What can we say about the New York Jets on our NFL Thursday miniseries that hasn’t been said before? With a .440 winning percentage since the team’s inception in 1960 with the birth of the AFL, the franchise has not been very successful—while also being the butt of many jokes. But the Jets did win Super Bowl III … and have never been back to the Big Game. In fact, the Jets have just 14 postseason appearances in 64 seasons of play. That’s downright brutal.
No. 5: 1968 New York Jets
With an 11-3 record, the Jets won the ol’ AFL East Division—with the No. 2 offense and the No. 4 defense. This ranked New York third in the SRS rankings among the 10 league teams. The Jets, though, got to sit around and rest while the top two teams (Kansas City and Oakland) played a tiebreaker game for the West Division title. That helped New York pull off the 27-23 upset over the Raiders in the AFL title game, before the Jets went on to shock the world in Super Bowl III.
Eleven players on the roster notched double-digit Approximate Value (AV) marks, led by wide receiver Don Maynard (17), defensive end Gerry Philbin (16), quarterback Joe Namath (15), and WR George Sauer (15). The Jets somehow beat the Raiders despite being outgained and losing the turnover battle (2-0)—and with Namath completing just 19 of his 49 passes. Against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, New York’s defense famously forced 5 turnovers, and that was that.
No. 4: 2009 New York Jets
This 9-7 team made a surprise run to the AFC Championship Game, despite finishing second in the AFC East. The Jets had the No. 1 defense, but the No. 17 offense was a bit of a hindrance on the way to a surprise No. 3 ranking in the overall SRS. In the playoffs, New York upset Cincinnati on the road by 10 points and San Diego on the road by 3 points before losing to the Indianapolis Colts on the road by 13 points—when the team was outscored 17-0 in the second half.
Eight players registered 10+ AV marks, and six of them were on defense—with the two offensive players being linemen. Cornerback Darrelle Revis (22), linebacker David Harris (19), and DE Marques Douglas (16) led the way. The offense showed up nicely against the Bengals, while the defense stifled the Cincy offense. The Chargers did themselves in with penalties and turnovers. But the defense collapsed against Peyton Manning, giving up the final 24 points of the game.
No. 3: 1985 New York Jets
These Jets went 11-5 to finish second in the AFC East Division, and it is certainly the most anonymous team on this list. With the No. 7 offense and the No. 3 defense, New York finished No. 2 in the overall SRS ratings. How come this team doesn’t even ring a bell then? Because it lost at home in the first round of the playoffs to a team that finished below it in the standings: the New England Patriots. The Jets offense committed four turnovers in a 26-14 loss that no one recalls.
The top players on this team were defensive lineman Joe Klecko (20), LB Lance Mehl (16), QB Ken O’Brien (15), and running back Freeman McNeil (14). O’Brien actually topped the NFL in QB rating this season, but he was injured in the playoff game—and backup QB Pat Ryan had to finish the contest. Neither team gained more than 260 yards of offense in a defensive struggle, but two INTs (one by each New York QB) and two fumbles ended the Jets’ chances at advancing.
No. 2: 1982 New York Jets
In the strike-shortened season, New York posted a 6-3 record to claim second place in the AFC East. The No. 3 offense was supported by the No. 10 defense, combining for a No. 1 finish in the SRS ratings, overall. However, the Jets were just the No. 6 seed in the expanded playoffs. They beat the Bengals in the first round, and then New York upset the top-seeded Los Angeles Raiders in the second round. Finally, though, the Jets famously went out in the mud against the Miami Dolphins.
This was another loaded roster with 11 players reaching double-digit AV numbers, led by DE Mark Gastineau (20), offensive lineman Joe Fields (18), offensive tackle Marvin Powell (16), and McNeil (14). The Bengals were the reigning AFC champs when the Jets pounded them on the road, 44-17, and then the Raiders were the favorites before New York squeaked by, 17-14. Against the Dolphins, though, a combined 9 turnovers made it a slog fest that Miami won, 14-0.
No. 1: 1998 New York Jets
These Jets posted a 12-4 record—still the team record for wins in a season—and won the AFC East, with the No. 5 offense and the No. 2 defense. Overall, the team finished second in the SRS ratings. They played a tough divisional round game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, winning 34-24, before traveling to Denver to face the defending Super Bowl champs in the AFC title game. There, the season ended with a 23-10 loss, where the Jets blew a 10-point lead in the second half.
The AV leaders? LB Mo Lewis (17), RB Curtis Martin (14), OL Kevin Mawae (14), and QB Vinny Testaverde (14). Against the Jags, the Jets had to overcome three turnovers, but the defense forced four turnovers itself. That wouldn’t work against Denver, however: New York’s offense committed six turnovers against the eventual champion Broncos, including two interceptions by Testaverde and a fumble by Martin. The Jets gained just 14 rushing yards on 13 carries, too. Ouch!