Moeller: Forty Years Later, Jets Have Some Type of Expectations

Forty years ago in the summer of 1980, the Jets were reportedly on the verge of taking the next step.

They were coming off an 8-8 season and there was plenty of optimism in the air. There were aspirations of making the postseason for the first time since 1969.

Head coach Walt Michaels – who passed away at 89 roughly a year ago – came off consecutive 8-8 seasons after he won just three games the previous two campaigns. Michaels was named AFC Coach of the Year in 1978.

Quarterback Richard Todd, who was under fire since he was drafted in 1976, had gained back his starting spot from injured Matt Robinson. Still regarded with promise, Todd managed to plod his way through the season with 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

Running backs Clark Gaines and Scott Dierking were an effective one-two punch, and Jerome Barkum, Wesley Walker, and Derrick Gaffney were a formidable receiving corps.

Defensively. Mark Gastineau and Marty Lyons were impressive young studs, and Greg Buttle and Joe Klecko were veteran anchors.

Draft picks wide receiver Lam Jones, safety Darrol Ray, and linebacker Lance Mehl were impressive enough during summer camp to secure stating spots.

Sound a little familiar?

The 2020 Jets could be in similar situation.

Quarterback Sam Darnold is a better option than Todd, and Le’Vean Bell has to emerge this season as dominant single back instead of a tandem in the backfield.

The receiving corps could be close to a toss-up, but the ’80 Jets would get an edge in experience.

Defensively, the 2020 Jets have an overall more talented unit, but the ’80 Jets could be perceived as a grittier bunch before the season.

The major factor they have in common? Like the ’80 Jets, the 2020 Jets have heightened expectations after they managed to reverse course from a 1-7 start and win six of their final eight games.

As for the 1980 Jets, their season evolved into a flop.

They never recovered from an 0-5 start and finished the season with an overall 4-12 slate. The Jets provided the lone victory for New Orleans — dutifully named the “Aint’s” that season – when the lost a late lead in a 21-20 loss on a mid-December day that had a win chill of -5 and a wind gale of 46 miles per hour.

However, the Jets did make the playoffs the following year. Todd had a reversal of fate with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and Gastineau and Lyons began to emerge as stalwarts for the eventual “Sack Exchange.

The 2020 Jets will begin training camp in two weeks and embark on a season with high expectations.

History does repeat itself in football. The Jets can only hope it doesn’t happen 40 years later this fall.

About the Author

Jeff Moeller

Jeff Moeller has been covering the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and college football and basketball as well as high school sports on a national and local scene for the past 39 years. He has been a Jets and Giants beat reporter for the past 13 years.

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