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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 New York Jets of All Time: Where does Joe Namath rank?

Top 10 New York Jets of All Time: Where does Joe Namath rank?

The top 15 New York Jets of All Time!
Publish Date:03/31/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The New York Jets history starts and ends with Super Bowl III, and yes, a large part of this Jets Top ten is filled with men on that team. But many players exist from the high-flying Jets teams of the 1980s also.

Criteria

The criteria that lead here are winning and performance; Joe Namath is ranked third after a Super Bowl victory that helped change the course of the NFL in the late ’60s. Setting NFL and team records also helps, and a player’s longevity with the organization is a pert of this selection process.

10) Al Toon, WR, 1985-1992

Toon made a name for himself in 1986, the year the Jets went 10-1 before losing their last five games. After being selected 10th overall in the 1985 draft, it was his second year in the league. He made that selection pay dividends by catching 85 passes for 1,176 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 13.8 yards per catch.

That performance earned Toon both his first of three consecutive Pro Bowl invitations and a first-team All-NFL wide receiver designation. A long Jets’ career perhaps seemed inevitable.

He led the league with a team record of 93 receptions in 1988. That year, Toon’s last 1,000-yard season resulted in his last Pro Bowl invitation. However, Toon was susceptible to concussions, which ended his career after eight seasons.

Video: Al Toon Highlights

Al Toon Highlights

9) Larry Grantham, LB, 1960-1972

Grantham’s linebacking play earned him first-team All-AFL selection in each of his first five years and invitations to the AFL All-Star Game from 1962 to 1964 and again in 1966.

He played 175 games at linebacker. That team record stood from his retirement after the 1972 season until Kyle Clifton surpassed it on his way to 204. Grantham gets overlooked because he was not a look at me typr guy. He did his job without any fanfare and he led a Jets defense that totally dismantled the vaunted Colts offense.

Video: LARRY GRANTHAM TRIBUTE

LARRY GRANTHAM TRIBUTE

8) Winston Hill, OT, 1963-1976

From 1967 to 1973, Hill’s invitation to the Pro Bowl was almost automatic. He was the most decorated member of the 1965 and 1966 Jets’ lines that set team records for allowing the fewest sacks and the 1968 line that supported the most rushing touchdowns in a 14-game season.

Hill belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was as big a part of the Jets’ winning Super Bowl III as Namath was. In that game, the Jets’ offensive line dominated the great Colts’ defensive line, led by Bubba Smith. Hill was elected a couple of years ago and it was long overdue. He should have been in five years after his career ended.

Video: Winston Hill Enshrined As Member Of Pro Football Hall Of Fame | The New York Jets | NFL

Winston Hill Enshrined As Member Of Pro Football Hall Of Fame | The New York Jets | NFL

7) Gerry Philbin, DE, 1964-1972

Philbin may have no official sacks as a Jet, but The Jets blog credits him with 64.5. Shaun Ellis’s team bio also mentions that Ellis surpassed Philbin’s 64.5 sacks in 2009 to take third place on the Jets’ all-time list.

Maybe his sack total was unofficial, but Philbin did not suffer from lack of recognition. He earned both AFL All-Star Game invitations and first-team All-AFL honors in 1968 and 1969. Additionally, in 1970 he was named first-team defensive end on the All-Time AFL Team.

Video: New York Jets Gerald John Philbin (September 5, 1968)

New York Jets Gerald John Philbin (September 5, 1968)

6) Freeman McNeil, RB, 1981-1992

While he played more games than any other Jets’ running back, injuries averaged 12 games per season. He only played 14 or more games in three of his 12 seasons. On the other hand, Martin only played fewer than 15 games in one of his eight Jets’ seasons—his last.

Had McNeil been more durable, he may well have had more than three Pro Bowl seasons and one first-team All-NFL selection. He might well have surpassed Martin as the Jets’ all-time leading rusher and earned a bust in Canton.

Video: Freeman McNeil Highlights

Freeman McNeil Highlights

5) Wesley Walker, WR, 1977-1989

Walker led the NFL with 21.1 yards per catch in 1977. The following year was even better. In 1978, Walker caught 48 passes for 1,169 yards, 24.4 yards per reception, and scored eight touchdowns. Both his receiving yards and yards per catch led the NFL. His reward was a Pro Bowl invitation and selection as first-team All-NFL wide receiver.

Walker only had one other Pro Bowl invitation in 1982. After that, however, he established himself as a serious threat that demanded respect. He averaged over 20 yards per catch in eight of his 13 seasons, including his first four. Walker’s career average of 19 yards per catch and a single season-high of 24.4 yards per catch is still team records.

Video: THROWBACK HIGHLIGHTS: Wesley Walker's Crazy 4 TD Game Vs. Miami In 1986 | New York Jets | NFL

THROWBACK HIGHLIGHTS: Wesley Walker’s Crazy 4 TD Game Vs. Miami In 1986 | New York Jets | NFL

4) Curtis Martin, RB, 1998-2005

With the Jets, Martin’s work tilted slightly more towards receiving. Still, his average of 23.8 touches per game over eight seasons was remarkably similar to the 23.9 touches he averaged as a Patriot.

