Part of the bond of Jet fans is our collective suffering and torment. Notwithstanding this article, all of the players and individuals mentioned below are held in the highest regard and deepest appreciation.
Joe Namath has knee surgery in Winter of 1965. Joe was operated on right after being drafted by the Jets. One forgets that Namath at one time was not only a great football player, but a phenomenal athlete. Bear Bryant called Joe Namath the best athlete he ever coached in his long tenure at Alabama. Joe was originally fast enough to be able to play safety at Alabama. This was not Namath's first surgery, but it set an ominous tone for his career as a Jet. Namath was so good and so talented that he was able to win a Super Bowl despite playing on ravaged Knees. You wonder if his knees were better, and with modern arthroscopic surgery, whether he could have played longer and at a higher level with the Jets. Jets may have been able to win a couple more Super Bowls. Alas, Namath's best completion in the 1970s was a bomb splitting 2 generic defensive backs to Bobby Brady on the Brady Bunch show. Jets were always one of the NFL's marquis franchises with Namath at the helm. Damn those Knees.
11) 1986. Mark Gastineau personal foul in fourth quarter of 1986 playoff game against Cleveland Browns. Jets were leading 20 - 10 with about 4 minutes to play when Gastineau brainlocked. Prior to this play the Jets had made the playoffs with a 10-6 record despite a season ending 5 game losing streak that featured season ending injuries to Klecko and Mehl, and a mysterious decline in Ken O'Brien's performance (which he never recovered from). O'Brien was consensus league MVP at 11 game mark as Jets were an NFL best 10-1. Despite the collapse the Jets whipped the Frank "enhanced resume" Ganz Chiefs at the Meadowlands in the opening wild card game. Against the Browns the Jets were up by 10 points late in the fourth quarter, and were about to put the game away. 3rd and 25 for the Browns and Kosar is incomplete on his pass, and the Browns now must punt. Wait! Gastineau spears Kosar on the play, and Jets are assessed a 15 yard personal foul. Cleveland gets a first down and new life. Browns go on to score and tie up the game and ultimately win in overtime. Thanks Mark. The bad aftertaste was made worse when Jets fans have to watch sad sack NY Giants win Super Bowel against a Bronco team that the Jets could have beaten.
10) 1995. The Hiring of Rich Kotite. Jets cap another disastrous season in 1994 with a 5 game losing streak, and the termination of Head Coach Pete "nowhere to be found in the NFL today" Carroll. The typical NFL franchise would conduct a rigorous search, analysis and debate about the hiring the next head coach and GM. Instead the Jets take the low-tech, informal approach that characterized the organization. Owner Leon Hess (137 years old at the time) was on vacation in the Caribbean with his family. His daughter had read in the paper that Rich Kotite was canned by the Eagles, and informed her Father of Kotite's dismissal. Just like that - before the Hess family vacation was over the Jets had a new Head Coach with full GM responsibilities in Kotite. Kotite captained the Jet's ship to the absolute bottom depths of Jet franchise history. Back to Back seasons as the worst team in the NFL. Kotite appeared absolutely clueless in his press conferences, and his Team's lack of preparedness made it appear that the Team was without a coach. While other coaches were sleeping in cots in their offices Kotite was leaving Hofstra at 4:00 to avoid the traffic on the drive home to Staten Island. The only thing good about Kotite was he was so bad Hess had to fire him - sort of. Kotite with one game left in 1996 season announced he resigned or was fired or something, but he still coached the final game. What???? This misery could only happen in JetLand.
9) 1969. Jets Chiefs playoff game. Chief's defense stops Namath on 4th down QB sneak on the goal line late in 4th quarter. Jets lose game 13 - 6. Chiefs were the Super Bowl winners that Year, and the Jets if they won would have made short work of Raiders and Vikings, and had back-to-back Super Bowel Victories. It was a windy day at Shea, and Namath never got untracked and performed poorly. Joe says it was the one moment in his career he wish he could have had a second shot at. It did not bother the Jet Fans at the time because another Super Bowel was just around the corner. It is 2002 and we are still turning the corner. Ughh.
8) 1976. Jets lose their best player to Free Agency when there is no Free Agency in the NFL. Yes! You heard me right. This still needs some explaining. After being the first Jet back to gain a 1,000 yards ever in the 1975 season John Riggins leaves Jets as a Free Agent and signs with Redskins. Jet's compensation for loss: 0, nothing, zilch, NaDa. Riggins leads Skins to its first Super Bowl in 1982. (Same season in worst moment number 6). I guess this makes sense from a Jet perspective because they wanted to clear the way for stellar backs like Clark Gaines, Kevin Long and Scott Dierking. PU. This one still hurts. How do we lose our best player to free agency when there is no free agency in the NFL? Answer: League conspiracy against the Jets. If you think Jet's conspiracy theory is just another conspiracy theory see Jet worst moment # 7.
7) 1984 Supplemental Draft of players from defunct USFL. I do not know all the facts with the USFL, but the Eagles ultimately get Reggie White, and Giants get Bart Oates, Sean Landetta, Maurice Carthon, and rights to Gary Zimmerman. And the Jets get Jerry Holmes and Ben Rudolph back. ?????? What? The only things the Jets got from the USFL was Screwed!!! How is this fair? Jesus Christ Sean Landetta is still playing in the NFL. Giants rich cache of USFL players form integral part of their 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl teams. Conspiracy theory confirmed - moreover, I believe Commissioner was working the water valve for Shula when he was wetting down the field in worst moment #6.
