The first organizational meeting of the American Football League took place on August 14, 1959. Harry Wismer, representing the city of New York at the meeting, proclaimed the state was ready for another professional football team and that he was more than capable of running the daily operations. Wismer was granted the charter franchise later dubbed the Titans of New York as Wismer explained, "Titans are bigger and stronger than Giants." He secured the Titans' home field at the decrepit Polo Grounds, where the team struggledFINANCIALLY and on the field during its first three years. By 1962, the debt continued to mount for Wismer, forcing the AFL to assume the costs of the team until season's end.
A five-man syndicate, headed by Sonny Werblin, saved the team from certainBANKRUPTCY, purchasing the lowly Titans for $1 million. Renamed the Jets, the new owners hired Weeb Ewbank as the general manager and head coach. Ewbank and quarterback Joe Namath led the Jets to prominence in 1969 when New York defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and solidified the AFL's position in the world of professional football.
When the AFL and NFL merged, the team fell into a state of mediocrity along with their star quarterback, Namath, who only had three successful post-merger seasons after injuries hampered much of hisCAREER. The Jets continued to spiral downward before enjoying a string of successes in the 1980s, which included an appearance in the 1982 AFC Championship Game, and the emergence of the popularNew York Sack Exchange.
The early 1990s saw New York struggling. After firing coach Bruce Coslet, owner Leon Hess hired Pete Carroll who struggled to a 6–10 record and was promptly fired at the end of the season. Thereafter, Rich Kotite was selected to lead the team to victory; instead he led the Jets to the NFL's worst record for two consecutive years. Kotite stepped down at the end of his second season forcing the Jets to search for a new head coach.
Hess lured then-disgruntled New England Patriots head coach Bill Parcells to New York in 1997. Parcells led the team back to relevance and coached them to the AFC Championship Game in 1998. Hess died in 1999 while the team, plagued by injuries, produced an eight win record, falling short of a playoff berth. At the end of the season, Parcells stepped down as head coach deferring control to his assistant, Bill Belichick; Belichick immediately resigned and went on to accept the head coaching position with the Patriots.
The franchise obtained a new owner in Woody Johnson in 2000. Additionally, through the 2000s the Jets visited the playoffs five times, a franchise record, under theDIRECTION of three different coaches. The Jets' most recent head coach, Rex Ryan, was hired in January 2009. Ryan led the team to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances during his first two years but the team never made the playoffs again during his tenure.
Harry Wismer, a businessman, had been interested in sports for much of his life when he was granted a charter franchise in the American Football League. A three-sport letterman, football, particularly, stuck with Wismer who went on to play for the University of Florida and Michigan State before a knee injury ended his playing career. Undeterred, Wismer began his career as a broadcaster originally with Michigan State and became a pioneer of the industry. Later, as the Titans owner, Wismer formulated a league-wide policy which allowed broadcasting rights to be shared equally amongst the teams.
Wismer, who had previously had a 25% stake in the Washington Redskins, was interested in the American Football League and was given a franchise to develop in New York. Wismer, whose philosophy was who you knew mattered most, tried to make the team and the league a success. His efforts began to accrue debt as the Titans' first two seasons were mediocre with attendance dropping in the team's second year. The franchise was sold for $1 million to a five-man syndicate headed by Sonny Werblin of the Gotham Football Club, Inc. in February 1963.
Sonny Werblin graduated from Rutgers University and was employed by the Music Corporation of America, eventually becoming president of the company's television division. With a vast knowledge of media, Werblin was determined to put the spotlight on the team. His first order of business, after changing the team's name and jerseys, was to sign Joe Namath to an unprecedented contract. Werblin's gamble would later pay off as Namath, who became a public star, led the Jets on to victory in Super Bowl III, though by then Werblin had sold his stake in the team.
Werblin's partners, Townsend B. Martin, Leon Hess, Donald C. Lillis, and Philip H. Iselin, had a falling out with Werblin over the way the team was run—though the franchise had begun to make a profit, Werblin was making all the policies and decisions himself with little or no input from his partners, much to their dismay. Though Werblin initially resisted their ultimatum to dissolve the partnership, Werblin agreed to be bought out in 1968. Werblin remained involved in the sports community and became the first chairman and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority where he helped to create the Meadowlands Sports Complex, including Giants Stadium.
Leon Hess became well known for his Hess Corporation gas stations; however, he also played an instrumental part in the development of the Jets during his tenure as co-owner and eventual sole owner. Hess had often fought for improvements while the team was a tenant at Shea Stadium but generally stayed away from football operations, allowing his coaches and general manager to make football-related decisions.
