New York Jets Flashback: QB Ken O’Brien


The New York Jets do not have a great record at developing QB’s historically as a franchise. Some would claim it’s a result of poor drafting and even poor scouting. Others seriously believe it’s a curse put on the organization after the Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl III victory to New York City.

Today I want to look at a long tenured Jet, quarterback Ken O’Brien. His career on the Jets spanned 10 years, from 1983 to 1992. O’Brien was selected with the 24th overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. The pick enraged many Jet fans in attendance at Radio City that day.

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It was highly expected that the Jets would choose Dan Marino with the selection, who as all of us know by now, went three picks later to the Miami Dolphins. A fact that O’Brien never really escaped throughout his career.

O’Brien was one of those guys you loved to root for, the teams of the mid 1980’s featured devastating defenses and O’Brien made it fun to be a Jet fan again.  He provided some excitement for Jet fans in the mid eighties, but never could bring home the trophies. O’Brien is among the better players to man the Jet QB position over the years and is still beloved by a large contingent of the fan base.

O’Brien played his college football first at Sacramento State and then at the University of California, Davis. It was a Division II school, virtually unheard of in the football world at the time. By the time O’Brien had reached his senior year he was ready for prime time. In 1982 he led his team to a Division II Championship and a Division II All American Selection for himself. That same year he was ranked #2 in total offense and #3 in pass efficiency in Division II.

The 6’4″/210 pound O’Brien sat out his rookie season of 1983. He debuted for the Jets in 1984, appearing in ten games while passing for 1,402 yards, 6 TD’s and 7 INT’s. O’Brien began to come into his own in 1985 when he threw for 3,888 yards, 25 TD’s and only 8 INT’s. The following season he led the Jets to a 10-1 start before the team collapsed in on itself as O’Brien finished the season throwing for 3,690 yards, 25 TD’s and 20 INT’s.

O’Brien had a very good career for the Jets. During his 11 year career in the NFL he amassed 25,094 yards in the air, threw for 128 TD’s and ended his career with a 58.6 completion percentage. He ran for 394 yards in his career and even caught a 27 yard pass in 1991. Along the way he became the first QB ever to throw for 400 yards in a game. Among his other accolades, O’Brien was the first ever to post a perfect passer rating in an NFL game. O’Brien was selected twice to the NFL Pro Bowl, once in 1985 and again in 1991.  He was named AFC Player of the Year in 1985.

He is ranked second behind Namath in career past attempts (3,465), but actually leads Namath in career completions (2,039). He is second among Jet QB’s in career passing yards and posted the second highest yards in a season (3,888) in 1985. His longevity and passing ability ranks him among the top Jet QB’s ever to play the position in Green and White.

O’Brien was an exciting QB to watch when he got hot, he moved well within the pocket and when he was on top of his game he was hard to beat. I remember him most for his shoot outs with Marino, when both marched their team up and down the field.  In September of 1986, Marino and Obrien combined to throw for 10 TD’s as O’Brien led the Jets to an electrifying 51 -45 victory over the Dolphins. O’Brien threw for 4 TD’s and 479 yards that day.

He played a final season with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993 before retiring. He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. O’Brien brought Jet fans of the mid eighties something to cheer about. He played well for the Jets and will long be remembered as one of the all-time Jet greats.

Many of you will have special memories of O’Brien I’m sure as we’d love to hear them! As always, please leave a comment and Let’s Talk Jet Football!!

Next: New York Jets 2015 Training Camp Profile: Ronald Talley

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