That's right—it's time for a blast from the TJB past, the long-awaited return of The Top 10!
Okay, maybe no one was really waiting for it ...
Regardless, some of you newer kids on the block may not know that in addition to official TJB training camp photographer, there was a time back in the day when I was a regular contributor to this blog. Over the past few years, however, I've had to step back to ruin ... er, raise my own kids, run my websites (including DamnedCT.com) and work on a book or two.
My most recent release is Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut History, which officially comes out on Sept. 18 but is available for pre-order from Amazon. To help promote it (and certainly not because I have any dirt on him from our time spent together in Cortland last month), Bassett has generously allowed me to come back to write about—
The Top 10 Greatest Jerks in New York Jets History
Let me say right up front: I am jerk. Just ask my wife or kids, or more specifically, one of my sisters—either one can provide you with a looong, detailed list of things that I did to them while growing up that would more than qualify me as a "jerk."
But hey, most of us have been a jerk at one time or another (especially if you have siblings); the difference here is that these jerks have gained their bad reputations in regard to Jets football. To make this list entertaining—like I did for my book—I've included a few "lovable" jerks, too.
Besides, sticks and stones are the bone-breakers; simply being called a "jerk" shouldn't hurt, right? Especially coming from another jerk. Takes one to know one … or ten.
So let's have some fun and speak ill of the living (mostly)! And please feel free to be a jerk and let me know who I missed!
10. Don Shula - Sure it's easy to think Shula was a jerk for constantly bettering the Jets throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but I am among the conspiracy theorists out there who think that he purposely left the tarp off the turf of the Orange Bowl field during the 72-hour rainstorm leading up to the 1982 AFC Championship Game. I mean, you're trying to tell me that at no point during the *three days* of downpours before the game, he never once thought to glance over at the field that was right outside his office window?! And it was a little too convenient that the mud bog he created so perfectly neutralized the speedy Jets and aided his slow-footed Dolphins. I only wish he had lost the Super Bowl by 300 points—a hundred for every A.J. Duhe interception.
Well, you know what "mud" and "Shula" backward spell? D-U-M J-E-R-K.
9. Rex Ryan - I know I'll get some heat for this, but let's be honest: To many Jets fans, he is one of the greatest Jet head coaches ever, but to the rest of the world, Rex Ryan is a brash, loud-mouthed, boastful jerk. And with good reason—because Rex Ryan *is* a loud-mouthed, boastful jerk, and would probably be the first to tell you that. But that's okay, because he's OUR loud-mouthed, boastful jerk, and if the rest of world doesn't like it, they can go pound sand, as the kids say. We worship our outspoken swaggerlicious coach, and love how he's transformed the culture of this franchise.
If being a jerk means that these aren't "the same old Jets," that's okay by me.
8. Keyshawn Johnson - I know you're saying, "C'mon man!" and that Johnson may have been one of the most gifted receivers to ever play for the Jets—and he certainly gave 100 percent when he was on the field, including his memorable performance against the Jaguars in the 1998 playoffs. But off the field and in the locker room, Meshawn was not exactly what would be classified as "a selfless teammate"—in his book "Throw Me the Damn Ball" (clearly titled in case there were any questions about his team-building skills) blasted then Jets quarterback Neil O'Donnell, offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt, then coach Rich Kotite and receiver Wayne Chrebet. His bad attitude eventually got him a one-way ticket to Tampa, but that didn't stop him from still disparaging his former team, famously saying about the popular Chrebet (whom he called "the mascot"): "You're trying to compare a flashlight to a star. Flashlights only last so long, a star is in the sky forever." In the memorable "Flashlight Game" of 2000, Chrebet shone the brightest, catching a last-second TD pass from Curtis Martin to beat Johnson's Buccaneers...
By the light of the Green Lantern, we could see a silenced jerk.
7. Brett Favre - In 2008, the good ol' gunslinger was brought in to lead the Jets to the promised land, but it didn't quite work out, in small part because he seemed more interested in pulling his gun out of its sling rather than learning the playbook. Nonetheless, his arrival was met with great enthusiasm by Jets fans, who quickly learned why the Packers and their fans weren't quite so broken up about their legendary quarterback's departure. A me-first headline hog and drama king (as evidenced by his annual "retire-or-not" hijinks), he never interacted with teammates or took direction from coaches. He also literally threw away the season with eight interceptions in his last five games (taking out head coach Eric Mangini along the way), claiming afterward that he was bothered by a bum shoulder (that would burn the Jets $125,000 in fines for not disclosing injuries). Then came to light his well-publicized incidents with Jenn Sterger and others, followed by another faux retirement and release that allowed him to get to the place where he wanted to be all along, the Minnesota Vikings.
An NFL legend? Sure. A good ol' jerk? Absolutely.
6. Dan Marino - The simple fact that nearly two decades later Marino still laughs over The Fake Spike is really all you have to know about why this guy is on the list. If you want a real exercise in torture, Google "Marino fake spike" and see that you get more than half a million results. Ugh.
