The Jets and Quarterbacks

Namath and Todd. Like caviar and canned tuna.

Namath and Todd. Like caviar and canned tuna.

Back when I was growing up on the mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y., there were two kids who were die-hard Jets fans.

One was, well, me.

The other was Matthew Walker, who owned (not lying) his very own Blair Thomas T-shirt.

Recently, Matty and I were talking via Facebook about the Jets’ quarterback history. Specifically, we ranked the all-time five best QBs in franchise history. We pretty much agreed on this …

1. Joe Namath—No brainer.

2. Ken O’Brien—Scorned because he was drafted before Dan Marino, but it’s sort of unfair. O’Brien was a helluva player. Always had a very high completion percentage, owned an absolute gun. Was he Marino? No. But he’s closer to Elway-Kelly-Marino (the big three from the ’83 Draft) than Tony Eason and Todd Blackledge (the lower two).

3. Chad Pennington—Pretty good player with no arm strength but, like O’Brien, unique accuracy. Injuries hurt a solid career.

4. Vinny Testaverde—Big arm, local boy, had some excellent seasons.

5. Richard Todd—To watch Todd regularly was to realize he wasn’t very good. OK game manager, blessed with Wesley Walker and Mickey Shuler; cursed with Lam Jones. Was traded to Saints and bombed.

There are some arguments to be made. Does Mark Sanchez eke out Todd? What about Boomer? Brett Favre was a Jet for a year. Pat Ryan wore No. 10. Kyle Mackey existed. Browning Nagle … um, yeah.

It’s a terrible list. There’s no getting around that truth. Terrible. Namath was a groundbreaking quarterback who deserves his legendary status, but—when talking play alone—he’s not No. 1 for most franchises. The 49ers have Joe Montana and Steve Young, the Cowboys have Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, the Patriots have Brady, the Colts Unitas and Manning and (I’d argue) Bert Jones. I hate to admit this, but I’d take Y.A. Tittle, Phil Simms or Eli Manning over Namath. Sorry, man. I would.

Truth be told, the Jets may well have the worst five in the NFL (not including the most recent expansion teams). The Bears are pretty thin at QB, but they’ve still got Sid Luckman, Jim McMahon and Jay Cutler. The Eagles aren’t breathtaking, but Norm Van Brocklin, Randall Cunningam and Donovan McNabb trumps the Jets.

Anyhow, I’m babbling. Let’s discuss …

21 thoughts on “The Jets and Quarterbacks”

  1. Todd is God! I’m in that tiny demography of people who had Jets season tickets in the early ’80s (Shea Stadium/then Giants Stadium years) then moved to Clearwater and had Bucs season tix in ’85 and ’86. I’ve seen Vinny when he was going to be the Creamsicle Savior. When the news came he was going to be a Jet, I realized by then I had given up on both franchises.

  2. McMahon was hurt a lot. He won a superbowl but no near the HOF. Cutler hasn’t won any thing either and missed time as well. Any way those two are a long leap from Luckman. Having said that it is hard finding good quarterbacks. I think the 49 ers were the best in that. They have had Tittle, Brodie, Montana, Young and now Kapernick. We will need a few more years to see if he comes close to those qb’s.

  3. I’m hoping desperately that “eek” instead of “eke” was a result of auto spelling correction and not a deliberate choice. As a truly horrible keyboarder, I’m very tolerant of misspellings online, but gee whiz, you write for a living.

    Namath’s career stats are a great big “meh.” But his contributions can’t be explained by mere stats. He was a bona fide star when the AFL needed stars, and instrumental in cementing the legitimacy of the AFC teams that joined the league.

    Can’t disagree with the other 4, except for Vinnie T. Pennington had a noodle for an arm, but was very, very smart. Vinnie looked every inch the NFL QB, except that he was not exactly Mr. Wunderlic. He thrived only when he had a coach who simplified the game plan, and force-fed him.

    Interesting that you mention the Niners. Yes, they have been blessed with a succession of good QBs. Heck, Jeff Garcia, who played behind a for all practical purposes nonexistent O-line for years,, and STILL made the playoffs, would beat out one of 2 on your Jets’ top 5. But in fairness, Montana, unquestionably an all-time great, used up all of his lifetime supply of luck in getting drafted by the Niners, and coached by Bill Walsh. Walsh was a rarity among NFL coaches. He had his offensive philosophy, to be sure, but he was willing and able to change things to accommodate his talent. Montana made the most of his opportunity — an understatement — but had he been drafted by any other team, I doubt he’d have lasted a year.

    Which brings us to Mark Sanchez. A lot of what befell him unquestionably was his own doing; but he had exceptionally bad luck to wind up on a team coached by a defensive guy whose idea of offense was the same as his father’s: just don’t screw up what the defense gives you. To compound the felony, the Jets took away whatever minor receiving and rushing talent was available for him to work with, year after year; and absolutely gutted the O-line. When he had reliable targets to throw to, he completed more passes. Funny how that works. And they selected unimaginative, inept offensive coordinators to guide the diminished talent pool. I just wonder whether he might still be a starter, if he’d been on a different team, with better talent and an at least marginally competent offensive coordinator.

