New York Jets
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

The New York Jets all-time 53-man roster features the best players to ever strap it up for the team, including Joe Namath and Jamal Adams.

Robby Sabo

Fifty-three. The New York Jets all-time team must have 53 players. How could any other output be tolerated? Top 10, starting offense, starting defense… no. Football teams are constructed of 53 players, so the greatest in Jets history will be assembled at ESNY with a full 53-man depth chart in mind.

This means all aspects of a football team are under consideration. A No. 3 wide receiver won’t necessarily go to the third-best wideout in Jets history. Instead, the greatest slot man in franchise history may receive the nod. The same goes for other spots, including third-down back (as the No. 2 back) and special teams selections when thinking backups at linebacker and other various positions.

In terms of the names, fans shouldn’t be too surprised at most of the selections. Everybody already knows Joe Namath is the quarterback. Amazingly, Jamal Adams already makes the team after playing just three seasons, and for good reason.

Also, the fan vote this year—during the league’s 100-year celebration—was a nice thing. But the fans got it so wrong in so many areas.

New York Jets All-Time Team Fan Vote
via New York Jets

What an egregious act to leave Larry Grantham off the team. The man may be a top-five Jet all-time. Also, Gerry Philbin not cracking the starting lineup is unforgivable. And the idea that D’Brickashaw Ferguson edges out Marvin Powell is insane.

ESNY won’t make those mistakes.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, here’s the New York Jets all-time 53-man roster:

Quarterbacks

  1. Joe Namath
  2. Ken O’Brien
  3. Chad Pennington

Of course it’s Joe Namath, perhaps the most interesting great player in NFL history.

There’s no question there’s another man in Jets history who deserves to be the best in franchise history based on statistical evidence (Don Maynard). But what Namath lacks in unbalanced stats he makes up for in pure legend. Nobody can put a price on what Namath meant to the game. It was his guarantee and Super Bowl MVP that helped the NFL turn into the powerhouse we know it as today. Creating that AFL legitimacy was exactly what the doctor ordered, and Namath delivered.

As the first mega-celebrity athlete in our history, Joe Namath belongs in that special class of all-time great athlete. There’s no question he’s the greatest Jet of all-time.

Backing him up is Ken O’Brien, the man who ranks second in so many passing categories (behind Joe Willie). He’s second in passing yards (24,386), touchdowns (124) and is first in completions (2,039).

The third-string quarterback was a tough decision. Chad Pennington gets the nod despite Richard Todd actually possessing more yards and touchdowns. But unlike Todd, Pennington finished with a winning record and far fewer interceptions (55 to -138).

The crime snubs at this position come in the form of Vinny Testaverde and Mark Sanchez. The latter holds the record for most postseason wins, yet isn’t on the all-time team. Something about his playoff success makes it feel dirty that he doesn’t qualify for the squad.

Snubs: Richard Todd, Vinny Testaverde, Mark Sanchez

Running Backs

  1. Curtis Martin
  2. Freeman McNeil (3rd-Down Back)
  3. Emerson Boozer

Much like quarterback, the running back spot also poses no question as to who starts. Curtis Martin, with his 10,302 yards and 58 touchdowns on the ground (both first in team history) starts in the backfield. He’s a Hall of Fame back, and despite Freeman McNeil’s tremendous success, is the bonafide horse.

McNeil makes for a great 3rd-down back while Super Bowl man Emerson Boozer rounds out the group.

There’s no way John Riggins can make the team. Although five seasons isn’t a short amount of time in the NFL, he didn’t truly bust out until he got to D.C. behind those big hogs.

Snubs: Johnny Hector, John Riggins, Thomas Jones, Bilal Powell, Adrian Murrell

Fullbacks

  1. Matt Snell
  2. Bill Mathis

Oh yeah, we’re going with the traditional fullback on the depth chart. Super Bowl hero Matt Snell starts while old-school man Bill Mathis, who made First-Team All-Pro for the New York Titans in 1961, backs him up as the first truly great player in the history of the organization.

Snubs: Richie Anderson, Brad Baxter

20 Sep 1998: Wide Receiver Wayne Chrebet #80 of the New York Jets celebrates in the end-zone after making a touchdown, during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated Colts 44-6. Mandato
Getty Images

Wide Receivers

  1. Don Maynard
  2. Wesley Walker
  3. Wayne Chrebet (Slot)
  4. Al Toon
  5. George Sauer

Only five wide receivers are taken on this squad, and that’s OK. Not only is Don Maynard the best weapon in Jets history, but he’s also one of the best the NFL has ever seen. Finishing with 11,738 yards and 88 touchdowns on 627 catches, Maynard is first in franchise history in all three categories.

Wesley Walker, the man who tore it up with Ken O’Brien, is the No. 2 man. Wayne Chrebet is the undoubted greatest slot man in Jets history and the hero of so many who have come through the league (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, etc.). The fearlessness for which he displayed on a regular basis was the awe of so many watching from the stands of Giants Stadium.

The great Al Toon and George Sauer round out a tremendous receiving group. Carrying only five wideouts will be alright considering Bruce Harper can chip in when needed (he makes the team as the kick returner).

