Yesterday, the Jets announced that the new stadium at the Meadowlands will contain a Jets Ring of Honor. I'm not sure what the official tally is, but it seems like the majority of NFL teams have a Ring of Honor (a quick search shows that the Cowboys, Falcons, Vikings and Cardinals are just some of the teams that have them).
The Jets initial class contains six members: coach Weeb Ewbank, OT Winston Hill, DL Joe Klecko, RB Curtis Martin, WR Don Maynard and QB Joe Namath. Is that a good group? Should there be more? Should any of those guys be bumped for anyone else? Should any of those players simply not be in the Ring?
The table below lists each player's AV in three different forms (the sum of all of single season AV scores, his AV based on the 100-95-90 weights we typically use, and the sum of his five highest single season AV scores), his number of games, games started (incomplete for older players), Pro Bowls, 1st-team All-Pros (AP only), 2nd-team All-Pros (AP only) and seasons as a Jets starter:
- Joe Namath was an obvious pick. We can debate how great of an NFL quarterback he was, but there's no such thing as a Jets Ring of Honor that doesn't have Namath in its inaugural class.
- Likewise for Curtis Martin. The #4 all-time leading rusher, Martin's contributions on and off the field in New York made him a fan favorite. One Jets fan in particular has a particular fondness for the great running back, as the sponsor of his PFR page.
- Don Maynard was surely a unanimous selection. He's one of just three Jets to get his numbers retired (Namath and Klecko), and one of only two Hall of Famers players to play the majority of his career for Gang Green (Namath). Along with Namath, he formed one of the most lethal passer-receiver combinations the league has ever seen. From 1967 to 1970, Maynard gained 3,886 receiving yards in the 38 games Namath and Maynard played in together, the second highest average over any four year span in league history.
- Winston Hill was one of the premier tackles of the AFL. He made 8 Pro Bowls in his 14-year career with the Jets, the last three coming after the AFL-NFL merger. Hill's eight Pro Bowls make him the most decorated Jet in franchise history. He was charged with the task of protecting Namath's blindside, and he did so in outstanding fashion. Combined with Namath's trademark quick release, Hill helped the Jets lead the league in sack rate in '65 and '66, and finish second in '68 and '69. In 1967, he was as responsible as Namath, Maynard and George Sauer in allowing Namath to become the league's first 4,000-yard passer.
- Joe Klecko's claim to fame as the heart of the Jets defense in the '80s were his Pro Bowl selections at three different positions. In 1981, he led the league with 20.5 unofficial sacks as a defensive end. He led a Jets pass rush that was so dominant -- its 66 sacks were the second most in league history -- that many believe it let to the introduction of the sack as an official statistic for defensive players. The New York Sack Exchange lost inaugural defensive tackle Abdul Salaam (born Larry Faulk) for the 1983 season; Klecko slid into his LDT slot and made the Pro Bowl that season. Two years after that, the Jets shifted to a 3-4 front, and Klecko made another Pro Bowl, this time at nose tackle.
- Weeb Ewbank holds the distinction of being the only coach to win a championship with an AFL and NFL team. And he did so in historic fashion. He guided the 1958 Colts over the Giants in The Greatest Game Ever Played; then he led the '68 Jets over his former team in one of the biggest upsets in sports history. As the coach of the only champion in franchise history, he was another shoe-in.
I don't have a problem with any of those picks. Some Jets fans will pine for Dennis Byrd, the Tulsa defensive end who was tragically paralyzed on the field in a game against the Chiefs. His production on the field certainly falls short of Ring of Honor standards, but his comeback from the gruesome injury to eventually walk again was an inspiration to many Jets fans. While not officially retired, no Jet has ever been given Byrd's #90. Every year, the team gives the Dennis Byrd award to the player who is voted most inspirational by his teammates.
As far as on the field production goes, I think cases could be made for the following players (although I wouldn't, personally, vote for all of them):
Larry Grantham: A glaring omission from the inaugural class. Grantham started at outside linebacker for the Jets for the franchise's first thirteen seasons. His first five years he was named to the All-AFL team. As Bobby Bell and Mike Stratton emerged in the mid-'60s, Grantham began racking up a slew of 2nd-team All-AFL awards (Bell was named All-AFL for the league's last five seasons; Mike Stratton continued to take one of the spots until Doug's man George Webster emerged). Grantham was a starter on the Super Bowl Jets, and made several big plays in that game. He earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection the next season. In 1971, at the age of 33, he was named the Jets team MVP. Grantham overcame doubts about his small size to be one of the most impactful players in professional football from 1960 to 1973.
