The Green & White had a tint of crimson under center.
Eleven years after the Jets chose Alabama quarterback Joe Namath in the first round of the 1965 AFL Draft, they selected Alabama quarterback Richard Todd in the first round of the 1976 NFL Draft.
“I thought it was great, I get to go play with Joe Willie,” Todd said. “I met Joe when I was a sophomore in college. He’d come over and work out, so I’d known Joe for quite a while.
“He was my idol when I was growing up. It was really cool hanging around Joe. Just watching his leadership and the way he played, the way he looked at things. He was hurt after the third or fourth game (in my rookie year), and I was kind of thrown into the melee at that time.
“He was there for one year and then he (was waived by the Jets) and went to L.A. I was hoping they’d let him be my tutor for two, three, four years. It just didn’t work out like that.”
With Namath now a Ram and Walt Michaels New York’s new head coach, Todd took over at quarterback to start the 1977 campaign. Unfortunately, injuries would play a role during the early years of his career. He missed three starts that season because of a knee injury, and 11 games the following year due to a broken collarbone.
Healthy in 1981, Todd had a career-high 25 touchdown passes and helped the Jets to a 10-5-1 record and make the playoffs, their first winning record and trip to the post-season since 1969.
What was the key?
“We got our running game going. Our play-action worked better. We started playing good,” Todd said. “And we had a great defense. That’s when the Sack Exchange was going. (Joe) Klecko and (Mark) Gastineau and Marty (Lyons) and Abdul Salaam, they were an excellent defensive line. They shut down the run and put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks. As a quarterback, your best friend is a great defense and we definitely had one back then.”
The Jets may have had a great defense, but it was Todd who was named as their Most Valuable Player that season.
“You’re very proud of it,” he said. “That’s pretty cool to be named MVP, but the main thing is you’re voted by your teammates and that shows some respect and that they thought you did a good job.”
New York was back in the playoffs the following year. With a 6-3 record in the strike-shortened season, they went on the road and beat Cincinnati in the Wild Card game and the Los Angeles Raiders in the divisional round. The AFC Championship Game in Miami didn’t go as well. Todd threw five interceptions at the rain-soaked and muddy Orange Bowl, and the Dolphins won, 14-0.
“I think about that game all the time,” Todd said. “Number one, people forget that we played Miami three times that year. I believe they beat us all three times. Number two, I threw five interceptions. If they could have caught the ball, they could have had 10. Number three, (Dolphins quarterback) David Woodley threw three interceptions. If we could have caught the ball, we could have had six.
“I don’t know, you go back and forth and think about the game plan, it was just a muddy field. I don’t think we did enough to get them off their defensive plan. It was kind of a bad day for offense that day.”
Ranked third among the Jets’ all-time quarterbacks, Todd was with the team for eight seasons, 1976-83. He concluded his 10-year career with the New Orleans Saints.
“I wouldn’t call it a stellar career. I just enjoyed it. I loved football, loved playing and got to do that. We had the youngest team in pro football for probably five years in a row. It was fun,” Todd said. “In the last month, I’ve talked to Bruce Harper, I’ve talked to Marty Lyons, I’ve talked to Greg Buttle. I talked to (Joe) Klecko within the last two or three months. So, I still talk to a lot of the guys.”
Following football, Todd got into investment banking and securities trading with Bear Stearns because, well, it wasn’t football. For the past 11 years, he’s been a managing director with J.P. Morgan.
“I went to Alabama and majored in P.E., I always wanted to coach. And then when I got out of football, I just wanted to get a job away from it,” Todd said. “I had a little money and looked at the stock market and stuff that I was kind of interested in, and it kind of went from there.
“(Alan) Ace Greenberg ran Bear Stearns and Jimmy Cayne ran the retail department, that’s who I started out with. So, I got my series 7 (license) and went from the equities sales to bond sales and have been an institutional bond salesman ever since.
“I enjoy the market and the interaction. But I will say that in our business, that’s gone down quite a bit though due to the internet, Bloomberg and everything else. I did a couple trades today and didn’t even talk to anybody. It’s all done on computers.”
Todd and his wife, Lulu, have three adult children: Gator, is the assistant golf coach at Vanderbilt University; Darbi Lou, is a senior account executive at MELT Sports and Entertainment Marketing; and Jimmy, who will graduate this year from Alabama.