The New York Jets could come to regret not adding an experienced QB

The New York Jets’ backup quarterback conundrum was thrust back into the spotlight when Zach Wilson struggled in Sunday’s home opener.

Two games into the Zach Wilson era, the New York Jets are once again embroiled in a quarterback controversy.

Rest assured, this isn’t a call to usurp Wilson from the Jets’ passing throne, even if many Gang Green supporters potentially did so (even facetiously) after being granted entry to MetLife Stadium for a regular season game for the first time since December 2019 on Sunday. Sam Darnold’s strong early returns in Charlotte have done nothing to quell the storm surrounding Wilson, whose 56.1 passer rating ranks dead last amongst 33 qualified NFL passers.

A four-interception outing during the Jets’ 2021 home opener, a 25-6 defeat at the hands of the Patriots, caused the statistical sinking. The road gets no easier with a visit to the Rocky Mountains to battle the undefeated Denver Broncos and their third-ranked defense (251.5 yards allowed) per game looming this coming Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Even the most naive and optimistic Jets fans had to know that Wilson’s rookie season was going to feature some growing pains. But it’d help if Wilson had some form of on-field assistance and guidance to work through them. Yes, the Jets prepared for Wilson’s arrival by replenishing their offensive cabinet (Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Alijah Vera-Tucker, etc.)…but they need a veteran backup thrower.

As Wilson’s Sunday passer rating continued to numerically resemble the bullpen ERA of New York’s woebegone baseball squads, some began to ponder if leaving him in to clean up the mess his turnovers created was the right move. It was prudent to keep Wilson in the game as the score worsened, as it presented a rare chance for him to build confidence in a consequence-free situation. But Wilson probably could’ve used a veteran voice in his ear to help him work through his tumultuous first taste of NFL regular season action.

Even if the Jets wanted to remove Wilson from Sunday’s carnage, it’s hard to say their current contingency plan would’ve beautified the situation. Mike White appears to be stuck in some sort of gridiron limbo, a quarterback whose first professional passes (in the regular season, anyway) are more likely destined for the third iteration of the XFL than Sundays in the fall. Even if the Jets were to mount an unlikely playoff push, White isn’t exactly the best option in case of a Wilson medical emergency. The South Florida/Western Kentucky alum’s NFL experience has been exclusively limited to preseason work and even that (71.5 passer rating over three summers with New York and Dallas) hasn’t been inspiring.

One of the more unfortunate parts of the affair is that the Jets are actively employing a quarterback who has been there and done this before, a veteran with a multitude of professional experience under his belt. Alas, Josh Johnson has been stashed on the practice squad, his services open to any team in need of an emergency veteran option.

What’s even more puzzling about this situation is that the Jets know just how valuable a veteran backup quarterback can be. Head coach Robert Saleh has repeatedly declared his reluctance to add a veteran backup for tradition’s sake. But recent history should’ve pushed the Jets in that direction.

Darnold’s finest New York hours, for example, came in the shadow of another well-traveled veteran: Josh McCown. Brought in as an emergency starter in 2017, McCown took Darnold under his wing during the latter’s rookie season and put him on a path to success. Darnold credited a sterling stretch at the end of year one (99.1 passer rating, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception, a comeback win over Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills over his final four freshman games) to observing and working with McCown.

“(I watched) the way he went about studying the plays that are in the game plan, it’s literally everything, walkthrough, practice, how he treated everything,” Darnold told reporters of McCown’s impact in December 2018. “I think it was just awesome to be able to learn (from) and watch him.”

A similar situation served as a subplot in the Jets’ most recent glory days: in helping the Jets reach the latter of consecutive AFC title game appearances, Mark Sanchez had the therapeutic services of Mark Brunell, the architect of Jacksonville’s conference championship game visits toward the turn of the century. Under Brunell’s watch, Sanchez posted the finest numbers of his career. In the five years after Brunell’s retirement, the rest of his career was anchored down by 31 touchdowns and 38 interceptions over 32 games in New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Washington. With Brunell behind him, he had 43 touchdowns and 31 interceptions over 32 starts, posting a 19-13 record as a starter in that span.

Sanchez would later fulfill a similar role with the Cowboys during the 2016 season, helping oversee Dak Prescott’s breakout freshman season in the absence of the injured Tony Romo.

Even in the fickle, hard-to-please world of NFL quarterbacking, Sanchez was happy to embrace the role of a mentor. The pair partook in a 13-win season for the Cowboys, matching their best victory tally in the new century.

“I don’t want to cloud (his) head, but from my experience, I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what happened to me,” Sanchez said at the time, per Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News. The former Jet went on to recall a humorous incident during Dallas’ October visit to Green Bay, in which he heard that a “crazed fan” attacked Prescott after leading a 97-yard, 33-second scoring drive just before the half. That lunatic turned out to be Sanchez, the afternoon’s backup and the first person to greet Prescott following the game-changing drive, which ended on a 20-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler.

