We could easily start this off with jokes about the New York Jets, but let's face it: they know they're a joke, they're trying to fix it, and we'll end it there.
Because of the recency bias plague that has made sports conversations unbearable lately, people seem to think the Jets have always been bad since their Super Bowl III win. Well, they have been pretty bad, but the team has made six playoff appearances since 2000, four of which ended in the Divisional Round or later. Considering how many teams only have three, that's not bad at all!
At the same time, we all know that the hopes of the Jets returning to their highest peak since Joe Namath's upset, which were consecutive AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010, aren't likely to happen in the coming future; there's just too many questions about the future of this team. Do the Jets currently have their quarterback of the future? Is Todd Bowles the right head coach for the job? Should the Jets try to trade Leonard Williams - actually wait, no, don't ask that question.
Today, let's try to relive both the good and bad of the past 17 years by revisiting some of the best and worst players to rock the green and white. Some players will be fairly obvious, others will surprise you, and I'm sure one will even irritate you beyond all belief. Without further waiting...
15 Best: David Harris
We start our list off with former second-round pick David Harris, drafted 47th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft and becoming an immediate contributor to the Jets defense...and, somehow, Harris stuck around for nearly a decade with no problems. Though he never made a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team, Harris has been among the league's most consistent linebackers in the past ten years, providing veteran leadership and stability on the field whenever the Jets tried to rebuild. Not bad for a player from the Eric Mangini era!
Now, Harris is set to take his talents to the New England Patriots, but he should still receive a loud ovation when he returns to Metlife Stadium this October. If Jets fans are smart - which, I don't think that word really applies to us - they won't boo Harris. Will they? Probably.
14 Worst: Dewayne Robertson
Something that Jets fans are still torn about in 2017 when DeWayne Robertson's name come up is a fairly easy question: was Robertson, the fourth overall pick in 2003, a bust? Not to the extent that others on this list are. Was he taken too high? Considering the draft also featured Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs, Calvin Pace (who at least would wind up in a Jets uniform later), Troy Polamalu and Dallas Clark...yes.
Really, Robertson winds up on this list because though he was competent at times, he never had the 'WOW' factor that people expected from him. Are we being too harsh on him because of his expectation? Perhaps. If there's any positive for Robertson here, it's that there are much worse players on this list. Small victories?
13 Best: Shaun Ellis
Drafted 12th overall all the way back in 2000, Ellis and David Harris - who played together from 2007-10 - were both more underrated than people give them credit for. Making the 2003 and 2009 Pro Bowls and totaling 72.5 sacks in 11 seasons, Ellis added three sacks in the playoffs as well...but we don't talk about the one sack that came in 2011 as a member of the New England Patriots when Ellis made his lone Super Bowl.
But, things ended ugly with the Jets, as Ellis explained on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
"They called and said, 'We're going to let Rex speak with you.' He said, 'We want you to come back, but we're not going to start you.' I'm like, OK. Tannenbaum said, 'We've got other guys in front of you, we're offering you the minimum. We'll get back to you. It's all how it went about. Just be stand-up, straight up. Just tell me the truth from the start. I'm a big boy, I can handle it. I just felt like there was a lot of sugar coating."
12 Worst: Kyle Wilson
With that said about Revis, why were the Jets so gung-ho about drafting Boise State's Kyle Wilson in the 2010 NFL Draft? Revis was in his prime and coming off one of the greatest defensive seasons in history while the Jets had traded for San Diego's Antonio Cromartie a month before, so what gives? Granted, many were high on Wilson at the time and this was a best player available situation, but the experiment failed miserably.
After five disappointing seasons in New York where he was constantly beat in coverage, the Jets shrugged, cut their losses, and let the cornerback go. Were there moments of brilliance? Well, brilliance may be the wrong word, but Wilson did have a key interception in 2011 against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Other than that, this was a wash.
11 Best: John Abraham
When it comes to young defensive players taken in the first round who did work for the Jets, though, it's hard not to mention John Abraham. Some will complain that Abraham's spot should go to someone else because he only played six years with the Jets - and only played double-digit games in four of those seasons - but when he was on the field, opposing quarterbacks wanted to get far away. Recording double-digit sacks in three seasons - and 9.5 in another - Abraham made three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team in New York, also scoring his lone touchdown in 2001.
Why did Abraham last so short in New York, you asked? Well, the Jets traded him in 2006 with the franchise tag, netting them a first-round pick from the Falcons that would be used on center Nick Mangold. At least the move was a win-win for both sides.
10 Worst: Stephen Hill
Some will say that Stephen Hill is way too high on this list, while others may make the argument that there have been worse players than Hill. Really, it's hard to find middle ground with Hill because the only thing that comes to mind with him is drops. Hill began his career on a high note, scoring two touchdowns in his first game against the Buffalo Bills in 2012, but his two years with the Jets were plagued by drops and attitude issues.
Following his release, Hill blamed the New York media, while his agent ripped the Jets for their handling of the situation.
"I'm disappointed in Idzik and Rex with the way the whole thing went down there,'' Alan Herman said. "Two years in that kind of situation is disheartening. He didn't have a chance that first year with that whole Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez fiasco. ... His second year, Geno Smith was learning how to play quarterback. So they never threw the ball deep because they wanted to simplify things for Geno."
9 Best: Brandon Marshall
Did Brandon Marshall do enough in his two years to wind up on this list - and so high, at that? Some will argue about that, but what we will say is that Marshall's 109 catch, 1,502 yard, 14 touchdown season in 2015 was one of the best offensive campaigns in New York Jets history; and, everything considered, his 59 catch, 788 yard, three touchdown score season last year wasn't bad at all. There have been very few times in Jets history where a wide receiver has been as consistent, explosive, and dangerous as Marshall was WHILE dealing with an inconsistent quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Alright, fine: we have soft spots for Marshall because of his success on the field and in the mental health community and we're not ashamed to admit that, which is why he lands on this list with ease.
