Great Moments in Jets History: Record-Setting Season Ends in Fitting Fashion
December 27, 1998 - In the regular season finale of a record-setting season, Head Coach Bill Parcells and his New York Jets crushed division rival New England, 31-10 at the Meadowlands.
The victory was the Jets 12th win in '98, a franchise-high that stands to this day. By wrapping up the month with a win, the Jets also earned their first 4-0 December in team annals. However, the triumph marked the final regular season game for Jets Chairman of the Board, Leon Hess, as he passed away in May of 1999.
This memorable division contest was played with an interesting group of familiar and younger players and staff.
Among the Jets staff that day was Director of Pro Personnel, Scott Pioli, then with his second season beside Parcells. Since leaving the Jets in 2000, Pioli has directed the Patriots to celebrated success, including three Super Bowl victories. Parcells also had a cerebral young mind in Bill Belichick at his side, a Jets assistant head coach/secondary coach, who also left for the Patriots in 2000.
The list of coaches lined up on the Green & White sideline is a "Who's Who" of the coaching business. The names included defensive line coach Romeo Crennel, who would later join Belichick in New England as defensive coordinator and is now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, defensive assistant/quality control coach Eric Mangini, another defensive coordinator under Belichick who months ago returned to NY to lead the Jets, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who served in a similar capacity in New England and now is the head coach at Notre Dame.
In addition, there were a handful of Jets players that proved their leadership worthy of coaching. In doing so, they are now part of the Jets staff. Entering their first seasons as Jets coaches are Bryan Cox, Rick Lyle, and Richie Anderson, while Corwin Brown is a veteran in the Jets workforce. Cox, who recorded three tackles that afternoon, played with the Jets from '98 to 2000 (and for the Pats in 2001), posting 12 sacks and 130 tackles. He now serves as an assistant defensive line coach for New York's AFC representative. Rick Lyle, a defensive lineman on the '98 club, played for the Jets from '97 to 2001 (and the Pats from 2002-03), is currently the Jets assistant strength and conditioning coach. In his five-year stint in New York, Lyle recorded 216 total tackles, along with 11 sacks. Anderson, who scored 12 touchdowns as a fullback for the Jets from '93 to 2002, works currently alongside coach Noel Mazzone, as assistant wide receivers coach. Brown came to the Jets in '97 after serving the previous four years in, you guessed it, New England. He is now entering his third season as defensive backs coach
On the field, the Jets defense took full advantage of facing an inexperienced replacement quarterback in Scott Zolak. Drew Bledsoe, the Pats starting quarterback, was out of action with an injured finger. After forcing the Patriots to go going three-and-out on their first possession, New York's defensive kept the pressure on as defensive end Anthony Pleasant caused a Robert Edwards fumble, which was picked up by Jets corner Ray Mickens.
The Jets jumped on the board with an early John Hall field goal, and then struck again on the second play of the second quarter, when Vinnie Testaverde hit tight end Kyle Brady in the end zone to grab a 10-0 lead.
The Jets organization wasn't the only record grabber that Sunday, as Curtis Martin ran for 102 yards, making that his eighth game reaching triple digits in '98, setting a Jets record. Testaverde would not be outdone, hooking up with Martin in the second quarter for the second touchdown of the day and his 27th on the year, placing him ahead of both Al Dorow and Joe Namath for a franchise record of most touchdown passes in a season. Testaverde added touchdown passes in the 3rd and 4th quarter, one to Dedric Ward, the final going to Keyshawn Johnson.
The Jets had clinched the AFC East Title even prior to the game, but Coach Parcells would not change his approach.
"A lot of people were saying that his game was meaningless," he told reporters. "I keep telling you it means an awful lot every time you go out there. That's what I try to sell. That's what I believe in."
Interestingly enough, Pats corner Ty Law didn't come away all that impressed with the Jets after the trouncing. Law, who totaled 10 interceptions in '05 for the Jets, would win three championships under a Belichick-led staff in New England.
"I don't think their team or their coaching staff is better then ours," he said.