Move over Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone and David Tyree. You’ve got company. Meet the Jets!
Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez is evoking memories of Joe Namath.
On a cold Sunday morning more than 40 years ago, a teenager went to the local deli in suburban New York to pick up the Sunday papers and a dozen rolls.
Taped to the class counter in the deli was a paper bag, with these words:
Jets 17, Colts 7.
Of course, we all know the ending, how Broadway Joe Namath and the Miracle Jets shocked the world and the Baltimore Colts, winning Super Bowl III 16-7 and giving the American Football League the stamp of legitimacy.
Sure the deli guy was off by a point, but you have to admit it took guts to predict an 18-point underdog would not only cover the spread but win outright.
Now, more than two score years later, after beating the San Diego Chargers 17-14, the Jets are in position to finally win another Super Bowl.
The Jets haven’t been this close since losing to the Broncos 23-10 in the wind of Denver in 1999 and the Dolphins 14-0 in the mud and rain of Miami in 1983.
Now the Jets travel to Indianapolis Sunday to try and defeat the same Colts they beat in Super Bowl III…and return to the promised land.
Things have worked out just fine for Pete Carroll at USC.
Nearly 15 years ago, I settled into a window seat on an American Airlines flight from JFK to San Francisco, one of a seemingly endless chain of business trips from New York to Silicon Valley.
I opened up my Sunday New York Times (which always makes for great cross country reading) and started reading the sports pages, when a man sat down in the empty seat next to mine.
The guy looked familiar, though I couldn’t place him right away. Then it hit me. That’s Pete Carroll, Coach Carroll. formerly of the Jets.
After my “Hey Coach” introd we struck up a conversation, and talked on and off as AA Flight 15 made its way across the Alleghenies over the cornfields of Iowa and the Rockies and eventually into SFO.
As it turned out, we were born the same year, so we had a lot in common growing up, Carroll in Northern California and me in suburban New York. He asked me if I was a Jets or Giants fan. I told him the Giants were my team, but that like many New Yorkers I also followed the fortunes of the Jets, especially when they were having a good season.
We talked about Grateful Dead concerts we had attended, about Woodstock and some of the other great bands of the 60s and 70s.
A Year with The Jets
Carroll had just been fired by the Jets after just one season at the helm. The Jets got off to a 6–4 start under Carroll in 1994, but in week 12 they were victimized by Dan Marino’s clock play that led to a Dolphins game-winning touchdown.
They lost all of their remaining games to finish 6–10. Carroll was fired, replaced by Rich Kotite. How did that work out Jets fans?
I remember telling Carroll that I felt been giving a raw deal from the Jets, who never really gave him a chance.
He told me he was returning home to San Francisco to interview with the 49ers for a defensive coordinator position.
Well Carroll took that position in 1995 and two years later was named head coach of the New England Patriots. Taking over for Bill Parcells, he led the Pats to a 33-31 record and two playoff appearances in three years before being replaced by none other than Bill Belichick.
Success at USC
Carroll was named the head coach at Southern California in December of 2000, signing a five-year contract after USC had gone through a tumultuous 18-day search to replace fired coach Paul Hackett. He was not the Trojans’ first choice, and was considered a long shot as USC initially planned to hire a high-profile coach with recent college experience. Meanwhile Carroll, who had not coached in over a year and not coached in the college ranks since 1983, drew unfavorable comparisons to the outgoing Hackett.
To date, Pete Carroll. He is 93-16 as head coach with the Trojans, with back-to-back national championships in 2003 and 2004. His team won a school-record 34 straight games from 2003–2005, a streak that started after a triple-overtime loss to California and ended with the national championship game in the 2006 Rose Bowl, against the Texas Longhorns.
In a recent interview, Carroll told Esquire magazine: “Jerry Garcia said that he didn’t want his band to be the best ones doing something. He wanted them to be the only ones doing it. To be all by yourself out there doing something that nobody else can touch — that’s the thought that guides me, that guides this program.”
Yep, things are working out just fine for Pete Carroll at USC, thank you.
The SportsLifer couldn’t get through the year without one more top 10 list.
So here they are, the top 10 moments in New York sports, 2008.
