It was recently announced that the NFL will cut this year’s preseason schedule in half, condensing it into two weeks and effectively getting rid of the first and last game for most teams. Since then, the NFLPA has been trying to get the league to cancel this year’s preseason altogether.
With the possibility in future years that the regular season could be extended with the preseason shortened in a corresponding move, this could mean that the usual four-game preseason campaign could be a thing of the past.
Giants head coach Joe Judge has already expressed a desire to get away from the Jets facing this Giants every year in preseason - which is fine, but we get to keep Snoopy - so it’s clear some kind of a shake-up is on the horizon.
The bigger tragedy, however, will be that we may never again see the traditional final preseason game between the Jets and Eagles, with all starters rested and the bottom-of-the-roster players trying to make a case for themselves.
This was an occasion generally met with boredom and disinterest by the media, whose focus always tends to be on the bigger names. However, we know that true die-hards that spend their time perusing team blogs like this one share our obsession with the long-shots and minutiae.
As such, the annual Jets-Eagles back-up fest - or, as many fans have come to know it “The Bollinger Bowl” - has actually been a fascinating staple of the offseason over the years.
To mark its impending demise, we’re going to share our top 10 most memorable Bollinger Bowl performances, proving how significant and worthwhile this dying tradition has been:
10. Chat Show (2008)
This game always afforded a long-shot backup a good chance to excel and earn themselves a spot on the 53 and running back Jesse Chatman achieved that back in 2008. Sort of.
Chatman rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown and also caught six passes for 87 yards in a 27-20 Jets win. He made it onto the 53, but then it was revealed that he was going to be suspended for the first four games. In the end, he was a non-factor with just 13 yards from scrimmage and four special teams tackles on the year.
9. A glimpse into the future (2007)
In his first year as a Jet, a young defensive tackle had played in just five games with no starts, so he had to fight for a role in his second season with the team. He ended up locking down a spot with three sacks and two forced fumbles in the final preseason game and ended up being a key reserve with two starts during the regular season.
The most interesting thing about this player, though, is his name: CJ Mosley. While he is not related to the Jets’ current starting linebacker, hopefully we’ll be seeing more excellent CJ Mosley performances in the coming years.
8. The Eagle has landed (2010)
It wasn’t just Jets that made a name for themselves in this game. Eagles safety Kurt Coleman secured a roster spot by returning two fumbles for touchdowns in the final preseason match-up.
Nearly a decade later, Coleman is still in the league, although he doesn’t have a team right now having spent last season with the Bills.
7. Simms bounces back (2013)
Matt Simms’ first ever preseason action in 2012 was somewhat unceremonious, as he ended up getting sacked on five consecutive dropbacks. However, he made the most of his shot in 2013 and ended up seeing some regular season action later that year.
Simms completed 33 of 44 passes for 285 yards in another 27-20 Jets win. 33 pass completions is pretty impressive. In regular season action, that’s only been done eight times in franchise history and only twice since 2000.
6. Berning Hammer (2011)
While it ultimately didn’t lead to anything, little-known rookie linebacker Matthias Berning turned heads with a sensational performance to earn a practice squad spot. Berning was flying around everywhere laying the wood as he racked up four run stuffs and a bone-rattling quarterback hit.
Berning’s college teammate Nick Bellore, whose roster spot was perhaps in danger of going to Berning, ended up establishing himself as a special teams specialist and is about to enter his tenth season.
5. Kyle goes the extra mile (2019)
Last year’s game was a memorable pitching duel, with the Jets winning a gripping encounter 6-0. However, one player’s impact had a major effect on the season.
Kyle Phillips racked up two sacks, clinching a roster spot which most people assumed would be earmarked for third-round pick Jachai Polite. He ended up leading all Jets rookies in snaps and will look to build on that this season.
4. Therein lies the Robb (2016)
Entering into the 2016 preseason, the Jets already had Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa at wide receiver. The chances of undrafted rookie Robby Anderson making the roster, let alone playing a significant role, seemed slim.
However, in the final preseason game, Anderson caught two passes for 61 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown pass. That was Anderson’s third game in a row with a touchdown and - after riding the bench initially - Anderson ended up having the best season by a Jets rookie receiver since Keyshawn Johnson 20 years beforehand.
3. Take him behind the Woodhead (2009)
Danny Woodhead always had his doubters due to his lack of size, but had set the all-divisions single season rushing record at Chadron State. He sought to show he could be productive at the NFL level in the final preseason game of 2009 having spent his rookie year on injured reserve. He ended up exploding for 158 yards and two scores, solidifying his credentials.
Woodhead ended up being one of the biggest “what-if”s in franchise history. Had Woodhead, who had been playing at wide receiver, been active for the AFC title game against the Colts instead of David Clowney, the Jets might have had a chance to protect their first half lead. Unfortunately, their running game was non-existent with Shonn Green and Thomas Jones both banged up. Of course, he would ultimately become a key contributor ... for the Patriots.
2. Snacks avoids the ax (2012)
Another undrafted player fighting for his career in the final preseason was Damon Harrison eight years ago. Martin “MTV” Tevaseu started the game and was expected to earn the backup nose tackle role. However, Harrison outplayed him with three run stuffs at the line of scrimmage.
The next day, media reports indicated that Harrison had been released, but that wasn’t the case as he remained on the roster all year. While he barely played in 2012, Harrison became a starter and contributed consistently from 2013 onwards.
1. The Bollinger Bowl Origin Story (2005)
Many would assume that calling this game “The Bollinger Bowl” was a disparaging way of mocking the quality of players that got the majority of the reps. However, it’s actually a tribute to one of the most remarkable comebacks in NFL history.
The Jets trailed 27-7 with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Brooks Bollinger led three touchdown drives to lead the Jets to a remarkable 28-27 win, hitting Matt Dominguez for the winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left.
Sadly, we may have seen the last of the Bollinger Bowl, but whatever format preseason takes this year and from now onwards, we’ll be looking forward to more unexpected breakout performances like these.