New York Jets
The New York Jets have had a chequered history. Despite an early success in the Super Bowl, they have failed to make any serious impact on the sport since. Theirs is a story of missed opportunities and near misses which have provided the fans with a thrilling, though at times frustrating, ride.
The New York Jets began life as the New York Titans, making their debut at the Polo Grounds in 1960. In 1963 they suffered an early scare when, having trouble in getting fans to come and watch the games, they faced bankruptcy.
The team was rescued by a group of businessmen led by Sonny Werblin and Leon Hess. Hess would later go on to become the sole owner of the club by buying out his partners, a position which he held until his death.
Following the takeover, the team moved to Shea Stadium which, due to its proximity to LaGuardia Airport, provided them with a new title: the New York Jets. The colours were also changed to green and white to go together with the owner’s petrol stations.
In 1968, things suddenly started to look good as they beat Oakland 27-23 to win the AFL Championship. It was a boost for the club following their early troubles, and the fans hoped that it would lead them onto greater things.
The Super Bowl
The fans’ wish came true, and 1969 will be remembered as the year that the Jets first showed signs of fulfilling their full potential.
After quarterback Joe Namath had arrived at the team in 1964, he succeeded in leading them to the top of the AFL (American Football League). When they then went on to beat the Oakland Raiders in the AFL championship game, they found themselves as the representatives of their league in the Super Bowl, the first time the tournament had been given the title.
At the time, the AFL was widely held to be significantly inferior to the NFL (National Football League) and the Jets went into the match as the underdogs.
However, after putting everything they had into the game, they proved everyone wrong by winning the match against the Baltimore Colts 16-7. To this day it remains one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.
In 1970, the AFL and the NFL merged to form a new league, which kept the NFL title. This merger was to mark the beginning of the modern era of American Football.
It would be a quiet decade for the Jets, due in no small part to Namath’s growing injury problems and his eventual move to the Los Angeles Rams. It would be a sad loss for the club, as he was undoubtedly their finest player.
The 1980 season marked a new low for the team. Quarterback Richard Todd had a terrible season and the whole club would suffer as a result. This included a 21-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, one of the weakest teams in the league, which marked one of their most embarrassing defeats.
Back to the Play-offs
But in 1981 it all changed. The Jets got back on track and finished the season well. With Todd back on form they made the play-offs once again after a long spell in the wilderness.
Although they put up a tough fight against the Buffalo Bills in the play-offs, they unfortunately could not find a way to get past them, and they ended up losing the game by a small margin – 31-27.
The 1982 season built on this success, and the Jets went on to get through the play-offs to reach the Conference Finals where they faced the Miami Dolphins. However, in a controversial match where the pitch had become a virtual mud bath due to heavy rains in the preceding days, the Jets were unable to fulfil their potential and suffered defeat.
A New Home
In 1984 the Jets were forced to move to the Giants’ stadium in New Jersey due to their lease running out. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their opening game, the same team they had lost to in their last game at their previous home.
They were unsettled at the new stadium. It was quite a distance from their main fan base, and as a result the Jets had difficulty attracting supporters to the games. It was also dominated by the New York Giants’ colours, so that it didn’t feel like a proper home for them, which inevitably hampered their game.
In 1985, however, they began to settle down, picking up form and making an 11-5 record to send them through to the play-offs. This time it was the New England Patriots who put a rapid end to their dreams by beating them 26-14 in the first round.
Building from Scratch
In 1990, Dick Steinberg came in as the new General Manager, and made his mark on the club by going back to basics and building the team back up from scratch. He also brought in Bruce Coslet as head coach.
This tactic paid off when, in 1991, the Jets managed to reach the play-offs again. However, the Houston Oilers proved too tough for them and they went out in the first round.
The 1992 season was the complete opposite, as they sunk to a lowly 4-12 finish. However, the season will be remembered more for the near-disastrous accident that happened to Dennis Byrd in November. Colliding with his team mate, he was temporarily paralysed and would require spinal surgery as a result.
The 1993 season was another unsuccessful one, which led to Coslet being fired as head coach, with Pete Carroll coming in as his replacement. However, Carroll only lasted one season as they went on to lose 6-10, and was swiftly replaced by Rich Kotite.
Things went from bad to worse, and Kotite’s time in charge was nothing short of a disaster for the Jets. In 1995 they finished 3-13, and the following year they slumped to a finish of 1-15, managing to win only four games over the course of the two years. These were both the lowest scores in the NFL.
Back in business
Bill Parcells was brought in as part of a bid to improve the club’s fortunes. He had a good record, and seemed to relish the chance of a return to New York. This was followed by the arrival of Keyshawn Johnson, who many saw as the late follow up to Namath, and once again the fans had high expectations.
Results changed immediately, and even though they failed to go on to win a play-off spot, it was clear to all that the Jets were back in business.
The 1998 season was entered into with high hopes, and the team did not disappoint. Curtis Martin, a running back, and Vinny Testaverde, a quarterback, were both brought in, and things started to turn around for the Jets. Parcells also introduced a new colour strip to the team that resembled the one of the 1960s, as he hoped that it would improve morale and establish a winning mentality.
It worked. They ended the season 12-4, a team record, to get them into the play-offs. They then beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-24, followed by Kansas City 35-15. However, their hopes ended against the Denver Broncos, to whom they lost 23-10, despite leading by 10-0 earlier in the game.
At the end of the 1999 season, following the death of owner Leon Hess, Parcell stepped down as coach, but stayed on as Chief of Football Operations. His choice to succeed him was Bill Belichick, but he infamously left after only one day on the job to take on a different head coach position.
Al Groh was then given a chance to shine for 2000, having spent a number of years as linebacker coach. It proved a good decision as the Jets went on to win six of their first seven games.
This included one of the biggest comebacks in history when, at 30-7 down to the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter, they somehow managed to get 30 points in the last 15 minutes to win the game in a match now referred to as the ‘Monday Night Miracle’. Despite this, however, they could not make the play-offs.
After the 2000 season, both Groh and Parcell left their roles at the club, and Herman Edwards became the new head coach.
In 2002 the Jets reached the play-offs once again by winning the AFC East title 9-7. However, although they thrashed the Indianapolis Colts 41-0 in the first game, they couldn’t overpower Raiders in the second and went out again.
The 2004 season was more successful, finishing on 10-6 and earning a Wildcard entry. Their first game was against the San Diego Chargers, who they managed to beat courtesy of a Doug Brian kick right at the end. This sent them through to the divisional round against the Pittsburgh Steelers but, due to what some perceived as a strategy that lacked aggression, they lost the match.
On January 17th, 2006, Eric Mangini was appointed coach to the Jets. He changed around the coaching set-up, and they went on to score 10-6 in the season to get them a Wildcard spot.
However, when they played against the New England Patriots, they lost 37-16, despite having a 10-7 advantage early on.
Although hopes were high for the 2007 season, it ended up being far from spectacular. Again hampered by a wealth of injuries, all that they could muster was a disappointing 4-12 finish.
Super Bowl Championships – 1968
AFL East – 1968, 1969
AFC East – 1998, 2002
The following are previous players who have been admitted to the Hall of Fame.
Joe Namath – quarterback from 1965 to 1976
John Riggins – rightback from 1971 to 1975
Art Monk – wide receiver during 1994
Ronnie Lott – cornerback from 1993-1994
Don Maynard – wide receiver from 1960 to 1972