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Ranking the New York Jets’ most disappointing seasons of all time

New York Jets Most Disappointing Seasons, Aaron Rodgers, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington
New York Jets Most Disappointing Seasons, Aaron Rodgers, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, Getty Images

Tis the season for gifts, egg nog, and the big guy who lives at the North Pole. (And no, I’m not referring to Joe Douglas and the place he wishes he currently resides while this brutal season crawls to its apathetic finish.)

We’re of course talking about the big man in red whose sole purpose is to bring joy to kids once a year. Among the gifts are many New York Jets-related items—despite the many memes floating around, suggesting it’s child abuse to pass on your Gang Green fandom to the next generation.

Nevertheless, happy holidays indeed. Happy holidays to all of the accountants out there who specialize in accounting. Happy holidays to all of the nurses whose bedside manner and particular skills heal us faster. And happy holidays to New York Jets fans, a specific group of humans who specialize in the torture business.

It would be one thing if specializing in torture featured you as the torturer; it’s another matter entirely when the same individual is the tortured at nearly every turn.

The latest edition of the story is ongoing—the 2023 New York Jets season.

Super Bowl 58 was bandied about among the vast majority of NFL circles the moment the organization traded for legend Aaron Rodgers. And why not?

Robert Saleh‘s squad seemingly showcased talent up and down the 53-man depth chart, both on defense and offense. Even an argument can be made that the offensive line—if healthy—could play well enough for the Jets to have January and February success.

Long story short, as the group of tortured souls reading this article already knows, the Jets are 6-9 after 15 games, still attempting to navigate their post-Rodgers injury life.

As much as I rail against the idea of being a prisoner of the moment—which happens far too often in sports—it’s tough to not place the 2023 Jets as the most disappointing team in franchise history. Yet, do they belong in the top spot?

The one thing we know for sure is there are plenty of candidates to put together a bulky list. So, bring your misery along this darkened path as we rank the most disappointing seasons in New York Jets history.

9. 1969 Jets: The talent could not repeat

Yes, the 1969 New York Jets belong on this list, but they come with a bit of an asterisk. How could any Jets season be that disappointing when the previous year’s team won the Super Bowl?

I mean, goodness gracious, I think the modern Jets fan would gladly accept 10-straight winless seasons if their team could capture just one championship.

Regardless, the 1969 team starts the list due to the talent level Weeb Ewbank’s team possessed. Finishing first in the AFL East with a 10-4 record, New York was bounced in the AFL Divisional Round by the Kansas City Chiefs, 13-6. Worse yet, it happened at Shea Stadium, the then-Jets home.

8. 1983 Jets: An A.J. Duhe hangover

The 1983 New York Jets finished a disappointing 7-9, pungent enough for fifth in the AFC East (dead last). Although the record comes nowhere near Rich Kotite’s 1-15 squad of 1996—which deserves an honorable mention due to the free-agent binge they went on before that year—it came as a massive disappointment due to the 1982 squad’s wild ride.

Finishing 6-3 during the strike-shortened season, the 1982 squad marched through the playoffs until A.J. Duhe’s absurd three interceptions bounced them in the AFC championship game. Although fans thought big things during the Summer of 1983, Walt Michaels’s club couldn’t get it done when it counted.

7. 2007 Jets: What happened, Mangenious?

Eric Mangini, New York Jets, 2007
Eric Mangini, New York Jets, 2007, Getty Images

The football season that followed Eric Mangini’s famed “The Sopranos” cameo was 2007. Of course, it was a wildly horrendous campaign for New York Jets fans.

The 4-12 record was nothing new for this fanbase; it was the idea that the Jets had finally found their guy, their head coach, their man who’d lead them to the promised land, which immediately evaporated, that did it for this team.

The surprising 10-6 playoff team of 2006 set fans up for such a horrific 2007 season. The once genius head coach put a major crack in the hopeful armor of Jets fandom.

6. 1994 Jets: Fake spike misery

Imagine a world where one of the all-time great coaches in NFL history once excitingly roamed the New York Jets sidelines. No, I’m not referring to Bill Belichick; remember, I said, “Excitingly.”

In 1993, Pete Carrol served as Bruce Coslet’s defensive coordinator. A 3-0 victory over the Washington Football Team showcased an excited young defensive coach celebrating his unit’s shutout. A year later, Carroll took the head coaching reins.

On Nov. 24, 2023, the Jets entered their next game at 6-5, whereas their opponents, the Miami Dolphins, were 7-4. The winner would claim first place in the AFC East.

Boomer Esiason was slinging all day, ultimately finishing with 382 yards and two touchdowns (to two interceptions). The problem was Dan Marino, whose fake spike to win the game sunk not only the Jets that day but the rest of the season.

Carroll’s 1994 Jets went on to lose its final five games, including that one. From playing for first in the division in late November to finishing 6-10, the ’94 campaign stings.

5. 1986 Jets: From first to finishing much, much worse

New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, 1986
New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, 1986, Getty Images

Speaking of early-season success, no New York Jets team can match the 1986 iteration.

