With the nation in need of a laugh, ESM counts down the best practical jokes in the history of the New York Jets.
Alas, our current situation isn’t one that can be remedied by the powers that be declaring “April Fools”. But, we could certainly use a laugh, or at least an “ooh? or an “ahh” in this day and age.
ESM is happy to pick up the slack on this, the first day of April. We present the New York Jets’ greatest examples of the trick play…football’s version of the practical joke:
1/3/87: Walker This Way
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You’d perhaps never expect the Jets and Cleveland Browns to create one of the most memorable games in NFL postseason history. After all, the two are often regarded as the most cursed franchises in football. The Jets perhaps gave the game a fitting conclusion by blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter en route to a 23-20 loss in double overtime. Cleveland’s defense limited the Jets to less than 300 yards of offense and brought down Jets quarterbacks on nine occasions.
The Jets got the memorable game’s scoring off to a roaring start in the second quarter despite their problems on offense. Pat Ryan got things going with a toss to Freeman McNeil before the rusher tossed the ball back to him. Another Ryan toss, this one deeper and of the forward variety, landed in the arms of Wesley Walker to give the Jets the early lead. That single throw constituted nearly half of Ryan’s yardage output on the day (103 yards while splitting duties with Ken O’Brien).
10/6/91: Blair It Out
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Four years after suffering that heartbreaking playoff defeat at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the Jets created deja vu all over again. Green trickery allowed them to break another scoreless tie in the second quarter. A throw from a running back was involved, but unlike McNeil, Blair Thomas got a chance to show off his downfield prowess.
As the Jets entered the Cleveland red zone, Thomas took a handoff from O’Brien. The Browns defense converged on Thomas, who mustered only 13 yards on eight carries during the afternoon. He more than made up for it on the 16-yard floater to Rob Moore. The sophomore receiver was left wide open in the lingering infield of the Cleveland Indians and caught the “pop-up” to give the Jets the lead. Gaining a quantum of revenge, the Jets topped the Browns 17-14.
Thomas’ toss was the only throw of his NFL career. He’s one of three Jets (along with fellow rushers McNeil and Curtis Martin) to have a perfect “touchdown percentage”.
9/24/00: Wayne’s World
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At the turn of the century, Keyshawn Johnson was apparently not pleased with how often he was getting “the damn ball”. The Jets traded the top overall pick of the 1996 draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April 2000. One of Johnson’s parting gifts was some harsh criticisms of Wayne Chrebet. The undrafted receiver was making a name for himself by becoming the quintessential NFL success story, but Johnson labeled the Hofstra alum as a “mascot” in his aforementioned autobiography.
Chrebet and the Jets didn’t have to wait long to serve Johnson’s words back to him. The schedulemaker placed the Jets’ interconference showdown with Tampa in the September portion. Both teams entered 3-0 and Johnson continued to run his mouth, saying comparing him to Chrebet was “like comparing a flashlight to a star”.
In the end, Chrebet earned the last laugh as the recipient of one of the most electrifying moments in Jets history. A Vinny Testaverde handoff to Martin seemed questionable with the clock running in the final minute, but Martin suddenly launched am 18-yard pass that landed in the bare hands of Chrebet, who snuck by defenders Damien Robinson and Brian Kelly. That score allowed the Jets to complete a quick comeback after trailing 17-6 within the final two minutes. Johnson was forced to wash down his serving of humble pie with a mere one-yard output in the 21-17 New York victory.
Martin is the only Jet in team history to a perfect passing touchdown percentage on multiple throws. His second and final toss came in a December 2001 loss to Pittsburgh.
10/23/00: An OT Sends It To OT
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Offensive lineman may be the most underrated and undervalued position in all of sports. Anonymity is perhaps the blocker’s dearest friend. Create the hole for the quarterback or rusher, and the skill player gets the credit in terms of highlights and fantasy points. Failure to do so often introduces you to fans in the grimmest of ways. Entering the box score, much less the scoring summary, is a long-shot at best.
Jets offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott found a way to it in the most memorable way on a Monday night at the Meadowlands.
The final regulation touches on the Jets’ erasure of a 30-7 deficit to the Miami Dolphins was Elliott’s three-yard touchdown catch from Testaverde on a tackle-eligible play. It certainly didn’t come easy…Elliott bobbled the ball throughout the process…but after replay deliberation, the game was allowed to continue after referee Walt Coleman approved the catch. John Hall wound up finishing the “Monday Night Miracle” with a 40-yard field goal to give the Jets a 40-37 win.
They say things are bigger on Monday night, and, in Elliott’s case, that axiom came literally. His catch (the only reception of his career) allowed him to become the heaviest player in Monday Night Football’s history to score a touchdown.
The Jets’ official social media accounts adapted the classic game into a Twitter-friendly setting earlier this week.
10/14/12: What Might’ve Been
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Tim Tebow’s New York saga was perhaps the most attention ever devoted to a personal protector. For all the pomp and circumstance behind that chaotic year, no one in the metropolitan area seemed to truly find an established role for Tebow. His spot on the Jets’ punting unit offered the sole form of green consistency.
Tebow’s longest New York play from scrimmage came on special teams in a midseason visit from Indianapolis. The Jets led 14-6 but were forced to punt in the latter stages of the second quarter. Needing 11 yards for the first, Tebow helped the Jets earn 23. He would navigate a quickly collapsing pocket before finding linebacker Nick Bellore wide open in the middle of the pair. Colts back deep brought him down, but the Jets situated well enough to set a pre-halftime touchdown from Mark Sanchez to Jason Hill. The Jets would up crushing the Colts 35-9 after momentum was permanently shifted to their side.
11/13/16: Varsity Green
The Jets welcomed fans from a galaxy far, far away last season when they hosted their first-ever Star Wars-themed day at MetLife Stadium last fall. It was hardly the first time cinematic exploits graced the East Rutherford field.
Closing on a scoring opportunity against the Los Angeles Rams, the Jets wound up punching it in on a play similar to one displayed in the climax of the 1999 coming-of-age high school football drama Varsity Blues. A Bryce Petty pass went to Brandon Marshall, but he immediately tossed the ball over to Bilal Powell on a hook-and-ladder surprise. The perplexed Rams could do nothing stop Powell’s score that gave the Jets a lead in the second quarter. It served as a moment of lateral redemption for Marshall, whose previous attempt…could’ve gone better.
The Jets’ fortunes were unfortunately not tied to those of the West Canaan High School Coyotes. Powell’s magic score accounted for their only points of the game in a 9-6 loss.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags