Mount Rushmore, by its very definition, is an exclusive club. Only four presidents made the monument, a testament to their impact on the nation.
A New York Jets inspired Mount Rushmore isn’t any different in its exclusivity. What happens here, though, is that not only is the list of eligible candidates much greater to choose from for an NFL team’s list and thereby more difficult, the different eras of the game don’t make for a very level playing field.
And while presidential politics and world politics as a whole change, the dramatic swings and shifts of the NFL over the past five decades make this an impossible list to curate. It is ridiculous to compare the era of the 1960s and its production with today’s modern game.
And yet, here we are.
All of which means that some deserving players didn’t make the gang of four.
So far, three names have been etched on the Jets’ Mount Rushmore: Joe Namath, Curtis Martin and Darrelle Revis. The first two are absolute locks. The third name comes with a bit of controversy and backlash given the multiple contract holdouts and his time playing with the New England Patriots (and winning a Super Bowl).
In Wayne Chrebet, there was a very deserving player for consideration who just narrowly missed out on making the final four. Here is the case for and against Chrebet’s inclusion:
The case for Chrebet – Unlike Namath, Martin and Revis, the entirety of Chrebet’s 11-year career was spent with the Jets. Longevity counts for something on these lists and Chrebet’s career in green and white was certainly storied, landing him in the team’s ‘Ring of Honor.’
An undrafted rookie free agent, Chrebet’s lack of size saw teams shy away from the Hofstra wide receiver in the 1995 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he had 66 catches for 726 yards and four touchdowns, becoming an instant fan favorite for his underdog story and unquestioned work ethic.
He wasn’t afraid to lay his body on the line for the team, a sentiment that resonated among the blue collar fans of the team who loved his passion for the Jets. This mindset would cut his career short due to injuries and concussions, but Chrebet made an impact on the field with his production (580 catches; 7,365 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns) and off the field with love for the team.
The case against Chrebet – The numbers are good and solid. His story is inspiring. His love for the game and this team in particular might never be matched. But that simply isn’t enough.
A Mt. Rushmore of a franchise is supposed to embody the very best of the very best. And while Chrebet’s career coincided with some big moments for the franchise in recent years, it isn’t as elite career. It isn’t enough.
Both Namath and Martin are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Revis will follow them shortly. Chrebet, despite being a very good player, was never a dominant one. He isn’t being slighted by the Hall of Fame by any stretch. Wesley Walker, for instance, is ahead of him on the list.
Only once in his career did he top 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He never had double-digit touchdowns in a year. He wasn’t dominant in any one phase.
And while dominance isn’t the overriding deciding factor in determining a Mt. Rushmore for the Jets, it is a deciding factor. Namath was dominant over several seasons and has Super Bowl III. Martin was among the best running backs of his generation and has the production to back it up. Revis is arguably the best cornerback to ever play the game.
Chrebet, on the other hand, never played in the Pro Bowl.
The hard part about excluding Chrebet is the way his heart beat for the Jets. Every Sunday, he would lay it on the line for his team. Win or lose, he always walked off the field having given it his all. It is hard to keep that love and passion off the field but in the end, Chrebet was not named to the Jets Mt. Rushmore, even as no one embodied more what it meant to play for this team.