12) December 21 1986: Wild Card Playoff win over Kansas City Chiefs.
The Jets suffered an agonizing collapse by losing the last five games of the regular season. The decline was precipitated by defensive injuries to stars (Mehl, Klecko, Gastineau), and a mysterious slump from Ken O'Brien, who was having a breakout/MVP season at the 11 game mark. The Jets figured to be an early exit from the playoffs despite a home game. In an inspiring turnaround the Jets repay the Chiefs for knocking them out of the playoffs in 69 by absolutely thrashing the Frank Ganz led team. Coach Walton looks wise by replacing the struggling Ken O'Brien with an effective Pat Ryan. In this game the Jets were quietly efficient with Pat Ryan throwing for under 200 yards, but nailing three touchdown passes. A huge, workmanlike effort by Freeman McNeil resulted in 31 rushes for 135 years including a 4 yard touchdown run and 1 yard TD reception. And don't forget a suffocating performance by the Jet defense, which limited KC to 241 yards of total offense. Following the victory Jet Fans could dream of a Super Bowel and say: "why not us"?
11) 1980: Flash Gordon - At this point in Jet History Flash Gordon was the second greatest quarterback of the Franchise, even if he was only fictional. For those who forget the film Sam Jones in an early sequence states his name and profession " Flash Gordon: Quarterback NY Jets," It was a needed dose of pride for suffering Jet Fans. Flash was a winner and had all the elements of a great quarterback: Leadership, he unites the divisive HawkMen and Tree People; he wins with a weak lineup (Dr. Zarkov is Flash's backfield mate); and he wins the Big Game by overthrowing Ming the Merciless, and saving both Planet Mondo and Earth. If you don't think is a great film or a great Jet moment then you have not seen the 1984 stinker Chattanooga Cho Cho in which Joe Namath stars with a fading Barbara Eden in a cheesy, train themed romp. Ughh. Thank you Sam Jones/Flash Gordon.
10 ) December 22, 1993: Jet Vs. Miami - Regular Season Finale. The 7-8 Jets by virtue of a down year in the conference, and having beaten the 8-7 Miami once earlier in the season, are faced with a game in which the winner will advance to the Playoffs as the last wild-card team. Jets as always are looking for revenge against the hated Dolphins and the malevolent Don Shula. Miami talked all week about whipping up on the mediocre Jets, but despite having the better of the play for most of the game could not put away a resilient Jets team led by Bruce Coslet. It looked like a typical disaster for the Jets as Marino directed a brilliant 70 yard scoring drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Ferrell Edmunds with 44 seconds left. The Jets get the ball back at their 30 with 38 seconds left. A 23 yard pass to Moore followed by a 14 yard pass to Terence Mathis, set up a shotgun handoff to Freeman McNeil that went for 8 years to the Miami 26. A just signed Raul Allegre kicked a 44 yarder with 2 seconds left to put the game in overtime. The Jets stop Marino on Miami's first OT possession, and then O'Brien and Johnny Hector take over for a long drive ending in an Allegre field goal to win the game. The game featured 132 years rushing by Johnny Hector, and an exasperated, discombobulated Don Shula. "This is one that`s going to last a long time with me,`` Shula said. ``All of a sudden there`s nowhere to go and nothing to do.`` Sorry - but this evening and this off-season the Don sleeps with the Fishes.
9) Sept 21, 1986: Jets vs. Miami - The Shootout at the Swamp. Both teams were 1-1 at this point in the season, and the Jets were forced to face one of the franchise great mistakes in the Dan Marino led Dolphins. Marino 3 years into his career had already set regular season records for yardage and touchdown passes. However, O'Brien, who had developed into a good, if unspectacular, quarterback was to emerge as the greater of the two today. It looked bad for Jet Fans: Wesley Walker fumbled at the Jets 27 with 4:08 left during a 38-38 tie game. Marino promptly untied the score 38 seconds later with a 4 yard touchdown pass to Clayton. No problem - Ken O'Brien lead Jets on a drive resulting in a 21 yard touchdown pass to Walker on the final play of regulation to knot the game up, and then five plays later in overtime nails a 43 yard touchdown pass to Walker to win the game. Walker finished with 6 catches for 194 yards and a team record four touchdowns. The win launched a 9 game Jet winning streak that took the Jet's record to 10-1, and began to convince many skeptics that if O'Brien was not the equal of Marino he was clearly the class of the other quarterbacks drafted in 1983 (Elway, Blackledge, Kelly, Eason). Miami would ultimately end up 8-8 and finish out of the playoffs. While the Jets after a 10-1 start collapsed, and a large part of the slide was the result of poor play by O'Brien, it did not detract that for one game and for one stretch of the season Ken O'Brien was the best quarterback in the NFL.
