New York Jets: 12 Franchise Records That Will Never Be Broken
Though the New York Jets have only been around for 51 years and don’t have as much history as teams like the Packers, Bears and the Steelers, the Jets still have a very important place in football history.
The Jets have had their share of great players over the years. Everyone knows about Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Ronnie Lott, John Riggins, Art Monk and Joe Klecko. But there is much more that Jets fans need to know about their club’s history.
In honor of the legendary No. 12 Joe Namath who guaranteed and delivered a Super Bowl III championship over the Baltimore Colts, here are the top 12 records in Jets franchise history that will never be broken.
12. Most Fair Catches in a Game
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When a defense stops a team on third down, they are extremely happy to see the opposing team punt the ball back to them. Punt returners can have a great influence on a game by giving a team great field position. They can also hurt a team by fumbling the ball or giving the team bad field position.
The return depends on how much hang time is on the punt and how quick the defenders cover the field. Sometimes return men don’t even have a chance to return a punt. Instead, they just call for a fair catch.
The Jets record for most fair catches in a game belongs to Bake Turner who called for seven fair catches against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 20, 1966. He also owns the NFL record along with Lem Barney, Bobby Morse and Chris Carr who also had seven fair catches in a game.
Considering that a punt returner only gets about five chances per game to return a punt, for Turner to have called for seven fair catches is astonishing.
11. Most Field Goals Attempted in a Game
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When teams can’t find the end zone, they turn to their kickers to put three points on the board with a field goal.
On Nov. 3, 1968, Jets kicker Jim Turner attempted a franchise record eight field goals in a game versus the Buffalo Bills. The NFL record for attempted field goals in a game belongs to Jim Bakken who tried nine times against the Steelers back in 1967.
Jim Turner owns the Jets record but is tied for second place on the NFL list with four other kickers who had eight attempts. Someone in the future might join the list in a six way tie for the NFL record, but no Jet kicker will ever attempt more than eight field goals in one game.
Turner’s record is safe.
10. Most Sacks in a Season
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There was the Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh during the 1970s, and then there was the New York Sack Exchange in New York during the early 1980s. Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam were one of the most unstoppable forces in NFL history anchoring the Jet’s defensive line. Each player brought something different to the table, but in 1984, Gastineau stood out from the pack.
Gastineau set a franchise record with 22.0 sacks during the 1984 season. In addition to owning the Jets single-season sack record, he is second in NFL history to Michael Strahan who had 22.5 sacks in 2001.
Since the Sack Exchange, the Jets haven’t had a real dominant pass rushing defensive lineman. 1984 was just an incredible year for Gastineau, and I’m not sure that a Jet will ever have a better season pass rushing the quarterback than No. 99.
9. Most Fumbles in a Game
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One of the most exciting things to watch in football is how the football bounces around during a fumble. Defenders nowadays always look to strip the ball loose from an offensive player, even if they can’t bring down the opposing player.
Coaches stress the importance of holding onto the football, but I guess Chad Pennington didn’t get the memo back on Sept. 11, 2005, against the Kansas City Chiefs. Pennington fumbled a franchise record six times that day, one fumble shy of the NFL record set by Len Dawson.
While the usual suspects include Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, lots of other quarterbacks have trouble holding onto the ball. But six fumbles in one game is a record that just shouldn’t happen by any one player, no matter what the conditions are.
8. Most Passes Completed In a Game
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Even though some quarterbacks might have tremendous arm strength, it doesn’t mean anything if they can’t hit the target. Accuracy is extremely important if a quarterback wants to complete his passes.
Two Jets quarterbacks share the franchise record for most completed passes in a game. Both Richard Todd and Vinny Testaverde completed a record 42 passes in a single game for the New York Jets. Todd accomplished the feat against the 49ers on Sept. 21, 1980, and Testaverde did it against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 6, 1998.
Such a record is remarkable just because of the fact that some quarterbacks don’t even attempt 42 passes in a game. For these two to have completed 42 passes, they must have thrown at least 55 passes, which is also unique.
The only other quarterback to complete more passes was Drew Bledsoe who completed 45 passes in an overtime game against the Vikings in 1994. This is a truly incredible record that players will not even come close to in the future.
7. Most Times Sacked In a Game
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The biggest thing a quarterback fears every game is being sacked. No one likes being thrown to the ground or getting hit from the blindside while looking downfield for a receiver.
Jets quarterback David Norme owns the distinct record of having been sacked a record 11 times in one game for the Jets against the Cowboys on Oct. 4, 1987.
Getting sacked 11 times in one game is a Jets franchise record and only one sack away from the NFL record which is shared by Donovan McNabb, Warren Moon and Bert Jones.
The Jets would have to have an absolutely terrible offensive line for this record to be broken, and I just don’t see it happening; at least not in the near future.