After splitting their first two games, Joe Walton’s Jets won nine straight. Ken O’Brien, Al Toon, Wesley Walker, and Mickey Shuler were faster than the competition in an aggressively attacking downfield fashion.

Then, suddenly, everything changed.

The 10-1 Jets lost its last five games, eventually backing into the playoffs. At one point, the Big Apple was abuzz, with both the Jets and Giants leading their respective conferences and dreaming of an all-New York Super Bowl.

Amazingly, the Jets knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round, but they fell in backbreaking fashion to the Cleveland Browns in the divisional. The “Marathon at the Lake,” as it’s been dubbed, remains one of the worst losses in Jets history.

4. 2003 Jets: Chad Pennington’s bad preseason break

It’s amazing to think New York Jets fans felt they had found a franchise quarterback at any point after Joe Namath, but that was exactly the case in 2002. The team that played to win the game saw young Chad Pennington save the season.

Pennington played so well that fans had every right to believe in the Marshall product.

Unfortunately, what occurred in the preseason of 2003 was a sign of what was to come. Pennington broke his left hand (non-throwing) against the New York Giants in a meaningless game, thus destroying the 2003 Jets’ soul.

Remember, the 2002 Jets were the hottest team heading into the playoffs. If not for the Super Bowl-bound Oakland Raiders, Herm Edwards’s squad could have met the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the big game.

Therefore, hopes were extremely high in 2003.

It was not to be.

3. 2008 Jets: Brett Favre hits a snag

What happens when the New York Jets trade for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, whose ironman nature allows him to play every game? Well, an injury happens, of course. Worse yet, an injury that’s kept as secret as possible occurs, befuddling fans at every turn in real-time.

The 2008 Jets were 8-3 at one point. Running over the undefeated Tennessee Titans had the NFL world take serious notice.

Unfortunately, Brett Favre’s bicep injury was much more serious than anybody believed, and Mangini’s final Jets squad lost four of its last five games.

Pouring the purest salt in the wound was the fact that Chad Pennington beat down the Jets in Week 17, leading his Miami Dolphins to the division crown.

Oh, the pain.

2. 1999 Jets: Vinny Testaverde goes down

Vinny Testaverde, New York Jets, 1999
Vinny Testaverde, New York Jets, 1999, Getty Images

No singular New York Jets team was bestowed with the great expectations the 1999 version had. In just two years, Bill Parcells transformed a 1-15 football team into a 12-4 divisional champion that held a 10-0 second-half lead in the AFC championship game against a defending Super Bowl champ.

With that, the majority of pundits picked the 1999 Jets as the preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Around these parts, that’s a recipe for disaster.

After a Curtis Martin fumble, Vinny Testaverde went down early in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. Although it led to some Tom Tupa excitement, Testaverde went on to miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles.

Just like that, the 1999 Jets’ season was done. Never have the football gods been so cruel. Right?

1. 2023 Jets: Aaron Rodgers quickly exits

Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets, 2023
Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets, 2023, Getty Images

Twenty-four years later, history repeated itself in many ways. Although the 2022 Jets cannot hold a candle to the 1998 Jets, the former’s surprising 5-2, 6-3, and eventual 7-4 start stunned many in the business.

The firm feeling that the young Jets have arrived much quicker than anybody expected. They simply needed a quarterback.

Enter Aaron Rodgers, a surefire Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, and suddenly, Super Bowl 58 was realistic.

Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills was a hype-machine epic. Taking place on Sept. 11, Monday night in primetime, Rodgers put forth one of the greatest pre-game introductions you can ever lay eyes on—with the American Flag in tow.

“Yes, this is the Jets year. Finally, our luck has turned and an all-time great has chosen us, the New York Jets. Yes, the Super Bowl is realistic, and no longer do Jets fans have to wait for the other shoe to drop.”

That was until the football gods did their usual cruel thing.

Just four snaps into the season, Rodgers went down for the year. A more torturous script couldn’t be written (no less imagined).

Undoubtedly, 2023 is the most disappointing season in New York Jets history. And you don’t even have to think of the vast territory that covers; it’s all painfully listed on this page.

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Jim G
5 months ago

I agree 2023 was the most disappointing. It wasn’t just the Rodgers injury. Add to that we were led to believe the roster was more talented than it actually was. So many of us fans couldn’t believe no move was made to add a backup QB or to improve the O line. We also had players mouthing off before the Jets had proved anything, even mouthing off after beating the Giants.

Then, in Jets fashion, all worst case scenarios were realized and it all came crashing down. How this team won 6 games is still a mystery to me. In addition to losing Rodgers, we were treated to the spectacle of a turnstile O line and wide receivers not named Garrett Wilson were unable to separate or hold onto the ball when it came their way.

Yeah, I’d put 2023 atop the list. I agree with the rest of the list although I would have rated 1986 higher. The Jets exceeded expectations for the first 11 games, then slinked off into the sunset for the remaining 5.

5 months ago

I’d put 1999 at the top of the list because expectations were higher. It’s just that we’ve had a quarter of a century to get over it.