1. 1998 AFC Championship Loss
The New York Jets' AFC Championship loss to the Denver Broncos on January 17, 1999 carried a lot of significance on the day it happened 23 years ago.
But like the Jets' 2010 AFC Championship loss to the Steelers 11 years ago, the weight of that defeat has grown exponentially over time. Especially considering what followed immediately afterward and since.
Back in 1998, two years after the Jets were the laughingstock of the NFL going 1-15, Bill Parcells had brought the Jets their first division title since the merger.
The Jets won 12 regular-season games and got to an AFC Championship against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. It was an amazing turnaround. The Jets were a great team in 1998 on the field and the sidelines.
As the AFC Championship Game transpired, the Jets seemed prepared to seize the day and had a 10-0 lead in the second half against Denver. The franchise was less than 23 minutes away from reaching their first Super Bowl in 30 years.
But the game completely turned on the Jets in the second half. It was a credit to the legendary John Elway and that championship Denver team that they were able to storm back and win the game outright 23-10, but what was most disheartening from the Jets' perspective was how they lost the game.
The team's most reliable veteran players like Curtis Martin, Keith Byars, and Vinny Testaverde had a miserable day at Mile High. The Jets turned the ball over six times.
When it counted the most, with the greatest of stakes involved, the Jets didn't hold up to the pressure of the atmosphere. It was a bitter end to what was a beautiful season.
Had the Jets held on to beat the Broncos, they would have been the clear favorite against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. The Jets had crushed Atlanta earlier in the season. Getting over the Mile High hurdle against Denver would have promised the Jets a Super Bowl Championship.
What transpired the following year, what made the Jets' AFC Championship loss to the Broncos even more painful, even though New York had come up short against Denver, was that the expectation level was through the roof for the next season.
With John Elway retiring, the stage was set for the Jets to win the AFC. But as fate would have it, the very next game of consequence the Jets played saw them lose their star quarterback Vinny Testaverde for the season due to a non-contact Achilles injury.
By the end of the 1999 season, Bill Parcells stepped down, and Bill Belichick tore up the succession plan by abandoning the Jets and creating a dynasty in New England.
As a result, the Jets' loss to the Broncos became even more bitter because they never got a fair chance to get back to the mountain top they were on when they headed to Denver.
Jets fans hope that there will come a time when the team once again plays important games that will leave lasting memories. Maybe the new memories in the biggest moments will have happier endings than these 10 games provided.