Updated, 7:30 p.m. ET
Sunday in Seattle, Marv Albert will turn 100.
How’s that again?
No, Albert, the legendary announcer of NBA, NHL and NFL games in New York and around the country, is not celebrating his 100th birthday. But he will be calling his 100th Jets game on network television when the Green & White take on the Seahawks.
“Great. Now it becomes an emotional game for me,” Albert told me by phone from Portland with his trademark sardonic wit.
In reality, Albert didn’t know that he’d done 99 Jets games over the years, but it’s true. The man who many in the New York area of a certain age remember as the Knicks and Rangers play-by-play man as they were growing up and has become known as “The Voice of Basketball” for his extensive NBA work, also has a long career as one of the NFL’s stable of game announcers. My TV records before ’65 are spotty but Marv may be only the third announcer to call 100 Jets games, joining Curt Gowdy and Charlie Jones in that exclusive club.
“I go back as a kid listening to the Titans. I remember listening to Bob Murphy and Merle Harmon during the Harry Wismer era, which was rather unorthodox,” Marv reminisced about the first owner of the AFL franchise that grew into the Jets.
“Over the years, the memories that stand out to me are the success of the Sack Exchange and that particular era. What a great team that was to cover for me. Those teams reminded me of the Knicks of the Seventies and the Islanders of the Eighties. Not only were they a good team but they were terrific to talk to, just a great group.”
Some memorable Jets games he worked were the 1994 Dan Marino “fake spike” game against Miami and the ’92 game vs. Kansas City in which Dennis Byrd suffered his paralyzing injury. He also called three Jets playoff games, including the winning home effort over the Chiefs in ’86.
But before Albert got to Klecko, Gastineau, Lyons, Salaam, Kenny O’Brien, Wesley Walker, Byrd and the rest, he began calling Jets games in the somber late Seventies. He started out on NBC in 1977 and his first Jets game was in fact the ’77 season opener against the Oilers in the Astrodome, “a terrible place to do TV.” His partner that day — and in fact the partner with whom he called the most Jets games over the years, 28 in all — was Paul Maguire.
He also worked the Jets with other NFL names such as Len Dawson, John Brodie, Bob Griese, Cris Collinsworth, Bob Trumpy, Randy Cross, Sam Wyche and former Jets kicker Jim Turner.
“The networks finally got wise to keeping the same people together,” Marv recalled. “Early on, they would switch people around, switch producers, which was not good if you wanted to get accustomed to your partner.
Albert was paired with Joe Namath — “a real kick for me,” Marv said — for nine Jets games in 1987-88. His Parcells period — “Bill was a lot of fun” — was for five games in 1991-92. His last Jets game for NBC was Game 2 in 1997 with Cross. The AFC franchise was picked up by CBS in ’98 and although he worked the occasional Jets Monday night game on Westwood One Radio from 2002-09, he didn’t work the NFL on CBS until last season, when he was teamed up with Rich Gannon. Marv and Rich will be doing their fifth Jets game together on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
“I love working with Rich. In terms of breaking down an offense, he’s worked with so many quarterbacks and even spent some time with Mark Sanchez a couple of years ago,” Albert said. “He has such a great feel and his remarks, which we’ll get into Sunday about Sanchez and Tim Tebow and what’s going on there are right on target.
“But what’s great is he’s so passionate in terms of he just loves sitting down with the coaches and the offense. Before each game we usually sit down with the head coach, the offensive and defensive coordinators, the quarterback and maybe one other player. And they’re asking Rich questions. That used to happen with Bill Parcells a lot. And I find that happens with Rich. He’s so respected around the league.”
As for what Marv sees for him, Gannon, the Jets and their fans on Sunday, he said, “The strange thing is they can still make the playoffs. But I think it’s a tough game Sunday with that crowd, and it’s a game the Jets have to win. It’s so hard if they don’t win here.”
And, Albert admitted, “From a TV point of view, we wouldn’t mind seeing Tebow.”
Some good news on the Jets’ injury front was second-year DT Kenrick Ellis doing limited work during team drills. It’s the first practice Ellis has been able to work even on a limited basis since hurting his knee against Houston on Oct. 8. Injury report update: TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist) was full-go for the first time in two weeks. DT Damon Harrison (thumb) was added to the list as fully practicing. S LaRon Landry (heel) as usual was listed as limited after being full-go Wednesday and likely full on Friday.
The Seahawks had some good and bad to report. The good: WR Braylon Edwards (knee) was limited today after not practicing Wednesday. The bad: CB Richard Sherman (illness) and DE Greg Scruggs (oblique) were added today as DNPs. RB Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist) also was another of the ‘Hawks’ now eight DNPs, sitting out his second practice this week.
