This week on SB Nation our NFL team sites are asking a question. What was the best team in franchise history to not win the championship?
The Jets have one Super Bowl win, which came over 50 years ago. Since that team, the franchise has made it to the AFC Championship Game four times. All four were losses. The 1982 Jets lost to the Dolphins in the infamous Mud Bowl. The 1998 Jets lost to the defending champion Denver Broncos, who went on to repeat two weeks later. In 2009 the Jets lost to Peyton Manning and the Colts, and a year later they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In my lifetime the choice would come down to the 1998 and 2010 teams. The 2009 team was a 9-7 team with a great defense, a dominant offensive line, and a top shelf run game. The team was really held back by the passing game. Although Mark Sanchez remained limited a year later, he showed marginal growth, and the Jets provided more weapons in the passing game with the additions of Santonio Holmes and LaDanian Tomlinson along with a full season of Braylon Edwards.
Which team was better? I think it is a split decision. I believe the 1998 team would win if the two teams played. It was a more complete team with legendary coaches on its staff.
I think the 2010 team had a better chance to get to the Super Bowl, though. The 1998 Jets weren’t the best team in the NFL. They weren’t the second best team in the NFL. Those were the 14-2 Broncos who won it all and the 15-1 Vikings. You could even argue the Jets weren’t the third best team in the NFL that year. The Falcons went 14-2 and won the NFC Championship. The Jets did beat them handily in a regular season game that year, but Atlanta was playing without its quarterback.
In 2010 there might have been teams as talented as the Jets, but I don’t think any team was more talented. That team missed the Super Bowl only because it turned in a no show in the first half of the AFC Championship Game.
The 1982 team was before my time, but it has a viable argument.
From a historical standpoint, though, I would argue the greatest Jets team to not win it all does not come from the group of AFC runners up.
I think it was the 1969 Jets. This team was the defending champion after its Super Bowl III win and won the AFL East division by four games. The Jets suffered a crushing home Playoff defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs. I wrote about this game four years ago.
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.
The reason I would put this team at the top of the list is simple. It had the same core as the Super Bowl III team. With the other Jets squads there was always the question of whether the team could ultimately come together to win it all. This team already had done it.
With that I turn the floor over to you. Which Jets team do you think was the best to not win it all?
Which was the best Jets team to not win the championship?
This poll is closed
Other (Mention in the comments the team you are choosing)