Shortly before that possession, Dallas was reeling from a pair of Prescott fumbles (one lost, one forcing America’s Team to resign itself to a field goal) that allowed Green Bay to linger in a crucial NFC showdown. Cameras caught Prescott in constant contact with Sanchez after the miscues, which accounted for some of the first blemishes on his NFL ledger. Prescott had entered that anticipated matchup with just a single lost fumble to his name.

Not only did that drive of recovery permanently shift momentum into Dallas’ corner (taking a 17-6 lead into the halftime break en route to a 30-16 triumph) but it arguably sealed Prescott’s destiny as the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback.

“I jumped on him because I was so just happy for him, because you talk about coming back from adversity and he hadn’t really faced it yet,” Sanchez said in Hairopoulos’ report. “On the road, they’re trying to call timeouts to get the ball back and he takes it (97) yards. That was awesome.”

That’s quite an impact for a guy with 18 passes with a star on his helmet to leave on an organization.

Barring injury or an absolute meltdown…say, consecutive games with an imperfect 0.0 passer rating…it would be foolhardy to bench Wilson at any point this season. The Jets’ current situation enured that the playoffs were a long-shot right from the get-go. but this season still offers a bittersweet gift in the sense that he (and the rest of the fledgling Jets) gets 17 consequence-free opportunities to find himself and crack open the dangerous yet euphoric puzzle box that is passing success in the NFL.

Unless the Jets miraculously convince the Kansas City Chiefs to send Patrick Mahomes their way, no one wants to see anyone other than Wilson under center for the Jets this year. This is his time to work things out, to build confidence for the road ahead.

The Jets has spent the last five decades search for the long-sought successor to Joe Namath. Their failure to add a veteran, on-field quarterback in these vital hours of development only eliminates more clues and landmarks toward ending that hunt.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Even Mark Sanchez has tough words for the New York Jets

New York Jets, Mark Sanchez

The New York Jets have started their season 0–3, losing their most recent game to the Indianapolis Colts 36-7. With a lackluster offense and incapable defense, the Jets are essentially taking this year and running with the rebuild. Drafting left tackle Mekhi Becton, they feel confident on Sam Darnold blindside, but injuries have devastated the wide receiver courts and running back unit.

Former quarterback Mark Sanchez had choice words for the Jets, who seem to be going in circles the past few years. Ever since Sanchez led them to two AFC championship games, the Jets have taken steps back.

“Here’s the problem, you start talking about rebuild, that’s becoming synonymous with the Jets right now. And I don’t know if that’s necessarily the answer,” Sanchez said on “The Pat McAfee Show.”

The New York Jets are nowhere close to competent, in the words of Sanchez:

“You’re putting a product out there on the field that is in no way ready to compete with the league. Honestly, it is frustrating to watch and I really feel for Sam…They don’t have a household name that a defensive coordinator looks at during the week and goes ‘okay, what are we gonna do about this guy?’

“They don’t have to be ready for anything,” Sanchez said. “It’s like, let’s go play a preseason game, and play our base defense, day one and two installed defense, throw in a couple exotic blitzes, and we’ll kick their a–. It’s just really unfortunate, it’s disheartening.”

Ultimately, the Jets have a long way to go, and a lot of the blame falls on head coach Adam Gase. Reports have indicated that Gase could be on the hot seat, which would be justified considering his team’s lack of fight on a weekly basis.

The Jets trading away their best player in Jamal Adams was always going to be tough to come back from, but they gained essential draft capital to help their team in the future. Nonetheless, the team now is in shambles, and one draft class isn’t going to solve the number of problems they currently face.

However, when the Jets gain back their injured players and opt-outs from the 2020 season, they should be in a better place. Bad luck seems to strike the organization on a weekly basis at this point.

The New York Jets Need to Avoid Drafting a Quarterback

The New York Jets have re-signed David Fales and are reportedly looking at draft options to back up Sam Darnold. But that’s not the way to go.

The New York Jets face quite the conundrum at the quarterback spot as the NFL Draft approaches. It’s one they’re not used to, and one they’re somewhat blessed to encounter. But if they don’t handle it carefully, their new hope Sam Darnold could be the next name added to the list of false saviors under center.

Per Ian Rapoport, the Jets interviewed quarterback James Morgan (virtually, of course) in their preparation for this month’s NFL Draft. The high school star from Green Bay threw for 8,654 yards and 65 touchdowns over four seasons at Bowling Green and Florida International. A strong showing at East-West Shrine Bowl in St. Petersburg thrust Morgan up the board in a talented quarterback class. Jalen Hurts, Cole McDonald, and Shea Patterson are among the other notable names that can go in the latter stages.

The Jets have, or better have, no interest in the top of the class headlined by LSU’s national champion Joe Burrow. They already have apparently found their long-term name, one that’s eluded them for decades.

Darnold has everything one’s looking for in a franchise face: talent, college heroics, respect for the game and his new city. The ability to throw the deep ball certainly helps, as does the way he can move around and extend the play.