Tags: CBS, Dan Marino, Dennis Byrd, fake spike, Harry Wismer, Kenny O'Brien, Kenrick Ellis, Marv Albert, NBC, Rich Gannon, Sack Exchange
Posted in Randy Lange | 13 Comments »
The Jets this year have lost another key contributor to their past. It has been reported that Joe Gardi died Wednesday at the age of 71.
Gardi, a Jets assistant coach from 1976-84, passed away due to complications from a stroke, his son, David, told Newsday.
Gardi had many connections to the Jets over the years. He joined the Green & White in 1976 as special teams coach, added the linebackers to his areas of responsibility in 1980, then became defensive coordinator in the New York Sack Exchange era in 1981 and added assistant head coach under Joe Walton to his résumé for 1983-84.
"Joe was a big part of our lives," Joe Klecko told newyorkjets.com this morning. "He had a vibrant attitude toward everything. He was liked by everybody. I don’t think he had an enemy on the team because of the way he handled things."
In particular, Klecko remembered the way Gardi handled his D-coordinator role helped the Sack Exchange achieve greatness, beginning with the franchise-record 66 sacks registered in ’81.
"He recognized what we had in our four-man front there," Klecko recalled. "A lot of coaches try to corral your enthusiasm, but he let us play and it showed."
"Joe’s the one who gave me the opportunity to play," Bruce Harper said this afternoon, reflecting back to his rookie season in 1977. "He came down to Kutztown and signed me, and he was really the one who gave me the fair shot. The only way I was going to make the team was through special teams and he was the special teams coach. I actually pulled a muscle the first week of training camp and he insisted that Walt Michaels keep me on instead of sending me home.
"Joe deserves a great tribute. He was really great to everybody."
Gardi became assistant supervisor of NFL officials from 1985-90 before returning to the coaching ranks as the head coach at Hofstra. He guided the then-Flying Dutchmen from Division III to Division I-AA and in the process coached legendary Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet through his senior year on the Long Island campus in 1994.
"Coach Gardi was all about giving people opportunities. He gave me an opportunity,” Chrebet told Newsday, echoing Harper’s memories from some 15 seasons earlier. "He believed in me and helped me to the career I ended up having."
Gardi retired from Hofstra after the 2005 season with a 119-62-2 record and six NCAA playoff appearances, five coming after the Pride made the move up to the Football Championship Subdivision. Gardi, who would occasionally come across Hempstead Turnpike from Hofstra’s football offices to check up on the Jets, also coached Saints WR Marques Colston and Raheem Morris, now in his second year as the Buccaneers’ head coach.
Gardi was a football man through and through who rose through the gridiron ranks. After playing his high school ball at Harrison, N.J., and his college ball at Maryland, he began his coaching career as a New Jersey high school coach at Oratory Prep in Summit, then moved to Roselle Park High.
He returned to Maryland as an assistant, then joined the staff of the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League in 1975. He spent three games as the head coach of the Portland Thunder before the WFL folded in ’76, then came aboard the Jets.
As special teams coach he worked with Harper, one of the NFL’s top kickoff and punt returners in the late Seventies. And during his four seasons as coordinator, his defenses were an NFL top-10 unit (fifth in yards allowed and eight in points allowed in 1981, sixth in yardage and 10th in points in 1982) in the two playoff seasons during the Sack Exchange’s heyday.
The Jets and we at newyorkjets.com offer our condolences to the Gardi family.
Tags: Bruce Harper, Hofstra, Sack Exchange, Wayne Chrebet
Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »
Another great one has left this little house when it was announced that Merlin Olsen died Wednesday night at the age of 69 from mesothelioma.
Olsen had a Hall of Fame football career, spending all 15 of his NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, earning Pro Bowl berths after 14 of those seasons as a card-carrying member of the "Fearsome Foursome." Then he became a TV star with leading roles in "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy" and was the softspoken, eloquent spokesman for FTD Florists.
But the reason he’s worthy of newyorkjets.com mention is because from 1977-91, he was an NFL network analyst. And since this bearded bear of a man worked AFC games through 1989, he became one of the most recognized television voices for Jets fans. In that span, no one sat in the network analyst’s chair for more Jets games than the 28 that Olsen worked. Only Bob Trumpy, John Brodie and Len Dawson provided color on as many Sunday afternoons.
Marty Lyons, the Jets’ radio analyst, played in many of those games, as a member of the "New York Sack Exchange," that Olsen called, and he remembered that Olsen’s humanity was not a Hollywood fiction.
