Top 5 Running Backs In Jets History
By Michael Ferraro
The New York Jets have a long history of having solid running backs from Emerson Boozer, Matt Snell to John Riggins to Freeman McNeil and Curtis Martin. Riggins and Martin are both Hall of Famers in their own right but Martin became one after he came to the Jets while Riggins left for Washington and became a legend.
Boozer, Snell and McNeil are all Jets legends who played their entire career with Gang Green rank two, three and four on the list, while Martin and Riggins are one and five respectively. Johnny Hector and Thomas Jones just missed the top five.
Number 5. Before John Riggins was a member of the Redskins, Jets’ fans will remember Riggins' bruising style in the 1970s. Riggins was the Jets fullback from 1971-1975, and in 61 games he amassed 3880 yards on 928 carries with 25 career-rushing touchdowns with the Jets before he left as a free agent to go with the Redskins. He became the first Jets running back to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season in 1975. Riggins only had one season with the Jets in which he didn’t rush for over 650 yards and averaged 4.18 yards a carry while in green and white.
Number 4. McNeil was the third overall pick of the 1981 NFL Draft and is second only to Curtis Martin on the Jets all-time rushing list with 8,074 yards. During his career, McNeil was a three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 1982, 1984 and 1985. In the strike shortened 1982 season, McNeil led the NFL in rushing with 786 yards. McNeil and Johnny Hector were the Jets' “Two Headed-Monster.” Hector is the Jets' fifth all-time leading rusher with 4280 yards.
McNeil played his entire career with the Jets 1981-1992 and was one of the members of the Jets Ring of Honor. Over his career, McNeil averaged an amazing 4.5 yards a carry with 38 career-rushing touchdowns and also caught 295 passes for 2,961 yards with 12 receiving touchdowns.
Number 3. Boozer was drafted by the Jets in the 1966 AFL in the sixth round, and was used as a fullback and backup to Matt Snell. When Snell got injured in the 1967 season, Boozer took over and in eight games Boozer amassed 10 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns before a knee injury took him the rest of the season, he still, however, was named an all-pro even though he played a little more than half a season.
After his injury, Boozer became primarily a blocking running back in short yardage and goal line situations. Boozer's best season was 1973 when he scored 14 total touchdowns with 11 coming on the ground and he gained 831 yards on the ground on 182 carries averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He averaged 4 yards a carry and had a total of 52 rushing touchdowns, second in Jets history to only Curtis Martin.
Number 2. Matt Snell was the real MVP of Super Bowl III. Sure, Joe Namath won the award, but without Snell, the 1969 Jets might not be World Champions today. Snell is fourth all-time on the Jets career rushing record with 4285 yards on 1057 carries with 24 rushing touchdowns. Snell was drafted in the first round of the AFL draft in 1964 and was named AFL rookie of the year after gaining 945 yards in his rookie season.
Snell saved the best game of his career for Super Bowl III, where he carried the ball 30 times for 121 yards and the only touchdown that the Jets scored in the game and helped the Jets maintain the lead for good. Snell was one of the best pass blockers that the Jets had and was used a lot to protect Namath and during the course of his career he was known to have schooled many Jets running backs on how to pass block during the course of his career.
Number 1. Curtis Martin is one of the greatest running backs of all-time and is in a class all his own in Jets history. Martin didn’t play his whole career in New York. Bill Parcells brought him over from the Patriots when he joined the Jets. But Martin left a lasting mark on the position and the Jets have been looking for a replacement ever since.
Martin is the all-time rushing leader for the Jets with 10,302 yards with the Gang Green. He also amassed 58 rushing touchdowns and averaged 83.76 yards per game. Thomas Jones is second on the list 79.85 yards per game. Martin’s numbers alone make him the clear choice to be the number one running back in Jets history. Martin’s best season came in 2004 when he won the NFL rushing title with 1,694 yards, one more yard than the runner-up Shaun Alexander.