The entire history of the New York Jets has been one big heartbreak. Ever since Super Bowl III, the Jets have gone downhill and have not figured out how to change course.
This is not just on the field. New York has signed plenty of busts in free agency and they are arguably the worst franchise in the NFL Draft. Here, we will take a look at their most heartbreaking moments in history. Remarkably, none have come from the draft but we can label some as honorable mentions. The 1995 draft comes to mind when the Jets drafted Kyle Bray at No. 9 overall. Hall of Famer Warren Sapp ended up going three picks later.
Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino also comes to mind but we could be here all day talking about poor draft decisions.
Let’s go to the field and break down some of the Jets’ most heartbreaking moments.
5. 2008 Collapse
In the late 2000s, the Jets would do anything to become relevant again. This includes bringing in Brett Favre to be their starting quarterback. And it worked for 11 games.
The Jets were rolling. They had just defeated the Tennessee Titans to win their fifth in a row. This is after they went up to Foxborough and picked up a 34-31 win over New England. The Jets sat at 8-3 and the playoffs seemed like a lock.
Well, the celebrations began a bit early in New York. The Jets would lose four of their final five games. To rub salt in the wound, New York fell to Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 to end their season.
4. 2010 AFC Championship
It turns out the Jets did turn it around in the late 2000s. This included back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship. The run in 2009 was a surprise. The Jets were not going to beat the Indianapolis Colts in that game but just making it showed promise for the future.
The Jets were arguably the best team in 2010. They made the playoffs as a wild card team and took down Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive playoff games. After one of the most satisfying wins in team history, the Jets went onto Pittsburgh. New York fell behind 24-3 at halftime, and they gave it their best comeback attempts with 16 unanswered points in the second half.
The Jets could not get one final stop late in the fourth and simply ran out of time. This was a lot harder to swallow than 2009 given the fact that the Jets were finally taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders. This would be the last time the Jets made the playoffs, and they have had just one winning season since.
3. Vinny Testaverde’s Injury
After the disappointment that was 1998, the Jets hoped 1999 would bring better fortunes. That wasn’t even close to what happened.
The Jets opened the season against the Patriots and were looking to make a statement. In the second quarter, Curtis Martin fumbled and Testaverde made a quick move to dive on the ball. He grabbed his left leg and limped off the field. Testaverde tore his Achilles on the play and would miss the remainder of the season.
New York began the season 1-6 when Tom Tupa took over under center. It would then be Ray Lucas. Because Bill Parcells was still the coach, the Jets finished 8-8 but missed the playoffs. This was a devastating blow to a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
2. A.J. Duhe Game
Heavy rain was in the forecast before the Jets traveled to South Florida to take on the Dolphins in the 1982 AFC Championship Game. It turns out that the tarp was left off the field leaving it completely under water. It was another sneaky, gamesmanship move by Don Shula. This game was dubbed the “Mud Bowl,” but Jets’ fans remember it as the A.J. Duhe game.
It was impossible to score with the field conditions. The game was scoreless heading into halftime. The Dolphins broke through on a Woody Bennett touchdown run in the third quarter. They would add seven more on a Duhe interception returned for a touchdown.
This was one of three interceptions on the day for the Dolphins’ linebacker. For reference, Duhe had just two career interceptions in six seasons prior to this game. Richard Todd finished 15-37 for 103 yards and five interceptions. The Jets could only muster up 139 total yards.
Whether you call it immoral or genius, the tarp was left off the field by someone. The Dolphins won the game and Duhe etched his name in NFL history.
1. 1998 AFC Title in Denver
“The Jets would have beaten the Green Bay Packers.” These words can still be heard in the distance 22 years later from disgruntled Jets’ fans. Well, it turns out the Broncos could also beat the Packers, and they did so after breaking the hearts of New York.
The Jets traveled to Denver to take on John Elway and the Broncos in the 1998 AFC title game. A John Hall field goal brought the only points of the half but Martin would extend the Jets lead to 10-0 in the third with a rushing touchdown.
On the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, Elway hit Ed McCaffrey for 47 yards and it was like a switch flipped for Denver. They would find the end zone just two plays later. The Broncos would score points on the next three possessions and finished the game scoring 23 unanswered points.
This ended the Jets’ hopes of a championship. This was the first time New York returned to the AFC Championship since the Duhe game. This game lands as No. 1 on the list because the momentum of the game turned in an instant. It went from a 10-0 lead with the Super Bowl within reach to going home with nothing.