"The interacting I had with him was always about the game of football, the Jets, the opponents, always casual conversations," Lyons said. "Then once I retired, I’d run across him and he always remembered who I was. He didn’t have to do that. I was just another player playing a game that he was broadcasting. But he always took time to show respect.
"He was just a true gentleman. And watching him play, his style of football, I think that set him apart from a lot of other players of that era. It’s just a tremendous loss."
No broadcaster is feeling that loss more today than Dick Enberg, who was Olsen’s play-by-play partner in the NBC booth from 1978-88. In fact, Enberg visited with Eric Allen and me at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for a Jets TV segment in the days before he worked the Jaguars game for CBS in November. He was the first I’d heard say that Olsen was ill.
"Not many people know that Merlin’s going through a real rough time now," Enberg said. "They’ve discovered he has lung cancer and it goes back to the ‘asbestos days’ when he worked as a young guy. He’s going through treatment now.
"Merlin was my first network colleague and partner, and a great one. In fact, it’s a nice compliment that more often than not I’ll be in a public place and someone will come up and say, ‘You and Merlin Olsen, that was maybe one of the best teams ever.’ And it’s all due credit to Merlin, who was an Academic All-America. I’d like to think I outworked the young guys in preparation, but Merlin always outworked me."
Together they dropped in on some of the most memorable games of that Jets era, back when Klecko, Gastineau, Lyons and Salaam looked as if they might be able to lead the Green & White back to the organization’s first Super Bowl since Joe Namath’s heyday.
Enberg-Olsen called the Jets’ 1982 playoff win over the Los Angeles Raiders, as well as the Mud Bowl loss at Miami in the AFC Championship Game the next week. They teamed up to describe the 13 touchdowns, including the four Ken O’Brien-to-Wesley Walker long-distance TD connections, in the Jets’ wild 51-45 triumph over the Dolphins in 1986.
"He cared deeply about people, especially those that shared the game of football with him," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (himself a Jets intern in 1983, when Olsen had five Jets games) in a statement. "Merlin was a larger-than-life person, literally and figuratively, and leaves an enormously positive legacy."
And for those of a certain age who listen closely,a few calm, thoughtful, well-researched Olsen observations about the Jets and the NFL can still be heard in the mind’s ear.
Tags: Marty Lyons, Sack Exchange, Wesley Walker
Posted in Randy Lange | 5 Comments »
One of my favorite moments of this never-a-dull-moment Jets season happened just before it got started at our annual kickoff luncheon. The Green & White honored our colorful radio color man, Marty Lyons, and well done, too, as Lyons really can be considered what it means to be a Jet.
Everybody loves Marty. The fans flock to him. Elderly women swoon and ask for a hug from the gentle giant. Kids run across the parking lot at the stadium to have him toss a ball to them. Heck, I’ve seen dogs run across the parking lot to have him toss a ball to them, but that might just be their thing.
No, come to think of it, Marty’s always got time for everyone, no matter how furry. Marty’s been The Man ever since being selected 14th overall in the 1979 draft out of Alabama. Playing at defensive end and defensive tackle, he became the CEO of the fabled New York Sack Exchange, terrorizing opponents and helping to push the team to the 1982 AFC Championship Game. His career stretched from 1979-89 with 135 starts by No. 93, always a leader and usually the spark.
While Marty provided many great plays on the field, it is off the field that he truly has been an inspiration. He established the Marty Lyons Foundation in 1982 to fulfill the special wishes of children aged 3 to 17 who have been diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illnesses. They’ve helped with everything from renovating a home to allow the child to stay with their family in comfort to Disney trips, celebrity visits and a chance to swim with dolphins — the good kind, not the ones that play down in Miami. But I’m sure that he would help make that happen, too, if it was a child’s dream.
At the kickoff luncheon, Marty delighted the packed house at Cipriani Wall Street with funny stories and touching anecdotes about his involvement in the community. He was the same way you’ve no doubt heard him on the air each week and possibly seen him hold court at countless golf outings, kids clinics and team functions. For a guy once flagged for giving Jim Kelly “The Business,” he’s actually a pretty straight shooter who’s fun, funny, welcoming and humble and someone I’m thrilled to call my friend.
With all that in mind, here are some of My Favorite Martys, some photos I’ve taken and many gathered from our archives. Hope you enjoy the view!
Tags: kickoff luncheon, Marty Lyons, Marty Lyons Foundation, Sack Exchange
Posted in Al Pereira | 12 Comments »
The Jets have been tweeting and chirping and crowing all off-season, pre-season and into the regular season about how they want to, plan to, expect to have the NFL’s top defense this year.