6. Most Passes Attempted In a Game
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One of the all-time fan favorites in Jets history, Vinny Testaverde is part of an incredible record in the franchise’s history. The quarterback attempted a record 69 passes in a game versus the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 24, 2000.
This number is a Jets franchise record and also an NFL record during a regulation game. Drew Bledsoe attempted 70 passes, but it was because the game went to overtime.
Testaverde’s record is one that will never be broken by a Jets quarterback. The average number of passes attempted today is about 30. Anything more than 40 is very unlikely during an NFL 60-minute game.
Testaverde doesn’t have to worry about it being broken any time soon with the current Jets team. The ground and pound style offense of Rex Ryan’s team will never result in Mark Sanchez throwing anywhere near 60 passes let alone 69.
5. All-Time Leading Point-Scorer for Jets
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The all-time leading point-scorer for the Jets is placekicker Pat Leahy. The kicker played 18 seasons with the Jets and accumulated 1,470 points from 1974 to 1991.
This record is a special one but also a very difficult record to break. Just to give you an idea; the most points scored by one player in one season was by LaDainian Tomlinson who tallied 186 points back in his incredible 2006 season with the Chargers. Running backs and receivers score the most points per season, but these are two positions that are tough for older players to play.
Receivers and running backs take so much punishment week in and week out that they don’t always get to play as long as they want. This makes it tough for them to be all-time franchise leaders in points scored by the time their careers are over.
Kicker is the other position that scores a lot of points per season, and it is a position that players can play for decades. The only player that will break Pat Leahy’s record is another placekicker. However, that kicker would have to stay with the Jets for a very long time, and that hasn’t been the case the past few years.
4. Most Seasons with Jets
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Football is a violent and physical game which can take a toll on a player’s body over the course of his career. This is the reason why the average career of a football player is 3.3 years. Whether it is because of injury or the sheer competitiveness of the game, not many players have long careers in football.
While it is highly unlikely to see football players play for more than 19 years, it is also somewhat of a surprise to see a player stay with one team his entire career. With free agency and trades, players are always on the move.
The franchise record for seasons spent with the Jets belongs to placekicker Pat Leahy who played for the Jets for 18 seasons (from 1974 until 1991). Placekickers have the longest shelf-life of NFL players and one would think that this position would give the best shot at breaking Pat Leahy’s record in the future. A problem with this assumption is that the position of placekicker has been something of a revolving door the past ten years for the Jets. Five different kickers have played for the Jets in that time. They include John Hall, Doug Brien, Mike Nugent, Jay Feely and Nick Folk.
Mark Sanchez can make a run at the record entering his third season with the Jets at age 24, but he would have to play for the Jets into his late 30s. It is possible but not very likely.
Players just don’t spend that many years playing for one team anymore. And if they do, there is always the threat of injury.
3. Longest Punt Return
The longest punt return in Jets history came on Nov. 4, 1990, at Giants Stadium. Terance Mathis backtracked and caught the ball over his shoulder at the 2-yard line and weaved his way passed the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit all the way for a touchdown.
Such a play will likely never happen again because return men usually let the ball bounce if it goes over their head passed the 10-yard line. Coaches nowadays become infuriated when return men catch the ball that close to the end zone for fear of a safety or getting pinned back inside their own territory.
2. Longest Play
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The longest play in Jets history came from a kickoff return by Brad Smith. Smith returned a kick 106 yards on the road against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 27, 2009, in a must-win game for the Jets. It is the second longest kickoff return in NFL history and a record that probably will never be broken.
Smith caught the ball deep in his end zone but decided to take it out. Sure enough he found the hole and exploded down the field for a thrilling touchdown.
Now that the NFL decided to move the kickoff spot from the 30-yard line to the 35, likely resulting in more touchbacks, players like Brad Smith and Josh Cribbs will now have a tough time returning kicks for touchdowns.
Don’t expect the Jets to have a play go longer than 106 yards in the future.
1. Longest Punt
On Sept. 21, 1969, rookie punter Steve O’Neal made history by kicking the longest punt in football history. O’Neal punted from his own 1-yard line and blasted a 98-yard punt in Denver against the Broncos.
The punt went 75 yards through the thin Denver air, over the head of the return man, before bouncing to the Denver 1-yard line.
It is not just a Jets franchise record but an NFL record that will never ever be broken. Statistically, it is impossible to break the record because a 98-yard punt is the longest possible punt that can occur. Punting from goal-line to goal-line, the net yardage is 98. And even if the punt goes into the end zone, that yardage is not calculated in the event of a touchback.
Secondly, O’Neal had a “perfect day.” The thin air in Denver definitely contributed to the 75-yard punt which got over the head of the returner. The lucky bounce is something that might not ever happen again. You never know which way the weird-shaped football will bounce.
Steve O’Neal will always have this record.