NY Jets Futility, since the glory days of Namath and Weeb Ewbank, can be traced back to bad decisions made by management since that by gone era ended.
The poster child for bad decisions is the draft class of 1983, yes the very one that produced the "Year of the Quarterback" class.
A draft called so because of the six quarterbacks chosen in the first round that year.
Interestingly that overall class produced numerous NFL Hall of Famers, that weren't QB's, namely: running back Eric Dickerson, offensive tackle Bruce Matthews, cornerback Darrell Green, defensive end Richard Dent.
And others that went on to be pivotal players on numerous Super Bowl teams including: running back Roger Craig and wideout Mark Clayton to name a few.
By far one of the greatest overall draft classes ever, but the emphasis of that year's class was the fact that of the six signal callers chosen, three went on to become Hall of Farmers.
- John Elway - The No. 1 overall pick by the Broncos, out of Stanford Univ.
- Jim Kelly - picked No. 17 by the Bills, out of Univ. of Miami. Kelly was actually the second chosen of Buffalo's two first round picks
- Dan Marino - picked No. 27 by the Dolphins, out of Univ. of Pittsburgh
This group went on to start a total of 10 Super Bowls, with the one non-HOF addition being Tony Eason, who led the Patriots to one appearance in the 1985 Super Bowl vs. the Bears. Two of the six signal callers not to make the Super Bowl were Todd Blackledge, chosen by the Chiefs, and Ken O'Brien, chosen by the lovable NY Jets.
The choice of O'Brien over Marino brings me to the subject of this story: the Biggest Draft Day regret in NY Jets history! The fact that the NY Jets in 1983 picked 24th, in a first round draft class of 28 picks, and were in need of finding the air to current quarterback Richard Todd, who had been with the club since 1976 (Todd actually only played three more seasons after that draft class).
When their spot on the board came up at No. 24 they sat in the catbird seat having watched four of the six heralded quarterbacks chosen in that round come off the board and were left with the choice of Marino and O'Brien.
O'Brien, whom was their choice did have a relatively decent career, throwing for a total of 25,000 yards and actually in 1985 had the highest quarterback in the NFL; he was selected to two Pro Bowl's in his 11-year career and actually threw for 400+ yards in a game against the Seahawks (as we all know all of which was obliterated by the success of Marino's career).
The Jets choice of O'Brien over Marino was quite curious, as Marino was twice a contender in the Heisman Trophy race coming in at No. 4 his junior season at Pitt (he actually led the Panthers to three bowl games in his illustrious career).
Marino was a prolific college passer amassing 7,900+ yards in his time leading the Panthers in the NCAA Division 1; I mention Div. 1 because while Marino was setting records and leading his team to three bowl games O'Brien who did have a good college career, and is actually in the NCAA Hall of Fame, was at the helm of Division 2 - Univ. of Cal-Davis (named an All-American in his senior season, again the emphasis being this was accomplished at the lower level of Division 2).
Marino's stock was hurt by a sub-par senior season and most importantly knee issues and questions of his off-field character, even still knowing this the Jets had the choice of selecting a storied Division 1 player verses a top Division 2 player and for the insane reason chose the later; to say the rest is history is an understatement!
Marino spent the next 17 seasons at the helm of the Dolphins reminding the Jets twice a season why they made the biggest error humanly possible not selecting him; Marino held a chip on his shoulder bigger than his shoulder pads and made sure the Jets saw it!
While O'Brien was putting together a decent career in NY, Marino was in South Beach re-writing the NFL record books. Although, Marino never won a Super Bowl he at the very least led his Dolphins to one trip to the big dance, and had it not been for a guy named Montana heading the 49ers' attack Marino may have won a ring in that 1985 Super Bowl.
He went on to lead the Dolphins to 10 playoff appearances (comparatively, during Marino's 17 year career the Jets reached the playoffs four times and were an exercise in futility hovering around .500 the majority of the time).
Adding insult to major injury was the infamous "Spike Game" in 1994 where Marino saw the Jets defense relax and faked as though here were spiking the ball and instead threw the game-winning touchdown, in Meadowlands Stadium, with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Going into that game the Jets trailed the Dolphins by one game in the AFC East and were about to tie up the playoff race, that loss dropped the Jets to 6-6, and led to a tailspin as they proceeded to lose their remaining four games, miss the playoffs and as a result got head coach Pete Carroll fired.
