The NFL is celebrating its 100th season, and there are many behind-the-scenes stories still to be told. Over the course of this season, Times NFL writer Sam Farmer will pull back the curtain and tell some of those, through the eyes of the players and coaches who lived them.
In the NFL, no division embodies the haves and have nots this season quite like the AFC East.
The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots are each 3-0, whereas the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are both 0-3.
But it hasn’t always been that way. Twenty-five years ago, the Jets and Dolphins were battling for supremacy in the division, and squared off in a November 1994 game that featured an unforgettable ending. Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino directed a stirring comeback culminating in a phenomenal fake.
With less than 30 seconds on the clock and trailing, 24-21, Miami had the ball on the eight-yard line with just one timeout left. Marino yelled “Clock! Clock! Clock!” as if he planned to spike the ball to stop the clock. Instead, he took the snap, feigned a spike and tossed the winning touchdown pass to Mark Ingram.
The Dolphins went on to win the division, and the Jets were devastated.
But that wasn’t the only memorable part of that day for Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason. Here, in his words, was what happened after he left the field, showered and headed for home:
“The first thing you have to remember is the Meadowlands is in New Jersey, and at this time the New York Jets are practicing at Hofstra University on Long Island. So I was living on Long Island, as were all my teammates. So one of the biggest decisions we would have as Jets teammates was, how are we getting back to Long Island? Are we going over the George Washington Bridge? Or are we going to go through Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel? Neither one is the perfect way to go. You’re always going to get stuck in traffic.
“I happened to be in a Ford Explorer at the time. My windows were tinted, and you’d never know that it was my truck. I was driving home after that game, and much like a lot of people, you turn on the sports talk radio and get the pulse of the fan base and how they were feeling after losing such an excruciating game.
“So I get in my car and decide, OK, I’m going to take the Lincoln Tunnel. There’s always a pile of traffic after a Jets or Giants game going back through Manhattan. I’m in the car by myself, turn on the radio, and I’m listening to all these frustrated and angry Jets fans calling in. ‘I can’t believe we lost this game. What was Boomer thinking about when he threw that interception?’
“After the game was over, aside from losing, I actually had a pretty good game. But I’m just getting hammered by people on the radio. ‘Boomer sucks’ … ‘We gotta get rid of him.’ … ‘He can’t beat Marino.’
“So as I’m crawling along in traffic trying to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, there’s an accident. I’m in the middle lane, and a car runs into a car that’s right next to me, rear ends it pretty hard. I think it was a bunch of drunk guys that ran into an individual driver in what looks like a little Mazda. I couldn’t tell whether it was a woman or a man driving, but it looked like this person had gotten knocked out. Got hit pretty hard.
“So I have the dilemma whether I should get out of my car, surrounded by all these Jet fans approaching the Lincoln Tunnel. If I get out of the car, are these people going to recognize me? Are they going to yell at me? Are they going to throw stuff at me? Or am I going to have to rehash the entire game with everybody?
“But of course I get out of the car. I want to be a Good Samaritan. I’ve got a hat on, and I go over to the car that was hit. I’m knocking on the window, and it’s a woman who’s driving the car. She’s leaning over the steering wheel, and she’s got a cigarette in her hand that’s burning. I try to open the door but I can’t, because it’s kind of bent. I’m trying to get her out of the car.
“I’m yelling and banging on the window, ‘Ma’am, you’ve got to wake up!’ As she kind of comes to and is groggy, she looks up and me and goes, ‘Boomer?’ Like it was a dream. And I say, ‘Yes! Yes! You’ve got to get out of the car.’ ”
“She looks at me and says, ‘You guys suck!’ ”