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New York Jets: Top 50 Players of All Time

Chris Dela RosaContributor IJune 23, 2011

New York Jets: Top 50 Players of All Time

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    For over 50 years, the New York Jets have been an integral part in professional football.  Whether it's their victory against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III or their incredible comeback victory against the Dolphins in 2000 at the Meadowlands, there is a lot of history in this organization.

    Since the Jets began playing in New York in 1960, hundreds of players have been part of the organization one way or another, this list is to commemorate the top 50 of those players.  These players have shown excellence at their position, have helped the team win, they're fan favorites and some are unsung heroes.

    This list will descend with each slide (starting with number 50).

    As always, feedback is welcome.  Enjoy!

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter!  @chris_deezy

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    50) Mark Sanchez

    The quarterback out of Southern California has led the Jets to two consecutive AFC Championships appearances in his first two years in the NFL.  This accomplishment overpowers the shakiness he has throughout the regular season, thus placing him on this list.

    49) Jim Sweeney

    Sweeney was a reliable center that took over for Joe Fields in 1988.  Prior to becoming the starting center, he was a utility lineman and showed his durability as he played for 10 seasons with the Jets.

    48) Lance Mehl

    Lance Mehl is a player that deserves recognition for the promise he had and great play he showed in his brief time with the Jets.  Mehl played with the Jets from 1980 to 1987, but knee injuries kept him sidelined, leading to an early retirement.  Mehl is most known for his spectacular play in the 1982 playoffs against the Raiders

    47) Herman Edwards

    Why not have Herman Edwards on this list?  Prior to his arrival in New York, it had been over a decade since the Jets were in the playoffs.  Even though he was not able to coach the team to the promise land, he brought some hope to Jets fans as they went to the playoffs three times with Edwards in control. 

    46) Ralph Baker

    This linebacker was a part of the formidable linebacker core of the world champion Jets in 1968 along with Al Atkinson and Larry Grantham (both to be featured later).  If it was not for Baker’s fumble recovery late against the Raiders, the Jets may not have advanced to Super Bowl III.

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    45) Boomer Esiason

    Most know Esiason for his days in Cincinatti, but from 1993 to 1995 Esiason played for the Jets.  Unlike the stint with Brett Favre where the Jets brought in an experienced quarterback to try and get the team to the Super Bowl, Esiason and the Jets were a little more successful as they finished the season 8-8 but were able to make the playoffs. 

    In his time with the Jets, Esiason threw for over 8,000 yards with 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions.

    44) Shaun Ellis

    The defensive end has been a great piece of the Jets organization for the last decade.  Since 2000, Ellis has racked up 72.5 sacks in 170 games played while making 387 tackles with 166 assists. 

    His time with the Jets is coming to a close as he will likely retire in the next few years, but he has been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line ever since his first season.

    43) Marvin Jones

    Competing for tackles with linebackers like Mo Lewis and Bryan Cox was not an easy task, yet Marvin Jones was able to be an efficient linebacker from up until 2003.  With over 1,000 career tackles, Jones was great for stopping the run.

    42) Nick Mangold

    Like Mark Sanchez, Nick Mangold is young but he has done everything and anything the Jets have asked of him since he first joined the team.  The six foot four center was number 47 on NFL’s top 100 players of 2011 and is a key part in the Jets successful running game that has been one of the league’s top rushing offenses for the last two years.

    41) James Hasty

    One of the former Jets players tied for third most interceptions is James Hasty.  Until 1995, Hasty was a part of Gang Green as he racked up 24 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.  There was nothing too special about Hasty, he was a quality player that produced.

    40) John Riggins

    While he was not at his best with the Jets, John Riggins definitely deserves to be acknowledged for his accomplishments as a part of the green & white.  Before Curtis Martin and Freeman McNeil, Riggins was the first Jet to ever rush over 1,000 yards as he had 1,005 yards in 1975.  More on those McNeil and Martin fellas later.

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    39) Randy Rasmussen

    Sometimes the guys in the trenches go unnoticed or don’t get the attention they deserve, in this case Randy Rasmussen is being acknowledged for his dedication to playing for the Jets game in andgameout.  In the 15 seasons he played, Rasmussen played in 207 games and started in 198.

    38) Jumbo Elliot

    The Monday Night Miracle may not have been a miracle without this guy.  Since 1994 Dan Marino’s fake spike play had been haunting the Jets.  When Vinny Testaverde threw it to an offensive lineman (Elliot) for a touchdown in the Jets miraculous comeback against the Dolphins, the Jets finally got their revenge.  Along with making a great touchdown pass, Elliot was a great blocker.

    37) Joe Fields

    Another lineman, this time a center.  For 11 years, Fields started for the Jets. He was durable, reliable and football smart, everything coaches look for in a football player.  Unlike Elliot, he did not have any flashy plays, but it’s his dedication to the team that counts.

