Our second nominee for the Jet Press Hall of Fame, Freeman McNeil, presented by Craig Hoffman.
Freeman McNeil, among others, paved the way for players to seek out the highes bidder in free agency
One of the most under appreciated players in Jets history is Freeman McNeil. McNeil is a three-time Pro Bowler and also made 1st team All-Pro in 1982. He also led the Jets to team success with the team making the playoffs in 4 of his 1st 6 seasons and leading the team to the AFC Championship Game in the strike shortened 1982 season. Only Mother Nature and Don Shula‘s duplicity kept that team from the Superbowl.
McNeil was as tough a player as you get. He fought through broken ribs in the 1986 playoffs, wearing a flak jacket and still getting his carries. As a result of him playing through injuries so often his body broke down after the 1988 season and he was never the same again although he stayed with the team through his retirement in 1992.
He finished his career with 8,074 yards rushing which is 2nd in Jets history behind Curtis Martin and 44th all-time in NFL history. McNeil was also a threat out of the backfield racking up 2,969 receiving yards at 10 yards per reception. 11,135 all purpose yards are 105th all-time which is impressive but the list counts return yardage so his ranking would be much higher if it was just combined rushing and receiving yards. (All stats are from Pro-Football-Reference.com)
Freeman McNeil’s contribution to the game of football goes beyond the football team. He agreed to be a named plaintiff against the NFL and the “Plan B” free agency system. On September 11, 1992 a Minneapolis federal court jury held that “Plan B” free agency was illegal and that it restrained trade. The “Plan B” system allowed a team to protect 37 players on their roster with the remaining players being the only ones able to test free agency. (information used from NFL Is in Violation of Antitrust Laws, Jury Decides by Mike Freeman of the Washington Post on September 11, 1992. His court victory led to the free agency system that we now have. So as we count down towards March 11th and the player movement that will help the Jets improve going into 2014 we have Freeman McNeil to thank for that.
When people talk about the best players in Jets history they rightfully talk about Namath, Maynard, Klecko, Curtis Martin and Wayne Chrebet to name a few but don’t forget how well Freeman McNeil did. Not only did he amass over 11,000 yards and get the Jets to the AFC Championship Game but also stood up to the NFL and helped create true free agency.