.
The Jets have been blessed with many great receivers in their history. However, most of them have been to at least one pro bowl, rendering them ineligible. Undoubtedly the best Jets receiver never to have gone to one was Wayne Chrebet despite developing into one of the best possession receivers in the league with his hands, route running and toughness.
Joining the ultimate underdog on this team was a player who embodied many of the same qualities in Jerricho Cotchery. Each had one thousand-yard season as a Jet, but Cotchery might be best remembered for the play in a 2010 overtime win against the Browns where he went down with an injury but still worked to get open for a spectacular diving catch.
Once again, all the best tight ends in team history have been to at least one pro bowl, leaving us with a decision between a pass catcher who can’t block in Dustin Keller and a blocking tight end who can’t catch in Anthony Becht. Let’s go with Becht because we’ll need a big target and at least he was capable of producing in the red zone with 17 touchdown in five years.
The Jets can put together a solid interior line made up of players who never went to a pro bowl with John Schmitt at center and Randy Rasmussen and Dan Alexander at guard.
Schmitt and Rasmussen comprised two-fifths of the offensive line when the Jets won Super Bowl III, as Schmitt heroically fought off a bout of pneumonia to keep Joe Namath upright. Rasmussen earned the moniker “Mr. Jet” as he was still going strong in the Sack Exchange era with 1981 being his 15th and final season. Alexander “only” started for 13 years, as he’s sixth on the team in total games.
The versatile Jim Sweeney also deserves a spot on this team, having started at guard and tackle before tacking over from Joe Fields as the full time center from 1988 to 1994. In order to make this line function correctly, Sweeney would probably have to move to tackle, but that’s fine; the team went to the playoffs in each of his two seasons in that role.
Finally, the other tackle would be Jason Fabini, who was the only one of these five not to start for at least a decade as a Jet. He lasted eight years, which just happen to coincide with the eight years that Curtis Martin was on the team, generating many of his yards thanks to Fabini’s blocking. Fabini started all 16 games in six of those eight seasons.
Look out for part two, with defense and special teams, soon.