Part II: First, Joe Namath on the New York Jets Mount Rushmore and now...
The first name on the Mount Rushmore for the New York Jets was Joe Namath, a no-brainer if there ever was one. The next name, just like Namath, was a bit of a foregone conclusion.
Without this player, it would be like the tango without music. A morning without a sunrise. A politician who tells the truth. Something would just be wrong for a Jets’ Mount Rushmore if Curtis Martin wasn’t one of the four faces cast in stone that personified the organization’s success.
To recap how this gang of four is being constructed…Mount Rushmore, designed and created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum from 1927 to 1941, is one of the world’s most famous moments. It was designed “Representing important events and themes in our history…Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were selected.” It is a challenge, of course, because four names from the thousands of players to suit-up for the organization is an impossible task.
In Martin, the Jets had an incredible leader who made his mark on the field as a gutsy, gritty and productive star. He was an impact on the sidelines as a leader and in the community as a philanthropist.
Beloved by the fans, he like Namath are the only two players who could be considered locks to make the organization’s Mount Rushmore. After Namath and Martin, the list for the final two faces is far more open for debate.
But Martin isn’t open for debate. He is an open and shut case.
The case for Martin:
This is rather clear. Martin is one of the dominant running backs of his era and, like Namath, resonated with the fanbase in a special and meaningful way. Not only was Martin productive, including three Pro Bowl appearances during his eight years with the team (he topped 1,000 rushing yards seven times during that span), he also was a player who left it all out on the field. The Jets also made the playoffs four times during his time in New York, a strong run of success that the franchise has not matched since.
The franchise’s all-time leading rusher, he was consistently one of the best running backs of his time. He was also durable, missing five games in his eight seasons with the organization (and four of those missed games came during his final season before retirement). During his eight seasons with the Jets, Martin led the team into the playoffs five times.
Since he retired following the 2005 season, the Jets have had just five winning seasons since.
Martin personified class and exuded leadership during his time with the Jets. Like Namath, he was a lock to be a Pro Football Hall of Fame selection. And like Namath, there wasn’t a single, solitary good reason to keep him off Mount Rushmore. The Jets as a team and an organization were better for having had him don their colors.
His 10,302 rushing yards and 58 rushing touchdowns are the most in the franchise’s 61 years. He set the standard as a running back, a teammate and as a voice in the community.
The case against Martin:
Like Namath before him, it is difficult to argue against Martin being included as one of the four faces of the franchise.
Not only is he the best representative of the Jets success during the late 90s and early this millennium, Martin was a productive and efficient star who did things right on and off the field. There are only two knocks against Martin, and neither successfully landed on him let alone made his candidacy wobble to be on the Jets’ Mount Rushmore. It is nit-picking if anything.
The initial knock is that Martin’s first three years in the NFL began with the New England Patriots. While it doesn’t impact his ability in the green and white, it is always a bit of a sticking point for many Jets fans that he once donned the colors of their rivals in the AFC East. Two of his five Pro Bowl appearances came with New England.
The second swipe at Martin is another one that doesn’t stick. Despite the Jets making the playoffs four times while he was with the team, they only posted a 3-4 mark in the postseason. That doesn’t all fall on Martin but he did average only 75.4 rushing yards per game and had just three rushing touchdowns over the course of those seven playoff games. But those issues don’t all fall on Martin, who is one of the best players to ever suit up for the franchise and a generational running back.