Oh, and throw in the record 72 lifetime TDs he threw against the Jets while beating them 17 times, and how Marino has come out publicly to tell the world he hates the Jets, and that factors in, too. I can't count how many of my youthful Sundays were ruined by the antics of #13 in aquamarine and orange. I still won't wear Isotoner gloves to this day because of Dan Marino.
5. Brandon Jacobs - Sometimes jerks just make it easy to identify themselves.
After the Giants defeated the Jets 29-14 last December, Jacobs had a few things to say about the Rex Ryan, among them: "I'm glad we came out here and gave it to him. I wish I got a chance to go over there on that sideline. He is disrespectful. I understand why [Kevin] Gilbride and [Ryan's] pop [Buddy Ryan] got into it a long time ago because they all talk too much."
"(The Jets) were in the AFC Championship Game twice in a row, but the year after that the Giants win the Super Bowl. That discredits everything as far as the 'Battle of the City.' They can't ever one-up the Giants—not in my eyesight, not in anyone else's eyesight. They can never do that. They keep trying, but they're doing it the wrong way."
"They got a big-mouthed coach, a big mouth and a big-bellied coach that talks too much and now it's finally time to shut up."
I can think of a jerk who needs to shut up. Let's hope on Sept. 30, he gets shut up by Bart Scott, David Harris and friends. Can't wait!
4. Mark Gastineau - Like with Rex Ryan, this is sort of falls along the lines of "he's a jerk, but he's OUR jerk." Gastineau was undoubtedly one of the most talented players to ever suit up for the green-and-white, but he also may have been the most selfish. A quarterback-destroying monster, he was certainly one of the most feared and hated players in the NFL during his tenure, and from his patented sack dance to being one of the first guys to cross the picket line during the 1987 strike, he never shied from being the center of attention.
The reason that I put Gastineau so high on this list, however, is the way he just up and left the team in the middle of the 1988 season. I guess I understand that he thought that the woman he loved was sick and needed his attention, but there was just something so wrong about the way he just abruptly walked away. As a fan, I felt like he had personally suckerpunched me in the gut; I can only imagine how his teammates felt.
Glad to hear that he's straightened his life out, but there's no way to change the jerk he was.
3. Jason Taylor - *Ahem*
“I’ve had a lot of history saying bad things about Jets fans. The fireman hat guy and all of the people in New York that are Jets fans are not the ones that are working on Wall Street.”
On the "J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!" rallying cry, Taylor called it a "dumb-ass chant” while referring to Jets fans as "ignorant fans." He also said of the chant, it's "the only word they know how to spell."
"To score a touchdown in New York against the Jets in the last time I'll be in the hellhole they call a stadium up there before they get rid of it and move to the new one, it was outstanding."
And of course:
"The Giants fans are a different type of people, just put it that way. There's a little more class on the Giants side and some Jets fans take the 'cl' out of class."
I have to be honest here; even though he's one of the most hated foes and biggest jerks in Jets history, I sort of like Jason Taylor. Even though you knew it had to be killing him inside, when he came to the team he said all the right things, played hard and was a good teammate. You know, until he went back to the Dolphins.
Now he's a jerk again, and all is right with the universe.
Oh no, they were only beginning ...
You know how someone is a true jerk? Even though he may arguably be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, every time you see him, all you want to do is smack that smug Ed Hardy smile off his pretty-boy, model-marrying, Uggs-wearing, Bieber-coiffed face.
I get so sick of it, that stupid grinning #12, winning game after game and AFC East title after AFC East title, and having to hear it from a state full of Patriot fans. So sickening.
And then all the sportswriters constantly going bonkers over him. "Ohhh Tom Brady can do no wrong. Tom Brady is a football player. Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats. Tom Brady is a winner. Tom Brady is a champion. Tom Brady is wonderful. Tom Brady walks on water. Tom Brady cured my leprosy. Tom Brady made the trains run on time. Tom Brady invented sliced bread and turducken. Tom Brady ended global warming and brought about world peace. Tom Brady farts rainbows and pees glitter..."
F Tom Brady. He's still a jerk.
1. Bill Belijerk - How could the former "HC of the NYJ" not be the Greatest Jerk in Jets History? I mean, he's got JERK right there in his name! Seriously, if I even have to start to explain why the Hooded Claw wins the undisputed title of Greatest Jerk in Jets History, then you've got no right to call yourself a Jets fan. It's that simple.
Honorable Mention: Al Davis - Chances are that the late Davis—who despised the Jets from when they came into the AFL in 1960 right up until near his death, when he kept defensive coordinator Rob Ryan under contract out of spite so he couldn't join Eric Mangini's staff—would be thrilled to know that he made this list. He was a constant burr under the Jets' saddle, whether it was having the picture of Joe Namath's face being broken by Ben Davidson enlarged to a poster and hung outside his office, or randomly unrolling tarps on Jets' practice fields. He relished every victory over his East Coast rivals, taking extra pleasure in knocking the Jets out of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2001 and 2002. And who could forget how Davis' Raiders won the famed Heidi game over the Jets in 1968.
Still, Davis was just a jerk, baby.
Again, Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut History comes out on Sept. 18, and is available for pre-order from Amazon.com. If you want to read more from R in CT, feel free to follow him @raybendici or visit raybendici.com.