We have the winner of the vote at defensive coordinator: Walt Michaels!
Walt Michaels was the son of a coal miner from Swoyersville, Pennsylvania. He played linebacker in the NFL for 12 years before Weeb Ewbank brought him in to coach the defense in Weeb’s first year with the Jets in 1963. In 1963 Michaels served briefly in the rare capacity of player/coach when he suited up one last time as an emergency fill-in at linebacker on opening day.
Walt Michaels took over a Jets defense that was the worst in the AFL, and he gradually built it into a powerhouse. Last in the league in 1963, Michaels led the Jets defense to a #6 rank in 1964, then 5th, then 4th, then 3rd, before finally fielding the top ranked defense in the AFL with the 1968 Super Bowl champion team. That was one of only two Jets teams ever to rank #1 in the league, the other being the 2009 Jets.
Michaels continued to serve as Jets defensive coordinator through the 1972 season. In 1973 Michaels was hired by the Eagles as defensive coordinator, and he spent three seasons with the Eagles before he was re-hired by the Jets for the disastrous 1976 season, the year head coach Lou Holtz quit on the team before the season ended. After the train wreck of 1976, the Jets hired Michaels as head coach in 1977, and Michaels gradually built up the Jets bottom dwelling defense to back to back top 10 defenses in 1981 and 1982, the years the Jets finally clawed their way back to the playoffs. The Jets would not field back to back top 10 defenses again until the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Walt Michaels played for the Jets defense in the very first game they took the field as the Jets after changing the team’s name from the Titans in 1963. As defensive coordinator he built the Jets defense from the worst in the league into a powerhouse that shut down the feared Colts offense in Super Bowl III. As head coach he built the legendary Sack Exchange Jets defense that led the Jets back to the playoffs in the early 1980s. He is a fitting choice for the defensive coordinator of the GGN All Time Jets Team, and a great way to end the nearly two months journey we took together building this team.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey. Tomorrow I’ll wrap the series up with a few of my own thoughts on the team.