Becoming the team's majority stockholder in 1973, Hess bought Philip H. Iselin'sSHARE upon his death in 1976 after which only two of Hess' partners remained, Townsend Martin and Helen Dillon, who had inherited the stake from her father Donald Lillis, upon his death. Hess began to buy out the remaining partners in 1981 when he bought Martin's 25% stake for $5 million. Hess bought Dillon's stake three years later for another $5 million, acquiring sole control of the team.
Hess had a passion for his team and took losses hard. In 1995, following a mediocre 6–10 season under Pete Carroll, despite generally shying away from football operations, Hess announced "I'm 80 years old, I want results now" during a conference in which Rich Kotite was introduced as the team's new coach. After two unsuccessful years with Kotite, Hess heavily involved himself in hiring Bill Parcells in hopes to see his team again reach the Super Bowl. He did not live to see his dream realized as he died on May 7, 1999.
With the team for sale, two potential buyers were found in Cablevision and philanthropist Woody Johnson whose grandfather, Robert Wood Johnson II, expanded Johnson & Johnson. Johnson was unknown among the other NFL owners at the time of his $635 million purchase of the franchise.However, Johnson had a passion for sports according to former Knicks general manager Ernie Grunfeld and desired to own his own team. Johnson has been considered to be an enabler who wants the best from his employees.
Much like Hess, Johnson left many of the football related decisions up to his management team and tended to avoid the spotlight. However, upon hiring head coach Rex Ryan, Johnson had an increased presence as he molded the Jets into his team.
Owner Harry Wismer sought out a place for the team to play their home games but was only able toSECURE the dilapidated Polo Grounds, which had not had a major tenant since the New York GiantsVACATED the stadium in 1957. The Titans played their first four seasons at the stadium—in the final season they were renamed the Jets. The TitansSHARED the stadium with baseball'snew expansion team, the New York Mets, for two years before both teams moved to the Shea Stadium in Queens in 1964. The Jets hold the distinction of being the final team to host a game at the Polo Grounds, a 19–10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on December 14, 1963.
Wismer hoped the Titans could play in what would become known as Shea Stadium beginning in 1961. However,FUNDING difficulties and legal problems delayed construction of the stadium. Wismer signed a memorandum of understanding in late 1961 toSECURE the Titans' new home.That memorandum recognized that the Mets would have exclusive use of the stadium until they had completed their season. As the team moved to Shea under new ownership, they were, in most years, required to open the season with several road games, a problem made worse in 1969 and 1973 when the Mets had long playoff runs.
Feeling that this arrangement put the Jets at a disadvantage, the team announced in 1977 that they would play two home games a year during the month of September at the Giants' new home in New Jersey, Giants Stadium. Litigation began between New York City and the Jets over the issue, and in the lawsuit's settlement, the city agreed to allow the Jets to play two September home games a season at Shea beginning in 1978 for the remaining six years in the Jets' lease. In 1977, the Jets were to play one September game at Giants Stadium and an October 2 game at Shea.
In spite of these issues, majority owner Leon Hess was interested in renewing the team's lease at Shea, which was due to expire in 1983. Hess negotiated with New York mayor Ed Koch. Hess wanted the city to redevelop the stadium to expand its capacity. He also hoped to renegotiate other aspects of the lease—the Jets received noMONEY from ticketholders parking at Shea. Hess's proposals met resistance from Koch. When negotiations reached an impasse, the Jets announced their intention to depart for New Jersey. On December 10, 1983 the Jets played their final game at Shea and lost to the Steelers 34–7. As fans pillaged the stadium for mementos, the scoreboard read "N.J. Jets" in reference to the Jets' departure to the Meadowlands.
When the Jets joined the Giants at the stadium, many Jets fans hoped the name, Giants Stadium, would be changed. However, the Giants, who had the authority to approve the change, refused. In an effort to conceal the fact that they played in a stadium built and decorated for another team, the stadium grounds crew was assigned to make the stadium more Jet-friendly during Jets games by putting up green banners and placing the Jets' logo over the Giants'. No change could be made to the blue and red seating bowl. The Jets were featured in the first NFL playoff game in the stadium's history, falling to the Patriots on December 28, 1985.
