By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Is Jamal Adams one of the best Jets ever? Or will he be remembered as one of the team’s top safeties in club history?
Whether or not Adams gets traded over the next few months, he undoubtedly will be recognized as one of the Jets’ best all-time defensive players and indisputably high in the ranks of the team’s all-time safeties list. Adams’ position isn’t one that has been readily stocked with all-pros and consistent performers in the team’s annals.
Here is one man’s opinion about the top five Jets’ safeties of all-time, placing them in random order.
Adams –He has been the dominate defensive figure and overall leader the Jets have been seeking for the past few years. In three years, Adams has accumulated 273 tackles and 12 sacks, 6.5 of them last season in his second of three Pro-Bowl selections. He has just three interceptions, but he has covered well and his physical nature usually can’t be matched.
Erik McMillan – He was a third-round pick in 1988 and went to two Pro Bowls, one in his rookie year when he also earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. During that season, he swiped eight interceptions – two for touchdowns — and followed with six –one for a touchdown – the following year. Overall, he made 52 starts in his 76 games as a Jet and had 22 interceptions. In many circles, McMillan is regarded as the best Jets safety since 1970 before Adams burst onto the scene.
Victor Green – When talking safeties in the 1980s and beyond, Green’s name is also one of the first mentioned. Green followed the Bill Parcells’ script to a tee, as he was a hard-nosed undrafted free agent in 1993 who developed as a fan favorite. Green, who started 108 of his 139 games in Green and White, has 24 career interceptions and 13 recovered fumbles in nine seasons. His nine seasons was the long tenure of recognized Jets’ safeties.
Burgess Owens – He arguably was the highest profile safety of the last 50 years until Adams, being the team’s number one overall pick and 13th overall in the 1973 draft. Owens was an ironman as he started all of his 97 games, missing just three in seven years. Named to the league’s All-rookie team, Owens emerged as a team captain and led the team interceptions five of his seven years, grabbing 21 overall.
Bill Baird – Baird often is forgotten for his steadiness as a starter and reserve from 1963-69. He started 80 of his 98 games, and corralled 34 interceptions that technically made him the all-time leader at the position. However, he had 13 of those when he primarily played cornerback for two years. He also excelled with kickoff and punt returns, and he always was around the ball.
There are plenty of other worthwhile candidates, and this list definitely could have been expanded with the likes of Kerry Rhodes, Ken Schroy, and Darrol Ray. Here are two other standouts who should be mentioned:
Jim Hudson – He was signed as a free agent in 1965 and soon became a starter. Hudson endured three knee operations and a bad back in his six seasons in which he had 14 interceptions. He was named the ALL-NFL team by the Associated Press in 1968. Hudson’s second-quarter interception in the Super Bowl probe to be an early game changer.
Dainard Paulson – Truly a forgotten player, Paulson spent his last four seasons with the Jets after his debut with the Titans in 1961. Paulson began his career as a Titan for two years and spent four years with the Jets. Twenty-five of his 29 career interceptions were with the Jets, having 12 in 1964. In 1964 and 1965, Paulson was named to the AFL All-Star Game.
Over the next month, Adams’ fate will be decided. Whatever the outcome, Adams will be remembered for his exceptional play at a position with a smaller collection of standouts than the others.