Jets most hated: the top 20 villains in Gang Green history – Part 1 (20-11)

New York Jets helmets. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
New York Jets helmets. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /
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New York Jets
Neil O’Donnell, New York Jets. (No photo credit available) /

13. Neil O’Donnell

A real magician, Neil O’Donnell, turned one Super Bowl appearance (which he lost) into $25M. After leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to an 11-5 regular-season record and trip to Super Bowl XXX in January 1996, O’Donnell hit the free-agent market. The New York Jets, in their infinite wisdom, won a bidding war for his services. He only cost the team a five-year, $25M contract.

O’Donnell was a local product who grew up a half-an-hour from the Meadowlands. At 30-years-old, the former Madison, NJ high school star, was back home. Thomas Wolfe authored a novel, “You can’t go home again,” in 1940. The quarterback should have heeded the advice because it was all downhill once he signed his name on the dotted line.

His first year in green and white thankfully ended prematurely. O’Donnell played in the New York Jets first six games of 1996, going 0-6, with 1147 passing yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions. A season-ending shoulder injury was a merciful conclusion to his season. To be fair, the losses weren’t entirely his fault. NYJ went 1-15 that year under Rich Kotite.

He did get better the following season with new head coach Bill Parcells. O’Donnell was 8-6 through 14 games but lost his starting job to Glen Foley. Because he refused to renegotiate his contract in the offseason, Parcells waived O’Donnell. Even though the Jets still owed the out of favor quarterback $6.65M for 2008.