Joe Namath, the most celebrated quarterback in New York Jets history, had his career fizzle out with the Rams.
This time, the Jets have acquired the aging star quarterback, banking on a successful transition for Brett Favre.
Favre has the Jets in a tie atop the AFC East, but his consistency remains a concern as New York hosts the Rams on Sunday.
Acquiring Favre from Green Bay in the offseason was a gamble for New York (5-3), but it paid immediate dividends by giving the team its most high-profile player since Namath.
Namath became an NFL icon with the Jets, playing 10 years and guiding them to a win in Super Bowl III after guaranteeing a victory. He ended up playing his final season for the Rams - who were then based in Los Angeles - and he started the first four games before injuries and ineffectiveness ended his career.
Favre hasn’t been nearly as bad after his change of scenery, but the former Packers idol doesn’t seem completely comfortable either. He has been picked off eight times while throwing three touchdowns in his last four games, but the Jets have won three of those contests.
After throwing an interception that was returned for a TD to give Buffalo momentum with 10:53 left last Sunday, Favre engineered a 14-play drive in the Jets’ 26-17 win that melted 8 minutes, 41 seconds off the clock and made it a two-possession game on Jay Feely’s 31-yard field goal.
That victory put New York in a three-way tie with the Bills and New England at the top of the AFC East.
“I could be better, but in my 17 years of playing, 17 1/2, I could’ve always been a little better,” Favre said. “I’m always trying to achieve being perfect. That’s never going to happen. I don’t know if anyone’s ever been completely perfect, but I’m still trying to achieve it.”
New York was 1-7 at this point last season. The Jets have already won one more game than they did in 2007, and they don’t even feel they’ve played their best football yet.
“It seems like we haven’t put it all together or we can play a whole lot better than we’ve played,” defensive end Shaun Ellis said. “It’s very encouraging for us to know that we haven’t put it all together and once we do, it will bring good things. Against Buffalo, it was the best collective effort that we played in a while.”
Favre is still learning the offense, and the defense is trying to establish consistency. New York, though, had a strong game versus the Bills, holding them to 30 yards rushing and sacking Trent Edwards five times.
With Kris Jenkins at nose tackle, the Jets are holding opponents to 76.0 yards per game on the ground.
“He does a great job of pushing the middle,” said Ellis, whose seven sacks are his most since he had 11 in 2004. “He puts a lot of pressure on the run game. He does it all. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”
St. Louis (2-6) will again try to revive its struggling offense without running back Steven Jackson on the field. Jackson, who has been hampered since suffering a quadriceps injury against Dallas Oct. 19 and didn’t play against New England the following week, was unable to practice Friday and will be sidelined again.
On the first play of last Sunday’s 34-13 loss to Arizona, Jackson declared himself unprepared to run the play that was called - an outside cutback run he wasn’t ready to handle. Jackson finished with seven rushes for 17 yards and the Rams were suddenly left short-handed at the position because backup Antonio Pittman suffered a hamstring injury on that first play and Travis Minor got a concussion on special teams.
Kenneth Darby, who has only two carries for nine yards in his NFL career and was on Atlanta’s practice start three weeks ago, will get the start in Jackson’s absence.
“I’m ready for it,” Darby said. “I’ve been preparing all week for it. I know I’m ready. This is a great opportunity for me and I want to take full advantage of it. This opportunity I’m getting this Sunday is very rare for most guys, especially guys of my caliber.”
Concerns over depth at running back also moved the Rams to sign veteran free agent Samkon Gado, who played for Houston and Miami last year and will back up Darby on Sunday.
The Rams, three games behind the Cardinals in the NFC West, will be trying to avoid their third straight loss following their only two wins of the season.
“We are not going to change our approach,” Haslett said. “We have to take it one game at a time. The most important thing is we go try to get a win this week. This is not going to be an easy test. I don’t think you can look ahead.”
St. Louis has won seven straight against New York. This will be the teams’ first meeting since a 32-29 Rams victory on Jan. 2, 2005.