Top 10 New York Jets Quarterbacks of all time
Broadway Joe, Aaron Rodgers, and a whole lot of filler. We rank the 10 best QBs in New York Jets history.
Guess what, New York Jets fans: Your 2023 starting quarterback made this list of the team’s all-time greatest QBs without having even played in a regular-season game! That’s because the best Jets quarterbacks have historically been a mix of underwhelming journeymen, brief flash-in-the-plans, or just flat-out mediocre players.
Well, there have been a few good ones amid all the mediocrity, so let’s now take a moment to determine the 10 best Jets quarterbacks of all time. All stats are courtesy of ProFootballReference.com.
Who is the New York Jets Starting Quarterback?
Due to Aaron Rodgers injury, one of the top NFL headlines this season, the 2023 Jets starting quarterback is Tim Boyle after Jets coach Robert Saleh benched Zach Wilson in Week 11.
Who is the Jets backup Quarterback?
The Jets backup quarterback for 2023 will be former starter Zach Wilson, who appropriately wears No. 2. Wilson was the starter during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but he will slot in behind Tim Boyle for the 2023 NFL season.
New York Jets Quarterbacks History
Past Jets quarterbacks have been a mixed bag, but some have held down the starting gig consistently for more than five seasons. That group includes Richard Todd, Ken O’Brien, Chad Pennington, and Joe Namath.
Famous Jets Quarterbacks
The Jets’ quarterback history isn’t anything to get very excited about, but “Broadway” Joe Namath was the rare bright spot. He led the team to its first and only Super Bowl championship and remains a legendary figure among New York sports fans.
Ranking the Top 10 Best NY Jets Quarterbacks of all time
- Boomer Esiason
Years with Jets: 1993 to 1995
Boomer Esiason had a successful 10-year run as the Cincinnati Bengals’ starting quarterback. After struggling for Cincinnati during the 1992 season, the Long Island native came home to the Jets in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
Esiason’s best year in New York was his first. During that 1993 season, he threw for 3,421 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl.
- Brett Favre
Year with Jets: 2008
This choice for our top 10 might be slightly controversial, since the former Green Bay Packers star only spent one year with the Jets, and what an up-and-down season it was.
Favre had retired after the 2007 season, following the Packers’ upset loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game. Unbelievably, he unretired after the offseason and was traded to the New York Jets. Why? Well, because the Packers wanted to give a former first-round pick named Aaron Rodgers a shot. Funny how that worked out.
The Jets got their 2008 NFL season off to an 8-3 start -- destroying the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans 34-13 on the road in Week 11. Then a free-fall ensued, as the Jets dropped four of the next five games and tumbled out of the playoff picture. The Jets drafted Mark Sanchez in the offseason, and Favre retired again. Oh, and speaking of Favre’s time in New York, let’s not forget that whole picture-sending scandal.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
Years with Jets: 2015 to 2016
Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the best single-season quarterback performances in New York Jets history in 2015. His 3,905 passing yards rank him second on the team’s all-time single-season list, and his 31 touchdowns rank No. 1. There was a crowded field atop the 2015 AP MVP voting, although Fitzpatrick’s campaign should have at least earned him some down-ballot votes.
Fitzpatrick guided the 2015 Jets to a signature win over the rival New England Patriots (then 12-2) in Week 16. That victory brought the Jets to 10-5, giving them control of their playoff destiny, What happened next? New York traveled to Buffalo for a clash with former head coach Rex Ryan, and the Jets’ playoff hopes came crashing down with a narrow loss. Fitzpatrick’s 2016 season didn’t go nearly as well, and the Jets found themselves back in the QB market.
- Vinny Testaverde
Years with Jets: 1998 to 2003, 2005
Among Jets quarterbacks who made at least 60 starts for the franchise, Vinny Testaverde has the best winning percentage at .554. He also has two Jets playoff victories on his resume, having beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1998 wild-card round and eliminated Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the 2002 wild-card round.
Testaverde’s 1998 season was particularly special. He threw for 29 touchdowns (the second most in Jets franchise history) and guided the team to a 12-4 record -- the most single-season wins in franchise history.