Well, this week it’s true. The Jets are No. 1.
That’s numero uno as in fewest total yards allowed per game, 241.0 on average in the season-opening win at Houston and the home-opening triumph over New England. And that figure is top of the heap in this week’s completed NFL’s defensive rankings.
I say completed because the Indianapolis-Miami Monday night game figured in this week’s rankings. The Jets, who went into Week 2 second behind the Eagles after allowing the Texans 183 yards, gave up 299 to the Pats but were still poised in second, this week behind the Colts, who gave up 228 in their opener. Had they held the Dolphins to 253 yards or less, the Horseshoes would have held No. 1 heading into Week 3.
Indy won but gave up 403 yards to Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown and the Miami Wildcats.
And so now the Jets defenders of head coach Rex Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine can say it as loud and as proud as their fans chanted their name on Sunday: "J-E-T-S, We’re Number One!"
Now, that distinction and a bunch of Ben Franklins will get you a seat at Land Shark Stadium, and not close to the sideline, to watch Super Bowl XLIV in Miami in February. But being king of the hill in yardage allowed is still a significant mile marker on the road the Jets want to travel as a unit and a team this year. One, because as far back as the NFL Combine in February, Ryan was saying:
"I’m not one to shy away from expectations. I think we’ll be terrific and i think we’re going to have a defense that our fans can be proud of."
And two, the Jets as No. 1 on D just doesn’t happen that often.
I’ve charted the NFL’s weekly rankings in the "elite eight" categories since 1995. Those are the stats that coaches, players and fans like to point to, at least when their rankings are in the single digits — overall, rushing, passing and scoring offense, and the same four on defense.
The Jets had spent exactly zero weeks as the NFL’s top defensive team from 1995-2008. The highest position they ever achieved in that span was a pair of No. 4′s, after Weeks 12 and 13 in 1998, which of course was the last time they reached the AFC Championship Game.
The Green & White’s top rank at the end of a season since 1970? That was also a No. 4, which actually came in 1970, the first year of the merged AFL and NFL.
So when was the last time the Jets defense might’ve been A-number-one? I’m embarrassed to say I can’t be sure. I guess I was putting off doing the research for a little later in the season, when the Jets were noticeably creeping up on that top rung after weeks of improving their standing.
I can report that in the 1982 strike season, the Jets of the Sack Exchange — Marty Lyons, Mark Gastineau and Abdul Salaam but minus Joe Klecko for most of the way with a knee injury — Greg Buttle, Lance Mehl and Stan Blinka at LB, Bobby Jackson, Kenny Schroy, Darrol Ray and Jerry Holmes in the secondary were No. 1.
For one week.
That was after Game 5, when they defeated the Lions at Detroit, 28-13, on Monday night, leapfrogged Buffalo and held onto the top spot for seven days, until the Bills took it back, then ultimately gave it up to the Dolphins after the final week, with the Jets slipping to sixth for the year.
Then in 1985, it was Giants 1, Jets 2 for two midseason weeks. But 2, I don’t need to tell you, isn’t 1.
Since then, well, we’re checking and crunching and so is the Elias Sports Bureau to be able to say definitively that it’s been 27 years or 442 weeks since the Jets last wore the coveted defensive crown.
OK, we’re gushing a little bit here. Ryan and his players will be greeted with questions and opinions about their status as the new Alpha dogs of NFL defense when they return to practice Wednesday for their next test, Sunday at home against the Tennessee Titans (ranked seventh offensively, by the way).
I expect all will say that it’s peachy to be ichi but it would be finer to be eine after 17 weeks and heading into the playoffs as a high AFC seed.
As for that other big stat, points allowed, which is even more closely tied to victories, the Jets are doing almost as well there. They’ve given up no defensive touchdowns, 16 points total. They are No. 2 in this category this week, behind the Denver Broncos’ 13 points allowed.
Unlike the yardage ranking, I do know the last week the Jets led the NFL in scoring defense. But I’ll save that one for another week in the near future.
Tags: Rex Ryan, Sack Exchange
Posted in Randy Lange | 55 Comments »
CB Darrelle Revis has been placed on the ballot for his standout game at Buffalo.
The ballot in question is for GMC Sierra Defensive Player of the Week. Fans can vote for Revis or the other four finalists for this week — Atlanta DE John Abraham, Miami CB Will Allen, Tennessee S Chris Hope or Giants DE Justin Tuck — at NFL.com/gmc from now through Thursday at 4 p.m. EST. The winner will be announced Thursday night on NFL.com.
