Friday, March 21, 2008

N.Y. Jets #17 - The Curse

In the graveyard of career-ending seasons at quarterback with the New York Jets, Bob Avellini's came to close after he was traded mid-season from the Chicago Bears - where he had been spending a career handing off to Walter Payton - to his hometown of Queens, NY, where the Jets were playing their last season at Shea. He did not play a single game. It was his last season as a pro. He wore the #17.

In more recent years, Quincy Carter is in the category of backup quarterbacks who came and made the kind of impression in preseason that made people think that if Chad got injured then maybe, just maybe, we weren't entirely screwed. (We are always screwed.) Well, yes, but then Carter - say it together - finished his career with the Jets in that strange twilight season of 2004, when nothing and everything seemed possible. Quincy Carter threw in relief of Chad when #10 injured his rotator cuff (cue ominous music) and the Jets crawled to nearly negligible wins against the Cardinals and the Browns. Then Chad came back, they crawled to the playoffs and the rest is an exciting history as far as a Jets fan knows it.

Do you remember Tim Dwight running his ass off for the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXXXXIIIIII, the kickoff return against the Broncos? It was practically the only bright spot for Atlanta in a game already blemished by Eugene Robinson's solicitation of a Miami hooker on the night before the game. My goodness, that was a long time ago, wasn't it? Eliot Spitzer spent $40,000 on his escort. Robinson offered only $40! Tim Dwight wore #17 for a little while for us, but that was only the harbinger for things to come. Yes, his career ended with the Jets.

Clyde "Lee" Grosscup is unquestionably the man we have been looking for in our efforts to revive the Booth Lustig Award for Funny Name. The man's name is Grosscup. I'm sure it's pronounced "Groskip," but in the world of the New York Titans, anything remotely peculiar just seems apropos. Sort of like the way "Marv Throneberry" is for the 1962 Mets. But where Throneberry's future was found in Lite Beer ads proclaiming, "I don't know what I'm doing in this ad," Lee Grosscup actually went on to have a brief career as both a TV reporter and a columnist for Sport magazine. His 1967 article on cheating in sports puts some perspective on Belichick's nonsense last year, for better or for worse. He for threw passes for the 1962 Titans, and though he's not wearing it in this football card, he sported #17 for the ol' mustard and blue. Oh, and he ended his football career with the franchise that year.

Was Galen Hall the first New York Jets quarterback? Either him or Al Dorow. He's the first Jetskin if nothing else, having come over from DC the year before. He threw three touchdowns and nine interceptions for our side. Oh, and he ended his football career with the Jets that year. He was a star at Penn State, and he's now an assistant coach there, and he coached Florida for five seasons. Are you ready to move on now? Well, he also coached the Rhein Fire of the now defunct NFL Europe to two World Bowl championships. Isn't it ironic that something called the World Bowl doesn't exist anymore?

Albert Johnson? you ask. Isn't he the same Albert Johnson III who was the CFL Rookie of the Year, playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers? And did he not end his career with the Jets the year he joined them? Why yes, he did.

John Kidd punted for us in 1998. Here he is in 1994 pulling a Larry Seiple for the Miami Dolphins against Buffalo. And did he not end his career in the very season he joined the New York Jets? Why yes. Yes he did. Are we finally seeing a pattern here?

Number 17 David Norrie was a "replacement" quarterback who was himself replaced by Walter Briggs during 1987. Apparently he is an ESPN college football analyst today. And...he ended his career with the New York Jets organization in the very same replacement season in which he started, if not with with the actual New York Jets team.

Which means he at least has something in common with an actual, full-time professional football player Tommy Parks, who punted for the New York Jets in 2001. Like Norrie, he began and ended his football career with the Jets. (Now, it's just getting weird.) Unlike Norrie, Parks became a pitcher for the minor league Newark Bears in 2003.

Finally, the curse finds some exceptions, the first in Matt Robinson. For two years in the late 1970's, Matt Robinson seemed to offer the difference between an underachieving Jets club and one bound for the playoffs. I will never forget as long as I live (and isn't that pathetic?) the phrase "Robinson is No. 1 QB" blazing across the headlines of the Newsdays I delivered during the late summer months of 1979. Number 17 Matt Robinson had replaced the heir apparent Richard Todd as starting QB. It would not last for long. According to Gerald Eskanzi, Robinson would end up hiding an injury from Walt Michaels, and the coach - a man not known for a mindful response to anything - responded by benching Matt, re-promoting Todd and shipping Robinson to Denver where he languished until the end of his career. Thus while Matt Robinson did not end his career in New York, it effectively ended with the Jets.


Fortunately, there are exceptions to the curse, compelling us to wonder whether there was even a curse to begin with.

The former Virginia Tech Hokie David Clowney is still playing football, but he might have broken the curse for himself if only because he stopped wearing #17 on the Jets. After wearing #17 for several seasons, Clowney replaced Laverneus Coles in #87. He has been on practice squads, cut, brought back, cut again, brought back agin when Danny Woodhead was waived, and recently cut for good, and now in #87 for the Carolina Panthers as of the start of the 2011 training camp. His biggest day for the Jets featured 4 catches for 79 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown catch to add to the romp against the Raiders in 2009. But behold: David Clowney, preseason against the helpless Rams in '09 - you can be the judge as to whether or not a man has the right to do the Wu-Tang when he's absurdly wide open for a preseason pass from Erik Ainge. It's still his top highlight on YouTube.

And then there's Mike Taliaferro #17:

We begin with a book called The Long Pass by Lou Sahadi that as a lifetime Jets fan I've owned since I was eight. I believe that its reading level is about at the high school (or at the high school level of a student in the 1970's), and I read it about three times by the time I was ten. It taught me about Jet history. In it, I discovered that Mike Taliaferro began the 1965 season - Namath's first - at quarterback. There is a terrific composite of images inside unique to anything else I've ever seen where both Namath (in a Jets jacket, no shoulder pads) and John Huarte (in a suit) are chatting on the sideline phones while Mike Taliaferro is on the field. You see that Mike Taliaferro will not be quarterbacking for long. He wore 17.

Mike Taliaferro
He is a primary exception to the #17 curse because his career began with the Jets and ended with the Bills in 1972, but not before an interesting stint with the Boston Patriots. Here's a trivia question: how many TD passes did Joe Namath throw in 1969, his last playoff season? Nineteen. Who tied him for that? Boston's Mike Taliaferro. Coincidence? I think so.


Anonymous said...

Robinson would end up hiding an injury from Walt Michaels, and the coach - Thus while Matt Robinson did not end his career in New York, it effectively ended with the Jets.

It ended when he brought crabs into the locker room and the thumb injuring was an escalation from that...boys will be boys.

Martin Roche said...

And not the Baltimore kind. Thank you for that.

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