Being a fan of any team normally means following them through many years, whether they be good years or lean ones. I can count myself a fan of the New York Jets since the 1981 season, so I thought it might be worthwhile to look back over the 30-plus years that I have followed the team to see how they have fared. This is part one of six total, going every five years from 1982 through 2007, with an eventual part seven to recap the 2012 season. In this article, we will take a look back at the 1982 New York Jets season.
Let's start off with New York Jets record that year: 6-3. Yes, you read that correctly, it was 30 years ago and the NFL and the player's association could not agree to a new deal so they had a strike that last 57 days after week two of the regular season. The playoff field that season was expanded to a one time only record of 16 teams with the Jets advancing to the AFC Championship against the Miami Dolphins. Of the 12 total games played that season by the Jets, they did play the Dolphins twice in regular season, losing both, and of course many remember them losing in the "Mud Bowl" that the Orange Bowl had become because Dolphins head coach Don Shula had not had the field covered the night before when torrential rains visited Miami.
Despite making it to the AFC Championship game and losing, the Jets did have one standout during the abbreviated regular season: running back Freeman McNeil led the NFL in rushing with 786 yards on 151 carries. That amounted to a 5.2 yard average. Also because of their winning record and having the league's leading rusher they fielded several Pro Bowlers including defensive end Mark Gastineau and on offense: center Joe Fields and right Tackle Marvin Powell, along with wide receiver Wesley Walker and McNeil himself.
I started watching New York Jets games sometime into the 1981 season but I recall even today how heart broken I was when they lost in the Wild Card Playoff to the Buffalo Bills. 1982 was the first "full" season of my fandom (and sometimes fanaticism) with the Jets, but it was far from full after my first experience with labor unrest. A knee injury took out standout defensive end Joe Klecko for the equivalent of 14 games, the year after the New York Sack Exchange (Klecko, Mark Gastineau, Mary Lyons and Abdul Salaam) had become household names. I was so excited to see the Jets make it all the way to within one game of the Super Bowl, which would not occur again until 1998.
For the readers, most especially those who have been fans of the Jets in more recent years, I hope this article and series will give them some perspective of many of us "long suffering" fans. It is my hope to complete the rest of the series throughout the upcoming season. Please let me know any feedback you may have.
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