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Which Was the Best New York Jet Team Since 1980?

By Craig Hoffman
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Which Jet team over the last 33 years was best? It is a purely subjective question. Four teams made it to the AFC Championship Game but were there other Jet teams that were better and circumstances prevented them from reaching their potential? Here are some contenders but leave your opinion in the comments section:

1981 Jets – The team finished 6-3 in a strike-shortened season qualifying for the playoffs beating Cincinnati and the Raiders before losing to Miami in the controversial AFC Championship Game. Miami was able to slow down a Jet offense that averaged 27 points per game by “forgetting’ to put the tarp on the field before a rainstorm and Jets fell to the Dolphins 14-0. The offense was led by Richard Todd at QB, Freeman McNeil at RB, Wesley Walker at WR and Mickey Shuler at TE. The defense was led by Mark Gastineau at DE, Joe Klecko (lost for 14 weeks due to a knee injury) at DE/DT, and MLB Greg Buttle.

1986 Jets – The team finished 10-6 after starting 10-1 and made it to the playoffs as a Wild Card. After a victory over the Chiefs the team went to Cleveland and lost in 2 overtimes. It was a game they had won in regulation after they stopped Cleveland on a 2nd and 24 late in the game. However, Mark Gastineau was called for roughing the passer which extended the drive and allowed Cleveland to rally back from 20-10 to tie the score. The team scored 364 points averaging nearly 23 points per game and the offense was very strong at the skill positions. Ken O’Brien at QB, Freeman McNeil and Johnny Hector at RB, Wesley Walker and Al Toon at WR and Mickey Shuler at TE. If the offensive line protected better, it allowed 40 sacks, the team could have averaged close to 30 points a game. Case in point was the Week 3 game vs Miami. Ken O’Brien threw for 479 yards and 4 TDs including the game-tying and winning touchdowns to Wesley Walker as the Jets won 51-45 in overtime. Defensively a weak secondary was masked by the New York Sack Exchange, a defensive line of Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons, and Mark Gastineau. Gastineau only had 2 sacks as he battled through injuries most of the year but came back for the playoffs and had 3 1/2 in two games.

1998 Jets – The team finished 12-4 (3 of the losses were due to Glenn Foley who started the year as QB before Testaverde took over) and won their first AFC East title and had a bye in the playoffs. They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at home and faced John Elway and the Broncos for the AFC Championship. The Jets blew a 10-0 lead and fell 23-10 behind 6 turnovers. The offense averaged 26 points per game behind Vinny Testaverde at QB, Curtis Martin at RB, and Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet at WR. The defense behind Mo Lewis, Bryan Cox and Aaron Glenn allowed 16.6 points per game good for 2nd in the league.

2002 Jets – The team finished 9-7 and won their second AFC East title then shut out the Peyton Manning-led Colts 41-0 at home before succumbing to the Raiders 30-10 in the divisional round. The team started 2-5 and turned their season around after the famous Herm Edwards “You play to win the game” speech before the San Diego game. They finished 7-2 to win the division. Vinny Testaverde gave way to Chad Pennington after 4 games at QB, Curtis Martin and Lamont Jordan at RB, and Laverneus Coles, Santana Moss and Wayne Chrebet at WR sparked the offense. John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis led the defense.

2004 Jets – The team finished 10-6 which was 2nd in the AFC East and good for the Wild Card. The Jets beat the Chargers but lost an agonizing game to the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Herm Edwards conservative play calling at the end of the game coupled with Doug Brien’s two misses at the end of regulation doomed the Jets as they lost in overtime. The offense was led by Curtis Martin and his 1,697 yards rushing and Lamont Jordan averaged 5.2 yards per carry in a backup role, Chad Pennington quarterback efficiently throwing to Santana Moss, Justin McCairens and an aging Wayne Chrebet.  The defense was led by Shaun Ellis, John Abraham and Jonathan Vilma.

2009 Jets – The team finished 9-7 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card. They beat the Bengals and the Chargers in the playoffs before falling to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. This team led the league in rushing behind Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene and Leon Washington. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez led the passing attack with Braylon Edwards at WR and Dustin Keller at TE. The defense led the league in allowing 14.8 points per game behind Darrelle Revis, Shaun Ellis, David Harris, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes.

2010 Jets – The team finished 11-5 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card. In the playoffs they beat Peyton Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis, followed by Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro finally losing a heartbreaker in Pittsburgh to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in the AFC Championship. While the 2009 team was a bunch of underdogs with no expectations this year’s team had a bullseye on their back all year starting with Hard Knocks in training camp and carrying on through the season. Offensively the team was led by second year QB Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson at RB, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery at WR with Dustin Keller at TE. Defensively Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at CB, Shaun Ellis at DE, David Harris and Calvin Pace at LB and Jim Leonhard at S.

For my money I would take the 2010 Jets as the most talented followed closely by the 1998 team. The 1986 team will always be a favorite of mine as they were so fun to watch. What are your thoughts?

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