NEW YORK — The search continues for the New York Jets.
Since the glory days of Broadway Joe, finding a franchise quarterback has been an elusive and often frustrating undertaking for a team that has rarely had a dominant player at the position.
Richard Todd, Ken O’Brien, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, and, yes, even Mark Sanchez all had their moments since Joe Namath led the Jets to their only Super Bowl win in 1969. So did Boomer Esiason and Brett Favre.
But none was either around long enough or able to sustain consistent success to set up the franchise at the game’s most vital position. And, of course, none has been able to get to a Super Bowl.
It’s Geno Smith’s turn to prove whether he can break the vicious cycle. He’s headed into his second season, coming off a rough, up-and-down rookie campaign that ended on an upswing.
But with Michael Vick in training camp to compete for the job, Smith knows nothing is guaranteed — just ask the 26 quarterbacks, including Kyle Mackey and David Norrie, who have started at least one game for New York since Namath last played for the Jets in 1976.
“I’m pretty sure of myself,” said Smith, who had 12 touchdown throws and 21 interceptions last year. “I’m always going to have confidence in myself solely because I believe in my teammates and my coaching.”
Good thing, or Smith could watch Vick end up becoming No. 27 since Namath — and the Jets could be in the market for a franchise-type quarterback next year. Again.
Here’s a look at some of the Jets’ most notable and notorious quarterbacks through the years:
JOE NAMATH: The conversation about the team’s greatest player — let alone quarterback — starts and ends here. Broadway Joe might not have had gaudy career stats, but he’s a Hall of Famer who still leads the franchise in several passing categories. Oh, and then there’s also that whole delivering on his Super Bowl guarantee thing.
RICHARD TODD: Drafted as the heir apparent to Namath and a fellow former Alabama star, the expectations were way too lofty. Todd led the Jets to the playoffs only twice in his eight seasons, capped by a five-interception performance — three by A.J. Duhe — in a muddy AFC title game in Miami in January 1983 that still makes New York fans cringe when they hear the Dolphins linebacker’s name.
KEN O’BRIEN: He might be the closest thing to a franchise QB the Jets have had since Namath, and often doesn’t receive enough credit for a pretty solid career in New York. O’Brien could certainly fling it, but he took a beating for years behind a shoddy offensive line and gets unfairly compared to the QB the Jets passed on in the 1983 draft and the guy the Dolphins took three picks later: Dan Marino.
BROWNING NAGLE: Remember him? Nagle burst on the scene in his first NFL start to open his second season, throwing for 366 yards and two TDs in a loss to Atlanta. Well, the second-round pick never matched that success, tossing only five TD passes the rest of the season. He lost his starting job the next year, was an ex-Jet after the 1993 season, and finished his playing career in the Arena Football League after stints with the Colts and Falcons.
BOOMER ESIASON: After an already terrific career in Cincinnati, which included leading the Bengals to their second Super Bowl appearance in 1989, Esiason was traded to his hometown Jets in 1993. He wasn’t bad, making the Pro Bowl in his first season, but the teams he played on weren’t very good. He also played for three coaches in his three seasons: Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll and Rich Kotite.
VINNY TESTAVERDE: After Esiason was released following the 1995 season, the Jets fell on tough times, including a 1-15 campaign under Kotite in 1996. New York also went through the likes of Jack Trudeau, Bubby Brister, Frank Reich, Neil O’Donnell and Glenn Foley before Bill Parcells restored some order and signed Testaverde in 1998.
The Long Island native rejuvenated his career that season, leading the Jets to the AFC title game. He ruptured an Achilles tendon in the season opener the next year, dashing the team’s Super Bowl hopes. Testaverde came back in 2000 and engineered one of the most memorable games in franchise history, throwing five TD passes in the “Monday Night Miracle” win over Miami.
CHAD PENNINGTON: The 2000 first-round draft pick was considered a possible franchise-type QB, and he appeared well on his way after leading the Jets to a first-round, 41-0 victory over the Colts in Indianapolis in his third season. Never known for his arm strength, Pennington was a cerebral and accurate QB — but his career was derailed by shoulder injuries. He split the 2007 season with Kellen Clemens and was shown the door the following offseason when the Jets traded for Favre.
BRETT FAVRE: One of the more stunning moments in franchise history came when the Jets acquired the not-so-retired former Packers quarterback. It was a Hail Mary move for New York and coach Eric Mangini, and looked pretty good for a while as Favre led the Jets to an 8-3 start that included a six-TD performance against Arizona.
But, with Super Bowl chatter starting to gain steam, the ironman quarterback injured his throwing shoulder late in the season, struggled the rest of the way and the Jets finished 9-7, missing the playoffs and costing Mangini his job. Favre then retired again — before playing two more seasons with the Vikings.
MARK SANCHEZ: The Jets were so high on the Southern California QB, they traded up to grab him with the fifth overall pick in 2009. Sanchez helped lead New York to the AFC title game in each of his first two seasons and set the franchise record with four playoff victories — all on the road.
Things went bad fast, though, as he failed to build off that early success, his supporting cast frequently changed and he struggled with turnovers (yes, “The Butt Fumble”). Sanchez also dealt with the distraction of having Tim Tebow around in 2012, and then was lost for the season last summer after injuring his shoulder in the third preseason game. He was cut this offseason and signed with Philadelphia.
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer)