Joe Namath at 2012 Pepsi NFL Honors and Rookie of the Year ceremony.
New York Jets' quarterbacks have enjoyed moments of dominance, when their arms carried the team to victory. It's time to celebrate these moments.
Let's look at highlights of Jets' quarterback play since 1960. I want lots of points, the air full of footballs and defenders trembling for their lives. Game management is out. Receivers running wild in the secondary is in.
The games we celebrate include those of sheer dominance, where the opposing offense was impotent while the Jets scored at will. There are games when the Jets came back from almost impossible odds. There are epic battles with Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Finally, there were performances of sheer beauty, where the Jets' quarterbacks were both prolific and efficient.
The criteria for inclusion is as follows:
- The Jets won. This is not about valiant efforts that almost worked. This is about quarterback dominance that produced victories.
- Net passing yardage was at least 300. 70 games between 1960 and 2012 met that standard. In those 70 games, the Jets were 32-35-3. That cut the candidates to 32.
I also tried to spread the wealth. I could have made these slides a tribute to Joe Namath and Ken O'Brien. However, that would have ignored huge chunks of Jets' history. Other quarterbacks had great moments too.
I anticipate some critiques:
- Super Bowl III is missing. Super Bowl III was probably the most significant victory in Jets' history. Joe Namath's psychological leadership was a prime factor. However, Super Bowl III was a team effort. The defense forced five turnovers. Namath completed 17-of-28 passes for 206 yards. It was wonderful game management. It was not a virtuoso passing day. The rematch of Namath and Unitas in 1972 was.
- You're not putting these games in context. In other words, I'm not measuring the game's impact on team goals like clinching a division title or playoff berth. Nor do I care if the games were during the regular season or playoffs. I'm writing this after the 2012 season when the Jets' offense at its best put many a fan to sleep. I will consider my mission accomplished if I bring back memories of better times.
I look forward to hearing your proposed lists. That's why we're here.
We begin in 1960, when the Jets were the New York Titans.
Tom Flores was the Oakland Raiders' QB against the Titans.
Raiders' quarterback and future coach Tom Flores threw for 187 yards and three scores. However, three interceptions marred his performance.
Nevertheless, the issue was in doubt throughout.
The Titans struck in the opening quarter on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Dorow to Art Powell.
The teams exchanged scores in the second quarter. Oakland tied the score on a 14-yard pass from Flores to Nyle McFarlane. Dorow answered with a 12-yard run to give the Titans a 14-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the teams combined to score 24 points. Oakland tied the score 14 each on Flores' second touchdown pass—a 19-yard toss to Charlie Hardy. Dorow countered with his second scoring toss to Powell. After Bill Shockley gave the Titans a 10-point lead with a 27-yard field goal, the Raiders scored on a 1-yard run to pull within three.
Flores' last scoring pass gave the Raiders a 28-24 lead in the final quarter. Dorow, however, sealed the win with a 17-yard pass to Dewey Bohling.
The Titans gained 106 yards rushing. Art Powell caught 10 passes for 179 yards and two scores.
The win pushed the Titans' record to 7-6 with a game to go in their inaugural season. Oakland fell to 5-8.
Chad Pennington about to pass against Vikings
Chad Pennington brought football intelligence to the Jets' huddle, and that more than compensated for his average-at-best arm.
So well did Pennington play the thinking man's game that in 2002, he set a Jets' team record by earning a 104.2 passer rating for the season. That led the NFL.
This October 20 performance at The Meadowlands displayed Pennington at his best.
Pennington completed 24-of-29 passes for 324 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. His passer rating for the day: 124.7.
Seven receivers caught balls, with Santana Moss grabbing five for 111 yards.
The Jets dominated throughout. They built a 20-0 lead as John Hall opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal, Pennington completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles and Curtis Martin scored on a 5-yard run. In the final quarter, Hall closed the Jets' scoring with a 37-yard field goal.
The shutout held until 3:09 remained in the final period, when Moe Williams scored on a 1-yard touchdown run for the Vikings.
The Jets improved to 2-4. Minnesota fell to 1-5.
Vinny Testaverde, 1998
Vinny Testaverde had a knack for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. This fourth-quarter comeback against Seattle on December 6 at The Meadowlands is evidence.