Snubs: Laveranues Coles, Keyshawn Johnson, Jerricho Cotchery, Art Powell, Blake Turner, Rob Moore

Tight Ends

  1. Mickey Shuler
  2. Rich Caster
  3. Jerome Barkum

The tight end position isn’t one of greatness over the last 60 years, but it isn’t terrible, either. Mikey Shuler starts while Rich Caster and Jerome Barkum round out the trio.

Snubs: Pete Lammons, Dustin Keller, Johnny Mitchell

Tackles

  1. Winston Hill (LT)
  2. Marvin Powell (RT)
  3. D’Brickashaw Ferguson

Unlike some positions like tight end, this Jets team is set at tackle. Newly-minted Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Winston Hill holds down the blindside. The seven-time Pro Bowler helped the Jets win their only Super Bowl.

Marvin Powell holds down the right side, with his five Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pros, while D’Brickashaw Ferguson makes for a tremendous third tackle.

Snubs: Sherman Plunkett

Guards

  1. Randy Rasmussen (LG)
  2. Dave Herman (RG)
  3. Jim Sweeney

Perhaps the strength of this team lies in its offensive line. With Randy Rasmussen and Dave Herman starting at the guards, the rushing attack will be ground-and-pound-like.

Jim Sweeney played for 11 seasons with the organization but Bob Mischak qualified for two Pro Bowls and two First-Team All-Pros in his three seasons with the Titans. We’ll go with the longevity over the short three-year span of dominance. Plus, Sweeney offers incredible versatility; he can play all three positions on the line.

Snubs: Bob Mischak, Brandon Moore, Alan Faneca

Centers

  1. Nick Mangold
  2. Kevin Mawae
  3. Joe Fields

The center position is as dominant as any all-time team can have. Both Nick Mangold and Kevin Mawae are deserving as starters, while Joe Fields is a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time First-Team All-Pro man who played an incredible 13 seasons with the organization.

Snubs: N/A

Joe Klecko
(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

Interior D-Linemen

  1. Joe Klecko (3-TECH)
  2. Marty Lyons (NT)
  3. John Elliott
  4. Sione Pouha

The beef isn’t present, yet the will is overpowering. The greatest snub in Canton history, Joe Klecko, the only man to make the Pro Bowl at three different positions along the defensive line, holds down the 3-technique, while Marty Lyons takes nose tackle.

Although Klecko’s 24 career sacks don’t look impressive, remember, in 1981, when he won AFC Defensive Player of the Year, he got to the quarterback 20.5 times (before sack was an official stat).

For some reason, everybody forgets about John Elliott, a member of the franchise’s lone Super Bowl. A three-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro player in 1969, Elliott flies under the radar so often. Sione Pouha is the lone true nose tackle who makes the roster, just edging out Abdul Salaam, the fourth member of the famed New York Sack Exchange.

Snubs: Abdul Salaam, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jason Ferguson, Damon Harrison, Kris Jenkins

EDGE

  1. Mark Gastineau
  2. Gerry Philbin
  3. John Abraham
  4. Shaun Ellis
  5. Verlon Biggs

The question of whether Mark Gastineau or Gerry Philbin is the top edge man is a good one. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Both combine for as an excellent bookend duo. Gastineau ranks first in franchise history with 74 sacks, just 1.5 ahead of Shaun Ellis.

Like Elliott, everybody forgets about Verlon Biggs for some reason, a man who qualified for three Pro Bowls during his time in green. John Abraham serving as a third pass rusher is beyond silly.

Snubs: Dennis Byrd, Calvin Pace, Marvin Washington, Jeff Lageman, Bryan Thomas, Hugh Douglas

Linebackers

  1. Larry Grantham (SAM)
  2. Mo Lewis (WILL)
  3. Al Atkinson (MIKE)
  4. Kyle Clifton (ST)
  5. David Harris
  6. Greg Buttle

By far, the toughest position to sort out is linebacker. It’s a deep spot reserved for many all-time Jet greats. Just look at the snubs.

First and foremost, these are only second-level linebackers. Any edge rusher who may have technically played linebacker in a 3-4 qualifies for the edge spot only. Secondly, the starters are pretty straightforward. Both Larry Grantham, the best linebacker in Jets history, by far, and Al Atkinson, start as helping the Jets to the Super Bowl. (Grantham plays SAM while Atkinson was a one-time Pro Bowler at the MIKE for that tremendous defense.)

Deciding on the three backups was the tough part. We almost kept all eight, but it was too much at the position. Unlike the Jets fan vote that saw both Greg Buttle and David Harris start alongside Mo Lewis, they are left out in the cold in terms of the starting three.

Both Buttle and Harris never qualified for a single Pro Bowl. Buttle was, also, oftentimes hurt during his nine years with the Jets, but he beats out one-time Pro Bowler Lance Mehl who was also hurt often. Like Kyle Clifton, who’s first in franchise history in tackles, Buttle will have to play special teams.

