The New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts 16-7 to win Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl in Miami on January 12, 1969. Gang Green hasn’t captured another title in the 48 years following its victory over the Colts. Despite the star-crossed franchise’s frequent struggles and general ineptitude, the Jets have a loyal and supportive fan base. Accordingly, although unable to qualify for the playoffs since 2010, MetLife Stadium is typically filled to capacity during Jets games.
Perhaps Gang Green fans remain devoted because, while primarily unsuccessful, the organization is constantly newsworthy. After all, Jets personalities from yesteryear like Joe Namath, Lou Holtz, Mark Gastineau, Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan weren’t exactly bland. Beyond engaging figures, Gang Green’s been tormented by an endless array of infamous moments both on and off the gridiron. Leon Hess’s decision to fire Pete Carroll for Rich Kotite, Bill Belichick’s impromptu resignation, Ryan’s admitted foot fetish, Mark Sanchez's “butt fumble” and Geno Smith’s fractured jaw are five such examples.
Most analysts and onlookers predict that this autumn’s version of the Jets will be its worst one since the 1996 squad that went 1-15. Considering that Gang Green’s roster is extremely youthful and still lacking a legitimate quarterback, the aforementioned critics may be correct. Regardless, per usual, the Jets will somehow manage to make losing a maddening source of entertainment.
While Jets fans await a championship for the first time since the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, let’s reminisce and locate where 15 of the organization’s former players are today.
15 CHAD PENNINGTON
The New York Jets took Marshall University quarterback Chad Pennington with the 18th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Pennington mercifully replaced the ineffective Vinny Testaverde in October 2002 and essentially remained the Jets’ starter until his release in August 2008. While not exactly Tom Brady, when healthy, Pennington was an extremely productive signal caller. Regrettably, the two-time NFL Comeback Player of the Year was plagued by debilitating shoulder injuries that prevented him from even approaching greatness. Pennington completed 66 percent of his passes for 102 touchdowns, against 64 interceptions, and 17,823 yards in 89 games as a Jet and Miami Dolphin.
The 40-year-old Pennington is involved with several charitable organizations and he serves as a middle school football coach at The Lexington School in Kentucky.
14 MARK GASTINEAU
Dominant defensive end Mark Gastineau spearheaded the legendary New York Sack Exchange and is widely lauded as one of history’s most feared pass rushers. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Gastineau, who the Jets took out of East Central Oklahoma State with the 41st pick in the 1979 draft, was a five-time All-Pro who led the league in sacks in 1983 and 1984. The 1982 NFL Defensive Player of the Year worked for 10 seasons in East Rutherford and finished his career with 107.5 sacks over 138 games as a Jet. Upon vacating the swamps of Jersey, Gastineau played for the CFL’s BC Lions in 1990 and he dabbled with boxing throughout the 1990s.
The 60-year-old Gastineau revealed in January that he’s been diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
13 LAVERANUES COLES
Laveranues Coles is one of the elite wide receivers in Jets history. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Coles, who completed the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.41 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, was drafted by Gang Green out of Florida State University with the 78th selection in 2000. Nicknamed “Trouble” as an adolescent, Coles developed tremendous chemistry with quarterback Chad Pennington and soared with the Jets. The 2003 Pro Bowler caught 674 pigskins for 49 touchdowns and 8,609 yards as a Jet, Washington Redskin and Cincinnati Bengal.
Coles has mainly led a quiet existence since shelving his cleats in 2010. However, “Trouble” made headlines in January 2016 when he filed a federal suit against the city of Jacksonville, Florida, over a zoning law that prohibited him from opening a strip club on Philips Highway.
12 BLAIR THOMAS
Former Penn State University running back Blair Thomas was brilliant in Happy Valley. A second-team All-American as a Nittany Lion, Gang Green chose the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Thomas with the second pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. Regrettably for Gang Green’s hierarchy, Thomas reeked in the swamps of Jersey and he wasn’t re-signed following the 1993 season. Thomas became a man without a permanent home and briefly gained employment with the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers. The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Famer carried the ball 533 times for 2,236 yards and seven scores in 64 games as a professional. Despite averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry, Thomas was out of the NFL by 1995.
