Friday, August 31, 2007

New York Jets By The Numbers: #1

This is the first entry which I suppose we could call "JBTN" were I not so self-conscious about appearing to rip off MBTN - Mets By The Number, the website that I am ripping off with this idea. But, anyway. It's a history of the Jets by the numbers, an arguably greater challenge than it is in baseball because football squads are larger and change so much. We begin with the loneliest number that you'll ever do.

First, a familiar face. Before he worked as a broadcaster for "American Gladiators," before he was a "correspondent" for NFL on NBC, Mike Adamle was a running back for the Jets from 1973-74. Adamle's career there is distinct only for being a prettier player than Joe Namath himself. I mean, look at that thick head of hair. And he wore #1 - a running back. I know. Obviously a pretty boy.

The current #1 is Mike Nugent, the coveted kicking draft choice from Ohio State whose field goal beat the Eagles in exhibition. He may be the first kicker the Jets have had in a long, long time who fills us with confidence. Now if Chad could just throw over the middle more often. But whatever.

My records may be a little limited here, and as always, I'm working with the nearly 1,000 names on the on the all-time roster of the official New York Jets web site. There's also Matt Turk, who punted for the Jets during the strange, beautiful and rending 2002 season. The only other intriguing #1 was Dave Jacobs, a Syracuse University grad who actually had a single moment in the sun in late 1979 - or more truthfully, his moment in the dark cold night of the home closer against New England. Back then, the drama of every Jets touchdown was only multiplied by the drama of the point after. For great kickers like Nick Lowery (a sometime Jet in the 90's), Morten Anderson, and David Akers, PAT's are an opportunity for the TV viewer to run to the can for a quick leak without worrying whether or not he's hexing his kicker by doing so. Not so for us.

During the late 70's and early 80's, I believed I could accidentally hex Pat Leahy by breathing, so I didn't breathe during the five seconds (I hoped) leading up to his point afters. For some strange reason during the 1979 season, Leahy was catching passes in practice, and Burgess Owens accidentally injured him in a tackle (I always wondered if that's what got Owens on the Jets' shit list; he jumped to the mighty Raiders the following year). I suppose Burgess was instinctively doing his job; that being said, my God, what the fuck? No kicker could be blamed for the 14-12 loss at home (and the two missed PAT's) to the Bills that season because the center and snapper Joe Fields was injured in the game. Overall, the Jets used four kickers in 1979. Courtesy of the Times' photographer Vic DeLucia, we have evidence of one of those four kickers during the 1979 season, #1 Dave Jacobs, in a heroic moment. He helped beat New England 27-26 with two kicks, one of them the game winner. Best of all, he knocked the Patriots right out of the playoffs, which if you do anywhere anytime actually gets you an automatic free pass to Gang Green Heaven. Who needs martyrdom when you can just end the Pats' season? J.E.T.S., baby.

Jacobs was not in the lineup the following year, but for one brief shining moment, the Loneliest Number must have made everybody think that he would be there again. That's a Jets story for you. Gone but not forgotten.

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