Head coach Eric Mangini, perhaps doing a little electioneering in advance if this week’s vote, said Revis’ emergence may be making life tough for the rookie usually on the right corner, Dwight Lowery.
"I think Darrelle is playing really well now," Mangini said, "and you make a choice each week where you want to place the ball and who you want to throw it against. That’s not going to be inconsistent, I think, moving forward, as long as Darrelle keeps playing at a high level, whoever is over there is going to get a lot of action."
The Jets could also be in line for some of the NFL’s weekly awards for AFC Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week. We’ll have more on that Wednesday.
Marty on "Sack Exchange"
Rex asked a question on Monday of Marty Lyons about what it was like to play alongside Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko and Abdul Salaam in "the New York Sack Exchange" in the early Eighties. Rather than replace my response with Marty’s after Rex’s comment, I thought everyone would be able to find Marty’s response better on today’s Radar entry. Here is what Marty has to say:
"Playing along side Mark, Joe and Abdul was exciting. Joe had a way of making everyone play to a different level. Mark had unbelievable speed to get to the quarterback. Abdul and I had to hold down the middle. But in any team concept, if we didn’t have the support of the other defensive players on the field, the front four wouldn’t had been as successful as we were."
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Marty Lyons, Sack Exchange
Posted in Randy Lange | 25 Comments »
What I try to do when I write blogs is to think about what fans would think about and then write about those things. For instance, Jets fans would be absolutely thrilled — I said this on my radio show the other night — when asked: What do you think about Tom Brady? And I said, "Every Jets fan out there’s thinking good riddance, that’s what it is." Do you think they feel sorry for him? No. Do you think any player should feel sorry for him? No.
The issue is this: It’s always happened to the Jets. All of this has always happened to the Jets. From Vinny Testaverde’s Achilles’ on down to when I played, back to Joe Namath. You know, it either rained too hard, it snowed too hard, they fumbled the ball, the guy got hurt, we just almost made it.
And now the vision’s there. It’s not that it wouldn’t have been there if Brady was playing. But certainly that now has been made a little clearer. The path to the Super Bowl does go through New England until that changes.
But the winds of change are blowing. They were blowing in the off-season when the Jets redid their offensive line. And then the winds blew a little more when they added to their defense — Pace and Jenkins, to name two of them, were just excellent additions. Forget the deletions because I’m not in here to beat people up, but those two guys alone can help this Jets defense do what it couldn’t do before.
I’ve always said it’s not about making tackles, it’s about making tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. That’s the difference, that’s what makes a big-play defense. That’s what I think this Jets defense has become. Time will tell how good it’s going to be, but as Jets fans would look at it, they’d say, boy this is a big difference.
That’s because people have historical reference. "Oh, these guys remind me of the Jets defense of the late Seventies, early Eighties." "Oh, yeah, this reminds me of the Sack Exchange." All those kinds of things I think Jets fans are going to start to realize. Or maybe are thinking of right now.
And I don’t blame them because that’s how I think. And I look and say, "Wow, how about the offensive line?" The offensive line that was dreadful last year, and we all know the reasons why. It never got better. It may have cost Pennington his job. It cost a lot of guys their jobs. But the bottom line is Jets fans can say Woody Johnson went out and spent a lot of money improving it.
Now, there is the possibility they could’ve chosen the wrong guys, and time will tell. They could’ve chosen the right guys, and I for one thought Faneca was an excellent choice and Damien Woody was even better. And I mean it in this sense: The line at tackle must be solidified. You can’t run the ball without offensive tackles that seal and cut off. Woody does that as well as anyone.
The Jets offense looks to be in good balance. They’ve got Brett Favre — unquestionably, as far as I’m concerned, the best quarterback to play. I think they’ve got all the pieces. They’ve got wide receivers, they’ve got defense, they have the offensive line, they’ve got the running back. C’mon. The only question left is: Do they have consistency?
And they have a big, big opportunity here to go out and make a statement on Sunday against a very good New England Patriots team without Tom Brady. And as the year wears on and people get injured and you get your weaknesses exposed, the Patriots may not be as good as people think they are.
You know, I’m not an excuse guy. Injuries in the NFL are big. But unless the Jets have something that I don’t foresee in injuries, I look for a big season from them, and I said as much to Jets fans on my SNY show and on ESPN Radio. I said before that the Jets certainly can be an 11-5 team and I’ll maintain it. Jets fans have a lot to look forward to.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Brett Favre, Damien Woody, Greg Buttle, Sack Exchange, Tom Brady, Vinny Testaverde
Posted in Uncategorized | 73 Comments »