    36) Bill Baird

    While they work just as hard as other players, safeties never really get the recognition they deserve.  While this name is a throwback, Bill Baird was the Jets greatest safety. Further proving the point that Baird is an unsung hero in New York, Baird was never in the pro bowl, but he currently holds the record for most interceptions by a member of the Jets with 34.

    35) Laveraneus Coles

    One of the more inspiring stories in Jets history is Laveraneus Coles’.  From ages 10 to 13, the young Coles was molested by a man his mother was married to.  Somehow, he was able to put all of that baggage behind him as he played at Florida State and then was drafted by the Jets in 2000. 

    During the several stints he had with the Jets, Coles proved to be a reliable receiver that would make the tough catches when it was necessary.

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    34) Richard Caster

    Richard Caster isn’t the most popular tight end in Jets history but he did produce as a part of gang green.  In his eight seasons as a Jet, he caught over 250 passes for more than 4,000 yards with 36 touchdowns.

    33) Bruce Harper

    When it came to special teams and offense, Bruce Harper was the man to go to for the Jets.  With over 200 catches in his career and over 11,000 all-purpose yards. Harper was a great kick returner and reliable receiver when chunks were needed.  

    32) John Abraham

    While his most successful year was 2008 during his stint with the Atlanta Falcons, John Abraham was a great New York Jet.  The defensive end racked up 53.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, 219 tackles and one touchdown in his six years as a Jet. 

    Had the Jets held onto him longer than they did, he would be higher on this list and would have served the team well as he has recorded 49 sacks with 148 sacks as a member of the Falcons. 

    31) Keyshawn Johnson

    Like Abraham, Johnson was a great player with the Jets, but his four years with the Jets aren’t enough to bump higher.  The drafts drafted the young Johnson out of Southern California in 1996; his years with the Jets were statistically his best years of his career. 

    As a part of the Jets organization, Keyshawn caught 305 passes for 4,108 yards with 31 touchdowns, averaging 13.5 yards a reception. 

    30) Vinny Testaverde

    Even though he arrived in New York at age 35, Testaverde proved that age is simply just a number.  For seven years, Testaverde played a crucial role as he led the Jets offense, throwing for 12,497 yards, 77 touchdowns, completing 59 percent of his passes. 

    Like Jumbo Elliot, Testaverde was huge in the Jets comeback victory against the Dolphins in October of 2000 as he slowly but surely ate away at the 30-7 Miami lead.

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    29) Al Atkinson

    Rather than big hits, Al Atkinson was known for his soft hands.  The durable linebacker picked off 21 passes in his 10-year long career.  Somehow, he never returned any of his 21 interceptions or his two fumble recoveries for a touchdown, but he was still a great linebacker.

    28) Kevin Mawae

    When someone speaks of Kevin Mawae, they automatically think great center.  There is a reason why Curtis Martin is the all-time leader in rushing yards for the Jets, he had a great offensive line for the eight years he played in New York. 

    Mawae was in charge of that group, and he did a spectacular job of controlling those men. This is best exemplified by the fact that from 1999 to 2004, he always made the Pro Bowl.

    27) Kyle Clifton

    Like Marvin Jones (No. 43), Kyle Clifton is one of the unsung heroes at the linebacker position for the Jets.  From 1984 to 1996 he accumulated 1,468 tackles , 13 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions.  Although he produced great numbers, Mo Lewis’ success was given a lot more attention.

    26) Matt Snell

    It is mainly running backs that gain all the recognition for being successful rushers as most fullbacks are used to block.  In 1969, Matt Snell was more than a blocking fullback as he rushed for 121 yards with one touchdown in Super Bowl III. 

    Snell’s touchdown was the only one scored for the Jets that game.  His career numbers also represent his versatility as he rushed for over 4,000 yards with 24 touchdowns in his nine years as a Jet.

    25) Darrelle Revis

    Better known as “Revis Island” is the Jets current cornerback.  Right now, Revis is arguably the best cornerback in the league (Nnamdi Asomugha probably begs to differ) as he shuts down any receiver he faces, essentially taking them out of the game. 

    Some think he has the potential to be one of the best Jets ever as he is feared by offenses all around the league; all he has to do is avoid contract holdouts that keep him from being in football shape when the season starts.

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    24) Emerson Boozer

    Playing alongside Matt Snell (previous slide) is Emerson Boozer.  While his rushing yards were slight higher than Snell’s (difference of 850 yards) Boozer was well-known because of his record for career rushing touchdowns. 

    In his 10-year career, Boozer had 52 rushing touchdowns, he held this record for decades until Curtis Martin came along and broke several records. 

