Esiason never dreamed that one day he would become good friends with Namath and follow in his footsteps as the Jets' quarterback.
"You always have to live in the shadow of the myth, which is fine," the former Maryland quarterback said last week.
Esiason isn't the only quarterback who has struggled in that shadow. The Jets are the only team that hasn't won a division title since the 1970 merger with the AFL. Even the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done that.
But that myth is not a burden for Esiason, who took the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1988.
Esiason thrives on the pressure of playing in New York. In this era when football is all about money, Esiason is one player who still acts as if he enjoys the game.
"I love playing for the Jets. Playing here has been fantastic," he said.
He also appreciates the way the fans embraced him when he went public with the fact that his son, Gunnar, has cystic fibrosis. He has been a tireless fund-raiser in the fight against the disease. He only does commercials for companies willing to make contributions to help fund CF research.
He made an appearance on NBC on Thanksgiving Day with his son squirming on his lap to continue sending that message.
"I wanted everyone to know how thankful we are for the people who've supported our fight," he said.
During that fight, Esiason has never lost his zest for the game and for life.
He knows what's at stake for the Jets today when they play host to the Miami Dolphins.
The Jets are 6-5, one game behind the Dolphins in the AFC East, and have a shot at their first division title in a quarter of a century.
After years of playing second fiddle to the Giants, who are 4-7, the Jets have a chance to become the only contender in New York.
"I realize the importance of this season for our franchise. It's a chance for the Jets to make a statement," he said.
Nobody will enjoy the challenge more than Esiason.
"I have a lot of fun in what I'm doing. Through all the ups and
downs, I enjoy what I do," he said.
Ready to move
Despite the official denials, the apparent deal that St. Louis businessman Stan Kroenke made to buy 40 percent of the Los Angeles Rams means the team will move if owner Georgia Frontiere approves.
The only question is when the announcement will be made. Don't be surprised if the Rams wait until after the season ends. Team president John Shaw has a reputation for dragging things out as he takes care of the final details.
It's noteworthy that Kroenke will pay $60 million for 40 percent as a passive investor with no input. That translates into $150 million for the franchise. If Kroenke wanted input, the price would have been $80 million for 40 percent, which would have meant $200 million for the franchise.
The $200 million projection probably isn't a coincidence. That's what Orioles owner Peter Angelos has said he is willing to pay for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The injury list
The Cowboys put 26 players on the list before Thursday's game with the Green Bay Packers. The previous week, the Cowboys had eight players on the list.
Jones is a member of the competition committee. When Al Davis of the Raiders started taking the same attitude about the rules 15 years ago, former commissioner Pete Rozelle yanked him off the same committee.
Don't look for Paul Tagliabue to do that to Jones. Tagliabue likes the perks of being the commissioner and isn't going to alienate Jones. He remembers what happened to former baseball
commissioner Fay Vincent when he alienated the owners.
Grading the officials
The NFL keeps insisting the quality of the officiating is as good as ever, despite a rash of bad calls.
The latest example was in the Seattle-Tampa Bay game, when three bad calls helped the Seahawks gain a 22-21 victory.
The final one was on the last play, when Seattle safety Dave McCloughan pushed down wide receiver Horace Copeland in the end zone. There was no call, but a pass-interference penalty should have given Tampa Bay the ball on the 1 with a chance to kick the winning field goal.
Seattle coach Tom Flores' reaction was to bring up his 17-15 loss to Indianapolis when the Seahawks blocked a punt and the officials gave the Colts the ball.
"You have flashbacks about bad calls," Flores said. "You forget the bad calls that were for you."
As long as teams take that attitude, nothing will change.
How's this for a commercial?
A group of hungry travelers is on a bus trapped in traffic. They spot the golden arches about three-quarters of a mile away. They decide to jump off the bus for some fast food.
This really happened to Giants coach Dan Reeves after his team's 13-10 victory over the Houston Oilers last Monday night.
When the Giants' three-bus caravan to the airport found itself stopped at 1 a.m. in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Reeves, who hadn't eaten since about 4 p.m., got off the bus with a few assistants and took off for the fast-food restaurant.
Sure enough, before they got their burgers, the traffic started moving and the buses went by.
Reeves tried to call the airline, the bus company and the Houston police to tell the buses not to return for them because there was a cab in the fast food lot. They didn't get the message, and one bus returned for him. It had owner Wellington Mara and his wife on it. The players were all going "ching-ching" like a cash register for the kind of fine they were planning to levy on Reeves.
When Reeves was asked if the fast-food chain should ask him to do a commercial, he joked about the team's losing record and said, "It might hurt their business right now."
When offensive lineman Luis Sharpe was lost for the season with a knee injury last week, Ryan said, "Ain't nobody hurt that matters."
Sharpe responded by saying he would never play for Ryan again.
"When idiots make idiotic statements, it's best not to comment," Sharpe said. "This is not the way I envisioned my career ending, being seriously injured and basically being told I didn't count much to begin with. If people don't appreciate what you've done, that's their prerogative."
For a change, Ryan tried to explain his comment.
"I don't want to sound negative, but I don't believe in crying about injuries," he said. "The guys that we've had around here, paying them all year, they're pro football players and we want them to step up and play pro football, and I don't want them to have an excuse to lose."
Calling the shots
If there were any doubts that the Eagles' Jeff Lurie is going to be a hands-on owner, they were erased during his flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix for the Nov. 20 game against the Cardinals.
During the flight, he read in the paper that the Cardinals were releasing offensive lineman Rich Braham, a third-round pick out of West Virginia, to make room for former Eagles running back Mark Higgs.
Lurie remembered that Braham had been rated highly by the Eagles' scouts, but the Cardinals beat them to him.
When the pilot was forced by head winds to stop in Kansas City, Mo., refuel, Lurie immediately called his office and suggested the team check on Braham.
It turned out that the Cincinnati Bengals and four teams ahead of the Eagles claimed Braham off the waiver wire, so Lurie's call didn't make any difference.
But it was another example that Lurie is going to be involved in every detail in the operation of the football team.