That game led to a period of futility as the Jets went on to compile a 4-32 record over the course of the next two and a third seasons following the "Spike Game"!
Comparatively speaking, as if it were necessary:
- Marino threw for 61,000 yards to O'Brien's 25,000 (36,000 more yards; in laymen's terms Marino threw for 20 more miles than did O'Brien, actually their totals were Marino 34.65 miles vs. O'Brien's 14.2 miles, meaning Marino threw the equivalent of four+ trips between the Meadowlands and the Lincoln Tunnel, in Manhattan, while O'Brien would have made one round trip)
- Marino threw 420 touchdowns to O'Brien's 128
- Marino was selected to nine Pro Bowls to O'Brien's two
- Marino was an eight-time All-Pro, O'Brien was never an All-Pro
- Marino was both NFL MVP and AFC Player of Year while O'Brien was a one time AFC Player of Year
- Marino was selected as the 25th best player in the history of the NFL, O'Brien was, unfortunately for the Jets, not on any such list
- Marino has a statue in his honor outside Dolphins Stadium and is enshrined in Canton (NFL's Hall of Fame) and widely recognized as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL History while O'Brien, unfortunately again for the Jets, not so much!
Jets fans how great would it have been to watch No. 13's laser arm leading Gang Green to victory, for 17 seasons, and be a perennial contender; you can sum up the choice of taking O'Brien over Marino in this question, how different would the team's fortunes and history be if the retired No. 13 of the Jets were worn by Dan Marino instead of (albeit excellent) Wide-out Don Maynard?
While Marino was my No. 1, the Jets have had other huge misses on draft day, taking the guy that fizzled out while his counterpart, playing the same position, or the guy taken just after their selection, went on to have stellar and sometimes Hall of Fame career's. The next few are are in this order:
Running back Blair Thomas - second overall pick in 1990 over Emmitt Smith, the next running back chosen at No. 17 by the Cowboys. I'll go further but here's all we need to look at with the pick of Thomas (wish his last name weren't the same as mine) after a stellar collegiate career, finishing as the second all-time leading rusher, at Penn State he went on to play a total of only six NFL seasons (four with the Jets) amassing 2,200 yards and seven touchdowns, TOTAL, in that time frame.
Smith on the other hand went on to have a Hall of Fame career, rushing for 18,000+ yards and 164 touchdowns over a 15 year career which included three Super Bowl rings, eight Pro Bowl trips, six All-Pro selections, four rushing titles, and numerous other accolades.
At the time of the pick, the biggest reason offered by the Jets' brass was that Thomas had proven himself over a four-year career and they were shying away from the smaller Smith who was coming out of college after his junior season.
Ultimately, this too became another on the list of "can we do that one over, please". In golf vernacular its called taking a "Mulligan" unfortunately for the Jets you can't take Mulligans while playing in the pros!
Running back Freeman McNeil - third overall pick in 1981, out of UCLA. On this list only because the ultra-talented back just couldn't stay healthy spending almost as much of his career on I.R. as he did on the field (keep in mind the '91 draft class saw three Safeties picked behind McNeil that were All-Pros, household names, and one Hall of Famer: Seahawks, Kenny Easley; Broncos, Dennis Smith; and the one and only 49ers' Ronnie Lott.
Tight end Johnny Mitchell - selected 15th in 1992, out of Nebraska. A physical specimen, selected primarily because of that fact, having only started one season in college was a high-risk gamble that blew up on the Jets as Mitchell could only muster six seasons in the pros, four of which were undistinguished seasons with the Jets.
Sadly, for the Jets, he was chosen one pick before Chester McGlockton the man-mountain defensive tackle out of Clemson, at 6'3" & 335 pounds. McGlockton went on to play 12 seasons, selected to four Pro Bowls and was a three-time All-Pro.
Tight end Kyle Brady - selected ninth out of Penn State. Brady had a stellar career at State College (All-American and is seventh all-time in receptions at the school), however Brady quickly became known as "Stone-Hands" with the Jets and could never shake his problem with the drops; he did ultimately play 13 seasons but never emerged as the big-time pass catch threat he was expected to be.
More problematic for his high pick was that he was chosen before future Hall of Farmers: Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and Ty Law along with his fellow Jets first-rounder Hugh Douglas. Any of the first three guys passed over would have made a huge difference for the Jets had they been selected instead of Brady.
Who's your No. 1, who would you have included on this list or have taken off; leave a comment with your thoughts?