AFC East: 2011 Flash Points AFC

Flash Points: Jets' defining moment

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
1:00
PM ET
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the Jets -- for better or worse? Give us your take and we'll give you our definitive moment on May 26.

How many defining moments can a franchise have when it has won a single championship, and that was 42 years ago?

The New York Jets won Super Bowl III after quarterback Joe Namath made his famous guarantee. That moment didn't make my short list because the Super Bowl didn't necessarily change the Jets' fortunes; it was the Jets' fortune.

The pivotal development to get the Jets to their lone championship was Namath eschewing the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and taking a chance on the upstart AFL. Broadway Joe became the face of the league and remains a transcendent New York icon. In four decades, no other Jets player has come close to matching the impact Namath made.

Highlights have been minimal in the years since, but the New York Sack Exchange of Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam provided the franchise milepost of the 1980s.

The Jets made a splash when they hired Bill Parcells as general manager and head coach in 1997. His arrival sparked a Jets-Patriots rivalry that has grown into one of the NFL's best, featuring Curtis Martin's jump to the Jets out of loyalty to the coach.

Although he has been with the Jets only two seasons, I don't think it's premature to include head coach Rex Ryan's arrival as an option for the defining moment. The culture under Ryan is a stark contrast to the organization under predecessor Eric Mangini. The Jets have gone to back-to-back AFC Championship Games and are considered a hot destination because free agents want to play for Ryan.

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Flash Points: Patriots' defining moment

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
1:00
PM ET
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the Patriots -- for better or worse? Give us your take and we'll give you our definitive moment on May 26.

Unlike the other AFC East clubs, the New England Patriots' heaviest moments have been recent. Their early years were mostly nondescript, a long span of mediocrity (at best) interrupted occasionally by a triumphant interlude or two.

The team's culture changed in 1993, when Bill Parcells was named head coach and the Patriots drafted quarterback Drew Bledsoe first overall. Bledsoe started as a rookie, and the combination -- plus Robert Kraft's purchase of the team a year later -- awakened a slumbering fan base and raised expectations.

Kraft hired Bill Belichick in 2000. That year, the Patriots drafted quarterback Tom Brady with a sixth-round compensatory pick. Belichick-Brady didn't carry the same immediate punch as Parcells-Bledsoe did. Belichick wasn't as much of a known coaching quantity, having failed with the Cleveland Browns, and nobody had any idea Brady would overtake Bledsoe and blossom into a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But Belichick and Brady propelled the Patriots to four Super Bowls, winning three in a four-year stretch.

One of the great debates is whether Belichick made Brady or vice versa. That's for you to decide in this poll.

Submit your vote with the SportsNation poll. If you vote Other, please give us your suggestion in the comments area below this article.

Flash Points: Bills' defining moment

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
1:00
PM ET
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the Bills -- for better or worse? Give us your take and we'll give you our definitive moment on May 26.

The Buffalo Bills are synonymous with heartbreak, but some pivotal moments have brought their fans joy.

Buffalo's options for this project include the signature moment of the club's early years, "The Hit Heard Round the World." With the Bills a heavy underdog in the 1964 AFL title game, linebacker Mike Stratton set the tone by detonating Chargers star running back Keith Lincoln. Stratton broke Lincoln's ribs. The Bills won that game and successfully defended their title the next season.

A pivotal moment of the Bills' glory years was promoting ace scout Bill Polian to general manager in 1985. Polian's drafts propelled the Bills to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s.

But would that team have come together without Jim Kelly? The Bills drafted him 14th overall in 1983, but he avoided the team as long as the USFL was in business. Even when the USFL was in its death throes and the Houston Gamblers went out of business, Kelly tried to cling with the New Jersey Generals, but the league disintegrated, forcing him to Buffalo.

Then there was Scott Norwood's missed 47-yard field goal in Super Bowl XXV. The moment turned out to be Buffalo's best chance to win a Super Bowl, but the kick went wide right.

Submit your vote with the SportsNation poll. If you vote Other, please give us your suggestion in the comments area below this article.

Flash Points: Dolphins' defining moment

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
1:00
PM ET
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the Dolphins -- for better or worse? Give us your take and we'll give you our definitive moment on May 26.

The Miami Dolphins have had some glorious moments in their illustrious history, but later years haven't measured up to the 1970s.

Miami's course was set in 1970, when owner Joe Robbie signed Baltimore Colts head coach Don Shula. The Dolphins went on an amazing run under Shula's guidance, including the NFL's only undefeated season in 1972. Shula led the Dolphins to five Super Bowls, including three straight in the 1970s. They won two championships.

They haven't won another title since, but Dan Marino thrilled Dolfans for nearly two decades. Marino rewrote the NFL record books with 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns and is considered the greatest quarterback never to win the Super Bowl.

More recently, the Dolphins made history by rebounding from a one-victory season to win the AFC East championship in 2008. They tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season with a rookie head coach, rookie general manager and a new quarterback.

Submit your vote with the SportsNation poll. If you vote Other, please give us your suggestion in the comments area below this article.

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