  4. Namath’s stats are worse than “meh”; check ’em out again: In 1975, at age 32, Namath started thirteen games for the Jets (3W, 10L), throwing fifteen TDs and twenty-eight interceptions, and earned a QB rating of 51.0. The next season, he started eight games and got a 39.9 rating. And this is, as Jeff notes, the best quarterback in the history of the New York Jets. I don’t care much for Eli Manning, but that choice would be no choice at all.

  5. no one year QBs should ever be on a list of potential best in franchise QBs. That alone makes the Jet list sad.

    Truth is, in any given year, there are one or two great QBs, a handful of good QBs and then the rest in the league. Thats in a league that has 90+ QBs in it currently. That is why potential greats are so sought after in the draft every year. Some teams (like the Jets) have never gotten lucky and drafted a true great QB.

    Paul C – I think it is silly to suggest Montana might not have lasted a year if not for pairing up with Walsh in SF. That is like saying Bird was only a HOF basketball player because he was paired with other HOF players in Boston. Montana had a great coach, great talent, does not diminish his talent though. He might not have won titles elsewhere but I think he would have made a team better wherever he would have been.

    1. You have touched on one of my pet peeves. I agree that if he had gotten the chance, Montana would have contributed wherever he went. If he was in an offense that didn’t suit his skill-set, he might never have been an all-timer; but he’d have been OK. But I doubt he’d have gotten the chance anywhere else. He was rated only slightly above average in the “measurables” at the predecessor of the combine, and no one really wanted him, except Walsh. What if he’d wound up playing for John Rauch at Buffalo, the genius who apparently said to himself: “We’ve got O.J. Simpson, maybe the greatest running back, potentially, ever. I know, let’s use him as a decoy.” My point is that there are a lot of REALLY incompetent and unimaginative coaches (and organizations) in any sport, and it’s luck when a player winds up with a coach who can bring out the best in him, rather than stifle his talents by trying to make him conform to an inflexible system. I think Tom Brady had the same kind of luck — to be in a system, and with a coach, that allows him to blossom. Does that mean that the great gifts of vision, work-ethic, leadership, and even some measurables didn’t contribute to the great achievements of Montana, Brady, and many others? Of course not. But they were fortunate to wind up in systems, and with coaches, that allowed them to put their talents to best use.

      Larry Bird one of the most sought-after players even of his Junior year, and would have been a top-2 selection had he been draft-eligible after his senior year. He’d have been great anywhere. But rings are (incorrectly, in my opinion) equated with greatness, and had he gone elsewhere, and won fewer rings/been in fewer NBA Finals, yes, his innate greatness would have been diminished in the estimation of the public.

  6. As far as his NFL career goes, Namath goes down as the single most overrated QB of all time in my book.
    Absolute All-Timer if his college career is included but he was more hype, off-field aura, and “The Guarantee” than on-field greatness with the Jets.
    The Cardinals are pretty thin. The Lions are probably worse than the Jets too. Does KC have a great lineage at QB (Dawson is the second most overrated QB of all time in my opinion)

  7. When I was a kid in the Bay Area, the Raiders had Lamonica and Stabler (underappreciated). Later they had Rich Gannon, but their QB legacy is relatively thin too. They were always more about the recievers (Branch, Biletnikoff, Chester, Casper, et al) and the defense (Long, Davidson, Matuszak) .

      1. I wasn’t trying for a definitive list, but you’re right, I overlooked Plunkett. Didn’t Stabler also win a Super Bowl vs Minnesota in the Rose Bowl?

      2. And I was joking. The post looks rather snarkier than intended. Yep, The Snake is the other Raiders Super Bowl winning QB.

  8. Jared Paventi (SBU '99)

    Seattle: Russell Wilson, Dave Krieg, Matt Hasselback? Meh.
    KC: Len Dawson and Steve DeBerg. Better Than Meh. But not by much.
    Detroit: I can name Stafford, Andre Ware and Rodney Peete. Oh! And Scott Mitchell. Not much to cheer about there.

    I think that finding 5 quality QB’s in any franchise would be tough, simply because a guy like Elway or Montana or Unitas would be under center for, what, 10 to 15 percent of the franchise’s history.

  9. Jeff, did you hang out at Rodaks? lol. (I grew up in Mhopac too)

    As a Raiders fan, here are my top 5 QB’s

    1. Stabler. Should be in the HOF. Led Raiders to AFC championship games, 1977 MVP SB XI Champion
    2. Plunkett. 2 sb rings
    3. Daryle Lamonica. The mad bomber
    4. Rich Gannon
    5. Jeff Hostetler

    1. You could add Tom Flores, both because he was actually a pretty good QB, and because after he retired, he did better than OK as a coach: was an assistant coach on a the Super Bowl winner head coached by John Madden, and was head coach for the Raiders’ other two winners. First Hispanic starting QB in the NFL, and first “minority” head coach to coach a Super Bowl winner.

      I don’t know that those milestone achievements necessarily put him into the top-5 “pantheon,” but what the heck, he deserves a shout-out.

Leave a Reply