8 Worst: Derrick Mason
Do you remember when Derrick Mason was on the New York Jets? Was he even a Jet? Well, for five games in 2011, Mason wore the green and white as a replacement for Jerricho Cotchery, whose stats had taken a downfall in 2010 and was now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. At 37 years old coming off a 61 catch, 802 yard, and seven touchdown season, what Mason would be able to do was unknown...and the truth is, he really didn't do much, catching 13 passes for 115 yards in five games before being traded to Houston midseason.
Some will rightfully argue that putting a 37-year-old on here is too harsh, but when you remember what the stakes were and how lost Mason seemed on the field, he belongs on this list.
7 Best: Nick Mangold
When you're judging an offensive lineman to casual fans, it's hard unless you bring up the amount of sacks they give up and even then, that's not always a perfect indicator. But when you watched Nick Mangold dominate opposing lineman, you knew that this guy was one of the greats...which makes his recent release even more saddening. Named to seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams, Mangold exemplified what a football player was supposed to look like on a team that often struggled to remember that.
If you don't believe us, take a look at the statement he posted on social media after being released earlier this year.
“As will be announced by the team shortly, my time as a New York Jet has come to an end. While this is a sad day to leave so many great coaches, teammates and executives, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for me. My family and I will always be grateful to [Jets owner Woody] Johnson and the entire organization for making me a Jet.”
6 Worst: Wayne Hunter
And then on the other side of that offensive line - both literally and figuratively - there's Wayne Hunter. Now, don't take that the wrong way because Hunter wasn't a distraction or an awful human being; he just couldn't stop defensive linemen from getting to whoever was playing quarterback, resulting in Rex Ryan (one of the more popular player's coaches because he wouldn't bench struggling players) benching him in the 2012 preseason and then trading him to the St. Louis Rams.
Then, there was the whole incident with Santonio Holmes to close out the 2011 season, where the two fought in the huddle against Miami. As a result, Holmes was benched and the Jets, who simply needed a win to get into the postseason for the third straight year, lost to their rivals and missed out. Woof.
5 Best: Kevin Mawae
That Kevin Mawae has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is an absolute travesty - and before fans start arguing about how Terrell Owens is still being snubbed, Mawae is even more of a snub. An eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Mawae is one of the best centers in NFL history, consistently protecting the quarterback and helping Curtis Martin to some of his best seasons.
“I always had the mentality that I’m the best guy on the field, whether that was true or not,” Mawae told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News earlier this year. “I never went on the field thinking I was the second best player. I had the arrogance to believe 65,000 people were there to watch me and nobody else.”
That's a good lesson for all of the student-athletes reading this, actually. Put that into your daily lives, folks.
4 Worst: Stephen White
The fact that there's not even really any pictures of Stephen White in a Jets uniform should tell you everything, but then again, so could the Jets signing him to a four-year, 7.5 million dollar deal after not really doing much of anything in Tampa. Then-Jets head coach Herm Edwards wanted to work with White again after their partnership in Tampa, but this failed pretty badly as White played one year, had half a sack, and retired.
In a 2014 piece for SB Nation on being an NFL free agent, White briefly reflected on his time with the Jets.
"The 2002 season was a disaster for me personally. After signing me, the Jets also decided to take a defensive end in the first round that year. Talk about shots fired. I didn't understand the move, but what was done was done. Then I had one injury after another, much like the 1999 season. It was frustrating, but we were making a playoff push so I just tried to get healthy enough to contribute."
3 Best: Curtis Martin
When Revis is inducted into the Hall of Fame within the next decade, he'll be joined in Canton by former Jets running back Curtis Martin. Formerly of the Patriots and a key member of their 1996 Super Bowl team, Martin joined the Jets in 1998 and shined throughout the 2000s, rushing for 7,551 yards and 45 touchdowns on 4.1 yards per rush from 2000-05; Martin also made his lone All-Pro team in 2004 when he ran for a career and league-high 1,697 yards.
Nicknamed Curtis "My Favorite" Martin by ESPN's Chris Berman, the dangerous running back was a source of highlights even in the most trying of Jets seasons...which, compared to some recent years, were fairly tame and mediocre. At least Martin didn't have to deal with the Buttfumble...
2 Worst: Vernon Gholston
There are some times where, like the Jets' 2010 selection of Kyle Wilson, we'll be left to wonder what is going through their minds when the card is filed. Other times, the draft pick will make plenty of sense - as the Jets using the sixth overall pick on Ohio State's Vernon Gholston did - but will fail nonetheless. Simply put, those players are bust and Gholston, who some thought could have gone number one to Miami that year, was one.
A name that Jets fans still regret hearing nearly seven years after his final snap, Gholston was supposed to be another component of a young Jets defense that featured Revis, David Harris, and Kerry Rhodes...but only started five games in three years with 34 tackles and zero sacks. Woof.
1 Best: Darrelle Revis
Even if he slowed down in 2016 and even if he's potentially facing the end of the line, what Darrelle Revis did in his two stints with the New York Jets - the first coming from 2007-12, the second 2015-16 - should not be forgotten. Arguably (though there's really not an argument) robbed of the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Award following a lockdown season on defense, Revis was essentially a first-ballot Hall of Famer through his first five seasons. There's not many players you can say that about, especially when so many other first-round draft picks turn out to be nothing.
Unfortunately, many will remember Revis for breaking down in his second stint and getting beaten by weaker receivers, but that's not who the former first-round pick was. Besides, if you expected us to end this list off with someone else...c'mon, man!
Which Jets players do you think have been the best and worst since 2000? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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