1. Catch XLII: Sparked by the unbelievable Eli Manning to David Tyree pass play, the Giants rally to defeat the previously unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl.
2. Yankee Money: Failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, Yankees sign free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texiera.
3. House Cleaning: The Knicks finally manage to get rid of Isiah Thomas, and new coach Mike D’Antoni puts Stephon Marbury out to pasture.
4. Collapse: For the second year in a row, the Mets fall apart in a September swoon and allow the Phillies to steal the NL East championship.
5. Collapse Redux: Brett Favre and the Jets lose four of their final five games and miss the playoffs, forcing the removal of coach Eric Mangini.
6. Final Farewell: Many of the greats return as the Yankees play the final game in the House that Ruth Built and the Mets close Shea Stadium.
7. Giants Among Men: Despite the distraction of the Plaxico Burress shooting, the Giants earn top seed in the NFC heading into the playoffs.
8. He Said, He Said: Disgraced Roger Clemens tries to clear his name of steroid allegations by trainer Brian McNamee.
9. Domination on Ice: The Rangers continue their sudden mastery of the cross-river rival Devils, taking round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs 4 games to 1.
10. Smart Sign: The Mets pull a huge off-season deal, acquiring left-handed pitcher Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins to fortify their pitching staff.
Maybe, Just Maybe…
New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms was the MVP of Super Bowl XXI.
The Giants, the class of the NFC, have already proven they can get there — and win. They did it last year, they lead the conference this year.
And if the Jets can knock off the unbeaten Titans on Sunday, then they’ll have to be considered one of the top-line favorites in the AFC. No matter what happens, the Jets are in good position to win the AFC East.
Only five times since Super Bowl I in 1967 have New York’s NFL entries, the Giants and Jets. made the playoffs in the same season. That’s five times in 42 seasons.
The only year both New York entries made a serious run in the same season was 1986, The G-Men went 14-2 that year, and trounced the 49ers (49-3), Redskins (17-0) and Broncos (39-20) to win their first Super Bowl.
At one point that season the Jets were 10-1; then they lost five straight games. They beat the Chiefs, 35-15, in the first round of the playoffs, then blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to the Browns, 23-20, on Mark Moseley’s field goal, pictured right, in a marathon double overtime game, one of the longest in NFL history.
1981: On the final weekend of the season, the Giants beat the Cowboys, 13-10, in overtime on a field goal by Joe Danelo, then cheered for the Jets the next day. And the Jets came through, romping over the Packers, 28-3, to put both New York teams into the playoffs together for the first time. The following Sunday, December 27, the Bills beat the Jets, 31-27, at Shea Stadium before the Giants upset the Eagles, 27-21, in Philadelphia. The 49ers beat the Giants, 38-24, the following week and went on to win their first Super Bowl.
1985: The Giants finished 10-6, then beat the defending champion 49ers, 17-3, at the Meadowlands. Big Blue was shut out, 21-0, by the Bears the next Sunday in Chicago. The Jets were 11-5, but dropped a 26-14 decision to the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. The Bears beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl that year.
2002: G-Men won their last four, including a 10-7 overtime win over the Eagles, courtesy of a Matt Bryant field goal, in their last game, to wind up 10-6. They then blow a 38-14 lead to the 49ers and lost, 39-38 in the NFC wild card round. The Jets went 9-7 and blanked the Colts, 41-0, before losing to the Raiders, 30-10.
2006: Big Blue goes 8-8 to earn a playoff spot, but loses to the Eagles, 23-20. Jets finish 10-6, but lose to the eventual champion Patriots, 37-16..
New York sports fans, don’t despair. With the Mets and Yankees both struggling to live up to expectations, the Rangers facing a long summer after being ousted by the Penguins, and the Knicks (well, let’s not even go there), times have been tough lately in Gotham.
Let’s forget, for purposes of this exercise, the Giants improbable Super Bowl victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. Since February, it’s been nothing but doom and gloom on the New York sports scene.
But it could be worse, much worse. It could be 1966, the worst year ever for professional sports in New York.