The Seahawks built a 31-19 lead through three quarters, despite the Jets having opened the scoring on a 3-yard pass from Testaverde to Keith Byars.
In the final quarter, Testaverde engineered two scoring drives. The first culminated in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson. Testaverde ran for the final score himself.
Testaverde completed 42-of-63 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns while being intercepted once. He distributed the ball among nine receivers. Keyshawn Johnson's nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown led the way.
Seattle's Jon Kitna had a decent day, completing 17-of-24 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.
The Jets improved to 9-4. Seattle fell to 6-7.
The Jets Richard Todd to the New Orleans Saints in 1984.
Richard Todd never escaped Joe Namath's shadow. Both quarterbacks were highly regarded Alabama alumni. However, Namath won a Super Bowl.
Todd's achievements were not insignificant. During his seven years with the Jets, the team reached the postseason twice, in 1981 and 1982.
In this September 25 Shea Stadium game against the Rams, Todd completed 37-of-50 passes for 446 yards and two touchdowns. Despite his two interceptions, the game remained close throughout until the Jets won in overtime.
The Rams jumped out to a 14-7 first quarter lead on the strength of two Eric Dickerson touchdown runs. Thanks to Jerry Holmes's 57-yard return of a blocked field goal attempt, the score was 14-14 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Todd gave the Jets a 21-17 lead with his second touchdown pass to Wesley Walker, a 37-yard bomb.
The Rams tied the score at 24 on a Vince Ferragamo pass to Mike Guman to send the game into overtime, where Pat Leahy sealed the Jets' win on a 26-yard field goal.
Todd distributed his throws among nine different receivers. Wesley Walker caught eight balls for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Ferragamo completed 22-of-37 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted four times.
Each team's record evened up at 2-2.
Joe Namath on the sidelines
Joe Namath did more in this Christmas Eve game at San Diego Stadium than become the first NFL quarterback to achieve a 4,000-yard season. He played one of the best all-around games of his career.
Interceptions plagued Namath. In fact, he threw a career-high 28 interceptions in both 1967 and 1975. But he threw none of them on this day. Instead, Namath completed 18-of-26 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. His season's total: 4,007 yards.
This performance earned Namath a passer rating of 151.4. It was his highest-rated game with net passing yardage of 300 or more.
Namath's first scoring pass, a 13-yard completion to Don Maynard, tied the score at 7 in the first quarter. John Hadl had drawn first blood with a 72-yard strike to Willis Frazier. The Jets ended the quarter up 14-7.
In the second quarter, the Chargers took a 21-14 lead before Namath responded. Two scoring passes—36 yards to George Sauer and 26 yards to Maynard—gave the Jets the halftime lead for good, 28-24.
The Jets added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, including Don Maynard's third touchdown reception, to clinch the game and make San Diego's final-quarter touchdown meaningless.
Namath distributed the ball to six different receivers. Maynard led with eight catches for 141 yards and three scores. Sauer added six catches for 118 yards and one score.
As if that weren't enough, Namath also scrambled once for five yards.
Both teams finished the season 8-5-1.
Ken O'Brien in action, 1985
1985 was the year in which Ken O'Brien became the first Jets' quarterback to lead the NFL in passer rating with a then-team record of 96.2.
This November 17 performance against Tampa Bay at The Meadowlands was noteworthy because the Jets' offense set a single-game team scoring record of 62 points. O'Brien completed 23-of-30 passes for 367 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
His rating for the day: 142.6.
It's hard to believe that the Buccaneers took a 14-0 lead before O'Brien went to work.
Before the Buccaneers scored again, the Jets had 31 points.
Johnny Hector ran for the first score, then O'Brien hit Wesley Walker to tie the game. Pat Leahy put the Jets ahead with a 23-yard field goal. Then two touchdown passes to tight end Mickey Shuler stretched the lead to 31-14.
The Bucs scored another touchdown before the Jets scored the last 10 points of the half to lead 41-21.
O'Brien's final touchdown pass came in the third quarter, a 78-yard strike to Al Toon to put the Jets on top 48-21.
Al Toon led a cast of seven receivers with six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.
The Jets improved to 8-3. Tampa Bay fell to 1-10.
