The second the Aaron Rodgers trade became official this week, the legendary quarterback became the best player to ever join the New York Jets. However, since he hasn’t played a single game for them yet, Rodgers can’t be included on a list of best quarterbacks in franchise history.
At least not yet.
The Jets certainly hope that the 39-year-old has plenty left in the tank after 18 outstanding seasons with the Green Bay Packers. A four-time MVP, 10-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl XLV MVP, Rodgers is expected to help carry the Jets back to the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons and, hopefully, to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.
Aaron Rodgers, wearing Jets gear, arrives in Florham Park. pic.twitter.com/sUOb6Cq5MQ
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) April 26, 2023
If he plays anywhere near his previous form, Rodgers will easily find himself on any list of best Jets quarterbacks. But for now, he’s on the outside looking in.
So, let’s examine the five best quarterbacks in New York Jets history.
5. Mark Sanchez (2009-12)
Wait, what? Mr. Butt Fumble is one of the five best quarterbacks ever for the Jets?
Yes, he is. And that has as much to do with how Sanchez played in New York as it does with the sorry state of the quarterback position over 52 seasons of New York Jets football.
The butt fumble will haunt Mark Sanchez for the rest of his life 🤣💀 pic.twitter.com/XBw4i3yaTM
— Footballism (@FootbaIIism) March 30, 2021
Sanchez didn’t have a great arm and threw as many picks as he did touchdowns over four seasons. But surrounded by a sturdy offensive line and supported by a strong running game and excellent receivers, Sanchez proved to be a solid game manager and led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons.
The Jets, though, failed Sanchez more than he failed them. They didn’t adequately surround him with talent after 2010, put more on his shoulders and things went south for the QB and the team.
Sanchez is sixth all-time in franchise history in passing yards (12,092) and TD passes (68). He has won more playoff games (four) than any other quarterback in Jets history.
Just outside the top five are Richard Todd (1976-83), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2015-16), Brett Favre (2008) and Boomer Esiason (1993-95).
4. Ken O’Brien (1983-92)
Kenny O is mostly remembered for the fact the Jets selected him three picks before the Miami Dolphins snagged Dan Marino in 1983. OOF! The Jets have had many swings and misses in their history. This may have been their biggest gaffe.
That said, O’Brien was a good starting quarterback. He’s second on the Jets' all-time list with 24,386 passing yards and 124 TDs and helped lead them to the playoffs in 1985, ’86 and ’91.
But he wasn’t Dan Marino. Far from it.
3. Chad Pennington (2000-07)
He didn’t have a big arm, but there was plenty to like about Pennington. He was an intelligent and fiery field general and team leader, popular with his teammates, coaches and the fan base.
Pennington also ingratiated himself in New York with his toughness. He often initiated contact on scrambles and always bounced up after taking numerous massive hits in the pocket. Two shoulder surgeries didn’t help his struggles getting the ball deep, but Pennington was accurate (Jets-best 65.6 career completion percentage) and efficient running the offense.
He threw only 55 interceptions in 69 games with the Jets and is fourth in their history in passing yardage (13,738) and TDs (82). Pennington also led New York to the postseason three times in five seasons (2002, ’04, ’06), when they won two of five games.
2. Vinny Testaverde (1998-2005)
A Long Island native, Testaverde came to the Jets late in his career and made an immediate impact in his first season with them. He was 12-1 in 13 starts as a 35-year-old in 1998, throwing for 29 touchdowns and only seven picks. Testaverde made the Pro Bowl that season and led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, where they led at halftime before losing to the Denver Broncos.
With high expectations the following season, Testaverde ruptured his Achilles in the season opener. He returned in 2000 and started two more seasons, playing well and making the playoffs again in 2001.
Testaverde was 35-26 as a Jets starter and is fifth all-time for them in touchdowns (77) and passing yards (12,497).
1. Joe Namath (1965-76)
Joe Willie Namath is the one all Jets quarterbacks will forever be compared to. The greatest quarterback, and player, in franchise history, who led the Jets to their only championship and is their all-time leader in every passing category. But it’s that Super Bowl III win after he guaranteed it that makes Broadway Joe an NFL legend.
53 years ago today, Joe Namath made good on his guarantee as the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) January 12, 2022
That he was a pop culture icon in the 1960s and ‘70s makes him a larger-than-life figure.
But on the field, he was all business and one of the game’s greats. This despite playing on some terrible Jets teams amid lousy playing conditions at wind-swept Shea Stadium. Did you know he threw more picks (220) than touchdowns (170) as a Jet? Yep. And it means squat. Ravaged by numerous injuries, Namath was for years the only reason to watch the Jets. Something great could happen at any moment with him on the field.
Namath led the NFL in passing yards three times, including 1967 when he totaled 4,007 yards, most in franchise history. He also led the league in completions twice and touchdowns once. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five times and was named AFL Player of the Year twice.
And, of course, there will always be the historic 16-7 upset against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, when he was named MVP.