1966. Lyndon B. Johnson was President, the first Star Trek episode aired, Truman Capote wrote “In Cold Blood”, and a gallon of regular gasoline cost 32 cents. The first Super Bowl, Woodstock and Richard M. Nixon were just over the horizon.
The Yankees, Giants, Rangers and Knicks all finished in last place. Only the Jets, third in the AFL East, and the Mets, ninth in the National League after four successive last-place finishes. avoided the basement. It was bad. It was worse then bad, it was terrible, embarrassing, pathetic.
The Yankees were the biggest disappointment. Just two years from a fifth straight World Series appearance — and after dominating baseball for more than 40 years — the Bronx Bombers finished 10th and last in the America League for the first time since 1912 with a 70-89 record, 26 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles.
Led the by the likes of Horace Clarke, Steve Whitaker and Dooley Womack, the Yankees hit rock bottom on September 22, 1966. That day, paid attendance of 413 was announced at the 65,000-seat Yankee Stadium. Legendary broadcaster Red Barber asked TV cameras to pan the empty stands as he commented on the low attendance. Although denied the camera shots on orders from the Yankees’ head of media relations, Red said, “I don’t know what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium, and this crowd is the story, not the game.” The Yankees lost to the White Sox that day 4-1.
The Mets actually wound up with a worse record than the Yankees, 66-95, but showed signs of progress, finishing out of the National League cellar and avoiding 100 losses for the first time in their history. Led by the likes of Ed Kranepool and Ron Swoboda, the Mets would draw nearly two million fans to Shea Stadium.
No Defense for Giants
That fall, the football Giants finished with the worst record in their illustrious history, 1-12-1 and last in the NFL East. There was no defense. The Giants surrendered 501 points that year, a record for a 14-game schedule. They lost 52-7 to Dallas, 55-14 to Los Angeles and 72-41 to Washington. Gary Wood and Earl Morrall shared quarterback duties, and Chuck Mercein led the team in rushing with a paltry 327 yards.
The Jets were starting to show promise under young quarterback Joe Namath, but wound up with a mediocre 6-6-2 record. On November 27, 1966, the same day the Giants gave up the NFL regular-season record 72 points to the Redskins, the Jets were beaten 32-24 by Kansas City, marking one of the darkest days in New York pro football history.
Things weren’t a heckuva lot better at the old Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue and 49th Street. The Knicks would finish 30-50, last in the NBA’s Eastern Division for the seventh straight season. And the Rangers would finish last, out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year in the six-team NHL, midway though a 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
Even during these darkest hours, (it’s always darkest just before the dawn), the Jets, Mets and Knicks were all within four years of winning championships. It would take a bit longer for the Yankees, who returned to baseball prominence with a refurbished Yankee Stadium and an American League pennant in 1976, and World Championships the following two years.
For the Giants, the climb was steep, the team finally returning to the playoffs in 1981 after an 18-year drought, and winning the Super Bowl five seasons later. And in 1994, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
In a flashback to the “Heidi Game” nearly 40 years ago, FOX 5 in New York pulled the plug on a one-run Yankee-Red Sox game with two outs in the ninth, switching over to NASCAR.
Hey Fox, here’s a news flash — there are more baseball fans than exhaust circuit fans in New York. The FOX swap makes sense in Darlington and Daytona and lots of other places south of here, but not in New York. Not in Boston either. Can’t quite see the Quincy 500 going over big in Massachusetts.
Sure, FOX put the game on FX, as if it’s on the sportslifer’s speed dial remote. By the time I stumbled upon FX, the game was over. Are you kidding me?
The Heidi game made fame in 1968, when NBC pulled the plug on a Raiders-Jets clash in 1968 for Heidi, the charming Swiss girl and title character of Johanna Spyri’s 1880s children’s tale.
Since the Raiders railled to beat the Jets with two touchdowns, the Heidi game came to be known as the “Greatest Game Never Seen.”
NBC president Julius Goodman released a statement 90 minutes after the game, calling the incident “a forgivable error committed by humans who were concerned about children expecting to see Heidi. … I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else.”
Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, the Red Sox won, 4-3. Missed the end of that game too. Thanks to FOX.