Sunday, August 10, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 28 - Part 2

You wouldn't think there would be so many football players for whom there is no statistical information. But until fantasy football, until the expansive growth of sports coverage as an industry and football's reorientation as America's #1 sport, people like defensive back Chuck Dupree, the first of all #28's in Jets history, didn't really exist except as a name on a list. Next to that name on the Jets' All-Time Database is the lone designation "14G."

The news is similar for Jim Gray, but there are some additionally tantalizing clues as to his life beyond football. He returned kickoffs about half of the 1966 season but, as always, the Database drops unexplored details that leave you scratching your head. "Represented entertainment groups during the offseason," it says of Gray. Really? I mean, really? An athlete and an agent? Have any of today's players considered such employment? I think we have some naturals out there, like our own newly acquired quarterback. He's erratic and unpredictable enough, God knows. And no, I know it was your first question too, but this is not the sideline reporter Jim Gray who ambushed Pete Rose at the All-Century Team - the Jim Gray about whom apparently no one feels ambivalent. Keep in mind that a few years after the interview, Rose finally admitted to gambling on baseball. However, if Kobe Bryant gambled on basketball, I'm not sure he'd receive the same treatment from Gray. Just a thought.

Between 1985 and 1990, Carl Howard filled in the Jets' secondary as needed. Years of promise, but years of injury. Each time the Jets came close to a division title or even the playoffs during that time, limbs and joints would fly out of whack, collisions would level careers. I always wondered if the Jets were not given the right conditioning in training during the Joe Walton years, and let's face it, Walton was Head Coach for too long (1983-89). So people like Carl Howard were necessary, particularly during 1987, when another injury-ridden season was further complicated by a pernicious football strike. It was a strange time, when men didn't know whether they were starters, backups or replacements. Some were all three. The NFL's main database offers this strange comment with regard to him: "Some believe that 1987 was Carl Howard's best season, when he caught three interceptions." Perhaps, but did anyone think to ask Carl Howard?

I talked to Dad today about Brett Favre, and he made a sound like he had indigestion. "Another New York team buying a has-been player in his last year." As I have mentioned here before, the Jets probably have a high rate of players who finish their careers in Gang Green. Ronnie Lott and Art Monk come to mind. So does Leonard Marshall. But then across all of New York itself I also think about Willie Mays, Mickey Lolich, Tom Seaver redux, Dave Kingman redux, Larry Csonka, Joe Torre, Norm Snead, and Bobby Murcer redux, Frank Tanana. There are many people who have crawled back to New York in search of one last paycheck. The entire 1962 New York Mets squad fits that definition. In 1967, Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs pioneer Abner Haynes had one year left in him, and he spent it with the New York Jets. He shared the backfield with Emerson Boozer, Bill Mathis, Billy Joe ("My Favorite Hayseed," as Dad called him) and gained some 60 yards above the next best rusher on the team, Joe Namath. So this was the end of Abner Haynes' career as a groundbreaking AFL rusher, one that started in 1960. The picture you see is the beginning of it all. In green? you ask. The green of North Texas University, in Denton, whose color was the same shade as the one in which Haynes would retire. This is technically Haynes' rookie card. Midsprint, he appears to be in a flying Heisman toward a career whose end does not even seem possible.

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