    23) Winston Hill

    Not many people would expect an offensive tackle to be featured so high on this list, but Hill certainly deserves it.  The powerful tackle always flew under the radar as he never went to a Pro Bowl or was named All-Pro, but he definitely helped when it came to protecting Emerson Boozer, Matt Snell, Joe Namath and many others.  From 1963 to 1976, Hill was as reliable and durable as offensive lineman come. 

    22) Richard Todd

    Sadly, Richard Todd was not able to create the same magic his predecessor (Joe Namath) did, but that does not mean he was not successful.  In his eight seasons with the Jets, Todd threw for 18,241 yards with 110 touchdowns.  His ability to throw the ball has him ranked third for most passing yards in team history. 

    21) John Elliot

    While injuries after the Super Bowl season kept him from doing much better, John Elliot is still one of the better defensive tackles.  Elliot’s contributions served the Jets well as they helped to keep the Baltimore Colts to only seven points; in 1969, he was named to the All-AFL first team. 

    20) Jerome Barkum

    For 12 years Jerome Barkum was a great target for quarterbacks; he was not known for flashy plays, more for his consistent production that helped the team.  By the end of his career, Barkum caught 326 passes for 4,789 yards, averaging 14.7 yards a reception.

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    19) Gerry Philbin

    Before there was the New York Sack Exchange, there was Gerry Philbin.  The defensive end played for the Jets in the late '60s into the seventies and was part of the Super Bowl champion team.  From 1967 through 1969, the Associated Press and UPI named Philbin to the All-AFL first team. 

    18) George Sauer

    Playing along side Don Maynard (featured later) is George Sauer.  The two made a deadly duo especially during the 1968 season when the Jets went to Super Bowl III and upset the Baltimore Colts. 

    In said upset, Sauer caught eight passes for 133 yards from Joe Namath (featured later).  By the end of his career after being named to the ALL-AFL’s first team several times, Sauer caught over 300 passes for 4,965 yards in six seasons.  

    17) Ken O’Brien

    It is a difficult task to try and fill the shoes of the great Joe Namath; like many others, Ken O’ Brien tried, and like many of those people he came up short.  Unlike those people (i.e. Richard Todd featured earlier), O’Brien was the closest to being as successful as Namath. 

    By the end of his career, O’Brien finished second on the Jets all-time list for passing yards with 24,386 and touchdowns with 128.  Ahead of O’Brien is the one and only “Broadway Joe” who will make a much more detailed appearance later. 

    All in all, O’Brien was a great Jet who tried his best to get the green and white to another Super Bowl but came up short. 

    16) Aaron Glenn

    Darrelle Revis may be the best cornerback for the Jets right now, but he still needs to have another few seasons where receivers get lost on “Revis Island” before he is labeled the best cornerback in Jets history. 

    As of right now, Aaron Glenn holds the title of best cornerback in Jets history.  Like James Hasty (mentioned earlier), Glenn is tied for third most interceptions in franchise history with 24.  His speed not only let him to get to the ball in order to pick it off, it allowed him to take three back for touchdowns, one of which that went for 100 yards.  

    15) Mickey Shuler

    Mickey Shuler is the last tight end on this list.  The bulky Shuler was versatile, as he could block but also had soft hands.  The skill he possessed is what all coaches look for, an all-around player that is beneficial to the team. 

    In his 12 years with the Jets, Shuler 462 passes for 5,100 yards with 37 touchdowns.  The Jets could use another Shuler now as he would be a great asset when it comes to blocking on the run and running routes on pass plays.

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    14) Marty Lyons

    Now onto the New York Sack Exchange era.  Marty Lyons was one of the key players involved in that defensive line core.  His ability to tie up offensive lineman allowed others to make big plays, therefore helping the team win. 

    Even though Lyons’ job was to primarily tie up offensive lineman, he was able to make his own big plays as he had 43 unofficial sacks (29 official sacks) by the end of his career.

    13) Al Toon

    Although concussions kept him from being even better than he was, Al Toon was a great New York Jet.  In the eight seasons he played with the Jets, he still had over 500 receptions for over 6,500 yards with 31 touchdowns. 

    Had he been healthy, Toon would have been higher on the list, Toon was still a beneficial member of the Jets organization.

    12) Larry Grantham

    Ahead of Al Atkinson for most interceptions by a New York Jets linebacker and tied for third most interceptions by a Jet is linebacker Larry Grantham.  Grantham recorded 24 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown while being named to the All-AFL team each year from 1960 to 1971. 

    11) Wayne Chrebet

    Appealing to the “everyday man” in New York is Wayne Chrebet’s story.  In college, Chrebet was just a small receiver for Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York; years later he became one of the Jets best receivers. 

    Concussions cut his career short, but Chrebet made the most of his time in the NFL as he caught 580 passes for 7,365 yards and reaching the end zone 41 times.  