8) Mark Gastineau 1984 Single Season Sack record. Lets get a couple things straight. This record still stands, and cannot be erased by a league conspiracy pairing that inbred, hick Brett Farve, and that mean spirited, gap-toothed, jerk Mike Strahan. Gastineau's 22 sacks are the league standard. Love him or hate him # 99 remains the Jets second most famous Jet. Klecko is a close second on the strength of his 3 pro bowels at 3 different positions, and his appearance as a tough guy in at least two Burt Reynolds movies (which at least were theatrical releases unlike Chattanooga Cho Cho). Gastineau's romp to the record book was accompanied by the sound of that infectious song the Safety Dance - performed by the legendary Men Without Hats (more #1 hits than the Beatles and Elvis combined). Gastineau's post sack ritual featured a rabid, caveman safety dance that so antagonized opposing offensive tackles that post sack scuffles were a common feature of Jet games. Gastineau's actions so bothered the flavorless, rule committee dictator Don Shula that the following season a rule prohibiting excessive celebrating was adopted by the NFL, and was informally known at the Gastineau rule. All that said Gastineau may have been the greatest pure pass rusher the NFL had ever seen, and if his head was on right would have probably been a sure NFL Hall of Famer. When he quit on his team midway in 1988 he was leading the AFC in sacks with 7. In the end he was a great, colorful player who brought excitement and pizzazz to the Jets, which was lacking in so many subsequent Jet seasons.
7) October 23, 2000: Jets vs. Miami - Miracle at the Meadowlands. While the Season ultimately ended with disappointment (the Jets dropped their last 3 to finish at 9 -7 and out of the playoffs) the regular season was the most exciting and entertaining in Franchise history. This Jet season included 4 great comeback victories. And by for the greatest game of any Jet regular season, and arguably the greatest game in history of Monday Night Football, was the Miracle at the Meadowlands in October of 2000. The Jets were thoroughly dominated through the first 3 quarters trailing 30 - 7 entering the fourth quarter. It was not until the eight minute mark in the second quarter that the Jets even registered a first down. The whipping was captured on tape featuring Dolphin poster boy Jason Taylor whooping it up on the sidelines, deriding Jet Fans, and pointing at the score board. Then Vinny Testaverde caught fire and his teammates woke up and went on a fourth quarter scoring frenzy. The Jets improbably tied it up on a 24 yard pass to Wayne Chrebet with 3:55 to go in the Fourth. Perhaps what is most amazing about this comeback is that the Dolphins promptly scored after Chrebet's touchdown. Jay Fielder threw a long touchdown pass on the first play of Miami's next possession to put the Fins back up by a touchdown. On most days in the NFL this would have thoroughly demoralized a team that had fought so hard to come back and the game would have been over. But there was magic in the air in the Meadowlands this evening, and Vinny marched the Jets down field and threw a touchdown pass on a tackle eligible play to Jumbo Elliot with 42 seconds left. In overtime the Jets continue the onslaught following Marcus Coleman's second interception, and a Jet drive ended with a 40 yard Hall field goal to win the game, and thus end the greatest regular season game in Jet history. The win put the Jets at 6-1 and in command of their division, and gave hope to Jet Fans that this might be a team of destiny.
