9. Joe Walton
Joe Walton is forever haunted by the following sentences from Commissioner Pete Roselle in 1983. First, “With the 23rd pick, the Jets take as their first-round selection, quarterback (pause), Ken O’Brien, of California-Davis.” Then, three picks later, “The Miami Dolphins first-round selection. The Dolphins select quarterback Dan Marino of Pittsburgh.”
The 1983 draft is known as the best quarterback draft of all-time. ESPN even has a “30 for 30” documentary about the event. Six quarterbacks went in the first round, including John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, and Tony Eason, in addition to O’Brien and Marino. Three of the six are in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
At the time, Walton was the Jets’ head coach and had control of the draft. Great players get passed up in the draft in favor of others all the time. This one, however, was a real head-scratcher. Marino had a rocket arm and possibly the quickest release of any quarterback ever drafted. He was a blue-chip talent that, through his cockiness and disinformation campaign by an upcoming member of this list, Walton deemed Marino to be too much of a loose cannon to draft.
With Marino at the helm, the New York Jets would have had their franchise quarterback for the next 15 plus years.