Yet, Darnold isn’t there quite yet. For every flash of brilliance, there’s a head-scratching play. For every masterpiece like the one we saw against Dallas, there are ghost sightings like the Monday night disaster against New England. 

Simply put, Darnold needs to learn a few more lessons before he can enter the NFL’s upper echelon of throwers. Thus, he is not in a position where he can be the oldest quarterback in the room. Media availability during his rookie campaign constantly featured tributes to his veteran mentor and synchronized hair-swiping specialist Josh McCown.

The Jets also should continue to contemplate the backup quarterback spot for practical purposes. Darnold has missed six games over his first two seasons due to injury and illness, games that have become Jets losses with no exception. Neither should be held against Darnold…football is an unpredictable, violent game…but that doesn’t mean the Jets shouldn’t be prepared.

New York Jets, Sam Darnold
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the emergency plans come in the form of David Fales and Mike White. The recent re-signee Fales has thrown 48 passes over a six-year career. That’s 48 more than White, a former Dallas Cowboys draft-pick who was dumped for the undrafted Cooper Rush as the number two man behind Dak Prescott.

That contingency plan isn’t on the Jets’ roster right now. Nor should they look for it in the draft.

This is the most hopeful the Jets have felt in their never-ending rebuild in a long, long time. But with that hope comes a sense of delicacy. Unforced errors and avoidable distractions must be kept to a minimum. Drafting a quarterback is one of the ways to buck that concept.

Today’s era of fantasy football and jersey sales dictates that not only must you rack up the wins, but you have to put on a show while doing it. It’s the football equivalent of a Michael Bay movie sweeping the Oscars. Vince Lombardi famously declared “winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing”. That bit of wisdom has appeared to have gone the way of the incidental facemask, the 20-yard extra point, and the Houston Oilers.

Sometimes, winning can’t save you. Alex Smith found that out the hard way in Kansas City. The veteran made his bread and butter mostly through routine checkdown throws, but nonetheless went 50-26 as the Chiefs’ starter. That didn’t stop Kansas City from trading up in the draft to take the electrifying Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech. Such misfortune came four years after Smith was not granted his starting job back after guiding San Francisco to a 6-2-1 mark before an injury. He lost the role to dual-threat sensation Colin Kaepernick back then.

Tyrod Taylor was another victim in 2017. He had guided the Buffalo Bills to their chance at the postseason in nearly two decades, but pedestrian numbers caused Buffalo brass to insert rookie Nathan Peterman midway through the season. Taylor won his job back temporarily, but, like Smith before him, lost out in the long-term to an exciting younger dual-threat in Josh Allen.

This fickle NFL world is not one for patience. The Mahomes process in Kansas City, for example, is one of the rare occasions where the practice of resting the rookie behind a veteran still went on. If a young backup quarterback steps in and completes a ten-yard pass nowadays, innumerable columns are launched expounding on why that understudy should get an expanded role.

That’s not the kind of pressure Darnold needs right now. If Darnold is already being told that a contingency franchise option is already in the cards, it could wreck his confidence. Such a phenomenon is not unprecedented, even from a day three option. Robert Griffin III was supposed to be the guy in Washington, but their long-term option wound being fourth-round man Kirk Cousins after injuries took over Griffin’s short-lived brilliance. It nonetheless created uncomfortable conversations about who would be the top man if and when Griffin was healthy that could’ve been avoidable.

What makes the Jets’ apparent quest for a quarterback all the more puzzling is that there are options available on the free agent market. If the Jets wanted the upgraded version of Fales…an experienced quarterback who has played in an Adam Gase offense and has proven very reliable as a fill-in starter…Matt Moore is literally right there. Another Super Bowl champion, the 47th edition’s MVP Joe Flacco, is also there for the taking. His brief time with the Broncos proved his days as a franchise starter are over. But the peace of mind of providing invaluable mentorship to Darnold and being just passable enough in case of an emergency (85.1 passer rating in eight Denver starts) could be one of the biggest additions to the Jets’ roster.

The value of an accomplished veteran backup was on display during the Mark Sanchez era. Mark Brunell, he of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ earliest glory days, threw only 15 garbage time passes in a Jets uniform. But the effect he had on a young Sanchez was apparent.

(Photo by Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“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.”

Brunell was around for the Jets’ last playoff appearance. Over two seasons with Brunell backing him up (2010-11), Sanchez threw for 6,765 yards and 43 touchdowns. Those numbers dropped to 5,327 yards and 25 touchdowns in two New York years sans Brunell. Sanchez’s 2009 rookie backup (Kellen Clemens) was no issue, but his 2012 understudies were in a constant spotlight. Nothing more needs to be written about the disastrous Tim Tebow experiment, while national champion and draft pick Greg McElroy wound up briefly taking over for Sanchez in the season’s dying stages.

The fact that the Jets have plenty of other holes to fill in the 2020 draft should scare them further away from the quarterbacks. Even with an extra pick, needs on every side of the ball need to take precedent. The receiving group is very weak without Robby Anderson. General manager Joe Douglas hinted that the offensive line renovations might not be over. A spell option for Le’Veon Bell must be considered if both Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery find new homes.