Vinny Testaverde, 2000
Many Jets' fans never saw the greatest comeback in team history. They saw its prelude: the first three quarters when Miami built a 30-7 lead.
That's when many called it a night. After all, it was Monday Night Football on October 23 at The Meadowlands and the hour was getting late.
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde rewarded those who did not lose faith with a team record 30 points in the fourth quarter and a 40-37 overtime win.
The Jets scored the first 23 points of the fourth quarter, marred only by a failed two-point conversion.
With the score tied at 30 and under four minutes left, Brock Marion returned John Hall's kickoff to the Jets' 46-yard line. Jay Fiedler threw a 46-yard bomb to Leslie Shepherd to put Miami ahead with 3:41 left in regulation.
That was all the scoring Miami would do.
Kevin Williams' kickoff return set up the Jets at their 43-yard line with 3:22 left. Two minutes and two seconds later, Testaverde completed a three-yard pass to tackle-eligible Jumbo Elliott to tie the game at 37.
Miami could not score in the final minute of regulation.
In the first possession of overtime, Marcus Coleman intercepted Fiedler, giving Testaverde the ball at the Jets' 34-yard line. Six plays later, John Hall kicked the game-winning field goal.
Testaverde completed 36-of-59 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns while being intercepted three times. Richard Anderson caught 12 passes for 109 yards. Wayne Chrebet caught six for 104 yards and two scores.
The Jets improved to 6-1. Miami fell to 5-2.
Ken O'Brien delivers the ball against Miami.
927 combined passing yards doesn't begin to convey the drama of this September 21 O'Brien-Marino epic. It was truly a game in which The Meadowlands' air was filled with footballs and the outcome was in doubt until the final whistle.
Both quarterbacks were on their game. Ken O'Brien completed 29-of-43 passes for 479 yards and four scores with one interception. Dan Marino completed 30-of-50 passes for 448 yards and six scores with two interceptions.
The net passing yardage of 884 set an NFL record.
Did O'Brien have the better-rated day? Probably. However, no one paid attention to minutiae-like completion percentages when either team seemed capable of scoring at will.
The game started quietly. The Jets opened the scoring with a 32-yard Pat Leahy field goal. Marino answered with a 6-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-3.
The Jets seemingly broke the game open in the second quarter by outscoring Miami 28-14. Johnny Hector ran for the first two scores to make it 17-7.
Marino pulled the Dolphins ahead with two scoring drives of his own. Then O'Brien hit two scoring passes to Wesley Walker for 65 yards and 50 yards to give the Jets a 31-21 lead at halftime.
However, 10 points was not enough this day.
Marino and the Dolphins outscored the Jets 17-0 in the third quarter to take a 38-31 lead into the final 15 minutes of regulation time.
Dennis Bligen tied the game with a seven-yard run. Marino answered with a four-yard pass to Mark Clayton to reclaim a touchdown advantage.
With the score 45-38 Dolphins, it was time for the O'Brien-Walker show. O'Brien hit Walker with a 21-yard pass to tie the game in regulation. The pair won it in overtime with a 43-yard scoring play.
Each team had two 100-yard receivers. Walker led all receivers with six catches for 194 yards and two scores. Al Toon caught seven balls for 111 yards. For Miami, Mark Clayton caught eight balls for 174 yards and a touchdown. Mark Duper added seven catches for 154 yards and two scores.
The Jets advanced to 2-1. Miami dropped to 1-2.
Johnny Unitas couln't surpass Joe Namath in their 1972 rematch.
Joe Namath vs. Johnny Unitas was the matchup that Super Bowl III should have been. Unitas missed most of that game—as he had missed most of the 1968 season—with an elbow injury.
Unitas spoiled the Jets' Super Bowl III shutout with a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Jets' fans and Colts' fans alike speculated about what the game's outcome might have been had Unitas started instead of Earl Morrall.
The matchup became reality on September 24 at Memorial Stadium. It wasn't a Super Bowl, but it was epic nonetheless.
Namath passed for 496 yards to set a team record that still stands. Unitas added 376 passing yards of his own for a combined total of 872 yards. That set an NFL record.
The quarterbacks threw for eight touchdowns, six by Namath.
