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New York Jets

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New York Jets, professional football team and one of five teams in the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) of the National Football League (NFL). Formerly called the Titans, the Jets play at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and wear uniforms of green and white. In 1969 the Jets, then members of the American Football League (AFL), recorded one of the most dramatic upsets in professional football history, stunning the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The team was led by head coach Weeb Ewbank, wide receiver Don Maynard, and charismatic quarterback Joe Namath. New York joined the NFL in 1970. The club fielded several powerful squads during the 1980s, reaching the playoffs four times from 1981 to 1986.

Starring on those teams were running back Freeman McNeil, quarterback Richard Todd, and defensive linemen Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko. The New York Titans became charter members of the AFL in 1960, naming former quarterback great Sammy Baugh as their first head coach. The team enjoyed modest success during its first eight seasons, finishing second in the Eastern Division three times. In 1963 Weeb Ewbank was named head coach, and the team’s name was changed to the Jets because the team’s home, Shea Stadium, is located between New York’s John F. Kennedy International and La Guardia Airports. The Jets produced back-to-back rookies of the year in 1964 and 1965—running back Matt Snell and Joe Namath. In 1967 Namath became the first professional quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards in one season. Don Maynard led the league in receiving yards that season; he eventually became the AFL’s career leader in yards and receptions. In 1968 Namath directed New York to the AFL championship. He then brashly predicted a victory over the heavily favored NFL-champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Namath delivered on his promise as the Jets shocked the Colts 16-7. Ewbank, who coached the Baltimore Colts to an NFL Championship in 1959 (before the Super Bowl was played between the NFL and AFL), became the only head coach to win championships in both leagues, and Namath was named AFL most valuable player (MVP).


New York repeated as AFL Eastern Division champions in 1969, and the team joined the NFL a year later when the NFL and AFL completed their merger. Despite rosters that featured Namath, running back John Riggins, and wide receiver Wesley Walker, the team managed only one second-place finish during its first 11 seasons in the league. The Jets made back-to-back playoff appearances in 1981 and 1982, led by Richard Todd, Freeman McNeil, Mark Gastineau, and Joe Klecko. In 1981 the team led the NFL in quarterback sacks as Gastineau notched 20 and Klecko totaled 201/2. New York reached the AFC Championship Game in the 1982 season but was defeated by the Miami Dolphins, 14-0. Around this time the Jets’ intimidating defensive line became known as the New York Sack Exchange; the nickname was derived from the fact that New York City houses the New York Stock Exchange.

New York’s performance was sporadic during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Leading players included McNeil, quarterback Ken O’Brien, and wide receiver Al Toon. Quarterback Boomer Esiason joined the Jets in 1993, but the franchise encountered repeated frustration, including placing last in its division in 1996. At the end of the 1996 season, the Jets traded four draft picks to the New England Patriots to gain the right to hire coach Bill Parcells, who had guided both the New York Giants and the Patriots to Super Bowl appearances. Under Parcells’s direction, the Jets had a remarkable turnaround. In 1997 they finished with a 9-7 win-loss record and barely missed the playoffs. In 1998 they posted a 12-4 win-loss record in the regular season and captured the Eastern Division title behind the play of quarterback Vinny Testaverde, running back Curtis Martin, and receiver Keyshawn Johnson. During the playoffs the Jets defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars before falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.

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