6) January 6, 2001: Jets vs. Oakland - The burial of "same old jets" The Jets' late season collapses and bad finishes were becoming a permanent part of team lore. Recent history included Pete Carroll's 1994 Jets that lost their last five starting with the "spike game". There was the 1997 Parcells coached team that would have gone to the Playoffs with a victory over Detroit in the season finale. The outcome: a Jet defeat in which the only trick play that Parcells did not call was sawing Barry Sanders in half. The most recent collapse was a three game losing streak to cap off the 2000 Al "I am out of here" Groh led Jets. This streak included an excruciating home loss to a weak lion team in Game 15, and a loss in the final game to the Ravens despite roaring out to an early 14 point lead. These failures gave voice to the media mantra of "same old jets". Beginning in week 11 the Herman Edward Jets of 2001 were constantly buffeted by the same old jets chorus. The Jets were 7 -3 and coming off the best win of the season: a 24 - 0 whipping of the Dolphins. Leading the Division the Jets with a final push could have captured the Division crown, and at least a home field game to start the playoffs. However, the Jets managed to lose the game 17 - 16, and the resurgent Pats went on a roll. Meanwhile in Jet land the same old Jets chorus reached a fevered pitch. It got worse following Game 15 when the Jets lost to the last place Bills 14-9. Only a win on the West Coast could save the Jets from an off season of harsh criticism and cynicism. Any Jet fan who did not suspect Gang Green was going to get whipped was living in fantasyland. But magically Gang Green delivered an improbable 24-22 victory. Memorable plays: Coles taking a wide receiver screen and exploding down the sideline for a 40 yard touchdown; Lamont Jordan showing lightening speed on a 46 yard touchdown run on a 3rd and 1; Hall hitting a 53 yarder with 59 seconds left in the game for the lead; John Abraham registering a sack of Gannon on Raiders last possession. The Jets would lose and look bad the following week to the same Raiders in the playoffs, but this team did a great job in burying the haunting agony of the "same old Jets".
5) 1971: Joe Namath victory in Chopper race in CC & Company - Unquestionably Joe's greatest acting role. This was a combination of an Elvis movie and Easy Rider. Joe stars as a motorcycle gang banger with a rebellious streak and a decent heart. You need proof: in an early scene two of his motor bike brethren stop a limousine with Ann Margaret in the back seat. The bikers plan on having their way with her. Joe at first finds it amusing, but ultimately decides it is unmanly, and proceeds to whip his two buddies to save Ann. You want dialogue: Joe says "Man you don't hit something that looks that good...I mean, laying her is one thing, but bruising her that is something else again." WOW!! The only thing that was in worse shape than Joe's knees was his acting ability. Joe for all his charm and personality could not act his way out of a paper bag. Then again: Who cares!!! Were any of the Giant quarterbacks playing the lead in a Biker action movie? NO! What makes this a great film was not the dialogue but the action. And no doubt Joe could deliver on this level (or at least his stunt double could). Latter in the movie the motorcycle gang kidnaps Ann Margaret (Joe by the way had bedded Ann at this point in the film). To win her back Joe challenges the leader of the Gang - "Moon" - to a chopper race. Not only does Joe whip Moon in the chopper race, but Moon suffers the indignity of exploding in a fiery ball at the end of the race, and Joe rides off in the sunset with Ann Margaret. A young Vinny Testaverde growing up on Long Island was quoted as saying, "When I was young I loved sports and drama, but I was torn because I thought I had to pick one or the other. Then I saw Joe in CC & Company and knew I could do both." Okay - so that is a BS Vinny story, but the fact remains that you are not a Jet fan until you have watched CC & Company.
4) January 9th 1983 Jets Vs. Cincinnati 44 -17 - Jets make the playoffs but are faced with a difficult challenge as they will need 3 victories on the road to make the Super Bowel. Making matters worse Jets draw a tough seed in Super Bowel tournament against defending AFC Champions Cincinnati Bengals led by veteran Kenny Anderson. This one started bad as Jets were in an early hole after the first quarter down 14-3. But two Jets deliver monster games: Freeman McNeil runs for 202 yards and 1 rushing touchdown. McNeil also threw one touchdown on a half back option. Not to be outdone Wesley Walker had 145 years receiving and a touchdown. And the defense - yeah they could rush the passer, but the front seven back in the 1980s could also shut down good running games. On this day the Sack Exchange smothered the run by holding the high powered Bengals to a total of 62 rushing yards. Some Jet fans may remember Darrol Ray's 98 yard interception return for a touchdown to ice the game in the fourth. What I remember is Mark Gastineau walking through the Tunnel at the end of the game. Beer was pored on # 99's head by the fans, but his arms were raised in triumph and defiance. Despite the dousing the Jets had just won their first post season game since Super Bowel III, and Gastineau marched to the locker as a Jet warrior. Let's go Jets.