It didn't look good for the Jets at first. They took the initial lead on a 65-yard pass from Namath to Eddie Bell, but Bobby Howfield missed the extra point. Unitas countered with a 40-yard toss to Sam Havrilak and Jim O'Brien made his conversion to give the Colts a 7-6 lead.
Namath threw for three more scores in the second quarter. The Jets outscored the Colts 21-13 and took a 27-20 halftime lead that they never relinquished.
In the third quarter, Howfield kicked a 14-yard field goal to stretch the Jets' lead to 10 points.
Unitas led a fourth-quarter comeback that twice brought the Colts to within a field goal. Each time, Namath countered with a scoring drive to restore a 10-point lead.
Rich Caster caught six passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Eddie Bell had seven catches for 197 yards and a score. John Riggins rushed for 87 yards.
Tom Mitchell led the Colts with eight catches for 114 yards.
The Jets improved to 2-0. Baltimore fell to 0-2.
Ken O'Brien did not complete every pass in this November 2 Seattle Kingdome game. However, he achieved perfection as far as the NFL passer rating system goes. O'Brien completed 26-of-32 passes for 431 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That performance yielded an NFL passer rating of 158.3, the highest possible.
What's more, it's the only such rating achieved in a 400-yard passing day.
The Jets started slowly, trailing 7-3 after the opening quarter.
Then O'Brien went to work.
The Jets erupted for 21 points in the second quarter. O'Brien's first scoring pass went 50 yards to Al Toon. Next he hit Wesley Walker for an 83-yard score. Freeman McNeil closed out the half's scoring with a 9-yard run.
In the second half, O'Brien completed a 36-yard scoring bomb to Al Toon in the third. A one-yard toss to tight end Mickey Shuler closed out the scoring in the final period.
Walker and Toon combined for 356 receiving yards. Walker caught 9 passes for 195 yards and two scores. Toon had six catches for 161 yards and a score.
The game wasn't suspenseful or dramatic, just a chance to watch a master at work. it was a performance for the ages.
The Jets improved to 8-1 while Seattle fell to 5-4.
Mark Sanchez commemorates the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as the Jets face the Cowboys.
New York Jets 27, Dallas Cowboys 24, 2011: Mark Sanchez completed 23-of-36 passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Cowboys led 24-10 in the fourth quarter, but Sanchez's second touchdown pass brought the Jets within a touchdown. Joe McKnight returned a blocked punt 18 yards to tie the score. Then, with 2:16 left, Sanchez led the Jets from their 20-yard line to the Dallas 32-yard line, where Nick Folk kicked the game-winning field goal with 32 seconds left.
New York Jets 40, Miami Dolphins 33, 1989: After the Jets' Pat Leahy kicked the opening field goal, Miami's Dan Marino gave the Dolphins the lead with a 8-yard pass to Ferrell Edmunds. The Jets did not regain the lead until the final quarter, when Ken O'Brien connected with Roger Vick for an 11-yard score. O'Brien completed 27-of-37 passes for 329 yards, three touchdowns and one interception to counter Marino's 427-yeard day.
New York Jets 38, Miami Dolphins 34, 1988: The Jets held a 24-14 lead at halftime, but Miami's Dan Marino led the Dolphins to three third-quarter scores and a 34-24 lead. It took two touchdown passes from Ken O'Brien in the fourth quarter to get the win. O'Brien completed 27-of-43 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns while giving up one interception.
New York Jets 45, Houston Oilers 3, 1988: After the Oilers took the lead on the game's opening field goal, the Jets defense shut them down and the offense took over—building a 28-3 lead by halftime. The Jets used two quarterbacks in this game. Ken O'Brien completed 17-of-26 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Pat Ryan completed 5-of-5 passes, amassing 52 yards and a score in relief.
New York Jets 27, Buffalo Bills 7, 1985: Ken O'Brien and Wesley Walker combined for a 96-yard scoring play. O'Brien completed 25-of-40 passes for three touchdowns while being intercepted once. His counterpart, Bruce Mathison, completed 22-of-39 passes for 357 yards but was intercepted twice.
New York Jets 28, Detroit Lions 13, 1982: Richard Todd completed 23-of-32 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception. The Jets took a 21-3 lead into halftime and never trailed.