As the Jets sought to become a stronger franchise and remove themselves from their counterparts' shadow, the team entered into negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in an attempt to build a stadium on the west side of Manhattan, entering a bidding war with TransGas Energy Systems and Cablevision for the rights to the West Side Yard property—Hess, prior to his death, had been approached by former mayor Rudy Giuliani about bringing the team to the West Side when their lease at Giants Stadium expired in 2008. Cablevision was fixated against the Jets owning the land as Madison Square Garden, located only a few blocks away, would be forced to compete with the stadium. Team owners had voted, 31–1, with the Buffalo Bills the only objectors, to award the 2010 Super Bowl to New York contingent on the Jets winning the bid and completing construction of the stadium prior to 2010.
An inside view of MetLife Stadium during the first-ever preseason matchup between the Giants and Jets.
The MTA unanimously voted to sell the land to the Jets for approximately $210 million as the committee agreed that having the stadium would be beneficial in the long run. An angry Cablevision, community groups and transportation advocates were determined to derail the Jets' attempts at building the stadium and two lawsuits challenging the construction of the stadium on environmental grounds were filed. Though confident they couldSECURE the stadium, their hopes were dashed when Sheldon Silver and Joseph L. Bruno, both of whom held veto power over the stadium construction, refused to support the project, alleging it would hurt rather than help the development of the West Side.
Defeated, the Jets agreed to enter a 50–50 partnership with their rival, the Giants, to build a new stadium effectively agreeing to a 99-year lease, which the Giants had signed earlier in the year, to remain in New Jersey. The stadium, known as MetLife Stadium, became the first in the history of the NFL to be jointly built by two franchises. The stadium, which is illuminated in different colors depending on which team is hosting a game, opened in April 2010 and saw the Jets and Giants open the stadium together in a preseason exhibition game. The Jets' first regular season home game at the new stadium was held on September 13, 2010 and was shown nationwide on Monday Night Football. New York lost to the Ravens 10–9. Team owners voted to have the stadium host Super Bowl XLVIII, held in 2014.
Since the inception of the American Football League, the Jets have maintained what is considered to be a marquee rivalry with the New England Patriots. The rivalry was relatively docile in its early years until 1966 when the Jets removed the Patriots, who had hopes of appearing in Super Bowl I, from playoff contention with a 38–28 defeat at Shea Stadium. The Patriots returned the favor in 1985 when the Jets lost to New England 26–14 in the wild card round; the Patriots went on to Super Bowl XX where they were defeated by the Bears.
The rivalry began to escalate and receive increased media attention in 1997 when a disgruntled Bill Parcells vacated his head coaching position with New England to accept the same position with New York. The following year, the Jets signed Pro Bowl running back Curtis Martin from the Patriots. After the Jets declined during Parcells' third year, Parcells decided to resign as head coach. His assistant, Bill Belichick, resigned the next day in order to become the head coach of the Patriots instead.
A critical turning point of the rivalry took place on September 23, 2001 when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis tackled Drew Bledsoe, leaving the veteran with internal bleeding. This provided an opportunity for Tom Brady to take over as the starting quarterback and during his tenure, Brady successfully guided New England to four Super Bowl titles. In 2006, Eric Mangini, an assistant under Belichick, left New England to join the Jets as their head coach. Under Mangini, the famous Spygate incident took place, further escalating tensions between both clubs. When Rex Ryan was hired as the team's head coach, the rivalry further escalated due to an increased war of words between both teams.
New York has maintained a rivalry with the Miami Dolphins since the Dolphins' inception in 1966. One of the most famous games in Jets history took place in 1994 when the Dolphins ran the Fake Spike play, giving them an improbable victory and halting the Jets' momentum that season, serving as a precursor to the Jets' next two unsuccessful years under Rich Kotite. The Jets went on to complete an improbable victory of their own on October 23, 2000 in what is known as The Monday Night Miracle. The Jets, trailing the Dolphins 30–7 at the end of the third quarter, rallied in the fourth quarter scoring 23 unanswered points, eventually winning in overtime with a 40-yard John Hall kick.
When Rex Ryan became New York's head coach, there was an increased war of words between the clubs culminating with Ryan flashing an obscene gesture to heckling Dolphins fans in January 2010. The rivalry continued between both teams when Sal Alosi, then the strength and conditioning coach of the Jets, tripped Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll. Carroll was not seriously injured and Alosi resigned nearly two months later.
The New York Jets previously maintained a high tension rivalry against their in-town counterparts, the New York Giants, that has since diminished due to the infrequency with which the teams meet in the regular season. The pinnacle of the rivalry came on August 17, 1969 when both the Jets and Giants met for the first time, in a preseason game which was viewed as a "turf war" by both opponents. The Giants, considered a mediocre team at the time, were regarded as underdogs and were under much scrutiny by the media and their fans. Ultimately, the Jets bested their rival 37–14; this would result in the firing of Giants coach Allie Sherman.
