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7 former NY Jets who could earn a Super Bowl ring on Sunday

Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold

The New York Jets will see some of their old friends play minor roles on Super Bowl Sunday

While there aren’t any former New York Jets players who will play major roles on Sunday (barring injuries), there are a handful of familiar faces to the green-and-white faithful who could come away with a Super Bowl ring on Sunday. There are also a few former Jets coaches who will play a role on the sidelines.

Kansas City Chiefs

Mecole Hardman

Jets legend Mecole Hardman will go down in the annals of franchise history for his indelible impact on the franchise. In his illustrious New York career, Hardman caught one pass for six yards across five unforgettable appearances.

The signing of Hardman was one of many failures in the Jets’ 2023 offseason. New York signed Hardman to a one-year, $4 million contract, hoping he could make an impact in their offense as a situational slot receiver and gadget weapon. Instead, Hardman barely even got on the field, playing 28 offensive snaps in five games while being a healthy scratch in one game.

The Jets had clearly seen enough of Hardman, as they traded him back to Kansas City (where he played his first four seasons) in mid-October merely to move up one round on Day 3 in the 2025 draft. New York packaged a 2025 seventh-round pick with Hardman in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round pick from Kansas City.

Hardman will be playing in his third Super Bowl, as he already made appearances with the Chiefs at the end of the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He’ll be hoping to make a better impact this time around; across his first two Super Bowl appearances, Hardman totaled zero yards on four touches while playing 45 snaps. He caught 3-of-7 targets for 6 yards and had one carry for -6 yards.

Despite major issues at the wide receiver position, Kansas City hardly used Hardman this season after reacquiring him. In nine regular season and playoff games, Hardman has 16 receptions for 123 yards and no touchdowns, along with three carries for -2 yards. It’s a far cry from his first stint in Kansas City, when he averaged 38.8 scrimmage yards per game with 18 touchdowns.

La’Mical Perine

The first Day 3 draft pick of Joe Douglas’ tenure as the Jets’ general manager.

Florida running back La’Mical Perine was an early fourth-round pick in 2020, being taken 120th overall. Despite showing signs of promise as a rookie, Perine didn’t last too long in New York, as he was waived as part of final roster cuts in 2022 after playing only 14 games with the team.

Perine spent time on the practice squads of Philadelphia and Miami before latching on with Kansas City’s practice squad in January 2023. He played three games for Kansas City in this year’s regular season, rushing 22 times for 77 yards and catching three passes for 33 yards.

While Perine has not played any offensive snaps in the playoffs so far, you will see him play a key role on special teams. Perine has played 12.3 special teams snaps per game across the Chiefs’ three playoff games. He has played every snap for the kickoff coverage, punt coverage, and kickoff return units. So, you will see him out there on the opening kickoff.

Trey Dean

Another Florida product acquired by Joe Douglas.

Trey Dean was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2023 and shined in the preseason, allowing him to stick on the Jets’ practice squad. He became a free agent after the Jets’ season ended and was signed to Kansas City’s practice squad on January 17. Dean has yet to play a snap for the Chiefs.

Mike Pennel

Mike Pennel was a key part of the Jets’ defensive line from 2017-18, playing 32 games with 10 starts. The big-bodied nose tackle recorded 52 tackles in his two-year Jets career.

After his stint in New York, Pennel signed with the Chiefs in 2019. He played two years in Kansas City before spending time with the Falcons in 2021 and the Bears in 2022.

Pennel returned to the Chiefs this October, signing to their practice squad. He played three games in the regular season and has also appeared in all three of their playoff games, making six tackles. Pennel started each of the past two games.

Late in the fourth quarter of Kansas City’s Divisional win over Buffalo, Pennel made a sneakily crucial play that ended up being the tone-setter of the game-winning sequence.

With the Chiefs leading by three, Pennel stuffed a first-and-10 James Cook run for one yard, setting up a second-and-9 at the two-minute warning. This was followed by two consecutive incompletions by Josh Allen, leading to a 44-yard game-tying field goal attempt by Tyler Bass that went wide right.

In Pennel’s first stint with the Chiefs, he played in all six of Kansas City’s playoff games, including each of their first two Super Bowl appearances. In the Chiefs’ 2019 Super Bowl victory over the 49ers, Pennel had one tackle, one quarterback hit, and one pass deflection.

Those plays came at key junctures of the game. Pennel had a run stuff and a pass deflection on the same series to help force a 49ers field goal attempt in the first quarter, and his quarterback hit led to a Jimmy Garoppolo interception in the second quarter.

David Merritt

David Merritt has been the Chiefs’ defensive backs coach since 2019.

It’s been a minute, but Merritt was once a member of the Jets’ defensive coaching staff. He spent three years as New York’s linebackers coach from 2001-03 under head coach Herm Edwards. The Jets made the playoffs in the first two of those seasons. Notable Jets linebackers over this span included Marvin Jones, Sam Cowart, Mo Lewis, and James Farrior.

Under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, it’s been a fantastic year for Merritt and the Chiefs’ secondary. Kansas City allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game in the regular season and has proceeded to shut down Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson in the playoffs.

Merritt helped Trent McDuffie earn first-team All-Pro honors at slot cornerback while L’Jarius Sneed ranked fifth in All-Pro voting among cornerbacks.

San Francisco 49ers

Sam Darnold

A little-known quarterback who had a quiet cup of tea with the Jets. Die-hard fans might remember him.

As we all know, Darnold flamed out in New York after the Jets traded up to select him third overall in 2018. While Darnold certainly did not perform well with the Jets, his struggles could largely be pinned on the terrible supporting cast that New York put around him. Many expected him to break out once he left the Jets’ hellish environment.

Unfortunately, Darnold has not done any better since leaving New York. Across two seasons in Carolina, Darnold posted a 77.3 passer rating, even worse than the 78.6 rating he had with the Jets. Darnold was benched in 2021 for a washed-up Cam Newton. In the 2022 offseason, he lost to Baker Mayfield in a battle for the Panthers’ starting quarterback spot.

After five seasons of repeated chances to prove himself as a starter, Darnold finally fell into the backup ranks in 2023, landing a one-year, $4.5 million deal to back up Brock Purdy.

Darnold played 10 games for San Francisco in the regular season. Five of those were merely to take kneeldowns. He threw at least one pass in four of his first nine appearances. In Week 18, Darnold got his first and only start of the season, as San Francisco was resting its starters after clinching the NFC’s top seed.

Darnold ultimately didn’t impress across his limited playing time in 2023. The USC product completed 28-of-46 passes (60.9%) for 297 yards (6.5 yards per attempt), two touchdowns, and one interception while taking six sacks for 40 yards (11.5% sack rate). He had an 85.1 passer rating and averaged a career-low 4.94 net yards per pass attempt.

Darnold did not appear across the 49ers’ first two playoff games.

Anthony Lynn

Currently in his second season with the 49ers, Anthony Lynn is serving as San Francisco’s assistant head coach and running backs coach.

Lynn was a key member of the Jets’ coaching staff throughout the entirety of Rex Ryan’s six-year tenure as head coach. For the first four seasons (2009-12), Lynn was solely the running backs coach. Over the final two seasons, Lynn doubled as the assistant head coach – the same role he currently holds in San Francisco.

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