With some exceptions, the New York Jets have typically embraced a run-first, ground-and-pound style during their six decade history, with their offense often relying on physical runners rather than air-it-out, playmaking passers. Let's look back on the three greatest running backs in Jets history.
3. Emerson Boozer (1966-75)
Boozer — an all-time name for a running back or a football player — is third on the Jets franchise rushing list with 5,135 yards and averaged 4.0 yards per carry in his 10 seasons in New York.
He manned the Jets backfield behind quarterback Joe Namath and alongside running-mate Matt Snell (until 1972) during the team's heyday.
Boozer, a sixth-round draft pick, immediately made an impact in 1966, leading the AFL with 9.5 yards per touch thanks to his elite kick return skills. A complete player, Boozer also caught 139 passes out of the backfield at 10.7 yards per reception. He is one of four Jets runners to record multiple seasons of double-digit scores and his 52 rushing touchdowns are the second-most in team history.
2. Freeman McNeil (1981-92)
The UCLA alum was an outlier in Jets history as a runner known for his agility, quickness and flair who could easily leave defenders in the dust.
After being drafted third-overall in 1981, he complied 8,074 rushing yards in his New York career, good for second on the team's all-time list. He started eight postseason games, more than any runner in Jets history, and leads the franchise list with 635 playoff rushing yards. His 202 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1982 AFC Wild Card Game is the Jets' playoff record.
Still, his stats should be even greater. Despite being the longest-tenured running back in team history, his career was constantly hindered by injuries, and he only started 16 games once in his career (1988).
A three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, McNeil is one of just two Jets running backs to lead the league in rushing, though it came in the strike-shortened 1982 campaign when he totaled 786 yards in nine games.
1. Curtis Martin (1998-2005)
This one is a no-brainer.
The Jets signed Martin away from AFC East rival New England Patriots after the 1997 season and is still arguably the best free-agent signing in franchise history. Martin's signing cost New York a first- and third-round pick in 1998, but it was well worth it, as Martin became the greatest and most beloved running back in Jets lore.
He's the team's all-time leader in rushing yards (10,302), touchdowns (58), yards per game (83.8) and 1,000-plus yard seasons (seven). A three-time Pro Bowler, Martin was named a First Team All-Pro in 2004 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Martin also holds the Jets’ single-season record for most rushing yards, leading the league with 1,697 yards in his penultimate campaign in 2004. That season, he became the lone halfback in team history to average over 100 yards per game in a season (106.1).