Harris gets the nod over Marvin Jones for one specific reason: Jones missed the great 1998 season. Both played 10 years and Jones finished with 20 more tackles, but Harris finished with far more sacks (35 to 9) and was a key cog in Rex Ryan’s AFC championship team defenses.

Snubs: Lance Mehl, Marvin Jones

Cornerbacks

  1. Darrelle Revis
  2. Aaron Glenn
  3. Bobby Jackson (SLOT)
  4. James Hasty
  5. Antonio Cromartie

The name Darrelle Revis speaks for itself. After that, there’s a huge dropoff, but Aaron Glenn is the de facto No. 2. It becomes tricky when attempting to figure out who will play the slot. Although James Hasty is the better all-time Jet when compared to Bobby Jackson, it’s the 5-foot-9 Jackson who can handle slot duties in a much smoother fashion.

From an overall standpoint, defensive back isn’t the Jets’ strongest group from an all-time perspective. Johnny Sample and Randy Beverly, both champions, didn’t play enough years to be considered.

Snubs: Johnny Sample, Randy Beverly, Dick Felt

New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams (33) warms up before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y.
(AP Photo/David Dermer)

Safeties

  1. Jamal Adams (SS)
  2. Bill Baird (FS)
  3. Victor Green
  4. Dainard Paulson
  5. Erik McMillan

Yes, that’s right: Jamal Adams is already the Jets’ best safety in franchise history. With two Pro Bowls, a First-Team All-Pro selection and a Second-Team All-Pro nod, he’s already the best of the bunch.

Bill Baird, the man who ranks first in interceptions all-time, with 34, will play centerfield. It’s tough to play Adams and Victor Green together, as both are strong safeties who love sniffing the box. Dainard Paulson and interception-sensation Erik McMillan round out the balanced group.

Snubs: Brian Washington, Burgess Owens, Darrol Ray, Ken Schroy

Special Teams

  • Pat Leahy (K)
  • Curly Johnson (P)
  • Bruce Harper (KR)

Pat Leahy is the team’s all-time leading scorer (1,470 points). The man played 18 seasons for the franchise with a First-Team All-Pro nod in 1978. Tom Tupa was chosen as the punter in the fan vote, but shouldn’t qualify over Curly Johnson, who played eight seasons with a Pro Bowl nod in comparison to Tupa’s three seasons with a First-Team All-Pro choice.

Again, Leon Washington, who was voted as the kick returner by the fans, should not be on the team over the great Bruce Harper.

Kyle Clifton, Greg Buttle, Bobby Jackson, James Hasty, Victor Green and Erik McMillan will be cogs in special teams as well.

Snubs: Jim Turner (K), Tom Tupa (P), Leon Washington (KR), JoJo Townsell (KR)

Coaching Staff

  • Weeb Ewbank (HC)
  • Joe Walton (OC)
  • Rex Ryan (DC)
  • Mike Westhoff (STC)
  • Walt Michaels (Assistant HC)

There’s no denying Weeb Ewbank as the head coach. It’s tough choosing an offensive coordinator as the franchise is dominated by defensive minds, so Joe Walton is the default choice. The rest is pretty self-explanatory, including Rex Ryan as the defensive coordinator.

Front Office

  • Bill Parcells (GM)
  • Mike Tannenbaum (Assistant GM)
  • Eric Mangini (VP of Player Personnel)

Yeah, Bill Parcells was the head coach for three seasons, including the dominant 12-4 season in 1998, but he was also the general manager, and his rebuilding job led to a tremendous 14-year stretch from 1997 through 2010.

The duo of Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini jumpstarted Rex’s two AFC title game teams with the smart choices of Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Darrelle Revis. The Jets have failed to draft even one first-round offensive linemen since the duo’s reign began (2006).

New York Jets All-Time Team At A Glance

  • QB: Joe Namath, Ken O’Brien, Chad Pennington
  • RB: Curtis Martin, Freeman McNeil (3DB), Emerson Boozer
  • FB: Matt Snell, Bill Mathis
  • WR: Don Maynard, Wesley Walker, Wayne Chrebet (SLOT), Al Toon, George Sauer
  • TE: Mickey Shuler, Rich Caster, Jerome Barkum
  • T: Winston Hill (LT), Marvin Powell (RT), D’Brickashaw Ferguson
  • G: Randy Rasmussen (LG), Dave Herman (RG), Jim Sweeney
  • C: Nick Mangold, Kevin Mawae, Joe Fields
  • DT: Joe Klecko (3-TECH), Marty Lyons (1-TECH), John Elliott, Sione Pouha
  • EDGE: Mark Gastineau, Gerry Philbin, John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, Verlon Biggs
  • LB: Larry Grantham (SAM), Mo Lewis (WILL), Al Atkinson (MIKE), Kyle Clifton, David Harris, Greg Buttle
  • CB: Darrelle Revis, Aaron Glenn, Bobby Jackson (SLOT), James Hasty, Antonio Cromartie
  • S: Jamal Adams (SS), Bill Baird (FS), Victor Green, Dainard Paulson, Erik McMillan
  • ST: Pat Leahy (K), Curley Johnson (P), Bruce Harper (KR)

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