NFL - AFC EAST
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
New York Jets
An original member of the AFL as the New York Titans, founded in 1960, new ownership in 1963 saw the team change its name to the Jets. The new owners also took the team out of the Polo Grounds and into Shea Stadium, which was built for the New York Mets. For 20 years the Jets called Shea Stadium home before moving to the Meadowlands in 1984.
Original team owner Harry Wismer, knowing that he would be competing against the Giants for football fans, dubbed the team the Titans because, as he put it, “Titans are bigger and stronger than Giants.”
Wismer did not, however, handle the financial side of things well, and the AFL was forced to take over the team in 1962 and find a new owner. It did in the person of Sonny Werblin, who bought the team for $1 million, moved it to Shea Stadium, and changed the name to the Jets because of Shea’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport.
The team also hired a new coach for the 1963 season, Weeb Ewbank, an NFL championship winning coach with the Baltimore Colts who had recently been fired.
That firing by the Colts, and hiring by the Jets, would change the course of the franchise.
Championships by the New York Jets
When the AFL and NFL first began playing a championship game against one another, it was a novelty. The NFL was considered the far superior league (and certainly by the NFL itself) and the first two Super Bowls bore that out. In the first meeting between the rival leagues the Packers beat the Chiefs, 35-10. Green Bay followed that up with a 33-14 win over the Raiders in Super Bowl II.
But then came the Jets.
Super Bowl III
The AFL was still not taken seriously as the Jets, the winners of the AFL, traveled to Miami to take on the Colts, who had Don Shula and NFL MVP quarterback Earl Morrall, who had taken over for an injured Johnny Unitas.
For everything Unitas and Shula were – quiet, measured, serious – the Jets were led by the opposite, quarterback Joe Namath. Broadway Joe, who liked his fur coats and single women, also liked to talk, and famously three days before the Super Bowl he guaranteed victory. Pretty brash for an 18-point underdog.
The bold words, however, turned out to be prophetic. The Jets intercepted Morrall three times, before he was eventually replaced by Unitas. Namath completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards, and New York shocked the world, upsetting the heavy favorites from the NFL, 16-7. Namath was named the game’s MVP.
Key Stats by the New York Jets
1968 was the mountaintop for the Jets, and it’s a place they haven’t reached since. The AFL Championship that year and the win in Super Bowl III are the only championships in team history.
The Jets do have four division titles to their credit – the AFL East in 1968 and 1969, and the AFC East in 1998 and 2002. They’ve also appeared in the playoffs 14 times. In four of those years they advanced as far as the AFC Championship Game – 1982, 1998, 2009, and 2010.
In one of the more unusual footnotes in the history of the New York Jets, Steve O’Neal punted the ball 98 yards in 1969, from his own 1-yard line, the Broncos 1-yard line. It still stands as an NFL record.
Top Players in New York Jets History
A number of great players have spent time on the Jets roster, like quarterback Brett Favre, safeties Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed, and running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and John Riggins.
For true Jets players that are in the Pro Football Hall of the Fame, the discussion begins with wide receiver Don Maynard. He was the very first player to sign with the new AFL franchise in 1960, and he would be a mainstay on the team until 1972. A member of the AFL’s All-Time Team, Maynard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Curtis Martin is easily the best running back in team history. A five-time Pro Bowler and Offensive Rookie of the Year, he retired with 14,101 yards rushing and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
The most famous player in team history is quarterback Joe Namath. The leader of the Super Bowl III winning Jets, Namath was twice the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, along with being the MVP of that Super Bowl win. He was a National Champion at Alabama and has been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1985.
Another member of the Super Bowl III winning team in the Hall of Fame is offensive tackle Winston Hill, inducted into Canton in 2020.
Top Coaches in New York Jets History
Bill Parcells was a Super Bowl-winning coach with the Giants and an AFC Championship-winning coach with the Patriots. He didn’t reach those same heights with the Jets, but he did have a 12-4 season and an AFC Championship Game appearance in 1998. When Parcells took over in 1997, the Jets hadn’t had a winning season since 1986 and were coming off a 1-15 year.
Parcells, however, isn’t truly a Jet, as he’s mostly claimed by the Giants. For the greatest coach in Jets history there is no other choice than Weeb Ewbank, the head coach of the Jets from 1963 to 1973.
Ewbank won two NFL Championships with the Colts and Super Bowl III as the head coach and general manager of the Jets. He is credited with bringing Johnny Unitas to Baltimore, turning that team into a winner, as well as bringing Joe Namath to the Jets.
Ewbank spent his early years coaching football, basketball, and baseball in high school, but during World War II he was based at a naval station near Chicago with Paul Brown, and served as an assistant under him at the base. When Brown became the co-founder and head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he brought in Ewbank as an assistant, beginning his career in professional football.
Ewbank was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.