Despite not reaching a Super Bowl in the 1980’s, the Jets built one of the most fearsome defensive fronts in the NFL through some very shrewd drafting. Abdul Salaam, Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko, and Mark Gastineau led a Jets franchise, that did not make a single postseason appearance in the 1970’s, back into national prominence. Klecko’s number 73 is one of only 5 numbers retired by the team. While the peak of Gastineau’s career was far too short, he does hold the record for the most sacks over a two year period (41 between 1983 and 1984) and held the record for most in one season (22) until 2001.
The Jets began the 1986 season 10-1, before losing their final 5 regular season games. Despite that, and their eventual second round defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, the season did have its share of positive memories. On September 21st, quarterback Ken O’Brien locked horns with budding legend and fellow 1983 NFL Draft alumnus Dan Marino in a classic quarterback shootout. The two men combined for 927 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, but it was O’Brien who had the last laugh in this overtime thriller. He connected with Wesley Walkeron a 43 yard TD strike in overtime to lead the Jets to a stirring 51-45 victory, a rare moment of success for the Jets over the Hall of Fame gunslinger they passed on three years earlier.
While much of New York’s focus was on its two baseball teams squaring off in the World Series, the Gang Green squared off with the Miami Dolphins on October 23rd, 2000. For the first three quarters, The Dolphins held a seemingly insurmountable 30-7 lead heading into the 4th Quarter. But Vinny Testaverde led a furious comeback that saw New York score 30 points to force a stunned Miami team into overtime. For God’s sake, he even threw a touchdown pass to offensive lineman John “Jumbo” Elliot. The Jets would kick a field goal in overtime, sealing the greatest comeback in the history of Monday Night Football.
The rival New York Giants were only two years removed from winning their first Super Bowl. They still had Lawrence Taylor and a suffocating defense. Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms still led the offense, and all the 10-5 G-Men needed to secure a playoff berth was a win over the 7-7-1 Jets. But on a December day in 1988, the little brothers were up to the challenge. Ken O’Brien‘s 4th quarter TD pass to Al Toon propelled the Jets to a 27-21 victory and ensured that neither New York team would be playing post season football.