The New York Jets were victims of the Carolina Panthers first ever win. In that loss, Jets fans would always remember the “Shovel Pass.”
Looking back at the history of the New York Jets, there are plenty of plays that fans remember and cringe.
Mention the name A.J. Duhe and fans feel sick. Dan Marino’s fake spike on Thanksgiving weekend 1994 will draw another slap to the forehead. Mark Gastineau’s late hit on Bernie Kosar in the 1986 Divisional Playoff game is another moment. Doug Brien missing two field goals in the final two minutes in the 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff game at Pittsburgh is yet another. Who can also forget Mark Sanchez‘s “butt fumble” that happened five years ago to the day against the Patriots?
The Jets will be playing the Carolina Panthers for just the seventh time in franchise history when they face off this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Despite not playing them that much, that still doesn’t stop Jets fans from remembering a humiliating moment that will always stick with them.
When the Panthers entered the NFL in the 1995 season, they weren’t expected to accomplish much in their inaugural campaign. They entered the sixth game in team history winless as they hosted the 1-4 New York Jets.
Trailing 12-6 in the second quarter, the Panthers looked like they would enter halftime trailing again and on their way to another loss. However, with under a minute left, Jets fans were introduced to yet another play that they would remember and be linked to forever.
The Jets had the ball at their own 40-yard line when quarterback Bubby Brister introduced fans to the “Shovel Pass”.
Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News remembers it this way:
The shovel pass is the safest pass in pro football, which is why it is all the rage with today’s no-risk NFL coaches. The ball travels from quarterback to running back, two yards tops, in a split-second. The receiver takes it from there. What could be easier? What could go terribly wrong in your own backfield? Nothing. Nothing at all. Ahh, but there is the genius of the Jets, the first team to lose to the Carolina Panthers, 26-15. The Jets are beyond convention now, in a place where shovel passes can be picked off for touchdowns.
Never blink with the Jets. Never go to the fridge. Never assume anything. Bubby Brister is every bit as mischievous as Boomer Esiason, it turns out. Maybe more. Capping off the ugliest first half in recorded history, Brister shoveled the football into the waiting arms of Sam Mills, Panthers linebacker out of East Orange and Montclair State. Mills, a 36-year-old survivor of the USFL, stepped in front of Adrian Murrell on the blitz and gallumphed into the end zone for a 36-yard “interception” with 13 seconds left in the second quarter. “I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like that again,” Brister said. “He’s supposed to be blocked. You pick him up, it’s a good play against the blitz. Nobody picked him up. I just went ahead and flicked it and it went right to him.
Despite that horrific play call and decision by Brister, the Jets still were only trailing by a point heading into halftime. However, as they usually did that season and the next when the New York Jets won just four times in 32 games with Rich Kotite at the helm, things went from worse to oblivion.
Starting with that play, the expansion team outscored the New York Jets 20-3 and outgained them 151-62. This loss was much like the Jets being the only victory for a pair of 1-15 teams, the 1980 New Orleans Saints and 1991 Indianapolis Colts. Unlike this loss, both of those losses were at home. If Jets fans didn’t already have enough to complain about, they now had the humiliation of being the first-ever win for the Panthers.
Things changed drastically for both teams after that play. The Jets would go on to win just three of their next 25 games. Meanwhile, Carolina became one of the best teams in the NFL. Carolina would go on to win 19 of their next 28 games, which included an NFC West title and a win over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. Their run of fortune ended with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game the next season. Not bad for a team that entered the game against New York with no wins in their history.
As the Jets continue their trek through the 2017 season, memories like this cannot be avoided. While remembering the past can be painful and humiliating, it can also be motivating.
History cannot be avoided. However, it is up to management and the players wearing the uniform now to change the lasting impact of that history.