- Mark Sanchez
Years with Jets: 2009 to 2012
Former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez’s inclusion on this list is more a reflection of his teams’ success than his own individual performance. The Jets traded up to draft Sanchez, who had been a stud quarterback at Stanford. To get him with the fifth overall pick at the 2009 NFL Draft, New York, yielded future first- and second-round picks, along with veterans Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam, and Brett Ratliff, to the Cleveland Browns.
Sanchez went 8-7 during his rookie season (backup Kellen Clemens won the other game) despite a 12-20 touchdown to interception ratio. The Jets also managed to sneak into that year’s playoffs, where they shocked both the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers before falling to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2009 AFC Championship Game.
The 2010 season followed a similar script, although Sanchez improved to 17-13 in TD-INTs. Once again, however, the Jets lost the AFC Championship Game – this time to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What happened to Sanchez after that? Well, in 2012 there was a little thing called the “butt fumble”, and Sanchez was eventually let go.
- Chad Pennington
Years with Jets: 2000 to 2007
Chad Pennington, the Jets’ first-round pick in 2000, backed up Vinny Testaverde for the first few years of his career before breaking out during the 2002 season. He also led the Jets to the playoffs in 2004 and 2006. Unfortunately, his play took a serious downturn in 2007. The team finished 4-12 that year and decided it was time to find a new QB.
Pennington ranks fourth all-time among Jets quarterbacks in career passing yards and passing touchdowns. After being released by the Jets, he won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award after leading the previously 1-15 Miami Dolphins to the playoffs.
- Richard Todd
Years with Jets: 1976 to 1983
Here’s a trivia question: Prior to current Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was the last University of Alabama quarterback picked in the first round of an NFL Draft? The correct answer is former Jets QB Richard Todd, who was drafted all the way back in 1976!
Todd backed up legendary QB Joe Namath for one season before taking the reins. By 1981, he had the Jets back in the playoffs for the first time since the 1969 season. Todd then had his best career QB rating during the strike-shortened 1982 season, as the 6-3 Jets stormed to the AFC Championship Game following wins over both the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders.
Todd left the Jets with the franchise’s No. 3 ranking among quarterbacks in both career passing yards and touchdowns.
- Ken O’Brien
Years with Jets: 1983 to 1992
Richard Todd’s heir to the role of Jets No. 1 quarterback was slinging Ken O’Brien, who in 1983 was drafted three picks ahead of a slightly more famous QB named Dan Marino.
The Jets were always good-but-not-great during nearly a decade in which O’Brien was the franchise’s starting QB. He led the league in passing yards in 1985, and the Jets comfortably made the playoffs at 11-5. That year -- his first as a full-time starter – O’Brien threw for 3,888 yards. He left the Jets after the 1992 season ranked second among Jets quarterbacks in career passing yards and touchdowns.
- Aaron Rodgers
Year with Jets (so far): 2023
Is this a silly ranking? Future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers hasn’t taken a single snap for the New York Jets, but the hype surrounding him is already off the charts. The Jets have brought in Rodgers’ former Green Bay teammates Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb to strengthen a receiving corps that already featured 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson and former top-five pick Corey Davis.
The Betway Sportsbook has Rodgers as a +1600 favorite to become the 2023 NFL MVP, something no Jets player has ever done. Indeed, the Jets are one of only six NFL franchises to have never had a league MVP winner (and, no, we’re not counting Joe Namath’s AFL MVP awards). If he wins the 2023 MVP and leads the Jets on a deep playoff run, should Rodgers move up to No. 1 on this list?
- Joe Namath
Years with Jets: 1965-1976
Who is the man Aaron Rodgers might one day replace as the best Jets Quarterback of all time? A fellow they called “Broadway” Joe Namath -- the only quarterback to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl title. His outstanding career stats, in combination with his famous “guarantee”, are the only justification one needs for putting Namath at No. 1 on this list.
Namath was a two-time AFL MVP, the MVP of Super Bowl III, and he remains the Jets’ franchise leader in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. Despite not playing in the “air-raid” era, Namath still holds the Jets’ single-season record of 4,007 passing yards, a number he achieved in 1967.
And let’s not forget that this man will always be the epitome of Joe Cool, even though Joe Burrow might deserve a spot in that conversation, too.
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