This is a post in an ongoing series, where we examine and poke fun at some of the most ghastly teams ever to take the field.
Oh, those New York Jets. Right now, the Geno Smith-led Jets sit at the bottom of the AFC East, predictably in a 1-7 tailspin, which must be agonizing for Jet fans. So, to cheer them up, I’m going to remind them of the worst team in Jets history, which took the field in 1996. How fun!
Rich Kotite, looking glum but clueless in 1996. This was considered the norm.
It all started with the hiring of Rich Kotite in 1995, after the energetic but dim Pete Carroll was fired at the end of 1994. Kotite had a few successful seasons in Philadelphia, but the term “Going the full Kotite” was coined in 1994 after the Eagles pulled a collapse-o-mundo, dropping from 7-2 to 7-9. Nevertheless, Kotite was fired, and upon his hiring, he took the Jets and faceplanted to a 3-13 record. The main issue with Kotite was discipline. He allowed players to skip practice, fall asleep in meetings, and slack off, all with no repercussions. He needed to install hard work to his team, but with the lack of preparation and discipline, you’re not going to win many games. Not surprisingly, they didn’t.
Miraculously after 1995, however, he was kept around, and in 1996 there were high hopes. The Jets spent tons of money in free agency, signing OT Jumbo Elliot, wide receivers Webster Slaughter and Jeff Graham, and quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who after throwing two of the ugliest interceptions in Super Bowl history, New York thought “Oh, man, he’s our guy. Let’s go out and sweet-talk him with a $25,000,000 contract.” Well, they did just that. The general consensus in New York was that O’Donnell was a professional quarterback, although the money they gave him was ludicrous.
O’Donnell bracing for yet another sack.
Well, O’Donnell never panned out, short and simple. He only started 6 games for the Jets, losing all 6 before separating his shoulder and disappearing for the rest of the season. He completed 58.5% of his passes for 1,147 yards, 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also took 18 sacks.
Right out of the barrel, New York was blasted by Denver 31-6. Giving up 30+ points and scoring less than 14 was a trend for New York that year. The Jets would go on to lose their first 8 games, before finishing on the winning side of a 31-21 triumph over the Cardinals, Boomer Esiason’s new team (whom they had cut at the end of 1995). In Weeks 13-15, New York was outscored 104-30. New York was also 0-8 at home.
Frank Reich was shoved into the starting job after O’Donnell went down, and took the Jets to their only win.
Veteran Frank Reich was brought in after a few really nice performances in Buffalo, including a miraculous comeback win over Houston in the playoffs a couple years before. Reich didn’t enjoy a stellar season in New York, though. He completed 52.9% of his passes for 2,205 yards, 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, but also fumbled 9 times. He was 1-6 as a starter.
And then, finally, was the Canton-worthy Glenn Foley. Generally assumed he was given the starting job out of sympathy, Foley proceeded to lose all four of his games while completing 49.1% of his passes for 559 yards, a 3 TD – 7 INT ratio, and a rating of 46.7. Joe Namath he was not.
If anything summed up the Jets season, it would be this picture of Adrian Murrell getting crushed.
Adrian Murrell actually was the lone spark of the offense for New York, rushing for 1,249 yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. The downside was, Murrell’s other known alias might well have been “Butterfingers Johnny”. He fumbled 6 times, putting what was arguably the NFL’s worst defense in poor position constantly.
Wayne Chrebet wondering how he got stuck with this group of yay-hoos.
The unheralded Wayne Chrebet was a nice find for New York, as he caught 84 balls for 909 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was the leading receiver on the team, but he also fumbled 5 times. On the other side of the spectrum, there was Keyshawn Johnson.
Johnson was a hot-headed diva during the early years of his career, and even though he had nice statistics (63 catches for 844 yards and 8 touchdowns), he lost the respect of fans and media by often belittling Chrebet and writing a novel called “Just Give Me the Damn Ball!”, his first (and hopefully last) attempt at literature. The feud dissected a team that was shaky to begin with, and was often pointed at for a cause of the losses. That, and the lack of talent. And coaching. And really anything a team needs to be successful. But moving on.
Then there was the man who is one of the most hated in Jets history, their big, hulking TE Kyle Brady. In the 1995 draft, he was picked ahead of players such as Warren Sapp, Curtis Martin, and Steve McNair. Brady dropped passes, missed blocking assignments, and generally performed at a level that would be poor for even an undrafted free agent, not a first round pick. Brady recorded a measly 15 receptions for 144 yards and 1 touchdown. What a waste of a draft pick!
As you can see from this inauspiciously long video of New York’s draft mistakes, their fans agreed with me.
Add all this together, and you get an offense that turned the ball over way too much, finishing with a turnover differential of -20, and only scored only 17.4 points per game. Not very good if you take into account how awful their defense was.
Hugh Douglas was the only man who knew how to play defense on the team.
Hugh Douglas was the only good player on an otherwise horrible Jets defense. He recorded 8 sacks, 28 tackles, and recovered three fumbles, one of which was a touchdown, helping bring New York’s total defensive touchdown total to…3. The unit was otherwise filled with aging veterans who had nothing left or youngsters who often handled possible interceptions like Wile E. Coyote handled dynamite. Needless to say, it was the NFL’s worst collective unit. They allowed a franchise-record 28.4 points per game, and only the Atlanta Falcons did worse. Stunning to think that the Jets weren’t the worst at something in ’96. Ironically, the defense’s best player summed up the season very well in an NFL Network presentation:
I remember going to warmups and thinking, “Boy, I wonder how much we’re going to lose by today.”
The low point of the season occurred in Week 14, as the Jets suited up to play the Houston Oilers at home. Played in New York’s finest cold and rain, a sparse crowd of around 21,000 showed up. The Jets were dismantled 35-10, and as they walked off the field, the fans booed and threw things at them. The players hid their faces in shame.
What makes this team so appalling in the grand scheme of things was that after 1996, Kotite was fired, ammassing a 4-28 record for those of you keeping score at home, and Bill Parcells was brought in. Although the players he had were not the greatest in the world, Parcells whipped them into shape, and they barely missed the playoffs with a Week 17 loss to the Lions, finishing 9-7. In 1998, they advanced to the AFC Championship game thanks to Parcells’ constant no-nonsense, snarling attitude.
So that completes our story. I hope all you Jet fans out there feel better about your team right now, with its hapless quarterbacks and your high school coach. But just remember, they won’t be the worst Jets team in history. Unless they finished 1-15. In which case, you have nothing to console you.