6) 1982 AFC Championship game. Don Shula cheats and wets down Orange Bowl field with water cannons and a Voodoo summoned monsoon. Jets best player Freeman McNeil is negated by quagmire conditions. Richard Todd self-destructs in second half (5 picks in the game) and Jets lose AFC Championship game 14-0. Richard Todd never recovers from this game, and his Jet career ends after only one more season (aided by Sports Illustrated cover hex). Jets don't get back to Championship game until 1998. Worse still Walt Michaels - a good coach - is so depressed he gets in a mysterious alcohol fueled altercation on the plane ride home. Can you blame him for wanting to get pie-eyed after that game. Jets in ultimate wisdom can him, and turn the reigns over to Joe Walton. Terrific. Walton takes Jets to 7 - 9 record following year. I hope you are proud of yourself Don Shula. Ouch
5) 1983 College Draft. NY Jets with 24th pick select Ken O'Brien quarterback from University of Nowhere. Dan Marino is drafted 3 slots later by divisional rivals Miami Dolphins. O'Brien led Jets to more playoff Seasons (3) than either Joe Namath (2) or Vinny Testaverde (2), but he seemed to peak and then decline after his first four seasons (see worst moment #11 ), and his immobility and slow release may have made him the easiest quarterback to sack in the history of the NFL. If the Jets had secretly given up on Todd, and wanted to take a quarterback Hall of Famer Marino was there for the taking. Rap on Marino was that he was "cocky" , and Jet Administration under Walton felt he was not cerebral enough for the complicated Walton offense. What??? Since when did we draft quarterbacks based on SAT scores. Marino was so perfect for Jets in many ways. He was an absolute clone of Namath as a player. Cannon arm, quick release, great leadership. His personality and good looks were perfect for NY, and he would have made the Jets one of the NFL's high profile, glamour teams for the next 15 years. Oh what might have been!!! Not to worry. Jets recover nicely in Draft and get TE Wes Howell in 4th Round and DT John Walton in Round 5. WHO???
4) 1981 Playoff Game at Shea. Bruce Harper fumbles opening kickoff of Jet first playoff game in 12 years. Bills pick it up and run in for a touchdown. Discombobulated Jets fall behind 24-0. Jets still nearly come back and snatch a victory. Todd drive Jets to Bills 2 yard line with 10 seconds left, but is picked off by Bill Simpson to end the game. This was the Sack Exchange Jets, and probably the best Jet team besides 68, 69 and 98 Jets. 1981 Jets were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. One wonders how far this Team would have gone if that first play had never happened. Thanks Bruce. Ughhh.
3) 1979. Flying Lawn Mower game. This is something of a mystery that few Jets fans and media remember or even talk about. Jets and NFL front office have hushed this up over the years. Last Home regular season for Jets. Jets as per usual have been officially eliminated, but a win against today's opponent the Patriots will knock out the hated Bostonians from the playoffs. Result: Jets win the game and knock out the Patriots. But the real action in this game came at halftime. The halftime show featured an exhibition of flying remote controlled airplanes. These were large remote controlled airplanes, and the operators raced them down length of the Field using it as runway and landing strip. I was in the stands with my father. Thirteen at the time I was somewhat perplexed that these planes were flying, diving and zipping around the stands as it appeared to me somewhat dangerous. I asked my dad, a former Air Force Pilot, if this was dangerous. " Son, I am sure these are trained professionals, and they would not do this if it was dangerous to the fans." The finale of the flying exhibition at halftime was something called the "Flying Lawnmower". This contraption resembled a regular push lawnmower, which apparently was able to generate so much power from its blade that it could fly. The Flying Lawnmower to the roar of the crowd took off and was buzzing the stadium. Ultimately the flying lawn mower went into a dive, and never pulled up but crashed into the packed stands. The lawn mower careened into two fans both of whom were from New England. One fan later died from his injuries. Bizarre. If the Beatles were the high point for Shea in 1965 then this was the low point for Shea. The resulting bad Karma puts the Jets in Meadowlands 5 years later. Some can remember the Beatles at Shea, the Pope, 69 Mets, Namath - I can say I was there for the Flying Lawn mower game. Oucalocachew - I am the Walrus - Go Jets.
2) 1994 Spike Game. Jets have a commanding lead up 24 -14 early in the fourth quarter against hated division rival Miami Dolphins and Jet Killer Dan Marino. A win will put resurging Jets at 7- 5 record, and in a first place tie with Miami. Jets collapse in fourth quarter with blame equally apportioned to defense, Boomer Eisason and Coach Carroll. Collapse highlighted by Dan Marino's go ahead touchdown throw. The play started with a fake spike attempt that caught the Jets napping. Loss started a season ending 5 game losing streak, and birthed the catchall phrase of "same old jets".
1) 1998 Championship game. 47 yard completion Elway to McCaffrey 3rd quarter. Why this play Dr. Jet? Jets had just gone up 10 - 0 on blocked punt and recovery for a touchdown. Jet Defense was completely stifling the Broncos ever since the Broncos opening drive, which ended with a Brian Cox fumble recovery. Up 10 - 0 if Jets could hold, and get any kind of score they probably take Terrell Davis out of the game, and force Broncos into a must throw offense. Kickoff return takes the ball past the Bronco 30 yard line. Elway does a play action fake. Victor Green bites badly, McCaffrey is wide open down the field. Elway completes a long but easy throw for a 47 yard completion. Broncos score a touchdown on drive, and reinvigorated Terrell Davis takes over the game. Thanks Victor. McCaffrey was clearly Green's responsibility in the Jet two deep zone defense. Lost in the shuffle was a great game by Vinny Testaverde who was let down by his teammates fumbles, drops and slips (14 yards rushing by Curtis Martin). I would categorize this as Vinny's finest performance as a Jet (356 Yards), but it was lost in nauseating Jet defeat. This one feels like it happened 10 minutes ago, and is why I rank it as the worst moment in Jet History.