Defensively, a weak pass rush and shallow secondary must be addressed. Even a kicker should be considered with the on-again/off-again inconsistency of Brett Maher being the only option of the roster.

At the end of the day, the interview with Morgan (and perhaps others) could well be simply the Jets doing their due diligence. Any advantage one can gain during this most unusual draft process is there for the taking. But the Jets can’t afford to make this a priority.

Time will tell if Darnold is the savior under center the franchise has long sought. Drafting a quarterback, inadvertent as it would probably be, would provide a premature “no” to that question, or at least hasten the path to that answer.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

#StayAtHome; The New York Jets’ 10 best moments at MetLife Stadium (so far)

Good things happen when you stay at home. Just ask the New York Jets, who are set to open their second decade at MetLife Stadium this fall.

Our (temporary) new reality has denied us the glory and love of sports. The concept has, rightfully, taken a backseat as we look out for each other and work towards a new common good of overcoming the grim isolation that the coronavirus has brought upon us.

Of course, there is a light at the end of our proverbial tunnel. We, as a nation, have overcome disasters of epic proportions before. With teamwork and unity, there’s little doubt we can do it again.

The fact of the matter is, it’s best for all of us if we stay at home at this point. The sooner we adhere to the guidelines posted by medical experts (which include staying indoors and social distancing, save for necessities like grocery shopping and attending to loved ones), the sooner we’ll be back to enjoying the sports and events we love, living and dying with our teams.

Good things happen when you stay at home. Just ask the New York Jets, who are about to enter their second decade within the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium. As encouragement, ESM takes a look at the ten best Jets moments to go down at the stadium so far…

9/19/10: Give ’em Kell

Victories over the mighty New England Patriots have been relatively rare in the decade of MetLife. Tom Brady and Company did at least receive a rude welcome as victims of the first Jets victory at the stadium.

The Jets dropped their Monday night Metlife debut to Baltimore, but went on to shock the Patriots to the tune of a 28-14 triumph less than a week later. Tight end Dustin Keller took center stage with a career-best 115 yards in victory. 2008’s first-round selection also caught the last of Mark Sanchez’s three touchdown passes to help put the game away (Braylon Edwards and Jericho Cotchery caught the others). Defensively, Antonio Cromartie and Brodney Pool each victimized Brady for an interception. Jason Taylor put the tastiest cherry on top by ending New England’s final possession with a sack and forced fumble, recovered by Bryan Thomas.

10/11/10: Viking Conquest

The Jets’ kooky Brett Favre summited at an 8-3 ledger in November that had some Jets fans thinking Super Bowl. But a 1-4 finale had the Jets searching elsewhere for a quarterback (leading to the drafting of Mark Sanchez) and Favre destined for his umpteenth retirement. By late August, the Vikings made an offer he couldn’t refuse and he wound up taking them to the NFC title game.

When Favre returned to East Rutherford two seasons later, the Jets thanked the gunslinger for his services by having their defense constantly wrap Favre up in hugs…those under pressure, that is. Favre was sacked four times, but, true to form, managed to keep Minnesota in the game with three touchdown passes. One of those scores was of the 37-yard variety to Randy Moss, partaking in his first game in a Viking uniform since 2004.

MetLife braced for the worst when Minnesota forced a Jets punt immediately after the final two-minute warning and the home team struggling to hold a 22-20 lead. One year after Favre led the league in interceptions with the Jets, he threw one more in New Jersey. This one, however, brought Jets fans to their feet in the form of an interception returned for a touchdown by Dwight Lowery. The first touchdown of Lowery’s career put the game out of reach in the form of a 29-20 final.

11/21/10: Everything’s Bigger Against the Texans

The 2010 New York Jets were an exercise in waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everyone in football thought their 2009-10 trip to the AFC title game was a fluke, but they got rid of those notions with a 9-2 start to the season.

The penultimate win of that slate was a thrilling last-minute win over the Houston Texans, mere days before they demolished the Cincinnati Bengals in a Thanksgiving tilt. New York dealt with a challenge from the pesky Texans, who turned a 23-7 Jets lead into a 27-23 advantage, one they held with 55 seconds to go in the game. The detractors were certain that this would be the end of the Jets, the final blow to yet another magical season. But Sanchez worked some late-game magic, one that sent East Rutherford into hysterics. Things seemed dire with the Jets situated 48 yards away from the end zone with 24 seconds to go, but a 42-yard catch-and-run for Edwards allowed Sanchez to put the finishing touches on the victory.

In almost a reverse angle of his Super Bowl-winning catch for the Steelers, Santonio Holmes caught a six-yard Sanchez toss in the corner of the end zone with 16 seconds remaining to allow the Jets a 30-27 escape.