    10) Wesley Walker

    Possibly the most inspiring story in Jets history is Wesley Walker’s story.  Throughout his career, Walker played with one healthy eye, yet he was able to produce at a high level.  In the 13 years Walker played with the Jets, he caught 438 passes for 8,306 yards, with 71 touchdowns and averaging 19 yards a reception. 

    Had he been healthy, Walker had the skill to be the best receiver in franchise history, sadly for Walker, somebody else can call themselves that.

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    9) Pat Leahy

    By far the most durable New York Jet as Pat Leahy holds the team record for most games played (250) as he played for 18 years.  On top of that, Leahy holds the record for the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,470 points. 

    He only made in 1978 but was named to the All-Pro first team in 1978 and the All-Pro second team in 1981, 1986 and 1987. 

    8) Wilbur “Weeb” Ewbanks

    You may be wondering why a coach is included in the top 10 of this list.  Here’s why.  He has the most wins as a coach in franchise history (71) and is the only head coach in franchise history to win a Super Bowl. 

    Besides the amount of wins and losses, there are no other statistics of Ewbanks to quote, what matters is that he brought the Lombardi trophy home to New York and is the only one to do it for gang green so far. 

    7) Freeman McNeil

    In 1982, the Jets had an NFL rushing leader in Freeman McNeil despite a shortened season because of a work stoppage.  1982 was not McNeil’s only successful season, the three time pro bowler rushed over 1,000 yards in 1984 and 1985. 

    By the end of his career in 1992, McNeil was the all-time leading rusher in Jets franchise history until Curtis Martin joined the team in 1998 (more to come on him later). 

    6) Joe Klecko

    Possibly one of the biggest steals the Jets ever had in their history is Joe Klecko.  In 1977, the Jets drafted Klecko in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, he made sure that the Jets would not regret drafting him. 

    In his 11 years with the Jets, Klecko played at each defensive line position, making the Pro Bowl at each position.  By the end of his career Klecko had 24 (official) sacks, aside from Jets fans, Klecko is not a big name, possibly why he is not in the Hall of Fame even though he made several All-Pro first teams. 

    5) Mo Lewis

    Mo Lewis was the ideal linebacker for the New York Jets.  For 13 years, Lewis was the guy you could count on, he rarely missed games and would always produce.  By the end of his career, Lewis had statistics that many linebackers aim for. 

    Lewis had 1012 tackles, 52.5 sacks, 14 interceptions and four touchdowns.  The Jets wee very fortunate to draft Lewis in the third round of the 1991 NFL draft, an investment well spent.

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    4) Don Maynard

    I mentioned earlier that there was one other player ahead of Wesley Walker that has the honor of calling himself the best Jets wide receiver, and that man is Don Maynard. 

    For 13 years, Maynard gave Jets fans a reason to cheer for him, by the time he was done in New York, Maynard had accumulated 627 receptions for 11,732 yards, 88 touchdowns while averaging 18.7 yards a reception. 

    Maynard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 as he was one of the best receivers in NFL history and the greatest receiver in Jets history; his Super Bowl ring, statistics and place in the NFL Hall of Fame speak for themselves.

    3) Mark Gastineau

    The last of the defensive players is Mark Gastineau.  Known for his “sack dance” in opposing teams backfields’ Gastineau was a love him or hate him kind of guy.  One thing people cannot take away from him, is the fact that he is one of the NFL’s all time greatest pass rushers. 

    For 17 years, Gastineau held the single season sack record with 22 sacks in 1984.  By the end of his career Gastineau had 107.5 unofficial sacks (74 official sacks), which is why he is one of the best in NFL history, it is only a matter of time until he has a bust in Canton.

    2) Curtis Martin

    In 1998 the Jets got Curtis Martin from the New England Patriots, one of the best decisions they ever made.  Martin did not waste any time once he got to New York as he continued to rush for over 1,000 yards every season except for his last. 

    This commitment to success is what got Martin 10,302 rushing yards as a member of the Jets, placing him above Freeman McNeil, Emerson Boozer, Matt Snell and all of the other New York Jets runningbacks. 

    Earlier this year, Martin was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, but it is only a matter of time since he is one of the NFL’s most successful runningbacks.

    1) Joe Namath

    There is and there will never be another quarterback like Broadway Joe.  The bravado, the guarantee, the talent all culminate into the man Jets fans have come to love.  The current New York Jets all-time leader in passing yards took the team to their only Super Bowl appearance in 1968 and also gave the team their first and only Super Bowl Victory to date. 

    When everybody thinks of the Jets, one of the first names that will come to mind is Joe Namath.  By the end of his 12-year stint with the Jets, Namath completed 1,886 passes for 27,057 yards and 173 touchdowns.

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