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The 10 best Jets quarterbacks

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Richard Todd

For no particular reason, I thought it’d be fun to rank the New York Jets’ 10 all-time best quarterbacks. The leader is always obvious. No. 2, for me, isn’t hard. But then it’s a mad scramble of mediocrity …

• 1. Joe Namath: He’s a legend with really shitty stats. But sometimes numbers don’t tell the story, especially when you look back at the impact he made on professional football as a game and a business.

• 2. Ken O’Brien: There’s an old saying—”If Ken O’Brien is your franchise’s second greatest quarterback, you’ve got problems.” O’Brien, though, was very, very good. Good enough to be drafted ahead of Dan Marino in 1983? Eh, no. But a legit Pro Bowl quarterback whose rainbows to Wesley Walker were beautiful.

• 3. Chad Pennington: He threw 82 touchdowns and just 55 picks in eight years with the Jets. Which doesn’t sound like a whole lot. But he was either backing up Vinny Testaverde or hurt. When healthy, though, he ran the offense with surgical precision. Dinks, slants, curls aplenty.

• 4. Vinny Testaverde: Was with the Jets from 19988 thru 2003, then returned for a sip of coffee in 2005—ate age 42. Vinny had some great moments in New York, including carrying the Jets to the verge of a Super Bowl. He also was a born-and-raised New Yorker who reflected the heart of the team’s fans. Huge arm.

• 5. Mark Sanchez: There’s an old saying—”If Mark Sanchez  is your franchise’s fifth greatest quarterback, you’ve got problems.” Sanchez and the Jets went to back-to-back AFC title games, so you can’t take that away from the guy. But was he worthy of the fifth overall pick in 2009? Absolutely not. Erratic, skittish, not the hardest worker around.

O'Donnell: O'Terrible
O’Donnell: O’Terrible

• 6. Richard Todd: He was here from 1976-1983; the Namath replacement also out of the University of Alabama. Todd’s TD-INT ratio is awful (124-161), and in 1980 he threw 30 interceptions. Which is really hard to do. Not sure fans ever forgave him for debacle 1982 AFC title game vs. Miami, when he handed over five picks.

• 7. Boomer Esiason: He was here for three relatively forgettable seasons, but played relatively well. Still, Boomer goes down in history as a Bengal. The Jet years were pretty much a footnote.

• 8. Al Dorow: In 1960 he led the league with 26 touchdowns for the then-Titans. Which sounds pretty fantastic—until you mention his coupling 26 picks. Before Broadway Joe, there was Subway Al …

• 9. Neil O’Donnell: Once upon a time there was a system quarterback who traveled with the very talented Pittsburgh Steelers to the Super Bowl. Then, because they were idiots, the New York Jets handed the system quarterback millions of dollars to be their star. He proceeded to win one game.

• 10. Ryan Fitzpatrick:  There’s an old saying—”If Ryan Fitzpatrick  is your franchise’s 10th greatest quarterback … well, that’s OK.” Had a Pro Bowl-caliber 2015 with 31 touchdown passes. Then, in 2016, he returned to being Ryan Fitzpatrick.

3 replies on “The 10 best Jets quarterbacks”

I am 70 and dont’t remember Darrow. Namath may have had an impact because he was the first real flamboyant player in the AFL-NFL. but I am not sure that makes him a hall of famer. And being the young guy that you are, I think Johnny Unitas and the over time game had more of an impact on the game than Namath had. I was just 11 in 58 and I had a lot more awareness of baseball than football. I went to my first pro game in 1959. That was probably what started me in following football. I don’t think there was any one thing that made football so popular. I think the Packers run in the 60’s, Superbowl, Monday Night Football. No doubt you could throw Namath in the mix. Generally speaking I don’t think there were many athletes in any sport that generated as much talk as he did at the time. Now doubt he is the fore runner as to what we see now.

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