9/11/11: Showdown at the MetLife Corral

The 2011 NFL season’s first Sunday landed on the most solemn of occasions: the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001’s tragic events. After a day full of patriotic displays and tributes to the lives lost, the proceedings wrapped up at MetLife Stadium…just over 11 miles from where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers once stood. Moments of remembrance, attended to by former United States President George W. Bush and many first responders, were followed by a highly anticipated tilt between the Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas led 24-10 at the onset of the fourth quarter, but the Jets soon began an unforgettable rally. Plaxico Burress got things started with a 26-yard touchdown catch from Mark Sanchez. The teams would then exchange fumbles before Isaiah Trufan took a punt blocked by Joe McKnight back for a touchdown. Dallas’ would-be game-winning was stifled by none other than Darelle Revis, who intercepted a Tony Romo pass intended for Dez Bryant and took it into opposing territory. Former Cowboy Nick Folk dealt the final blow to his former mates, booting a 50-yard field in the final minute to secure the 27-24 win.

11/27/11: J-E-T-S Spells Revenge

The Jets’ divisional rivalry with the Buffalo Bills hasn’t gotten drastically ugly in the new century, but an exception was made in their post-Thanksgiving showdown in East Rutherford.

With Burress still on the 2011 edition, Bills receiver Stevie Johnson celebrated a first-half touchdown by pretending to be shot, referencing the receivers nightclub incident in 2008. The dated, classless jab immediately backfired on Johnson when the Bills flubbed a surprise onside kick and immediately let up a 14-yard score to Burress himself.

Burress had actually saved his best for last. With the Bills up 24-21, Burress’ one-handed catch on a third down with 11 to go kept the Jets’ victorious final drive alive. Two plays after the catch, Holmes caught a pass on a Sanchez rollout to give the Jets a 28-24 win.

12/6/15: JetLife Stadium

The saga of the 2015 Jets is a lot like watching Avengers: Infinity War: it was incredibly fun to watch, there are countless moments that make you stand up and cheer…it’s rewatch value, on the other hand, is completely ruined by its harrowing ending. If the Jets’ season-ending, playoff-costing loss to the Buffalo Bills served as Thanos’ infamous snap, their win over MetLife roommates was the closest thing they’ll get to an equivalent of Thor arriving with a new weapon via the Bifrost in Wakanda.

East Rutherford civil wars are routine in the preseason but are staged only once every four years. The 2015 edition featured both the Jets and New York Giants in the thick of their respective playoff races. New Jersey was set to be a blue state after the Giants put up 20 points in the second quarter. That haul seemed to be sustainable, so much so that the first interception of Rontez Miles’ career seemed with eight minutes left in regulation seemed like little reason to celebrate. The fact that the ensuing drive ended with a short Randy Bullock field goal wasn’t exactly inspiring either.

But optimism squeaked through after the Jets forced a punt down 20-13 in the final minutes. With just over a minute to go, Ryan Fitzpatrick channeled his inner Randall Cunningham, earning nine more yards than he needed to on a fateful fourth down with six to go. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick would send the game to overtime with a nine-yard scoring pass to Brandon Marshall.

In the extra session, Bullock booted a 31-yard field to give the Jets the lead. The defense then forced Josh Brown and the Giants into a deep 48-yard attempt, one that sailed wide left and gave the Jets the narrow win.

12/27/15: Boston OT Party

Knowing the terrors that awaited one week later in Buffalo, the penultimate game of the 2015-16 regular season may be the most bittersweet moment any team in NFL history has experienced. But, for one week, the turf of MetLife provided pure pigskin euphoria.

The Christmas season was no holiday for the Jets. They had exceeded expectations with a respectable record, but needed to top the Patriots in their home finale to keep a postseason dream alive. Their 9-5 ledger put them in a three-way tie for the AFC wild cards, but tiebreakers allotted the spots to Kansas City and Pittsburgh. New England had, predictably, wrapped the AFC East title, but was still battling Denver and Cincinnati for the AFC’s top playoff seed.

A pair of Ryan Fitzpatrick scoring hookups with Brandon Marshall built a 17-3 lead for the Jets. Typical Jets-Patriots antics of the new century ensued thereafter. New England narrowed things to one possession when Jamie Collins took a Fitzpatrick fumble back for a touchdown while the Jets only mustered a Bullock field goal to add to their lead. Brady made them pay with a nine-yard touchdown pass to James White that helped tie the score. The Jets nearly won in regulation, but a Fitzpatrick deep ball in the final minute sailed out of the reach of Quincy Enunwa.

New England opted for overtime after a Ryan Quigley punt. It was a rare decision that Bill Belichick would come to regret.

Winners of the overtime coin toss, the Jets wasted no time in the new life afforded to them. Fitzpatrick needed just five plays to go 80 yards for the victory. 48 of that tally came on a successful deep ball to Enunwa, while the final six were on Fitzpatrick’s game-winning toss to Eric Decker for the 26-20 victory. With that throw, Fitzpatrick tied Vinny Testaverde’s 1998 record for most touchdown passes in a single Jets season. Pittsburgh’s ensuing loss to Baltimore put the Jets in control of their playoff destiny moving forward

Nothing more needs to be written about the Jets’ eventual 22-17 loss to the Bills the week after. However, the memorable win at MetLife offered the Jets a quantum of solace weeks later. Thanks to their loss in East Rutherford, the Patriots lost control of the AFC’s top seed. That forced them to go to Mile High for the AFC title game, which the Broncos won in Denver en route to their Super Bowl 50 title.

