Not surprisingly, the New York Jets haven’t produced as many legends as some of the NFL’s most storied franchises. However, they are responsible for (arguably) the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history, one of the sport’s most legendary moments.
The organization has inducted 13 people into their Ring of Honor—including the following five legends.
5. Don Maynard (WR, 1960-72)
Joe Namath was the face of the franchise in the late 1960s, but Maynard was the most consistent and best player.
The wideout played for the franchise for its first 13 years, beginning as the Titans in 1960, and posted five 1,000+ yard seasons. When he retired in 1973, he was the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, and his 627 catches, 11,732 receiving yards, and 50 100-yard games are team records.
4. Curtis Martin (RB, 1998-2005)
Martin signed with New York after New England failed to his offer sheet, costing the Jets a first and third-round pick. It would end up being a small price to pay for Martin, who spent nearly a decade as a reliable and durable—if not flashy—rushing and receiving threat.
Martin averaged nearly 24 touches per game in his Jets years, and 4.0 yards per carry. At age 31 in his penultimate campaign, his 371 attempts and 1,697 yards led the NFL.
Martin’s 2,560 carries, 10,302 yards, and seven 1,000+ yard seasons are franchise records. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, and his no. 28 in retired by the franchise.
3-2. Joe Klecko (DE/DT, 1977-87) and Mark Gastineau (DE, 1979-88)
The two inseparable staples of the famed New York Sack Exchange (in my opinion, the best of all the nicknames for iconic NFL defensive units, besting the Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain, and Legion of Boom). These two legends had vastly different styles, yet produced similarly stellar results.
Gastineau was brash, obnoxious, and showy—the polar opposite of his serene, longtime linemate. Klecko is universally beloved while Gastineau has his detractors, but you’re likely to see more Gastineau jerseys at MetLife Stadium than maybe any former Jet other than Wayne Chrebet and Martin.
In 1981, Klecko set a franchise single-season sack record with an impressive 20.5. That record stood for a grand total of three years after Gastineau registered a then-NFL record 22 quarterback takedowns in 1984. Gastineau’s 74.0 sacks still top the Jets all-time list.
Klecko was more versatile and distinguished himself by making Pro Bowls at defensive end, defensive tackle, and nose tackle. Gastineau stayed on the edge, but was just about the best in the game at it, especially from 1982-84, when he made three All-Pro first teams.
Klecko was amongst the game’s most respected players and dudes, but Gastineau instilled more fear in quarterbacks.
1. Joe Namath (QB, 1965-76)
We all know the story. Ahead of Super Bowl III—pitting the Jets against the 18-point favorites Baltimore Colts of the NFL, led by Namath’s idol, Johnny Unitas—”Broadway” Joe famously guaranteed victory.
No. 12 backed up his boars, by posting 206 yards (17-28) and leading the Jets to a 16-7 victory. Namath earned MVP honors and immortalized the moment with one of the game’s signature images.
He wasn’t always great under center, but made numerous All-Pro teams and was the first quarterback to break the 4,000-yard passing mark in a season. Namath still holds Jets records for career passing attempts, touchdowns, and yards, and single-season passing yards.
Plus, it’s hard to imagine another star quarterback being so perfectly suited for the Big Apple. At one point, Namath announced his retirement instead of adhering to commissioner Pete Rozelle’s ultimatum to sell his interest in a bar called Bachelors III.
In Jets lore, “Namath” is basically synonymous with “legend.”