The New York Jets have not had any luck with head coaches in recent memory. Adam Gase is arguably the worst coach in the NFL right now. Before Gase came to town, Todd Bowles made a name for himself as a disastrous head coach.
This is not a new trend. Poor names, like Rich Kotite, have been leading the Jets for quite some time. In between the bad, there are some good times that fans can hang their hats on. Some as in very few.
We know Gase will never end up on this list so these five names are safe. Here are the top coaches in the history of the Jets.
5. Walt Michaels
Michaels patrolled the sidelines for six years in New York. He inherited a 3-11 team in 1977 and finished with the same record in his first season. The transition was not easy for Michaels early on.
Michaels did not make the playoffs until his fifth season with the Jets. New York got over the hump in 1981. They finished 10-5-1 and clinched a wild card berth. They were knocked out by the Buffalo Bills in their first game, though. The team would return to the postseason then very next year. This time they were contenders.
The Jets blew out the Cincinnati Bengals in round one and squeaked by the then–Los Angeles Raiders to earn a spot in the AFC Championship Game. Michaels was on the sideline for a game that will forever live in infamy for the Jets. Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins did not cover their field during a monsoon. The field was completely covered in mud and ripped apart.
The A.J. Duhe game was born. Richard Todd was picked off five times, three went to Duhe and one returned for a touchdown. It was a 14-0 win for the Dolphins. This would be the final game Michaels coached in New York.
4. Herm Edwards
“You play to win the game.” Edwards gave us one of the greatest quotes in sports history in 2002. This response came after a game against the Cleveland Browns that dropped the Jets to 2-5. New York would rebound and win seven of their final nine games.
This was Edward’s second year as coach of the Jets and second playoff appearance. Edwards coached the Jets for five years and led them to the postseason three times. They won the division in 2002 and dominated the Indianapolis Colts, 41-0, in the wild card round. They would go on to lose the next week against the Raiders.
Edwards finished 2-3 in the postseason. He is best known for his fiery personality on the sidelines and outgoing media presence.
3. Rex Ryan
It’s hard to believe that Ryan will land as top three on this list. He went 26-38 in his final four years as coach of the Jets. There was ugly media coverage following Ryan and Sanchez once the team began going downhill. Ryan’s work over his first two years cannot be forgotten.
Many did not like Ryan at first because he entered as coach with a loud mouth and lofty promises. At first, those promises paid off. The Jets finished a combined 20-12 in Ryan’s first two years, earning wild card berths in both seasons. In 2009, New York made a surprise run to the AFC title game. They did not match up well against the Colts and suffered a 30-17 loss. This gave the team hope for 2010.
Ryan led the Jets to an 11-5 record in 2010. They built one of the top defenses in football and ran a system that complemented Sanchez well. The Jets avenged a playoff loss from the year before and took down the Colts in Indy. Ryan then led the Jets to one of their best wins in history, a 28-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Foxborough in the divisional round. Unfortunately, a second straight AFC Championship Game went the same way.
Ryan did not leave on great terms and went on to coach the division rival Buffalo Bills. This is a surprising name to see so high, but the Jets were a well-oiled machine for two years led by Ryan.
2. Bill Parcells
Parcells is one of the best coaches in the history of the game. That showed in his first season with the Jets when he completely transformed the team. Parcells inherited a 1-15 squad from the year before and finished 9-7 in 1997.
In 1998, New York won the AFC East with a 12-4 record and were considered one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. They headed to Denver after a 34-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets grabbed a 10-0 lead in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game, but the Broncos scored the final 23 points of the game.
Parcells went 29-19 in three years as head coach of the Jets. He stepped down as head coach and appointed defensive coordinator Bill Belichick to take over his position. The rest is history.
1. Weeb Ewbank
Ewbank’s resume as coach of the Jets will not jump out at you. He finished 71-77-6 as head coach of the Jets. Ewbank won two division titles and made the playoffs in both seasons, his only appearances in New York.
The most important stat for Ewbank is number of championships and that is one. This remains the only title in Jets history. In 1968, the Jets finished 11-3 and Joe Namath was named MVP. They took down the Raiders in the AFL Championship and earned a spot in the Super Bowl. The Jets took on the Baltimore Colts and escaped with a 16-7 victory. Namath was named Super Bowl MVP.
Before coaching the Jets, Ewbank led the Colts to NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959. He is the only coach in football history to win championships in the AFL and NFL. Ewbank’s resume with the Jets will not jump off the page, but he accomplished something that is considered impossible in today’s day and age.
The NFL inducted Ewbank into the Hall of Fame in 1978. Ewbank can still be remembered as one of the most prominent historical figures that football has ever seen.