The New York Giants and New York Jets both have established quarterbacks that they're completely confident in, with neither team in any hurry to find a successor. And that has only happened a couple of other times in the 51 seasons that the two franchises have coexisted. Arguments have been raging the past month or so over who is better -- Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez -- but each team is glad to have the one they have. One can throw out names such as Norm Snead, Craig Morton, Kerry Collins, Richard Todd, Boomer Esiason, Vinnie Testaverde or Chad Pennington (not to mention Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle back when the Giants were going to three consecutive NFL Championship games while the Jets -- or actually -- were just getting started), but there have really been only two other times when the two clubs had top-notch quarterbacks in their prime for an extended period of time at the same time.
In 1967, when Fran Tarkenton was traded to the Giants from the Vikings for three draft choices, he joined Joe Namath to give New York two top-echelon, future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Tarkenton played five seasons for the Giants (1967 to 1971), and he was the original scrambling QB, which just happened to be the complete opposite of Namath. The former and future Viking made an immediate impact on his new team when he came to New York, leading the Giants to a 7-7 record after Big Blue had finished with a laughable 1-12-1 mark the previous season. Tarkenton recorded a 33-36 record with the Giants and played in four Pro Bowls. He threw 103 touchdown passes and 72 interceptions in his time calling Yankee Stadium home, while completing 55.4 percent of his passes (1,051-for-1,898) and compiled an 81 quarterback rating (for what it's worth), leading the league in 1969 (87.2). In three out of his five years with the Giants he had his team in the top 10 in points, and four out of five in yards gained, with not much talent surrounding him. And the mad dasher that he was, he gained 1,126 rushing yards with 10 rushing touchdowns. Sir Francis (as Howard Cosell used to call him) left the Giants the same way he arrived, by asking for a trade, and he was shipped back to Minnesota.
Tarkenton's five years in New York coincided with Broadway Joe's prime. The old-school boys from the Bronx had to stand by and watch Namath lead his team to the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, while collecting the MVP for that game, as well as two season MVP awards, not to mention leading the Jets to victory in the first-ever game between the two crosstown rivals in a preseason matchup in August of 1969. In his 12 years with the Jets, Namath made five Pro Bowls, led the league in passing yards three times, completions and attempts twice and touchdowns once (along with interceptions four times, though). He threw for a 50.2 percent clip (1,836-for-3,655), tossed 170 touchdowns, 215 interceptions and had a 65.8 passer rating. His regular-season record with the Jets was 60-61-4, and he went 2-1 in the playoffs. His teams finished in the top three in points scored and yards gained four times each. He, of course, transcended statistics, though, and brought legitimacy to the AFL as well as being one of the main reasons for the AFL-NFL merger. In Tarkenton and Namath, New York had a pair of quarterbacks who made history, and were both in their twenties while they fought for the hearts and minds of local fans.
Phil Simms was drafted by the Giants in 1979, but he was not an instant success nor was he thought to be a savior. He just had to be better than Joe Pisarcik. Bill Parcells gave him the tough love treatment, and Simms was often benched in favor of Scott Brunner. But in 1984, Simms started all 16 games, passed for over 4,000 yards, led his team to the second round of the playoffs and he was off and running. Simms played all of his 14 seasons with Big Blue, compiling a 95-64 record (6-4 in the playoffs in six different seasons) and going to a pair of Pro Bowls. His offenses finished in the top 10 in points and yards gained three times each. For his career, he was a 55.4 percent passer (the exact same number Tarkenton put up in his Giant years), going 2,576-for-4,646, tossed 199 touchdowns and 157 interceptions, with a 78.5 passer rating. He threw for over 4,000 yards once and more than 3,000 five times, along with having four 20-plus touchdown seasons. But he saved his best for the most important game of his career, when he had arguably the finest Super Bowl quarterback performance of all-time. Simms closed out the 1986 season by going 22-for-25, good for 268 yards, with three TD passes and no picks, as his QB rating was a staggering 150.9, in the Super Bowl victory over the Broncos. His team also captured the Lombardi Trophy four seasons later, of course.
Over in the other locker room in the Meadowlands, the Jets featured a quarterback who wasn't too shabby himself. The Jets put Ken O'Brien in a no-win situation when they selected him ahead of Dan Marino, but the 1983 first-round draft choice was far from a bust, and he was one of the top quarterbacks in football in the mid-'80s. A year after Simms established himself as the no-question starter for the Giants, O'Brien took the reins of the Jets and made the first of two Pro Bowls while leading the NFL in passer rating. Three times he led the league with the lowest interception rate, and he threw for more than 3,000 yards four times. He played for the Jets from 1984 until '92, had a 50-55-1 record, completed 58.8 percent of his passes (2,039-for-3,465), threw 124 touchdowns and 95 interceptions and finished his Jet career with an 81 passer rating. The Jets finished in the top 10 in points and yards gained twice during his Jet tenure. He lost both playoff games that he started, but he was part of a handful of the most memorable regular-season games in NFL history. Twice he finished a game with a perfect quarterback rating, and he's the only QB in history to throw for more than 400 yards with a perfect rating. And in 1986, he battled Marino and the Dolphins in a historic matchup, with the Jets winning in overtime, 51-45. The two quarterbacks combined to throw for 927 yards, which remains the NFL record. With time expiring in regulation, O'Brien rifled a touchdown pass to Wesley Walker to tie the game, and in overtime, he again hooked up with Walker to win the game, the catch being the receiver's fourth touchdown of the day.
Manning joined the Giants in 2004, and has been an iron man for the team while putting up a 60-43 record. He's completed 58 percent of his passes in his career thus far (1,932-for-3,332), tossed 156 touchdowns and 113 interceptions, with an 80.2 QB rating. He's thrown for over 4,000 yards twice and more than 3,000 every full season he's played, has five seasons of 20-plus touchdown passes and last year threw 31, as well as leading the league in picks a couple of times. Like Simms and Namath, he's a Super Bowl MVP and has a 4-3 postseason record. He's been to one Pro Bowl, and has led his team to top 10 finishes in points scored and yards gained four times each.
Sanchez is the latest to take a stab at being the Jets' longtime established quarterback in the vein of Namath and O'Brien. In only two seasons, he has the most playoff wins (four) by a quarterback in franchise history. He has a 19-12 record, a 54.4 completion percentage (474-for-871), has thrown 29 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions, with a 70.2 rating. Sanchez hasn't been asked to carry his team yet, the way the other five quarterbacks have done, but none of the others have had the kind of instant team success that Sanchez has had. They weren't thrown into the fire at such an early age, and had to play a playoff game as a rookie.
Manning's already been around for a long time, and Sanchez surely will as well, which will make them only the third pair to flourish simultaneously for an extended period of time since the 1960 birth of the Jet franchise.