The Quarterback draft of 1983 is one of the most famous 1st rounds in NFL history. The names are well known to all NFL fans. Elway, Kelly and Marino are all in the Hall of Fame. Tony Eason led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1985. Todd Blackledge enjoyed college success but not much in the NFL. Then there was Ken O’Brien. Drafted by the Jets at pick number 24, he will forever be remembered as being the QB taken before Dan Marino, who would go on to hold numerous passing records before being passed by Brett Favre.
Since the Jets and Dolphins are in the same division, they have played each other twice a season since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. Perhaps because of his overall success in the NFL, there seems to be a unsubstantiated myth that Dan Marino constantly torched the Jets during his NFL career and made them his whipping boy. While Marino certainly had his moments of success against the Jets (his 72 TD passes vs them are easily the most he has vs any team, and the spike game comes to mind), the Jets had their share of success against him as well. Looking further into the Marino-Jets rivalry, his fellow draftee of the 1983 QB class fared much better than people give him credit for.
Ken O’Brien’s career started out very well in New York. In 1985 he led the NFL in passer rating, while throwing 25 TD and just 8 INT. He always was a very efficient passer. When he had all his weapons and an offensive line that protected him, O’Brien took a back seat to no one as far as the damage he could do. Consider this. From the start of the 1985 season thru the first 11 games of the 1986 season, the Jets were 21-6 with O’Brien under center. O’Brien over that period threw 48 TD against just 16 INT while having a passer rating of 100.8. Consider this as well. In the history of the NFL only 6 QB have had 2 or more games where they had a perfect QB rating (I know the calculation itself is hard to understand, but it is a recognized NFL stat). Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner have had 3 career games with a perfect rating. Craig Morton, David Krieg and Ken O’Brien are the others who have had more than one. By the way, Ken O’Brien is the only QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards while compiling a perfect rating.
Sitting at 10-1 atop the AFC East in 1986, the Jets looked well on their way to clinching their first AFC East title in team history. However a rash of injuries (most on the defense) crippled the Jets, and they lost their final 5 games to barely reach the postseason. After getting of to such a great start, O’Brien himself was never the same. All of a sudden he was getting sacked at a record pace. He could no longer fling the ball downfield to Wesley Walker, Al Toon or Mickey Schuler.
Despite not being as consistent overall in his NFL career from that point, O’Brien always seemed to save his best for Marino. In their careers as Jets and Dolphins QB, Marino and O’Brien met 15 times. O’Brien and the Jets were victorious in 8 of those games. Here is the stats break down between the 2 QB in those meetings.
O’Brien: 23 TD, 13 INT, 61.9 Completion Pct., 92.3 Passer Rating, 243.2 Passing Yds Per game
Marino: 40 TD, 18 INT, 59.0 Completion Pct., 94.2 Passer Rating, 305.7 Passing Yds Per game
Marino has the clear advantage as far as TD and passing yds, but completion pct. and passer rating are very similar. Add to that, the Jets won more games under O’Brien than the Dolphins won under Marino. Mixed in those games was the final game of the 1991 season in which O’Brien and the Jets defeated the Dolphins in Miami to clinch the final playoff spot in the AFC which would have went to Miami if they had won. In that game O’Brien led the Jets on a tying FG drive at the end of regulation and a game-winning FG drive in OT. Also in those games is the famous 51-45 game where O’Brien hit Westley Walker for the game-tying TD with no time left and the game-winner in OT.
Looking deeper, in no way am I suggesting that O’Brien was the better QB. Not even in these head-to-head match-ups. What I am suggesting, is that O’Brien and the Jets had many successes against Marino. History would suggest that Marino always got the best of the Jets in his career, but judging from this breakdown the stats say differently. Also, ask any true Jets fan about Marino and he would say the Jets got him just as many times as he got them.
Obviously, this has nothing to do with Sunday’s game at the Meadowlands in which the Jets will try and get revenge over a bad loss earlier in the season on Monday Night Football when they were totally embarrassed by Chad Henne, Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat. Bart Scott and the big-talkers on the Jets defense have a lot to make up for. One of the reasons I took the loss at Miami so hard earlier this season is because I am used to seeing the Jets have their way against the Dolphins. Since the 1998 season, the Jets are 17-6 vs the Dolphins. Can Bart Scott and the defense rally the troops and avenge their breakdown in Miami? Time will tell.