“Broadway Joe” was an iconic player, not just for the Jets, but also for the AFL before its merge with the NFL. In fact, Namath is often given credit for giving a boost to the merger because of his signature moment with the Jets. Prior to Super Bowl III against the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, Namath guaranteed a victory for the AFL’s Jets. Namath led the Jets’ offense to a 16-7 win, passing for 208 yards and helping prove that the AFL was worthy of merging with the NFL. He is the only QB to win a Super Bowl MVP without throwing for a touchdown. Namath was a true celebrity off the field, performing in several movies and becoming a media darling. He is credited with helping move the NFL forward from a plodding, run-oriented game to the current, more-open passing style.
Maynard’s career bridged the changes in the New York franchise that went from the Titans and Jets in the AFL and into the NFL. Originally drafted by the Giants, he signed with the Titans in 1960 after spending a year in the CFL. Beginning with the 1965 season, Maynard and then-rookie quarterback Joe Namath became one of the AFL’s premier offensive duos. Maynard, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1987, finished his career with 633 receptions for 11,834 yards and 88 touchdowns. His 18.7 yards per catch is the highest for anyone with at least 600 receptions.
Martin was drafted by the Jets’ rivals in New England in 1995, and spent his first three seasons with the Patriots, including his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 1995 and two Pro Bowl seasons. The Jets signed Martin as a free agent after the 1997 season and made him their featured back for the next nine years. He finished his career with 14,101 career rushing yards (fourth all-time), 90 career TDs (12th all-time) and was the oldest player to win an NFL rushing title at 31 with 1,697 yards in 2004.
Klecko was a key member of the Jets’ early-1980s defensive line, better known as the “New York Sack Exchange.” In 1981, Klecko led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and helped lead the Jets to their first playoff appearance since 1969. He was named Defensive Player of the Year that season. Over his remaining years with the Jets, Klecko was moved around from defensive end to tackle and then nose guard, so his sack numbers suffered. But he was considered one of the toughest linemen of his day. He finished his 12-year NFL career in 1988 after playing one season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Gastineau teamed with fellow Jets defensive linemen Joe Klecko, Adbul Salaam and Marty Lyons to form the “New York Sack Exchange” in the early 1980s. Gastineau’s 20 sacks in 1981 fell just .5 behind Klecko’s league-leading total. In 1983, Gastineau led the league with 19 sacks and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Gastineau’s “sack dance” led to the NFL’s banning of those types of celebrations in 1984. In the ’84 season, Gastineau set a then-record 22 sacks (which stood for 17 years) and totaled 69 tackles. He was the MVP of the Pro Bowl that year, again winning Defensive Player honors. Gastineau retired during the 1988 season as the NFL’s career leader in sacks at the time.