Mo Lewis: Lewis toiled for terrible teams during the first half of his career, before Bill Parcells arrived in New York. He was a thirteen-year starter at linebacker for the Jets, and never played for another team. Lewis was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls (and two All-Pro teams) from 1998 to 2000, but never received post-season recognition in any other year. Despite that, he's tied with Joe Namath for the most AV of any Jet in team history. Lewis is a fringe candidate for the Ring of Honor, as he lacked the dominance that the current members displayed during their prime. Still, if longevity counts for much, he'll one day be inducted: he started 200 games for the guys in green.
Mark Gastineau: A reminder that the NFL had crazy personalities long before T.O. and Ochocinco arrived. Gastineau and Jets fans had a love/hate relationship, and he's not fondly remembered despite his strong production. How good was he at his best? No Jets player had a higher AV over five seasons, and Gastineau's three first-team All-Pros trail only Grantham. Gastineau unofficially had a 20-sack season in 1981, before leading the league with 19 sacks in '83 and 22 sacks in '84. The latter set the NFL record, which stood until Michael Strahan "broke" it in 2001. So why isn't Gastineau a Jets hero? In 1986, Gastineau missed six games with groin, abdominal muscle and knee injuries. He came back for the playoffs, and recorded 1.5 sacks in the Divisional Round against the Cleveland Browns. But no one remembers those sacks -- instead they recall the late hit he put on Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar following an incomplete pass on 2nd-and-24 in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. The automatic first down kept the Browns hopes alive, allowing them to complete a miracle comeback, scoring 10 points in the final four minutes to send the game into overtime. Cleveland won in double overtime. The next year, Gastineau became the first Jets player to cross the picket line, a move that made him unpopular to players (despite his strong excuse of needing money for his alimony checks). Then, in 1988, he unexpectedly retired in the middle of the season to be with his girlfriend Brigitte Nielsen, who was suffering with poor health. Gastineau's flamboyant sack dance polarized fans; his lack of interest in stopping the run angered them. An incredible pass rusher, Gastineau couldn't handle the pressure of being the Jets' version of "LT". Off the field, Gastineau got into troubles with the law several times, and kept himself in the news with a short-lived boxing career.
Kevin Mawae: Despite the incredible start to Nick Mangold's career, Mawae remains the greatest center in Jets history. At his prime, he was the best center in the league, and was one of the most intelligent and hard working players of his era. Mawae made six straight Pro Bowls for the Jets; during that stretch, at least one major publication named him first-team All-Pro in five separate seasons. Mawae, along with Curtis Martin and Bill Parcells, was a major reason the Jets improved from laughingstock to contender. One day, he may be a future Hall of Famer. And while he played for three teams in his career, the bulk of his success came with the Jets. A worthy candidate for Ring of Honor selection. Once his playing days are officially over, and he's no longer the head of the NFLPA, he may ultimately find his name placed in the new stadium.
Marvin Powell: Powell was a nine-year starter with the Jets (1977-1985), but has been all but forgotten by modern fans. From '79 to '83, he made five Pro Bowls and was a three time, 1st-team All-Pro. Powell doesn't carry the brand to get his name onto the Jets ring of honor, but only Hill and Mawae made more Pro Bowls, and only Grantham made more first-team All-Pro rosters.
Wayne Chrebet: Tthe classic overachiever and local product turned star NFL receiver. Chrebet was born in New Jersey and went to Hofstra for college; he then became an undrafted signee of the New York Jets. Eleven years later, he retired as the Jets second-all time leader in receptions. If there was a living embodiment of what fans wanted to see from an NFL player in an era of lazy, overpaid superstars, it was Wayne Chrebet. On the other hand, as far as production goes, Chrebet falls a bit short due to the lack of elite seasons. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if there was an enormous groundswell of support among Jets fans to get Chrebet's name in the Ring next.
Gerry Philbin: Philbin a dominant pass rusher for the team in the late '60s. He recorded 19 unofficial sacks in 1968, and was named a first-team All-Pro by the AP in both '68 and '69. And Philbin, in a way, helped bridge the gap between the Jets of yesteryear and the Jets of today. Without Philbin, maybe there wouldn't be a Rex Ryan?
Philbin actually had quite an impact on the Ryan family back in the Sixties. He came to the Jets as a third-round pick in the 1964 AFL draft out of the University of Buffalo. Wouldn't you know one of his coaches at UB was James David "Buddy" Ryan?
Gerry even remembered being invited over to dinner by the Ryan family when he was still in college and meeting Rex and Rob for the first time — when they were in their cribs.
A few years later, Philbin recalled providing a helpful reference that got Buddy out of the college ranks.
"I like to think I had a part in getting Buddy into pro football," Philbin recalled. "We hired him when I was going into my fifth year with the Jets. Weeb Ewbank brought me in and asked me about bringing in this guy from College of the Pacific. He was my old coach from Buffalo. I had nothing but the best to say about Buddy. I said he'd be a great coach in pro football."
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 at 8:27 am and is filed under History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.