10/1/17: A Special Victory

To say expectations were low for the 2017 New York Jets would be the understatement of the decade. The prognosticators that be at USA Today in fact pegged them for only a single win in their annual NFL preview.

The Jets immediately eclipsed that total in Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars a team that would up reaching the AFC title game. 2017’s New York City Marathon was over a month away, but the Jets got things off to an early start with long scoring runs from Bilal Powell (75 yards) and Elijah McGuire (69 yards) to build a 20-10 lead. Jacksonville, however, reinserted themselves into the game with a 10-point fourth quarter rally. Myles Jack took a fumble back 81 yards for a score,  and future Jets Pro Bowler Jason Myers kicked a field goal in the final minute to send things into overtime.

It was an extra session that, frankly, could’ve been avoided. In the dying stages of the first half, Lac Edwards set the Jets up in prime position for a bigger on a 31-yard pass via fake punt to Marcus Williams. However, Chandler Catanzaro missed a 45-yard field goal.

Redemption took a while to manifest, but it eventually came in the final stanzas of overtime. A tie seemed to be in the cards, but a Jeremy Kerley punt return earned 15 extra yards after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Paul Posluszny. Catanzaro then came on for a 41-yard field goal he successfully converted for the 23-20 win.

10/7/18: Run With the Horses

Two Jets records, one unconventional, were set in their 34-16 win over Denver.

The Jets have several renowned rushers pass through their ledgers. But it’s not Curtis Martin, Freeman McNeil, Thomas Jones, or Emerson Boozer who hold the single-game rushing record. That honor instead goes to Isaiah Crowell, he of only 13 games in green. Crowell torched the Broncos for 219 yards, a majority of it coming on a 77-yard score that made up the Jets’ first points on the afternoon. Perhaps more shockingly, Crowell needed only 15 carries to do it. Sam Darnold completed only 10 passes, but three of them ended in touchdowns (two to Robby Anderson). That was enough to secure his first MetLife Stadium win.

With the outcome well in hand, Denver tried to make things respectable. On the final play, Case Keenum’s would-be touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton was intercepted by Marcus Maye. The safety ran it back 104 yards but he was stopped just short by Sutton, the one man to run longer than him. It was good for the longest return in Jets history, and the longest return in NFL history that didn’t end in a touchdown.

11/10/19: Back to the Future

The likenesses and jerseys of Darnold, Daniel Jones, Jamal Adams, and Saquon Barkley are expected to adorn the respective entrances and patrons of MetLife Stadium for years to come. Fans of both metropolitan sides got a glimpse of what this group of football stardom had to offer when they met last fall.

Darnold spotted the Jets an early 14-point lead through both the air and the ground, rushing for a two-yard score before finding Jamison Crowder for a 23-yard strike. While the Jets were able to hold Barkley to a single yard on 13 carries, but Jones showed what he could do in the form of four touchdown tosses. Even when Adams pried the ball away from him for a score, those passes allowed the Giants to take a slim lead into the fourth quarter.

But after a Giants three-and-out late in the third (capped off by a Nathan Shepard sack), the Jets took the lead for good on a one-yard run by Le’Veon Bell early in the fourth. Defenses mostly reigned from there on out, with the Jets earning a Sam Ficken field to provide insurance in what became a 34-27 win.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

10 New York Jets “Opening Day” Memories

Baseball’s opening day has sadly gone by the wayside, but, hopefully, these New York Jets gems at least partially soothes the ache. 

Opening day festivities in baseball were, alas, not to be. America’s Pastime’s national holiday was given the worst kind of rain delay, indefinitely put on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled.

We here at ESM’s New York Jets department sympathize with our Yankee/Met brothers and sisters. To help with the baseball blues, we present the Jets’ finest “Opening Day”…or, in this case, Week 1, memories….

1960: Titanic Conquest

The New York Jets’ franchise wasn’t always one of doom and gloom. In fact, their tenure began on the highest of notes, crushing their new American Football League brethren, the Buffalo Bills, by a 27-3 final under their New York Titans moniker at the Polo Grounds.

Buffalo took an early 3-0 lead, but the Titans stormed back with 27 unanswered. Two scores came from the feet of quarterback Al Dorow, while Dick Jamieson found Art Powell for the first aerial score in team history. On defense, the Jets let up only 113 yards and just five combined completions between a pair of Buffalo throwers.