The 49-year-old Thomas owns a chain of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based sports bars called KoKoMos.
11 WAYNE CHREBET
The New York Jets signed Hofstra University wide receiver Wayne Chrebet as an undrafted free agent in 1995. Chrebet controlled opposing defenses with the Flying Dutchmen and tied a college record established by NFL icon Jerry Rice when he caught five touchdowns in one game as a senior in 2004. Luckily for the Jets, due to the native New Jerseyan’s undersized frame, the 5-foot-10, 188-pound Chrebet went completely overlooked by scouts. Chrebet proceeded to catch 580 pigskins for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns over 11 seasons and 152 games as a Jet. Chrebet’s career ended prematurely at the age of 31 when he suffered a serious concussion versus the San Diego Chargers in November 2005.
Chrebet was inducted into the New York Jets Ring of Honor in December 2014. The 43-year-old Chrebet now focuses on breeding racehorses and playing fantasy sports.
10 AL TOON
Wide receiver Al Toon was a stellar playmaker for the Jets in the 1980s and early 1990s. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Toon was selected by Gang Green out of Wisconsin with the 10th pick in the 1985 draft. Over eight seasons with the Jets, Toon recorded 517 receptions for 31 scores and 6,605 yards. Sadly, Toon was forced to retire at the age of 29 in 1992 as a result of suffering more than nine concussions on the gridiron.
"I had three kids and was happily married and wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing for my family," Toon told FOX Sports. "So the decision wasn’t difficult when I had all the information. I just felt blessed to have the opportunity to play the game for as long as I did."
The 54-year-old Toon is relatively healthy and overseeing a variety of business ventures.
9 KEN O’BRIEN
From strictly a statistical standpoint, Ken O’Brien may be the premier quarterback in Jets history. Gang Green took the 6-foot-4, 200-pound O’Brien with the 24th pick in the 1983 draft. O’Brien was a two-time Pro Bowler and the 1985 AFC Player of the Year with the Jets. Unfairly, because O’Brien was chosen ahead of Dan Marino, the 1997 College Football Hall of Fame inductee was never a beloved athlete in Gotham. Still, O’Brien tossed 126 touchdowns, against 99 picks, for 25,094 yards in nine years with the Jets and five games with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Many fans are clamoring for the 56-year-old O’Brien, a resident of Manhattan Beach who works in finance, to finally become a member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor.
8 JOE KLECKO
Alongside Gastineau, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam, Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko was a vital part of the New York Sack Exchange. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Klecko was drafted by the Jets out of Temple University with the 144th pick in 1977. Klecko prospered in the Big Apple and was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro. The 1981 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was a Jet for 11 seasons and a member of the Indianapolis Colts in 1988. In total, Klecko compiled 24 sacks in 155 games.
A member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor, Klecko and his wife, Debbie, reside in Colts Neck, New Jersey. The 63-year-old Klecko is a sales representative who peddles metal stairs across the Tri-State Area.
7 CURTIS MARTIN
Curtis Martin is arguably the preeminent New York Jet of all time. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Martin became a Jet in March 1998 when Bill Parcells managed to sneak the talented running back out of New England. Martin, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, carried the pigskin 3,518 times for 14,101 yards and 90 touchdowns in 168 games as a Jet and Patriot. For his brilliance on the gridiron, Martin was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
“A player like Curtis Martin inspires you to coach,” Parcells said. “Everything he said he was going to do, he did.”
Never enamored with football, the 44-year-old Martin used the money he saved as a professional to establish numerous charities and businesses.
6 VINNY TESTAVERDE
Vinny Testaverde is the definition of an NFL journeyman. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Testaverde, the first overall pick in the 1987 draft, played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and the Jets before finally retiring in December 2007. However, by a wide margin, Testaverde’s best season occurred in 1998 with the Jets. In 14 games as the Jets’ starter, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner amassed 29 scores, against only seven interceptions, and 3,256 yards in the air while leading the team to the 1998 AFC Championship Game. Even though his son, Vincent, graduated, the 53-year-old Testaverde still coaches quarterbacks at Jesuit High School of Tampa.
