Revisiting the history of New York Jets quarterback revenge games
It’s always difficult running into your ex in public. Now imagine being forced into a three-hour get-together.
That’s the situation the New York Jets have been placed into as their 2021 season kicks off on Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
The Jets’ Charlotte-based host features several former bearers of green (including Robby Anderson, Juston Burris, Frankie Luvu, Pat Elflein, and Julian Stanford), but one in particular has stolen the spotlight: quarterback Sam Darnold.
It took three seasons for Jets management to declare Darnold the latest false prophet in their endless search for a franchise thrower. He was dealt to Carolina in exchange for three draft picks back in April, paving the way for the selection of Zach Wilson with the second overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft.
Frankly, there isn’t much precedence for Darnold’s reunion: the Jets’ most accomplished and renowned quarterbacks often spend most, if not all, of their starting careers with the Jets and disappear from the league before a showdown with his former employers could be staged.
But in honor of the upcoming Darnold Bowl, we nonetheless take a trip down memory lane to see how former quarterbacks fared against Gang Green.
9/22/62: A Titanic Reunion (Al Dorow – NY Titans at Bills)
Al Dorow: 6-of-11, 69 yards, 1 INT (L 17-6)
He’s perhaps long-forgotten by the modern fanbase, but Al Dorow holds a special spot in New York Jets (well, technically Titans) history: he was the team’s original starting quarterback and is responsible for the first two touchdowns on the franchise ledger.
After two seasons under center in New York City (playing home games at Manhattan’s Polo Grounds), Dorow moved on to Western New York, where he played four more AFL games with the Buffalo Bills.
The penultimate contest in that span was a showdown with the Titans, where he oversaw a seven-turnover outing by the Bills offense. Dorow completed just six passes for 69 yards in the 17-6 defeat. One of Dorow’s Titans successors, Lee Grosscup, threw a touchdown pass to Thurlow Cooper in the New York victory.
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Dorow suffered an arm injury in Buffalo’s next game against the Dallas Texans, which ended his career.
9/7/08: Out With the Old, ‘Phin with the New (Chad Pennington – Jets at Dolphins)
Chad Pennington: 26-43, 251 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (L 20-14)
Unlike Sunday’s strategically staged battle between Darnold and his metropolitan successor, the 2008 season opener was a happy accident of sorts from a reunion standpoint: the Jets’ opener against the Miami Dolphins was scheduled months before the release of former franchise man Chad Pennington, who was bid farewell in favor of Green Bay divorcee Brett Favre.
Pennington’s former defensive comrades had a rude parting gift in store: he was sacked seven times (twice by Bryan Thomas) and knocked down nine more in what became a 20-14 Jets victory. New York enjoyed an early lead thanks to a pair of Farve touchdown passes to Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey, as well as a 101-yard, single-score outing from Thomas Jones.
A late touchdown to David Martin afforded Pennington one more chance to win the game, but the reliable, not-so-secret weapon of a Darrelle Revis interception allowed Gang Green to start the “Brett the Jet” era the right way. Of course, little more needs to be written about how Pennington helped co-author its ending.
10/11/10: Favre, Vikings Conquered on Monday Night (Brett Favre – Vikings at Jets)
Brett Favre: 14-of-34, 264 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT (L 29-20)
After his one season in green, the Jets didn’t play much of a role in Favre’s annual offseason games. His retirement and subsequent release from the team in 2009 led to the drafting of Mark Sanchez. Favre eventually found sanctuary in the dwelling of an old enemy: Minnesota.
A reunion in the Super Bowl wasn’t to be as the Jets and Vikings lost their respective conference title games at the end of the 2009-10 season. But the team’s quadrennial get-together earned Monday Night Football honors at the end of Week 5 action in 2010. The Jets were rolling with a 3-1 start while Minnesota had lost two of their first three and desperately brought back an aging Randy Moss in an attempt to turn the tide.
Defense, again, came to harass a former comrade. Favre was relentlessly pressured in an effort led by Calvin Pace (1.5 sacks), but the Jets could only must five Nick Folk field goals over the first three quarters.
A Minnesota comeback was mustered through further Favre history, as he threw his 500th touchdown and tallied his 70,000th yard. The Jets fought back with a score from Shonn Greene (part of a united 151-yard effort with LaDainian Tomlinson), but the possibility of a classic game-winning drive from Favre was a reality thanks to his scoring throws to Moss and Percy Harvin.
However, perhaps frustrated by the offense’s lack of touchdowns, the Jets’ defense decided to add one of its own: Dwight Lowery put Minnesota’s victorious thoughts in a woodchipper with a 26-yard pick-six that sealed the contest in the Jets favor.
The Jets would return to the AFC title game while Favre made only nine more NFL starts before injuries finally ended his NFL career.
11/12/17: Fitz-Tragic (Ryan Fitzpatrick – Jets at Buccaneers)
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 17-of-34, 187 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (W 15-10)
Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t last long in the Jets uniform (or any uniform, frankly), but he still left a sizable mark on the team’s record book.
During the first of his two years as a Jet, the famed, bearded Harvard alum set the Jets’ personal-best in single-season touchdown passes (31) and came up 95 yards short of becoming the first thrower since Namath to throw for 4,000 yards with a green oval on his helmet.
Fitzpatrick’s 2016 encore was a disappointment as he posted an NFL-worst 69.6 passer rating.
With Fitzpatrick gone in 2017, the Jets were making the best of their new settings overseen by Josh McCown. Entering their Week 10 contest against Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers, the Jets had a surprising 4-5 mark and were knocking on the door of the playoff penthouse.
The battle of journeymen played out as expected: with a heavy reliance on defense and field goals. Tampa Bay had a 9-3 lead after three frames thanks to three Patrick Murray field goals. Chandler Catanzaro made one for the Jets. Both defenses made big plays as Darryl Roberts intercepted a Fitzpatrick pass intended for rookie Chris Godwin one play after McCown was victimized by Brent Grimes.
However, Fitzpatrick sealed the deal with a seven-plus minute drive in the fourth quarter. He converted four third downs, the last being a six-yard touchdown pass to Charles Sims. It was enough to be the turning point in not just the game, but the Jets’ season as well: they won only one game for the rest of the way and never sniffed the playoff picture again.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags