New York Jets – A Painful Trip Down Memory Lane

Stephen Russo on the five most painful losses for the New York Jets of the past 30 years…

We are less than two weeks away from regular season New York Jets football and while the preseason expectations surrounding this team are usually at their highest prior to week one, I figured I could give everyone just a little dose of sadness to drown out all that optimism. I’m kidding… sort of. For this article, I’d like to take another walk down memory lane and revisit some of the Jets – you guessed it! – most painful losses of the last 30 years!

Exciting, I know…

Let me rock your world with this: Being a Jets fan isn’t easy. Not only do we consistently have to hear the “Same Old Jets” talk and live through 9 consecutive bad seasons of football, the Jets just have a way with losing, don’t they? They make it into an art form. They have a certain flare for the dramatic. They have a way of shining momentary bright light upon you “just to give you hope” (in the words of the late, great Robin Williams), just before it all comes crashing down.

So, in typical Jets fashion, here are the five most painful losses in the last 30 years of Jets football. And, please keep in mind, there’s always a backstory. Or more to the story. Or this loss was bad but then they compounded it with this… So let’s have some fun!

#5. The Dan Marino Fake Spike Game: Miami Dolphins 28 – NYJ 24 , November 27, 1994

Talk about a flare for the dramatic! The Jets, under Pete Carroll, were 6-5 coming into this game with a chance to tie the first place Dolphins with a win, and the Jets were ahead 24-6 late in the game. But Marino marched the Dolphins back and with the Dolphins down 24-21 with 38 seconds to play, Marino yelled “clock, clock” and gestured the spike before snapping the ball and hitting Mark Ingram for a touchdown on a sleeping Aaron Glenn. This game had 9-year-old me screaming that the play was illegal and Marino was a cheater. Spoiler alert! It wasn’t. But alas, the Dolphins go back to Miami victorious, and the Jets go on to lose the rest of their games, finish 6-10 and fire Pete Carroll after one year as Head Coach. They then hire Rich Kotite and proceed to go a whopping 4-28 over the course of the next two seasons… OUCH!

#4. Say it ain’t so, Vinny!: NE Patriots 30 – NYJ 28, September 12, 1999

The New York Jets, after a stunning 12-4 season in 1998 and a John Elway retirement from the defending champion Broncos, were a preseason favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Vinny Testaverde returned after a magical season and with a few key additions, the Jets were primed for a run under the leadership of Hall of Famer Bill Parcells. But, in the second quarter of the week 1 home opener, Curtis Martin fumbles a handoff and Vinny T attempts to dive on it but has his achilles tendon roll up like a window shade – done for the year. The Jets fight in this game, thanks to two TD passes from… TOM TUPA! They ultimately fall to the Pats and start the season 1-6 behind Rick Mirer. The Jets preseason Super Bowl aspirations were crushed in the first 20-something minutes of play…

#3 Doug Freakin’ Brien: Pittsburgh Steelers 20 NYJ 17, January 15, 2005

The Jets, after a Wild Card weekend overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers (remember Eric Barton?!?) traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the #1 Seed, 15-1 Steelers. The Jets, leading late in the fourth quarter 17-10, give up a late touchdown to Hines Ward with 6 minutes left. However, Chad Pennington gets the ball back and drives the Jets down to the Pittsburgh 28-yard line with just over two minutes to go. Doug Brien has a 47-yard field goal to give the Jets a late game lead, and he misses! Surely, the Jets are done. But, rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, on the ensuing play, throws an interception to David Barrett! The Jets have the ball back! The Jets use clock, they take it down to the Steelers 24-yard line with 4 seconds left. Doug Brien’s sweet revenge, a 43-yarder to send the Jets to the AFC championship… and he misses, again. The Jets end up losing in overtime by a field goal… Wow.

#1b. Did We Forget How to Tackle?: Pittsburgh 24 NYJ 19, January 23, 2011

The Jets, following one of the best victories in franchise history over the NE Patriots (in New England) in the Divisional Round, traveled to Pittsburgh (again) to take on the Steelers. Rex Ryan’s squad, riding high after taking down Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in their respective houses in back to back weeks, seem to be incapable of tackling Rashard Mendenhall of the Steelers for the entire first half. In addition to the tackling inability, nothing seems to be going their way as a strip sack of Mark Sanchez gets returned for a touchdown right before the half to put the Steelers up 24-0. The Jets charge back in the second half, cutting the lead to 24-10 and are driving deep in Pittsburgh territory. The Jets have 1st and goal from the Pittsburgh two yard line: Shonn Green for 1, incomplete pass, incomplete pass, Tomlinson stuffed for no gain. Turnover on downs. The Jets still storm back and get it to 24-19 with 3 minutes to go after a J-Co touchdown. NYJ forces Big Ben to a 3rd and 6 in Jets territory, and Ben rolls out under pressure, is looking, looking, and finds a diving Antonio Brown for 14 yards and ends the Jets’ hopes… done. If that pass falls incomplete, the Jets would have been playing Green Bay in the Super Bowl. There is no doubt in my mind. Instead, the Jets have had one winning season and no playoff appearances since.

#1a. Ahhh, What Could Have Been: Denver 23, NYJ 10, January 17, 1999

The #2 seeded Jets, after their best regular season in history, go to Denver to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Broncos. They jump out to a 10-0 3rd quarter lead thanks to a Blake Spence blocked punt and a 1-yard Curtis Martin TD and we are feeling goooood. However, Victor Green falls asleep on the very next drive and lets Ed McCaffery over the top for a 47-yard gain, the Broncos get it to 10-7 in the next two plays and the wheels begin to fall off. Alex Van Dyke fumbles. Vinny throws interceptions. The New York Jets lose… dreams crushed.

The 1998 AFC Championship game was an especially tough pill to swallow because (while anything could happen) the Jets felt like a lock to beat Atlanta had they made it to the Super Bowl, a team that they had beaten 28-3 earlier in the year. While nothing is certain, the thought of going against the Aaron Rodgers buzz saw in 2010 scares me a little more than Chris Chandler, but per the usual, each loss stings in its own way.

Thanks for reading. I know this was fun for all of us! Check back in with soon. It’ll get more positive as I review the 5 Best WINS of the last 30 years in the next few days…