In the continuing story of how the New York Jets (like some other teams, too) were a repository for players at the end of their career throughout the 1990's, we come to Steve Atwater, who retired in #27 one year after joining us in 1999. (photo Ebay) In his biography online (how many times can I avoid using the "W" word?) Atwater's departure from his longtime Denver Broncos position was, according to Mike Shanahan, the hardest decision the coach ever had to make. "Is it easy picturing Steve in green and white..?" Shanahan asked. "No. Was it the right thing for him and our team? Absolutely." After a year under Parcells, riddled with injury, Atwater ceremoniously returned to the Broncos. ""This is the way I wanted to go out," Atwater said. "I bleed orange and will always bleed orange and blue." Ronnie Lott, Leonard Marshall, Art Monk, Tony Eason. They know it and we know it. They need a paycheck, but their hearts remain where they originally made themselves famous, not with us, and they usually make little impact in green and white. I'm quite certain Brett Favre is going to Tampa Bay this weekend, and the truth about these imposters of sorts will give me consolation when I see Jon Gruden's stupid grin.
Can two men be at the same place at the same time? They can if they play for the New York Titans. Take Jim Apple and Don Allard. If the Jets' All-Time Database is to be believed, they both played in #27 for the Titans in 1961. Apple at quarterback, Allard at halfback. Can a player lose his spot and be replaced that easily? They can if they play for the Titans. New uniforms were expensive, I guess, and if the Titans couldn't even afford to pay their players just imagine the costs of outfitting them. Who got cut first? And why did a quarterback wear #27? It's not unheard of when you consider John Hadl, but such a thing is a throwback to the leather-helmeted days of, say, Sammy Baugh, who QB'd in #33 for the Redskins in the 30's and 40's and who was head coach of the Titans in 1961. Anyway, certainly an anomaly, no?
No! Not when we consider the case of Terry Butler and Terrell Buckley (left), both of whom wore #27 in 2005 for the Jets. (photo JAMD) Butler and Buckley are also even closer in the alphabet than Apple and Allard, or Affirmed and Alydar. But here their similarities must be declared at an end. Is Terrell Buckley worthy of induction into Canton? Well, I don't know, but he certainly produced numbers in the secondary that put him in the category for a distant consideration. And Terry Butler? He came from Villanova. Actually, it's a typo on the Jets' Database. Buckley, star for the Seminoles of Florida State, was by 2005 already traded from the Jets to the Giants after his one year of play for us. Butler, star for the Wildcats of that Augustinian university in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, has no statistical content of any kind that I can locate in 2005 or anywhere else. Indeed, the only real value of mentioning any of these guys is putting Buckley into the category mentioned above, of players who treat the Jets like a lame duck resting home. Buckley retired after 2005. So did Butler.
Here's one that got away. He's the opposite of the fellows mentioned above. Russell Carter was one of my favorite defensive players in the late 1980's and he then left for the Raiders of Los Angeles, the Great Satan. (Do you ever think Satan gets insulted when someone else gets the tag of "Great" Satan? I know an accomplished sculptor who's insulted when Britney Spears is referred to as an "artist.") He started out a Jet, on his way to a great career, I thought, and then disappeared from everything I held valuable and dear. Of Lott, Monk, Atwater and Buckley, one always wonders when they are leaving for good, sort of like the way a fatherless child looks at the 27th boyfriend his mother's introduced him to. But of Carter, the boy asks when are you coming home again? The photo above is from Ebay, but how many of Russell Carter's football cards does one really need? Ten? Is this my repayment for waiting for Russell Carter to come home? Jeez.
Let's see. Do I have anything to say about #27 Lou D'Agostino? Yes. Nine games. Nineteen ninety-six. Bingo. The worst season in Jets history - a season that places among the worst in NFL history, too. He made it through its halfway point. I can't believe I did, too.