Originally posted on One Jet At A Time  |  Last updated 6/15/13
Image Credit: Associated Press Coming off a solid 2002 season, which saw first year starting QB Chad Pennington lead Gang Green to its second-ever AFC East title and a playoff victory, the Jets had high expectations going into 2003.  Unfortunately, the team’s chances were quickly hindered when, in their third preseason game against the Giants, Pennington suffered a fractured left wrist while being tackled from behind by LB Brandon Short. In the interim, veteran QB Vinny Testaverde would become the team’s signal caller. Though Testaverde played well as New York’s starter from 1998-2001, he struggled through four starts in 2002 and had lost his starting job to Pennington. The regular season commenced with a nationally-televised Thursday night game at the Washington Redskins. The game offered plenty of intrigue for fans of Gang Green, much of which had to do with Washington’s roster. During the offseason, the Redskins had signed three key contributors to the 2002 Jets: WR Laveranues Coles, kicker John Hall, and return man Chad Morton. Coles had been the team’s leading receiver in 2002, while Hall had been New York’s placekicker since 1997. Morton, meanwhile, had been center stage to one of the greatest performances in franchise history when he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns on opening day 2002 at Buffalo, including the winner in overtime. In a 16-13 defeat, the Jets were undone by one of their former players—Hall nailed three field goals, including the game winner late in the 4th quarter. With an anemic offense, the Testaverde-led Jets entered their Week 5 bye with a 0-4 record. The last of these defeats was a 17-6 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a game where Dallas’ sideline was more interesting for New York fans than their own team was. Bill Parcells, who had resigned after three fairly successful seasons as Jets’ head coach following the 1999 campaign, had come out of retirement to coach the Cowboys in 2003.  Off their bye, the Jets earned their first win of the season in Week 6: a convincing 30-3 triumph over division-rival Buffalo at the Meadowlands. The offense, which hadn’t mustered more than 16 points all year, broke out behind three TD passes from Testaverde. (More after the jump...) Overcoming a 14-0 deficit in a 19-14 victory at Houston, New York improved to 2-4 the following week. Week 8's game at Philadelphia was significant for the Jets, as it marked Pennington’s return. Testaverde actually started the game, a 24-17 loss, before Pennington took over in the second quarter. Before coming out, Testaverde threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to WR Santana Moss off a flea flicker. Moss, the Jets’ first round draft pick (16th overall) in 2001, experienced a breakout season in 2003, leading the team with 1,105 yards and 10 TD's following Coles’ departure. Making his first start of the season in a home game against the Giants the next Sunday, Pennington erupted, throwing four TD passes, three of which were to Moss, leading his team back from a 28-14 fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. The Jets lost, however, falling to 2-6 when Giants’ kicker Brett Conway nailed a 29-yard attempt with only four seconds remaining in the extra quarter. Unfazed, Gang Green rallied from a 21-10 fourth quarter deficit at Oakland the following week, and won 27-24 in overtime. In the midst of the Oakland comeback, Head Coach Herman Edwards’ notoriously poor clock management was also on display. After second-string RB Lamont Jordan scored from two yards out in the first minute of the fourth quarter, New York unsuccessfully went for a two-point conversion and trailed 21-16, before a FG by Raiders’ kicker Sebastian Janikowski extended the visitors’ deficit to eight points, 24-16. The missed conversion forced the Jets to go for two again following their tying TD late in regulation, though this one was successful. In a Nov. 23 home game against Jacksonville, Pennington threw a late touchdown to Moss, and the Jets won 13-10 to up their record to 4-7. They then improved to 5-7 after an impressive 24-17 win over 9-2 Tennessee. In the team’s lone Monday Night Football game of 2003, Jets’ WR Kevin Swayne scored the only touchdown of his NFL career, running in a 27-yard Pennington pass in the third quarter. Swayne had come to the Jets in 2001, after playing well for the Long Island-based New York Dragons of the Arena Football League. On a snow-covered field at the Meadowlands, the Jets shutout the Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-0, in Week 15. Kicker Doug Brien nailed two field goals—a 28-yarder and a 41-yarder—and star RB Curtis Martin went off for 174 yards on the ground. Martin had another great season in 2003, finishing the year with 1,308 rushing yards; it was the ninth time in his nine-year career that he ran for more than 1,000 yards. The Jets played their final home game the ensuing Saturday night against the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a 21-16 defeat. In spite of the game’s ho-hum nature, this was probably New York’s most memorable game of 2003, because of a bizarre sideline interview between reporter Suzy Kolber and former Jets’ QB Joe Namath during the ESPN telecast. Asked for his opinions on the team’s struggles, a drunken Namath told Kolber that he wanted to kiss her. Gang Green lost its season finale at Miami, 23-21, and the Jets finished the season in the AFC East cellar with a 6-10 record. It was the Jets’ first losing season since the team’s disastrous 1-15 campaign in 1996. Off the wrist injury, Pennington was not as efficient as he was in 2002; he threw only one more TD (13) than he did interceptions (12), and his completion percentage, 68.9 in 2002, fell to 63.6 percent in 2003. The emergence of Moss and the continued excellence of Martin in 2003 were positive signs for New York’s offense, however. They would be crucial elements when the team attempted to rebound in 2004.
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