For one game or one season, several NFL journeymen have made their mark for the New York Jets or Giants, marks we celebrate on National One-Hit Wonder Day.
Break out the Norman Greenbaum and Right Said Fred, for, on Tuesday, America celebrates National One-Hit Wonder Day.
The concept of the one-hit wonder is not limited to audio or visual media, as plenty of journeymen of the NFL have, for better or worse, gone through one stretch of success, be it for a single game or a single season, and some of them have done so in the New York arena.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick’s last stop before lighting up the stat sheet in Tampa Bay was a two-year tenure with the Jets, the first part of which went considerably better than the latter. In 2015, he was brought in to be a veteran mentor to young franchise thrower Geno Smith, but a fateful conversation over with IK Enemkpali, allegedly over $600, changed everything.
With Smith nursing a broken jaw, Fitzpatrick was thrust into the starter’s role and responded to the unexpected promotion with strong numbers. Fitzpatrick’s final tallies of 31 touchdowns and 3,905 yards were not just personal bests, but numbers that went down in the greatest throwing seasons in Jets history, the two categories ranking first and second respectively in the single-season team records. With Fitzpatrick at the helm, the team earned 10 wins, reaching the precipice for just the fourth time since 2002.
Of course, this being the Jets, Fitz Magic ended with a dud spell, a brutal performance in Buffalo dooming the Jets’ playoff chances. After he struggled in 2016, going just 3-8 before giving way to Bryce Petty, he was not brought back, signed by the Buccaneers in the following offseason.
QB Greg McElroy
Roll Tide? The Jets have had an interesting past when it comes to Alabama quarterbacks, experiencing the highest of highs (Joe Namath) and the lowest of lows (Richard Todd) with Tuscaloosa throwers. McElroy, a seventh-round pick and former national champion, was another Crimson Tide quarterback who eventually donned green, saw his first NFL action during his second season in 2012, entering a December game against the Arizona Cardinals, a horrifying slugfest that featured 20 completions, 169 yards, and four turnovers that left Arizona, gainers of just five first downs on the afternoon, up 3-0 in the fourth quarter.
With Mark Sanchez throwing three of those turnovers and posting a 21.4 passer rating, McElroy entered, much to the delight of the MetLife Stadium faithful. McElroy ended up posting pedestrian numbers, going 5-for-7 for 29 yards, but one of those throws was a one-yard score to Jeff Cumberland, the only touchdown in a 7-6 Jets win.
Technically speaking, McElroy became the first Alabama quarterback to oversee a win in the NFL since Jeff Rutledge in 1987 (he technically didn’t get the win because he didn’t start). McElroy made one start with the Jets two weeks later, sacked a whopping 11 times in a 27-17 loss to the Chargers.
WR David Tyree
Tyree’s Giants career began as a fun local story, a Livingston, NJ native and Montclair (NJ) High School alum that taken in the sixth round in 2003. Primarily used as a special teams asset, Tyree tallied at least three receptions in just seven regular-season games in his NFL career, and four receptions over nine postseason games. However, three of those grabs came in Super Bowl XLII becoming a key component in the Giants’ improbable victory over the undefeated New England Patriots.
His legend, of course, is cemented by the iconic “Helmet Catch” that kept the game-winning drive going, but his touchdown, a five-yard score from Eli Manning, gave the Giants a lead early in the fourth quarter, their first touchdown of the 17-14 victory.
WR Steve Smith
For one season, when talking about football’s best receivers, you had to differentiate between Steve Smiths. In 2009, the Giants’ Smith, a third-year man out of USC, was thrust into a starter’s role when Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer were lost. As the conclusion of the 2009 season, Smith was second in the league in receptions with 107, a mark that still stands as the top single-season catch tally in Giants history.
His 1,120 yards (eighth in the league) and seven touchdowns were likewise career-highs, and he never came close to achieving those numbers again. Smith dealt with injuries in the ensuing year, then spent two uneventful years with the Eagles and Rams before retiring in 2013. The 2009 season wound up accounting for 46 percent of his total career yardage and 58 percent of his NFL touchdowns.
WR Phil McConkey
McConkey was another under-the-radar receiver better known for his returning abilities. He did, however, rise for the occasion in Super Bowl XXI against the Denver Broncos, a game that ended with the Giants hoisting their first Vince Lombardi Trophy. Having reached 50 yards only once during the 1986 season, ironically duplicating the feat in a November win against Denver, McConkey might’ve been a bit of an afterthought in the plan to stop the Giants.
Instead, he shocked the world with two big second-half receptions, totaling 50 yards. In the third quarter, with the Giants looking to build on a 19-10 lead, Phil Simms found McConkey for a 44-yard gain. Though he was stopped one yard short of six points, it wound being the Giants’ longest offensive play of the evening. Joe Morris would be the lucky party to punch it in, but McConkey would get his moment later in the game, scoring on a six-yard Simms pass early in the fourth quarter that helped put the game away in a 39-20 final.
S Stevie Brown
A seventh-round pick of the Raiders in 2010, Brown came to the Giants two years later. Expected by many to be simply a training camp body, to say Brown came up huge when starter Kenny Phillips went down would be an understatement. He finished with eight interceptions on the season, tied for second-most in the team’s single-year history, and also recovered two fumbles. Not only did Brown take the ball away on defense, but he also set the offense up well in the resulting returns, his 307 yards after turnover being the fourth-highest mark in NFL history.
Unfortunately for Brown, he was never able to truly capitalize on his 2012 success, tearing his ACL in the ensuing preseason that cost him all of the ensuing year. After one more uneventful session with the Giants, he went through several other training camps, including another brief stop in blue in 2015, but never played another regular season down.
P Tom Tupa
Tupa built a solid 18-year career in the NFL, a career prolonged by his transition from quarterback to punter in 1992. Joining the Jets in 1999, Tupa was forced to revisit his past in his opening game, ironically against his previous employers, the New England Patriots. A year after the Jets made a surprise trip to the AFC Championship Game, expectations were high entering the 1999 season, but hope evaporated in the first half of the first game, as starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde tore his Achilles tendon.
Temporarily inserted before giving way to Rick Mirer, Tupa briefly got things back on the right track for the Jets, going 6-for-11 for 165 and two scores, including a 27-yard touchdown to Richie Anderson on his first pass attempt since 1996. Tupa was removed from quarterback after taking three sacks, but earned All-Pro honors at the end of the season … as a punter.
Head Coach Eric Mangini
The latter stages of Mangini’s NFL head coaching career were clouded in chaos. His two final seasons with the Jets dealt with the Spygate and Brett Favre controversies, and, after the Jets dismissed him after 2008’s collapse, he was part of the endless Cleveland Browns coaching carousel. The ensuing silliness causes many to forget the hope Mangini brought Jets fans in his first year as a head coach in 2006. Hired as the youngest coach in the league at 35, Mangini helped quarterback Chad Pennington return to form, guiding his thrower to Comeback Player of the Year honors.
The crowning achievement was a 17-14 win over the Patriots and his former mentor Bill Belichick in November, the Jets’ first win in the rivalry in seven meetings. With a 10-6 season, that ended with a playoff loss in New England, Mangini was rebranded “Man-genius”, and even played the 2006 success into a cameo role on The Sopranos, where the mighty Tony Soprano excuses himself from dinner to say hello. A 23-41 record after his debut, however, put a hit on his head coaching prospects.