3) January 15, 1983 Jets Vs. Raiders. The environment was as hostile as any team could be facing. The Jets were going up against a Raider team that was 8-1, and had the best record in the NFL. The Raiders had moved to LA after the prior season and were playing in the Coliseum in front of 90,000 plus fanatical fans donned in the Silver & Black. This was an ugly, nasty game that featured 10 turnovers. The hatred of the two AFL rivals peaked when steroid freak Lyle Alzado ripped the helmet off of Jet tackle Chris " holding penalty " Ward and threw it at him. But in the midst of this brutal game one player exhibited grace and determination: Jet wide receiver Wesley Walker. There were other players in the NFL that were all around better wide outs than Wesley Walker, but he had the great speed that made him arguably the NFL's premier deep threat. Walker would finish the game with 7 receptions for 169 yards including a touchdown that gave the Jets an early 7-0 lead. But his big play came late in the game. The Jets trailed with less than four minutes 14 - 10, but the offense had been sputtering all day, and looked incapable of getting the touchdown that was needed for the lead. That is when Richard Todd 'is God" hooked up with Walker for a 46 yard completion that went to the Raider 1 yard line. McNeil punched it in for the touchdown and the Jets took a 17 - 14 lead. The Jets needed Lance Mehl's two interceptions to seal the game, but Walker's catch was the big play of the game. If the victory over the Bengals made the Jets believe they could win the Super Bowel, this victory made them think they would win the Super Bowel. Jet's Super Bowel destiny was only thwarted by League conspiracy and Don Shula.
2) January 10, 1998 Jets Vs. Jacksonville - The Jim Thorpe Game The Jets posted their second most successful regular season in franchise history in 1988. Gang Green finished 12 - 4, won the Division, and earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. It was a Parcell's resurrection special. Bill's handiwork was all over this Jet team, which included a crafty trade for Curtis Martin, and the astute signing of Vinny Testaverde. Both of these pros had fine days on January 10, and big parts in what would be a dominating 34 - 24 win for the Jets. Vinny was 24 of 36 and threw for 1 touchdown pass. Curtis gained 124 yards on the ground, scored 2 touchdowns, and grabbed 6 passes for 58 yards. But the biggest day belonged to a player that Parcells inherited from the maligned Kotite regime. Keyshawn Johnson had a game that was arguably as great as any a wide receiver has had in the NFL playoffs. Johnson's receiving day was excellent: 9 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown. Better yet Keyshawn's Jim Thorpe like performance included running for a touchdown on a reverse, and intercepting a Hail Mary pass. But Johnson's greatest play was on a Jet fumble, which Safety Chris Hudson scooped up, and was running back for a TD for the Jaguars. Out of nowhere Keyshawn ran the play down from behind, and somehow managed to get in on the tackle and recover the fumble. Keyshawn did everything that day but paint the stripes on the field, and announce the game on the radio. And he did it on the big stage: the Jets' first home playoff game in 13 years. Where have you gone Keyshawn Johnson?
1) January 12, 1969 Super Bowl III Jets vs. Colts The 16 - 7 victory by the Jets was by most opinions the most important game in NFL history. It drove the merger between the AFL and NFL, and propelled the NFL along its way to becoming the most popular of American Sports. I cannot say I remember the game at all, but have feasted on the clips of Namath and his recounting of the game and guarantee. Joe became the Nation's premier sport's celebrity, and despite all the adulation Namath received I never heard one of Joe's teammates bash him for getting the glory of Super Bowl III victory. Ultimately what Super Bowl III and Namath did was create a lot of Jet fans. I was the son a Giants fan, and naturally would have inherited my father's team of choice. As a New Yorker (New Jersey counts) for me it was always a choice of picking one of the home teams. And as a kid in the early 1970s becoming aware of Football there was only one team and one player to attach your adoration: Joe and the Jets. I eschewed my paternal guidance, and threw my lot in with Gang Green. The Jets were the Champs, or recent Champs anyway, and they were cool. Namath got the girls, the TV shows, the movies, and everyone wanted to be his pal. If the Jets had lost Super Bowel III, or never had Namath, or both, their impact on the NFL might have been te equivalent of the New Jersey Generals and Doug Flutie. Today what separates Jet Fans from San Diego Charger fans and the New Orleans Saint fans is Number 12 and Super Bowl III.