After another dismal season in 1996, going 1-15, the New York Jets hired Bill Parcells to coach the team. The legendary coach engineered an eight-game turnaround, and nearly made the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
The future seemed bright for the Jets and would become even brighter when the team went after Patriots' running back Curtis Martin.
The Jets signed the runner to a six-year, $36 million offer sheet, and the Patriots decided not to match.
At the time, it seemed odd that the Patriots would let their leading rusher bolt for a division rival, but the decision would prove to work out for both teams.
As compensation, the Pats received a first- and third-round draft selection, and the Jets had their marquee player for the first time in years.
The Patriots were in the process of starting their "build through the draft by stockpiling picks" philosophy, and the Jets were back on the road to respectability and Super Bowl-contending status.
Martin backed up the contract with his performance, making the Pro Bowl in 1998. Along with Vinny Testaverde, Martin led the Jets to their first division title since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970.
In the 1998 playoffs, Martin rushed for 182 yards, leading the Jets to a playoff win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He made the Pro Bowl three times as a Jet, including in 2004, when he became the oldest NFL player to lead the league in rushing, gaining 1,697 yards.
He began his career with 10 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, culminating with that rushing title of 2004.
As a Jet, Martin represented the franchise with the utmost of class and was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2011. He made the cut to 10, but did not make the cut to five in his first year of eligibility for induction into the Hall of Fame.
On missing out on the Hall of Fame, Martin said, "I think the voting committee did a great job selecting the 2011 class. If I were a part of the committee, I can't say that I would have voted any differently.
"I'm not being modest at all, but I truly don't feel that there's anyone in this year's class that I should have bested in the voting process."
That is the kind of class individual Martin is.
Martin represented the Jets ascension from NFL punchline to a team to be reckoned with until his retirement in 2007.
He is the NFL's fourth leading rusher all-time, gaining 14.101 yards on the ground, and his 90 career rushing touchdowns are good enough for 12th on the all-time list.
Although his path to the Jets was the first step for the Patriots on their journey to developing an elite NFL franchise, he represented a new era of football for the Jets and their fans.
He will eventually make the Hall of Fame, and he remains a prominent figure in Jets' history.
His induction as part of the first group in the Jets Ring of Honor at the New Meadowlands Stadium cemented his name as a permanent fixture at Jets games: an honor he greatly deserves.