The Jets met the Giants in 1988 during the final game of the regular season. The Jets, with a 7–7–1 record, had little to lose as their hopes for playoff contention had vanished. The Giants, however, were contending for a playoff spot and a victory would haveSECURED their spot and their division title. Although the six point favorites, the Giants were unable to overcome the Jets defense which saw the Jets sack quarterback Phil Simms eight times. With the Jets' victory and victories by the Rams and Eagles, the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention and the Jets gained what many considered respect.
In spite of the big sibling rivalry that has resulted in trash talk between the players, both teams have formed an unexpected and consequently strong partnership sharing Giants Stadium for 26 years and MetLife Stadium, a venture in which both teams own a 50%SHARE of the stadium. The rivalry regained much of its tension in the 2011 NFL season when the Jets and Giants met in Week 16. Both teams needed a victory to keep their playoffs hope alive and there was significant trash talk between Rex Ryan and his players and many of the Giants in the weeks leading up to the game. Ryan and Giants running back Brandon Jacobs reportedly came close to blows after the game, a 29–14 win by the Giants.
The Jets have undergone three significant uniform changes with minor alterations throughout the years. As the Titans of New York, the team wore blue andGOLD uniforms similar to that of Notre Dame's. The well-known green and white uniforms came about in 1963 when the team was renamed. The franchise introduced Titans of New York throwback uniforms in 2007 to commemorate their heritage.
The team originally named the Jets Flag Crew was established in 2006. In 2007, the group underwent an expansion and was appropriately renamed theJETS FLIGHT Crew. The squad regularly performs choreographed routines during the team's home contests. Auditions have been held annually since their inception to attract new members.
The Jets JuniorFLIGHT Crew was established in 2010 offering children the opportunity to train with the Flight Crew while improving their "talent and abilities in a non-competitive environment."
Ewbank, Martin, Maynard, and Namath are recognized based upon their achievements with the Jets. Ewbank is also recognized based upon his achievements with the Baltimore Colts, coaching them to NFL championships in 1958 and 1959. Riggins is recognized primarily for his seasons with the Washington Redskins (1976–79, 81–85), as is Monk (1980–93), who won three Super Bowl championships with Washington. Lott is in the Hall of Fame primarily for his exploits as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Baugh and Turner are recognized based upon their achievements as players with other teams, rather than their head coaching stints with the Jets. While Parcells reversed the fortunes of the Jets, he had major impact for the New York Giants, coaching them to two Super Bowl victories. Wolf only had a brief stint with the Jets between 1990 and 1991, while most of his major contributions occurred as an executive and player personnel director with the Oakland Raiders (1963-1974, 1979-1989), and later as General Manager of the Green Bay Packers (1991-2001).
The Jets established aRING of Honor on July 20, 2010, to commemorate former alumni. Each season, players will be nominated by an internal committee and then inducted into theRING. There is no specific amount of honorees to be selected each year.
Perhaps the most famous of the Jets' first round picks came in 1965 when they selected Alabama quarterback Joe Namath who boosted the Jets into the national spotlight with his boisterous personality and lifestyle. His physical talents on the field helped improve the Jets' fortunes, leading them to victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Though injuries hampered the latter part of Namath'sCAREER, he is best remembered, according to former teammate John Dockery, as "a guy that came along and broke a lot of the conventions." Namath was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing players in Jets history was running back Blair Thomas. Thomas, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry at Penn State, was an intriguing prospect the Jets were interested in utilizing to help their cumbersome offense. Confident in their decision, the Jets drafted Thomas with the second overall pick in 1990, expecting him to be a solid player for years to come. Thomas ran for only 620 yards in 1990, and failed to meet the high expectations. By the time Thomas left the team as an unrestricted free agent in 1993, he had rushed for 2,009 yards and only five touchdowns. The 2008 first round pick, defensive lineman Vernon Gholston, followed a similar path, failing to record a sack during his three-year tenure with the team.
In the 2013-14 seasons, one of the Jets' strongest units has been their defensive line, manned by 1st Round selections Muhammad Wilkerson (2011) and Sheldon Richardson (2013). In 2013, Wilkerson ended the season with 10.5 sacks, matching the last Jets player to have more than 10 sacks in a single season, John Abraham in 2005. Also that year, Richardson was honored with an award from the AP for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Jets' run defense was stout with all three in the line up, finishing fifth as a team in rushing yards allowed in 2014.