FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Broadway Joe remains the standard for every quarterback that takes a snap for the New York Jets.
Joe Namath is the face of the franchise, a larger-than-life figure even 50-plus years after delivering the team its first — and still, only — Super Bowl victory. He likes what he has seen so far from second-year QB Sam Darnold.
So, there's hope, that maybe — just maybe — he could be the one.
"When I met him, I liked his demeanor," Namath said Monday during a visit to Jets training camp. "We didn't go to dinner or anything like that, but the few times that I've been in his presence and talking with him, he gives you a good vibe, a good feeling.
"He's respectfully humble. Physically, he can play as well as anybody. He just needs to keep polishing himself, and the team needs to polish up."
That has been the Jets' hope for decades as a long string of quarterbacks have tried and fallen short of having the success of Namath's glory days.
From Richard Todd to Ken O'Brien to Chad Pennington to Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith and now Darnold — and dozens of others in between — it has been Namath to whom each of them has been compared. It's something that might seem to be an unfortunate predicament for the players labeled as potentially the "next Namath."
Namath has followed nearly every one of them, but he isn't throwing any pity parties for them.
"Feeling sorry and feeling bad, you know, maybe at funerals and things like that, man, but as an athlete, you better get over feeling sorry for yourself or somebody else," the Pro Football Hall of Famer said. "You're pulling for them, knowing it's the nature of the game — you either win or you lose. And when you lose, you need to correct things.
"But, if there's any feeling sorry, it's for the Jets fans that have been pretty darned good over the years. They've supported the team and we haven't had that many playoff teams. Yeah, I like a good, upbeat, happy atmosphere, and winning does that. So, we want to win, just like the other 31 teams."
The Jets have failed to make the playoffs since the 2010 season, the second-longest drought in franchise history.
The team cleaned house in the offseason, firing coach Todd Bowles and later general manager Mike Maccagnan and replacing them with Adam Gase and Joe Douglas, respectively. Namath, who lives in southeast Florida, saw a lot of Gase during his three seasons coaching the Miami Dolphins before being fired after last season.
"Watching the transition that he made with the Dolphins for those years was encouraging," Namath said. "I liked his style. I'm excited for Sam and the offense to have him as a man that knows about offensive football. And, if you know offensive football, you damn sure better know defense. And, he does."