These were effective touches as well. Martin averaged 4.0 yards per carry throughout his career. In 2004, his penultimate season, Martin led the NFL with 371 attempts and 1,697 yards, both team records. No other 31-year-old back has ever attained that yardage. Yet throughout his career, Martin was accused of wearing down.

Video: Curtis Martin - New York Jets Highlights {My Favorite Martin!!}

Curtis Martin – New York Jets Highlights {My Favorite Martin!!}

3) Joe Namath, QB, 1965-1976

Namath’s first half of his career would make him number one on this list. However, the second half of his career is why he slides to number 3. Injuries started at Alabama for Namath and marred his entire Pro career. He is in the Hall of Fame, but that induction is because of Super Bowl III.

His stats are very unimpressive, but with Namath he made the Jets the coolest team in New York during the 1970s and the way he played has to be combined with what he did for the overall league in his time there.

Video: Joe Namath Highlights (Final Version)

Joe Namath Highlights (Final Version)

2) Joe Klecko, DE-DT, 1977-1987

He was a threat no matter where on the line he played. Klecko received four Pro Bowl invitations: one at defensive end, two at defensive tackle, and the last at nose tackle. In addition, he was named to two first-team All-NFL teams, one as a defensive end and one as a nose tackle.

Klecko finally received induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, something that had long been over due. He was dominant at his position but never got the fanfare that others did because he kept quiet and did his job.

Video: The Mighty Mean Green Machine - Joe Klecko Career Highlights

The Mighty Mean Green Machine – Joe Klecko Career Highlights

1) Don Maynard, WR, 1960-1972

After a season with the Giants, Maynard joined the New York Titans in 1960. He established himself as a deep threat that season, catching 72 passes for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns, an average of 17.6 yards per catch.

That was the first of five 1,000-yard seasons. Maynard had a second such season in 1962, catching 56 passes for 1,041 yards. His last three 1,000-yard seasons earned him AFL All-Star Game invitations in 1965, 1967, and 1968. Though he fell short of the 1,000-yard mark in 1969, his 938 receiving yards earned him his last All-Star Game invitation and designation as a first-team All-AFL wide receiver.

Remember, current players are not eligible to make our list.

Video: Don Maynard Highlights

Don Maynard Highlights

Honorable Mentions

Mark Gastineau, DE, 1979-1988

Gastineau was not as versatile as Joe Klecko but earned five consecutive Pro Bowl invitations from 1981 to 1985 and three successive first-team All-NFL selections from 1982 to 1984. All of these honors were at the defensive end.

 Mo Lewis, LB, 1991-2003

He finished as the Jets’ all-time leader in tackler with 1,231, opponents’ fumbles recovered with 18, and forced fumbles with 29. In addition, his 52.5 sacks marked him as a threat to quarterbacks as well.

Lewis also intercepted 14 passes, returning four for touchdowns, and added another touchdown from a fumble recovery.

These achievements earned Mo three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl from 1998 to 2000 and a first-team All-NFL designation in 1998.

Matt Snell, FB, 1964-1972

Snell’s accomplishments were sufficiently noteworthy to earn him AFL All-Star Game invitations in 1966 and 1969 and a first-team All-AFL designation in 1969. He finished his career with 4,205 yards on 1,057 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per carry, and scored 24 touchdowns. He added 193 receptions for 1,375 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per catch.

His production may not have been great by modern standards. After all, those were the days of Namath, Maynard, and Sauer. However, Matt Snell delivered when they needed someone to grind up yardage and clock, like during Super Bowl III. Check out more NFL news here!

Emerson Boozer, RB, 1966-1975

Versatility is what put Emerson Boozer ahead of Matt Snell on this list. He was an all-purpose back before the term became popular.

Boozer retired after the 1975 season as the Jets’ career leader with 1,291 rushing attempts for 5,135 yards and 52 touchdowns. Freeman McNeil surpassed Boozer’s attempts and yardage records. In those categories, Curtis Martin leapfrogged Boozer and McNeil and beat Boozer’s touchdown record by six.

However, Boozer has something that McNeil and Martin lack—a Jets’ Super Bowl championship ring.

George Sauer, WR, 1965-1970

Sauer joined the Jets in 1965 with Joe Namath. After a relatively unproductive first year, he burst upon the scene in 1966, with the first of three straight 1,000-yard seasons. That earned him his first of four trips to the AFL All-Star Game.

Sauer’s stature improved as the Jets rose from a .500 team in 1966 to Super Bowl III champions. He added first-team All-AFL honors to his All-Star Game appearances in 1967 and 1968.

He would be up with teammate Don Maynard if he could have played ten years.

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