While more renowned for their exploits elsewhere, the blocker and defender each made contributions for the New York Jets.
A pair of ex-New York Jets reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame list of finalists released on Thursday night. Safety Steve Atwater and offensive lineman Alan Faneca have each been shortlisted for Canton immortality.
Both Atwater and Faneca spent brief tenures with the Jets after much success elsewhere. Nonetheless, the accomplished pair did manage to leave a New York impression.
Atwater played his final season in 1999 with the Jets. He had previously been a member of the Denver Broncos for 10 seasons. Atwater earned 55 tackles over a dozen games (11 starts) that year, the most notable of which was an 11-tackle performance against the New York Giants. He additionally forced a fumble that led to a Jets touchdown in the fourth quarter of that matchup
Shortly before his campaign with the Jets, Atwater came up big against the team in the January 1999 AFC Championship. With the Jets down 20-10 in the final frame and breaking into Denver territory, a big play by Atwater helped seal the game. Vinny Testaverde’s first-down connection with Alex Van Dyke went for naught. Atwater forced a fumble that Bill Romanowski recovered. The Jets would run only a single play in Denver territory for the remainder of the game.
Atwater and the Broncos would go on to win Super Bowl 33 over Atlanta shortly after. It was the second Super Bowl of Atwater’s career, as he had a sack in Denver’s 31-24 title win over Green Bay one year prior. Atwater also reached eight Pro Bowls while a member of the Broncos.
Faneca joined the Jets in 2008 after ten seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets briefly made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history with a five-year, $40 million contract (Miami would later break that record with top overall pick Jake Long).
The guard would go on to serve as a mentor to a young group of Jets blockers. This included D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, and Nick Mangold. He would receive All-Pro Second-team honors for his efforts in the 2008 season (the last of eight such nominations). Faneca would then go on to help guide the Jets to the 2009 AFC Championship in his second and final New York season.
The Jets released Faneca in April 2010. He’d spend one more season with the Arizona Cardinals before retiring. His resume was bolstered by eight Pro Bowl appearances and a championship title from Super Bowl 40 with Pittsburgh.
First-year headliners on the finalists’ manifest include safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Reggie Wayne. Other nominees include running back Edgerrin James, safety John Lynch and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.
The Class of 2020 will be announced during the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 1 (9:00 p.m. ET, FOX).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490