1991: Defensive Struggle, or Anything But

The defensive struggle is a dying art in today’s NFL, but the Jets have managed to come out on the right side of some good ones. One such tilt was their 1991 opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where both Ken O’Brien and Vinny Testaverde had trouble gaining traction. Pat Leahy was the Jets’ biggest contributor on the scoreboard, compiling 10 of the team’s 16 points on the afternoon. His boots, including the de facto game-winner in the penultimate minute, allowed Leahy to move up to sixth on the NFL’s all-time scoring list.

1994: The Bill Stops Here

By 1994, the Bills had been to four consecutive Super Bowls but came up short each time. Some felt a fifth time would finally be the charm, but the Jets hastened the decline of Buffalo at the onset of the 1994 season.

The Pete Carroll era began at Rich Stadium, where the Jets stunned the home crowd with a one-sided 23-3 victory. A pair of second-quarter rushing touchdowns from Richie Anderson and Johnny Johnson erased an early Buffalo lead, while Nick Lowry held off any resistance with three field goals. Jim Kelly was brought down four times on the afternoon, twice by Marvin Washington. The Jets had lost 12 of their prior 13 matchups with the mighty Bills, but the 1994 opener paved the way for a sweep, their first in the series since 1986.

1997: Neil the Power

The Jets were in desperate need of good vibes in August 1997. They had gone 4-28 in Rich Kotite’s disastrous two years at the helm and nursing a streak of eight seasons without a winning record. Former New York football hero Bill Parcells was brought in to drag the team out of dire straights. For at least one weekend, happy times were finally green again.

Visiting Seattle’s Kingdome, the Jets demolished the Seahawks in a 41-3 shellacking. The cause was led by Neil O’Donnell’s career day, as the costly veteran put up a career-high five touchdowns. Wayne Chrebet and Jeff Graham each earned a pair of that tally, while Kyle Brady added the outlier. Defensive, the Jets harassed Seattle tandem John Friesz and Warren Moon, allowing them only 168 yards on 17 completions combined.

2000: Oh, Groh Up

The Jets got the new century off to a good start, as the Jets battled their future single-season thrower Brett Favre in a thriller at Lambeau Field. Despite the defense’s best efforts in holding an injured Favre in check (14-of-34, 152 yards, one touchdown), the Green Bay Packers kept pace with the Jets, even holding a 16-13 lead in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.

After a Ryan Longwell field goal broke a 13-13 deadlock, the Jets got a major boost via a 61-yard connection between Testaverde and Dedric Ward that situated them three yards away from the end zone. It took three downs to pull off the final three, but Testaverde eventually found Curtis Martin for a three-yard score that gave the Jets what they needed. It the final touches on a 144-total yard, two-touchdown performance that got the 2000s rolling. Favre, true to form, nearly pulled off a gunslinging, game-winning drive, but a potential long touchdown pass to Bill Schroeder instead landed in the arms of New York cornerback Victor Green.

2002: Buffalo Thrills

The Jets opened the 2002 season against a familiar foe in unusual colors: Drew Bledsoe. Tom Brady’s emergence the year prior put Bledsoe in a Buffalo Bills uniform, and his first game was a back and forth thriller against the Jets. Buffalo jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but the Jets moseyed on back into the game with Chad Morton’s 98-yard touchdown. Despite major problems in the run game (Travis Henry torched the Jets for 149 yards and three scores and Curtis Martin left the game with an injury), the Jets kept pace with Buffalo and took a 31-24 lead via a Wayne Chrebet touchdown pass. Bledsoe, however, forced overtime with a scoring strike to Eric Moulds with 26 seconds to go in regulation.

Morton’s special team heroics, however, created the shortest overtime in NFL history. The veteran returned needed only 14 seconds to go 96 yards, allowing the Jets to escape Orchard Park with a 37-31 win.

2009: Making His Mark

A star was born in 2009, but Lady Gaga was nowhere to be found.

That’s what the cover of the New York Daily News declared after Mark Sanchez earned a victory in his first start, completing 18-of-31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown in Gang Green’s 24-7 win over the Houston Texans. His first touchdown pass was a 30-yard strike to Chansi Stuckey in the second quarter. Sanchez got the credit, but the defense might’ve been the real heroes at Reliant Stadium. Defenders held the Texans to 183 yards and 11 first downs in triumph, allowing no points as Houston’s only score came on a fumble return for a touchdown.

2011: That’s All, Folk

The 2011 campaign began on an emotional note, as the NFL’s opening weekend coincided with the 10th anniversary of September 11’s tragic events. Many prominent names who helped the country recover were in attendance, including first-responders from the NYPD and FDNY. Former US President George W. Bush helped oversee the opening coin flip.

On the field, the game situated the Ryan brothers, with Rex coaching the Jets and Rob manning the Cowboys’ defense. Dallas led 24-10 at the onset of the fourth quarter, but the Jets inched back into the game with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Plaxico Burress. The Jets failed to capitalize on a Tony Romo fumble forced by Mike Devito, but eventually tied the game when Isaiah Trufant took a punt blocked by Joe McKnight back for a score. Dallas’ would-be game-winning drive stalled when Darrelle Revis intercepted a pass intended for Dez Bryant. Former Cowboy Nick Folk put the finishing touches on a moving, booting a 50-yard field goal in the final minute to secure a 27-24 win.

