International Left Handers Day: The lefty QBs of New York Jets history

New York Jets, Mark Sanchez

As lefthanders around the world celebrate their holiday, ESM looks back on the southpaws of New York Jets past.

Don’t feel left out, southpaws.

August 13 marks the annual celebration of International Left Handers Day, a holiday that, according to The Telegraph, was created by “Dean R. Campbell, founder of the Left-Handers International Inc” in 1976 “to help raise awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed”.

The perceived difficulties of being left-handed are perhaps best on display in the National Football League’s quarterback ledger. Less than one percent of quarterbacks since 2017 have been left-handed and last season saw no lefties used in an NFL game. Miami Dolphins draft pick Tua Tagovailoa is set to break the inactivity if and when he plays a game in 2020.

The New York Jets are no exception to the gap between lefties and righties, with only four buck-fisted throwers suiting up for the team in regular season action. ESM looks back on those southpaws on their special day…

Boomer Esiason (Jets 1993-95)

Esiason was destined to leave an impact on New York football one way or another as a native of East Islip. After starring at East Islip High School, it took Esiason over a decade to get back to the metropolitan area when his long reign as the franchise quarterback in Cincinnati came to an end through a trade in 1993. Esiason went on to experience several highs and lows over three seasons as a New York starter. He earned the last of four Pro Bowl nominations in his first year and took home the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in his last. Esiason’s three-year tenure saw three coaches pass through, the first being Bruce Coslet, his former position coach and offensive coordinator with the Bengals.

Despite spending only three seasons in the green, Esiason ranks seventh in Jets history in yardage (8,478) and touchdown passes (49). His finest New York hour came in a November 1994 showdown with the Vikings, throwing three touchdown passes in a 31-21 win in Minnesota. Esiason’s 132.8 rating in that game was his highest since December 1989. He remains active in the New York sports scene to this day, having hosted WFAN’s morning program since 2007.

Notably, Esiason’s career tally of 37,920 passing yards is the most for any left-handed quarterback in NFL history.

Mark Brunell (Jets, 2010-11)

Brunell’s final stop on a respectable NFL career was New York, where he served as Mark Sanchez’s backup for two seasons. Though Brunell threw only 15 passes in a Jets uniform (most coming in the victorious 2010 regular season finale against Buffalo, where he earned two long touchdowns, his first in four years), Sanchez praised him for having a calming effect over his early NFL seasons.

“He has a calming presence when everything is spinning out of control,” Sanchez said of Brunell to Rich Cimini of ESPN during the summer of 2011. “When you’re not having a good game or practice is going too fast and you’re just not right, he’s got this way about him.”

On a national level, Brunell, the original quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is alone with only Esiason and Steve Young as the only lefties to throw for at least 30,000 yards in their NFL career.

Tim Tebow (Jets, 2012)

Ah, the great Tebow experiment. Time will only tell just how much that fateful year in Jetsland altered the course of NFL…and Minor League Baseball…history.

In terms of sports phenomena, Tebowmania rivaled only Linsanity at the onset of 2012. Tebow’s uncanny ability to wrangle late victories in Denver in 2011…he victimized the Jets for a 95-yard game-winning drive in November of that year…was sweeping the nation, but it wasn’t enough to lure John Elway and company away from Peyton Manning. The Jets traded for Tebow shortly after The Sheriff relocated and the rest, as they say, is history…not all of it great.

Tebow’s arrival commenced a frenzied circus in New York, his every movement tracked and documented across national networks. Originally slated to be used on special teams and in Wildcat scenarios (remember the Wildcat offense?), things reached a fever pitch when fans clamored to see Tebow in place of the struggling Sanchez. But even after the infamous “Butt fumble” game, Tebow was kept on the bench, having been injured the week beforehand, and was inactive when Sanchez was finally pulled for Greg McElroy weeks later. Tebow would tally eight passes in a Jets uniform (completing six for 39 yards) and ran for 102 yards (picking 10 first downs) before his release in April. It would be the last time he appeared in an NFL regular season, as failed attempts to make rosters in New England and Philadelphia led to his baseball adventure.

Michael Vick (Jets, 2014)

After his comeback tour in Philadelphia ended, Vick provided some rare sanity and stability during the final year of the Rex Ryan era. He came in for a struggling Geno Smith midway through the 2014 campaign and guided the 1-8 Jets to an upset win over Pittsburgh. Vick had two touchdowns in the win, both helping to create a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The highlight was a 67-yard bomb to T.J. Graham. In that same game, Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 6,000 rushing yards.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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