The New York Jets have made 14 playoff appearances and won one Super Bowl over their over 60-year history. Although not one of the most celebrated NFL franchises, the team has generated numerous memorable moments. Let’s look at five that stand out.
5. Embarrassing the Colts
The Jets dropped four of the first five games of the 2002 season. Improbably, they won eight of the next 11 to finish 9-7, a record that was surprisingly good enough for them to top the AFC East. The first-place finish gave the Jets a home playoff game, which saw them face Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
Unfortunately for some season-ticket holders, the home playoff game was so unexpected that many hadn’t taken the opportunity to buy tickets in advance. Fortunately, the lack of season ticket holders in attendance didn’t affect New York’s performance on the field.
Led by head coach Herman Edwards, the Jets dominated Manning and the Colts, winning 41-0. The Jets' defense was particularly effective, recording two interceptions and limiting the future Hall of Famer to 137 passing yards. Quarterback Chad Pennington, meanwhile, threw three touchdowns, and running back Lamont Jordan added two more on the ground.
4. Upsetting the Patriots
The Jets made the 2010 playoffs after finishing the regular season with an 11-5 record. One of the losses had been a particularly humiliating 45-3 shellacking at the hands of the divisional rival New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
After edging past the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round, the Jets would have a chance to face the Patriots once more. New England had gone 14-2 in the regular season and was the No. 1 seed. Under head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots had led the league in scoring and were riding high on an MVP season by quarterback Tom Brady.
It would all come to an end against the Jets. Playing on the road in Foxborough Stadium, New York took down the Patriots 28-21. Quarterback Mark Sanchez played especially well, throwing for three touchdowns with zero interceptions, and the Jets' aggressive defense stifled New England’s vaunted offense.
So emotional was the win that, in a postgame interview, linebacker Bart Scott responded to a question about facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the next round by saying simply, “Can’t wait.” Jets fans still call the win over the Patriots the “Can’t Wait” game.
3. Signing Curtis Martin
When 25-year-old running back Curtis Martin became available as a free agent in 1998, the Jets swooped in and signed him. It’s no wonder why: Over three years with the Patriots, Martin had rushed for 1,000 yards three times, made two Pro Bowls, and won Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Martin would continue his stellar play in New York, rushing for over 1,000 yards in seven straight seasons. These included a career-best 1,697 yards in 2004, a year in which he made his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl and earned his sole All-Pro selection.
Martin retired after the 2005 season having rushed for the fourth-most yards in NFL history. Still the NFL’s fourth-leading all-time rusher, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. In the same year, the Jets retired his No. 28.
2. The Monday Night Miracle
The Jets and the Miami Dolphins came into this 2000 regular-season game tied in the AFC East at 5-1. What could have been expected to be a close contest was, entering the fourth quarter, anything but, as the Dolphins built a seemingly insurmountable 30-7 lead. The deficit was so great that many Jets fans left the Meadowlands early.
They would soon wish they hadn’t.
Led by quarterback Vinny Testaverde, the Jets ran off 23 unanswered points to tie the game at 30. Miami quickly took the lead again, but the Jets responded, with Testaverde throwing his fourth touchdown pass of the fourth quarter, this one caught by offensive tackle Jumbo Elliot, who was lined up as an eligible receiver on the play.
The touchdown and subsequent extra point forced overtime. After a series of turnovers—two by Miami and one by New York—Jets kicker John Hall lined up for a 40-yard field goal. The ball sailed through the uprights, completing what would become known as the Monday Night Miracle, a comeback that remains the biggest in franchise history.
1. Namath Backs Up His Guarantee
Few believed the Jets had any chance of winning Super Bowl III. Hailing from what was considered the inferior American Football League, New York was an 18-point underdog against the NFL champion Baltimore Colts.
Perhaps no one disagreed with the prognosticators more than Joe Namath. Three days before Super Bowl III, while accepting the AFL MVP Award, the brash young quarterback famously guaranteed a victory.
By the end of the big game, he had proven to everyone how right he was. In a performance that earned him Super Bowl MVP honors, Namath threw for 206 yards. One hundred thirty-three of these were to George Sauer, a relative unknown who was filling in for hampered star wideout Don Maynard.
As Namath left the Orange Bowl field, the quarterback held an index finger aloft in victory. For the Jets franchise, it’s an image that will live on forever.