2013: LD!

We’re used to seeing someone with the shortened name of “L. David” make bumbling mistakes on Sundays thanks to Curb Your Enthusiasm. This time, however, an HBO subscription wasn’t necessary.

Geno Smith’s Jets debut was a sloppy back-and-forth tilt with the Buccaneers. Smith managed the game well enough to earn the Jets a 15-14 lead in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. However, a 37-yard hookup between Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson inside the two-minute warning situated the Buccaneers in Rian Lindell’s field goal range, putting them up 17-15 with 34 seconds to go. With 15 seconds to go and the Jets approaching midfield, Smith successfully scurried out of bounds to preserve what little time was left. However, he gained some assistance from Tampa linebacker Lavonte David, whose late hit on Smith earned the Jets 15 free yards. That allowed Folk to drill the winner from 48-yards out, giving New York an 18-17 win.

2018: Hey, Darnold!

Sam Darnold’s precise Jets debut drew the tired chorus of “same old Jets” at Ford Field. His first NFL play ended in a touchdown, albeit in the most horrifying way possible. An interception to Quandre Diggs went back 37 yards for an early Detroit Lions lead. Fortunately for the Jets, Darnold would make up for it with a 41-yard score to Robby Anderson, part of a back-and-forth barrage that situated the game at a 17-17 standstill early in the third quarter.

New York took over from there on out, causing ED-209 levels of damage to the Lions’ defense in the form of 31 unanswered points. Darnold contributed to the cause with the first part of the carnage, a 21-yard strike to Quincy Enunwa that gave the Jets the lead for good. Notably, Jamal Adams earned his first NFL interception, while Darron Lee took another Matthew Stafford miscue back 36 yards for a touchdown, one of two “receptions” for Lee on the evening.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

For the New York Jets, Is Sam Darnold Really the Answer?

The New York Jets are finally starting to gel as a team this late in the season. After a 1-7 start, they have a chance to get close to .500 to finish the year (won’t be easy going through the Ravens, Bills, and Steelers [no matter how bad the Steelers may be, they are in the hunt for the Wild Card]). And with a second-year quarterback, things are finally looking up for Sam Darnold. Even after losing to the winless Bengals after losing to the winless Dolphins.

But is he really the solution for the Jets long term quarterback problem?

How does he compare to other Jets QB’s?

I’ve seen many Jets QB’s in my time watching the team. The earliest QB I remember is Vinny Testaverde. Then there was Chad Pennington, Brett Favre, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McGown, and now, Sam Darnold, with sprinklings of Bryce Petty, Kellen Clemens, Michael Vick, and Quincy Carter. That’s a lot of QB’s since 1998.

So let’s just focus on the starters, shall we?

Many disregard a QB’s win-loss totals, so let’s focus on the ratio that keeps a team in the season the longest; touchdowns to interceptions. Going into the team game against the Bengals, Darnold has 30 career touchdowns, to 25 interceptions. Where does he rank compared to the other starters? Here’s a breakdown of touchdowns to interceptions as the Jets QB, including their completion percentage and QBR.:

Vinny Testaverde: 77-58, 59%, N/A

Chad Pennington: 82-55, 65.6%, average 55.7 QBR over 2 seasons

Brett Favre: 22-22, 65.7%, 46.0

Mark Sanchez: 68-69, 55.1%, average 39.4 QBR over 4 seasons

Geno Smith: 28-36, 57.9%, average 42.4 QBR over 4 seasons

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 43-32, 58.3%, average 50.7 QBR over 2 seasons

Josh McCown: 19-13, 64.5%, average 44.7 QBR over 2 seasons

Sam Darnold: 30-25, 60.1%, average 46.7 QBR over 2 seasons


But What About that Win-Loss Total?

At the end of the day, it’s about leading your team to victory. Sam Darnold has been hit by the injury bug hard his two seasons in the NFL, but this will be the first time in my memory that a first-year Jets head coach won’t advance to a winning record. As hard as it is for Jets fans to admit, Mr. Butt Fumble, Mark Sanchez, has been the most successful QB for the Jets in my lifetime. You can’t argue back to back AFC Championship appearances. He’s also the winningest Jets QB in the playoffs, and the Jets were closer than people admit in playing Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XlV (45). 

Let’s look at the Jets records, shall we? The Jets were 33-29 with Sanchez as QB. The Jets are 8-20 with Darnold as QB. Mark Sanchez is the better QB for the Jets.

Should the Jets go for a QB in the Draft?

Yes. They absolutely should.

We all know what Carson Wentz is capable of as a QB, but he is injury prone. We may never know just what Wentz fully capable of after his ACL injury in the 2017 season. Darnold’s foot, and now mono… the Jets can’t be certain he’s going to be on the field with any regularity. Let the season play out, but get yourself a backup plan for 2020 and beyond.