“Being quarterback means you’re that guy,” said Vincent. “You’re the leader on the field. Leadership is a big role and that’s what he’s taught me out here.”
5 VERNON GHOLSTON
Defensive end Vernon Gholston was anemic in the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Gholston was drafted by the Jets with the sixth pick in 2008. Gholston failed to record a sack or forced fumble over 45 games as a Jet before the team cut him in March 2011. A muscleman with a herculean physique, the 30-year-old Gholston founded a horticultural company, Somerset, New Jersey-based Anew Wellness, in 2014 to aid people with mental health issues.
“Horticultural Therapy is unique," said Gholston, who was out of football by August 2012. "So basic, yet so complex. It gives order to chaos. Connection where there is disconnection. HT offers the flexibility of using as individual sessions, or build as an entire program. It meets the client where they are at and allows for engagement and connection.”
4 SANTANA MOSS
The New York Jets took explosive wide receiver Santana Moss out of the University of Miami with the 16th pick in the 2001 draft. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Moss played four seasons in East Rutherford before getting dealt to the Washington Redskins for former Jet Laveranues Coles in March 2005. Moss shined from the outset in our nation's capital and was a 2005 first-team All-Pro. Moss caught 732 pigskins for 66 scores and 10,283 yards in 197 games as a pro.
After being told, his services were no longer needed by the Redskins following the 2014 season, Moss returned to his alma mater Miami to study business. The 37-year-old Moss was hired in March to serve as a color commentator for the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League.
“Some of the things I’ve learned while playing is kind of helping me now that I’m not playing and this is one of the things I never imagined myself doing, being involved in radio or just TV period in this field,” Moss said. “I’m definitely going to have fun.”
3 KYLE BRADY
Rather than taking Warren Sapp, the Jets selected tight end Kyle Brady out of Penn State with the ninth pick in the 1995 draft. The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Brady played four seasons with the Jets before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999. Brady recorded 343 catches for 25 touchdowns and 3,519 yards in 197 games with the Jets, Jaguars and Patriots. Shortly after retiring from the NFL in 2007, the 45-year-old Brady enrolled at the Florida Coastal School of Law where he received his degree in 2010.
“Law school was mental drudgery, as opposed to the physical drudgery of football,” said Brady. “The memorization before each exam is intense. Professors call you out and ask you to analyze a case in class. You got to be on your toes.”
2 RONNIE LOTT
Menacing defensive back Ronnie Lott competed for the Jets for two seasons from 1993 to 1994. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers out of USC eighth overall in 1981, the 6-foot, 200-pound Lott became a 10-time Pro Bowler and eight-time first-team All-Pro. Lott, a member of the 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams, helped the 49ers win four Super Bowl titles. The 2000 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee now serves as an advocate for Wearsafe, a subscription-based personal safety service and device.
“I joined Wearsafe because I think there should be a better way to stay safe, particularly for college students," said Lott, 58. "Throughout my NFL career, I always had my eyes open looking for the next great play. When a good friend of mine introduced me to Wearsafe, I immediately knew this was a play I wanted to make.”
1 BOOMER ESIASON
Following nine mainly stellar seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback, Boomer Esiason was traded to the New York Jets in April 1993. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Esiason performed decently in Gotham and was a 1993 Pro Bowl selection. The 1988 NFL Most Valuable Player completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 touchdowns and 37,920 yards in 187 games with the Bengals, Jets and Arizona Cardinals. Esiason and Craig Carton permanently replaced Don Imus as WFAN radio hosts in September 2007.
The popular duo have been mentioned as possible replacements for Mike Francesa. However, Francesa’s longtime partner, Chris Russo, is confident that the 56-year-old Esiason and Carton will remain in the morning slot.
“I’m assuming they are going to put two people in there,” said Russo. “They would never move Boomer [Esiason] and [Craig] Carton, there’s no need to do that, they need the morning show, as well.”
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